elementary-school-student-and-teacher-look-at-computerWhat is the key to improving education in America? Stuart Buck says that Barker Bausell’s book, Too Simple to Fail: A Case for Educational Change, provides the answer:

His main thesis: that the only thing that improves education is spending more time on instruction at a given child’s level. In his words:

All school learning is explained in terms of the amount of relevant instructional time provided to a student.

That’s it: more time + suitability for a child’s level.

This may seem too simplistic at first glance, but Bausell marshals evidence that his theory explains, well, a lot. Possibly even the achievement gap. Studies of home behavior have shown that middle-class families spend much more time talking and reading to their children at a high level. This is the most elegant explanation for why those children do better in school — they have had much more time devoted to their learning.

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KOPPITZ 0010Reading this profile of UPS’s “Mr. Peak,” Scott Abell, is an enlightening exercise, particularly after the close of this holiday season. Mr. Peak is the guy in charge of making sure that the thing you ordered the Friday before Christmas gets there by Christmas Eve. Or as Devin Leonard puts it, “It’s become so easy for people to shop via computers and smartphones that they frequently delay their purchases until the last minute. Mr. Peak’s job, in effect, is to fulfill the Internet’s promise of instant gratification.”

In my Christmas commentary, I wondered about what a civilization organized around the principle of instant gratification might look like. It wasn’t a pretty picture: “A society that sows the gratification of its material desires everywhere and always, without limitations of rest or Sabbath, will reap a harvest of barbaric sensualism.”

If the Internet promises instant gratification, is the world wide web a force for barbarism rather than civilization? No, but perhaps only if we are willing and able to adjust our expectations. The civilized thing to do might be to order your Christmas presents with more than a few hours to spare. It would certainly make life a bit easier on Mr. Peak. He had a pretty rough season this year.

Mr. Peak “tries to get his family to avoid Internet shopping altogether after Thanksgiving. ‘I’m not going to tell them not to shop,’ he says. ‘But I tell them that they should do it early. Early’s better.'”
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out of darknessThe United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has declared January 5-11, 2014 as National Migration Week, with the theme of “Out of Darkness.” The USCCB states that this “vulnerable” population needs support, protection and prayerful ministry in order to thrive.

The USCCB outlines four major groups of immigrants: migrant children, undocumented immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. Each group has very different needs; the most vulnerable, the bishops say, are migrant children. (more…)

logogqOne of the most popular blog posts at Gentlemen’s Quarterly Magazine (GQ) in 2013 was a commentary giving men 10 reasons to stop viewing pornography. On GQ’s website the piece registered 24,000 thousand “like” on Facebook in just a few weeks. The popularity of the post could be a signal that Americans really are interested in discussing moral issues and perhaps GQ should take advantage of this opportunity to include more posts that offer moral direction even if some might ultimately disagree.

GQ is at least aware that the virtues that make a man emanate from his heart and not simply his wardrobe, to a certain degree, hence magazine’s motto, “Look Sharp, Live Smart.” Sadly, over the past 2 or 3 generations in America an emphasis on character has lost its role as the chief element of style. You can be a man of impeccable dress, taste, and flare and sabotage it all with unsavory character. In modern America, the symbiotic relationship between style and virtue is too easily poisoned by the cultural production of narcissism and moral relativism.
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University_of_Dallas1While the University of Notre Dame has decided to comply with the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover contraception, abortifacients and abortions in employee health insurance, the University of Dallas continues to fight the mandate.

The University of Dallas, a Catholic institution founded in 1910 by the Vincentian Fathers, received a preliminary injunction on January 2, 2014, that would relieve the university of the necessity to comply with the mandate. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Monday, January 6, 2014
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The following is a letter written in response to a post from my friend Brad Littlejohn on the topic of the minimum wage

Dear Brad,

Thank you for your thoughtful and substantive engagement on the question of the minimum wage. I don’t think the conversation we had on Twitter earlier did justice to your work here, so I’m offering this response in hopes of furthering the conversation. I hope you find it fruitful. I certainly have. I should also note that I have been assuming the context of policy proposals to increase the minimum wage at the federal level in the United States. There are certainly aspects of what we’re discussing that apply to a greater or lesser extent in other contexts and at other levels of government, but at the level of individual states, for instance, the stakes are somewhat reduced and ameliorated by the realities of federalism.

You write that you “want to reflect a bit more fully on what’s wrong with one of the common conservative arguments against the minimum wage: that the laborer is only worth his productivity.” I have significant concerns with equating someone’s worth with the economic value of their labor in the marketplace. I do not argue that the laborer is only worth his or her productive work. I argue that a worker’s work is only valuable in a market setting insofar as someone is willing to pay for it. I agree that there is a subjective element to work that is in some ways intimately identified with and inseparable from the person doing the working. But I do maintain that the worker and the work can, and indeed must, be distinguished. Perhaps what we disagree about is that you think the wage someone is offered is primarily a signal about how much that person is valued. I think that the wage someone is offered is primarily a signal about how much that person’s work is useful to others.
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The late, great Chuck Colson had impeccable taste in literature. By that I mean that he liked all of the same books that I like. Or I suppose that I should say, I like all of the same books he liked.

I especially loved the BreakPoint commentaries he’d do that focused on a great author. It always inspired me to hear Mr. Colson speak so eloquently and passionately about great novels that didn’t need Kirk Cameron starring in the movie version of them for Christians to praise.

While commenting on Fyodor Dostoevsky and his classic work Crime and Punishment, Colson said the following:

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