Scott Douglas’ Terse Bloviation

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Why, Hello There!

I still exist. As the David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch seems to have run its course, I’ll turn the focus of this site back on one of my favorite subjects, me, until I find another muse. (Parting words on Brooks: Note his new schtick of writing his columns like bad college essays, with a couple theme-setting paragraphs followed by enumerated explication, with subsequent paragraphs beginning “First..” or “Second,” etc.)

The current (January/February) issue of Running Times includes a profile I wrote of Boaz Cheboiywo. Boaz will become a U.S. citizen in June. On Jan. 17, we’ll have more info on whether that means there will suddenly be another fast American marathoner, because Boaz is running Houston on the third-time-might-be-the-charm plan. (He ran 2:21 in his debut at NYC in 2008, and dropped out of Chicago in October.)

The March issue will include a profile I wrote of age-group wunderkind Ed Whitlock. Stacey and I spent a few days with him in Milton, Ontario, Canada the weekend before Thanksgiving (American, not Canadian). If you have questions about Boaz or Ed, post them below.

Finally, for now, on the professional front: For those who wonder how I spend my time and pay the bills, I’m fortunate to be back full-time with Running Times with the title of senior editor.

On the personal front, I’m keeping the tea and merino wool industries in business, am not yet sick of root vegetables, haven’t missed a day of running in more than two years, am about to start Wolf Hall, am pleased with my progress doing Myrtl and fear that my composting worms recently suffered mass extinction.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #10

From 9/1/09 column:

Two tides swept over American politics last winter. The first was the Obama tide. Barack Obama came into office with an impressive 70 percent approval rating. The second was the independent tide.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #9

From 7/17/09 column:

If you visit a four-year college, you can predict what sort of student you are going to bump into. If you visit a community college, you have no idea.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #8

From 6/16/09 column:

Because you have a lofty perspective on things, you know there are basically two ways to fix this mess. There is the liberal way, in which the government takes over the health care system and decides who gets what. And then there is the conservative way, in which cost-conscious consumers make choices in the context of a competitive marketplace.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #7

From column of 6/5/09:

That means they contain both sides of The Great Tension. In Chicago, there is a tension between the lakefront and the neighborhoods inland. The lakefront tends to be idealistic, earnest and liberal. The neighborhoods are clever, cautious and Machiavellian. In all great endeavors, the Obama administration weaves together both of these tendencies.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #6

From May 8, 2009 column:

These results are powerful evidence in a long-running debate. Some experts, mostly surrounding the education establishment, argue that schools alone can’t produce big changes. The problems are in society, and you have to work on broader issues like economic inequality. Reformers, on the other hand, have argued that school-based approaches can produce big results.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #5

From 2/3/09 column:

The essence of the problem is this: Rich people used to set their own norms. For example, if one rich person wanted to use the company helicopter to aerate the ponds on his properties, and the other rich people on his board of directors thought this a sensible thing to do, then he could go ahead and do it without any serious repercussions.

But now, after the TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus package, the Fed rescue packages and various other federal interventions, rich people no longer get to set their own rules. Now lifestyle standards for the privileged class are set by people who live in Ward Three.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #4

From 1/27/09 column:

The report implied an entire way of living. Individuals should learn to think for themselves. They should be skeptical of pre-existing arrangements. They should break free from the way they were raised, examine life from the outside and discover their own values.

This approach is deeply consistent with the individualism of modern culture, with its emphasis on personal inquiry, personal self-discovery and personal happiness. But there is another, older way of living, and it was discussed in a neglected book that came out last summer called “On Thinking Institutionally” by the political scientist Hugh Heclo.

In this way of living, to borrow an old phrase, we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. As we go through life, we travel through institutions — first family and school, then the institutions of a profession or a craft.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #3

From column of 1/16/09:

For years, Republicans have been trying to create a large investor class with policies like private Social Security accounts, medical savings accounts and education vouchers. These policies were based on the belief that investors are careful, rational actors who make optimal decisions. There was little allowance made for the frailty of the decision-making process, let alone the mass delusions that led to the current crack-up.

Democrats also have an unfaced crisis. Democratic discussions of the stimulus package also rest on a mechanical, dehumanized view of the economy. You pump in a certain amount of money and “the economy” spits out a certain number of jobs. Democratic economists issue highly specific accounts of multiplier effects — whether a dollar of spending creates $1.20 or $1.40 of economic activity.

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David Brooks Gross Oversimplification Watch #2

12/5/08

As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

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