Worth Reading - 12/27

1. A report from The Atlantic on an experiment in the UK teaching school children elements of philosophy. By helping children to learn to think more clearly, the program shows some benefits in learning unrelated to the philosophical ideas taught. In other words, by learning about truth, kids were better able to read and do math. Though this is far from conclusive, it does give some support to the school of thought that teaching kids to think is more important than teaching them information.

More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas.
Kids who took the course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others.

2. $25 isn't a lot of money, unless you are poor. A fee, small to many working professionals, for being arrested doesn't sound like an undue burden unless that fee is charged simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some municipalities are raising funds by charging fees for court costs. This becomes unfair, however, when these costs are incurred whether the individual is charged or not, or even culpable. This is an injustice.

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

3. A well-wrought "think piece" on fake news and why resisting it (and avoiding spreading it) is so important, particularly for Christians. This article from the ERLC is well worth a read/

More than any other reason, fake news has dominated the cultural conversation recently because of the unexpected results of November’s presidential election. Most major media outlets wrongly forecasted the election’s outcome. The President-elect’s surprise victory sent shockwaves through the media, leaving journalists and pundits desperate to explain how the consensus opinion could be so far off target.

In order to explain the results, many have pointed to the fake news articles that have recently become fixtures of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. These articles and websites are usually easy to identify. They employ outlandish or incendiary headlines that link to articles based on only the smallest sliver of facts. In some cases, the articles are outright fabrications, based on no truth at all. These fake news sites are nothing more than “click-bait” and in fairness, there are numerous right-wing versions of these articles and websites.

However, fake news is nonpartisan. It comes from the left and the right, and it can hardly explain the results of the election. In fact, in only a few weeks’ time, the term has become hyper-politicized, taking on the meaning “any news one disagrees with.” But all of this obscures the point. Fake news is a real thing. It exists to exploit people. It preys on ignorance, prejudice and biases.

4. One of the great movies of my childhood, which my wife will not allow me to watch with the kids for some reason, is Home Alone. This article is, just for fun, a medical professional's diagnosis of the trauma Kevin induced on the Wet Bandits, which may have been a little in excess of necessary force.

Since its debut in 1990, Home Alone has become as much a part of the Christmas cinematic ritual as It’s a Wonderful Life. But unlike that uplifting tale about the good of mankind, Home Alone tells a rather unsettling Christmas story of a precocious 8-year-old who, accidentally abandoned by his family, is forced to defend his home from two dimwitted burglars. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) turns his family’s home into a veritable funhouse of torturous booby traps that so-called Wet Bandits Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci) hilariously stumble through, and the transformation of a suburban Chicago home into a relentless injury machine is nothing short of spectacular. But it does require quite a suspension of disbelief. Can a man really be hit square in the face with a steam iron and walk away unfazed? What kind of permanent physical damage would a blow torch to the head really do? To answer these questions and officially dissolve Home Alone’s Hollywood magic, I spoke with my friend Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College. Enjoy.
But let’s properly define the problem. History and experience tell me it’s not a post-truth era: Facts have always been hard to separate from falsehoods, and political partisans have always made it harder. It’s better to call this a post-trust era.

Business, government, churches and the media have fallen in public esteem. These institutions paid a price for an entire generation of wars, scandals, economic convulsions and cynical politics. We’re left with fewer traditional guideposts for whom to believe. The spread of fake news from fraudulent sources is only a symptom: The larger problem is that many Americans doubt what governments or authorities tell them, and also dismiss real news from traditional sources.