Owning Company Stock Can Keep Customers Loyal and Lead Them To Spend More

The fintech app Bumped wants stocks to be the new customer rewards programs. 2021 has been a big year for stonks. Day trading has increased dramatically throughout the pandemic as more people are at home and out of work, and the GameStop short squeeze in January briefly directed national intrigue toward the world of amateur investing, a phenomenon powered by no-fee trading apps like Robinhood.

And while some, like Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, believe investing to be the new American dream, a little more than half of Americans (55 percent) own some form of stock, according to a 2020 Gallup poll. Ownership was more common (62 percent) prior to the Great Recession and is still largely tied to factors like education, household income, age, and race.

Yet, stocks are more accessible than ever: Trading fees are extremely low, and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) are on the rise. The concept of the “ownership economy” is gaining steam, even among regular Americans who aren’t tuned into the latest tech developments, as evidenced by the NFT craze. The ownership economy’s basic premise is that equity — allowing people to have a stake in a brand, business, artist, or even influencer — generates loyalty, and establishes a relationship between the stakeholder and whatever they’ve invested in.

According to research released by the Columbia Business School in February, stock ownership drives consumer loyalty, and retail investors increase their spending at companies in which they own stock. This is, of course, good news for recognizable brands with devoted followings. The rise of conscious consumerism during the Trump presidency has moved consumers to think critically about the brands they buy from.

For better or for worse, people are demanding more from corporations and are willing to boycott or wage social media campaigns to demonstrate their discontent. On the flip side, the Columbia research shows how consumers are moved to financially support brands they have a stake in — even if it’s only a few shares.

The study, titled “Bumped: The Effects of Stock Ownership on Individual Spending,” analyzed transaction data of more than 9,000 American users from Bumped, a fintech app that opens a brokerage account for users and rewards them with stock through purchases from certain retailers. Users are able to preselect their preferred brands from 16 different groups, like travel and fashion (the study only observed the six most popular categories), and are automatically granted stock when they spend at those stores.

The researchers accessed data on users’ spending transactions before and after they opened Bumped brokerage accounts. They found that after users were granted stock from selected companies, their weekly spending increased by 30 to 40 percent (an average of $23) toward those companies, and remained around that rate for three to six months.

Loyalty, the researchers concluded, was a driving factor in maintaining a consumer’s relationship to a brand, and this incentivized relationship “closely resembles the compensation programs which address executives through stocks.” Prior research has shown that people invest in companies they care about, according to researcher and Columbia associate professor Michaela Pagel.

The study provided new evidence that “owning a stock makes people feel more loyal towards the company and in turn, they go out of their way to spend on that companies’ goods or products,” Pagel wrote to Vox via a Columbia spokesperson. “It’s a case of putting your money where your mouth is and there is a direct link between stock ownership and happiness via consumption, which hasn’t been shown before.”

Bumped CEO David Nelsen told Vox that the app allows for consumers to participate in an “entirely new reward mechanism,” similar to points or cash-back rewards. This isn’t exactly a novel idea; people naturally hold greater affinity for things they’ve invested in, but fintech developments that track and categorize credit card spending have only recently made this rewards process possible, he added.

“The concept of having millions of people investing small amounts became much more prevalent with Robinhood,” Nelsen said. “We didn’t have fractional shares when I was an investor, and it was harder to own things. Now, this technology is more widespread, and companies are building tools that break things down into smaller units to allow more people to participate.”

This idea of fractional ownership and equity is not exclusive to publicly-traded companies. Tech enthusiasts can become accredited “angel” investors for startups in need of funding, now that the Securities and Exchange Commission expanded its eligibility requirements for private investors. Similar to NFTs, fans can use bitcoin to “invest” in influencers through BitClout, a startup that claims to sell “shares” of a celebrity’s clout on the blockchain.

Most research into consumer and investor behaviors has generally categorized people as either a consumer or an investor. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing was one of the first that sought to combine those two categories, although it relied on self-reported data to analyze participant motivations.

Still, it found that investors are motivated to engage in brand-supporting behaviors in addition to purchasing more from the company, such as serving as informal brand ambassadors. These behaviors solidify a longer-term commitment to a company’s success, compared to cash rewards or points that can be redeemed over a shorter period of time.

Some user testimonies Bumped shared with Vox emphasized the value of having an ownership stake, but similar to ESOPs, it’s unlikely that the fractional stocks offered will amount to a significant percentage of total company shares.

However, this could still have a greater impact on the corporate end, as Bumped looks to expand its offerings through partnerships with different companies and banks. “You’re allowing millions of people to become small shareholders,” Nelsen said. “That can be extremely impactful for any brand.”

Source: Owning company stock can keep customers loyal and lead them to spend more – Vox

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Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

Sadly, we all get lonely from time to time, and social distancing and self-isolation certainly don’t help. Here, a psychologist offers her advice for overcoming these feelings of loneliness.

Have you ever gotten into bed at the end of the day and realized that you haven’t spoken out loud to anyone since the day before? Or simply found yourself feeling completely and utterly alone?

We live in a hyper-connected world, and yet we’re lonelier than ever before, a situation that is certainly not helped by the current UK lockdown. We have more social media followers than real-life friends, and it’s easier to swap digital messages with strangers on the other side of the planet than it is to sit down for a chat with an actual person – especially now that we’re social distancing and putting ourselves in isolation.

Despite being traditionally viewed as an affliction that’s limited to the elderly, it’s now 16-24 year olds who make up the loneliest age group of all, a finding confirmed in the UK’s largest study on the subject, The Loneliness Experiment by BBC Radio 4. The study included over 55,000 people and found that 34% of 25-34 year olds are lonely ‘often or very often’ while 36% of 34-44 year olds felt the same.

Now, scientists are warning of the damaging effects of a ‘loneliness epidemic’, with loneliness even being equated to the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

As many of us will know, we don’t need to be physically alone to feel lonely. A toxic friendship or relationship can be incredibly isolating, for example, while spending too much time with people we don’t feel close to can have damaging effects on our psyche, even if we’re only interacting with them through our phones. Loneliness affects people in different ways, and for this reason there are four distinct types of loneliness identified by psychologists: emotional, social, situational and chronic.

But how do we know what type of loneliness we’re experiencing and, more importantly, how can we tackle it? Here, Stylist talks to registered psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, and hears from women who have experienced loneliness – and managed to keep it at bay.

Emotional Loneliness

“Those who are emotionally lonely will find it difficult to improve things without tackling the root of the problem,” says Dr Spelman. “Emotional loneliness is not circumstantial but, rather, comes from within.”

Dr Spelman recommends therapy to help tackle the root cause of these feelings of emotional loneliness. “Working with a therapist, possibly with a technique such as behavioural cognitive therapy, or attending group therapy, is likely to lead to the best possible outcome,” she says.

“The person in question can start to understand why they are lonely, how their background and experiences have contributed to behaviours that make things worse, and how they can develop a new, and more useful, set of behaviours.”

Note: Due to coronavirus, face-to-face meetings with therapists may not be possible at this time. However, the NHS is currently working on a new digital therapy programme, and you can find out more information by clicking here

Situational Loneliness

Many millennials choose to work abroad for a few years in their 20s and 30s, and the rise in solo travel means a great number of us are planning to jet off on solo adventures once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

While these plans are undoubtedly exciting, it can also be a period of adjustment as we try to make new friends while simultaneously getting to grips with a new culture and way of life – potentially leading to situational loneliness, says Dr Spelman.

“Situational loneliness can result from being in circumstances that make developing friendships difficult,” she says. “Examples include those living abroad, perhaps in a place where they do not speak the language perfectly, stay-at-home mothers (or fathers) with young children, or those with a physical or intellectual disability that makes it difficult to get out and about.”

Situational loneliness is something that digital writer Susan experienced when she moved to Dubai for two and a half years in 2013.

“When I first moved to the Middle East, I was completely alone,” she says. “I didn’t have a friend or a family member I could call when the going got tough, or even just someone to have a cup of tea with. It was my choice to move there for work. And it was my choice to move there as a single woman. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

“The first month was particularly difficult as I spent two weeks in a hotel on my own, surrounded by a completely different culture, customs and language. I felt the sting of loneliness as I dined on my own every evening and looked for a flat share – going from one viewing to the next without understanding a word of Arabic. But after I found somewhere to call home, I made friends with my housemates by putting myself out there and never turning down an invitation to do something new. Thankfully, I pushed myself to get to know them and my new country of residence, too.”

But situational loneliness doesn’t just arise in those who relocate alone, as social media editor Sarah discovered when she moved countries with her partner. Sarah left her Sydney home in March 2017 to join her partner in London, where he had arrived a month earlier to start a new job and find the pair a home to live in – although she admits that “didn’t mean it was smooth sailing”.

“On my first night an emotional (jetlagged) me fell asleep whimpering into my partner’s shoulder, ‘I had to give up a lot to be here’. Although very dramatic, I was more right than wrong. I knew making friends as an adult, outside of freshers’ week or a friend-of-a-friend introduction, would be preceded by a stint of loneliness – something I dreaded.

“The reality of that fear set in a week later. Without a job, I had less interaction with people and felt starved of company. I took to being overly chatty to baristas and the person on the till at Sainsbury’s. Each day I would surf LinkedIn and talk about the weather with anyone mildly inclined to respond. I would look forward to my partner coming home after work for the sheer joy of talking to someone who knew me beyond what groceries I was buying that day.”

Sarah did make friends in the city but she is also aware that “having a partner at home slowed my efforts”.

“There would be times I would crave going out with a friend rather than my partner. But the reality was that in those initial weeks he was my only friend in London. And that made me feel tied to him in a way that we never were in our home town of Sydney.

“It did take a considerable amount of effort to form friendships outside of his friendship circle (formed from his middle-school years in south London). Eighteen months on, I keep working on those friendships outside of my relationship – because I now know how very valuable they are.”

Pushing yourself to make new friends – and crucially, maintain those friendships – is exactly what Dr Spelman recommends for someone who is grappling with situational loneliness. And while we can’t currently make an active effort to meet new people in person due to coronavirus, there are alternative solutions.

“The best approach here is a proactive one,” she says. Once we are out of lockdown and able to socialise in person again, she suggests “joining a language class or a hobby group or getting in touch with like-minded people and actively courting friendships, to help overcome loneliness in these circumstances.

“The internet can help. While socialising online is not the same as meeting up with friends for coffee or a drink, establishing a support network online can help to maintain a sense of being liked and wanted, and keep social skills alive.”

Social Loneliness

“Social loneliness is typically experienced by those who have problems in social situations because of shyness, social awkwardness, or a sense of low self-esteem that makes them doubt their capacity to be competent and entertaining in social circumstances,” Dr Spelman explains.

“Different approaches can help. For example, if the root issue is one of low self-esteem, tackling this first should make a positive difference. Trying a structured approach to socialising, such as joining an online or virtual group that gets together to discuss or engage in a particular hobby, can be a good way to start to end a vicious circle.”

Chronic Loneliness

“Chronic loneliness is the term used to describe those who have been lonely for so long that it has become a way of life to them,” explains Dr Spelman. “If solitude has become part of their nature, it can be tricky to break the cycle.”

Chronic loneliness is something that Lyla, now 26, experienced when she moved to London to start university at the age of 18. Lyla had previously lived in Nottingham where she had a solid group of friends who all lived nearby, and spent a lot of time together. Moving to a new city triggered feelings of loneliness for her, which became entrenched over her first two and a half years in the city.

“It was a really bewildering, lonely time,” she says. “The jump of being plonked into a huge arts school, in just one of hundreds of halls of residence in a sprawling city I didn’t understand, made me retreat into myself and I struggled to make friends in the face of it all.

“I spent a lot of time in my tiny room making my mum talk to me for hours and hours on the phone, while I slowly found my footing and met people I connected with. It took me about two and a half years to learn not to hate London, but sticking it out meant it slowly got better, and nine years later nowhere has ever felt more like home.”

Dr Spelman notes that chronic loneliness is often a by-product of circumstance, such as self-isolation, although unlike situational loneliness, it can go on for so long that it almost becomes a way of life.

“Examples include the elderly whose friends have largely passed away or moved into nursing care, while adult children live far away, or those who are inhibited from socializing by a controlling partner or other circumstances that feel out of their control,” she says. “It is important to remember that we all deserve friends and a social life and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help or making the first step.”

Are you looking to make new friends? See Stylist’s guide to the art of friendship dating here, or find out what happened when we tried friendship apps here.

By: Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter.

Source: Feel Lonely? There Are 4 Types of Loneliness. Here’s How to Beat Them

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The Push For Equity In Education Hurts Vulnerable Children The Most

America has always had an uneasy relationship with brilliance. Cultural tropes, like the mad scientist or the nerdy computer whiz, show both a respect for high accomplishment and an anxiety about how smart people fit into society.

This cultural uneasiness is most apparent in the educational realm. Schools recognized the existence of students with high academic aptitude by providing them with gifted programs and advanced classes. Outside of school hours, many sponsor honor societies or academic competitions. And the old tradition of publicly recognizing a graduating class’s valedictorian remains strong.

However, the educational industry has never let these programs shake the field’s commitment to egalitarianism. The spending on education in the United States is disproportionately directed towards struggling children. Sometimes this policy is explicit, such as earmarking billions of federal dollars annually for special education and little or nothing for advanced academics.

Other policies implicitly support struggling learners more than students who excel, such as the No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which encouraged states to reward schools that help struggling students reach basic proficiency levels. These laws, though, did not incentivize or reward schools for helping students reach high levels of academic accomplishment. As a result, the numbers of high achievers stagnated.

Equity over excellence

This truce of carving out a few advanced programs and classes from a system concentrated on educating the lowest performing students worked reasonably well for decades. However, that arrangement was shattered within the past few years in the United States as districts and states embraced “equity” initiatives with the goal of achieving equal outcomes across individuals as well as groups. The policies inevitably sacrifice bright and high achieving students to the social goals of activists.

The push to hobble high performing students in order to achieve equity can take many forms. In Oregon, the state legislature eliminated the requirement that students pass a high school exit exam to demonstrate proficiency in reading, mathematics, and writing for two years until the state can re-evaluate its graduation requirements. The reason: the testing requirement was “inequitable” because higher percentages of black and Hispanic students were failing the test.

The impetus to eliminate tests that show differing levels of academic success is also apparent in admissions tests. At the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet high school in Virginia often touted as the best high school in the country, admission is no longer based on high test performance. Instead, a new system assigns seats at the prestigious school so that each region in the school district is evenly represented, and then all students that meet basic criteria (a 3.5 middle school grade-point average) are entered into the lottery.

The result is a student body that is more racially diverse (from 73 percent Asian to 53 percent Asian, from one percent black to seven percent, and from three percent Hispanic to 25 percent Hispanic), but much less academically elite. Magnet schools in Philadelphia and Boston also revamped their admissions procedures to de-emphasize tests and to improve the admission chances for Hispanic and black students.

Reducing or eliminating the impact of admissions tests is not unique to high schools. Concerns about equity have also caused universities to make college admissions tests optional for applicants. College admissions tests show well-known differences in average scores, and applying the same admissions standard to all groups will inevitably admit higher scoring groups at higher rates than lower scoring groups. This mathematical reality makes admissions tests a target of equity advocates.

The test-optional movement has been underway for many years, mostly at small liberal arts colleges. Making standardized tests optional seems like a good idea to counteract the unequal admissions rates across groups. However, research shows that it does not improve the socioeconomic or racial diversity of a student body. It does, however, raise a college’s reported test score average (because low performing applicants choose not to report scores), which improves the school’s rankings. Test-optional universities also increased tuition at higher rates than universities that required test scores. None of these developments help disadvantaged students.

The test-optional movement accelerated recently during the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to growing concerns about equity. The movement to drop testing requirements reached its greatest success when the regents of the University of California system voted to make admissions tests optional for applicants—despite their own faculty making a strong recommendation against a test-optional policy.

Even this move towards lowering standards was not enough. Advocacy groups sued the University of California system, which settled the lawsuit by agreeing to ban the consideration of any test scores in the admissions process. This outcome was exactly what university president Janet Napolitano had previously proposed and what many California politicians had wanted for years. What an amazing coincidence!

Even when admissions tests remain in place, institutions often apply different admissions standards across racial groups in order to improve the diversity of the student body. A prominent example of this can be found in the lawsuit alleging anti-Asian discrimination in Harvard admissions.

According to the plaintiff’s expert analysis of Harvard admissions data conducted by economist Peter S. Arcidiacono, an Asian student with a 25 percent chance of admission to Harvard would have their chances of admission increase to 36 percent if they were white and had the same academic qualifications. Hispanic students with the same academic qualifications have a 75 percent probability of admission. An equivalent black student would have a 95 percent chance of admission.

In other words, what is an iffy one-in-four chance of admission for an Asian student is almost a sure bet for a black student with the same admissions qualifications. Among admitted black students, 45 percent had academic qualifications in the bottom half of all applicants, while only eight percent of admitted Asian students had similar academic qualifications. The admission rate for a student with academic qualifications in the top 10 percent of all applicants is 4.25 times higher for black applicants, 2.61 times higher for Hispanic applicants, and 1.37 times higher for white applicants than for Asian applicants.

Differing admissions standards across racial groups also occurs for law schools and medical schools. Indeed, it is likely that admissions standards vary for different racial and ethnic groups at most American institutions of higher education, except for open enrollment institutions. Data for any particular university is often unavailable, though.

When differing standards are not equitable enough, one proposal to advance equity is to eliminate admissions standards completely. That is what the journalism school at UNC Chapel Hill did when eliminating the minimum GPA for admission to its programs (previously a 3.1 college GPA was required). A more revolutionary change is the proposal for the NCAA—which governs college athletics—to remove its minimum high school GPA and test scores for student athletes.

The minimum standard is a sliding scale, but for Division I universities, a 2.3 high school GPA in core subjects is a required minimum. Students with this GPA must earn an SAT score of at least 980 points. Students with lower test scores can compensate with a higher GPA in high school core classes. A student with a 3.0 high school GPA in core subjects, for example, needs to obtain an SAT score of only 720 points to play intercollegiate sports. For most college students, these standards are easily met; but for advocates of equity, even these standards are too high because a disproportionate number of African American students fail to reach them.

Back in the K-12 world, another popular strategy for achieving “equity” in education is to eliminate advanced classes and programs, such as gifted programs or accelerated classes. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated the city’s gifted program. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the standards for being labeled as “gifted” were lowered so much that 86 percent of school children qualified for the label, and the district eliminated any specialized classes for high performers.

California’s proposed K-12 math guidelines states, “… we reject ideas of natural gifts and talents …” and encourages a lockstep math sequence for all students to take the same classes through the end of 10th grade. Lest any students try to escape from a lockstep program, the guidelines explicitly discourage grade skipping individual students, even though there is absolutely no evidence showing negative effects of grade skips.

Avoiding—not solving—the problem

The problem of disproportionate representation of different racial and ethnic groups in educational programs is fundamentally caused by the achievement gap among groups. It is a mathematical fact that when groups differ in their average scores, then the percentage of group members exceeding a cutoff will be higher for groups with a higher average and lower for groups with a lower average. If all groups had equal average academic performance, then students in elite academic programs would much more resemble the demographics of the general student population.

What all these “equity” strategies have in common is that none of them achieve their equity goals by improving the academic performance of low-performing groups. Instead, “equity” almost invariably requires hiding deficiencies of low-performing groups, lowering standards, or eliminating or watering down programs that encourage excellence. These proposed policies are, at best, stopgap solutions. At worst, they hide the problem and allow it to fester.

Instead, solving the equity problem permanently would require closing the achievement gap by lifting the performance of lower-performing groups. The causes of achievement gaps among groups are hotly debated in the educational world. What is not debated is that meaningfully increasing the performance of low-performing groups will not be easy. There are some experts who have proposed policies and practices to increase achievement in low-performing groups.

School psychologist Craig Frisby, for example, has found that successful schools that teach large proportions of minority students focus on core achievement, provide strict discipline, and base policies on the science of learning—and not on trendy sociopolitical ideas.

Some projects to increase achievement of Hispanic and African American students have had promising results in increasing the number of these students who qualify for gifted programs. Another reason for optimism is that achievement gaps are narrower in the 21st century than they were in 1971, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress reading and mathematics tests. (However, achievement gap sizes have stagnated since 2012.)

Equity advocates seem unwilling to do the long, hard work of improving the academic performance of the very children they claim to be concerned about—black, Hispanic, and low-income children. Instead, the equity policies are generally a quick fix that makes the demographic makeup of an academic program more palatable while allowing the underlying problem to remain.

Indeed, many of the newly popular equity policies imply that equity advocates have given up on increasing the achievement in low-performing groups. Anyone who thought that struggling students could perform as well as high-achieving groups would not try to lower or eliminate admissions standards, force students into lockstep programs, water down the curriculum, or eliminate advanced academic programs. All of these equity strategies are prime examples of what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and they are coming from a postmodern ideology that claims to protect and fight for marginalized students.

Unintended consequences

The students that are most hurt by equity policies are the ones that the activists claim to be helping. Wealthy students who have a gifted program eliminated from their school have parents who can transfer them to a private school or pay for after-school educational opportunities. However, the child from a poor family does not have this option. They are stuck in their neighborhood public school, unchallenged and ignored.

Likewise, a policy that eliminates or de-emphasizes standardized tests closes off the easiest pathway to a challenging educational program for bright students from low-income families and under-privileged backgrounds. When many selective grammar schools and the 11+ admissions examination were eliminated in the UK, the percentage of students from working-class backgrounds who attended prestigious schools decreased. In other words, eliminating the standardized test favored the wealthy and well-connected.

In the college admissions scene, eliminating admissions tests benefits the moderately talented from wealthy families because they have more resources to make their child into an attractive applicant. Students from wealthy families can afford to have an impressive list of extracurricular activities, and these parents can manipulate other components of a college admissions application, such as grade-point averages (e.g., by pressuring a teacher, or transferring a child to a school with lenient grading standards).

Even admission preferences for student-athletes often benefit the wealthy. When was the last time an elite college’s sailing, lacrosse, or water polo teams consisted of students from working-class backgrounds?

Other equity policies hurt poor students in profound ways, even if a child does not qualify for an advanced academic program. When standards are lowered in a school district, or the curriculum becomes politicized, then the basics are neglected. A school year consists of a finite amount of time, and it is impossible to teach every topic.

When politicized classes are required (as has happened with California’s new ethnic studies high school requirement), foundational knowledge must be de-emphasized. Students trapped in ideological classrooms have less instruction time to develop strong skills in the core subjects of math, reading, and science, thereby stunting their academic and employment prospects in the future.

No help from the educational establishment

Don’t expect the educational establishment to fight against equity initiatives. For example, the only American advocacy organization in gifted education, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), has committed itself to social justice orthodoxy. In June and July of 2020, NAGC released multiple statements committing itself to diversity and equity, as a response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. What George Floyd had to do with gifted programs was never explained. No matter! NAGC has recently reaffirmed that it intends on incorporating equity in all its future work.

As a result, NAGC is paralyzed when gifted programs come under attack. The organization has done nothing to respond to the proposed California math guidelines, and it did nothing to mobilize support for gifted programs in New York City. The best it could do was issue a feeble statement on the day of Mayor de Blasio’s announcement saying that NAGC was “deeply disappointed.”

Simply put, bright students cannot count on education bureaucrats to fight for their educational needs. Most people with power in the education industry are already committed to social justice causes. This is apparent, for example, at the college level. In a 2019 Pew Center poll, 73 percent of Americans were against race having any influence in college admissions decisions. Even 56 percent of voters in California last year preferred race-neutral procedures in college admissions.

Yet, college administrators consistently buck public opinion on this point and implement racial preferences (often covertly) and vigorously fight for affirmative action in the courts. Fighting an anti-Asian discrimination lawsuit to preserve its affirmative action practices has cost Harvard University over $25 million in legal expenses. K-12 controversies tend to be less prominent, but in many parts of the country, the commitment to “equity” and other leftist values is common in many school districts.

With gifted programs under attack and no professional advocates to fight for them, bright students are at the mercy of the winds of politics. A few weeks after de Blasio announced that gifted programs would be eliminated, Eric Adams was elected as New York City mayor. During the campaign, Adams had promised to reinstate gifted programs (though the details are unclear). Bright children corralled into slowly-paced math courses in California will likely not be so lucky if the proposed mathematics guidelines are implemented in their district. The progressive worldview is entrenched in Californian politics, and that seems unlikely to change.

It is too early to tell how a shift in the political winds will impact other students. In the recent Virginia elections, education was a top issue for many voters, and there seems to be a backlash against critical race theory in schools in that state and other parts of the country. However, gifted programs rarely rally the voters because they tend to serve a small percentage of students and are easily branded—sometimes correctly—as elitist. Thus, gifted programs are unlikely to be a sole source of populist sentiment.

A new 6–3 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court gives affirmative action opponents hope in eliminating race considerations from college admissions and the varying admissions standards for different racial groups. Until a case reaches the court, though, it is unknown whether the justices will be willing to overturn more than four decades of consistent precedent supporting affirmative action in higher education.

Lessons from history

While the focus on “equity” may be dismaying for advocates of excellence and individual merit, America has been down this path before. When the cultural zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s prioritized equity, academic standards and performance decayed. In the early 1980s, the nation’s political class—not the education establishment—led a pivot towards encouraging high achievement in America’s schools. This was most clearly seen in the 1983 report A Nation at Risk, which stated:

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.

The 1980s saw the birth of the accountability movement, higher academic standards, and massive growth of the Advanced Placement program. As happened a generation ago, the focus on equity will likely diminish as political leaders and the American people become dissatisfied with the mediocrity that results from an emphasis on equity.

Unfortunately for bright students stuck in lockstep academic programs, the change in political priorities may come too late—if it comes at all to their state or community. Implementation of newly popular equity policies will hinder the learning of many students before those policies are weakened or reversed. Perhaps one day the mad scientist trope will be replaced by the stereotype of the unchallenged gifted child, wiling away years of boredom in the classroom. At least the activists can feel good about the mediocre equity they have achieved.

Russell T. Warne

By: Russell T. Warne

Russell T. Warne is associate professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. He is the author of In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths About Human Intelligence and Statistics for the Social Sciences.

Source: The Push for Equity in Education Hurts Vulnerable Children the Most

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Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

Some recent studies suggest that experiencing nostalgia about our past can make us happier and more resilient during times of stress.

I often find myself nostalgic for days gone by—especially my young adulthood. Thinking about days when I could go backpacking with a friend on a moment’s notice or dance the night away at my wedding, without the constraints of child care or a limited energy supply, gives me a bittersweet feeling—a mixture of joy, sadness, and longing.

While I find nostalgia pleasant overall and even inspiring, doctors and psychologists did not always consider it a good thing. Staying “stuck in the past” was often associated with being unable to adjust to new realities, like when soldiers were nostalgic for their faraway homes and experienced loneliness and dread. Not that long ago, some considered nostalgia to be a mental illness, akin to melancholy, which could lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

But more recent findings on nostalgia suggest it can be good for us, increasing our well-being, making us feel connected to other people, and giving us a sense of continuity in our lives. And it seems to come on naturally when we need to weather life’s difficulties. Rather than being a problem, nostalgia can help bring happiness and meaning to our lives.

Here are some of the ways nostalgia can benefit us, according to science.

Nostalgia makes us feel socially connected

Nostalgia about our past often includes recalling important people in our lives—people who cared about us and made us feel like we belonged. Certainly, my own nostalgic musings are centered around times when I was with the people and places I love. So, it’s not too surprising that recalling these special times would make us feel more connected to others, in general.

In one study, researchers found that people who were asked to write about an event from their past that made them feel “sentimental longing for the past” felt loved and supported, and this, in turn, helped buffer them against loneliness. Another study found that when people felt nostalgic about times in their lives when they interacted with members of an “out-group”—for example, teenagers recalling fun times with older adults—they felt less prejudice toward that group.

Nostalgia also seems to help us maintain our relationships. For example, one study found that inducing nostalgia helped people feel more optimistic about relationships in general and more willing to connect with friends. Another study found that when induced to feel nostalgia, people (especially those who find connecting with others easier) felt more able to offer emotional support to the people in their lives.

Nostalgia helps us find meaning in life

A sense of meaning in life involves knowing that your existence matters and that your life has coherence or purpose. It’s something we all strive for in one way or another.

Fortunately, research suggests nostalgia can be an important resource for increasing meaning, by highlighting central moments in our lives and giving us a sense of continuity.

In one study, researchers compared nostalgia to two seemingly related forms of thinking about one’s life: recalling a positive past event or imagining a desired future. Focusing on an event that made them nostalgic led people to feel their lives had more meaning compared to imagining a desirable future. And, compared to both other reflections, feeling nostalgic reduced people’s need to search for meaning in their lives—they already felt life had meaning.

In another study, people either listened to music that brought them back to a particular time or read lyrics to old songs. These nostalgic activities not only made them feel loved and socially connected but also increased their sense of meaning in life. And, when people read an essay that encouraged them to think that life had no meaning—which said, “There are approximately 7 billion people living on this planet. So take a moment to ponder the following question: In the grand scheme of things, how significant are you?”—they naturally turned to feelings of nostalgia for relief from that sense of meaninglessness.

These findings and others suggest that nostalgia not only heightens your sense of meaning in life, but can act as a buffer when you experience a loss of meaning. And it may help you move forward in life, too. As one study found, nostalgia can increase your motivation to pursue important life goals, because it increases meaning—not just because it puts you in a better mood.

Nostalgia can make us happier

Though it does seem to do just that—to boost our mood. Even though nostalgia is by definition a blend of positive and negative emotion, the positive tends to outweigh the negative, meaning we feel happier overall.

In one very recent study, 176 university students were randomly assigned to a six-week nostalgia program where they were asked weekly to write about a past event that brought on “a sentimental longing for the past” (while a control group wrote about past events that were ordinary). Afterward, they reported on their levels of positive and negative emotions and how much the writing provided a sense of social connection, meaning, or connection to their past self. At different points in time, they also reported on their life satisfaction, feelings of vitality, and well-being.

The researchers found that nostalgia was generally beneficial, leading people to experience more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and well-being, as well as fewer negative emotions—at least three weeks into the program. These benefits mostly disappeared after that—except for people who started the experiment already engaging in nostalgia regularly. For them, going through the nostalgia program brought them greater life satisfaction and fewer negative emotions up to a month later, possibly because the program was a better fit for them.

A lot of the benefits on happiness may be connected to nostalgia’s effects on social connection and meaning. But it could also be that nostalgia helps us see ourselves in a truer, more authentic light.

Nostalgia puts us in touch with our authentic selves

When thinking nostalgically about our past, we are the prime protagonists in our own life stories. Perhaps because of this, nostalgia helps us to see our lives as continuous and coherent, providing us with a sense of authenticity.

In one study, when primed to feel nostalgic by writing about a time in their past, people saw their past self as an authentic representation of themselves. This, in turn, reduced their focus on meeting the expectations of others versus following their own, intrinsic expectations of themselves. In other words, it helped them be their authentic selves.

The researchers also studied how threats to one’s sense of self might make people engage in more nostalgia. Half of the participants read this text: “Many people feel that they have two sides to themselves. One side is the person that they show to other people; the other side is their true self—that is, the person who they truly are deep down.” Then, they wrote about times in their lives when they’d found it hard to reveal their real selves to others.

The other half of the participants wrote about their daily routines and when those routines were disrupted. Then, both groups reported on their positive and negative emotions, as well as feelings of nostalgia.

Findings showed that people who focused on threats to their self-concept experienced more negative emotions, and in turn felt more nostalgic. This suggests that nostalgia helps put us in touch with our “real selves” and protects us against threats to our authenticity.

Perhaps for this reason, engaging in nostalgia can lead to personal growth. At least one study found that feeling nostalgia made people feel more positively about themselves, which, in turn, made them more open to experiencing new things, expanding their horizons, and being curious—all signs of psychological health.

Nostalgia may help people who feel disillusioned or depressed

Perhaps because of these potential benefits, people tend to engage in nostalgia when they are feeling down, lonely, or disillusioned. Many studies have found that nostalgia seems to protect people from negative mind states, bringing about a kind of emotional homeostasis.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that nostalgia is always good or can’t have a downside. If nostalgia makes us spend too much time thinking about our past, it may prevent us from recognizing the joy in our lives right here and now. And, since we tend to engage in nostalgia when negative things occur, it could become an avoidance strategy that keeps us from dealing with present problems in more effective ways.

Encouraging groups of people to feel nostalgic could also have negative consequences. For example, one study found that nostalgia made people more likely to believe political claims, regardless of their veracity. Inducing nostalgia could be an advertising ploy used to affect consumer behavior, which could lead to poor choices, too.

Still, chances are that nostalgia is more a blessing than a curse, and a winning strategy for feeling better about ourselves. It can increase our connection to others, our sense of meaning in our lives, our authenticity, and our happiness. So, why not tune into nostalgia now and then? It may just help you meet the challenges of the moment.

Source: Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

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There’s No ‘Supply-Chain Shortage,’ Or Inflation. There’s Just Central Planning

It’s great that so many have copies of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, but very unfortunate that so few have read it. The alleged “supply chain” problems we’re enduring right now were explained by Smith in the book’s opening pages.

Smith wrote about a pin factory, and the then remarkable truth that one man in the factory working alone could maybe – maybe – produce one pin each day. But several men working together could produce tens of thousands.

Work divided is what enables the very work specialization that drives enormous productivity. If this was true in an 18th century pin factory, imagine how vivid the truth is today. Figure that something as basic as the creation of a pencil is the consequence of global cooperation, so what kind of remarkable global symmetry leads to the creation of an airplane, car, or computer?  The kind that can’t be planned is the short answer, but more realistically the only answer.

Please keep this in mind as you read media coverage of the so-called “supply-chain disruptions” resulting in “shortages” that are said to be causing “inflation.” If you want a bigger laugh, read about what President Biden wants to do in order to get “supply” back on the market with an eye on replenishing U.S. retail shelves that are increasingly bare. He’s decreed 24-hour port operations! Yes, thanks to the 46th president we now know what held the Soviets back, and ultimately destroyed the Soviet Union: their ports weren’t open long enough; thus the shortages of everything

All of the above would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Media members, “experts,” economists, and politicians don’t even disappoint anymore. To say they do would be to flatter them.

Either they think we have inflation, shortages, or a combination of both. Wrong on all counts. Really, who was talking about supply-chain shortages or the impossibility that is demand-driven inflation in early 2020? Very few were, and that’s because the U.S. economy was largely free then. At which point politicians panicked. And in panicking, they imposed a rather draconian form of command-and-control on the U.S. economy.

Some were free to work, some weren’t, and more still were free to work and operate their businesses within strict political limits. From freedom to central planning in a very small amount of time. At which point it’s worth considering once again the simple pin factory that Smith witnessed in the 18th century versus the global cooperation that was the norm 19 months ago.

The supply lines of February 2020 were impossibly complicated structures that no politician could ever hope to design. Think billions of individuals around the world pursuing their narrow work specialization on the way to enormous global plenty. Put another way, the shelves in economically free countries were heaving with all manner of products based on economic cooperation that was staggering in scope. Brilliant as some experts claim to be, and brilliant as some politicians think they are as they look in the mirror, they could never construct the web of trillions of economic relationships that prevailed before the lockdowns. But they could destroy the web. And they did; that, or they severely impaired it.

In which case let’s please not insult reason by talking about “shortages” or “inflation” now. Let’s instead be realistic and talk about central planning. We know from the 20th century that when politicians, authoritarians or both substitute their intensely narrow knowledge for that of the marketplace that immense want for very little (and lousy) supply is the logical result. Yes it is. When we’re not economically free, bare shelves are the inevitable result.

Conversely, product and service abundance is a certain consequence yet again of the infinite actions and trillions of economic relationships entered into by billions of people. These commercial tie-ups were constructed by consenting individuals over many years and many decades only for them to be wrecked by a political class arrogantly seeking to protect us from ourselves. That’s what happens when command-and-control replaces voluntary order. The remunerative ties that bind us fray, or vanish altogether. Consenting, profitable economic activity was suddenly illegal. Yet politicians and other experts are only now wringing their hands about a lack of supply?

Really, what did they think was going to happen? While politicians couldn’t ever create or legislate billions working together around the world, they could and can surely break voluntary economic arrangements. When you have guns, handcuffs, the power to quite literally shut off power sources to the productive, not to mention the wealth produced by the productive, you have the power to impose command-and-control. And so they did, only for the “supply chains” painstakingly created in self-interested but spontaneous form over many decades to suddenly break apart. Just don’t call it inflation, or shortages.

Inflation is a devaluation of the unit of account. In our case it’s the devaluation of the dollar. And while Treasury hasn’t always done a great job as the dollar’s steward over the decades, that’s just the point. Devaluation was routine problem in the 1970s, it ceased to be in the 80s and 90s, but it reared its ugly head once again during the George W. Bush administration in the early 2000s. To say inflation is a “now” thing is to ignore that it’s more realistically been a 21st century-long thing.

We don’t suddenly have an inflation problem. To say we do is the equivalent of saying that the Soviets had inflation because all the goods worth getting were both difficult to find, and incredibly expensive if they could be found. In our case we’ve had a lockdown problem care of nail-biting politicians that suffocated commercial cooperation around the world. And with work divided less than it used to be care of government force, productivity is naturally lower than it used to be.

Please consider modern productivity in terms of Smith’s pin factory example yet again, and ask what it would do to supply. The only thing is supply shortfalls are not evidence of inflation. A rise in one price due to lack of supply implies a fall in other prices. Yes, we have a central planning problem. Were he around today, Adam Smith could diagnose this in seconds.

Follow me on Twitter.

I’m the editor of RealClearMarkets, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors. I’m also the author of five books. The most recent released in March is When Politicians Panicked: The New

Source: www.forbes.com

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