Monthly Archives: October 2012

(In which I talk about “low information voters” and their effect on American democracy.

“As the presidential election campaign in the United States reaches the home stretch, one thing has become abundantly clear—barring any truly egregious mistakes by either campaign, this election is going to be particularly close. Thanks to the quirks of the Electoral College, the results in what are popularly known as ‘swing states’ are acutely important. However, the voters that are still in play in most of these states, ‘undecided voters,’ are, by many accounts, generally under-informed about the campaign. Typically, they consider themselves too busy to actually keep up with the issues, but still vote out of a sense of civic duty.

The first question this prompts is: how are these voters deciding?…”

Read more here:


(In which i discuss bullying and web trolls)

“The increasing influence of the Internet over the past two decades has been frequently accompanied by periodic bouts of public soul-searching about what effect it is having on society. Over the past week, two major incidents have questioned the Internet’s role in enabling unacceptable behavior.

The first was the tragic suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, a British Columbian teenager. While commonly reported as an incidence of “cyberbullying,” the facts of the case don’t perfectly support that characterization. Todd was originally harassed by an adult male who lured her into taking inappropriate pictures, and  then sent them to her friends. After changing schools, she was subjected to further bullying by peers after an incident involving another girl’s boyfriend. In the aftermath of this event, the role of the Internet is questionable. Did it create this behavior or merely enable it?”

Read more here:

(Another look at differing perceptions of the university)

“Over the past few years, there has been an intensifying debate over the role of university education—whether universities are institutions of pure learning, or simply a place to acquire a credential after completing a certain amount of coursework. Though the topic has generated a fair amount of discussion about what universities should do to motivate learning, most of the talk about it actually misses the point. Because higher education allows—and requires—more individual choice than primary or secondary education, what really matters to this debate over learning and motivation is the individual student.

Read more here:

Something less controversial for the second piece:

“While private American universities certainly represent the highest end of the tuition spectrum, universities overall in the United States are expensive compared to other developed nations. However, it bears noting that the astronomical figures often quoted in the public debate can be misleading; unlike in Canada, the sticker price of tuition is not paid by most students in the U.S. Indeed, while the list price has risen well past the rate of inflation nationwide, the average actual price paid by students—across all types of universities—has actually stayed steady over the past 10 years, growing from $12,650 in 2001-2002 to $12,950 this past year.

However the discrepancy between this supposed sticker price and the actual price paid by students by no means signifies that the American university system is working. Rather, the extremely inefficient scaling of tuition is merely a manifestation of the system’s dysfunction. This price discrimination is examined under the Bennett Hypothesis, named after the Reagan-era Education Secretary William Bennett.”

Read more here:

A pretty controversial way to start off the year:

“One of the things that has not come back with such speed is student politics, and for this we should be thankful. Sure, we’ve once again been subjected to the tiresome debate over whether frosh is an incubator of racist, patriarchal rape culture, but in general, the mood around campus is pretty calm compared to this time last year, when the MUNACA strike was giving campus opinion pages more than enough fiery rhetoric to work with.

And so, in this time of calm, I thought it would be useful to examine one of the main streams of thought that runs through the ranks of the more politically-minded on campus. There’s a prevailing view that involvement in student politics—and only on one ideological side—is not simply one of many perfectly legitimate and fulfilling uses of time, but an action that is on a higher moral plane than any other.”

Read more here:

The piece was, as you could imagine, rather polarizing. in the next issue, there were two letters to the editor, one of which was a somewhat nuanced critique:

“In his recent article, “Moral superiority and student politics,” Abraham Moussako argues that students have no duty to participate in campus politics. I’d like to refute that idea by arguing that judgements about the duty to participate are necessarily made in reference to particular facts about a particular issue.  In other words, we can’t make blanket statements about the moral status of political participation.”

The rest of that letter is here:

The second letter was somewhat less nuanced:

“As a known student radical and victim of police brutality, I find Abraham Moussako’s Guest Column (“Moral superiority and student politics”) generally callous and presumptuous. In particular (and more relevant to my critique), I found the text personally offensive.”

The rest of that letter is here:


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