Thursday, October 15, 2009

While most people don't think about s...

While most people don't think about sport when contemplating policy and politics, they do matter.  A lot.  If you don't believe me, go to a local American city and check out all the new stadiums and arenas that the state (ie public tax payers) paid to build.  Those things aren't cheap (and a total waste of public money, but not going to tackle that today (did you get the pun? hahahame)).  Or look at the impact that hosting a major sporting tournament has on a city or country.  Also, as we learn more and more about the horrors of football (American) and what it does to those who play the game, there's a chance that the government may step in some day.  If you read Macolm Gladwell's piece in the New Yorker, you may be like me and consider never watching another NFL game ever again.

Anyway, I have no clue if there are any elections coming up in any of these soccer loving nations, but knowing how fickle democracies are, I'd put any government whose national teams disappointed in qualification on notice.  (Greece and Portugal just had elections and both of those teams made the EURO playoff).  At the moment, it doesn't look like any of the 'big' soccer nations are left out of the World Cup (though the playoffs may change that) so there may be no reason for concern for the major teams/democracies.  However, some of the upstart nations who qualified... maybe that will spark a major policy or political change? I wouldn't put it past a democracy.

As far as the World Cup, it's going to be held in South Africa in what will probably be one of the most followed sporting events of all time.  Not just in terms of fans watching, but also in terms of media attention since this is the great experiment in modern sport: What will a major sporting event be like in Africa?  Will it work?  Will it be wonderful?  Will it be blah?  Will it be a disaster?  It will be interesting to follow next summer.

The Trib's editorial on charter schools is puzzling just because the information on charter schools is so non-conclusive (or inconclusive if you prefer):

One rap on charter schools is that they succeed only because they draw parents and kids who are motivated to succeed. Not so fast: The Hoxby study compared the performance of charter school kids against kids who had applied to a charter but didn't gain a spot through an admissions lottery. Those kids had the same motivation to apply and the same demographic makeup.

But this is only one study.  There are other studies that show that charter schools aren't so hot.  And Hoxby is a controversial figure in education circles.  

Plus the charter schools that don't do well are simply closed—left as if they never existed.  Therefore, it's very hard to do a long term study on all charter schools.  This isn't to say that charter schools are bad, but they also aren't the answer to all our education problems. Longer school days, a longer school year, and more early childhood education would go a lot further in improving education in America than opening more charter schools.

Finally, E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post says something that I've been saying for a while: the most powerful people in American federal politics are Obama, Snowe, and Collins.  Got to love how long it takes the Beltway to figure this shit out.

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