April 6, 2015

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Here’s an item from the Washington Post that portrays the country in a favorable light. Turns out there are more museums in the country than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.

There are roughly 11,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, and about 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants. But combined, the two chains don’t come close to the number of museums in the U.S., which stands at a whopping 35,000.

So says the latest data release from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent government agency that tallies the number and type of museums in this country. By their count the 35,000 active museums represent a doubling from the number estimated in the 1990s.

While most of us think of massive institutions like the Smithsonian and the Guggenheim when we think of museums, one lesson of the new data is that the majority of U.S. museums are small, nearly mom-and-pop affairs. Of the roughly 25,000 museums with income data in the file, 15,000 of them  reported an annual income of less than $10,000 on their latest IRS returns.

And these museums are literally everywhere. Below, I mapped the total number of museums per county in the U.S., in both raw number and per-capita terms.

One shocker? The nation’s cultural capital, at least as measured by number of museums, isn’t New York, but rather Los Angeles — a city known more for Hollywood and the Hiltons than for Holbein and history. L.A.County has 681 museums compared to New YorkCounty’s 414. Chicago (CookCounty), San Diego and D.C. round out the rest of the top five. …



The above is a good illustration of some of the things Alexis de Tocqueville found when he studied the United States almost 200 years ago. The Learning To Give blog has a post on de Tocqueville’s writings on American “associations.” The complete post is not here because of length. Follow the link if you wish to read it all.

… Tocqueville does not use the word “philanthropy ” which means literally, “the love of people.” But he writes extensively about the American phenomenon of forming ” associations ” of all types including professional, social, civil, and political. It is in this discussion of associations that the modern student may understand how Tocqueville’s observations relate to philanthropy—now understood to mean the contribution of financial support and volunteer resources to the not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations which aim to serve the public good and improve the quality of human lives.

Tocqueville’s description of associations is an enduring impact of Democracy in America . Tocqueville’s extensive analysis of the role associations play in strengthening and moderating democracy are widely cited, and highly influential on the structure of American philanthropy. Tocqueville viewed the proliferation of associations as a unique response that was not only critical to the success of the experiment of democratic government, but also served to provide for the well-being of all of its citizens in accordance with a sense of equality that was previously unknown (Tocqueville 1840).

“In the United States, as soon as several inhabitants have taken an opinion or an idea they wish to promote in society, they seek each other out and unite together once they have made contact. From that moment, they are no longer isolated but have become a power seen from afar whose activities serve as an example and whose words are heeded” (Tocqueville 1840, 599). …



A NY Times report shows how sheer chance plays a role in who comes down with cancer. 

Unlike Ebola, flu or polio, cancer is a disease that arises from within — a consequence of the mutations that inevitably occur when one of our 50 trillion cells divides and copies its DNA.

Some of these genetic misprints are caused by outside agents, chemical or biological, especially in parts of the body — the skin, the lungs and the digestive tract — most exposed to the ravages of the world. But millions every second occur purely by chance — random, spontaneous glitches that may be the most pervasive carcinogen of all.

It’s a truth that grates against our deepest nature. That was clear earlier this month when a paper in Science on the prominent role of “bad luck” and cancer caused an outbreak of despair, outrage and, ultimately, disbelief.

The most intemperate of this backlash — mini-screeds on Twitter and hit-and-run comments on the web — suggested that the authors, Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein of JohnsHopkinsUniversity, must be apologists for chemical companies or the processed food industry. In fact, their study was underwritten by nonprofit cancer foundations and grants from the National Institutes of Health. In some people’s minds, those were just part of the plot.

What psychologists call apophenia — the human tendency to see connections and patterns that are not really there — gives rise to conspiracy theories. It is also at work, though usually in a milder form, in our perceptions about cancer and our revulsion to randomness. …



Science Magazine suggests the white skin of Europeans is a relatively new development.

Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, offers dramatic evidence of recent evolution in Europe and shows that most modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago. …



An article in the Christian Science Monitor says the conviction of Atlanta educators in a widespread cheating scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.

A jury convicted 11 educators of racketeering Wednesday for their role in the Atlanta cheating scandal. But nationally, there’s a strong split between those who see their actions as an aberration and those who would convict right alongside them the accountability systems that have attached increasingly high stakes to standardized tests in recent decades.

The teachers and administrators face potentially harsh sentences for a conspiracy to manipulate test scores – which investigators said involved more than 44 schools and about 180 educators. Eleven out of 12 who went to trial were convicted, and they were sent immediately to jail to await sentencing (with the exception of one who is pregnant).

For opponents of such high-stakes testing, there’s likely to be more sympathy for the educators because of undue pressures being placed on teachers by an overemphasis on test scores. But for proponents of accountability, it’s just as easy to hold up these educators as an example of why strong objective systems are needed to oversee and measure educators’ performance.

The pressured atmosphere doesn’t justify cheating, but it’s one indication of a much larger problem, say critics of how testing has been used.

Especially as the federal government has pushed states to tie teacher evaluation policies to standardized-test gains, the testing regimen “creates a climate in school where you have to boost scores by hook or by crook,” says Robert Schaeffer, a spokesman for the NationalCenter for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

Atlanta offered up extreme examples such as test-cheating “parties.” But “Atlanta is the tip of the test-cheating iceberg,” Mr. Schaeffer says, with other cases surfacing in about 39 states, including a dozen or more that showed widespread cheating. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>