Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Education and Politics

Is there a correlation between how much you know and how you vote? This is a simple question, but the process of trying to answer it is complex, because there are so many variables on both sides of the equation. But there are some interesting trends, although it is not clear what, exactly they mean. The November 20, 2000 issue of U.S. News and World Report contained the following election results:

Of those who failed to complete high school, 59% voted for Al Gore, while only 39% voted for George W. Bush.

Of those who graduated from high school, but had no further education, 48% voted for Gore, and 49% for Bush.

Of those who had attended college, but did not complete a four- or five-year degree, 45% voted for Gore, and 51% for Bush.

Of those who completed a degree (bachelor's or equivalent), the same numbers held.

In 2004, after Bush had been in office for four years, and had a chance to demonstrate how he would conduct himself in office, CNN noted a similar pattern when the voters went to the polls in November of that year:

Of those who failed to graduate from high school, 50% voted for John Kerry, while 49% voted for Bush.

Of those who graduated from high school, but did not go to a college or university, 47% voted for Kerry, and 52% voted for Bush.

Of those who attended college, but did not graduate, 46% voted for Kerry, and 54% for Bush.

Of those who graduated from college, the ratios remained the same.

Finally, four years later, in 2008, the CNN data shows a continuation of the trend:

Of those who failed to graduate from high school, 63% voted for Obama, and 35% for McCain.

Of those who graduated from high school, but did not attend college, 52% voted for Obama and 46% for McCain.

Among those who attended a college or university, but did not graduate, 51% voted for Obama, and 47% for McCain.

Finally, among those who graduated from a college or university, 50% voted for Obama and 48% for McCain.

Placed in the form of a table or chart, these numbers reveal a clear tendency.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving - at least, we know the Pilgrim version. But how many of us know the Indian viewpoint? It centers around a Native American named Squanto

Historical accounts of Squanto's life vary, but historians believe that around 1608 - more than a decade before the Pilgrims landed in the New World - a group of English traders, led by a Captain Hunt, sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, Hunt took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. One of the captured Indians was a boy named Squanto.

The church, in its opposition to slavery, would purchase slaves, educate them, and set them free. Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith - Squanto was probably the first Native American to read and write English, or any language. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stable of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto's desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn't until 1619-ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped - that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto's entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto's mind. He had returned home, only to find his loved ones dead. He dwelt utterly alone in the wilderness: no friends, no family.

But Squanto lived on, and soon found a new community: a shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto's people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto "became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good ... He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities ... and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died." Squanto literally saved the lives of the settlers, and they provided him with a community. How amazed the Englishmen were, to find an "Indian" who spoke and even read their language!

Long afterward, when Squanto lay dying of a fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend "desir[ed] the Governor to pray for him ..." Squanto bequeathed his possessions to his English friends "as remembrances of his love." He had adopted them as his new community, and they had adopted him as their guide.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Who's Dangerous? Who's Safe?

We often try to situate ourselves among people whom we consider to be safe - and we usually avoid dangerous people. Happily, and contrary to the image of America as a crime-ridden society, violent crime is statistically down over the last few years, especially for those living in middle-class, mid-western suburbs. But who is dangerous? Stereotypes can be misleading. Consider the following:

From 1976 to 2005, 18- to 24-year-olds – both male and more gentle females – committed homicide at a rate of 29.9 per 100,000. Twenty-five- to 35-year-olds committed homicides at a rate of 15.8 per 100,000. The murder rate for the general population includes both males and females. Inasmuch as males commit nearly 90 percent of all murders, the rate for males in those age groups is probably nearly double the male/female combined rates, which translates to about 30 to 55 murderers per 100,000 males aged 18 to 35. This gives us a baseline murder rate. Can we find demographic subgroups in which the murder rate is either significantly higher, or significantly lower, than this baseline rate?

The homicide rate among veterans of these wars 7.6 per 100,000 – or about one-third the homicide rate for their age group (18 to 35) in the general population of both sexes. But given the gender skew, the homicide rate among veterans is actually about one-tenth of the national average. The marks them as a safe group - perhaps because of strong respect for law and order.

On the other hand, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent. By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced.

A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that, after controlling for single motherhood, the difference in black and white crime disappeared.

A study cited in the Village Voice found that children brought up in single-mother homes "are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape (for the boys), 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home."

Many of these studies are from the '90s, when the percentage of teenagers raised by single parents was lower than it is today. In 1990, 28 percent of children under 18 were being raised in one-parent homes – mother or father, divorced or never-married. By 2005, more than one-third of all babies born in the U.S. were illegitimate.

That's a lot of social problems in the pipeline. Who's safe? Who's dangerous?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Charles H. Wright

Historians are familiar with Dr. Wright's name: he was a leading medical practitioner in Detroit, and a strong voice in the civil rights movement. And, as an African-American, he opposed what he called the "federal encroachment on private practice of medicine" - that is, he opposed the types of programs which are being forced onto the American public, against the will of the voters, by Senator Harry Reid, Congresswoman Pelosi, and President Obama.

Dr. Wright saw the government's attempt to regulate, manage, and fund the health care system as the direct result of racism. He argued that those who desired the government to limit the freedom of both patients and medical professionals would not desire such intervention if society and the medical system were free of racism: federal control of health care was desired to counteract the effects of unjust discrimination.

In an open and published letter to the AMA, Dr. Wright urged the organization to direct its attention to the issue of equality in the medical system. Achievement of racial equality, he concluded, would bring the additional benefit of ending legislative attempts to allow the federal government to control both patients and medical professionals: the blossoming of civil rights "will make the government's efforts unattractive and unnecessary" in Wright's words.

As an African-American, Dr. Wright worked for the civil rights of citizens to vote, to speak freely, and to exercise their economic choices; as a physician, he worked for the rights of patients and health care professionals to make decisions without government regulation or management.