I recently finished reading Voyage to Kazohinia by Hungarian author Szathmári SándorIt’s a great book, and I highly recommend picking up a copy. As it turns out, the full English text is also available online. So you really should go read it.

I have a lot of reflections after reading this striking social satire and expect to be posting more about it throughout the week. But, as a simple start today, I share the concept of kazo.

Kazo is a core element of the novel and, quite frankly, one of those terms that I’m not sure how I’ve managed so long without having in my lexicon.

But, let’s back up a bit.

It is 1935 and the world is on the brink of a second great war. Our hero, whose travel diary we read, is a respectable British Naval officer. While on en route to be stationed aboard the Invincible off the coast of Japan, our intrepid traveler – Gulliver – is shipwrecked and finds himself among a strange people in a strange land.

You have no doubt grasped that this presents an indelible opportunity to satirize western culture, and Kazohinia does not disappoint.

In the land of the Hins – as its people call themselves – Gulliver marvels at the lack of police force:

Human life and freedom seemed to have no protection here, at least until then I had seen no policeman, nowhere was there anybody with pistol or bayonet. How could they sleep at night?

Our hero finds himself similarly confused by the Hins’ inability to differentiate between ‘crime’ and ‘punishment.’ While the proper Englishman tries to explain to a hapless Hins why social order demands that a crime be met with punishment, the Hin simply shakes his head and remarks:

It is not enough that you commit crimes, you even punish as well.

In a discussion about private property, one Hin explains that such a thing cannot exist – the only thing which belongs to a person is their body. Gulliver objects:

There are certain cases when citizens must sacrifice their lives for their country, so at such times the fatherland has our bodies at its disposal. But let us not stray too far from the point. Clothes are private property that other people cannot take away.

While our hero ironically misses the conflict in his statements, he does at first find the Hins to be a near perfect culture.

I may say, it was very strange to my European eyes, seeing this society whose every member was rich without having a single penny. As if the whole society had formed a single household in within which there were no financial problems, no written regulations, no prohibited areas, and no work status problems, but where the members of the family went about freely, helping each other with the housework, and helping themselves from a dish in the middle of the table. I felt a warm, friendly, and intimate atmosphere that I had never before felt among any such people.

And how is this peaceful synchronicity possible? Kazo.

As our author explains:

Kazo is somewhere between chivalry, impartiality, patience, self-respect, and justice. It connotes a general rightful intention but cannot be translated with any of these words…Kazo is a strict mathematical concept for equality of service and counterservice, similar to the principle of action and reaction in physics. If someone who does more strenuous work also eats more, that is kazoo to them. If somebody eats more because his stomach requires it, then that is also kazoo. And if an invalid who does no work wishes to have finer food, then this, too, is kazo.

…The more talented, the stronger, produce more. To us this appears to be an injustice, but to the inhabitants of this land it is as natural as to expect a bigger output with less fuel consumption in the case of a more efficient machine.

Quite simply:

Kazo is pure reason that perceives with mathematical clarity, in a straight line, when and how it must act – so that the individual, through society, reaches the greatest possible well-being and comfort.

You might wonder how such a thing is possible. How could a whole society of people possibly effortlessly coordinate their efforts in such a way?

A Hin has a perfect parable to explain this to us:

There is a species of ant, for instance. If one ant finds honey, it will take its fill. Now, if it meets a companion that has not found honey and is hungry, it will stick its mouth into the other ant’s mouth and thus the full any will transfer honey from itself until each of them is equally satisfied. How does the full any know that the other is more hungry, and how do both know when each of them is as satisfied as the other? …They know because the fuller ant gives honey to the hungrier one, and they will be equally satisfied when they part.

Kazo, then, can perhaps best be described as the natural path towards perfect equilibrium. The ants don’t need to discuss when enough honey has been shared, nor do they need to ‘know’ in our common sense exactly how much to share. They simply do what is right. Naturally. It is kazo.

It is this principle which allows Hin society to function so smoothly. Without government or economy, without wars or hunger. As we’ll see more tomorrow, our hero is impressed, but distraught, by the functionings of the Hins:

It came to light that everything took place entirely without money. Factories turned out goods but nobody received payment. Goods, on the other hand, lay in warehouses for one and all, and indeed everyone took as much as they wished. I could not imagine how maintaining order was possible in this chaos. 


New FJCC Teacher Advisory Council

One of our great friends in civic education is iCivics. As part of their work and their effort to provide the best possible quality materials, they have a Teacher’s Council that works closely with them. Here at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, we are contemplating the creation of a similar council made up of FJCC resource users. This council will serve to advise us on directions for resource development and research and opportunities for new directions, suggest revisions concerning current resources, and generally serve as a way in which we can expand outreach to and collaboration with our stakeholders across the state of Florida.

If this is something that interests you, please shoot me an email. Note that there WILL be an application process of sorts. I expect that we will have this launching around the time of the October Florida Council for the Social Studies conference. We are very excited for this new effort!

education, humanities, social science majors vote more than students in STEM fields

Medford/Somerville, MA – The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life today released an analysis of the voting patterns of millions of college students, examining voter rates by region of the country, field of study, and type of institution.

These findings, based on a first-of-its kind study of the voting records of 7.4 million students at 783 higher education institutions, could inform opportunities for political learning and outreach on campuses in 2016 and beyond.

Major research findings from this study include:

  • Among all fields of study, education/teaching majors voted at the highest rate in 2012 (55%), surpassing the overall average rate of 45% among all students.
  • Students studying the humanities (49%) and the health professions (47%) also voted above the average rate.
  • Voting rates among students in the STEM fields lagged other disciplines by as much as a 20-point margin. Students in the engineering and mathematics/statistics fields voted at the lowest rate: 35%.
  • Among participating institutions, turnout varied considerably by region of the U.S., ranging from a low of 39% in the Southwest (AZ, NM, OK & TX) to a high of 55% in the Plains (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND & SD). See this infographic for the geographical analysis.
  • Overall in 2012, student voting rates at 4-year institutions were slightly higher than at 2-year institutions, though there was essentially no difference between private and public colleges and universities.


“These findings suggest considerable disparities across disciplines, and university leaders should take notice,” says Nancy Thomas, Director of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University’s Tisch College, which runs the NSLVE study. “The fact that education and humanities majors vote at significantly higher rates than their peers in the STEM disciplines has both policy and political implications. We know that young people who engage in civic life early on develop lifelong habits. Regardless of their chosen field, all college and university students should be educated for democracy.”

A previous NSLVE data analysis showed that college students voted at a rate of 45% in 2012, with those eligible to vote for the first time voting at a lower rate of 40%. Women voted at higher rates than men. Among all racial/ethnic groups, Black students voted at the highest rate (55%). Among Black students, women voted at a rate of 61%, while men voted at 44%, which was similar to the voting rate of white men (45%).

The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education will be using NSLVE data to examine important factors in campus political learning and voting during the 2016 election and beyond.

Register for June Tech Tuesday featuring Trusted Sharing

Registration is now open for June’s Tech Tuesday event featuring Trusted Sharing. Join us for this FREE event Tuesday, June 28th from 12:00-1:00pm Eastern/9:00-10:00am Pacific.

Trusted SharingTrusted Sharing logo is a free, asynchronous platform that allows people to host deeper, more coherent online conversations using specific facilitation methods such as World Café, TOP and Open Space.

Contemporary research highlights how essential high quality conversations are in our complex Information Age; yet our current online exchanges often fall short of our hopes and expectations. Trusted Sharing is trying to change that. Early adopters of this new platform have been educators, consultants, bloggers, facilitators and small businesses. It is user-friendly and good for informal groups that want to extend their interaction time through online conversations.

Teachers have used Trusted Sharing to launch the learning experience prior to the first in person class. A consultant commented that she could cut the amount of in person time down by 40-50% by using Trusted Sharing to gather online thoughts first. A blogger was able to answer questions that readers had and add depth to his blog. A coaching training academy is using Trusted Sharing as a way to catalogue conversations and make decisions across multiple informal groups they interact with.

Joining us for this call will be NCDD member Duncan Work, founder and CEO of Trusting Sharing, and Ruth Backstrom, Director of Marketing and Outreach. Duncan and Ruth will provide a brief overview of the tool and demonstrate how it can be used with several case studies. They are collaborating with a number of facilitators, thought leaders, educators, and others to bring more coherent, effective conversations into old and new realms like nonprofits, schools, businesses, blogs and public online spaces, and they will talk more about this on the call.

For an overview of the benefits and potential for Trusted Sharing in different contexts, you may peruse this overview and the Trusted Sharing website.

Don’t miss this opportunity – register today!

Tech_Tuesday_BadgeTech Tuesdays are a series of learning events from NCDD focused on technology for engagement. These 1-hour events are designed to help dialogue and deliberation practitioners get a better sense of the online engagement landscape and how they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them. You do not have to be a member of NCDD to participate in our Tech Tuesday learning events.

Penrith Community Panel

Penrith City Council is a large local government area in New South Wales, Australia. Like many other local councils, it is facing the difficult challenge of balancing increasing infrastructure and service needs with shrinking resources and budget cuts. Penrith Council has an infrastructure shortfall of more than $40 million AUD...

why Hillary Clinton appears untrustworthy

Philippe Boulet-Gercourt has a long article in the French magazine L’Obs (formerly Le Nouvel Observateur) entitled “The Ten Sins of Hillary.” He quotes me saying, “I see her as someone very sensitive to what is possible and what is not, you watch her thinking in real-time, seeking the right answer that takes all the constraints into account. … Her answers can be complex because she attempts to answer honestly. [She’s] a political junkie and, in a way, it is a mark of sincerity!” (I was interviewed in English, my words were translated into French, and here I translate back.)

I am open to objections to what I said. First, it could be that the center-left in the US imposes these constraints on itself unnecessarily, to its detriment. For instance, if you’re a “serious” politician, you never say that we should float bonds to pay for infrastructure. That is what economists would recommend, but you don’t say it because it’s supposed to be politically impossible to advocate borrowing and spending. By censoring yourself, you narrow the range of what actually is possible, and you come across as pervasively dishonest because it’s clear that you’re for things that you won’t defend. Arguably, HRC is Exhibit One of that phenomenon. Second, one could assemble a list of specific prevarications or evasions from her long career. Third, maybe people don’t trust her because of her gender.

But I still think that genuine efforts to be realistic can look dishonest, especially in contrast to passionate statements that pay no heed to constraints. In January 2003, I posted on this blog about my day’s work with a class of kids who were conducting an oral history project on the desegregation of Prince George’s County (MD) schools. They were all students of color, and they were exploring (with me) how their school had been de jure white until Brown v Board of Education, was then integrated for a time, and is now diverse but minus a substantial white population.

One interviewee [had been] the first African American student at the school. (He was still the only one when he graduated three years later). He said: “Initially I was actually hoping that it wouldn’t work. My parents had said that if there was a lot of violence, we would back up. … Instead of violence, there were three years of hostility.” His main motivation was to be “part of something bigger,” the Civil Rights Movement. He later became a successful chemical engineer. I found him enormously appealing—and easily understood what he meant in his understated way, but the kids took his reticence about his own emotions as evasiveness.

He wouldn’t say much about how he personally felt about integrating the school. Our next speaker was a current member of the County Council, a white man who was formerly a civil rights lawyer and who spoke very passionately about his commitment to integration. I was mildly suspicious of him; the kids loved him. Our reactions were different, probably not because of age or other demographics characteristic but just because assessments of character are subjective. But I do think it’s possible that I was right to trust the speaker who was guarded and private more than the guy who said exactly what his audience wanted to hear. The question is whether HRC faces the same problem.

Hiroshima, Apologies, and American Exceptionalism

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima since the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped 64 kg of uranium-235 over that city, creating a blast equivalent to the detonation of 16 kilotons of TNT.

He is not expected to apologize.

Or, more specifically, he is expected not to apologize. The White House has openly said as much, instead describing how President Obama’s historic trip will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The political calculation of not formally apologizing is hardly surprising. On the one hand, the Japanese Times is reporting that most Japanese people don’t expect or need an apology. Whereas, here at home, the resistance against such an apology is clear.  As American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett said in a statement:

We are heartened that the White House promised today that President Obama will not apologize for the bombing of Hiroshima. We share his sorrow for the many innocent civilians who were lost that day. But we temper that sorrow with the joy for the many more American, Allied and Japanese lives that were saved because the war was finally brought to an end in the short aftermath that followed. 

And thus the visit will “honor the memory of all who lost their lives” during the war.

In a news segment the other day, I heard U.S. sentiment on this matter described as a bit of American exceptionalism – we made the best calculation we could and we stand by our decision and our right to have made it.

I rather expect we will never apologize.

As I’ve been thinking about President Obama’s visit this week, I was reminded Akiyuki Nosaka brilliant short story American Hijiki.

Nosaka, whose father died during the 1945 bombing of Kobe and whose sister died of malnutrition following the war’s devastation of Japanese fields and food supplies, wrote passionately about life in post-war Japan. His work captures the shock of defeat and highlights America’s constant, ill-conceived attempts to be good.

The whole story is really worth reading, but I including a notable excerpt below:

In the summer of 1946 we were living in Omiyamachi on the outskirts of Osaka, near a farm – which may have been why our food rations were often late or never came at all. More or less appointing herself to the duty, my sister would go several times a day to look at the blackboard outside the rice store and come back crushed when she found nothing posted. Once, we turned the house upside-down but found only rock salt and baking powder. We were so desperate we dissolved them in water and drank it, but this takes bad, no matter how hungry you are. Just then the barber’s wife, her big, bovine breasts hanging out, came to tell us, “There’s been a delivery. Seven days’ rations!” This was it! I grabbed the bean-paste strainer and started out.

…We all watched as the rice man split open a carton with a big kitchen knife and came out with these little packets wrapped in dazzling red-and-green paper. As if to keep our curiosity in check, he said, “A substitute rice ration – a seven-day supply of chewing gum. That’s what these cartons are.” He pulled out something like a jewel case. This was a three-days’ supply.

I carried off nine of these little boxes, each containing fifty five-stick packs, a week’s rations for the three of us. It was a good, heavy load that had the feel of luxury. “What is it? What is it?” My sister came flying at me and screeching for joy when she heard it was gum. My mother placed a box on the crude, little altar of plain wood. The local carpenter had made it in exchange for the fancy kimono my mother had taken with her when we evacuated the city. She dedicated the gum to my father’s spirit with a ding of the prayer bell, and out joyful little evening repast was under way, each of us peeling his gum wrappers and chewing in silence. At twenty-five sticks each per meal, it would have been exhausting to chew them one at a time. We would through in a new stick whenever the sweetness began to fade. Anyone who saw our mouths working would swear they were stuffed with doughy pastry. Then my sister, holding a brown lump of chewed gum in her fingertips, said, “I guess we have to spit this out when we’re through.” The second I answered, “Sure,” I realized we had to live for seven days on this gum, this stuff that made not the slightest dent in our hunger. Anything is better than nothing, they say, but this anything was our own saliva, and when the hunger pangs attacked again, my eyes filled with tears of anger and self-pity. In the end, I sold it on the black market – which was on the verge of being closed down – an bought some corn flour to keep us from starving. So I have no reason to be bitter. One thing is sure, though: you can’t get full on chewing gum.

American exceptionalism indeed.


social capital makes the labor market more fluid

In 2012, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Chaeyoon Lim, and I published research for the National Conference on Citizenship showing a strong link between the civic engagement of cities and states and their economic performance after the great recession of 2007-9. Ours was a correlational study with lots of controls, and that method neither proves causality nor provides explanations for the correlations. We did hypothesize a whole set of explanations for why civic health would be good for economic health, and (specifically) employment.

Yesterday, the New York Times’ Patricia Cohen reported on a new Bookings study by Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith, Riccardo Trezzi, and Abigail Wozniak. The authors find that employment fluidity has declined. That would be OK if it meant that people were landing stable jobs that they like, but it appears that instead, many people are stuck in jobs that are not satisfactory yet don’t leave them, in part because opportunities are too scarce. Cohen writes:

One of the more intriguing findings was the role of declining social trust and what is known as social capital — the web of family, friends and professional contacts. For example, the proportion of people who agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” has been shrinking for more than three decades. Researchers found that states with larger declines in social trust also had larger declines in labor market fluidity. The lack of trust may increase the cost of job-hunting and make both employees and employers more risk-averse.

Ms. Wozniak added that the benefits of LinkedIn and Facebook friends may not replace the personal connections that still remain the best way to find a job.

By the way, my Tufts colleague Laura Gee published a piece in The Conversation yesterday in which she noted that more than half of jobs are found through social ties, and that on Facebook, it is mostly people’s stronger and closer connections that land them jobs.

Additional points from the Brookings report itself (pp. 36-8): social capital is related to better economic performance, and the causal arrow seems to point from better social capital to “long-run growth at the country level.” Social capital helps job searches because people find jobs through networks, and networks reduce the cost of filling jobs. Social capital has declined in the US. At the state level, greater declines in social capital are associated–weakly–with declines in job fluidity.

First Annual Florida Civics Teacher Survey

In our efforts to improve our work and help teachers in their efforts to build the next generation of citizens, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is looking for feedback from teachers. To facilitate this, we have created a survey, which should take about 15 minutes.

The survey asks teachers about Classroom Climate, Coverage of Instructional Benchmarks, School Climate, Professional Development, Classroom Instructional Practices & Resources Used, Availability & Use of Classroom technology, Demographics & Background

Ultimately, we are seeking to understand how you, the great civics teacher that you are, approach classroom instruction and work with your future citizens. Completing this survey will be a huge help for us, and we are grateful for your assistance and support. You can complete the survey here. Thank you in advance for your collaboration and cooperation!