Thursday, September 25, 2014

Got It Good

The latest course offering from Prager University is called “Feminism vs. Truth” and is taught by noted author Christina Hoff Sommers:

"For the same work, women receive 77 cents for every dollar a man earns." You've probably heard this "fact" hundreds of times. But is it true? In this week's video, author Christina Hoff Sommers analyzes this false claim, and shows why modern feminists insist on portraying American women as perpetually oppressed, despite their tremendous gains over the past fifty years. Her advice to women -- especially college women -- is exactly the kind of common-sense wisdom they should have internalized by now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let Them Play (redux)

Another great article on the perils of not letting kids have time for unsupervised play (supervised play isn't really even play) appeared at First Things. CHILDREN WHO NEVER PLAY by Michael J. Lewis

In the last generation this sort of free and unsupervised play lost ground, along with those institutions that sustained it: platoon-sized families, stay-at-home moms, and multiple “eyes on the street.” Its place has been taken by the play date, negotiated in advance with the kind of deliberation required by the marriage of a Hapsburg and a Tudor. No longer the posse of shrieking kids, hurtling around the block, but instead the purposefully organized activities of contemporary childhood: tee-ball and soccer camp, swim class and 5k runs—the interstices filled with the distractions of the DVD and Nintendo 3DS.

For children who know only supervised play, there is no conflict that is not resolved by an adult. One never learns to negotiate and resolve conflicts with one’s peers. This was not always an amiable or tear-free process; playground justice was just as harsh and swift as medieval justice. But it was justice, and even that most brutal aspect of playground life in the 1960s, the afterschool fistfight, was regulated by the standing circle of classmates who yelled out encouragement or insults, and who stopped the proceedings when it went too far. In all of this was a restless testing of the limits of freedom, with little feints and modest rebellions. These often ended unhappily, especially when the offending instrument was a stick, stone, or pack of matches, but here were those first lessons in overstepping the bounds that seem essential for the development of an individual conscience.

More and more, parents feel obliged to steer their children toward those activities that might have a future payoff, already thinking ahead to that harrowing ivy league gauntlet that Deresiewicz describes. Such is the instrumental view, play as a means to an end and not an end in itself. But as any cultivator of plants knows, to promote one trait can cause others inadvertently to atrophy. One thinks of the modern tomato, indestructible yet flavorless, or the modern rose, exquisite and almost completely devoid of scent. And the process of producing the well-socialized, well-tempered contemporary child has inadvertently blunted some of those qualities that can only be acquired, as it were, when no one is looking. Chief of these is initiative—the capacity to size up a situation and take quick decisive action. Only those children who play under minimal supervision—“free range kids” in the happy phrase of Lenore Skenazy—get the chance to develop this sense of dash or pluck. They do this in the process of deciding what to play, establishing the rules, choosing sides, and resolving the inevitable dispute. In short, by acting as miniature citizens with autonomy rather than as passive subjects to be directed.

This is something that I've been talking about for years. To take but one example, I learned far more playing pick-up games with the kids in our neighborhood than I ever did in organized sports. For far too many children today, everything is organized and they never get to experience what it’s like to work out rules and manage disagreements on their own.

Our boys not only have a stay-at-home mom, but because they’re homeschooled they’re stay-at-home kids. We’re fortunate that there is another family with similar circumstances in our neighborhood and with kids close in age to our own. So they do get some opportunities for the sort of unsupervised play that more and more have people have come to understand is critical to their development as individuals. It’s nothing compared to what we had during our childhood, but it’s more than many of their peers will ever experience.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thirteen K and What Do You Get?

Ah fall, the season when your local educationa establishment’s fancy greedily turns to thoughts of how they can pry more money from your wallet. All across our fair state local school districts will once again be bringing forward educational referendum for voters to increase levies so that they can “invest” more in our most precious resources. The children are our future don’t-cha-know?

And when these calls for increased local education spending are presented in the most simple terms of investing in our children, they are quite popular. Paul Peterson explains in a WSJ piece called How the Education Spendthrifts Get Away With It:

It's easy to see why candidates promise more money for schools. As long as taxes are ignored and no mention is made of current levels of expenditure, calling for more spending is a political no-brainer. In the recently released Education Next poll of a nationally representative sample of the public, for which I serve as a co-director, 60% of Americans say they want to spend more. Among parents, 70% want more spending, and 75% of teachers agree.

More local education spending for the sake of children? Sure, why not? Well, there are a few pesky details to consider:

But if one drills down, much of that enthusiasm evaporates in a cloud of confusion and inconsistency. We discovered this by dividing respondents to our survey into three randomly selected, equally representative groups.

The first group was asked whether they thought school spending "to fund public schools in your district should increase, decrease or stay the same?" The second group, though asked that same question, was first told the level of expenditure per pupil in their district for 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available from the Education Department). The third group was given that same information but was asked whether they thought "taxes to fund public schools in your district should increase, decrease or stay the same?"

Support for more spending fell to 44% from 60% when respondents were given information on current amounts of spending. Levels fell further to only 26% favoring more spending among the group asked if they favored tax increases to fund higher spending.

So once people are exposed to the real picture of the situation, including how much their district already spends on education and how much they will have to pay in taxes to fund further spending, support essentially collapses.

We just happen to have such an education referendum to vote on in November:

Robbinsdale Area School District voters will see two school funding requests on the November 4 ballot, based on the School Board’s unanimous approval of the election resolution and ballot questions at its August 4 school board meeting.

Question 1 is a request to renew the existing operating levy, with no tax increase if approved by voters.

Question 2 is a request to approve a new technology levy. Robbinsdale Area Schools is one of the few school districts in Hennepin County that does not currently have a voter-approved capital project levy to provide funds for technology.

“We take our responsibility as stewards of the community’s resources very seriously,” said School Board Chair Sherry Tyrrell. “Based on our thorough review of District finances and educational program, we believe that asking our community to renew the existing operating levy and add a technology levy is the best way to most effectively and efficiently meet our students’ learning needs.”

Renewing the operating levy (question 1) would provide approximately $20 million per year to help maintain lower than average class sizes and fund daily school and district operations such as classroom supplies, staff salaries, building maintenance and transportation. $20 million is 13% of the total operating budget and is the equivalent of 225 teachers or the entire staffing costs of five elementary schools.

Adding a technology levy (question 2 – which is officially called the “capital project levy to fund technology”) would provide a stable source of funding to increase technology access for students and staff, support personalized learning and expand technology for teaching and learning. If approved, the tax impact on the median value district home ($195,000) would be $7 per month.

So the first question would only maintain the current levy and accompanying taxes that we pay to support it? Mighty generous of the district not to hit us up for more there.

And the second question would ONLY ding us for $7 a month, assuming we live in median value district home (pretty easy to figure out how much more or less you’ll owe if your home value deviates from that). And more technology is obviously a good thing, right?

Well, it depends on exactly what we mean by technology. In this case it’s not entirely clear, but part of that plan apparently involves providing Chromebooks for students in grades five through eight. The younger kids would benefit too:

-Continue implementation of SMART Boards, data projection, classroom sound systems and assessment devices for classrooms.

-Expand the use of integrated learning systems to manage remediation and enrichment specifically in reading and math.

-Expand the use of video conferencing to enhance student access to global experts and experiences.

-Increase e-books as part of a comprehensive media center and guided reading resource collection.

-Subscribe to e-textbooks as an interactive, searchable and customizable instructional resource.

-Develop, align and manage online supplemental learning objects and content that support and extend district curriculum.

-Facilitate personalized learning by building unique learner profiles, managing custom learning pathways and monitoring proficient-based progress using a Learning Management System.

-Provide additional classroom-based wireless computers and tablets for student use.

-Upgrade out-dated classroom and school computers.

This list of what more spending on technology would mean doesn’t come from District 281, but rather from a site called “Yes 281” which advocates in favor of the referendum (duh). It’s well designed and is part of a coordinated effort that includes lawn signs and volunteering to get the referendum passed. Not surprisingly there is no “No 281” equivalent which provides a pretty good indication about what the outcome will be come November.

There really isn’t a strong effort to justify this spending on technology other than “they have it and we don’t”:

Q: Why do we need more money for technology?

A: Technology is a vital tool for students to be career and college ready. Technology-literate graduates are prepared to thrive in our digital world and join a highly skilled 21st century workforce. However, Robbinsdale Area Schools is one of the few Hennepin County school districts without a voter-approved capital project levy to provide funds for technology. A technology levy would provide a stable source of funding for the technology tools that students and staff need to succeed in today’s digital world.

Whether any of the other local districts have achieved anything with their spending on technology is not discussed.

Okay, so where are we compared to Peterson’s original breakdown of how support for education spending varies depending on how informed people are about it? We know why they want to spend more money. We know that it will increase our taxes. The missing variable is how much District 281 currently spends.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics the key number for District 281 is that it already spends $13,164 per pupil. And we’re to believe that’s not enough. Not if we want our children to have the vital technological tools they need. And there’s no way we could scrimp on any other portion of the over $13K per kid that we’re already spending to get those tools without having to raise taxes.

I’m not buying it. But I fear that the majority of voters in District 281 will and still would even if they had all the relevant facts at hand. It still doesn’t hurt to try to get that $13,164 per pupil number out there though. Because at some point I have to believe people will say enough is enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pay to Play

I will preface this post by explaining that I am not John Kerry. Where the liberals of the world see thousands of shades of gray, I like to simplify the world into more primitive buckets like right and wrong. Which is a strange way to begin a post on the Minnesota Vikings. Simply put, I can't understand how they can suspend their best player, Adrian Peterson, with pay. Peterson's merited this action on the part of his employer by striking at least one of his children to the point where law enforcement had to become involved. No one defends his action.

In my simpler world view, the Vikings should ask the question: did Adrian Peterson commit an act so heinous that the organization should remove him from the team? In my simple world, there are three possible answers: yes, no, or we don't have enough information to know at this time.

If the answer is no, the Vikings would have no right to suspend Peterson. If the answer is we don't have enough information, it would seem unfair to suspend him until enough information allows us to judge. Therefore, I assume that the Vikings believe the answer is yes. I can accept that verdict, considering Peterson has not disputed the allegations against him.

So if Peterson committed an act so heinous that he must be removed from the team, why should the team pay him? I understand he is under contract, but most contracts of this type have morals clauses that void them  in the event that a player commits an act so heinous that they must be removed from their team as a result. It is worth noting that Peterson's union has not disputed the Vikings right to remove him from the team.
Yet the Vikings choose to pay Peterson over $734,000 each week that he contributes nothing to the team due to his non-football behavior.

One might ask, what is the mission of the Minnesota Vikings? Some may say it is to win football games. I would disagree. The Vikings, like all businesses, exist to make money for their ownership. They do this by providing entertainment to fans in hopes of earning revenue from two channels: 1) media contracts negotiated by their league that leverage the overall popularity of the league to produce a pot of revenue which is divided among the leagues 32 ownership groups and 2) team specific channels including ticket sales and merchandising.

One can argue that the league is harmed by the publicity Peterson has recently generated, so his continued presence jeopardizes revenue source #1. It's more of a stretch to argue that removing Peterson helps team specific revenue sources, because removing Peterson significantly harms the Vikings product. It is indisputable that the team plays better with Peterson in the lineup. The more a team loses, the less ticket buyers will likely pay money to see them. Likewise, there is a strong correlation between winning and merchandise sales. Granted, Peterson's bad publicity harms revenue source #2, but it is a lot less clear cut harm than the overall harm to revenue source #1 because of the offset to product quality.

Peterson is not the first NFL Player or Viking to run afoul of law enforcement, nor was he the first accused of domestic violence. In 2015 societal mores have changed to the point that this behavior merits suspension. In previous seasons, it did not.

So I will ask again, why are the Vikings paying Adrian Peterson while he is suspended? His job is to help the Vikings entertain their customers by playing football well. He is not doing his job because of behavior that violates society's mores. Yet the Vikings pay him a whopping $734,000 per week to await judgement from the legal system.

One could argue that Peterson's action had nothing to do with his performance on the football field, and that he should not have been suspended. I don't agree, but that position is more logical than suspending him while paying him nearly three quarters of a million dollars each week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

They Don't Need No...

Your 2-year-old doesn't need to go to school:

Yes, 2-year-olds need to be properly nourished and stimulated by their caretakers, but this can happen just as well outside a classroom. Many parents, especially the sort who decide to read this article, are capable of giving toddlers everything they need to grow into intellectually curious and emotionally secure children.

"A lot of parents are operating under the mistaken belief that if school is good for 3-year-olds then it must be good for 2-year-olds too," said Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of the recent book How Toddlers Thrive.

Klein and other early childhood experts I spoke all agreed that 2s programs can be a perfectly fine addition to a toddler's schedule if the scheduling and costs create no inconvenience for the family. But they were also insistent that not sending your child to one doesn't cheat them or compromise their future.

The main things children need are love, a chance to socialize with other kids, and conversation. The latter is crucial, and study after study demonstrate the ways in which children who aren't spoken to enough have lower IQs and perform worse in school. There is a whopping 30-million-word gap between poor children and those from professional families. And boys are often spoken to less often than girls. So, yes, a 2s program could have benefits for lower-income children, who perversely are less likely to attend one. But for middle- or upper-income children, it's probably not going to make a difference.

It might even backfire. Some 2s programs, the sort that focus on academics and appeal to those parents who think that the first step to Harvard takes place in diapers, might actually have an adverse effect.

"There is a long history of studies in developmental psychology showing that it is harmful to push children into academics too early," said Barbara Beatty, professor of education at Wellesley and author of Preschool Education in America. "Kids need to have lots of time for exploration, and if you push them too early they are going to be shortchanged." In short, Beatty thinks parents of young children should put down their flashcards and take their kids for a walk or play with them.

The mere fact that an article like this is even written or that people are actually wondering if their TWO-YEAR-OLD needs to go school is a sad indictment of where our society is at when it comes to education. Personally, I would take this much farther and ask if your three or four or even five-year-old really needs to go to school either.

This obsession with the earlier the education the better is not validated by studies and some countries with far better educational outcomes than the United States don’t formally send their children to school until age seven (gasp!). If you have a stable home and can provide a good environment for your children to interact and learn in you don’t need to worry about whether they will fall behind because they don’t start school “soon enough.” They’ll be just fine.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Franken Forecast

By all rights, Al Franken should not be a United States Senator.  And I’m not just referring to the fact that after the votes were counted and certified on election night in 2008, Franken trailed his Republican opponent by 215 votes.  Based on qualifications and disposition, Al Franken makes no sense as a member of “the world’s greatest deliberative body”.
Technically, by the contemporary Constitutional requirements of age and citizenship, he is qualified.  But those we’re intended to be the means to an end.  An end the Founders of the United States envisioned to be a man exhibiting the highest levels of intelligence, judgment, patriotism and character, the meritocratic 1% of the American citizenry.  From James Madison in The Federalist No. 62:
…  the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages …
From John Jay in The Federalist No. 64:
… those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence.
… Senators so chosen will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence.
These were really good plans.
Let’s add Madison and Jay to the litany of mice and men, and hope they are wearing seat belts in their crypts, as we introduce the junior Senator from the great state of Minnesota.

Unfair, you say, to exhibit the man’s stability of character, virtue, and confidence inspiring integrity via an acting performance as a monkey-minding, drug addled baggage handler?  Ah, that is but a sample of the behavior exhibited over his entire adult life.  You can Google any number of examples of Franken’s lack of possessing these very qualities.  For example, hereherehere, and here.  At some point, a collection of similarly oriented data points represents a pattern.
Al Franken’s entire preparation for the United States Senate was as a highly paid fool.  He was a comedian who trafficked in base, scatological, sexualized humor and politically driven ridicule and calumny under the guise of humor.  Or, if you like that sort of thing, he was a “social satirist”.  You can make millions doing this, even if you’re not funny, as long as you gain the support of enough like-minded fellow travelers, as Franken did.  But it doesn’t make you suitable material for the upper chamber of the legislative body of a great nation.  A mature, civilized democracy doesn’t advance people like this to these lofty positions. For most of our nation’s history, Franken wouldn’t have even been considered by the voters.  And yet, there he is.
A further assumedly imposing impediment overcome by Franken in his improbable rise is his lack of connection to the state that he represents.  He was born in New York City.  His entire adult life was spent in New York City and other places outside of Minnesota.  For a period, as a child and adolescent, he did live in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  But then he was gone for the better part of three decades.  Granted, compared to the carpet bagging standards of someone like former NY Sen. Hillary Clinton, this practically makes him as Minnesotan as lutefisk hot dish. But, the point of representative democracy was supposed to be having people in government who are representative of the people for whom they make decisions.  Being away from those people for 30+ years, by choice, tends to compromise the ability to be representative of them.
The “democracy’ part of representative democracy was supposed to be the failsafe of the equation.  What people in their right mind could possibly select as their Senator a professional fool from out of state?  Inconceivable!  Madison and Jay didn’t bother to even write a footnote to the Federalist Papers addressing the possibility of a monkey-minding, drug-addled baggage handler getting elected.  (That’s why we need a living Constitution! – Ruth Bader Ginsburg).  And yet, there he is.
Three primary dynamics led to this outcome.  First, Minnesota has a lot of Democrats in it.  And most of these Democrats are deeply loyal, highly partisan Democrats who would blindly vote for anyone carrying that party’s endorsement.  For example, the last Republican Presidential candidate to win the state was in 1972.  Minnesota’s were all in for a second term of Jimmy Carter.  We wanted to dump Ronald Reagan for a shot at the magic of Walter Mondale.  We were inspired to strap on the helmets and follow Michael Dukakis into battle.  Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama?  Keep it coming, we can’t get enough!  Anyone carrying the Democrat endorsement is likely to win.  It’s beyond yellow dog Democrat, its Al Franken Democrat.
Secondly, for whatever reason, we Minnesotans are insecure about our image in the world.  We think we’re special.  We like it here. We think that all our women are strong, all our men are good looking, and all our children are above average.  And we need EVERYONE else to agree with us.
This yearning manifests itself into a weird attachment to celebrity.  We cleave to anyone with a Minnesota connection who has been validated by the wider world.  If the world appreciates this person, the thinking goes, they must appreciate us as well; their validation is our validation.  Even if that person got the hell out of Minnesota as soon as they reached the age of majority (see Al Franken, Bob Dylan, etc.), these celebrities are icons cherished by Minnesotans as exemplars of our own specialness.
And if they run for office, we elect them.  In our recent past, we have had a former professional wrestler/action movie hero as our governor and a TV newsreader as our former senator.  Currently, we have an NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle on our Supreme Court, the scion of a beloved department store owner as our governor, and — as our other senator – the daughter of a legendary local sportswriter.  None of these people were particularly qualified for their lofty positions.  But in Minnesota the endorsement of celebrity outweighs qualifications.  And Al Franken’s celebrity is the weightiest of the lot (at least pending a future candidacy by MacGyver).
You may be able to fool most of the people some of the time with the attributes above, but how does Al Franken get past the gatekeepers and elites of his own party?  These people have toiled in the mundane salt mines of local politics for decades and certainly had developed loyalties to legitimate Minnesota candidates before Al Franken parachuted in shortly before the election.
This brings up the third dynamic fueling Franken’s rise.  Contemporary campaign rules favor candidates who are independently wealthy or with an outsized national profile that is conducive to raising money.  It costs millions to run for a statewide office and that’s extremely hard to do via individual donations (which cap out at $4600 per election cycle) within your own state.  A prospective candidate who can bring substantial financial resources of his own to the party is immediately considered viable for nomination.
Franken doesn’t spend his own money to self-finance his campaigns; rather he taps into his network of celebrity friends and national fan base.  It wasn’t uncommon during the 2008 campaign for more than 75% of his donations for various filing periods to be fromout of state, including from such luminaries as Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Xena the Warrior Princess.  The national Left loves Franken and funds him accordingly, and that was enough to get him to the front of the line in a Minnesota Democrat primary election.
And that’s how Franken landed in the United States Senate, a combination of celebrity, big money, and blind partisanship.  That doesn’t work everywhere, for example at Franken’s most recent previous employer (Radio Air America), but it’s good enough for government work.  Is it good enough to get him re-elected?
Potentially, yes.  It’s a powerful combination in politics in Minnesota and often sufficient for victory.  But even with these advantages, Franken barely won in 2008.  In a Democrat wave year, where Obama won Minnesota by nearly 300,000 votes (a 54% majority) the funnyman Democrat down the very same ballot running for US Senate won by a scant 225 votes (a 42% plurality).  Minnesotans elected him to office, but they don’t love him.
Franken no doubt realizes this and has generally kept a low profile while in office, in six years not leading any significant legislative initiatives and being uncharacteristically low key on all the hot button issues of the day.  Even when campaigning for office, he’s very reserved.  His strategy seems to be abandoning the personality he’s exhibited his entire adult life in favor or not actively giving people a reason to vote against him.
However, he has quietly amassed a virtually perfect Democrat partisan voting record, which is more liberal than even Minnesota standards.  And as the last senator seated for the 111th Congress (thanks for the 2008 Senate recount, not taking office until July of 2009), he can credibly be accused of being the 60th and decisive vote in the passage of Obamacare (which has recently been polled as having a 33% approval rate in the Minnesota).  Despite his attempts to stay silent, his voting record speaks volumes about the representation he offers Minnesota and this can be effectively used against him.
The key to victory is offering a viable alternative to Al Franken.  For this mission the Minnesota Republican party endorsed Mike McFadden this past May.  Who is Mike McFadden?  Unfortunately, it’s a question many Minnesotans need an answer to before they will vote for him.  Prior to running for US Senate, virtually no one in the state had heard of him.  He’s a relative newcomer as a resident to Minnesota (just over 20 years) and quietly became a millionaire (net worth $15 – $57 million) in management for a financial services firm.  And that’s the most anyone really knows about him.  He may be a political genius and inspiring, visionary leader as well, but we don’t know.
What we do know — and what the Democrats are counting on — is that he’s  an anonymous, generic, conservative rich guy who wants to hold a powerful political office.  This is not a classic combination for victory in a place as class-conscious and parochial as Minnesota.  Rich guys can get elected to state office (see Mark Dayton).  Generic folks can get elected (see Amy Klobuchar).  Anonymous guys can get elected (see Paul Wellstone).  Even conservative guys can get elected (see Rod Grams).  But I’m unaware of that quadruple threat ever leading to victory.
Apparently it can work in neighboring Wisconsin (See Ron Johnson).  I think that example, combined with McFadden’s ability to self-fund a campaign, led Minnesota Republicans to this risky bet.  (It’s also true that there were no strong, prominent Republicans even running for endorsement, which may be the real tragedy of this race for those dreaming of a Frankenless future.)
So, Franken is a weak incumbent and he’s running against a potentially even weaker challenger.  The current polling reinforces this status, with Franken hovering around 50% and McFadden about 8 points back.
It’s certainly not over by any means.  Before November, national events can serve to highlight the problems with Franken’s voting record.  McFadden could distinguish himself in voters’ minds through effective advertising and debate performances.  Or Franken could let his guard drop and revert to his traditional ways of communication and comportment for all the voters to see.  Al Franken will never be a landslide election victor.  But is there enough time, and is the opponent agile enough, to overtake him this year?  Stay tuned.

For additional wise, civilized conversation on this topic, check out the comments section on the Ricochet post.  

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Defining Destitution Down

There was a time when a fair number of people in America did have to worry about how they were going to fill their gullet each day. Today, that is for the most part no longer the case. To paraphrase something I heard not long ago from an unknown source, ours is the first society where the rich are thin and the poor are fat. Obesity is a far more prevalent problem for our children then hunger.

But we still will hear the occasional alarm raised over the problem of millions of Americans going hungry. That is large part due to the way that we have redefined the problem as James Bovard explains in today’s Wall Street Journal. How the Feds Distort Their 'Food Insecurity' Numbers:

On Wednesday the Agriculture Department released the results of its annual Household Food Security in the United States survey for 2013. According to the USDA survey, 14.3% of U.S. households—some 49 million Americans—were "food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013." The decrease from 14.5% of households in 2012 was "not statistically significant." Yet if the past is any guide, the survey will be wrongfully invoked by politicians and pundits as proof of a national hunger crisis.

Is being "food insecure" the same as going hungry? Not necessarily. The USDA defines a "food insecure" household in the U.S. as one that is "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food" at times during the year. The USDA notes: "For most food-insecure households, the inadequacies were in the form of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity."

The National Academy of Sciences urged the USDA in 2006 to explicitly state that its food-security survey results are not an estimate of nationwide hunger. The USDA responded by dropping any mention of "hunger" in the survey's response categories. Nevertheless, the survey's results continue to be pervasive.

Sure, it would great if all Americans could always secure the quality and variety of food they wanted. But just because they cannot it does not mean that they are going hungry.

Though the food-security survey results are often touted as evidence of widespread hunger, another USDA survey debunked that conclusion. The agency's Agricultural Research Service conducts periodic surveys of "What We Eat in America." The most recent survey (2009-10) revealed that children ages 2 to 11 in households with less than $25,000 in annual income consume significantly more calories than children in households with incomes above $75,000.

Bovard notes that this does not mean that hunger isn’t a problem for some people in America. But by conflating “food-insecurity” with hunger we don’t present a clear picture of the extent of the problem and don’t get any closer to solving it for those truly in need.