On School Nutrition: How Republicans Create an Alternative Reality

The rolling shit show that is the Trump administration, and his Trumpish ilk in Congress, produces a lot of shock, horror, and tripe. But what if we examine a single little issue that a lot of people don’t know much about: school nutrition. We’ll find a paradigmatic example, a template, that you can use to analyze any other thing coming out of the conservative movement today. You’ll find a fundamental failure of critical thinking results in the cancerous spread of delusional beliefs about the world. With the result of ruining lives in the self-righteously false belief they are making the world better.

The Set Up

Many activists have been circulating a bill proposed in Congress lately that all but eliminates the department of education. No, not the bill the entire text of which reads, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018” (seriously: H.R. 899). I mean, the bill titled, “Choices in Education and No Hungry Kids Act” (H.R. 610). It basically abolishes core federal law governing public schools, and reduces the role of the Secretary of Education to little more than doling out money to the states to pay for private schools.

Most people focus on that. Hello, theocracy—and the ruination of countless lives in the name of corporate greed and their scam schools. As one well-coined phrase puts it, “If you are in a position to consider private school for your child, you probably don’t need to” put them in private school…they’ll do just as well in public school, or even better. And that’s even for elite schools that spend tens of thousands per student each year, and not the garbage schools we’ll get for a mere few thousand, the only amount Republicans will ever countenance—if even that. (Outliers aside, there are only two kinds of Republicans: Republicans whose true secret motto is “fuck the poor”; and Republicans who delusionally believe they can solve the problem of educating the poor for zero cents on the dollar, and thus chafe at even spending a penny.)

But what about the second thing? The “fuck you” to Michelle Obama, which ironically calls itself the “No Hungry Kids Act,” by returning public schools to the previous state of medically malnourished children (and tons of profit for the junk food industry), that the Obama administration was starting to solve by improving cuisine at public schools to rescue the failing health of school children, the legislative outcome of one of Michelle’s major initiatives. Healthy kids? Gross! Conservatives loathed the idea. “That bitch made our food suck,” is how the legend spun out.

But…did she? When I first encountered this, my first thought was, “Well, maybe they’re right. Maybe the standards were so unrealistically health obsessive, that it resulted in inedible food, and thus drove kids to not eat at all, thus worsening their nutrition profile, in the very attempt to over-regulate it?” But, not being an idiot, I didn’t assume my first thought was correct. Instead, my second thought was, “Well, how do I find out?” How do I locate reliable information, that hasn’t been distorted, filtered, or fabricated, regarding the actual impact of the food act? And…as I always recommend when you want to knee-jerk criticize some supposed over-regulation…was there really a problem that the regulation solved? Is it, indeed, making this nation a better place to live? Or a worse one?

Most people don’t even ask these questions. You are idiots. But even most of those who do ask them, lack the critical thinking skills to answer them, and instead get manipulated by whatever propaganda mill makes them feel good—usually by validating their prior uninformed assumptions.

Inside the Delusion

Inside the bubble of the conservative mind, which we can peek into thanks to the Conservative Tribune, this is what the world looks like on this issue:

A powerful group of Republican lawmakers…is urging Congress to end first lady Michelle Obama’s hated school lunch program. … [They’ve] called for the repeal of certain parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Of 2010, the legislative bill that helped enshrine Michelle Obama’s signature program into law. … [Through which] the National School Lunch Program fed about 30 million children each school day in 2014 and cost $12.7 billion.

For perspective, that’s less than 1/310th of the national budget, so if you pay the state a national average of $13,000 in tax each year, you are spending about $41 a year on feeding school kids, less than a dollar a week. If you only pay $6000 in taxes, then you are only spending $20 on this. Not even four dimes a week. You can learn more details here.

We’ll set aside the Republican loathing for any policy campaigned for by a President’s wife (oh, right, they keep doing that). And we’ll set aside speculation about this having anything to do with “uppity black folk” daring to tell das Herrenvolk how to feed their children responsibly. Let’s assume it instead has to do with what conservatives actually said was their reason. In other words, let’s live inside their delusional worldview for a moment and describe the furniture there.

They say the law has to go because “kids aren’t eating the foods, industries can’t comply with the standards, and schools are wasting money.”

Those are fact claims. You know how to test fact claims? With science.

These guys also claim that the law should go because, “since the restrictions on fat, calories, sodium, sugar and other nutritional parameters were enacted in 2012, over 1.2 million students have stopped eating school lunches altogether.” Correlation is not causation, though. The number of kids taking the lunches has steadily hovered around 30 million +/- 1 million for the last twelve years. In that period, kids taking free meals actually increased by over 5 million—and by 1.4 million even since 2012. The 2.7 million who went the other way after 2012 are the kids who had to pay for the meals. Now we know who’s complaining. And that it’s only a small fraction of those still taking part (2.7 million is less than 10% of 30.3 million). More on that in a moment.

These guys also claim that “the bill’s insistence on every student taking a fruit or a vegetable—whether they intend to eat it or not—has created a massive amount of food waste from students simply throwing them away.” Because, you know, fuck fruits and vegetables. Why would we ask our kids to eat those? Yuck. Then they show pictures of how hideous the lunches look—though they don’t show any pictures of what the lunches used to look like (so we don’t actually know if these look worse). Nor do they verify that the pictures they selected were typical, rather than examples of bad implementation, at the worst schools. More on that in a moment.

The Triubune concludes:

These lunches did have one advantageous aspect to them: They taught our youngsters in a very corporeal, practical way exactly what happens when bureaucrats start messing with your life. Now that they’ve served that purpose, it’s time for Michelle’s lunches to go.

Okay. That’s the world as they see it.

What does the world look like when you look at it with science?

The Science of School Lunch

A peer-reviewed scientific study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014 (“Impact of the New U.S. Department of Agriculture School Meal Standards on Food Selection, Consumption, and Waste“) found that even immediately after implementation (where policy success will be at its lowest, since it can take a few years to work the kinks out of a new system):

After the new standards were implemented, fruit selection increased by 23.0% and entrée and vegetable selection remained unchanged. Additionally, post-implementation entrée consumption increased by 15.6%, vegetable consumption increased by 16.2%, and fruit consumption remained the same. …

Although food waste levels were substantial both pre- and post-implementation, the new guidelines have positively affected school meal selection and consumption. Despite the increased vegetable portion size requirement, consumption increased and led to significantly more cups of vegetables consumed. Significantly more students selected a fruit, whereas the overall percentage of fruit consumed [per student] remained the same, resulting in more students consuming fruits. Contrary to media reports, these results suggest that the new school meal standards have improved students’ overall diet quality. Legislation to weaken the standards is not warranted.

Multiple studies have since confirmed these results. Moreover, studies show the new dietary policy is even more successful when we let kids have more time to eat…at least 25 minutes. Why the fuck there are schools in this country that aren’t even giving kids half a fucking hour to eat lunch, beats me. But it ain’t Michelle Obama’s fault, I guarantee it. The only studies showing increased food waste are among rich kids. Probably because rich kids are irresponsible douchebags? I’m sure we could prove that scientifically if it were worth the bother.

Anyway. As an article for the Pew Charitable Trusts reports:

Under the updated standards, children’s eating habits are improving, which is a core goal of these strengthened policies. Students of all ages are choosing lunches higher in nutritional quality and lower in calories per gram and consuming more fruits and larger shares of their entrees and vegetables. Some studies also measured plate waste—the food taken and later discarded by kids—and found that it stayed the same or declined after the transition to healthier menus.

So the claim that “kids aren’t eating the foods” is false. As Pew reports, most schools have faced little or no difficulty meeting the requirements, and what difficulties they had could be fixed with minor tweaks to the law (some new requirements passed into law recently should probably not have been), or more often with wider implementation of executive strategies. For example waste was reduced substantially by simply holding tasting events so students become aware of whether they like or dislike a food choice before having to make that choice in practice…go figure.

Illustrating this last point, that good implementation matters more than the law itself:

Directors whose programs prepared more foods from scratch and increased the use of salad bars were more likely to report that student participation rose or was unchanged from SY 2011-12 to 2014-15. Conversely, declines in participation were seen most often by directors who purchased more commercially prepared foods or decreased menu options.

Thus, as one can see, it’s not the law, but local execution of the law that makes a difference. If half of food directors report difficulties, they clearly need to learn from the other half who don’t. The notion that “industries can’t comply with the standards” is nowhere in evidence. Nor is there any evidence “schools are wasting money.” To the contrary, “84 percent of program directors reported rising or stable combined revenue,” not a loss of revenue. Thus, quite evidently, the reasons Republicans are giving for wanting to abolish the law are, sadly, yet more “alternative facts.” And for those who weren’t aware, “alternative fact” is just code for false.

Many of these same studies are showing student nutrition is substantially improving, which we already know will improve their educational performance and quality of life, and reduce medical costs on them, and the nation, in the long term. It will also increase a healthy workforce and thus increase national productivity and prosperity, and ensure a fit population to man our military. I added that last sentence because Republicans love things that give the U.S. more money and power. After all, aren’t we supposed to be making America great again? I think I read somewhere that that meant, among other things, less sickly. Or maybe I dreamed it. Oh, you silly dreams.

Don’t Trust Wikipedia on Politically Volatile Topics

Like lunch.

Demagogues love to edit those articles to spew propaganda. And it can be a monstrous chore to fix it. So it often stays there. This affords a nice example. The entry for the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has a “Criticism” section that says several outlandish things, backed by sources that don’t have sources. It’s a nice trick. Wikipedia standards require a claim to be based on a source; but those standards don’t require that that source be based on any source. Remember that. Always check the sources—and keep going, until you get to an actual source. Or discover there is none. And when you find none, conclude a claim is bullshit until evidence materializes otherwise. (I’ve written about fact-checking like this before.)

Wikipedia claims the law is bad because “a study done by Harvard School of Public Health discovered that about 60 percent of vegetables and roughly 40 percent of fresh fruit are thrown away due to no interest.” That’s weird. Because we just looked at the studies. From Harvard. And they didn’t find that to be the case. What Harvard study are they talking about then? The footnote points you to…an unresolvable search on ProQuest. Nice. We’re assured the study exists. But not told what the study was called, when it was published, or where.

Hmmm.

Well, when I go to the website of the actual Harvard School of Public Health, I find this. A summary of the actual study. It’s the one I just discussed above, published in AJPM. Which is funny. Because that says they found exactly the fucking opposite. Oh, right. Lying with statistics. “Students discarded roughly 75% of vegetables before the USDA school meal standards went into effect and 60% of vegetables after the standards went into effect” becomes “students discarded 60% of vegetables after the standards went into effect,” which is supposed to shock us into thinking the policy change caused them to throw more food away. Simply by leaving out that other half of the equation: what we are supposed to be comparing it to.

In actual fact, the new policy resulted in fewer vegetables being trashed. The rate dropped from 75% to 60%. And with fruit, the rate of waste remained unchanged (“they threw out roughly 40% of fruits on their trays both before and after the implementation of the new standards”). And I’ll bet we could do better than that, with better implementation of school culinary policy, but even so. There has been no increased waste. To the contrary, it has decreased. And students are eating more fruits and vegetables. You might ask, how can more kids be eating fruit, if the same amount of fruit is thrown away? Why, because more students under the new policy are selecting fruit for their trays in the first place (an increase of 23% in fact). So even with the same rate of waste afterward, the net effect is more kids consuming fruit.

Wikipedia also claims “the amount of food students did not eat but threw away instead increased by 56 percent.” That’s weird again. Because it also contradicts the science. Where did that number come from? An article for The Hill. It claims “Researchers from the University of Vermont” developed that statistic. What researchers from Vermont? We’ll never know. Because that link sends us to an article about executive chefs advising schools on how to make tasty lunches under the new guidelines. It never mentions any researchers from Vermont. Or any statistic. Much less this “56%.” So, Wikipedia cites a statistic from an article that cites no source for that statistic. Lovely. Well, surely it must have come from somewhere. So let’s try to find the study they forgot to link us to…

A little Googling, and I found that they probably meant this study. Which critics noted only tracked two small elementary schools, and only for the first year of implementation. As we just saw above, longer term, larger scale studies did not replicate the Vermont findings. Science! At least, science for those who believe in science. You know, those who would not cite a study that failed to be replicated, and fail to cite a better, larger study that found very different results; and all the other studies that did. Conservatives like disproved studies that validate their worldview. They don’t like good science, because it rarely validates their worldview. So beware of selective citation like this. In actual fact, the success of a culinary policy depends on management at the local level, not directives from the national level. A shitty restaurant and a good restaurant can actually spend exactly the same amount on their food. The difference isn’t their menu. It’s their staff.

Wikipedia also says “one of the biggest points of criticism…is meal participation, and the participations has not increased, but decreased,” yet as we just saw, that’s barely even true (the decline has been minimal), and only true for affluent kids. And only a fraction of them…the spoiled and irresponsible ones, I expect. Not exactly the kind we should want to be emulated by kids nationwide. Meanwhile, kids seeking free meals under the new program have actually increased. More of the poor are thus eating better than the rich. Which, at best, is rich people’s fault. Let them get diabetes and obesity. They’re rich. They can afford it. Oh wait, no they can’t. Republicans don’t care about anyone’s health. Because they think a sick population will totes be good for the economy and national security. But that’s a discussion for another day.

And then Wikipedia says “the program has declined by nearly 4 percent” (as if 4 percent of 31 million meant a lot; but we’ve already covered that), “and some schools have lost revenue due to the decline in participation, therefore, many are choosing to opt out of the program as a whole,” which is a nice trick with the math. “Some.” Hmmm. So, most are not losing revenue! That’s what they are hiding from us with their mathematical legerdemain. They are hoping you are too innumerate to notice. But gosh. I wonder if that majority of successful, profitable schools can teach those other schools how to not lose money at this? Do you think? Maybe? Perhaps we could find out first before deciding we know?

It’s also a neat trick to go from “some” to “many,” making it sound like more schools are opting out than were losing money, a patently illogical notion. Maybe “many” of that minority of schools that couldn’t make revenue were opting out, but that would still be even fewer than the “some” they started their sentence with. But “many” sounds like more than “some.” So, again, they hope you are too innumerate to notice the semantic trick they just pulled on you.

And what was their source for this? That same article for The Hill. Hmm. We just established it’s not a reliable source. Whoah. Hold on… What did even that shady source say exactly? “Some schools have lost revenue due to the decline in participation and are choosing to opt out of the program entirely.” Sooo….how did “some” in their source turn into “many” in Wikipedia? The word “many” appears nowhere in their source. Nor does any number. We have no idea what “some” means. Might it be a trivial number? Like, say, half of one percent? And why are 99.5% of schools succeeding at implementation but these other schools not? Could it be (gasp!) that almost all schools are making good decisions, and that the failing schools should emulate them, and stop making bad decisions? Hmmm. That’s an idea. You might want to try that first. Before trashing an entire program that even conservatives admit is successful in most schools nationwide.

Conclusion

Hopefully you’ve gleaned some critical thinking skills from this example.

  • Check the sources for any claim, and then follow the source trail until you confirm the claim has a reliable source…or that it doesn’t. Judge accordingly.
  • Don’t be fooled by deceptive mathematical wording like “some.” Remember the opposite of “some” is usually “most.” Take note of what it means when most of something is exactly the opposite of what someone tells you.
  • Remember a statistic is useless if you aren’t told what it’s to be compared with. It does no good to be told that after a policy was implemented, kids threw away 60% of their vegetables. Because that’s actually an improvement if they were throwing away 75% of them before the policy. Always ask for the comparand.
  • Make sure you have the facts right (get the best, most accurate facts), and that you have all of them (if someone is leaving something out, go fill it back in).

And when it comes to reasoning about policy, don’t buy into the fallacy of “this implementation sucked, therefore this law should be repealed.” If the implementation sucked, the solution is better implementation. Period. In other words, probably the law should be improved, not repealed. Or there is nothing wrong with the law at all: a failing executive is not the fault of the law; it’s a fault of the executive. Fire them. And hire someone who knows what they’re doing. Or teach them to do it better. If many schools are nailing it, it clearly can be nailed. And that’s teachable. I know Americans have a really hard time with the idea that you have to have a competent executive to have an effective policy, or that policy can be improved by the people bungling it learning from the people who are doing it right. When things aren’t going well, it’s not always the law that’s the problem.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the issue of school nutrition, and the new bill to destroy it, I highly recommend Bettina Elias Siegel’s blog, The Lunch Tray. I expect she will be writing on this fiasco soon.

18 comments

  1. Michael Jonckheere February 27, 2017, 8:42 am

    I’d like to know more about your process. Just as an example, how did you find “Impact of the New U.S. Department of Agriculture School Meal Standards on Food Selection, Consumption, and Waste?” How long did it take to find it? How many false hits did you get? How many abstracts did you read before finding one that is relevant? Did you read the whole thing or just the abstract? Do you worry that game changing information is hidden behind a pay wall? Or in another journal? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Material hidden behind a paywall is always a worry, but mostly only when the research is maverick and not mainstream (e.g. not coming from Harvard or Pew), and not so much when several scientific peers and observers summarize the results and it matches the abstract. Moreover, I got to the article through reading several news articles about the issue (and institute pages and even government reports), which confirm the content, and sometimes wherein the researchers and their peers discuss the research. When I feel it’s necessary, I often have ways to get the article itself. But it wasn’t necessary here. Multiple studies find the same results, major mainstream institutes back it in their own summaries, and everyone (even the opposition—when they mention it) do not contradict the abstracted results (but might misquote them, as I documented). That’s good enough. If someone wants to check and see, I welcome it though.

      My process is to not trust implicitly the articles of journalists and institutes, but rather to use them as catalogs of source material to go look at, and see if they are accurately reporting it, and then use it directly; that they are accurately reporting on it is then corroboration that increases my confidence; more so if I find nothing significant that they are omitting. Pew and Harvard were my best sources, and were themselves sources of sources. I found them both in just five minutes of Googling, using keyword strings I deduced from the articles I read.

      I then do the same with the opposition: I read their articles (journalists and institutes), use them as catalogs for source material, then check to see if they are accurately reporting on the source material (or if they even have any), and Google test them further with keyword strings I deduced from the articles I read, to see if they are leaving out anything significant (or if someone has already critiqued them; in which case I do the same with those critiques).

      In this process I also often find numerous items that are useful for fact-checking the source material (e.g. what a study actually found, what the facts actually are, etc.) but not necessary to cite or link in the article. And it usually becomes clear who is distorting or hiding evidence, and who isn’t. And once that becomes clear, the credibility of one side plummets and the other rises.

      Reply
  2. Marc Miller February 27, 2017, 3:49 pm

    Personally, I would have absolutely no problem seeing the Department of Education eliminated…nutrition guidelines and all… I believe the Federal Government should stay out of it, and let the states administer as they see fit. No child left behind is not a popular program among teachers, I know that because my Dad and his wife are both retired teachers. The government has become a gigantic money sucking colossus … I’d love to see many other agencies go also!

    Reply
    1. It doesn’t matter if the federal government stays out of it. Always some government has to be in it. So it doesn’t make any sense to say a government with more money and expertise should stay out of it and be replaced with a government with less knowledge and means. That will not improve anything, much less education. And every other Western industrialized nation on earth proves this without exception. It’s tough when the evidence doesn’t agree with us. But we need the humility to let evidence defeat and change us.

      Just as in any other industry, you would readily agree efficiency of scale and centralized R&D and procedure development and safety protocols improves local action at less cost (while still allowing for local flexibility and innovation). It is more expensive (= costs you more in taxes) for your local school system to continually reinvent every wheel and try to carry all the water itself, when it could be learning from the successes and failures of other systems, and stand on the shoulders of giants. Which requires a centralized repository of knowledge to consult and benefit from, which aims to progress.

      Likewise, it’s cheaper to centralize a food program that guarantees children aren’t starving in this country, which still allows ample room for local flexibility and innovation, than to reproduce it over and over again in every district, especially when the districts most in need of that program have the least money to pay for it and are the least likely to know how to create it. And even if we decentralized it all, you’d still be paying for it. Only, you’d be paying more—either in money or misery, since a badly educated populace gives you Third World conditions, that you then have to live in…and trust me, if you really thought it through, you would rather pay the forty bucks a year to not live there.

      It feels good to think civilization would be better if we didn’t pay for it and didn’t cooperate in maintaining it or bother to scientifically improve how it works. But reality doesn’t care how we feel.

      Education is the single most important pillar on which any democracy stands or falls. We had better consider what the evidence tells us improves it nationwide. Otherwise, if we reject evidence-based reasoning, what good are we? We would be just like Christians, replacing reality with fantasy, and stubbornly refusing to accept any argument to the contrary.

      Oh, and BTW, No Child Left Behind was a conservative creation (with some liberal input). That’s why it sucked. It also no longer exists. It was repealed under Obama. It’s singular failure was the same shitty reasoning that drives most conservatism: the belief that we can get a quality product without paying for it, with some sort of legislative magic. There is a reason we keep refusing to do what we know works because it works in every other country: other countries know what’s worth paying for; while we still believe in magic. But at least the new law, created by liberals (with some conservative input), is a vast improvement. Why? Because it’s evidence-based, and was built out of actual learned factual knowledge.

      Government and policy must always be built out of actual learned factual knowledge.

      Reply
  3. Marc Miller February 27, 2017, 4:33 pm

    I see it slightly differently Dr. Carrier. To me Federal control of education ( and I believe strongly in education ), allows the federal government the ability to censor text books and teach mandated propaganda to our children, such as revisionist history about our country… Just because everyone else is bullshitting their children doesn’t mean we should!

    Reply
    1. “allows the federal government the ability to censor text books and teach mandated propaganda to our children, such as revisionist history about our country”

      I’m curious as to how a state-level education would avoid that problem? At best, you’d have some states teaching the ‘correct’ version of history, and others teaching whatever crazy crap they bleive.

      Reply
      1. That’s also a good point, Joe, so I’m posting it to give credit where due.

        In actual historical evidence for this constitutional democracy, it has always been states and municipalities that have pushed censorship and propaganda, and the more local the control, the more likely that is to happen. Whereas if the federal government does anything, it has put a stop to it. It’s the federal government that has guaranteed the defense of constitutional rights when states and towns have tried to take them away. It’s the federal government that has done more to combat violations of church-state separation at the state and local level. If it wasn’t for the federal government, theocratic school systems would exist in many counties of this country.

        The evidence thus does not favor localizing control as a good strategy to combat propaganda and censorship in education. To the contrary, the evidence supports centralization of power, supports federalism, far more than the reverse, as the solution to that threat.

        Reply
    2. Marc, give me an example of that ever happening: the federal government censoring textbooks or dictating textbooks to say anything other than what’s factually true (especially “revisionist history,” but an example of anything will do); or mandating the teaching of anything that’s false or unproven.

      I am not aware of that ever happening in the entire centuries long existence of our nation.

      And that for which there is no evidence, should not be believed. I think Hitchens said something to that effect.

      Reply
    3. I’m wrapping up an article that has one example supporting your point in a way: though the federal government didn’t mandate anything or censor anything, they did promote anti-pot propaganda in schools. That’s so far the worst example of that abuse of power I’ve found. And it’s still not anything the states can’t override, even now, if they wanted to.

      Reply
  4. Marc Miller February 28, 2017, 3:55 pm

    I’m a big fan of Hitchens btw…I haven’t gotten the chance to read too many grade school text books lately, being 48 years old. But I bet that any mention of the first gulf war leaves out any mention of multinational oil companies needing help from their security service…ie. The US military. I bet they are teaching that carbon emissions by humans are causing terrible things to happen to our planet… In fact, I have a hard time imagining anything sinister about US foreign policy being mentioned at all! One example from my own childhood was a film that we were shown in 3rd and 4th grade, this would be 1977, 78… It was animated, and portrayed the Sun as the good guy, and all those evil fossil fuels as being bad guys…and they looked scary! The film, and I wish I could remember the name of it, claimed that all fossil fuels would be gone in ten years! I remember being terrified ! Of course it was all bs, And this was during the Carter administration, so I’m sure it was federally mandated… I just feel that our educational system is specializing in training kids to be good globalist cogs in the machine… We have very different political views, but that’s ok. It is fun to talk about, and since Trump was elected, it is getting very very interesting!!!

    Reply
    1. Marc, I doubt there is any evidence the federal government mandated anyone watch any movie. Even if they produced the movie (and you haven’t even established that), if any mandate existed at all (and that wasn’t just something your principal or faculty decided to show), it almost certainly came from the local government you said should be allowed to make those decisions. Thus illustrating the very point I made. That’s why your argument isn’t logical. Even granting your position on the facts, you are just showing that local control just as easily creates the problem you are talking about, rather than solves it. If you want to prevent counter-factual propaganda being mandated in schools, you will have better luck doing that through federal involvement (just as in the case of “creation science”).

      And besides random obscure movies you have no idea whose idea they were…

      You haven’t presented any evidence of any textbook containing anything you claim, even at all, much less by requirement of the federal government.

      So your beliefs are not founded on any evidence.

      Which may be why you doubt that human contributions of methane and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere have anything to do with the thoroughly documented annual rise in global average temperature. If you form beliefs without guidance from the actual evidence, you aren’t going to be right about a lot. But I can’t help you with that.

      Reply
  5. Marc Miller February 28, 2017, 5:05 pm

    I have to say that you have a lot of confidence in our federal government Dr. Carrier… Me not so much. One look at the mess they have made around the world and in this country should tell you either they are total idiots, or they have an agenda that isn’t something they advertise … When billions of dollars are being given to global warming research, and anyone who doubts human causation is ridiculed, you have to ask yourself what exactly is going on here? I’ve studied this quite a bit, and the evidence is really not so good… We are now on the brink of war with Russia…already fighting two proxy wars against them that I know of….this is not good! We have become an imperialist nation, and world control has become our goal… I live in a different world than you do…I work in heavy industry which has been decimated by free trade agreements… Tell me please Dr. Carrier, how are we supposed to pay for all these federal programs and agencies without a tax base of high paying jobs?

    Reply
    1. Oh, I quite agree our state is flawed and has plenty of room for improvement, as are all governments, including state and local ones. And indeed we have a global imperialism problem. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is what you said about education, which is a simple question of fact, based on the evidence we have of what’s happened in the past: does getting the federal government out of the business of centralizing knowledge and funding for education reform improve or worsen education, increase or decrease censorship & propaganda mandates, protect or threaten the civil rights of students or the separation of church and state? On balance, for all its flaws and mistakes, the answer is all in favor of federalism: it’s not perfect; it’s just better, than total local control (and I only mean total; a significant amount of local control is necessary and not in dispute). And I don’t say that because I believe it. I say that because it is in actual fact what the evidence shows.

      Changing the subject to other topics (like how much the federal government spends on what kinds of scientific research) isn’t going to get you off the hook for the fact that you made false claims about what the evidence shows will actually help schools. Which indicates you do not reach conclusions based on evidence. And that calls into question all your other beliefs. Because you aren’t using an effective epistemology. You claimed the federal government engages in censorship and mandated propaganda in textbooks. You presented no evidence it’s ever done either. All the evidence of it’s ever being done, is by local governments, the very ones you claimed should be in charge. So the evidence shows your recommendation will increase censorship and propaganda mandates; whereas the reverse is not the case, and even contrary to the case (e.g. if it wasn’t for the feds, creationism would be “science” in countless schools today if they were under the local control you asked for). You thus have no evidence-based case for keeping the federal government out of education reform; to the contrary, your reasoning is exactly contrary to the facts. Similarly for food programs essential to scholastic success for the poor.

      As to the other subjects you now bring up which are irrelevant to what we were discussing and what my article was about, no, we are not on the brink of war with Russia (the only state we have tense military relations with right now is China), and we actually aren’t fighting any proxy wars at this moment (we have hardly any boots on the ground in any conflict, and have not even deployed very much logistical or air support for any, either, at least compared to, e.g. Bosnia under Clinton and Afghanistan under Reagan), but yes, we do too much military adventuring—if we did less, we could afford better education for our citizens. Similarly we have plenty of money in this country to tax. That the rich evade their taxes thus throwing the burden unfairly on the poor is one of those things we need to fix. Meanwhile the free trade question is way more complicated than you may think; and what scientific research and development the government should fund is a fair question for debate, as long as that debate is evidence-based and not based on dogmas.

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  6. Marc Miller March 1, 2017, 4:46 pm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB54XxbgI0E This is a link to an Aljazeera interview with Noam Chomsky that you might find interesting. He is no lover of Trump, but does characterize the Russian border as the most dangerous flash point in the world right now. And by proxy war, I mean that we are supplying weapons and other aid to troops who are fighting troops that the Russians are supplying weapons and aid to…perhaps I used the wrong term. As far as the Department of Education goes, I just have a very hard time trusting the Federal government… I feel that “centralization” of education is a dangerous thing. And the idea that Federal expertise is the answer seems strange to me. Just look at the Affordable Care Act rollout fiasco, and they had what, two years to prepare for it? And then no child left behind, was a disaster which you blamed on conservatives, and you are right, but it doesn’t make any sense to assume that Democrats could do any better, in light of how they screwed up Obamacare…which is a disaster btw… So why not just scrap it and save lots of money? Different states have different cultures, and that should be embraced, and they may opt to educate their children in different ways, and this should also be embraced. If any state or local government steps over the line by teaching religion, or anything else that legally does not belong in the classroom, then I’m sure the ACLU will be on it…just like the district here in PA which attempted to teach intelligent design.

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    1. Once again, little of the new stuff you say is actually in accord with the evidence. And none of this relates to education. Except your strange belief that the ACLU can do anything except get the federal government to stop state and local violations. You do realize that’s all the ACLU can ever do, right? Which it couldn’t do at all, if it wasn’t for federalism. And on the whole question of education, the evidence of what works there is pervasive, not only in US history, but in every other major Western democracy. My beliefs align with the evidence. So should yours.

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  7. Marc Miller March 1, 2017, 6:43 pm

    I’m sure you will correct me if I’m wrong, but the Judicial branch was set up by the Constitution, and whether we had a smaller federal government, or the gigantic one like we have now, they would still be available to the ACLU? Honestly how are we doing on education compared to other major western democracies ? Wait, I think I know the answer to this!

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  8. Marc Miller March 3, 2017, 5:35 pm

    What are you talking about Dr. Carrier? It’s all part of the federal government….Of course the executive branch enforces court decisions… I never said I wanted to change our form of government, just shrink it! And you didn’t address my point that we are in the middle of the pack or lower in education among major western democracies, and that is unacceptable! Whatever the Department of Education has been engaged it, it has not produced results!

    Reply

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