October reading update

I read 15 books for this month.  It was also an ebook-only month, which is pretty unusual for me.  It usually means I’m mentally overexerted and want easier stuff to read.  So almost everything was fluff, esoteric, or esoteric fluff.

I read seven short novella-length ebooks about spies and true crime.  I also read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s love letter to fandom and when nerds *really* loved science, Fallen Angels.  That one is cute and parts of it remain terrifyingly plausible.

I also continued reading a light D&D-ish series, as the third book was just sent to the mailing list and was a happy surprise.  In similar vein, I read the wrap-up book of a pretty good zombie series, also a surprise release earlier than the author said.

I tried out Kindle Unlimited, and I’ll probably keep it for a couple months.  I used that to read a truly fascinating biography of Cordwainer Smith, a collection of Clifford Simak shorts that reminded me of why I am just not that into his work, a very silly but cool-concept sci-fi book about magic being introduced into the world when humanity is banned from using space technology by evil aliens, and a very cute Tanith Lee novella.

I also used Kindle Unlimited to read the very funny, very sharp, but also very “written by a Boomer” satire “The Narrative.”  It’s by Deplora Boule and quite spot-on.

Anyway, 87 books down, 13 to go.

 

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Married parents and the public school exit.

No matter how many ways you slice the onion, it’s becoming more and more the case that married parents are exiting or very strategically accessing the public school system.  This poses real medium and long term issues regarding funding and support for public school teachers.

What does exit mean?  It means 30%+ of married parents’ kids are outside the public school system or inside it via de facto segregation tactics like specialized, high-parent-participation “options” or outright effective magnets/charters within a larger public school.  About 15% are in private schools, with a steady increase in private Protestant schools specifically (although the general private school split is 45% Catholic, 40% Protestant, and secular bringing up the rump end at around 15%.  The classical Christian academy is maturing away from co-op models to full-time private schools all over the country.  Another approximately 7% are homeschooling full time, typically longer than a year but less than full K-12.  Another 8-10% are doing various combinations of specialized public school programs, homeschooling using the public school curriculum (public-private partnership, “alternative educational approach”, the various names for this make it hard to break out on its own), and mixed schooling (combining several part-time school options).

Homeschooling is completely normalized now as an option to include in the college prep race among the very parents who dominate married parenthood, the college educated majority.  It’s not part of a “fundie fringe”, it’s something a double digit percentage of married parents do for at least one year between K-12.

Also, kids just never stop costing money now, because all these options have costs in time and money.  Either you’re writing checks, one parent is not working full time or outside the home, or both.  The other side of it is that public schools push fringier and fringier views on the remaining children whose parents can’t optimize them into a special program where that stuff doesn’t come up or is cheerfully waivered out.  Where I live, essentially in our version of the higher-end NYC public magnet schools, an example fringy goal is to teach transgender advocacy to kindergarteners in the “regular” public schools.    It’s already approved, implementation is coming in another school year or so.

So even the very liberal parents who might be fine with this in junior high are making plans to do for-pay K or even K-3, on top of 7k/mo mortgages and 1k/mo property taxes to pay 100k salaries to teachers and 150k salaries to administrators who added this stuff to the curriculum.  Exit isn’t cheap, and it’s not getting cheaper, but it is increasing over time anyway.  This is not a stable equilibrium.

 

August reading update

I read 13 books for this month.

I read two Frank Herbert books that touched upon elements expanded and explored in Dune (selection pressure, genetic experimentation in pursuit of immortality, nasty side effects of messing with nature for personal gain) and I will probably continue reading more Frank Herbert some time in the future, though probably not this year or even next.

I read more Alt-Hero, which now reads and looks like an above-average comic.  It’s a comic book, turns out it doesn’t take long to get decent when you start with experienced comic book artists.  I finished Stalky and Co., a Kipling boarding school book that is absolutely fascinating and charming, but also a bit shocking.  I read a reprint that was done in the 1960s explicitly as “We are reprinting this book about young boys subverting authority FOR SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS”.  The irony, very much lost.  I also finished Sheila Jeffries’ groundbreaking and extremely useful book about Victorian-era and WW1-era spinsters and their work trying to protect women and children from a rampant climate of abuse and exploitation, including excessively youthful prostitution.  Radical feminists have their own major biases, but they tend to be where I have to go for useful historical background on women, particularly when looking at the last 200 years or so, but sometimes they’re the best game in town further back than that, too.

I finally read the Space trilogy by Lewis and it’s still banging around my head, shocking me with its prescience but shocking me even more with how even Lewis could not predict or suspect the sheer eagerness of people to go much further than his own characters.  It was a more innocent time, or at least he was more innocent in some real and very beautiful ways.

I also read a book by Janice Holt Giles, an astonishingly depthful and accurate historical fiction writer who did a little memoir-work as well and who has apparently disappeared down the memoryhole, despite being extremely prolific and high-selling in the 1960s and 1970s.  There are a bunch of American women writers like this, they were popular essentially until 1980s trash romance took over women’s pop fiction.  And they competed ok through a fair bit of the 1980s in some cases.

I read a simply awful Alfred Bester novel he wrote late in life after 20 or so years out of the sci-fi game.  It was dated sounding, trashy and weird, missing all the charm he had in his 1940s and 1950s stories.

I read some MFK Fisher, in particular her book about how to get along deliciously during wartime or other instances of rationing.  It is a cool little book and many of her tips for how to cook well and enjoy food under extreme deprivation conditions hold up.  She had no animus towards things in boxes if it was what you could get.

I read Crazy Rich Asians.  It was an extremely useful read, but golly, some of the foreign-language profanity was much more graphic than I was expecting somehow.  Since I’ve heard quite a few of those words, having spent much of my life in Asian diasporas or neighborhoods, knowing what they mean will now be…interesting going forward.

And at long last I finished Hippies of the Religious Right.  I didn’t think I could get any more militant and radicalized, and then I finished reading this, including the lengthy notes section.  Welp.

Anyway, 64 books down, 36 to go.

 

Blogging through a book: Hippies of the Religious Right, by Preston Shires.

This is a book about how the counterculture spun off the Religious Right.  It’s by a guy who thinks that was totally awesome and wrote this book laying out the timeline.  This book was written over a decade ago, in 2007, so it will not be covering the Obama era or the impacts of social media on his thesis.  I may attempt that when I am done reading it, though.

Anyway, as I finish a chapter, the link will be added to this post.

I read the preface, which is just a quick summary of my first two sentences using the example of Billy Graham’s son.

Hopefully this will get me back on the reading books silently saddle.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

The College Funnel and fertility hysteria on the American right.

The right does a tolerable job beefing about and critiquing the problems with left/liberal hysteria about “too much” fertility. But they conflate two issues into one and thus come out unsuccessful in their rhetorical quest to get married women to pop out more babies.

The fact is that American white fertility has been clustered around 2-4 children (with 5-6 the acceptable fringe due to Catholic and Mormon influences) since basically we had free black people and free white people (so, since 1870 or so). American black fertility has been more like 2-6 children until the 1970s, when they pretty much went to the same pattern as whites. There were also extended periods where both black and white women had 20% or so rates of no children.

So fixating on 1950s style fertility, with its unusually low rate of childlessness among the women of both races, is historically inaccurate. The excessive and vigorous rhetoric on even the mainstream right regarding family size is not very successful because it’s going up against long-standing American norms about family size being relatively small even when there wasn’t much or any modern birth control.

And it causes the right to make that conflation error I led with. They look at small family sizes through a 1950s, historically wrong lens, and declare, repeatedly, that college education is responsible, whether it’s simply attending at all (non-mainstream right) or liberal indoctrination while attending plus too many people attending (mainstream right).

Which brings us to the College Funnel. The College Funnel is the process by which married childbearing increasingly requires women to climb into the College Funnel and squeeze their way through to a degree. Some, quite a few, fall out at various points, but even that much makes getting married before the kids come a whole lot more likely.

With whites, the College Funnel has clearly increased births for women attending and especially completing college. But the births for white women without college attendance have plunged dramatically. With blacks, the College Funnel is at least partly another way to describe married black birth becoming the province of educated immigrants and/or mixed marriages (racially or ethnically, as in marrying a black immigrant) at higher and higher rates since the 1980s. What you have left over in both white and black cases is a small hard core of annual unwed births that combined were around 400k in 1970 and are now around 900k-1m annually since 1990. Sharp rise, then flattened out.

The College Funnel is fairly raceless, with more racial and ethnic intermarriage, which probably muddies the numbers some too.

So you have this problem where people of a certain level of brains are having the married kids and in the case of whites and Asians, it’s most of their kids on top. You have this different problem where people who might or might not have that level of brains, but don’t get into the College Funnel basically can’t have kids except in a handful of “wheeee feckless pride” areas, mostly urban. And the second problem is real, and worth discussing. But combining it with the college thing and declaring college renders anyone who stands next to one sterile is incorrect and not a solid way to get to solutions to let those second-problem people get to have children, much less children mostly in wedlock, again.

The numbers are from data in the National Center for Health Statistics Vital Statistics Reports’ various pdfs.

ETA 7/14/17: And right after I make this blog post, Ace of Spaces pushes a user comment to the top that is the very hysteria I was lamenting.

President Trump is a normal President, not an unPresidential one.

He’s the first President to fully exist in a 24/7 insta-news world, and this means that once again, as during the campaign, people are trapped in presentism regarding his demeanor, actions and general P. They are also trapped in the emotional firestorm of the media, where it being everywhere means that many people hear it, tune out the specific content, but absorb the negative feelings around Trump that really do emanate from all those CNN airport screens and MSNBC gym screens.

So even people who should know better mindlessly repeat the idea that Trump should go hat in hand to the media in order to get Congressional Republicans to vote for his stuff when the very idea that a President is supposed to do that is unhistorical and would actually be unPresidential. Or they repeat other demonstrably false ideas from the general negative pool of media tripe, like “Trump isn’t getting anything done, he’s too busy tweeting”, “Trump doesn’t know how to negotiate with politicians”, “Trump is childish”, etc, etc, etc.

When you fly up into the air of overall Presidential history and take a slightly less insta-news view, it becomes clear that Trump’s firmly within historical norms for both snark and general Presidentin’ even this early in his Presidency.

People see what they want to see and people who want to see Trump as a buffoon who can’t get it together have plenty of places to have that feeeeeeeeelllllllliiiinnnnnnnggggggg reinforced, supported, backed up by babbling heads on endless tv screens. Those of us who live lives where we just happen to not have media ranting as background noise and only read a little of it in passing have a different view of the President because we’re somewhat more insulated from the sheer emotional weight of the angry, legitimately childish and maddened media. He’s doing a lot of pretty ordinary Presidential things. One can debate whether what Presidents do normally is good or ill, certainly, but he’s not showing any signs of incompetence by historical standards.

The previous President did some very historically questionable things, like the rhetoric that led to police being shot, using a sexual slur to describe Tea Party supporters, to pick just two. But the media didn’t have negative emotional energy about that stuff, because they liked it, so their neutral-to-positive emotional feels made anyone tuning in feel that he was dignified and suave while stirring discord and being even more gross in public speech than Mrs. “Deplorables” and “right-wing conspiracy” Clinton. He also had a long list of tweets that could easily be labeled short-sighted and petty as well, though more in the historical norms for snarking. In this respect, the media’s influence in the emotional realm, where identical behavior is interpreted in opposing ways because emotiomal stirring-up is impossible to fully resist without conscious effort, remains massive and powerful.

They’re working on that one, though. Kinda hope they succeed in undermining that emotional punch skill they still have, it could only be better for us all.