ON THE AGENDA | AUGUST 5TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 8/5

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

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues including democracy, public engagement, opportunity, education and health care.


There is a way democracies can create better-informed voters—but you’re probably not going to like it (Quartz)
Recent scholarship on voting laws suggests that requiring citizens to vote would not only up turnout—it might also help boost overall political awareness.

How political idealism leads us astray (Vox)
In a profound and persuasive new book, The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society, the political philosopher Gerald Gaus shows that visions of political perfection are bound to lead us astray. Gaus’s argument is forbiddingly technical, but it’s not merely academic. It matters a great deal to the way we think about practical policy advocacy and presidential elections. And if your political identity is built around a dream of an ideally just society, Gaus’s argument is shattering.

Public Opinion

How Today’s Political Polling Works (Harvard Business Review)
There’s no complete agreement about what factors should weighted: if a poll has a low proportion of Democrats, or Republicans, should weighting be used to correct for it? Decisions like this give some pollsters the opportunity to push their results one way or the other, for partisan purposes, or to avoid being too far from what other polls are saying. As polling averages have become more prevalent, some pollsters have become nervous about putting out results that are too far from that average, leading them to weight strategically to get their data back towards the mean, or, in some cases, to choose not to release results that look weird. As a result, the polls, in the aggregate, can miss shifts in public opinion.


#ReasonsForHope: From Our History, Hope (Ford Foundation)

Ford Foundation president Darren Walker writes: I’m proud to stand with dozens of my colleagues in philanthropy as signatories on a campaign you’ll find in leading newspapers this weekend. We draw hope from a history of progress—the countless times when Americans have worked together to realize more dignity, justice, and equality in this country and the world.

Globalization isn't killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why manufacturing is up 40%. (The Los Angeles Times)
Daniel Griswold of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University offers an important reminder that American manufacturing is actually at a peak, not a trough, and writes "The right response to anxieties about trade is to invest more in education, retraining and enhanced labor mobility, not to pick trade fights with other nations that would put in jeopardy the success of America’s modern, competitive manufacturing sector."

Why Americans Are So Angry Despite America’s Strong Economy (Harvard Business Review)
Traditional economic metrics mask deeper problems. The U.S. is doing significantly worse on social progress than countries it is beating economically.

K-12 Education

Report: Educating Students in Rural America (National Association of State Boards of Education)
Because of their size, relative isolation, and inability to pay salaries comparable to larger metropolitan schools and districts, rural schools have experienced persistent educator shortages, particularly in specialized fields such as foreign languages, special education, and other key disciplines. Additionally, due to lack of technology and resources, rural districts find it harder to implement new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which require more bandwidth than a number of districts have.

Why Detroit Is an Education-Funding Vacuum (The Atlantic)
National groups aren’t coming to help some of the country’s most troubled schools.

The Importance Of Getting Things Wrong (NPR)
A Harvard professor argues that successful science teaching starts with understanding student misconceptions.

Social-Emotional Learning: States Collaborate on Standards, Policies (EdWeek)
Eight states will work cooperatively with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning to create and implement plans to draft statewide social-emotional learning standards and policies.

Higher Education

What Rankings Have Wrought (The Chronicle Review)
In their new book, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability, Wendy Nelson Espeland, of Northwestern University, and Michael Sauder, of the University of Iowa, have added welcome scholarly heft to widespread anecdotal evidence that U.S. News & World Report rankings undermine sound decision making and encourage destructive societal behavior.

Could CBE change the face of continuing ed? (Education Dive)
The continuing success of for-profit institutions demonstrates a robust pool of potential students who value access and customized pacing in education. For two and four-year institutions, there is an even wider opportunity to bridge credentialing and degree matriculation in bundled options that are affordable and flexible for working students.

The Myth of the Nontraditional Student (Inside Higher Ed)
The message that colleges and universities send to such students that they are the outsiders is persistent and causes much psychological distress and self-doubt, argues Needham Yancey Gulley.

Student Debt Correlates with "Negative Wealth" (Inside Higher Ed)
High levels of student debt are contributing to negative wealth -- when a household's debt is greater than its total assets -- and inequality, according to an analysis of household finance data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Student loans make up nearly half of the total debt of households with between $47,500 and $52,000 in negative wealth, Inside Higher Ed reports. For households with between $12,500 and $46,300 in negative wealth, college loans made up about 40 percent of total debt. In households with the smallest amounts of negative wealth, most debt was held in credit cards. About 15 percent of U.S. households have total wealth at or below zero, according to a blog post describing the findings.

Health Care

Price transparency websites need to be simple, help patients interpret the data, expert says (Healthcare Finance)
Judith Hibbard, MD, of the University of Oregon, says the easier it is to understand these databases, the better.

Shopping for Healthcare? 44 States Keep You in the Dark About Costs of Medical Procedures (Alternet)
According to a new report, only six states make information regarding the cost of medical procedures available to patients online and even that information is often "uneven, outdated, difficult to navigate or unavailable." The report, which was put out by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, investigated state consumer website to determine which location provided data on the costs of medical procedures. Public Citizen found that all but six states keep consumers in the dark. The states that do provide such information are California, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia.

Health Care Payment Is Shifting to Reward Value, but Can Information on Health Care’s Value Be Shared? (Morning Consult)
As stakeholders wrestle with how to deliver the right care to the right patient at the right time in the most appropriate setting, they do so without all the information they may need to make the best coverage and treatment decisions for patients. To address these challenges, there are a number of potential paths forward that will provide the clarity and changes to ensure there is a better, more balanced sharing of valid and reliable information — including real-world evidence with payers and other stakeholders.

Few Seniors Go Online for Health-Care Needs (U.S. News & World Report)
The study, which surveyed thousands of Medicare patients, found that only 5 percent to 8 percent were going online to fill prescriptions, deal with health insurance or communicate with their doctors. And only 16 percent were searching for health information online. Researchers acknowledged that some seniors can be tech-wary or unable to afford computers and internet service. But they were still surprised by the findings.


Where the Housing Affordability Burden Is Rising the Fastest (Governing)
In the priciest markets, some are spending nearly half their income on rent or mortgage. See how your area compares.


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