ON THE AGENDA | FEBRUARY 19TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 2/19

A weekly collection of stories, reports and news to spark consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.


Turned Around: Why do leftists move to the right? (The New Yorker)
George Packer writes: “The most common explanation is the one variously attributed to Churchill, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George: “Any man who is not a socialist at age twenty has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age forty has no head.” The move rightward is thus a sign of the hard wisdom that comes with age and experience—or, perhaps, the callousness and curdled dreams that accompany stability and success. Irving Kristol, the ex-Trotskyist who became the godfather of neoconservatism, quipped that a neoconservative was “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” Most people are hardly aware of the shift until it’s exposed by a crisis, like a major political realignment that forces us to cross party lines. Even then, they want to believe that it’s the politics, not themselves, that changed.”

How 'Philanthrocapitalism' Could Transform Government (Governing)
Mark Zuckerberg and his peers have ushered in a new playbook and a new agenda for philanthropy. Let’s hope positive change through meaningful partnerships with state and local governments is a core part of that agenda.

Research and Media

Why People Are Confused About What Experts Really Think (The New York Times)
Critics argue that journalists too often generate “false balance,” creating an impression of disagreement when there is, in fact, a high level of consensus. One solution, adopted by news organizations such as the BBC, is “weight of evidence” reporting, in which the presentation of conflicting views is supplemented by an indication of where the bulk of expert opinion lies. Whether this is effective is a psychological question on which there has been little research. Derek J. Koehler conducted two experiments to find out; they are described in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Both studies suggest that “weight of evidence” reporting is an imperfect remedy. It turns out that hearing from experts on both sides of an issue distorts our perception of consensus — even when we have all the information we need to correct that misperception.

Restoring Opportunity

The Color of Money: A Top Bank and Nonprofit Take Aim at the Racial Wealth Divide (Inside Philanthropy)
Corporation for Enterprise Development's Racial Wealth Divide Initiative, headed by Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, is “excited to partner with JPMorgan Chase and organizations of color across the country in strengthening capabilities to address racial economic inequality.” CFED is thinking bigger here, with an eye on systemic change and the larger conversation about economic inequality. It has a multi-pronged and ambitious agenda in this new initiative, including helping leaders of color become stronger voices advocating for public policy change. The nonprofit will partner with Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership to cultivate the skills and strategies of “nonprofit leaders of color in five cities” and will provide coaching and training to build leadership “at multiple levels: individual, organizational and community.”

K-12 Education

As City Changes, Program Tries to Retain School Diversity (The New York Times)
New York City’s Education Department is allowing seven schools to set aside a percentage of seats for low-income families, English-language learners or students engaged with the child welfare system.

Private groups step in to show teachers how to use technology in the classroom (The Hechinger Report)
A 2015 survey of teachers found that 90 percent felt technology was important for classroom success, while almost two-thirds wanted to integrate it into their lessons but said they needed more training. A whopping 38 percent of teachers nationwide said they learn about new technology through their own research, according to a December 2015 survey of more than 4,300 teachers nationwide.

Preservice Teachers Learn Cultural Sensitivity (EdWeek)
New efforts aim to head off teacher biases by running preservice students through simulations or embedding them in urban neighborhoods.

Higher Education

Report: Scoring the College Scorecard (Center for American Progress)
This report recommends that Congress improve the College Scorecard by allowing the Department of Education to collect data on all students attending college, not just those receiving federal financial aid. These additional data would make it possible to see how students who are served by the aid programs fare compared with those who are not. It also would provide a complete picture of results for institutions, something that may not be happening now at places where only a small portion of students receive federal assistance.

Getting More Students to College, Without Breaking School Budgets (Harvard Business Review)
In a recent review of the economic literature on college access, Judy Scott-Clayton and Lindsay Page detail, among other things how incremental the process of college access is and just how many barriers students can face all along the way. Academic readiness requires students to select (or be selected into) the appropriate courses, starting in middle school. Accessing critical financial aid requires jumping through the many hoops of FAFSA forms. When students have questions, they need to know where to go for help and work up the gumption to ask for it.

Editorial: A College Education for Prisoners (The New York Times)
That case is laid out in a new report by the prison re-entry committee of the New York State Bar Association. The report notes that the number of college programs in the state’s prisons fell from 70 in the early 1990s, before state and federal financing streams were cut, to just four in 2004. The number of college degrees awarded to inmates fell from 1,078 in 1991 to 141 in 2011. At a time when a college degree is the basic price of admission to the information economy, more than 40 percent of inmates lack a high school diploma. The report calls on the state to expand vocational and academic programs in prison to better prepare people for life and work after release.

The Approaching Revolution of Competency-Based Higher Education (U.S. News & World Report)
From Preston Cooper, a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute: “Fundamental reform of federal student aid is needed to allow competency-based education to succeed. This does not require ending federal involvement in college finance, but it does make a strong case for opening the market up to private investors, who will have a financial incentive to both encourage and properly vet innovative models.”

Health Care

Editorial: We must cure what ails our healthcare system (Miami Herald)
Steven I. Weissman writes: “I became interim president of a Miami hospital when its founder, my friend and client of 35 years, died. I quickly got an insider’s view of the healthcare system, and once you see how it works, it’s sickening. Risking long-standing relationships, I’m going public: This is not about the familiar subject of price transparency. Rather it’s about a deeper problem, which is that the industry has entirely eliminated real prices and, therefore, price competition.”

Medicare and Private Health Plans Agree to Common Standards to Evaluate Doctors (AARP)
Over a year, a multi-stakeholder group composed of Medicare administrators, doctors, private health plan representatives, consumer groups and employers has worked together to figure out a uniform way to rate doctors’ performance. Tuesday, the group announced agreement on a core set of quality measures that Medicare and private health insurance plans will phase in to evaluate doctors. It is significant because so many groups with different perspectives agreed to use the same set of measures. That’s no mean feat! Second, it will lower the cost and administrative burden of collecting and reporting different measures for different payers, something doctors currently have to do.

Selling The Health Benefits Of Tap Water, In An Age Of Flint (Colorado Public Radio)
At a downtown Denver clinic, Dr. Patty Braun talks to Marlene, a skinny 7-year-old with straight black hair who is getting a pair of fillings. Braun said “over half” of the Latino families she sees don’t drink tap water. And if the kids don’t drink tap water they don’t get the fluoride added to the water to protect their teeth.

City Solutions

About That Big Effort to Raise Private Money for Public Housing in NYC (Inside Philanthropy)
Private philanthropy has pumped many millions into New York's public schools and parks. Can the same formula aid public housing? And should we be concerned about the spread of this model to new areas?


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