Monthly Archives: April 2012

April Links: Education and Jobs, The Rent is Too Damn High, Health Care in Its Many Forms, Food Deserts, and More

* Chicago’s plan to match education with jobs; this is long over-due.

* Is charity a major source of deadweight loss? Notice the linked column: “Increasing evidence shows that donors [to charity] often tolerate high administrative costs, fail to monitor charities and do not insist on measurable results — the opposite of how they act when they invest in the stock market.”

* What an awesome office! Uncomfortable chairs, though.

* Affordable housing and hilarious cognitive dissonance.

* Good legal news: Fifth Amendment Right Against Self Incrimination Protects Against Being Forced to Decrypt Hard Drive Contents.

* “Shame Is Not the Solution” for improving teachers. On the other hand, I suspect some of the districts who want to make teaching evaluations and test scores public are doing so out of desperation, or because they can’t build the kind of sophisticated evaluation systems Gates mentions. (For another discussion of this issue, see LA Times Ranks Teachers from Marginal Revolution.)

* The Rent Is Too Damn High Now Available for Preorder.

* The Social Conservative Subterranean Fantasy World Is Exposed, and It’s Frightening.

* The real reason health insurers won’t cover people with pre-existing conditions.

* The Secret to Seattle’s Booming Downtown.

* Let’s hope the MPAA ratings board dies; sample: “[. . .] while the MPAA board pretends to be a source of neutral and non-ideological advice to parents, it all too often reveals itself to be a velvet-glove censorship agency, seemingly devoted to reactionary and defensive cultural standards.”

* Sounds like fun: “With its sex-obsessed young heroine, ‘Turn Me On, Dammit!’ goes where few movies have gone,” and like the rare movie that actually goes where other movies haven’t.

* Why Don’t You Do Something Other Than Sit at Your Computer? (Side question: “Is your computer depressing you?”)

* The idea of the “food desert” is fading. I’m not sure it was ever real, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it in your proposals.

* $1B of TSA Nude Body Scanners Made Worthless By Blog — How Anyone Can Get Anything Past The Scanners. Wow.

* A short, accurate description of the long-term problems in Europe. This is also, on some level, about how people form groups and act in those groups. (“Americans in Massachusetts and Americans in Mississippi do feel themselves part of the same country, sharing language and culture. Germans and Spaniards do not feel the same.”) See further Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind.

* “Most men won’t be allowed to admit this, but the new HBO show [Girls] is a disastrous celebration of entitlement and helplessness.”

* Why you should read Before the Lights Go Out.

* Testing the Teachers, and how do we know what we’re actually getting out of college?

Grant writing is long-form, not fragmentary

In The Millions, Guy Patrick Cunningham* says:

More and more, I read in pieces. So do you. Digital media, in all its forms, is fragmentary. Even the longest stretches of text online are broken up with hyperlinks or other interactive elements (or even ads).

More and more, people also write in pieces. This isn’t intrinsically bad—it’d be funny if we argued that piecemeal writing is bad on a blog—but it is the kind of shift you should be cognizant of, because grant writing embodies long-form, deliberate writing and cohesion. Grant writing rewards people, financially and otherwise, who can sit down, focus on a long block of text, and emerge hours later with a coherent set of pages that string similar themes together, almost novelistically. Grant writing it closer to War and Peace than to, say, blogging.

I, like a lot of people, have become aware of the dangers posed by Internet distractions. And I’m more aware when I’m working on a proposal, since the temptation to open Firefox for non-research purposes is always there. It can be done in a second. And then I’m out of the zone for fifteen minutes or more. Furthermore, because of the need to write needs assessments, I can’t simply turn off the Internet altogether (as I can when I’m writing other long-form material).

Still: lots of us are being pulled in too many intellectual directions. We’re reading in “pieces,” or in fragments. But if we’re going to write effective proposals, we have to do the opposite: read in large wholes, and write that way too. The best proposals often have an almost novelistic sense of interwoven themes.

The rest of Cunningham’s essay discusses literature, but the point about the fragmentation of writing—and, by extension, attention—is one that grant writers and would-be grant writers should heed. Governments and foundations aren’t known for being in the vanguard of progress. They aren’t demanding written material in fragments. No RFP has asked that applicants respond via Twitter.

Be ready to write long and coherently.

* Which would a great name for a detective or fantasy hero.