The Competing Goals of Innovation and Abolishing Tenure

In my consideration of the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation, I have yet to touch on a contentious issue: granting tenure to public school teachers. In most states, teachers, after a certain number of years, are granted job protection. In many cases, this means that the teacher cannot be fired without due cause. In Wisconsin at least, teachers without tenure can be fired for any reason without cause; in other words, teachers have no job protection, other than various laws protecting them from being fired because of age, race, gender, etc. This particular policy is a challenge to the use of teacher test scores in evaluation. A teacher with job protection cannot be summarily fired after producing students with low test scores. Instead, school administrators must carefully document their efforts to help the teacher succeed and show a consistent pattern of failure before they can dismiss that teacher.

To critics of tenure, this is unacceptable. They would argue that a teacher with job protection loses the desire to continue doing well. Instead, the teacher is free to embrace teaching that requires the least amount of effort, given that the teacher no longer needs to worry that his job is at risk. Furthermore, this policy limits the ability of school administrators to hire the best teachers available. A mediocre teacher with tenure cannot be dismissed, even if a better candidate is waiting to take that job. Thus abolishing tenure is often mentioned in the same education overhaul plans that call for using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

There are numerous ways to rebut those who claim tenure produces failing teachers. For example, it is easy to find evidence that the most effective teachers are not those who are new to the classroom; rather, just like almost all professions, teachers get better with experience. I won’t turn to these claims in attempting to argue in favor of tenure systems. Instead, let’s consider a different goal that so-called education reformers support: innovation in the classroom.

Anyone who supports the use of test scores in evaluating teachers and the abolishment of tenure must necessarily believe that these things will fundamentally improve education. Contingent upon this belief is a perspective that, in many cases, schools are failing to properly educate children. After all, if schools were doing a fantastic job, then there would be no reason to change the current system. And thus, in the same justifications for the use of test scores and the abolishment of tenure, these critics also support innovation in education, the use of new educational techniques to help children learn. Newer teachers will be more likely to use these techniques, and thus getting rid of old, failing teachers is paramount.

Within this logic lies a dangerous competing goal. First, we desire teachers who are successful. Second, we desire teachers who are innovative. Yet innovation is highly correlated with failure. Many innovative ideas will turn into failing classroom policies. Of course, some will succeed and can spread from school to school, improving education overall. But others will not help those children taught in innovative ways, and some will actually hurt student learning. We must be prepared for this outcome if we are to encourage innovation in the classroom.

This puts teachers in a very precarious position. On the one hand, they know that their careers depend on producing students with high test scores. This requires a careful adherence to those items that the test measures; in other words, it makes teachers “teach to the test.” On the other hand, they know that they must continually demonstrate new ways of thinking and strive to be on the cutting edge of educational technique. If they do not, then they will look like they are stuck in the past and not working to improve education. Yet this has the potential outcome of students doing worse as many new techniques will not be successful.

What can be done to help teachers achieve both goals? What if we took experienced teachers, with proven classroom abilities, and gave them the freedom to innovate, perhaps by promising a reduction in how much of their evaluation is based on test scores? This should take the best teachers and allow them to try new things without fear of failure. Furthermore, because these are experienced teachers, they should be able to adapt more readily and correct poor learning caused by a new technique. This helps give teachers job security, encourage innovation, and help students. What should we call this system? As you’ve figured out by now, it already has a name: tenure.

Tenure is nothing more than a grant of freedom to experienced, proven teachers to try new things in the classroom without fear that their job is at risk because of the potential for failure. We don’t grant this freedom to inexperienced teachers because we aren’t certain that we want them trying to innovate. But we trust experienced teachers to be able to innovate and still produce good results. Some failures are likely, but overall, we can expect that students will suffer less when an experienced teacher fails compared to a new teacher and that the outcome in some key cases will be new techniques that improve learning.

Critics might respond by asking about all the failing, tenured teachers that populate our public school. I am not certain that there are so many of these teachers; note two things about critics: they fail to define “good” or “bad” teachers and they fail to produce solid numbers on how frequently teachers are “bad”. But nevertheless, we might now consider how schools can encourage innovation from their experienced teachers. I have no interest in producing suggestions for how to do this, but I will note that research on creativity suggests that people produce more creative outcomes when they are instructed to be creative. If we tell our teachers to innovate in the classroom, and stress that experienced teachers should not fear the possibility of failure, then we should find a real increase in creativity, thanks in part to the protections granted by tenure.

The tenure system does not work perfectly, and critics will always be able to find anecdotal evidence to support their claims that abolishing tenure will improve education. But if innovation in the classroom is necessary, and if teachers are judged from test scores, then tenure offers an ideal solution to help encourage innovation while protecting teachers. It achieves what critics are after, even if they themselves can’t figure that out.

Justifying Test Score Use in Teacher Rating

Yesterday, I considered some necessary assumptions or antecedents before using test scores to rate K-12 public school teacher effectiveness. Today, I want to expand upon this thinking to consider the necessary justifications that school administrators and lawmakers must provide before using test scores as part of the teacher evaluation process.

It is necessary to provide such justification because the addition of such scores suggests that this data is unique and not already strongly correlated to other forms of evidence used in the process. If this data is in fact not unique, then it merely reflects what is already known. This particular perspective is represented when good teachers’ students receive good test scores and when bad teachers produce students who get low test scores. Given that these teachers were already evaluated as such, the addition of their students’ test scores adds no unique information. If no unique information is provided, then we are essentially wasting money by trying to appropriately use test scores as an additional factor to consider.

Indeed, those who advocate the use of test scores in teacher evaluation must necessarily believe that there are many cases where school administrators perceive a teacher to be effective but test scores suggest the teacher is failing. Under no other condition can test scores provide unique evidence of teacher failure. Even in the case of the opposite mismatch (wherein a teacher perceived to be bad produces students with good test scores), there would seem to be little will to rely on the test scores to make a decision about that teacher’s future employment. This severely limits the usefulness of test scores in determining teacher performance.

The usefulness is even further limited when considering necessary assumptions (that I laid out in my post yesterday) for the use of test scores in evaluation. It seems likely that a good teacher whose students perform poorly is likely in a situation where not all these assumptions are met. Consider the following scenario. Teacher Bonnie Goodman is a 6th grade English teacher in an inner-city middle school. She is widely perceived by her peers and administrators as a good teacher, one of the best in the school. But her student’s test scores for this last school year came back very low compared to the statewide average. Let’s consider each assumption in turn.

1. Most teachers are good teachers. If this assumption is not met, it may suggest a pattern of ineptitude running throughout the entire school. In the case of Ms. Goodman, our teacher example, her own efforts may be succeeding, but her students may be met with incompetence from all other teachers. It may be very difficult for Ms. Goodman to counteract this effect. Because she may not be surrounded by other competent teachers, her own ability to succeed is severely limited.

2. Most students do their best on standardized tests. If Ms. Goodman’s students do not take the standardized tests seriously, then the test’s usefulness in evaluating her performance is limited. Perhaps Ms. Goodman makes special effort to seek appropriate literature that will also appeal to her students, but the standardized test makes no such adjustments. (This lack of flexibility is an often cited reason for why certain tests show racial or gender biases.) It is possible that Ms. Goodman’s students may lose motivation to do well on the test. This is even more complicated if the students believe that the tests have no impact on their future or, even worse, if the students know poor scores will hurt teachers, and they feel motivated to achieve this outcome.

3. Standardized tests are a reasonably accurate measure of student learning. This ties into a similar problem in assumption 2, but in this case, we must imagine that Ms. Goodman is teaching her students well in the eyes of her peers and school administrators. If the standardized test does not do an adequate job of capturing what the school thinks it is important to teach, then Ms. Goodman’s students may indeed produce low scores even though she is teaching in line with her school’s curriculum.

4. The large majority of a school’s students are able to achieve competency in tested subjects. If this is not the case in Ms. Goodman’s school, even if assumption 1 is met, then we must look more broadly at what social forces are at play in the school. A more relative measure of success may be necessary. Ms. Goodman may be the most effective teacher in the state, but her abilities to produce competency in most of her students may be hampered by standards that are set unfairly. This does not mean that we should lower standards for what competency means; rather, it suggests that test scores may not be useful in this particular situation.

Those who seek to use test scores in teacher evaluation must offer justification for how many teachers they expect to identify as failing using this additional source of data. Given how few teachers will be identified as good by past measures of teacher performance yet also produce students with failing scores and be in situations where all necessary assumptions and antecedents for using those test scores are met, it seems that the reasoning behind using test scores is flawed at best and disingenuous at worst. Until a better case is made for using test scores in addition to other sources of data, we must be skeptical of claims that such evidence is necessary for teacher evaluation.

The Teacher/Test Score Rating Matrix

During a conversation with my dad last night, I suggested that there is little reason for the majority of K-12 public school teachers to be worried about the use of test scores in evaluating their performance. That’s not to say that there aren’t very reasonable arguments against such a change. Various technical hurdles obviously impact the usefulness of test scores. For example, my dad brought up certain schools where turnover of students in a class across the school year can exceed 100%. And test scores must be weighted appropriately. Basing the entirety of teacher performance on test scores is unethical because those tests aren’t designed to measure teacher performance. I also think there is a real pejorative and paternal undertone to the evaluation of teacher performance that is not being dealt with in current discourse.

All these very reasonable complaints aside, most teachers have relatively little reason to be worried about the use of test scores. Allow me to first lay out some key assumptions to my argument. Feel free to take issue with any of them.

1. Most teachers are good teachers. That’s not to say that most teachers are exceptionally effective; after all, it is impossible for most teachers to be above average. But in terms of competency, most teachers reach reasonable competency standards.

2. Most students do their best on standardized tests. Should we have evidence that students are not trying hard on tests, then teachers have a LOT to fear from the use of these scores for performance evaluations.

3. Standardized tests are a reasonably accurate measure of student learning. If the tests deviate from the school’s curriculum, then their use in evaluation is flawed and should be rejected.

4. The large majority of a school’s students are able to achieve competency in tested subjects. If an entire school is performing far below competency, then the scores lack validity for assessing teacher performance. Using a ranking system (whereby the best performing teacher in a poor performing school is rated as having good performance) is wrong, because it rewards teachers with failing students. But using an absolute score system is also wrong because it ignores certain structural variables that cause the poor student test scores.

With those assumptions in place, let’s imagine a 2×2 matrix of teacher quality and test scores. I’ll go through each of the cells in turn, though not in numerical order.

In category 1, we have good teachers whose students produce good test scores. This should be the majority of teachers according to Assumptions 1 and 4. Those teachers falling into this category have nothing to worry about. Their performance should be judged satisfactorily and their jobs should be perfectly secure.

In category 4, we have bad teachers whose students produce failing scores. There should be very few teachers falling into this category according to Assumptions 1 and 4. This category should not be surprising and achieves exactly the purpose of using standardized test scores in teacher evaluation. It adds further evidence to other sources of evaluation for teachers, including peer ratings and administrator observation.

Categories 2 and 3 represent more problematic categories. In category 3, we have bad teachers whose students earn good test scores. This requires careful consideration of what makes a good or bad teacher. If we believe that a bad teacher does not reach competency standards, then our assignment of these teachers as “bad” may be flawed given the contrary evidence in their students’ test scores. However, there is reason to believe that this particular category is quite unlikely, given Assumption 1. The prevalence of teachers falling into this category may warrant consideration of Assumption 4; it may be possible that certain schools produce success not due to teaching but instead due to structural factors. In these cases, it is wrong to rely on test scores to evaluate teachers.

Finally, in category 2, we have good teachers whose students earn bad test scores. Examining this issue from the surface might trigger stories of good teachers unfairly treated; perhaps teachers who tried their best but just couldn’t get through to their tough students. In cases where this stereotype is true, however, Assumptions 2 and 4, and possibly also 3, may not be met, making the use of test scores in evaluation misguided. Digging deeper, we may see that some teachers may be well liked by students, peers, and administrators but may simply be failing to effectively teach. In these cases, test scores perform a valuable service to everyone by fingering teachers who appear to succeed on the surface but ultimately fail at their job. If all assumptions are met, then there is very little chance that a teacher could be incorrectly flagged as a poor teacher when he is actually good.

Of course, it is these potential errors in categories 2 and 3 that are most troubling. We don’t want to keep bad teachers in the classroom even if their students produce good test scores. Bad teaching may have negative repercussions for students later in life, including a reduction in academic motivation. And, perhaps even more troubling, we don’t want to fire good teachers simply because test scores were used inappropriately to measure teaching ability.

Even with these error scenarios, it is very challenging to make an argument that test scores are likely to doom all teachers. Teacher’s unions, school administrators, and lawmakers must work together to implement a system that allows test scores to be used only when their use can be done fairly. I humbly suggest my four assumptions above as a good starting point. Though the majority of teachers have nothing to fear from the use of test scores, the possibility for error is real and must be accounted for prior to the application of test scores to teacher ratings.

Obese Children Need State Help

Cuyahoga County, OH officials have removed an obese 8-year-old boy from his home and placed him in foster care. Though many children qualify as obese, this particular boy (who weighed over 200 pounds) was a special case because county officials believed his mother to be incapable of dealing with his weight thus placing him at medical risk. Though the outcome is dramatic, obesity in children should be carefully scrutinized by child welfare organizations. Steps must be taken to help obese children and their parents.

Some cases of childhood obesity are due to medical problems that are out of the control of parents; however, very few cases meet this criteria. In most cases, obese children are obese because of poor parenting. This parenting may include an inability to regulate the child’s diet, providing poor nutrition at home, and a lack of emphasis on appropriate amounts of physical activity, possibly aggravated by lack of regulation for sedentary activities. If parents are unable to understand how to manage their child’s health, then a governmental agency must step in.

There is no reason to treat obesity any differently from other cases of child abuse or neglect. Few would argue that a child suffering physical or emotional abuse should be left in the home. Obesity has long-lasting physical repercussions that pose similar issues to the child’s health and well-being (albeit some more long term than the pain caused by physical or emotional abuse). Obesity may, in fact, be even more deserving of state-intervention as certain abusive behaviors can be stopped quickly (for example, by removing an abusive parent from the home); obesity, unfortunately, will take much longer to deal with.

Obesity, however, is a more complex case than other types of abuse, and this is likely why the activities of Cuyahoga County officials will be met with scrutiny. Certain other types of behaviors that may be harmful to children may not fall under the purview of state officials. For example, young children may be allowed to play violent video games and watch violent movies; child welfare officials are powerless to regulate this type of behavior in most homes. Any negative behaviors resulting from such viewing, however, can fall under state scrutiny. If the child acts out violently in school, then county officials may pay a visit to the child’s home. Obesity, just like violent behavior, may be a result of the home environment, and thus it is important for state officials to followup with parents of obese children.

It is reasonable to scrutinize the removal of the boy from the home; such action may have been too dramatic. (It is worth noting that certain details of the case are not revealed; for example, we don’t know the condition of the home or parents.) In many cases, obese children may live in a loving home with obese parents; the problem in these cases is more widespread than simple bad parenting. Nevertheless, action must be taken to improve the welfare of these children. In some rare cases, the child should be removed. But in many other cases where removal is not warranted, state officials must still intervene for the health and safety of the child. This may mean forcing the parents to pay for healthy eating classes, regular medical and bariatric checkups for the child, and increased physical activity.

I hope that the actions of Cuyahoga County officials do not become the norm around the country. Such actions would overwhelm the foster care system. However, their intervention should serve as a model for child protection agencies around the country. Childhood obesity is a form of child abuse. We shouldn’t let an image of “fat and happy” children reduce our willingness to intervene when the health and safety of the child is at risk.

Dashing through the Mall, Cell Phone Being Tracked

In a clever way to capture more data about shopper movements, some malls have installed multiple cell phone attennas throughout their facility. This allows the mall to track shoppers as they move from store to store, providing malls with a rich dataset of where shoppers go, where they linger, and what stores they aren’t getting to. It’s another case of some potentially creepy technologies being used to capture big datasets. And, just like in other cases of big data, it is unclear what the malls will use it for.

The main problem I see with this automated data collection method is that it is unlikely to produce a dataset that is different from collecting the same data the old fashioned way – by stationing people in various parts of the mall to observe and record where shoppers are going. Stores, of course, do this all the time, simply taking note of when the store is and isn’t busy. They can also easily tell where shoppers have and haven’t been by the amount of merchandise that is disturbed in a particular area. Those carefully folded shirts in store section D3? If they are still carefully folded after three hours, it’s easy to surmise that no consumers were particularly interested in them.

There is one clear advantage to tracking cell phone signals; malls can now see where specific shoppers go in the mall by recording store to store movement patterns. This is potentially useful information that cannot be captured by stationing observers in the mall. But, again, it isn’t clear if this data has any particular usefulness. First, stores already have a good handle on who their customers are thanks to their own research. Furthermore, because of many stores requesting email addresses and connecting with “fans” through social networking websites, stores have easy access to customers choosing to receive advertisements. This kind of connection is much more valuable than seeing where their shoppers also go in a mall.

Second, the data doesn’t have usefulness because malls are limited in how much they can reconfigure themselves. Certain areas of the mall have higher traffic than others, meaning certain store fronts are more desirable. This is known without cell phone tracking. Certain store configurations are more desirable than others, meaning most stores specifically chose their location to maximize merchandise display room and cost. And most stores won’t be willing to relocate willy-nilly just because the mall provides them with evidence that customers frequently go from the frozen yogurt stand to the cell phone store (meaning those two stores might make more sense right next to each other).

Third, if this data is so valuable, then why weren’t malls already making a concerted effort to collect it? It would be easy to ask shoppers, as they enter or exit the mall, to take a mall map and draw their route, including which stores they entered. Many shoppers would be willing to do this for little or no incentive. Perhaps malls could provide a coupon for a certain store or a mall gift certificate for a small amount (say, $5). The size of the dataset captured automatically by cell phone tracking is unlikely to provide any more information than a smaller dataset of the same type.

In other words, I just don’t see how malls can capitalize on this data to increase profits. But I do see plenty of ways that they can lose money. The technology is expensive, it’s pricy to hire someone to analyze the data, and it may offend some shoppers when they learn that the mall is following them without their permission. This is arguably worse than other location-based incidents in the past; at least Apple’s iOS location tracking didn’t actually get sent back to Apple.

In the Chicago Tribune article linked in the first paragraph, they mention that other retail outlets like JCPenney and Home Depot are looking to install the technology. How it will be useful to these stores is even less clear. After all, they have the ultimate dataset – actual purchases. Who cares where shoppers walk when we already know what types of items they buy together. But in any case, it looks like this type of technology isn’t going away soon. Perhaps we’re not so far from the Minority Report retina scanning dystopian future.

How Much Profit in Content Sales?

Amazon’s new tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, seems destined to be a hit with consumers this holiday season. This success comes despite a relative paucity of positive reviews and a small screen (less than half the size of the iPad’s). Instead, the tablet seems destined to succeed because it is priced very competitively at just $200. In comparison, one can’t buy a new iPad for less than $500. But in selling a tablet for so little, Amazon is also reportedly taking a loss on each Kindle Fire sold; estimates range from a few dollars to more than $50. The logic presented for this decision is that Amazon plans to make up the losses on the hardware by selling content for the Kindle Fire, a process front and center for the device. So how much can Amazon really expect to make from each tablet sold?

To get the most out of the Kindle Fire, users may purchase an Amazon Prime account. This costs $80 per year. Users may also be likely to purchase a variety of books and music through Amazon. Let’s estimate that the average customer purchases two books and two music albums per month, with an average cost of $10. Amazon customers might also order more from Amazon, given that their Amazon Prime account gives them free two-day shipping. Let’s estimate that the average customer will spend $100 more than the normally would. All this totals up to an additional $660 per year.

So if that’s the average amount that Amazon can expect to earn from each Kindle Fire sale, then how will this affect Amazon’s overall profits? In the third quarter of this year, Amazon’s net income was $63 million. That’s not a lot, and it’s a lot less than their third quarter net income from 2010 ($231 million).

Given that Apple sold 3 million iPad 1s in the first 80 days of release, let’s estimate that Amazon sells a third as many Kindle Fires before the holidays. This should increase Amazon’s revenue by $660 million dollars. Amazon’s current profit margins stand at .58% for the third quarter (a conservative estimate for how much of the increased earning Amazon would actually keep), so using this estimate, Amazon can be expected to increase profits by about $4 million dollars. That’s an increase of 6%. If we use a more liberal estimate of profits (say, from 2010, when Amazon profit was 3.35% of revenue), then we arrive at an increase of $22 million, or 35%.

Now, all of these numbers are incredibly fuzzy. Nevertheless, we can use this range ($4-$22 million) as an estimate for how much it is worth to Amazon to produce the Kindle Fire at a loss. Given that Amazon is ultimately a low margin business (common for most of retail), these are very real profits for the company. Increasing sales over time, should the Fire prove a hit, and a steady yearly revenue stream (from increased content sales) should pad Amazon’s bottom-line. Feel free to bicker with my calculations, but I think selling the Fire at a loss is a solid move for Amazon.

Gadget Breakdown Nightmares

Tell me if you’ve had this dream before. You need to complete some kind of task, but somehow certain things keep blocking your progress. I had a dream a couple of weeks ago where I needed to drive someone somewhere, but first I couldn’t find my keys, next I couldn’t find where I parked the car, then I couldn’t find the person. I woke up feeling bewildered and anxious. What causes such strange dreams? After all, in real life, we seldom have such blocked progress. Seldom, but not never, and one place where we specifically experience such frustration can be with our technological gadgets.

Take, for example, my recent trip to the National Communication Association’s conference held this year in New Orleans. To travel light, I jettisoned anything that I felt was superfluous. That meant no maps or guidebooks; instead, I depended on my iPhone and iPad and hoped I could find reliable internet access. But with so many people attending the conference, I could never count on the hotels being able to provide adequate bandwidth for their wireless internet service. Even worse, sometimes I couldn’t even see the conference’s network. My iPad without internet works just fine, and I could read PDFs and get some work done. But if I wanted to check my email or try to find a place to eat, I was stuck most of the time.

Thankfully, I also had my smart phone along, but it brought its own share of technical problems. First, the 3G network from AT&T, while always saying it had full bars, was seldom very quick or reliable. Data seemed to load in fits and starts, never fluidly. In one instance, I was walking down to get some dinner at a restaurant four blocks away. Along the way, I passed another restaurant that looked good, so I used my phone to check the restaurant’s reviews; not only could the app (Yelp) not get access to the internet, the location provided my maps application was wildly off, making finding the restaurant by proximity impossible. I kept walking.

Second, the phone’s screen is insanely small. For some tasks, it is truly unusable. Trying to plan out a walking route to get from a hotel to a restaurant, if the route was more than a few blocks, meant constant zooming in and out: zoom in to find the street name, zoom out to trace the route again. Using the conference’s online program was very difficult as well. A high-density display cannot make up for the fact that lines of text are frequently unreadable, even if rendered perfectly.

Being stuck with internet access that was slow, unreliable, and only available on small devices made for some truly frustrating situations. So if the nightmare described above has an origin in real life, perhaps it is these types of frustrations. I’ve had similar situations play out when one the phone with the cable company trying to get my internet working again. Or just today, trying to get a video from to play without giving an error that the video was no longer available; once I got the video playing again, CBS would force me to watch another two ads, one before the video started and another after I had found my place where the video had previously frozen. When technology works, it can be truly amazing. And when it doesn’t, it’s just like living a nightmare.

Is Child Labor Instructive?

Newt Gingrich has some unconventional ideas regarding education, says the New York Times. Reading over their coverage of his views, unconventional is putting it mildly. Mr. Gingrich essentially advocates that child labor be instituted in public schools. He suggests that, for poor schools, janitors be fired and children hired to do the cleaning of the school, including being paid a modest wage for their work; this policy should be implemented for children as young as 9. Child labor laws currently prohibit this type of work.

Most people will likely peg the most controversial part of Mr. Gingrich’s plan as this child labor component. After all, Mr. Gingrich is no stranger to making bizarre proposals about how children should be treated. In 1994, he proposed that the government open orphanages for poor children (and not just children whose parents are dead). It is unclear why Mr. Gingrich thinks the government can do a better job of caring for these children, but this school proposal follows along those same lines. The children are poor, his plan will provide them with work and wage, and therefore, it will help solve problems.

But here’s the thing: the child labor proposal isn’t the controversial part. Children do chores at home, they clean up their classrooms at school, and we suggest that these things are simply part of learning to be responsible. Adding in additional components of caring for the school at large (rather than just the child’s desk, locker, and classroom) isn’t a very large jump. Instead, what is controversial about Mr. Gingrich’s proposal is that he thinks it should only be implemented for poor children. Mr. Gingrich needs to clarify why this is the case if he has any reason to think this proposal can go anywhere.

Mr. Gingrich’s suggestions can be seen as solving two problems. The first problem is that children need better education. One way to create this education is to foster a commitment from the children toward their school. This suggestion is echoed from both liberals and conservatives. Indeed, Thomas Freidman wrote yesterday that education would improve if America had more good parents, regardless of teacher quality. His reasoning is that parents can raise their children to value learning, which makes for better students. Mr. Gingrich’s plan follows the same logic. If children truly care about their school and feel invested in taking care of it, then they should desire to be at school more, they should be more respectful of their teachers, and their education should improve.

The second problem addressed by Mr. Gingrich is the fact that poor children are, to wit, poor. Therefore, the school should provide children with work to do in exchange for money. This will reduce the poverty of the children, as well as foster a commitment to work (given that all Republicans seem to think the only thing that motivates people is money – even B. F. Skinner wasn’t this simplistic about behaviorism!). Mr. Gingrich argues that this money will help children rise out of poverty. (We’ll not discuss how it may also work to create a permanent underclass of people accustomed to manual labor for low wages.)

Taking these two problems together, we start to see how they systematically discriminate against poor children and also fail to offer benefits to better off children. Let’s start by considering the latter. If working to care for the school helps create better education, then this policy should be encouraged for all schools. For poor children, it should help to increase attendance and attentiveness. For middle class children, it should help reinforce the value and importance of work. And for rich children, it should offer a humbling experience valuable for perspective taking and empathy development. This alone, according to Mr. Gingrich’s logic, should help raise American test scores.

But if we don’t offer these benefits to all children, then Mr. Gingrich’s plan aims to actually punish poor children. First, when are the poor children expected to work for their school? Taking time away from the classroom will hurt education, so the work will have to be performed before and after school. And given that Mr. Gingrich advocates physical labor, we must also account for the fact that children’s bodies are not able to perform at the same level as adults. This means children will likely be more tired, giving them less energy during the day thanks to morning work, and less productive time in the evening for homework, also potentially hurting education.

Second, who will manage the money of the children? Mr. Gingrich cannot seriously think that children should simply be handed cash. What skills or knowledge would they have to manage their money responsibly? Perhaps instead the school should hold the money and give it to the children when they turn 16 or 18. This is a system designed for exploitation and would run afoul with even relaxed child labor laws. So should the children’s parents be given the money? Mr. Gingrich is unlikely to support this option, given his penchant for blaming poor people for their own predicaments.

Third, is the work performed by the children optional or not? There are numerous logistic concerns here if the work is voluntary. If all children in the school wish to work, then the school will need to provide work for all. This expense could be large. If the school reduced the hours of everyone based on volume (or worse, just reduced the wages), then there is little benefit to the children; an hour of work each week is unlikely to teach many valuable lessons. If few children decided to work, then those children may face ostracism from peers (“Jimmy is SO POOR he has to clean toilets after school!”), and the school won’t have enough resources to maintain the building. Of course, these problems are less serious if the work is simply made mandatory, but again, relaxed child labor laws are unlikely to support forced labor, especially when that labor is the same work done by adults, for wages, and voluntarily.

I don’t suspect that Mr. Gingrich actually thinks his proposals will go anywhere. There are numerous reasons for opposing them, from both sides of the aisle. Liberals should ask why children are being forced to work and how this is the best way to improve education. Conservatives should ask why Mr. Gingrich is proposing to put more people on the government payroll, including fostering a sense of entitlement for government jobs. But Mr. Gingrich’s suggestion that work may improve education is not a bad one. If there are educational benefits, then he should propose the plan for all schools. And if it is just about treating poor people worse than everyone else, then being a little more open about this should help him maintain his recent rise in the polls.

In Favor of Aesthetic Destruction

I’m currently in New Orleans for a conference, and that means being treated to another city’s architecture.  Most large cities have their own unique feel in terms of buildings, street layout, and overall organization, and New Orleans is no different.  Most unique are the relatively short buildings, no more than three or four stories tall, that crowd the city’s narrow streets, especially in the French Quarter.  These buildings suggest high density living in an era before skyscrapers and when the waterfront  was a large source of income for many people.  The close proximity of buildings fades somewhat as one heads south and west to the Garden District, where homes are much larger and protected by gates.  Here we see the city’s Southern aristocracy, living with careful remove from the city’s teeming center.

But New Orleans is also a modern city,  with its share of tall  buildings.  And just like any city, some of those buildings are horrendously, terribly ugly.  In fact, some of the buildings are so ugly that they actually mar the city’s overall feel.  Their presence makes walking by the more historical buildings less enjoyable.  It also ruins any sense of continuity in the overall city layout or  design.  Homogeneity in design is often what makes cities (or at lest neighborhoods) recognizable, and many of Nw Orleans tall  buildings  ruin this feel.

This observation is what makes me call for what I term “aesthetic destruction,” or the tearing down of existing buildings if those buildings are not aesthetically pleasing to or fitting with their surroundings.  I borrow the term from economics and “creative destruction,” or the failure of business that is no longer in demand in the current economic climate.  

Ugly buildings have many problems that should lead us to call for their destruction.  First, there’s the higher order concern that ugly buildings actually hurt a city and the people in it.  These buildings can actually cause negative affect, whether because of what they block (the sun, views, etc.) and by what they fail to add.  If we believe that we should pursue and create things that are beautiful, then the destruction of these buildings should be a primary goal.

Second, ugly buildings are very frequently ugly on the outside and in.  Bad exterior design doesn’t end there, which means the buildings also fail in their function.  One frequent problem of buildings built in a certain era is a lack of windows.  Few windows on the outside of the building makes it look ugly to those walking by, but it also makes the building less desirable to inhabit.  The building’s innards may also be poorly laid out, contain outdated infrastructure that is hard to update (again, often because of bad design: the space needed to replace infrastructure is not present thanks to poor foresight), and have a large amount of space that is not functional (and perhaps never was).  For these reasons, getting rid of the building and replacing it with something better has an aesthetic and functional appeal.

There are also reasons to not tear down ugly buildings.  Doing so is wasteful.  Much was expended to erect the building and tearing it down means that all was for naught.  Replacing the building with something new is also expensive and wasteful.  And given that a city may need to undergo a lengthy process to get the building torn down, including incurring potentially large expense,  it means that priorities are being shifted from the practical (better schools, police, etc.) to the aesthetic (replacing ugly buildings), a tough sell at the polls.  

But modern construction means teardown can include a big recycling component, where much of the building can be used in other projects.  And building something new can mean new jobs and an expanded tax base for the city.  I suspect that many cities have ugly buildings that do not generate much in tax revenue, simply because the building is in low demand from renters and is valued much lower than a comparable yet attractive building.  Getting rid of ugly buildings can also raise the city’s overall caché, something key for creating an iconic city.  

New buildings do not have to be large glass structures that tower over everything.  Contemporary design standards do not have to dominate.  New Orleans can find ways to erect new buildings that reflect the city’s unique design and history.  Indeed, one can see these new structures being built in flood damaged places of the city.  However, there is also reason to believe that contemporary design is more likely to survive the test of time than buildings built in other areas.  Specifically, buildings from the 1970s tend to have few windows, perhaps out of concern for climate control.  Windows leak heat when it’s cold and bring in heat when it’s hot; when heating and cooling systems are inefficient and expensive to run, putting up a pretty building instead of a practical one was a less appealing prospect.  Modern technologies, however, mean that contemporary design can be both energy efficient and attractive.  And incorporating design elements that include open spaces, high ceilings, and natural light will never go out of style.  

New Orleans doesn’t have the money to start tearing down all ugly buildings.  And private property owners have a right to hang onto the ugly buildings they own.  But over time, it is better for everyone if we allow aesthetic destruction to proceed.  When an ugly building is torn down and a beautiful building erected in its place, the good extends far beyond those who own and inhabit the building.  The improvement betters the lives of everyone who looks at the building.  And in turn, this improvement betters the entire city.

Packing Light

In a grand experiment, I have traveled to New Orleans (where I will stay for three nights and four total days) with just a single backpack as luggage.  A small backpack at that, with just one main area and a front pocket.  I had to jettison my laptop and suffice instead with my iPad.  Clothes, of course, will need to be repeated (packed one button-down shirt and wore the other, same with sweater and pants).  I sacrificed slightly by adding the extra weight of my running shoes, which are strapped together and tied by their laces to a backpack strap.  I also managed to fit a book and a book-sized notebook into my bag.  

The biggest outstanding question is what will go wrong.  And this, it seems to me, is the driving question behind many packing decisions:  what if?  What if I need to access a file on my computer?  What if it rains and I wasn’t prepared?  What if I’m stuck in the airport overnight?  What if an unexpected occasion arises and I need a certain type of clothing?

For some people, this “what if” worry seems to permeate many areas of their lives.  When buying a car, what if I need to suddenly drive off-road? (Better get an SUV.)  What if we need to host half a dozen overnight guests? (Better buy a big house.)  What if the power goes out? (Better hoard food.)  What if I want to read it again or lend it to someone?  (Better buy the book rather than borrow – I’m very guilty of this one myself!)

The end result is, of course, more, more, more stuff in our lives.  Or, when traveling, more stuff to lug around – two bags when one will suffice, multiple outfits when clothes can be reworn, shoes that work for only one purpose and thus necessitate bringing several pairs.  

The end result of all this stuff may in fact be more to worry about.  Trying to juggle bags going through the airport can be very annoying.  Trying to sort through a bunch of junk in your attic just to find one particular thing is exhausting.  And ultimately, we are faced with “what ifs” opposite: do I really need it?  When all your possessions must be lugged behind you, as is the case when traveling, any excess weight that goes unused can end up being cursed by the end of the trip.

So, to consumers everywhere, how will these two opposite forces act?  Is the pain of not having something and wanting it greater than the pain of having too much stuff?  Whether on a trip or simply having to move from one house to another, it’s a worthwhile question to consider, ideally BEFORE you’ve landed in a new city with either much less than you need or more than you can shoulder.  As for me, I’m excited about packing light right now (writing this while still on the plane).  We will see how I feel when returning home on Saturday.

How Do Candidates Not Know the Answers?

Last week, we had Republican presidential contender and current Texas governor Rick Perry forget the three federal departments he would eliminate if elected. This week, we have Herman Cain stumble over an answer to a foreign policy question about President Obama’s response to uprising in Libya. There have been plenty of other missteps by candidates both in this election cycle and past cycles. These candidates are smart, for the most part, eloquent (or at least verbose), and have the best advisors money can buy. So how can they flub these answers?

Let’s take Mr. Cain’s recent babbling in response to the question about Libya as a case for further study. Here’s my transcription from this video.

Reporter: So you agreed with President Obama on Libya, or not?
Mr. Cain: Okay, Libya. [Lengthy pause] President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Qaddafi? I just want to make sure we are talking about the same thing before I say “yes, I agree” or “no, I didn’t agree.” I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons. No, that’s a different one. Let’s see… I gotta go back and see… got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me if I agreed or didn’t agree with Obama?

Mr. Cain’s answer gets slightly better after this poor beginning, as he says he would have (somehow) done a better job of determining who the opposition was in Libya. But many are saying that the damage has already been done. Mr. Cain has a serious weakness in foreign policy (mostly because he has absolutely no foreign policy experience, or even apparent interest, whatsoever), and this video confirms that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

So let’s play the “you be the candidate” game and see just what you would have said in response to this question. I will assume that most readers, just like myself, are not currently running for president, aren’t staking our entire reputation on presenting an image of ourselves as “ready to lead,” and don’t have highly paid advisors to help us construct coherent policy positions. So what’s your answer to the reporter’s question? Here’s mine.

“I support President Obama’s intervention and assistance to the Libyan people. But what worked once, thank goodness, is not necessarily likely to work again. Libya is a special case. It has close ties with our European allies, and these allies lead the charge in support of the Libyan people. For this reason, it was important for us to lend support. But the real question is what happens if things hadn’t gone so well. In this particular mission, we have a happy ending, and let’s keep our fingers crossed that that continues. But in other conflicts, things can not go so well. It’s then that we’re faced with a dangerous question, a slippery slope. How much more do we commit to the mission simply to achieve success? American history is filled with times where a small involvement turned into something bigger, something even out of control. And for that reason, I wish the president had been more clear on A) what our objectives were more specifically (removing Qaddafi is not a clear enough objective) and B) how quickly we can extract ourselves when it becomes necessary.”

Now, of course, I had the ability to think about that answer a little more than Mr. Cain did. But, honestly, I think I could have delivered that same type of answer on the spot. Indeed, that’s how I feel about many issues of national importance. Certainly for some things, I’m not interested in them. Ask me a question about the proposed transnational oil pipeline. I would not be able to give nearly as detailed an answer. But on issues that I care about, I can usually always give my opinion and some reasoning about why I think that way.

Therein lies the problem with these presidential candidates. Mr. Cain doesn’t care about foreign policy; but because he does care about running for president, he has to pretend to know something about the subject. Mr. Perry doesn’t care about actual day-to-day governance of our nation; but because someone whispered in his ear that he could go far in the race with his conservative credentials, he has to talk tough about cutting spending, starting (for some reason) with eliminating entire governmental departments. Because these candidates don’t really care about these issues, they are apt to stumble when queried about them. And because their hubris and station stop them from saying, “I don’t know,” we see their missteps. So while each misstep pushes Mitt Romney closer to clinching the nomination, it at least gives us some entertainment along the way.

Don’t Get Dizzy!: Media Spins Pew Internet Report

Last week, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of a new survey about teens and their use of social networking websites. Given that this particular topic hits on several sexy areas, multiple sites around the web reported on it. But the results of the reporting show that this type of survey operates just like Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised – people see in it whatever their hearts desire most.

So, what did the New York Times title their story? “Teenagers Tell Researchers It’s a Cruel, Cruel Online World“. What evidence did they have to make such a claim? As it turns out, 88% of the teens surveyed said they had witnessed someone being cruel or mean while online, and 1 in 4 said an online squabble spilled over into a face-to-face disagreement. Without reading the New York Times article closely, one might conclude that it’s nothing but bad news for teens online, exactly the kind of headline that is likely to grab attention from the Times’ older readership.

How, then, does a more youth oriented organization frame the story? Website Gawker titled their story about the report this way, “Teens Say People Online Are Way Nicer Than in the Real World“. Yes, you read correctly! The headline is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the New York Times headline. How can Gawker find evidence to counteract the Times’ reporting? As it turns out, it’s all right in the Pew report. 69% of teens surveyed said that people are mostly nice online. And teens were more likely to be bullied in person than they are online. And Gawker notes that a full 12% of teens have never seen someone being mean online, while most certainly all teens have witnessed cruelty in real life.

What about a website whose main offering is simply solid tech reporting? Website Ars Technica falls smack in the middle with their headline about the Pew report: “Teens on Facebook: mostly kind, but cruelty is still a problem“. It’s a great example of letting the story write the headline, not the other way around. Ars notes both the positives and negatives from the report. Their writeup is also the longest by far; clearly they are not content to write to get hits and instead seem invested in actual unbiased reporting. How odd!

These stories are just more evidence that the source of the reporting must be considered much more strongly when reading tech journalism. Even the New York Times, whose reporting I would trust on most news of national or international issues, shows extreme bias in their tech headline writing.

Penn State Scandal: Incomprehensible Failure

We will likely never fully understand just how so many bright people could make so many mistakes that would allow for assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to be charged with molesting and raping 8 boys over the course of 15 years ON PENN STATE PROPERTY AND AFTER BEING WITNESSED IN THE ACT. (Read a helpful timeline here.) As word spread up the organization about what this man had done, multiple people failed to do the right thing (call the police immediately and make sure the man can’t rape any other boys in between the time of the call and his arrest).

Most troubling to me is the actions of eyewitness Mike McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback and current assistant coach. In 2002, while Mr. McQueary was a graduate student at Penn State, he alleges to have witnessed Mr. Sandusky raping a boy in the football locker room showers. Mr. McQueary did not stop Mr. Sandusky, but did report the incident to Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Mr. Paterno then informed Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. And from here, the story seems to go dead. No one called the police and Mr. Sandusky was not arrested.

Now, given that there is only one eyewitness to this action, the moral imperative rests most strongly on Mr. McQueary’s shoulders. It is up to all these men to call the police immediately, but Mr. McQueary knew most specifically that an illegal act had taken place. He also heard word that Mr. Sandusky had been forbidden by Penn State officials from bringing young boys onto campus. And yet, with all that pressure on him, he never called the police.

We can throw a lot of names around to the figures in this scandal. Mr. Sandusky, if he is guilty, is clearly a monster, a horrible person who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Mr. Paterno and other figures who merely reported what they heard are irresponsible fools. Mr. Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, who have been charged or accused of covering up the allegations, are complicit in Mr. Sandusky’s crimes. As for Mr. McQueary, he is a coward. What person, especially a former quarterback, witnesses the rape of a child and does not try to stop it? And then doesn’t call the police, even after he has seen how his reporting of the issue isn’t going anywhere?

I am sickened by this story, but I think it is worth drawing some connections to another sexual scandal issue also making headlines – the accusations of sexual harassment and assault against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. Let’s look at how these women who have stepped forward to reveal Mr. Cain’s abuses have been treated. Mr. Cain’s lawyers have threatened (and have been quoted by the New York Times) any additional women who would seek to make claims against Mr. Cain. Specifically, L. Lin Wood said that any women with similar accusations to make “should think twice” before doing so.

And why shouldn’t these women think twice? Mr. Cain is a Republican frontrunner. His political advisors are highly motivated fend off any accusations. And his fundraising team is making use of the accusations to raise more money than ever, including sending out names and personal details of these women as part of persuasive messages for why donors must support Mr. Cain. This is what happens to people who accuse highly powerful public figures of misconduct.

This is the treatment that Mr. McQueary could have expected had he called the police to allege that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky raping a child. He had a reasonable expectation to become a pariah around the athletic department, to potentially lose any university support that he was provided, and to lose his chance at becoming a football coach, something he wanted very dearly. So what did he do instead of calling the police? At least he didn’t stay quiet; he immediately told his supervisor, Mr. Paterno.

Mr. McQueary’s actions still reek of moral bankruptcy, and I hope he needs years of therapy before he can learn not to hate himself. I hope the victims sue Mr. McQueary, Mr. Paterno, the Penn State Athletic Department, and the university itself; billions of dollars in compensation seems about right, partly for pain and suffering and even more importantly for punitive damages. But in a society where the news media is quick to look for some kind of personal gain in any allegation (“was Mr. McQueary just trying to take Mr. Sandusky’s job?”), it is disappointing, but not shocking, that Mr. McQueary chose to do the wrong thing. These societal problems mean that we must all hang our heads in shame over what happened at Penn State. If we truly value justice, then we can’t call foul before we give the justice process a chance to work. Mr. Cain and his lawyers should take note. Their own actions are complicit, in a small way, to the Penn State scandal as well.

Herman Cain: She Was Asking to be Groped

Herman Cain, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been facing a lot of tough allegations lately. No less than four different women have accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The accusations have momentum as well, as the claims seem to spark others to come forward as well. To stop these accusations, Mr. Cain has made a lot of statements of denial. Let’s look at some of those statements and see what Mr. Cain is really saying.

Mr. Cain says, “I will not be deterred by false, anonymous, incorrect accusations.”
Mr. Cain means, “If you are going to allege something, at least get the details right. If a woman wears a short skirt, then people are going to make comments. Why else would she wear that skirt? So when Herman Cain hears people making remarks, Herman Cain is not going to miss out on the fun. People saying that my remarks were inappropriate are just plain wrong. And what woman wants to hide behind her lawyer? Flaunt it if you got it, baby, flaunt it if you got it.”

Mr. Cain says, “I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.”
Mr. Cain means, “She was asking to be groped. We’re together in my car and she says, basically, ‘Oh Mr. Cain, I’ll do anything – and I mean anything – to get a job.’ How am I supposed to interpret that? How would you interpret it? Sorry folks, but I’m a man. You know what they’d be saying if I hadn’t acted the way I did? ‘Herman Cain is gay.’ So really, let’s think about the lesser of two evils here.”

Mr. Cain says, “When [Karen Kraushaar] made her accusations they were found to be baseless” because there was no one to corroborate her story.
Mr. Cain means, “If a man knows a woman wants it, and there’s no one around to hear her complain, has he really done anything wrong? The answer is, of course not! If I was going to sexually harass someone, I’d do it in front of people! Why would I try to hide something that is fun for everyone involved? And if I’m alone with a woman, there is nothing inappropriate that can happen. After all, I was these women’s boss. I paid their salaries. I paid for services rendered. Do you understand what I’m getting at here?”

Mr. Cain says, “I honestly believe that there’s an element in this country, in our politics that doesn’t want to see a businessman succeed at getting the nomination for the Republican Party.”
Mr. Cain means, “If I can’t get people to believe this is a conspiracy, then I’m toastier than Obama.”

Mr. Cain says, quoting his wife, “The things that woman described, that doesn’t even sound like you!”
Mr. Cain means, “In a car? That’s what she says happened? Everyone knows that I have never liked getting sexual in a car. I’ve always preferred a bed, or a sofa, or a big arm chair, or even the floor, if there’s a rug. But never the car. As my wife said, that just does not sound like me!”

Whether Mr. Cain’s meaning will get across to voters is another issue entirely. But I’m glad to do what I can to help set the record straight.

The Value of an Email Client

I fondly remember when email was a frequent way for young people to engage in social communication. Back in 2002, in my dorm room, experiencing broadband internet for the first time, I would regularly click that “check mail” button on my web-based email, just waiting for something new to trickle in. Today, things are different. Email use among young people is on the decline, and its usage for social communication is much lower. Because of the ubiquity of cell phones and texting, email has lost some of its value.

This loss of value presents a challenge for individuals wishing to coordinate work with college students. While many people are quickly socialized into email use when the enter the working world, college students may have very little familiarity with email. So while I can be counted on to respond to a message, especially an important one, within an hour or two (and often less), college students can’t be depended on in quite that same way. A safer bet would be to expect a response time of 12 hours or longer.

Considering that these college students aren’t using the internet less than I did when I was a student, it leads one to question why email response times are so much lower. After all, I was regularly clicking that “get mail” button. Maybe texting can explain a decline in email popularity, but can it really explain why response times would be slower? I’m not convinced, and that’s why I think it is worth investigating just how college undergraduates receive their emails.

For me, it didn’t take long to realize that the web-based experience I was getting with email was far inferior to using Apple’s Mail application on my computer. This allowed my email to be checked automatically, every five minutes. It allowed me to manage multiple accounts, all from the same interface. It gave me options like email signatures and folders with easy drag-and-drop organization. In short, it took my email use to a whole new level.

But my use of an email client was pushed by some severe limitations in the web-based interfaces. As companies have upgraded the experience of using a web browser to view email, the value of an email client has decreased. Some would argue that the web experience from Gmail is actually superior to a mail client, as Google has built in tools for sorting mail and finding messages quickly. And thus, I hypothesize that fewer college undergraduates use mail clients like Apple’s Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and Mozilla’s Thunderbird than have in the past.

This increased dependence on web-based email matters because it increases the chances that email will get ignored when undergraduates are busy. Whereas I cannot use my computer without seeing if I have emails (unless, of course, I quit my mail client), those who depend on the web interface can easily navigate away and not be informed of new messages. If email is no longer used for social purposes, then the desirability of checking email frequently is further reduced. And thus I also hypothesize that the frequency of checking email is less for today’s college undergraduates.

The end result is frequent frustration from those wishing to use email for coordination, whether it is an instructor trying to communicate with students over email or, in my case, a researcher trying to coordinate schedules with my undergraduate assistants. I know to expect long response times, simply because my priority and orientation toward email is much different from theirs.

Does that mean there’s no hope for change? I’m not that pessimistic. The key, I think, is to establish norms early. Set the expectation for how email will be used. Tell students that they need to check their email at least once per day because class information will be sent out that way. Inform assistants that you expect certain response times to your emails. There are so many good reasons to check email quickly that your demands don’t have to sound like you are bullying them. Instead, make it clear that it is still the most efficient way to communicate, especially when communicating with a large number of people.

But don’t simply stick to email just because that is the most convenient for you. Try to incorporate texting as well. For those who don’t wish to text from the phone, try using a Google Voice number. You can direct the text messages to go to your email and then respond from a convenient web interface. This should allow proper accommodation to younger people’s preferences while not losing out on the value of email. Of course, don’t hesitate to suggest that these younger people take the time to set up their email clients. I don’t think they will regret it one bit.