ON THE AGENDA | DECEMBER 2ND, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 12/2

A collection of recent stories and reports to make you think about how to make progress on divisive issues.

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: The internet’s role in democracy and librarian’s role in navigating information online. Is college worth it? Recent grads share their experience. And what a data point says about the future of the Affordable Care Act.


Maybe the Internet Isn’t a Fantastic Tool for Democracy After All (New York Magazine)
The recent panicked focus on fixing the “fake news” problem itself seems inadequate, reliant on the belief that merely by ensuring that hoaxes and lies are unable to circulate on social networks, we can return to civil public discourse. That misinformation plagues our politics is a symptom of a larger, more existential problem: The tech industry has disrupted the public sphere and has shown neither the interest nor the ability to reconstruct it. No matter what Facebook might believe, there is no turnkey algorithmic solution that will ensure a perfect civic network. It will always be possible for people who take advantage of networks’ “dumb” nature — their inability to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate traffic — to flood them with junk.

Community Engagement

Arena To Skip Participatory Budgeting Next Year, Citing Lack Of Interest (DNAInfo)
Ald. John Arena (45th) will skip out on participatory budgeting for 2017, using the year to work through a backlog of planned projects and strategize how to attract more constituents to the process, according to his staff. Just 279 residents voted on how to spend the ward's $1.3 million discretionary budget in May, marking its weakest turnout since Arena rolled out the process in 2013. "Participatory budgeting works best when people actually participate," said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff. "The whole point is to give people direct say over how taxpayer dollars are spent in their community, and we need all those voices if we want it to succeed."


In Life After Coal, Appalachia Attempts to Reinvent Itself (Governing)
The decline of the mining industry started long before the Obama administration and will likely continue even with Trump in the White House. That's why local leaders are starting to diversify their economies and prepare their people for an uncertain future.

Job retraining classes are offered to Rust Belt workers, but many don’t want them (PRI)
All this is not to say that American manufacturing is dead, far from it. It’s still a major part of the US economy, and those in the industry are calling for more investment in the next wave of manufacturing. "I’m not nostalgic for 1950s steel, but I’m really optimistic for 21st-century steel,” says Scott Paul. “Manufacturing is going through an evolution that people call 'Industry 4.0,' and that’s going to take a different set of skills and training.” Back in Indiana, steelworker-turned-HVAC-instructor Dennis Matney says coal workers and everybody in manufacturing should invest some time in more education. “I think that you can resist change all you like. But it’s going to happen regardless. You might as well get with the program.” That can be a tough message to take — that life as you know it, and have known it for generations, is ending. And, as Clinton learned the hard way, it’s not one that a lot of voters wanted to hear.

K-12 Education

Show Me the Data: State Report Cards Must Answer Questions and Inform Action (Data Quality Campaign)
Everyone deserves to know how their public schools are doing, and states are responsible for creating that clear picture. Read our analysis of what we could find in report cards from all 50 states and DC.

U.S. Performance Rising in Math and Science (EdWeek)
U.S. students are generally improving, along with their peers around the globe, according to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study results. But a longitudinal look shows more of a slow uphill slog than a breakout performance.

Which Teacher Prep Programs Meet Tough New Accreditation Standards? (EdWeek)
Out of 21 teacher preparation programs from 14 states that were seeking accreditation under tougher new standards, 17 have met all expectations and gained accreditation, while four programs have failed to meet all the required standards, according to an inaugural report released on Monday by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

As Info Landscape Changes, Librarians Take on New Roles (EdWeek)
School librarians increasingly find themselves teaching students how to navigate and consume information online—and helping teachers embed those skills into the curriculum. Michelle Luhtala co-teaches a lesson on news analysis to 11th and 12th grade students at New Canaan High School in Connecticut. She and fellow librarian Jacqueline Whiting frequently partner with classroom teachers at the school to teach media-literacy skills.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Moody’s: Colleges Can Expect Another Year of Low Growth in Tuition Revenue (Chronicle)
More than 250 institutions responded to the survey, and comprehensive private universities projected the strongest growth, at 3 percent. As in past reports, this year’s report projects overall revenues to increase by about 2 percent and to track closely the rate of inflation. Additionally, Moody’s said low gains in tuition revenue are the “new normal” for colleges. The report cites the increased focus on affordability and a competitive environment as limits on raising tuition.

Interactive: Inside Jobs (The Atlantic)
Hear what 100 American workers have to say about their jobs

The New 'Good Jobs' (City Lab)
Jobs that pay well but don’t require a bachelor’s degree are what many Americans want—and these days, they’re not found on an assembly line.

Is College Worth It? Recent Grads Share Their Experiences (NPR ED)
It turns out they're all satisfied customers. And among the most important subjects they report learning a lot about was themselves — reconciling their plans and dreams with real life.

12 Cities to Work On Pathway Plans (Community College Daily)
National League of Cities is starting a two-year effort to address a major challenge facing cities — ensuring that all residents have access and support to earn industry-valued certificates and degrees with the ultimate goal of gaining meaningful employment.

Seeking Students, Public Colleges Reduce Out-of-State Prices (Associated Press)
"I really believe that this pricing strategy is going to open us up to people looking at the University of Southern Mississippi from places we traditionally haven't drawn from," said Douglas Vinzant, USM's vice president for finance and administration.

Health Care

What Trump Can Learn From Obama's Rough Ride On Health Care (AP)
President Barack Obama took on the problems of a lack of access to health care and high cost, but he and Democrats paid a political price. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to undo much of what Obama put in place, and pledged to make the system better. Although Trump is lacking in specifics, he seems to want to make costs his priority. States, insurers, businesses, and individuals would get more leeway to sort out access. Health care keenly reflects the country's deep political divide. A look at some lessons Trump might learn from Obama's rough ride.

Donald Trump Signals Big Health Policy Changes Are Coming (WSJ)
In tapping Rep. Tom Price and Medicaid consultant Seema Verma Tuesday for top health positions, President-elect Donald Trump has signaled that he intends to put conservative health-policy goals at the forefront of his administration.

Millions Of People Are Having An Easier Time Paying Medical Bills (NPR)
The number of people who say they are struggling to pay medical bills has dropped by 13 million in the past five years, a study finds. An improving economy and the Affordable Care Act are why.

Poll shows Obamacare started looking a lot better after the election (Wonkblog)
Contradictions in Trump voters' opinions of Obamacare.

Some GOP Voters Skittish On Full Repeal, Poll Finds (KHN)
With their party gaining control of both the White House and Congress, some Republican voters are growing hesitant about outright abolition of the Affordable Care Act and instead favoring a more circumspect approach of scaling it back, according to a poll released Thursday.


Comment on this article.

Recent Blogs


Public Agenda knows what it takes to fuel progress on critical issues.
We need your support to keep things moving!

Join the Community


Take Action