Will money make kids smarter? (5×8 – 11/13/13)


There is a clear connection between poverty and academic achievement. But what would happen if you gave poor families real hard cash? The BBC probes the question: If you make a poor family richer, will their children’s chances of success rise accordingly?

A U.S. economics professor, Greg Duncan, is going to find out. He’s gotten funding for a study that will give a group of poor parents of very young children $4,000. A control group will get nothing, the BBC says.

Can raising income deliver a measurable change in family life and children’s progress? Will neuroscientists find a difference in cognitive development between those who receive the $4,000 and those who don’t?

“We want to see whether we can find a direct link between poverty reduction and brain development in very young children,” Prof Duncan says.

The idea of giving financial support to low-income families is well established – it underpins a range of family benefits, allowances and tax credits in many countries.

But what this study wants to discover is the specific impact of changing income in the years before school. Prof Duncan’s earlier research has suggested strong links between experiences in the early years and how adults fare in later life.

Related poverty: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together (Pew Research Center).


Between the scandal at the archdiocese and the brouhaha over a team’s racist nickname, never has the power of “You’re right, I’m sorry” been more obvious. Few people follow the obvious path, however, which is why there’s always work for good journalists, and why Chuck Klosterman is notable today for stating the obvious.

It started when Kari Wagner-Peck, who writes the blog, “A Typical Son,” wrote an open letter to the author and New York Times ethicist about his repeated use of the words “retarded” and “retard.”

Words like “gay” or “homo” were used regularly and with impunity in our society. Often to elicit a cheap laugh. Those words came to denote something or someone that is stupid, peculiar or undesirable. As gay rights flourished the majority of society realized they were not just using words – they were using words that hurt people. Words that devastated people.

Today people with cognitive disabilities and their allies are asking members of society to refrain from using the word “retarded” (along with all mutations of the word) for the same exact reasons. My question to you:

Is it ethical to contribute to the denigration of the vulnerable?

Of course, there’s only one reasonable response to the question and it’s not, “just get over it.” Give credit to Klosterman for understanding that when, after the social networking sites amplified Ms. Wagner-Peck’s letter, there was only one proper response: stop using the words.

Dear Ms. Wagner-Peck:

I have spent the last two days trying to figure out a way to properly address the issue you have raised on your web site. I’ve slowly concluded the best way is to just be as straightforward as possible: I was wrong. You are right.

I should not have used “retard” pejoratively. It was immature, hurtful, and thoughtless. I have no justification for my actions. I realize the books that contain those sentiments were published over 10 years ago, but that is no excuse; I was an adult when I wrote them and I knew what I was doing. I feel terrible about this and deeply embarrassed. I take full responsibility for my actions and understand why this matters so much to you. I’m truly sorry.

Feel free to re-post this message on your web site. I deserve the criticism I am receiving, and I want other people to know that I realize I was wrong. I would also like to donate $25,000 to whatever charity you feel is most critical in improving the lives of people with cognitive disabilities — …, …,* or any other organization you recommend. I have done something bad, so help me do something good.
Again, I apologize — and not just to you and your son, but to anyone else who was hurt by this.

– Chuck Klosterman

Related letters: Woman writes ‘thank you letter’ to burglars (BBC).


What are the odds this bill gets any support in the 2014 session of the Minnesota Legislature? A group of Concordia students plans to lobby lawmakers to repeal a provision that gives legislators immunity from driving-under-the-influence laws during a legislative session.

It’s a big joke to some lawmakers, a Concordia professor tells WCCO. “Everybody makes this a joke,” said Concordia University Political Science Professor Jayne Jones. “They have a get out of jail free card. It’s pretty appalling that my colleagues actually do this.”

The students also are pushing a law to crack down on out-of-state high school sports players playing on Minnesota teams, forcing local kids off the teams.


In July, the Dayton administration predicted property taxes would fall next year, owing to increasing state aid paid to cities, counties and townships. That’s not likely to happen, the West Central Tribune says. Quite the opposite, actually. An initial accounting, it reports, shows a large number of counties and cities are raising property taxes.

DFLers had predicted a $120 million drop in property taxes. That they appear to have been so wrong “could present political difficulty for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democratic-led Legislature,” the Associated Press’ Brian Bakst says.

Related economy: What’s Mine Is Yours (For A Price) In The Sharing Economy (NPR).

Why Is Employee Morale Declining? Blame the Improving Economy (Wired).


Many of us are heading to work today to accomplish great things for which we’ll be remembered forever. But the people who actually will be spend the day trying to balance a lawnmower on their chin. There is a life lesson here. Somewhere.

Bonus I: Devin Kohlman, 13, of Port Clinton, Ohio, knew he didn’t have long to live. But he wanted to go home for Christmas.

Knowing that, his town decorated itself early for Christmas. Its townspeople turned out to sing Christmas carols in October. The fire department brought in some snow for the sidewalks. The lights were strung on the trees.

The young man died Monday evening.

Bonus II: The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether the Kansas City Royals can be held liable because its mascot, Sluggerrr, threw a hot dog into somebody’s eye. This could be the end of free stuff at games, sports fans.

Bonus III: WCCO Radio Newsman Attacked, Robbed On Way To Work (WCCO).

Should we embrace the free movement of labor?


Daily Circuit (9 a.m to 12 p.m.):  First hour: The rising cost of cancer drugs.

Second hour: Minnesota without the poverty.

Third hour: British journalist Simon Winchester dives into the history of his adopted homeland to explore the men who created the United States of America. Researching inventors, explorers and big thinkers. Winchester looks at what it took to make the country we know today.

MPR News Presents (12 p.m to 1 p.m.): An Intelligence Squared Debate: What a world of smarter mobility could look like?

The Takeaway  (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.): After years in the field, disaster management experts have developed a complex set of protocols to deploy help in the days and weeks after a major natural disaster like typhoon Haiyan.

All Things Considered (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) – The Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations’ (COLA) proposal to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for money to support decontamination sites across the state, was approved.

At the same time an alternative aquatic invasive species proposal, written by LSOHC chair David Hartwell appeared on the list of approved projects. The council approved funding for the MnCOLA AIS proposal, but replaced the contents with the substantially different Hartwell proposal and the executive director admitted it’s the first time in LSOHC history a council member proposal has been substituted for a submitted proposal which seems to violate the legislation which set up LSOHC. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

MPR’s Nikki Tundel reports the history of American Indians and Christianity is marked by cultural destruction and domination. Today, though, many Native Americans are devoted members of Christian churches. Tundel profiles All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis, where congregants share their perspectives on being Indian and Christian.

Fifty bucks a month or less for health care coverage. Sounds like a deal, right? That’s what Obamacare is promising folks under 35. But just who qualifies for that cheap subsidized care and who doesn’t? NPR takes a look.