Engaging Ideas - 10/20/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Americans remain divided on how to cope with the current political environment. As costs rise, local governments struggle to subsidize affordable housing projects. A mobile app that fosters engagement. A look at whether bribing students to perform well actually works. Concerns about the unevenness of undergraduate studies across America. A new Maryland website to allow patients to compare hospital rates.


Corruption Of Government Officials Ranked Americans' Top Fear Of 2017 (Forbes)
With Halloween just around corner, a recent survey shows what really keeps Americans awake at night. The Chapman University Survey of American Fears polled 1,207 U.S. adults on their level of fear across 80 different categories ranging from crime to personal anxieties and natural disasters.

America The Beautiful, But Divided (Forbes)
For nearly a year the world has worked to adapt to recent changes, both real and perceived, in U.S. foreign policy. But as the globe responds to the new priorities of its only superpower, Americans themselves remain divided over how best to engage with their surroundings.

Van Jones: Both Republicans and Democrats are crazy (Salon)
The CNN political commentator holds both parties responsible for today’s political climate — but he has solutions


Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build? (CityLab)
As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.

Americans aren’t convinced good times will last long if you look at how they spend (Market Watch)
Are Americans still anxious about their financial future even after eight years of a growing economy? Their hesitation to spend on certain “extras” such as going out to eat, visiting Disney World or buying a club membership suggests lingering angst.


Philadelphia Kicks Off Smart City Planning Workshop (Government Technology)
Philadelphia hosted a SmartCityPHL Readiness Workshop to hear from city leaders, businesses, civic organizations and other groups for feedback as the city develops a smart city strategic plan.

Merced County Participatory Budgeting Process Hits Snag, Plows Ahead (Civic Hall)
The first-ever participatory budgeting process at the county level has not gone off without a hitch, but it is still going on.

App could foster public engagement in Butte's 'environmental story'(Montana Standard)
Butte-Silver Bow hopes to develop a mobile app that gives residents more information about Superfund sites and lets them pose their own questions and comments to government officials and experts in the field.


Does Paying Kids to Do Well in School Actually Work? (Education Week)
Adults have long used rewards—or let’s face it, bribes— to prod children into doing what they want. But it wasn’t until the last decade that economists started looking earnestly at how educators could leverage incentives, such as gift cards, scholarship money, and in some cases cold hard cash, to motivate students to go to school and perform better on tests.

School District Leaders Say Early Education Needed, But Underfunded (Education Week)
More than three-quarters of American public school superintendents say that early-childhood care and education means "a great deal" to a child's future success—but that they work in states that are investing too little in it.

As Demand for Digital Materials Rises, States Adjust Policies (Ed Week Market Brief)
As schools increasingly forego print for digital materials, states have been forced to revamp how they select and purchase an ever-shifting array of classroom resources.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Operations and Performance of the Virginia Community College System (Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission)
Majority of community college students did not earn a community college credential or bachelor’s degree.

The College Chasm (Harvard Magazine)
Although America's Research Universities are the envy of the world, our system of baccalaureate education inspires as much hand-wringing as pride. Concerns about the unevenness of undergraduate education have grown with evidence of falling college completion rates and disappointing results in international comparisons of learning.

Education in the Age of Outrage (New York Times)
...it is with some trepidation that I admit that the current political climate in academia confuses me. The more I read about trigger warnings, safe spaces and petitions to retract scholarly articles, the more my head spins. On top of that confusion, I harbor a fear of expressing views that will offend other progressives, scholars and teachers who may also be fighting oppression.

Health Care

New website will let Maryland consumers compare hospital rates for the first time (Baltimore Sun)
A new website —
wearthecost.org — being launched Thursday by the Maryland Health Care Commission will help consumers compare these types of costs among hospitals and bring more transparency to hospital pricing practices.

Extending Federal Funding for CHIP: What is at Stake? (Kaiser Family Foundation)
This fact sheet provides an overview of the status of action to extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

We Have to Ration Health Care (Slate)
Medicare for all would be a much better plan if it acknowledged that simple reality.


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