In his introduction to his translation of the Analects of Confucius, Pierre Ryckmans likened that ‘literary classic’ to a coat hook that has over the centuries acquired so many layers of coats that it can no longer be seen-has become so big that it completely obscures the corridor it was hung in. And that is not a bad metaphor for ‘copyright’ itself. Something that started, in 1709 as a fairly simple statute “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors .. for “.. the Term of One and twenty Years” has by now become such a huge multilayer, intertwined, spaghetti cake that it is virtually impossible to sanely approach it as a totality. Not going to try. Continue reading
by Prashant Bharadwaj, Leah K. Lakdawala, Nicholas Li – #19602 (CH DEV)
While bans against child labor are a common policy tool, there is very little empirical evidence validating their effectiveness. In this paper, we examine the consequences of India’s landmark legislation against child labor, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. Using data from employment surveys conducted before and after the ban, and using age restrictions that determined who the ban applied to, we show that child wages decrease and child labor increases after the ban. These results are consistent with a theoretical model building on the seminal work of Basu and Van (1998) and Basu (2005), where families use child labor to reach subsistence constraints and where child wages decrease in response to bans, leading poor families to utilize more child labor. The increase in child labor comes at the expense of reduced school enrollment. We also examine the effects of the ban at the household level. Using linked consumption and expenditure data, we find that along various margins of household expenditure, consumption, calorie intake and asset holdings, households are worse off after the ban.
The paper is here.
by David N. Figlio, Morton O. Schapiro, Kevin B. Soter – #19406 (CH ED LS)
This study makes use of detailed student-level data from eight
cohorts of first-year students at Northwestern University to
investigate the relative effects of tenure track/tenured versus
non-tenure line faculty on student learning. We focus on classes
taken during a student’s first term at Northwestern, and employ a
unique identification strategy in which we control for both
student-level fixed effects and next-class-taken fixed effects to
measure the degree to which non-tenure line faculty contribute more
or less to lasting student learning than do other faculty. We find
consistent evidence that students learn relatively more from
non-tenure line professors in their introductory courses. These
differences are present across a wide variety of subject areas, and
are particularly pronounced for Northwestern’s average students and
The journal ‘Agenda’, the policy journal of the College of Business and Economics at The Australian National University just released a piece of mine called ‘Universities as Royal Courts’. One can download it free of charge (just click on the link). It continues my long-running attempt of trying to explain to the Australian online public that Vice Chancellors and other higher-level bureaucrats in our universities have much higher salaries than in other countries; that at some universities (like QUT) the standards for being called a professor seem rather low if one is an administrator; why some universities have an overpaid upper echelon in the first place; and how the situation could be improved. This new piece draws parallels between the way some universities are run and how the royal courts of Europe were organised, complete with pageantry and scheming barons. The article carries a misspelling of my name ( a deliberate finishing touch of the editor, I think) which underscores the tongue-in-cheek humour of the piece. Enjoy!
“ they exert every variety of talent on a lower ground…and may be said to live and act in a submind”……
VS Naipaul “The Air Conditioned Bubble”
Writing in 1984 about the republican convention of 1984 (the triumphant beginning of Ronald Regans second term), V S Naipaul wrote of the language used at the convention as ‘computerlike’. He wrote of his sense of a ‘hollowness’ at its core and he quotes a number of speeches by delegates to the convention. Naipaul then goes on to write about English as a living language, one growing and deepening by internal references, allusive, full of references to itself – Shakespeare, the bible, popular culture etc; a language capable of making statements about itself , language capable of awareness of, being aware. The language of the speakers at the convention by contrast had, to quote Naipaul: “the same tone, the same personality (or absence of it), the same language unallusive, cleansed sterile, nerveless and dead, computer language”: a language incapable of ironic awareness: mindless and empty.
At the end of the essay Naipaul returns to and reflects upon his sense of a vacancy and inertness at the heart of the convention. Reflecting on the “imaginative poverty” he sensed at the centre of the great occasion he quotes Emerson’s reflections on visiting Britain at the height of its imperial power, in the mid 19th century. For Emerson it was, “as if inspiration had ceased, as if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy, existed anymore”. Emerson felt that English intellectual life was being choked by its consciousness of enormous power, wealth, rightness (inevitability). He wrote, “ they exert every variety of talent on a lower ground…and may be said to live and act in a submind”. Naipaul’s essay concludes thus: “like Emerson in England, I seemed in the convention hall of Dallas ”to walk on a marble floor, where nothing will grow.” ”
The unease I feel is that we too, are walking on a “floor where nothing will grow”. Emerson was writing about a society much like our own, dominated by technique and by instrumental reason. The unease is that, “as if inspiration had ceased, as if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy, existed anymore”, has come true, and that all we have to look forward to is is a endless:
“denying of the past, fearful of the future”..”endless present of endless panic.”
For 20 years some Australian school systems have been world leaders in giving schools more autonomy, and in trying to increase competition among them. Many countries are following suit, in the hope that policies to increase school competition will improve student performance. They will not. This is the myth of markets in school education. The reality is that competition does not drive enough parents to schools with higher levels of performance.
I’m doing some research for a talk I’m giving in New Zealand to heads of private schools – the invitation for which came from a similar talk I gave to the Australian Heads of Independent Schools Association. I’m sruiking the wonders of education 2.0 about which I’ve waxed and waxed on this blog. Who would you trust to guide you in your adoption of such obviously sensible technologies?
Obviously the power of the web should be used, but how? What are the pitfalls and what are the things to really focus on. Well I’ve got a nerve telling anyone anything. I did do a stint as a school teacher – a kind of self-funded Teach for Australia gig before there was such a program. And I’m an enthusiast for the web, for web 2.0 etc. But that’s it. So what would I know? What real research have I done. The problem is most people are in the same position. With bits of insight, bits of experience etc. And what kind of ‘research’ would be useful here. What kind of research would have been useful for Mark Zuckerberg setting up Facebook, Steve Jobs thinking of the iPhone or the Mac or Jimmy Wales wondering if Wikipedia would work. Or any of them trying to make those products and platforms better?
So who do you go with. The TED talkers? The consultants? Academics? Well the academics are peer reviewed after all. But then there’s a problem. What’s peer review doing in a field like that? It could add some value at least in principle. But does it? Well the academic articles that I’ve seen are more or less the same hunches marketed in the TED talks, or different ones. But they’re dealing with a massively complex subject - and no matter how many data-points one had on a topic like ‘blended learning’ (the combined use of online and ‘traditional’ learning methods) the conclusions one draws can’t really be extended beyond the circumstances of their adoption. And there are any number of ways to blend learning. As one can see from the chart.
And what we end up with is empty kinds of assurances as to what conclusions one can draw which are nevertheless shoehorned into the genre of any other academic article - which is to say one can’t make a claim that the sky is blue without references. And great lengths are gone to to provide the patina of science – single things are measured and reported on with great seriousness. But the conclusions are lame generalisations just as cliched and ultimately empty as the supposedly less ‘rigorous’ consultants and TED talkers – though the latter are partly marketing their profile and reputation elsewhere – along with the charisma of their presence and presentation.
Below the fold are the substantive conclusions from a summary article introducing a whole thematic edition of Internet and Higher Education (the reference is 18 (2013) 1–3, since you ask) It’s entitled “Blended learning policy and implementation: Introduction to a special issue” of by Ron Owston. Does this add anything to your understanding of the issues? Continue reading
Institutional Quality, Culture, and Norms of Cooperation: Evidence from a Behavioral Field Experiment, Alessandra Cassar (University of San Francisco), Giovanna d’Adda (University opf Birmingham), Pauline Grosjean (School of Economics, the University of New South Wales).
We design an experiment to examine the causal effect of legal institutional quality on informal norms of cooperation, and study the interaction of institutions and culture in sustaining economic exchange. 346 subjects in Italy and Kosovo play a market game under different and randomly allocated institutional treatments, which generate different incentives to behave honestly, preceded and followed by a non-contractible and non-enforceable trust game. Significant increases in individual trust and trustworthiness follow exposure to ‘better’ institutions. A reduction by one percentage point in the probability of facing a dishonest partner in the market game, which is induced by the quality of legal institutions, increases trust by 7 to 11%, and trustworthiness by 13 to 19%. This suggests that moral norms of cooperative behavior can follow improvements in formal institutional quality. Cultural origin, initial trust and trustworthiness influence opportunistic behavior in markets, but only in the absence of strong formal institutions.
Economic Conditions and Child Abuse
by Jason M. Lindo, Jessamyn Schaller, Benjamin Hansen – #18994 (CH HE LE LS)
Although a huge literature spanning several disciplines documents an
association between poverty and child abuse, researchers have not
found persuasive evidence that economic downturns increase abuse,
despite their impacts on family income. In this paper, we address
this seeming contradiction. Using county-level child abuse data
spanning 1996 to 2009 from the California Department of Justice, we
estimate the extent to which a county’s reported abuse rate diverges
from its trend when its economic conditions diverge from trend,
controlling for statewide annual shocks. The results of this
analysis indicate that overall measures of economic conditions are
not strongly related to rates of abuse. However, focusing on overall
measures of economic conditions masks strong opposing effects of
economic conditions facing males and females: male layoffs increase
rates of abuse whereas female layoffs reduce rates of abuse. These
results are consistent with a theoretical framework that builds on
family-time-use models and emphasizes differential risks of abuse
associated with a child’s time spent with different caregivers.