Sorry, Introverts, You’re Not Special. You’re Human Beings Like the Rest of Us.

Jonathan Rauch, King of the Introverts

Jonathan Rauch, King of the Introverts

In 2003, Jonathan Rauch quite literally launched a silent revolution in an Atlantic article titled, “Caring for Your Introvert: The Habits and Needs of a Little Understood Group.” Utilizing psychiatrist Carl Jung’s introversion-extroversion dichotomy, Rauch’s 1,300-word manifesto enumerates a laundry list of grievances of how reserved individuals are “oppressed” by their more outgoing peers. “[E]xtroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through,” the freelance editor, writer, and Brookings scholar bemoans. “Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves.”

While written with a hint of sarcasm, Rauch’s underlying point is completely serious and has practically inspired the very “Introverts’ Rights movement” he calls for in the article. In the decade after its publishing, countless books have been published calling on “Introvert Power” á la the Black Panthers and whining about the “World That Can’t Stop Talking,” to name two examples by Laurie A. Helgoe and Susan Cain. Having befriended and dated a number of self-described introverts, I can anecdotally attest that the movement is all but militarized, with introverts strongly asserting their need for “alone time” when exposed to the inconvenience of being invited to enjoy other peoples’ company.

Joking aside, I think that introverts have become too sanctimonious in preaching the Quiet Gospel. In their quest to attune extroverts to their needs, introverts have unfairly stereotyped their more social peers and taken their company for granted.

Introverts often talk about their need to “recharge” after long stretches of socializing. As Rauch explains, “after an hour or two of being socially ‘on,’ we introverts need to turn off and recharge.” However, the phenomenon of resting is by no means unique to introverts, but is common to the whole human race. Every homo sapiens physiologically needs to sleep, sit, relax, and eat to survive, and all of these activities are often done alone. Furthermore, de-stressing activities like watching television, exercising, reading, playing videogames, or pursuing a hobby are nearly ubiquitous. Sorry, my introverted friends, you’re not the only ones who like to be alone with your thoughts.

As for socializing, introverts should understand that human relationships are a privilege that needs to be nurtured and maintained, not a right that can be exercised and ignored at will. When a friend, family member, or lover invites an introvert out to do something social, they are fundamentally expressing that they value the introvert’s company – a powerful statement. Thus, introverts should tread carefully when they feel the need for alone time instead of socializing.

While any individual, introverted or extroverted, should rightfully deny the invitations of people they do not value (e.g. boring acquaintances, abusive family members, crazy ex-lovers), they should work tirelessly to maintain relationships of people they do value. This does not necessarily mean accepting every invitation from a valued peer that comes their way, but rather demonstrating that their relationship still holds meaning. This can be done by rescheduling plans, changing locations to a more comfortable environment, or maintaining a regular stream of interaction on social media. Nobody should take human relationships for granted, and unfortunately I’ve met too many introverts who do.

Indeed, so many of the problems introverts experience in our noisy world can be easily solved by simply managing a calendar. Some of the most successful people I have met in my life – entrepreneurs, presidents of nonprofits, wealthy businessmen – are self-described introverts. When I’ve asked what’s the key to their success, they’ve almost all answered with excellent time management. Introverts can have all the alone time they need to function by scheduling chunks of time specifically for themselves while balancing the demands of work and social life.

2884122I for one as a self-described extrovert enjoy at least five waking hours of alone time each day by running in the morning, watching television with my dinner, and reading late at night. This routine allows gives me the energy to attend happy hours and parties nearly every night of the week. Consequently, enjoying other people’s company at such social functions affords me plenty of interesting conversation that inspires me to enjoy reading and learning at my own pace when I’m alone again.

Indeed, the most horrendous stereotypes many introverts harbor against extroverts is that we are anti-intellectual airheads who like to party endlessly because we’ve got nothing else to do or think about. To the contrary, I am a proud extrovert precisely because I enjoy the finer things in life. I recognize as an individual I have limited knowledge about the world. Therefore, I constantly surround myself with peers interested in the similar topics as me – respectively, policy, philosophy, art, and music – to learn from and bounce ideas off of. As one fellow extroverted friend told me recently at a karaoke night, “I constantly surround myself with people because I love ideas.” Many introverts would find the same addicting world if only they kept good company and a calendar.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Distorts Reality of School Spending

This article originally appeared at

By Casey Given

Last week, the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released their annual study on public education funding reporting major cuts to America’s schools. “At least 34 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit,” the study contends, depicting cuts as high as 22.8% in dramatic red graphs.

Per usual, CBPP’s report has ignited a firestorm of media reports decrying a crisis in school funding and assuring us that America’s educational woes can be solved by tax and spending. While this certainly makes for a catchy headline, it is merely a political talking point and fails to match up with reality. By focusing only on state expenditures, CBPP’s numbers give an incomplete picture of public school funding. Americans should be weary to follow this big government rally call.

CBPP’s statistics start to fall apart after doing some basic math. Take Oklahoma, for example. CBPP’s report depicts the Sooner State as the center stage of the war against education, with per pupil spending having been slashed a whopping 22.8% over the past six years, totaling a loss of $810 per student. But after doing a little algebra, one quickly realizes that Oklahoma’s per pupil funding would have to be little over $3,000 for those numbers to make sense.

As Patrick B. McGuigan of explains, “While the CBPP analysis estimated per-pupil state spending in Oklahoma at only $3,038, the National Education Association – while also a critic of Oklahoma state spending on schools – places total per-pupil spending at $8,285 per student.” It turns out CBPP was only reporting on state funding of public education–one small fraction of total education spending. The think tank did not even emphasize in its report that schools receive funding from other sources at all.

Indeed, public education expenditures in America come from a variety of sources. While state governments certainly make up a large portion, schools often receive funding from local governments through property taxes and the federal government through Title I grants. Taking these two other sources into consideration changes the dreary picture CBPP’s report paints for many states.

As Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute explains, public school expenditures have increased by $301.6 million in the Sunflower State since 2008 when considering all sources. These facts run contrary to CBPP’s fiction that Kansas slashes spending by 16.5% of $950 over the same time period because local funds makes up nearly half of the state’s total school spending.

To some extent, CBPP’s narrow focus is understandable. State education agencies are notorious for failing to provide comprehensive statistics about school spending. Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute recently graded every state on the education statistics they provide and, unsurprisingly, 18 received a failing grade. As a result, the education community is largely clueless about exactly how much money is being spent in America’s public schools for the last few years. The U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics by far provide the most comprehensive data, but even that has a two-year lag with the latest per pupil figures being from the 2010-11 school year.

Nevertheless, such limited access to accurate data does not excuse CBPP’s inaccurate reporting about an education funding crisis that doesn’t exist. As I explained in my January 2013 report on school choice, public education’s long-term trend has only been towards higher spending and stagnating academic achievement. As seen in the chart below from the report, school spending has nearly doubled since 1983 after adjusting for inflation while test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have remained roughly the same.

Clearly the real crisis in American education is institutional, not fiscal. Until teacher and administrators incentives are aligned toward providing their students the best education, money won’t make much of a difference.

Could the D.C. Court of Appeals Spell the Death of Net Neutrality?

This article originally appeared in Rare:

Despite the Federal Communications Commission’s repeated efforts to expand their regulatory reach over the Internet beyond what Congress has authorized, their Open Internet order may finally be neutralized in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Last Monday, two out of three judges who heard in Verizon’s challenge to the 2010 rule expressed doubt in the FCC’s statutory authority to enforce net neutrality, perhaps foreshadowing an end to the beginning of government regulation of the World Wide Web. Or, at least for the time being.

At issue is the FCC’s assertion that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 grants it power to regulate broadband companies as a common carrier subject to government review. Unfortunately for the Commission’s creative interpretation, the Act expressly states that a “telecommunications carrier shall be treated as a common carrier… only to the extent that it is engaged in providing telecommunications services.”

As Verizon points out in its brief on the case and as the D.C. Circuit has already ruled in Comcast v. FCC, the FCC has already classified broadband Internet as an “information service” and thus lacks authority to tell them how to run their business.

One wrinkle in the D.C. Circuit’s reconsideration of the Open Internet issue is the Supreme Court’s recent Arlington v. FCC decision, which granted agencies more deference in determining their own jurisdictional boundaries.  Noted free market tech author Scott Cleland doesn’t think Arlington will upset the D.C. Circuit’s consideration in Verizon because “he FCC’s Open Internet Order is so unambiguously far outside the bounds of the FCC’s statutory authority, that Chevron deference is unlikely to apply,” even in a post-Arlington world.

While it’s still too early to declare the death of net neutrality, such a fatality is desperately needed to keep the Internet flourishing. For years net neutrality has been a government solution to a problem that simply doesn’t exist. The FCC issued the 2010 rule that Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot block or prioritize access to specific websites despite acknowledging that “the Internet as we know it” is already “open.”

That’s because customers value unfettered access to view, stream, and download data from the World Wide Web without barriers. If an ISP were to suddenly shake up this equation, many of their customers would revolt by switching providers. This “vote with your money” mentality is what drives the market’s creative forces, syncing the goods and services producers supply with what consumers demand.  This ability to move from provider to provider also undercuts the FCC’s ability to claim that Verizon has some sort of market power that would justify a common carrier designation, which the FCC has thus far not asserted.

Even if the FCC’s worst fears come to fruition and ISPs start charging cell phone-style “plans” for different levels of Internet access, online access would only become cheaper for low data users. As it is today, a grandmother who logs online once a day pays just as much as the tech-savvy teenager next door who regularly downloads gigabytes of data. As such, she is subsidizing his usage and could instead be paying a cheaper rate if her ISP offered varying plans.

But that doesn’t mean that the techie teen is out of luck, either. He can urge his parents to patronize a plan that charges one rate for unlimited data usage to its customers. In this manner, the market accommodates each customer’s demand instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all policy through government force, as net neutrality advocates would prefer.

It should come as no surprise that the FCC’s few accusations of companies violating the net neutrality rule have only chilled market innovation, such as its January 2011 complaint against MetroPCS. What exactly was the anticompetitive line the cell phone company so carelessly crossed? MetroPCS offered its customers access to unlimited YouTube videos in a format customized for fast streaming. While such market innovation was a win for millions of MetroPCS customers, net neutrality advocates saw it as a threat.

Granting federal bureaucrats veto power over the market forces that made the Internet the bastion of creativity and enterprise it is today is a scarier thought than an ISP innocuously traffic shaping data tailored to its customers’ needs. What’s worse is the dangerous precedent that net neutrality sets for future federal regulation of this exciting ether of human flourishing. For the sake of freedom and prosperity online, here’s to hoping that the D.C. Court of Appeals hammer’s the nail in the coffin of net neutrality. After that, we need to make sure that the FCC cannot and does not attempt to reclassify broadband Internet service as a common carrier under Title II.

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Evaluate Virtual Schools, Don’t Shut Them Down

This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller:

The Kammann family received the letter in June. Just weeks after their daughter Sophia completed her first year in Virginia Virtual Academy as a sixth grader, Carroll County Public School District suddenly announced they would not be continuing their partnership with the online charter. “Now we’re one of 400 families left trying to find a comparable virtual option in the form of private school, and, from my research, it will cost anywhere from three to eight thousand dollars to get the same quality education and services,” Sophia’s mother Andrea explains.

Sadly, Sophia’s story is one heard over and over again among thousands of families, not just in Virginia but across the country. Throughout the past year in particular, several states have scaled down or completely closed their virtual charter schools, nipping in the bud exciting new educational innovations made possible by the Internet. New Jersey’s Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, for example, withdrew approval for two virtual schools to open up in the Garden State this year. Tennessee passed a law capping virtual school enrollment to 1,500 students. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is currently considering targeted cuts to virtual schools, despite the fact that they only receive 81 percent of the per pupil funding brick-and-mortar public schools do.

Why are states starting to push back against online learning? All four mentioned above cited virtual schools’ subpar performance on standardized tests compared to brick-and-mortar public schools as a justification for their new roadblocks to online education. But, do virtual schools provide such a poor education on the individual level? Andrea Kammann doesn’t think so.

“Our experience academically was terrific,” Sophia’s mom recalls. “Virtual learning is not for every student, but my daughter managed to create her own schedule, advance her online technical skills, and do well.” In fact, Sophia made the honor roll while maintaining a busy schedule in competitive figure skating. “Virginia Virtual Academy under the K12 umbrella afforded us the flexibility to work while traveling for competitions.”

Of course, not every student is like Sophia. Many struggle transitioning from a physical classroom setting to a virtual one. However, that may not be a sign of virtual schools’ poor performance so much as it is for brick-and-mortar schools. After all, many parents transfer their child to a virtual school precisely because they’re unsatisfied with their public school’s performance. As such, it should come as no surprise that so many students underperform on standardized tests with a one-size-fits-all standard for proficiency.

Granted, this should not give virtual schools a free pass. Performance evaluations must absolutely be required of all public schools to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are being put to good use. But instead of jumping to conclusions about virtual schools categorically being factories of failure, states should look to adopt more accurate measures of academic achievement to better gauge virtual schools’ performance.

One such measure is the value-added modeling where students are tested twice: once at the beginning of a school year, then again at the end. Their scores are then compared to determine if they learned anything through their schooling. While no method of testing is flawless, such a format would undoubtedly be an improvement on today’s proficiency-obsessed tests driven by No Child Left Behind.

In the meantime, states should allow parents like Andrea the flexibility to decide what type of education is best for their child. For Andrea, it’s still the K12 curriculum. “That’s how much I respect it,” she says. However, Carroll County’s decision forced Virginia Virtual Academy to reopen exclusively as an elementary school in two new districts, leaving Sophia out of luck as a middle schooler. So, the Kammanns will be paying out of pocket this school year for a quality education they used to receive for free.

Many other families are not so lucky to be able to afford online learning outside of public charters, which makes the case for them even stronger. Unlike brick-and-mortar charter schools, virtual schools can deliver school choice to any student with an Internet connection. For this reason, Americans for Prosperity Foundation released a policy brief today explaining the various forms of online learning and dispelling the many myths associated with it. The Internet is an exciting new frontier for education, promising rapid pedagogical innovation. As such, states would be wise to explore its terrain rather than shun it in favor of the old world of walled classrooms.

Three Better Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable Than the President’s Plan

This article was originally published at Americans for Prosperity:

Last week, President Obama pulled one of his signature moves by announcing a supposedly bold new policy reform while giving only vague details about its implementation. We’ve heard plenty of these half-baked proposals this summer, from his June proclamation of a new “Climate Action Plan” to repeated mentions of a universal preschool proposal, to his desire to end Fannie and Freddie without the details or legislative initiative to pull it off. While no new legislation or regulation has yet come from the President’s wild imagination, the light bulb over his head somehow keeps flashing.

This time, the topic is higher education. The President embarked on a two-day university tour to outline a forthcoming effort from the Department of Education aimed at making college more affordable. While the details are still a bit hazy, what’s clear is that the crux of the plan is a ranking system that will rate universities based on largely financial measures like their tuition, student debt, degree-completion rate, low-income enrollment, student body diversity, and graduate employment rate. While this list seems innocent enough, the federal government would then tie the size of Pell Grants and loan interest rates to how high the student’s institution ranks, making way for more politicization, market distortion and unintended consequences.  This approaches neglects the true drivers of high education costs.

Instead of inflating the higher education bubble even further, the federal government would make more headway lowering the cost of college by giving the market more freedom to correct itself. To be specific, here’s three ways that the federal government could make college more affordable than the President’s plan:

  1. Get the government out of the student loan business.
    From Pell to PLUS to Perkins
    , the federal government now spends over $100 billion per year with the aim of making college more affordable to the masses. Nowadays, almost any student with the drive to attend college can do so at the cost of replaying loans later in life. Unsurprisingly, this easy money policy led to a large increase in demand which in turn led to an even larger increase in price. From 1978 to 2008, the cost of obtaining a college degree has spiked twelvefold. And, as any one of the 44% of underemployed recent graduateswould tell you, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean what it used to in 1978, either.While getting the government out of the student loan business seems politically impossible today, it would undoubtedly be the most effective reform to lower the cost of higher education. Private loan institutions could better judge whether a student is worth the investment than the federal government, keeping college accessible to low-income students with the drive to succeed while keeping college costs down. Critics may cry that such a privatized system would decrease low-income enrollment, but history proves that just the opposite is true. As Allysia Finley of the Wall Street Journal explains, “Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce.”
  2. Let colleges innovate to make education more affordable.
    Although much of the higher education crisis revolves around Washington, some colleges aren’t waiting for federal action to make their services more affordable. In July, the Oregon State Legislature passed a “Pay It Forward” pilot program that could potentially revolutionize how students afford college. Inspired by a 1955 proposal by Milton Friedman, Pay It Forward would allow Oregon students to attend a public university tuition free and instead pay approximately 3% of their income to their alma mater for the first 20-25 years of their working lives. While the bill has yet to be signed into law and its effects have yet to be seen, more innovation of this sort by private and public universities could hopefully discover a more affordable way to fund college.
  3.  Stop the shaming of for-profit colleges.
    For-profit colleges are not perfect. Studies have shown they have higher dropout rates than nonprofit universities and often cost more too. However, for-profit colleges have made higher education much more accessible to low-income individuals than any federal program. In fact, approximately 19% of low-income students attend for-profit colleges compared to 15% in public universities. That’s because for-profit universities offer a level of flexibility unseen in their public counterparts. Online classes favored by for-profits allow low-income students the freedom to work and study at their own pace.Yet, for-profit colleges have been constantly demonized by the Obama administration as “exploiting” their students. On his bus tour, the President slammed for-profits for “making out like a bandit” while so many of their students fail. But, how exactly are nonprofit universities inherently any better? In fact, as the Cato Institute’s Vance Fried pointed out in “Federal Higher Education Policy and the Profitable Nonprofits,” nonprofit universities spend much more on expenses not related to instruction than for-profits. By continually criticizing for-profit universities, the Obama administration is only discouraging the market from providing better access to college than any government could ever provide.

Uber drives commuter innovation

This article was originally published in Rare:

Oh, the marvels of the modern world. Information, entertainment and commerce are always at our fingertips. We are a mere click of the mouse or tap of the tablet from anything our hearts desire. This brave new world of constant communication has stimulated innovation in every nook and cranny of the economy, making goods and services better, cheaper and faster both online and IRL. Most astonishingly of all, this digital revolution has not sprung from any central plan, but rather has arisen from capitalism’s symphony of competition and cooperation among millions of individual actors worldwide.

But where markets work, a government bureaucrat cries. Take Uber, for example. For four years, this mobile application has been connecting city dwellers on the go with cab and luxury car services to quickly pick them up at their location at the flick of an iPhone. No longer are tech-savvy passengers bothered by hailing a cab or arguing over a fare. Uber is uber convenient, making millions wonder why they would ever take a taxi again.

Enter the taxicab lobby. While Uber’s new competition is great for consumers, the cab industry has foreseen creative destruction in its eminent future unless it does something about the new kid on the block. So, instead of getting creative, it’s gotten destructive. Cab coalitions have successfully lobbied city governments to impose restrictive regulations that effectively put Uber out of business in their city. Thanks to Big Taxi’s crony connections, Uber’s operations are under threat in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., among other major cities both here and abroad.

Sadly, Uber’s situation is not unique but, rather, is becoming all too common for online entrepreneurs nowadays. As further proof, consider the Marketplace Fairness Act. The Senate passed this suspiciously innocuous-sounding bill in May that would slap consumers’ state and local sales taxes on every online purchase they make, a scheme favored by brick-and-mortar businesses to reduce online competition. Under the proposed law, a small business in Texas that receives an order from New York City will have to pony up 8.875 percent of the purchase to Mayor Bloomberg – even if its owner has never set foot in the Big Apple. Only can a bureaucrat’s twisted logic call this “marketplace fairness.”

In a sense, Uber’s troubles are not just the growing pains of a typical startup, but rather are indicative of a growing regulatory threat in the tech sector. As the Internet makes goods and services from around the world increasingly on demand, established businesses resistant to change and competition could increasingly embrace cronyism.

While government favoritism is outrageous at any level, it could be devastating on the Internet since technology has been such a major driver of prosperity in recent decades. Just imagine how economically destructive it would have been if the government outlawed Steve Jobs’ Apple computer in the 1980s because its word processor threatened the jobs of secretaries who use typewriters. Technology has improved the health and wealth of millions around the world. So while Uber’s current situation may seem like the trivial regulatory troubles at first glance, it actually represents a serious threat to the future of human innovation being brought by the mobile app industry.

Fortunately, consumers have started to fight back. Rider outcry saved Uber from regulators’ wrath in Washington before and just might do the same again soon in Los Angeles after the city recently sent the startup a cease-and-desist letter for not possessing a taxicab license in the City of Angels – despite the fact that Uber employees don’t actually drive the cars. Users should stand up against these government roadblocks on the information superhighway before they completely obstruct online entrepreneurs like Uber from continuing to improve our lives and revolutionizing our economy.

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