ENGAGING IDEAS - 03/23/2018

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Google's pledge to fight fake news. Los Angeles' homelessness problem and what politicians can do to curb this issue. Free college admission testing, but with a catch. Controlling health care prices by listening to patients.


The ‘value divide’ between Democrats and Republicans is getting bigger and bigger (Washington Post)
In the Trump era, Americans may be more polarized now than ever. But while Americans have always known they don't all share the same politics, more of them are now questioning whether their political opponents even share their same values.

I'm a political polarization researcher. Here's what I know in 2018. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
When we talk politics today, our voices are loud and fractious, always passionate and often divisive. Our conversations are rarely rational debates; they either become therapy sessions with like-minded partisans or devolve into shouting matches against the other side. But there is one thing that we can agree on, one feature of today’s politics that is beyond debate: We are deeply polarized.

Google Pledges $300 Million to Clean Up False News (New York Times)
In a move to combat the epidemic of false and unreliable information on the internet, Google is pledging to spend $300 million over the next three years to support authoritative journalism.


The sorriest urban scene: why a US homelessness crisis drags on (The Guardian)
Despite approving billions in funds to fight the problem, Los Angeles has seen its homeless population continue to grow. What can politicians do?

Sons of Rich Black Families Fare No Better Than Sons of Working-Class Whites (The Upshot)
Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.

In the Suburbs, Social Services Can’t Keep Up With Families’ Needs (Slate)
University of Washington social policy professor Scott W. Allard found that poverty has rapidly expanded in the surrounding Washington, D.C., metro: an astounding 125 percent increase in suburban poverty between 1990 and 2014, in comparison to a fractional 13.6 percent increase in the District of Columbia And the geography of social service capacity shows great variation within a metro area.


How Student Activism Could Potentially Impact American Politics (NPR)
NPR's Sarah McCammon speaks with Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University about the potential impact of student activism in American politics.

After Tempe fatality, self-driving car developers must engage with public now or risk rejection (The Conversation)
Residents don’t have the technical expertise of the autonomous vehicle developers. But they likely do have insights that would substantially enhance the safety and trustworthiness of the vehicles being tested.

Public opinion: Elected officials and agency staff need to care what their constituents think (The Journal)
An important aspect of the decision-making process of governmental agencies is the gathering and analysis of public comments. Unfortunately, that essential component has experienced some significant failures lately, and that failure is a threat to participatory democracy.


More high schools offer free college admission testing. But there’s a catch. (Washington Post)
Some of Maryland’s largest school systems have joined a growing national movement to provide college admission testing to high school juniors at no charge. But there’s a catch for many of these students and others around the country: The free exams won’t include the essay-writing portion that some highly selective universities require.

The barriers that make charter schools inaccessible to disadvantaged families (Brookings)
Poorer families have depended on public school systems to provide high-quality education in neighborhoods they can afford. Charter schools have the potential to expand families’ tuition-free options, closing the gap in school choices between wealthier and poorer families. However, they only expand families’ options if they are genuinely accessible—not just technically available. An assortment of barriers can get in the way.

Elementary school teachers sometimes follow a class of students from year to year. New research suggests that’s a good idea. (Chalkbeat)
Students improve more on tests in their second year with the same teacher, it finds, and the benefits are largest for students of color.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Harvard Drops SAT Essay as Requirement (Inside Higher Education)
Harvard University has announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit the essay portion of either the SAT or the ACT, even though they will still be required to submit scores for the other parts of the tests.

Pushing for Graduation in Four (Inside Higher Ed)
Texas A&M University at San Antonio pushes students to earn 15 credits a semester -- a task that may not be easy when many have responsibilities at home.

The Third Education Revolution (The Atlantic)
Schools are moving toward a model of continuous, lifelong learning in order to meet the needs of today’s economy.

Health Care

You’ve Heard of Single-Payer. What about All-Payer Health Care? (BU Today)
If you want to buy milk, Austin Frakt says, you could check prices at Shaw’s and Costco. Gas? Compare different stations’ prices at the pump. In both cases, the sellers charge every buyer the same price, allowing buyers to look for the best deals.

Report: Knowing prices could slash health care spending (Portland Tribune)
A report released Tuesday by two policy research groups found that giving patients, providers and insurers prices before health care decisions are made could reduce spending without compromising quality. The report makes a series of recommendations to Oregon lawmakers to increase price transparency.

Controlling Health Care Costs By Listening to Patients (Time)
Health care costs in the United States are in the trillions, and finding solutions to cut costs are becoming critical for medical care sustainability. During a conversation with health leaders about health care cost-cutting, experts made a simple argument: listen to patients.


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