Passing Class Under Quarantine

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S1: Following recording may or may not include instances of words being said that the FCC would find me for if their long arm could ever reach.

S2: It’s Wednesday, April twenty ninth. Twenty twenty from slated for just I’m Mike Pesca.

S1: A lot of schoolchildren switch to online learning has been very rough.

S2: No devices, no Wi-Fi, no mom or dad around I.T., troubleshoot scan docs or actually understand exponents. So because there’s schools everywhere questioning whether grades are even appropriate.

S1: And in New York City, with its one point one million students, the answer is they’re not pass. Feld’s gonna be fine. So the pressure is off its presumed, which may seem reasonable in one sentence. But if you give me just a few more, I’ll explain why it’s not. Or at least it’s not for everyone. First of all, the school system under Bill de Blasio, the mayor has decided that the final year end grade for high school students will be a no great unless the student opts in to pass fail. In which case it will be reported as such and not have an effect on the GPA. This is what some people called the no harm system. I cannot see a downside grades if you want them pass fail if distance learning is proving just too much for you. By the way, lots of colleges are embracing this system too. Unfortunately for my middle school child, this is not the case. Middle schoolers in New York will be assessed on just meet standards or pass or needs improvement, which means fail. That’s the final grade. Everyone reduced to that kinder, gentler version of pass fail. No option for a letter, no grade and one of the six months of graded work pre Korona sorry, subsumed by the three months indoors. Why not use the high school method where no one’s GPA has to suffer? But those students who are lucky enough to have the wherewithal and the Wi-Fi can say, sure, I was getting a 96 before, let’s have my record reflect that? I don’t know why not. There is no reason or at least no stated reason. So I’ll read a little bit from a resolution submitted to my local Community Education Council supporting the pass fail only system, whereas many students, even those with electronic devices, do not have consistent or reliable Internet access, whereas remote learning at home cannot recreate a traditional in the school environment, whereas not all students with IEP. These are individualized education. Plans for students who need them are receiving adequate mandated services, whereas not all multilingual learners are receiving adequate services. Whereas a top priority for our families and educators right now should be protecting the mental health of our children. And then they resolve. Let’s go to pass. Fail. And though that proposal failed our Education Council, which is ultimately a toothless entity. But with all the vitriol of a high stakes body, it has passed citywide. Why? Well, who has helped the assumption or the imagined person whose help it is? The kid who maybe is a multilingual learner, maybe has an IP, has a dad or mom who is working in a hospital or in a grocery store and has other siblings and they can’t get to all the learning. Doesn’t have great Wi-Fi. Doesn’t have the adequate number of devices. But how does it help her? So we tell her, look, Constance, I know you don’t have the adequate tools to succeed, in fact, to a large extent. We as the education system and as the city have failed you. So all response will be to wipe out Stewart’s grades thus far, to bust him down from a ninety seven to a pass, which will be the same grade that everyone gets. Except maybe you, Constance, because of all the impediments to your education, you might actually get a foul. Doesn’t that work for you? Isn’t that better for everyone? I think no one’s really helped. Who’s harmed? Consider this. High school admissions are based on middle school grades, and there already was an impassioned movement to do away with grades or test scores as a factor in high school admissions. The idea is, if there are no high school grades to vacuum up the high achieving students, then there will be no struggling high schools and fewer low achieving students. I will quote Denise Juneau, superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools, quote, Grading has historically rewarded those students who experienced privilege and penalized others. Seattle went to pass fail. Also, by the way, I will quote from the resolution from our district council. This is another quote from the resolution I was reading to you before. Whereas remote learning outcomes are highly dependent on variables outside of students control, including parent guardian availability for support, parent guardian level of education, parent, guardian, physical and mental health, availability of quiet space for study, availability of technology and many other factors. Yes, true conceded. But non remote learning outcomes are highly dependent on that too. There is no system of learning that isn’t heavily affected by the parents level of education. There is no system of public education. Where a child has a parent going through a mental health crisis isn’t affected. We should do a lot to address this. But scrapping grades and tests and accountability and standards and the very notion of achievement is not a corrective. My world view is that there is in fact a lot of accuracy to the complaints embodied in the word privilege. But there is also a thing as actual achievement. Lots of people, including the mayor and the chancellor, disagree with that last part. They think there can be no bonafide achievement if there is also privilege that what looks like achievement or seems like achievement or has worked hard for as an achievement or has long been rewarded as achievement is nothing more than a proxy for privilege. And if he does agree with that point of view, you are blinded by, you guessed it, it’s also privilege. I never want to assign motivation to why anyone favors one policy or another. They’re very great, dedicated, loving, generous parents on both sides of this debate. But the key backers of scrapping grades are also very active in the movement to do away with selective high schools to scrap gifted programs entirely. That’s because the composition of those programs underrepresented black and Latino students and overrepresented white students into a very large extent overrepresented Asian students. The mayor and commissioner support scrapping the gifted programs, too, because they’re racist rather than trying to make their admissions process less racist. As I suggested in the past, by embracing quotas, they just want to do away with all the programs. So now New York City Middle School pass fail for everyone and many concerned parents are worried it’s just a backdoor to randomized high school admissions in the name of equality. And it is sad that among the student population, there are winners and losers. But the solution? Why not make them all lose out on six months of achievement and accountability is no solution at all. It’s not an actual solution to the problem. It seems more of a step forward in an unrelated battle. Luckily for my son, he is still motivated to learn. He is still dedicated and he still wants to excel. And I have to attribute this to one key fact about his I don’t know what you want to call it, his upbringing, his personality, his character, if you will. And it’s this. We haven’t told him about the change. And you don’t either. Please, please keep this kid in the dark. There is no way I need a clever 13 year old on my hands. Who knows. All he needs is a 66 on every test. Unfortunately, we do have really strong Wi-Fi and I worry he’s gonna find out. Please do not tell him. Privilege has its costs on the show today. What do you say we stay local in the spiel? Applause Oh, man. It’s the Jews. All the Jews. Well, no, not really. You mean say that. But first name. Duncan and Ben Taylor are two guys with very smart basketball podcasts, dunked on NBA and thinking basketball. But now they have another podcast and it is all about Corona virus. The hoop and the harm, I guess, to discuss how they’ve gone from the realm of the corner three to the topic of Arnotts. Her a better Nate of Kova Daily News.

S3: Nate Duncan and Ben Taylor have a podcast called the Kovik Daily News, which is not that unusual. I checked the ITN charts, four thousand five hundred ninety eight people have a podcast with Korona or Koven in the title. I may be exaggerating my numbers, but and while there is an excellent podcast and it’s very a very efficient way to give you the information you need about this outbreak is their journey, that is unusual to me. And in fact, the reason I found out the podcast existed was that I follow Nate Duncan and listen to his other podcast, which is about the NBA and it’s the Dunk Don basketball podcast. And then he transitioned or spread his wings to talk about Corona virus. And I wanted to ask the guys about this. So we’ll do a little voice. High day, Nate. You can only sing the low notes, I guess. How are you?

S4: Let’s go to our Mike Greer doing this well, as could be expected these days.

S3: And Ben, how are you?

S5: I’m hanging in there again. Given the circumstances. I’m still going. So pretty happy about that.

S3: So, Ben, first let me ask you, what’s your basketball background? Because I did listen to the dunk on basketball podcast with Nate, who is an NBA analyst.

S5: So my my academic background is in behavioral science and cognitive science by training, I guess, and have sort of moved away from sports at a certain point. I was in sports journalism really briefly over a decade ago and just never really took my toe out of the pool, so to speak. So I started doing a lot of data work, a lot of historical analysis, keeping up with modern analytics and basketball. And I guess at some point the last few years that led to me writing a book combining behavior in basketball. It’s called Thinking Basketball. I thought, hey, that that’s it. I’ve I’ve got these ideas out there and I’ll move on. And it was kind of the opposite that started pulling me more toward basketball coverage. The demands started to organically go up and I kind of went from there. One project led to another. And now I have a YouTube channel. I have a podcast. They all have the thinking basketball title. And I even did NHL a couple of times. He’s done mine as well.

S3: And Nate, aside from having that basketball ready, last name, what’s your basketball background?

S4: I played in high school in the Chicago area in the 90s, but I was too skinny to be any good and really, really was just a basketball fan for a while and started in the early 2000s following some of the earliest people in the analytics movement like John Hollinger. And then in the early 2010s, I kind of got a little bit bored of my lawyering job, which I’d been in for about five years at that point, and decided to start a basketball website. And then I started the Dunk Down podcast, which is basically a daily wrap up of the NBA. It tells you everything that you need to know about what’s going on in the NBA, which would foreshadow what we ended up doing with the KOVA Daily News.

S3: So to give listeners their orientation, you guys are basketball experts. You come at it from the cerebral side. You’re talking about stats a lot. You’re talking about the game a lot. You’re talking about, you know, the aesthetics of Zion, Williams and Duncan, all that. But you’re doing it from a cerebral perspective. And then a week and a half into March. There is no NBA. So what do you do, Nate?

S4: Well, at first I just started worrying. And as I’ve a Jewish background, it came easily to me. So I yeah, I was doing all this reading and getting really into all of the issues that we’ve come to know and love these days. And, you know, doing four hours, five hours of reading a day. And, you know, I got my Twitter list together of all these scientists that I trusted and found, all these sources that I thought were really good. And then I realized, like, you know, if I’m to do all this research, why don’t I just try to impart it to other people? And, you know, save them. All of the effort that I’m spending every day doing this, especially because, you know, I actually had a little bit of time on my schedule with the NBA not going out and why I’d still been doing dunked on five days a week, but without having to watch games for six hours night. I had a little bit of an opening in my schedule.

S3: And how had Ben get roped in?

S4: He’s good. Yeah. I just knew he’d be good.

S1: And also importantly available.

S5: Well, that’s debatable. You have to ask my wife.

S4: Yeah, I think he had been on it much earlier than I had. I mean, I think we all know those corona virus early adopters in our lives. Mm hmm. And Ben had been tweeting about it. And basically, like his personality is, anytime he gets into something, he does it in just a really smart way. He’s just that sort of. Were, you know, anything that he is saying about a subject, he’s really done his research. He’s I knew what his research background was. And so that’s why I asked him to do it, to give us a little bit more scientific chops than I would have had when you deal with.

S6: OK, so you have a somewhat rarefied audience in both of your both your NBA and your covered 19 coverage. And that means you could talk to them at a certain level where you don’t have to kind of slow down and explain basic concepts. But do you think you are? Are you pitched at slightly different frequencies with each of the topics, either in terms of jargon, expertise, willing to, you know, confuse the audience or worry that the audience won’t know what you’re talking about, that sort of thing?

S4: For me, I think it’s much different. You know, I haven’t had listeners that have been listening for five years. And more importantly, in many of these cases, I’ve taught myself about it, you know, three hours before we’re talking about it on the show. So do I try to take listeners through that process as much as possible? And, you know, at some point, if we’ve been talking about something already, then maybe we can gloss over some of those explainers. But I mean, for me, I’m trying to take people through the process that I just went through educating myself. What about you, Ben?

S5: Yeah, and I think that last point is actually advantageous in a lot of situations, because when you get to deepen something, it can be hard to use the right language to bridge back to that, you know, nascent touch point of experience or early education or things like that. So I think there’s a really good balance with some of these topics that we just recently do research on and saying like, OK, what’s the easiest way to translate this that we just read that that because we don’t. The purpose of the show is not to get six hours deep into virology or immunology or things like that. The only caveat I’ll say is I think that our audience has heard enough over the years about sort of the statistical the basic statistical paradigms of the world that we don’t we don’t dumb those things down. We can we can assume there’s a decent amount of knowledge in those things. But in general, if I do a deep dive on a topic and I encounter stuff that I’m familiar with, that’s really technical in terms of the biology or something, I still and date night are very aligned on this, I think, which helps us do our show every day and pick the topics and how we’re gonna talk about them. The goal is to still try to sort of get that out in a way that’s digestible and makes sense vs. the techni. Like, I’ll point you to the technical resource if you’re interested and want to do it on your own.

S6: So who have you come across? Who are your who? Who are your John Hollinger’s of this space? Who are the leading intellects that you discovered? Who are your go tos? And keep coming up with great insights.

S5: Trevor Bedford comes to mind. Mark Lip-Synch. Carl Burster, who we had on this week, I mean, he’s put out a lot of great stuff.

S3: Are they similar from what you know, is their process similar to the great minds doing that work in the NBA?

S5: That’s a really interesting question. I, I do think there’s a tremendous amount of carryover with sort of quote unquote, scientific approaches to things. And yeah, I mean, we have let’s put it this way to answer your question. We have similar discussions about what we do know, what we don’t know when to say. We don’t know. And then even getting into like methods and the process of research, if you’re an epidemiologist, he meant maybe a statistical epidemiologist. I had my own Majumdar, who’s a statistical epidemiologist. She’s putting out great work. I had her on my podcast when this all started. And it’s you can hear the similar kinds of approaches in terms of what the data looks like, how you massage the data. Is it dirty? One of the challenges we’re having is we have so many unknown variables and there are times in basketball where you are trying to, like, corral a bunch of estimates and say, well, the thing we measure like assists isn’t really a perfect proxy for playmaking and it’s not really a perfect proxy for passing. So we’re gonna have to go in there and massage it and make better sense of it. So, yeah, yeah, I think there are a large number of over overlaps in that sense.

S1: You know what? I can’t help. I’m doing this maybe because I’m talking to you. I’m wondering if you are still in this headspace. I just can’t help but making analogies between the two topics. So when you talk about how a sister this imperfect statistic I’m thinking about, well, that’s sort of like all our transmission’s statistics. I mean, we know it’s a little bit like contact tracing. In fact, isn’t an assist just a contact trace on the NBA point. But there’s only so much we know. It’s not exactly perfect as to where you definitely got it from. We’re probably more biased to say I saw Nate Silver making this point today that if a bunch of people were at the wedding, they could all figure out, oh, we got it from the wedding. But if a bunch of people were at a movie theater, they wouldn’t be able to figure it out. So just like this imperfect statistic that shows how one thing leads to another. So that is that’s an analogy between assists and transmission. And then when you were talking about the virology, part of it is a little different from the epidemiology. The analogy that I thought of is you guys are doing statistics about, you know, where to position players on the court and who is an efficient player. But there’s a whole component of playing, which is just the physical aspects of it and training. And there are there is statistics and analytic work that can be done with sleep and jumping and training. But that’s a little like the virology part of it. This essential component of what goes into the final product.

S4: You know, we’re constantly. It’s a great point looking at all of the inputs and trying to figure out what you actually can learn from this. What can you safely conclude based on this, right. Yeah. So it’s all right. Is this guy a good passer? Because he averages a lot of assists. And moreover, not only is he good at passer, but how valuable is that passing to actually winning basketball games? And so, I mean, we’ve I mean, hundreds of thousands of times probably over the last few years. Ben and I have looked at a statistic from a game, from a season, people’s work with those statistics to come up with other statistics and try to figure out whether this means anything or not. And so I think that is probably the skill that is most applicable now to what we’re doing in the Cauvin space.

S5: The thing I love the most about this latest analogy you’ve drawn here is that is that on the court and Nate started us off, by the way, I think it was like our first episode where he said, hey, we’re kind of as a country, we’re like in a rebuilding phase. You know, we need to think we wouldn’t want to rush it. We don’t want to sign a bunch of overpaid players and give away our draft picks. We have to think about this with a long lens. So we’ve been in this, you know, sort of connecting the lines between the two fields. But the thing I loved about what you just said was that in basketball, you’ve got all this data. A lot of it can be top down, some of its bottom up, whatever. But there are things the data is missing or their connections. You want to make that relate directly to the data we might call the mechanistic or causal. And that carries over in every scientific field. So here with the virology, it’s like the findings on the ground in virology about how the thing behaves, the genetics of it, the way the proteins interact, how different, you know, people will have different reactions. All of those things are going to influence something higher up the chain like transmissibility rates.

S1: Right. Right. Right. So here’s the last question. And it could have been the first. Is there something specific about sports? Sports as your background, as your main palette that helps you do this communication? Because there are plenty of people who do analytics and communicate those analytics for the fields of whatever education, criminology, etc.. But is there something about having this background in sports that has informed what you’re doing with your new project with Cauvin 19?

S5: I think the only thing for me that’s been inherent to sports is years and years of vetting ideas and having conversations and getting different points of feedback, sort of shaping the way you present something in sports. That’s easy for people to digest or helpful from a sort of knowledge standpoint or even an argumentative standpoint. I think that translates really well into a real time, hectic, chaotic, potentially politically charged situation where I think to us. You know, Nate, tell me if you disagree, that just feels like noise. And everyday we wake up and we’re trying to figure out, like, what’s actually coming out, what’s emerging, what happened and how can we present that in a way that’s meaningful to people.

S4: I agree with you there. One other thing that actually that I can add, I think about it. Mike is having an understanding of how people are going to react to what you’re saying in it in the sports space. I mean, there’s probably still people who care care more about their sports team than about code 19 is a very fraught space. And people who and frankly, you know, most people know much more about their sports team than they know about the news. And so it’s knowing that art, if you say this, this is how fans of this team are going to react. This is how people who disagree with you are going to take this. How can you communicate with people who might not see things exactly the same way that you do to where maybe if they don’t agree with you, they at least are going to respect where you’re coming from and what your process is and disagree with you in a civil matter instead of just, you know, telling you what a moron you are. All of those things, I think to just say, hey, you know, if we say this, how are people going to react? What are some misconceptions out there that you could try to gently disabuse people of all of that stuff? I think it has some applicability as well.

S3: Yeah, you have an inherently impassioned audience for different reasons, and you’re trying to address this passionate audience with cool statistical empirical data. And there’s a skill to that. And maybe that skill was honed in doing the same thing with sports.

S5: Unfortunately, all the statistics are very uncool, which is something there’s just something that’s not for me, where it’s like you you go through a piece of analysis and you’re like. Yes. So those four thousand three hundred, that’s those people died and those people were in the hospital. And it’s just like we have these moments recording where we’re just like, oh, I have no idea how to comment on that, because it’s just sheerly it’s this overwhelming with sort of human suffering.

S6: Yeah, well, I’m sure your listeners do, too, and that’s why they thank you for giving them some tools to how to deal with that. Hope so. Yeah. Ben Taylor is the author of Thinking Basketball. Nate Donkin is the host of the Dunked on Basketball NBA podcast. They have come together like the Superfriends. They are to host a new Corona virus daily podcast called Kovik Daily News. Thank you, gentlemen. Thanks for having us. Likewise.

S7: And now the spiel the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has used his perch to swiftly address crises, model exemplary behavior and rise above political squabbles. He hasn’t done it. But today he stepped in it a little more than usual. So last night, approximately twenty five hundred Hasidic Jews gathered in the streets of Brooklyn to mourn the passing of a rabbi. Though leaders of the community did work with the NYPD beforehand to distance and distribute masks, it didn’t work perfectly and by perfectly. I mean, it really didn’t work at all. The scene of huge crowds shoulder to shoulder, many unmasked, were picked up by national media here as CNN describing the scene that took place five blocks from my home.

S8: New York City Police Department dispersed this huge crowd, a non social distance crowd at a funeral in Brooklyn.

S1: And now this was the scene. Clearly, people aren’t six feet apart. There are thousands filled the streets to remember a rabbi who reportedly died of corona virus. And now the mayor’s comments have created a war of words between people in the Jewish community, some in Williamsburg, some outside Williamsburg. And the mayor here was his tweet.

S7: My message to the Jewish community and all communities is this simple. The time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period. Asked by reporter Marcia Kramer today if you wanted to apologize by calling out the entire Jewish community. De Blasio said this.

S9: I could not believe my eyes, Marcia. It was deeply, deeply distressing. Again, this is a community I love. This is a community I have spent a lot of time working with closely. And if you saw anger and frustration, you’re right. I spoke out of real distress that people’s lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it. So I regret is the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. It was not my intention. It was said with love. But it was tough love. It was anger and frustration.

S7: So it’s anger. And it was also love, loving, anger, love, anger. Here are two facts. One Hasidic Jewish community are not distancing and they’re not taking the quarantine as seriously as the average New Yorker is. The NYPD reported on a secret Satmar school that is one of the sex of Hasidic Judaism. Lubavitcher is the other one. The rates of infection are extremely high in these orthodox communities. Look at a map if you see cases of corona virus spiking. You know, it’s a very poor community or has set a Jewish community. Hasidic Jews purposefully remove themselves from the rest of modern society. They lead a purposefully non modern lifestyle. They do not vaccinate at the same rates. I will just flat out say at proper and acceptable rates, and they hold to a belief system designed to be rooted in centuries past. I, in traveling around my area of Brooklyn, have observed time and time again the ultra orthodox not wearing masks. Now, to be fair, it’s easy to spot a member of the Sediq Jewish community and it’s less easy to spot a fundamentalist Christian or an Alex Jones devotee. So maybe if we could observe them quite so easily, their level of non mass compliance would be higher even than Hasidic Jews. But it is striking and it is obvious that many, many Hasidic Jews do not wear masks in public. I’ve seen ones who do. I’ve been impressed because they are the exceptions. It’s become such a rote observation among my family. We’ve even stopped making it. But and here’s where de Blasio has poor communication skills gotten the way he had a choice, either single out the Hispanic community on Twitter or don’t do it at all. I think there are costs to both. I would think a tweet doesn’t really do much to communicate to Hasidic Jews themselves. So what’s it about telling other people that you’re doing something about these problematic Hasidic Jews? I mean, why not just engage directly if you want actual change? And we heard him. He was angry. Oh, great. An angry tweet. I think we know who leads that way. So what he did was he stupidly expanded the critique meant for a specific subset of Jewish New Yorkers who are not compliant and expanded it out to all Jews. And of course, that is going to be offensive to everyone from Charles Schumer to Ilana Glazer. Now, a big reason why you fell into this trap. You know, anger, as he said, not a skilled communicator, but also it’s a little bit about unspecified osity. An unspecified city is a characteristic of labels, either woak politically correct. Just sensitive labeling. Usually. Trends towards the less specific, from the more specific to the less specific. Because when generalises so as not to offend, you don’t reference the Chinese community or the Korean American community. It’s the Asian-American community. Even though Asia is a continent of four and a half billion people, including Syrians, Israelis and Russians, you go. You expand out to a more general phrase like sex worker or neuro, a typical or substance use disorder. Generally, we generalize. We do this for a few reasons. When you use an umbrella term, it’s likely more inclusive. You eliminate some mistakes and it just seems to soften words that have taken on a stigma. Take this example, cocaine addict. It might be accurate and precise, but it does seem a little sharp. So when we say substance abuse disorder and now the person you’re talking about is part of a larger group than cocaine addicts. You’re talking about substance abusers. Sorry. Those with substance abuse disorder, that includes an estimated 20 million Americans. But when what you want to do is mention this one specific sect of Jews, you shouldn’t do so by talking about a larger set of Jews. It angers the larger set of Jews who feel unfairly maligned. So in seeking to cause less offense. Bill de Blasio caused more. And Bill de Blasio, I find, is frequently giving offense. He seems generally un careful in his thoughts, his public pronouncements and often his policies.

S10: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist. She’s going to head for the pass fail grade after seeing what her GPA would have been. And by the way, it would’ve been higher. But, you know, solidarity, people, solidarity. Daniel Shrader suggests that if Kotch or Bloomberg were mayor, it might have just been easier for that guy to tweet. And all these have seeds in the street. It’s a Qandahar shot. I tell you the jest. All right. Here are all the basketball slash corona virus references. I resisted using, John, contact tracing quarantine. Charles, Lonnie Shelton in place and flattening the Purvis Ellison. You’re welcome. What restraint? Hooper Adepero. You, Prue. And thanks for listening.