Tag: Opinion

LA Teachers Strike: Class Sizes Are Not to Blame

Michael Ottavio | United States

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Teacher’s Union went on strike. In doing so, they turned down the two-year contract that would have given all teachers a roughly 3% raise each year. This led to a roughly 30,000-strong LA teachers strike to demand more funding and, most of all, lower class sizes.

It is no secret that California does not have the best public school system in the nation. As a state, California regularly ranks among the bottom 25. As USA Today reported, only 29.2% of fourth graders in the state of California are proficient in math, and 27.8% in reading. In addition, California has a graduation rate of about 83%, the 21st lowest in the country. However, California also has an average teacher’s salary of $77,000, the third highest in the country. There is some disconnect happening in California, and the students are not to blame.

The LA Teachers Strike

With chants like “Hey hey! Ho ho! We’re fighting to keep class size low,” this teachers strike is mostly about putting a cap on the number of students per class.  The strikers also got a statement from newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in several tweets. One stated that she was “Very proud of L.A. public school teachers today for taking a stand. Teachers are the unsung heroes of American democracy. Today they’re putting everything on the line so our nation’s children can have a better shot.”

Faulty Logic

It is no surprise that progressives in Congress and around the country are supporting the striking teachers. However, the logic doesn’t seem to hold up very well. There is little evidence to support the claims that lower class sizes will lead to better outcomes for students. Other countries such as Japan and Korea have class sizes that greatly outnumber class sizes in the U.S. Coincidentally, those same countries also test into the top ten most educated in the world.

Image result for class sizes by country usa today
Class size around the world

The Brookings institute has reported that even though there have been some studies that show a reduction in class size increases student achievement, there have been other studies that show the opposite or no effect at all. These studies list California as a state in which experimenting with lower class sizes yielded mix results. Currently, the evidence does not show a definitive correlation between lower class sizes and better student performance.  Results like that hold questionable relevance to legislative action.

No Improvements to Come

To clarify, people should always have the right to seek out as much money as they can make and the conditions in which they want to work under. However, the cause ceases to be morally justifiable when seeking more funding comes at the expense of the taxpayers you’re failing. These government-funded unions are holding over half a million students and their parents over a barrel.

The state of California has shown us many times that pouring millions into public education does not work. Of course, it is not going to work this time. Our country’s education system is failing. The same teachers who are failing their students by being ineffective are going to continue to do that whether the class size is 30 or 40. Until we see a massive education reform in our country and get rid of the tenure system that prevents the firing of ineffective teachers, public unions are going to continue to take advantage of the taxpayers that fund them. As a result, our students will continue to suffer for it.


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From The Information Age To The Era Of Intellectual Laziness

Craig Axford | Canada

In a 2013 column published in the Huffington Post entitled Why Public Schools Don’t Teach Critical Thinking, retired high-school teacher Frank Breslin lamented the state of modern American education:

The minds of children need room to breathe, to be inspired by vision, and the health-bringing balm of many perspectives. They need exercise, play, and relaxation; in short, they need a sound body and spirit to have a sound mind. Rather than spending their magical years entombed in cram-school dungeons that prepare them for impossibly difficult tests, children need old-fashioned schools where every day they can learn something new in classrooms that echo with laughter and joy!

Unfortunately, it’s government policy to make sure schools are anything but the kind of places Breslin envisioned for students. By emphasizing standardized testing that evaluates how many predetermined facts a student can memorize rather than their capacity to conduct research and pursue their own lines of inquiry, America has created a citizenry increasingly predisposed to simply accept whatever they read uncritically. Now it is paying dearly for following that path.

At a time when we often bemoan the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together on much of anything, it’s worth remembering that the pursuit of standardized testing has been a thoroughly bipartisan undertaking; President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed in 2001 with strong bipartisan support. In the speech he delivered before the student’s of Ohio’s Hamilton High School prior to signing the NCLB legislation, President Bush spoke of the importance of “accountability” and made it clear that a strong emphasis on testing was key to determining whether or not schools were meeting expectations:

The first way to solve a problem is to diagnose it. And so, what this bill says, it says every child can learn. And we want to know early, before it’s too late, whether or not a child has a problem in learning. I understand taking tests aren’t fun. Too bad. We need to know in America. We need to know whether or not children have got the basic education.

When President Obama took office, he initially doubled down on standardized testing. He too was, at least at first, clearly convinced that what was needed was a more objective measurement of a student’s knowledge. Though President Obama’s “Race To The Top” initiative did call upon states to “develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity,” it still placed an extremely strong emphasis upon standardization to ensure these goals were being achieved.

However, by 2015, President Obama was doing a mea culpa on standardized testing. He announced the amount of time spent in the classroom preparing for tests should be limited. In one of the more reflective moments of his presidency, Obama stated, “When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn’t the way they prepared me to take a standardized test.” He went on to admit that “too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning,” had caused more harm than good.

. . .

We live in a culture that places a high value on efficiency. Understandably, we want the next generation to have a firm grasp on certain basic skills that are essential to any real chance of success in the modern world. Reading, writing, and arithmetic — commonly referred to as “the 3 Rs” — are at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, the mastery of these skills doesn’t guarantee that a student has also learned how to put them to good use. While the United States has achieved a reasonably high literacy rate, increasingly people are using their ability to read and write to kill hours each day on social media rather than becoming informed citizens or otherwise enriching their lives.

According to a study just released by the American Psychological Association, the use of digital media by teens increased dramatically between 2006 and 2016. Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the lead author of the study, states that social media use during leisure hours doubled among high school seniors during that period. Among 10th graders usage increased by 75% while among 8th graders it increased by 68%.

“In the mid-2010s, the average American 12th-grader reported spending approximately two hours a day texting, just over two hours a day on the internet — which included gaming — and just under two hours a day on social media,” Twenge is quoted saying on the science website Science Daily. “That’s a total of about six hours per day on just three digital media activities during their leisure time.”

According to the same Science Daily story, the steep rise in digital media usage has been associated with an even more extreme drop in the use of print media. The article states:

The decline in reading print media was especially steep. In the early 1990s, 33 percent of 10th-graders said they read a newspaper almost every day. By 2016, that number was only 2 percent. In the late 1970s, 60 percent of 12th-graders said they read a book or magazine almost every day; by 2016, only 16 percent did. Twelfth-graders also reported reading two fewer books each year in 2016 compared with 1976, and approximately one-third did not read a book (including e-books) for pleasure in the year prior to the 2016 survey, nearly triple the number reported in the 1970s.

Perhaps these trends wouldn’t be nearly as disconcerting if the rise in digital media use and the associated decline in the use of printed material wasn’t also coming at a time when so many members of the same generation were exhibiting such difficulty discerning between reliable news stories and “fake” news.

In a study coincidentally released just two weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Stanford University researchers reported students at all levels exhibited extremely poor skills when it came to conducting research and evaluating content online. According to the study’s executive summary, “Our ‘digital natives’ may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped.”

The Stanford study involved 7,804 subjects from middle school through university age. The sample comprised students from 12 states, including students from elite universities that rejected over 90% of their applicants and public institutions with high acceptance rates. Students were given age-appropriate problems to evaluate and research online including reasons to doubt the accuracy of content, assessing evidence, and verification of various claims. The results were not encouraging.

The Stanford team’s assessment of middle schoolers found that “More than 80% of students believed that the native advertisement, identified by the words ‘sponsored content,’ was a real news story.” Among high school students shown a post entitled “Fukushima Nuclear Flowers” with a picture of what appear to be white daisies exhibiting what were alleged to be various “birth defects,” the students “ignored key details, such as the source of the photo. Less than 20% of students constructed ‘mastery’ responses, or responses that questioned the source of the post or the source of the photo. On the other hand, nearly 40% of students argued that the post provided strong evidence because it presented pictorial evidence about conditions near the power plant.” The caption gave no indication where the photo was actually taken.

University undergrads from three different universities were shown a tweet announcing “new polling” on NRA members’ views on background checks for potential gun purchasers. According to the Stanford study, “Results indicated that students struggled to evaluate tweets. Only a few students noted that the tweet was based on a poll conducted by a professional polling firm and explained why this would make the tweet a stronger source of information.” Only a third of the students paid any attention to the agendas of MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress and how that might influence the content.

When it came to undergraduate students, researchers also noted “An interesting trend that emerged” from their tests. Over 50% of “students failed to click on the link provided within the tweet.” In addition, “Some of these students did not click on any links and simply scrolled up and down within the tweet.” Others tried to investigate, but searched using the CAP acronym for the Center for American Progress provided in the tweet. This type of search “did not produce useful information.”

. . .

The use of fake news to influence the election of 2016, reveals it isn’t just our young adults that lack the skills to detect and resist misinformation. Many of their parents and grandparents also lack the critical thinking and research skills necessary to place information in context and separate the wheat from the chaff. In many respects, the most troubling aspect of this problem isn’t our apparent gullibility but our ongoing refusal to do much if anything about it.

The focus on standardized testing is a symptom of an education system literally designed to teach students what to think rather than how to think. Memorization, not research skills and hands-on learning, became even more of a focus as successive governments drank the testing Kool-Aid. Time-consuming experiments or other projects were dropped to make room for lessons that drilled the right answers into students. Arts programs that fostered creativity and instilled an appreciation for culture were cut or eliminated altogether in the name of efficiency. Our schools became factories that mimicked the routinized schedules of the workplace while denying students the chance to ask questions, challenge the ideas being presented to them, and figure things out for themselves.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A recent episode of the BBC World Service podcast The Documentary highlighted work being done to determine the best approaches for instilling in children a basic grasp of what qualifies as evidence and the importance of understanding the basis of the claims they will inevitably hear from salesmen, politicians, and even family members over the course of their lives. The program, entitled You Can Handle The Truth, doesn’t just reveal how successful such efforts can be but how much delight children actually take in learning how to unmask poorly supported assertions and outright falsehoods.

The program’s host, the British statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter, traveled to Uganda to see the results of these efforts for himself. Researchers and educators in that country had been working with a Norwegian team on educational materials designed to teach elementary age students how to make more informed health choices.

The young Ugandan students were given a comic book that depicted individuals confronting a number of difficult choices. Among the most popular comic book characters is a parrot that, as parrots are known to do, repeats back everything it hears unquestioningly. Over the course of the school year, students discussed the various scenarios described within the book with their teachers and learned the importance of asking those making a claim what the basis for it was and how to better evaluate the answers they heard in response.

The Ugandan program involved 10,000 students from 120 schools. Sixty of the schools were placed in a control group. Students at these institutions received no additional instruction. In the remaining 60 schools, students participated in lessons and activities designed to provide them with basic critical thinking skills. At the end of the year, students from all 120 schools were tested and the differences between the control group and the test group assessed.

The results of that testing revealed the program had produced the desired effect and in a big way. All students were given 24 problems to solve or evaluate. Thirteen right answers were considered a passing grade. The 24 questions presented to students on the test were unique and had not been problems considered as part of the critical thinking curriculum.

In the control group, 27% of the students passed the test. In the intervention group, 69% received a passing score. Even teachers in the two groups were tested. Among the control group’s teachers, 87% passed, while the intervention group saw 98% of the teachers get a passing grade.

One of the problems the researchers anticipated but never encountered is one that will likely sound familiar to Americans; parents becoming upset as their children begin coming home from school with tough questions about cherished beliefs and cultural practices. Uganda is a country with a rich history of folk remedies and superstition. Researchers feared that having children go off to school in the morning happily accepting particular family or cultural traditions only to return in the evening wondering about the basis for the claims surrounding grandma’s famous herbal remedy could turn parents against their efforts.

However, Ugandan parents, at least so far, haven’t made a fuss. Their children are excited to be learning and take delight in being empowered to question their elders about things that have been taken for granted for generations. To everyone’s surprise, parents and other family members don’t seem to mind.

Sir David Spiegelhalter also took a trip to California for his BBC program. That state is currently considering legislation that will mandate media literacy education.  Spiegelhalter paid a visit to one California classroom where students were asked to research various theories into who or what sank the Battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor on February 15, 1898. The sinking of the Maine ultimately led the United States into a war with Spain.

American parents aren’t likely to get too upset if their children conclude an American battleship that sank over 100 years ago went down due to an accident instead of a Spanish mine as was widely assumed at the time, but it’s hard to imagine many of them remaining silent when it comes to climate change, evolution, vaccines, or race relations. They haven’t so far. In just the past year Mark Twain and Harper Lee were targeted by the school board in Duluth, Minnesota because their books contained language that might make students feel “humiliated or marginalized.”

One of the appeals of the reading, writing, and arithmetic mantra is that learning these skills, at least in theory, doesn’t require teachers to raise too many questions or address contemporary controversies. Once a kid has the capacity to read, it’s just assumed they will figure it all out for themselves as an adult when and if they choose to. But learning to read is about more than just memorizing the alphabet and passing a spelling test. It’s about knowing how to think too.

The California media literacy bill failed on its first attempt in 2017, but it’s back again this year. If it passes, implementation will certainly be carefully watched to see what kind of impact it has on students being thrown into the sea of digital technologies we’ve created. Will they sink or swim? One thing is certain, however; it increasingly appears as though everything is riding upon their capacity to keep their heads above water.

In the August 27 issue of the New York Times, the author Thomas Chatterton Williams reviews two new books hitting the shelves: The Splintering of the American Mind and The Coddling of the American Mind. As the titles suggest, their authors rue the polarization, hypersensitivity, and inability to cope with controversies that now grips Americans right across the political spectrum.

But what got my attention wasn’t Williams assessment of these newly published works so much as the closing paragraph of his review. It was clearly more about us than it was either of the books he had just shared his thoughts on. Williams concludes:

What both of these books make clear from a variety of angles is that if we are going to beat back the regressive populism, mendacity and hyperpolarization in which we are currently mired, we are going to need an educated citizenry fluent in a wise and universal liberalism. This liberalism will neither play down nor fetishize identity grievances, but look instead for a common and generous language to build on who we are more broadly, and to conceive more boldly what we might be able to accomplish in concert. Yet as the tenuousness of even our most noble and seemingly durable civil rights gains grows more apparent by the news cycle, we must also reckon with the possibility that a full healing may forever lie on the horizon. And so we will need citizens who are able to find ways to move on despite this, without letting their discomfort traumatize or consume them. If the American university is not the space to cultivate this strong and supple liberalism, then we are in deep and lasting trouble.”

The anti-democratic forces that are currently so vocal in the United States would no doubt frame the kind of educational goals Williams identifies as some sort of conspiracy to destroy their movement and they would be right. They will claim that any attempt to instill in children critical thinking skills and an understanding of the nation’s history, laws, and aspirations are biased because these efforts fail to treat their own anti-intellectual, unscientific, and undemocratic points of view as worthy of equal of time. Again, they will be correct.

Freedom of speech means everyone gets to express themselves. However, it does not mean that every idea deserves equal press coverage or even any press coverage at all. Thinking is hard work precisely because it requires us to critically evaluate the concepts we’re exposed to. It determines not only what is and isn’t worthy of our time and attention but which ideas have the potential to either threaten or enrich our lives and those of our fellow citizens. There are sound methods for making these determinations that have proven themselves over and over again, but they can’t do us any good if we refuse to learn them.


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Knowledge is Asymptotic, Not Absolute or Relative

By Craig Axford | United States

It is understandable that we would prefer sharp clean distinctions. From an evolutionary perspective, being decisive is far more advantageous on the savanna where lions, snakes, and various other dangers lurk than being a philosopher or scientist who prefers to consider every predator’s behavior in context. Yes, the blood dripping from its mouth is probably an indication it just ate, but let’s just climb the nearest tree and figure out how hungry it really is later.

In nature, being wrong often comes with little cost. Indeed, caution could be defined as the willingness to be wrong almost every time in order to improve your chances of survival. Overreactions to potential threats really only need to be right once to pay huge dividends.

We still act this way today. The odds of a car accident during any given trip are hundreds to one against, but we still buckle up and the government still requires manufacturers to place airbags in automobiles. Likewise, we expect pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals to inform us of the risk associated with various treatments even though psychological research has shown that we consistently tend to overestimate the true danger even when we’re in possession of the data.

Given our tolerance for error in so many of our routine daily activities, you could be forgiven for thinking we are quite tolerant of it in a scientific context. After all, error is an expected part of the scientific process, even if the hope is that it will progressively diminish as our knowledge increases.

Instead, scientists are consistently accused of crying wolf or of just plain getting it wrong. Every meteorologist knows that if they claim there’s an 80% chance of rain and it doesn’t rain, they’ll be accused ruining people’s weekend plans. Likewise, if a doctor tells a patient there’s a 1% risk of experiencing a particular side effect and the patient turns out to be that unlucky one in a hundred, the patient will inevitably suspect the doctor underestimated the risk.

In 1989, Isaac Asimov published an essay in The Skeptical Inquirer entitled “The Relativity of Wrong.” It was inspired by a letter Asimov had received from a student majoring in English literature who felt the need to set Asimov straight on the subject of science. The English lit major was convinced that Asimov had been a too eager promoter of science, given that science had over the past few centuries been initially wrong about a great many things. The student reminded the great writer and scientist that Socrates had said that “If I am the wisest man, it is because I alone know that I know nothing.”

The student’s letter serves simultaneously to remind us that both relativism and absolutism are poor perspectives from which to view the universe if our goal is to expand our comprehension of it. Socrates was offering a lesson in humility and a statement regarding absolute or perfect knowledge, not making a claim that it is impossible to gain greater understanding. Too many of us, like the student who wrote Asimov, think that anything short of perfect knowledge is ignorance, and therefore unworthy of our effort.

An asymptote is a line that continually approaches another line but never actually touches it. Knowledge is asymptotic, not absolute.

In his response to the student Asimov wrote, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” He goes on to point out that the curvature of the earth is only about “0.000126 per mile,” so the flat earthers weren’t completely out to lunch given that’s awfully close to zero. As for the earth being a sphere, due to a bulge at the equator it’s more like an “oblate spheroid.”

But Asimov’s larger point is that as we gather more facts and consider how they fit together our understanding approaches a perfect knowledge. That it never becomes absolute is irrelevant. The flat earthers weren’t 100% wrong, but they were more wrong than those who thought the world was spherical, who were more wrong than those who realized planets bulge at their equator, and so on.

Isaac Asimov would be disappointed to read all the headlines circulating on the Internet these days that provocatively declare — more in the interest of clicks than truth, I suspect — that “Science is wrong” about this or that. Skeptics throw out words like “scientism,” which I suppose is meant to distinguish those of us convinced that science is something worthy of our respect and attention from people like John, the English literature major who is wise because he, like Socrates, knows he knows nothing.

People will argue that a vaccine with a success rate of 50% is a failure because up to half the people receiving it might still get sick, as though reducing the instances of a particular disease by half was just as bad as not reducing the number of people sickened by the virus at all. They will point to the one in 10,000 infants that has a negative reaction to a vaccination while ignoring the millions that no longer get measles or mumps, as if that single infant is proof the whole vaccination enterprise is a disaster.

Finally, someone will inevitably cite some scientist or another who falsified their data in order to convince the rest of us their hypothesis was correct, and use this case to discredit science. Integrity is central to the scientific method. Blaming science for a scientist who was either dishonest or inept is like blaming the law every time a bank is robbed or blaming internal combustion for accidents caused by distracted driving. Scientists, like everyone else, make mistakes. Sometimes they are intentional, though usually it’s just human error.

Arriving at a better understanding of our world and how all the different bits fit together and influence one another is what makes science and philosophy interesting. One of the reasons I enjoy writing is it allows me to explore different perspectives and to use the process to improve my understanding. Writing is thinking in action.

Nothing we do leads to a perfect understanding, but hopefully our efforts move us steadily further from the chaos of absolute relativism. Truth is asymptotic. Knowledge is asymptotic. The arc of our understanding will hopefully keep bending steadily toward perfection. We shouldn’t be discouraged because it will never reach it.

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An Unprecedented Peace Summit With High Ratings. Now What?

By Craig Axford | United States

To give you some idea just how much of a priority the Korean Peninsula really is to the Trump administration, it just got around to nominating an ambassador to South Korea on May 23rd, about three weeks before Trump’s unprecedented peace summit with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. In fact, as of May 25th only 84 of the 188 career and political ambassadorship positions the president is empowered to fill had either ambassadors or nominees according to the American Foreign Service Association.

While talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will undoubtedly help to thaw tensions for a time, peace takes more than a handshake. Frankly, neither North Korea’s leader or President Trump is all that interested in true peace. They were meeting in Southeast Asia for a photo op each desperately wanted for their respective domestic audiences and little more.

As President Obama could have told Trump, and perhaps even did but he just wasn’t listening, negotiating a nuclear deal involves years of planning and effort. This president doesn’t do that. His neglect of the State Department leaves him with a less than adequate team to work out such details. Meanwhile, John Bolton, the president’s National Security Advisor and a well-known hawk, is standing in the wings looking for the first opportunity to blow the whole effort up should it start getting off the ground.

It doesn’t take a psychic to predict what the future is likely to look like here. Trump will come home thumping his chest having “accomplished what no president has before,” a meeting with a North Korean leader. He’ll never mention and his base won’t care that the reason such a meeting has never taken place is past presidents wanted the North Koreans to change at least a few facts on the ground in exchange for such a meeting.

Trump was willing to give the North Koreans an unconditional meeting so he could have his place in history. The foreign policy implications of the meeting never even entered his mind. We should be expecting a tweet regarding the ratings for the peace summit at any moment.

Having provided the world’s worst regime a greater measure of legitimacy and achieved his place in history books, tensions should remain low for a while. Neither government has any real incentive to invest much political capital in working out anything like complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID). The statement coming out of this meeting is certainly a far cry from that.

But even if CVID did get worked out, there remains the problem of the tens of thousands of long-range artillery sitting just north of the DMZ aimed at Seoul. True peace would require their removal as well. Both the media and the public ought to know better than to think any of this could have been worked out in a 35 minute face-to-face meeting between two leaders with a reputation for bluster.

Everyone agrees that the worst possible outcome here is conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Such an eventuality would be very unlikely to remain isolated to the two Koreas and could very quickly escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Should such an event occur, Donald Trump’s name will replace Neville Chamberlain’s as our best example of an appeaser.

But Neville Chamberlain’s primary sin was naivete. He, at least, was motivated by a desire for peace even if he should have known a man like Hitler wasn’t really all that interested. Trump is inexperienced to be sure, but it’s narcissism that’s his Achilles heel. If diplomacy mattered at all to him he would have appointed someone other than Rex Tillerson to be his first secretary of state, or at least would have instructed him to make filling key positions in the State Department a top priority.

The best we can hope for now is a slightly more tolerant status quo than we witnessed during the first few months of Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Fortunately, that’s also far more likely than war. The North Koreans will still have their guns pointed squarely at downtown Seoul and will still have at least as many nukes as they have now on inauguration day in January 2021.

Even before the handshake, Trump’s ad hoc foreign policy had led Russia and China to ease the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, and that will probably continue without much opposition from Washington unless Trump sees some political advantage to making an issue out of it. In other words, the Singapore summit was just another episode in Trump’s reality TV presidency.


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Weld Didn’t Endorse Hillary, Did He?

By John Keller | United States

Since the presidential election of 2016, many have speculated that the Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton before the election. Is this true?

In an interview with MSNBC on 30 September 2016, Bill Weld is credited with endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. He made the following statement:

“I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” – Bill Weld

The question must be raised: Was Bill Weld wrong? Let’s take a look at the numbers. Seventeen presidents were former governors, what Gary Johnson’s job was. On the other hand, thirty-four presidents were former lawyers or secretaries, what Hillary Clinton’s career was. Even looking at the vice presidential picks, the Clinton Campaign was more “qualified”, whereas twenty-four vice presidents had been senators, as Tim Kaine was, and only sixteen vice presidents were governors, like Bill Weld.

But it is the second statement that Bill Weld makes that is forgotten by the media. He continued:

“I mean that’s not the end of the inquiry though. I mean, we were two-time governors and I think Gary is very, very solid. You know, at this point, we overlapped as governors and I thought highly of him back when we served together, but having spent the last several months with the guy, I mean I don’t even just like the guy I love the guy, I think he is very solid and deep. I think his insight that it pays to have some restraint about military incursions for the purpose of regime change before we still American blood on foreign soil and put boots in the ground in countries where we just don’t like what the government in that country is doing. I think that’s a valuable insight. I’m not sure it’s characterized the foreign policy of either Bush, the most recent Bush, or the Obama Administration and I think that might be a refreshing change. I think he and I could bring a much more tranquil approach to Government in Washington because we wouldn’t be screaming at one of the two parties about how stupid they are. We would work with them both.” – Bill Weld

Furthermore, the rest of the interview seems to be his expression in favor of Gary Johnson and himself for the national ticket. The next question that must be raised: was it wrong of Weld to speak in favor of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump? He spoke plainly on MSNBC on the 30th of September of 2016:

“I do not view those two candidates the same way. I think very highly of Mrs. Clinton, I think she is very well qualified, I think she did a great job in the debate the other night. She kept her game face on… I thought Mr. Trump by the end of the debate was out of control…” – Bill Weld

Bill Weld was looking at it from a realist perspective in an unreal election cycle. Businessman against a career policy maker in the debates when unspoken traditions of policy discussion were broke. Mr. Trump threatening to jail his opponent was, to the common politician, very unprofessional. Threatening to lock up opponents in an election is commonplace in shame democracies that are in essence dictatorships, and it is not commonplace in a constitutional republic.

The total length of the interview with MSNBC on September 30, 2016, was seven minutes and forty seconds (7:40). Throughout the interview he made a few statements in favor of Mrs. Clinton, totaling thirty-four seconds (0:34). Thirty of those seconds was made responding to a question about the debates in which he was expressing that he thought Hillary Clinton performed better than Trump. No harm in expressing who you think won a debate the libertarians were even in, right? But the four seconds that killed him was the statement mentioned formerly in this article in which Bill Weld said, “I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” However, the statement he followed that up his remark about Hillary Clinton was a one minute and four second (1:04) praise of Gary Johnson on how experience was the end of the inquiring and that Gary Johnson would be a better president than Hillary Clinton, although he may not necessarily be more “qualified”. Throughout the whole interview, thirty four seconds (0:34), or 7%, of the interview was expressing approval of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump, and seven minutes and six seconds (7:06), or 93%, of the interview expressing that Gary Johnson and himself were the right choices for America.

The other moment in which many thought Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton was on 1 November 2016 in an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Many think that Bill Weld gave up on the campaign, but after failing to get into the debates it was clear the campaign strategy had to be re-examined. That is why Bill Weld made the realistic statement:

“I think in the real world that’s [aiming for 5% of the vote] probably correct… we thought for the longest time we might have a chance to run the table because we’re such nice guys and centrist party and etc etc, but not getting into the debates really sort of foreclosed that option. So now it is the 5%, your right.” – Bill Weld

Bill Weld was looking realistically at the coming election. The Republicans and Democrats had just spent millions of dollars to keep Gary Johnson out of the presidential debates and himself out of the vice presidential debate, keeping them at 12% national and then pushing them back down towards 2%. In order to have a successful ticket in the future, the Libertarian ticket knew they had to reach 5% to get matched federal funds, guaranteed ballot access, and more of being recognized as a major party. Although the goal changed, the message did not. In the same interview he gave the following statement:

“Well, we are making our case that we are fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming and we think we got, on the merits, the best ticket of the three parties if you will and so we would like to get there. Having said that, as I think you’re aware, I see a big difference in the R candidate and the D candidate, and I’ve can in some pains to say that I fear for the country should Mr. Trump be elected. I think it’s a candidacy without any parallel that I can recall. It’s content-free and very much given up to stirring up envy and resentment and even hatred and I think it would be a threat to the conduct of our foreign policy and our position in the world at large.”

It is clear the message had not changed, but the goal of the campaign had. He wanted to see a Libertarian presidency but the current, realistic climate made it impossible, and so he expressed when asked about referring to Trump as “unstable” during the interview:

“Oh yeah, yeah I mean that psychologically.” – Bill Weld

In the research done in this article, I am of the opinion that Bill Weld did not endorse Hillary Clinton and that a study of what was actually said proves he supported the Libertarian message to the end of the campaign. Although the goal of the campaign may have changed in the end weeks, and he may have preferred one candidate over the other in terms of the duopoly, he stood by the libertarian message through the end of the campaign and even continues to fight for libertarian principles today.


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