Loose Ends (119)

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There are a bunch of stray stories and curious data points right now that deserve brief notice here.

What in the world is a “violence interrupter”? If you thought that might be a euphemism for a law enforcement officer—or maybe a prison guard—you’d be wrong. Here’s what Wikipedia says it is: “Violence interruption is a community-based approach to reducing communal and interpersonal violence that treats violence as a public health problem. Individuals providing violence interruption services are known as violence interrupters.” 

Lots of “violence interrupters” appear to be ex-gang members and other such individuals who have “street cred.” I’m guessing this is what the “defund the police” people have in mind as an alternative to Officer Murphy on the beat. Well, if so it’s not working very well:

DC Violence Interrupter Charged in 2017 Homicide

A violence interrupter with the D.C. Attorney General’s Office is charged in a 2017 homicide, the Metropolitan Police Department said. . .

Police executing a D.C. Superior Court warrant arrested 39-year-old Cotey Wynn of Southeast D.C. Friday, D.C. police said. He is charged with second-degree murder while armed.

Wynn was under Pretrial Services Agency’s supervision when he was arrested, police said. [In other words, he was out on no-bail for some previous offense.] His arrest history includes felony murder, first-degree murder, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and distribution of a controlled substance. Wynn is an employee and violence interrupter with the attorney general’s Cure the Streets program.

Sounds like Wynn’s experience made him the model employee for the program! Or maybe you can just chalk this up to a new application of the “it takes a thief” theory.

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We’re always pleased when we’re ahead of the major media on a story, so our item the other day on how colleges and universities are shrinking employment, closing down whole departments, and—gasp!—terminating tenured faculty finds its echo today in the Wall Street Journal. But the Journal story goes further then I did in suggesting that the ancient structure of university governance (basically, the inmates run the asylum) may be coming to an end:

Hit by Covid-19, Colleges Do the Unthinkable and Cut Tenure

… Schools employed about 150,000 fewer workers in September than they did a year earlier, before the pandemic, according to the Labor Department. That is a decline of nearly 10%. Along the way, they are changing the centuries-old higher education power structure. The changes upset the “shared governance” model for running universities that has roots in Medieval Europe. It holds that a board of trustees has final say on how a school is run but largely delegates academic issues to administrators and faculty who share power. . .

Except for an elite tier of top schools, colleges and universities across the nation have been dogged by falling enrollment for several years. Presidents say their efforts to downsize their institutions in light of falling revenue have been hamstrung by faculty who refuse to sign off on cuts to academic programs with few students and professors with light course loads.

Faculty say they are trying to preserve academic excellence while maintaining the educational mission and liberal arts core of their institutions. Faculty also contend that resources are wasted by administrators whose ranks have increased at faster rates than professors. [Analysis: True!]

This year, the pandemic accelerated financial problems as well as tensions between administrators and faculty. Fall enrollment for freshman and international students fell 16% and 43%, respectively, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and a survey of 700 schools conducted by 10 higher education associations.

Chaser: in the latest podcast, Lucretia and I discuss how online school is not working for a lot of K-12 students, especially the ones liberals say they care the most about, and why this would likely have long-lasting ill effects. The Washington Post agrees:

‘A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected

After the U.S. education system fractured into Zoom screens last spring, experts feared millions of children would fall behind. Hard evidence now shows they were right.

A flood of new data — on the national, state and district levels — finds students began this academic year behind. Most of the research concludes students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell further behind their peers, exacerbating long-standing gaps in American education.

A study being released this week by McKinsey & Co. estimates that the shift to remote school in the spring set White students back by one to three months in math, while students of color lost three to five months. As the coronavirus pandemic persists through this academic year, McKinsey said, losses will escalate.

Thank your local teachers union for this state of affairs.

Art Carden of the very excellent American Institute for Economic Research put together this fine five-minute recollection of Walter Williams. Worth your time:

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