Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On Not Going to College, and Not Being Pressured to

Today was senior day at my school, where we celebrated college decisions which must be made by May 1. And, of course, the expectation that our seniors are, in fact, going to college is a pretty obvious expectation at a high achieving school like mine. That said, I have been a critic of the college-for-all mentality for a long time, and I consciously advocate for a stronger career education track, along the lines of many European nations. And, it's not just about students who are "not college material." I think we have a truly in-efficient system, and we send kids on to college for the flimsiest of reasons - earning power.

So, when articles come along that promote alternatives to college, or the standards K-16 track, I tend to listen and promote it.  This week, to coincide with things like "College Day," the New York Times Parenting Blog offers thoughts for When College is Not in the Cards. That can be a particularly hard time for some kids and some parents in certain communities. And that is truly sad. For, sometimes, heading into a career is what a child needs, and sometimes it's just a matter of needing a little time to figure things out - we call that the "Gap Year."

It's important for young people to know that "You Don't Have to Go to College." And to critics who argue that I am just perpetuating stratification in society, I would counter by arguing we would be better served in reforming labor, than we would be in sending everyone to college simply because "college grads make more money." That argument, while statistically true, is flawed and deceptive on so many levels. And it raises the question of whether we'd be better served by looking at the "wage gap."

Anyway, it's worth the discussion - There is plenty of reason that a "college education is not worth it." And, as parents deal with the issue of children who are ambivalent about signing on for a very expensive four years of the very thing they couldn't wait to escape, it's worth listening to voices that say, "I Don't Want My Children to Go to College."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Should Schools Group by Age or Ability Level?

"Teach them where they are, not where we expect them to be."

That adage around adjusting and differentiating instruction has stuck with me for years, especially now that I am a parent. One of the biggest problems and challenges in education is the notion that schools group children by birth date. While there is some validity to determining "what a five -[or eight or ten or fifteen or eighteen]-year-old should know or be able to do, there are wide variances in the reality of children and peer groups. This has become even more complicated in the era of Common Core State Standards, even as many people argue that "Grouping Kids by Age Should Have Vanished with the Little Red Schoolhouse." The idea of a "peer group" is complicated when kids of the same age are at different points. And one should not be slowed down any more than the other should be pushed to move beyond readiness.

It's been a fairly accepted standard that girls mature faster than boys, and for this reason, many critics argue that boys and girls should start school at different ages. Certainly, the growing dominance of females in education seems to indicate some credibility to this view. And, in an era of increased emphasis on standardized tests as the barometer for all that's good in education, there is a problem with testing students outside of what they actually know. Having just come off a spate of mandated standardized tests, I was frustrated by the mis-application of the idea. At my school, we have some ninth graders who are already taking Calculus classes, while others are still struggling with multiplying fractions. Yet, each is required by law to take the ninth grade test where Algebra I is the standard.

What a waste of time for both groups of kids.

That said, society may need to seriously reconsider what a "peer group" is and how we assign and test students. Certainly, there is much evidence to support students being challenged by advanced material. And a student who remains "behind" with all the other students who are "behind" may not catch up. Though perhaps it's better to look at why and how. Advanced students can elevate the game for all classmates .... though they can also dominate and discourage those who struggle. Fortunately, more schools are beginning to consider alternatives and "grouping by skill, not age." It seems that the idea of "ability grouping" which was dismissed - with good reason - as tracking that held down disadvantaged students is now making a comeback.

Surely, there are implications associated with whatever system, such as not grouping by age. But in an era of standardization and people confusing access and opportunity with expectations of uniformity, it's important to understand that all kids are not the same simply because of the year in which they were born.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Should Women Lean In, Lean Back, or Lean at All?

Anybody in education these days knows that young women are doing very well. Women are accounting for a greater percentage of honors classes, college admissions, and graduate degrees. Even though females still trail in their participation in STEM-focused careers, they are making ground. And there are many reasons for this increasing success, not the least of which is their better organizational skills and greater ability to simply do what needs to be done in the classroom.

Granted, the glass ceiling still exists. And even though we may have our first female President, to follow our first Black President, there are still many barriers to leadership positions for women. This can be surprising when more research shows that it is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and associated skills like empathy and listening that are often keys to success for the nation's CEOs. And with the rise of CEOs like Melissa Meyer at Yahoo, young women are hearing more encouragement to strive for leadership. These words of advice are coming from strong female leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, who encourages women to Lean In as a way to succeed. Her primary focus is about being diligent and committed to the "will to lead."

Of course, there are counter opinions from women as successful, and none more prominent than the woman who redefined media with the rise of an incredibly significant online newspaper. That would be Arianna Huffington and the In a recent article for, Hannah Rosin posits that Arianna's advice in her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Defining Success ... is not to "Lean In," but instead to lean back. It is a much more laid back approach to the pursuit of success and happiness.

Either way, leaning in or leaning back, women are definitely moving up.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Who Is Michael Lewis, & Why Should You Care?

It was probably about 2005, when I first ran across the work of business writer Michael Lewis while prowling around a bookstore or library. His book, Next: the Future Just Happened was out in paperback, and I was looking for a new book to be the summer read for our CP English 11 class. Because I've always gravitated toward non-fiction, as many males do, and because the first story is about a fifteen-year-old kid named Jonathan Lebed - the youngest and first to ever be indicted by the SEC for internet stock fraud - I latched on to Lewis' book and sold the idea to our English department. Since then I've read whatever I can by Lewis, and watched him rise to the top of the charts again and again.

Most people who know Lewis know him from his books Moneyball, about the innovation of Billy Beane and the use of sabermetrics to alter the way small market MLB teams like the Oakland A's play the game, or The Blind Side, about the fascinating story of Baltimore Ravens left tackle Michael Ohr who was basically adopted by a white southern woman named Leigh Anne Tuouhy and her family, or The Big Short, in which Lewis tracks how the economic crash of 2008 happened despite obvious warning signs from people like Meredith Whitney and exposes how a few people almost reluctantly made billions from the fall. Lewis is so skilled at what he does and finds the stories he writes about in an almost eerie string of being in the right place at the right time, as as the case for his first book about the financial crash of the 90s called Liar's Poker.

Michael Lewis truly is a writer of zeitgeist-like instincts, and he has seemed to lead quite the charmed intellectual and literary life. He is as interesting a person himself as are the subjects which he continuously brings to light for the public knowledge. That's what led New York Mag writer Jessica Pressler to profile him as one of the most "significant long form journalists" since someone like Tom Wolfe. He does have the ability to touch a nerve whenever he writes, as can be seen by the recent pushback against his most recent book, FlashBoys, which argues that the work of high frequency traders basically means "Wall Street is Rigged." It's words like this that can get him the press - and the ear of senators. But it's his fascinating insights wound into great storytelling that make him such an interesting figure to profile, as Conor Clarke did nearly six years ago for The Atlantic.

Michael Lewis is just one of those names - like Oprah or Elon Musk or Elizabeth Warren or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell - that well informed people are talking about. And for good reason.

Hill Street Blues - Where Modern TV Police Drama Began

"Hey, hey, hey, ... let's be careful out there."

Those iconic words from Michael Conrad will instantly bring members of Generation X, and more than a few Boomers, to a moment of quiet nostalgia, as we wait for that garage door to open to the sound of those sirens amid a subtle piano melody.

This week, which brings the release of a full 32-CD boxed set of Hill Street Blues, Denver Post TV critic Joanne Ostrow reflects on the modern police drama that set the standard for all the others. Today is, no doubt, a "golden era" for the genre, as shows like The Wire, Homicide, Law & Order, CSI, and others continually dominate the ratings and around water-cooler talk, or posts. But the original work of Steven Bochco really changed the way we watched television, and gave us so many poignant and endearing moments. Bochco was willing to ask tough questions, portray difficult conversations, and challenge TV censors long before it became fashionable - and even absurd - to do so.

The police drama has such a difficult task, to entertain while also philosophizing and humanizing the dark side of society that we didn't used "talk about at parties." And, networks would be crazy not to always carry a crime drama. But for these stories from the street to carry the deep, almost literary, significance of a show like Hill Street is truly something special. As the boxed set comes out, the actors will re-surface to discuss the groundbreaking television and reflect on its time.

For those on the couch, it's time to just sit back, relax, and visit our friends at the precinct one more time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Are "College & Career Ready" the Same Thing, or Can It Be Either/Or

In the endless debates about Common Core State Standards and PARCC/SB testing and teacher accountability and student accountability and education reform and "fixing public schools," every voice seems to focus on the importance of making sure students are "college and career ready." The implication is that schools, especially high schools, need to be preparing students for both options. However, I am wondering if at times those ideas might be at odds with each other and mutually exclusive. That was certainly one embedded implication of the Harvard-led report Paths to Prosperity. And that seems to be the general consensus of the rest of the world - in education systems that often "outpace us" on PISA tests - where students generally separate onto either a college or career path between the ages of twelve and sixteen. It's like the opening decision in the game of monopoly - Do you choose college or career?  Joanne Jacobs writes about the discussion of "Success paths for all," where she links to several articles on the ideas of common foundation skills and the ideas that "multiple pathways can better serve" all students.

And to further complicate the situation, Valerie Strauss reports on a school canceling the kindergarten's play for the spring in order for the kids to keep studying to become "college and career ready." It's no joke, and the thought of this makes me positively ill. Earlier this year, I attended a public education forum in which a principal/founder of a K-3 charter school was actively promoting the idea of being "college ready." I, of course, questioned him a bit about this emphasis, and he reasonably talked about teaching to a population that almost never thinks about college … for any of its kids. So, there is value in presenting that goal - the same goal that most middle and upper class kids get almost without thinking. But the downside of emphasizing college to five year olds is the justification for canceling recess and the arts and anything other than math/literacy instruction in order to send all kids to college. And that is a problem.

Granted, I understand the need to emphasize to students and families the long term benefit - and earning power - of a bachelor's degree. But perhaps, rather than simply saying that we need to make all kids "college ready" because college grads earn more money, we should instead focus on reforming society and the marketplace so that non-college-educated, but still motivated and skilled people, can earn a decent living.

Thomas Picketty has some ideas about that:

Yeah, that's about right.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Question of How Much Standardized Testing

The state of Colorado seems ready to commission a task force to study the value, benefit, and burden of standardized tests in public education. The state's Senate Education Committee passed HB1202 yesterday which, if it passes the house and goes to the governor will establish the task force. The issue of increases in standardized assessments has come to a head in Colorado in recent months, as many forces have begun to push back against Common Core standards and, more specifically, the implementation of PARCC testing. While the Democrats in the state legislature have pretty much voted party lines to maintain PARCC, the state Board of Education recently passed a resolution calling for a withdrawal from the controversial national testing consortium. The state's teacher association also passed a resolution to join forces with the anti-PARCC movement, which includes educators and grass-roots parents organizations. And the issue of standardized testing is getting national attention, as many begin to ask, "How Much Standardized Testing is Too Much?"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The GOP and Conservative Right's Racist Rebellious Rancher Problem

It may have seemed, to Sean Hannity and Rand Paul, that defending the "rights" of a simple cattle rancher was the perfect case for the GOP and conservatives. It seemed on the surface that the big bad federal government was pushing this man around, bullying him, and practically extorting money from him. He's a farmer after all, and his cattle are just livin' off the land in good ol' America.

But there's more to the story.

Apparently, Cliven Bundy is a man who refuses to recognize even the existence of, much less the authority of, the federal government of the United States of America. For that reason, he will graze his cattle on federal land while refusing to pay any taxes or fees for that privilege. That makes him a bit of a rebel, and in Hannity's world, America needs to push back against the taxman.

Jon Stewart recently had great fun with this.

Of course, then things got much worse.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thomas Picketty's Econ Comic Book Rocks the Economics World

Apparently, a 685-page comic written by a liberal French economist who references Marx and Balzac is now the number one bestselling book on  Thomas Picketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is not only a fabulously bold and edgy undertaking, but its analysis on wealth disparity is rattling the powers that be at places like the Wall Street Journal, and it has made him the conservative right.s "Public Enemy No. 1." At the same time, Picketty has managed to make the sort of salient arguments about wealth distribution that most liberal politicians wish they could make.

Who knew econ could be so fun?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

US News Releases "America's Best High Schools" List for 2014

Americans love their rankings and the act of living by comparison. And, that is perhaps nowhere more significant these days than in the world of education. As the debate about "Common Core State Standards" and PARCC tests have fueled the accountability discussion around schools, education reformers insist on quantitative data to determine "what school is the best." Newsweek was the first to gain prominence years ago for ranking "America's Top High Schools" according to Jay Mathews' (of the Washington Post) Challenge Index. It was a simple formula that ranked "best" by the number of AP exams taken, divided by the number of graduating seniors.

The more comprehensive list was developed later by US News & World Reports. Its list of the "Best American High Schools" is based on numerous factors, including AP scores and other state-mandated assessments, the achievement by minority students, and measurements of college readiness. US News awards school gold, silver, and bronze medals, and publishes basic demographic data. It's no surprise, as with any of the rankings systems, that the top of the list is generally dominated by charter and magnet schools. Schools such as the Dallas School for the Gifted & Talented or the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology are truly exceptional academic institutions.

There is certainly nothing wrong with these rankings, though they can be myopic. For example, Jay Mathews concedes with his list that 67 of his top 100 high schools don't even field a football team. Is that truly the "Best High School"? Not that football is the end-all-be-all of high school - but it is sort of a standard and iconic symbol for a thriving athletic program. And athletic programs are an important aspect of public education, if we're actually interested in educating the "whole child." The same goes for theater programs. And fine arts classes. And school clubs and activities. And a strong counseling and post-graduate office.

A truly great "high school" would do all these well. Like schools such as Stevenson High School  in Lincolnshire, IL, or Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, CO. Cherry Creek is ranked #341 on the US News list, and it received a gold medal. It is also the top ranked athletic program in the state according to Mile High Sports. And Sports Illustrated recently ranked it the fifth best athletic program in the country. And the school's music program recently won a Grammy Award, as part of the Grammy's Signature Schools Program. And it has eight different choirs, several of which travel and perform internationally. And the school has nearly 100 active clubs, with everything from National Honor Society and Robotics Club to the Harry Potter Club and Capture the Flag Club. And it has a top-notch post-graduate program that helps kids access the best colleges in the country. And it has 206 state championships in 25 different sports. And it defies the downside of large schools by achieving success with 3,500 students. And its student body has raised tens of thousands of dollars every year for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And it has the eighth best Speech & Debate program in the United States, as well as being one of the largest programs. And it has more than thirty different languages spoken in the homes of its students. And it's growing more diverse every year. And its Diversity Task Force is the host of the nation's largest diversity conference for teens. And it is a neighborhood school that accepts and teaches to all kids within its boundaries.

Its seems to me that we need to start looking at schools that offer a full range of successful programs aimed at educating the whole child. The "Best High Schools" have strong academics, a thriving fine arts program, numerous extra-curricular activities, a broad and inclusive athletic program, and more.

The "Best High Schools" really do it all well. Not just test scores.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Breaking Bad is Not "All That"

So, I just finished the first season of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan's hit AMC show about the high school chemistry teacher who "breaks bad" after learning he has stage-3 lung cancer and starts "cooking meth" with a former student. The show, which just wrapped last year, grabbed America's attention, especially during the fifth and final season, as everyone waited to learn the fate of "everyman" anti-hero Walter White. The show's raves have elevated it to nearly mythical status, with some even opining that Breaking Bad is "better than The Sopranos.

Well, I'm just not seeing it.

Walter White is an interesting character in some regards, true. And the story is compelling enough for me to venture into the second season. But better than The Sopranos? Blasphemy. And just naive and misguided TV watching. Overall, the characters in Breaking Bad are just too limited and un-interesting to hold a chance against the boys of Bada-Bing. David Chase created a world of New Jersey thuggery that was on par with The Godfather, and the characters of Paulie and Chris and Carmela and Meadow and so many others represented depths of humanity that Breaking Bad - at least in the first season - can't begin to match.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is Gladwell Wrong on "His" 10,000 Hours Theory

In one of his classic books of distilling complex scholarly research into infinitely accessible pop culture theorizing, Ideas Guru Malcolm Gladwell made a splash with his book Outliers that basically quantified "mastery" of anything as being the result of 10,000 hours of practice. There was a lot of great scholarly support for this theory - but now it is coming into question. Many researchers are arguing that pursuers of mastery need to "Ditch the 10,000 Rule."

Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel aren't the first to challenge the theory, and Gladwell's promotion of it. Writer David Epstein argued as much in his best-selling book The Sports Gene:Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Epstein and others have presented numerous examples of people who reach mastery outside a quantifiable certainty of 10,000 hours. And, granted, it should be noted that Gladwell was promoting research that saw the 10K as "an average." But in our data crazy world, filled with "Tiger Mothers" who will chain their kids to a piano for hours, it's worth noting the flexibility in this "rule."

Can the Government Quantify Everything in Education?


That is the buzzword in education … and really everything these days. In the era of Big Data, we are planning to quantify everything that costs money, from health care to education to the price of avocados. And that can't be a bad thing, right?  With the rise of teacher-based accountability in many states including Colorado, and the huge faith being put in un-tested tests like the PARCC test, education "reformers" are arguing that a cost-benefit analysis is the answer to education's woes.

Now, that issue is hitting higher education, as the government seeks to protect its "investment" in colleges via things like FAFSA federal aid, Pell grants, and research grants. The question for many small liberal arts college facing scrutiny is whether the "US Colleges Should be Graded by the Government." Certainly, the rise of many for-profit universities (with abysmal graduation and job placement rates) like University of Phoenix and Westwood and Devry has led the government and tax-payer watchdogs to more closely scrutinize the industry. And, let's be clear, it is an industry.

So, can the government effectively quantify value to institutions of higher learning?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Richard Gere was just … cool. Breathless, ah!

When I was fourteen years old, and looking for the essence of identity, and seeking the cool that was just the sort of identity you'd expect a fourteen-year-old male to find perfect, I watched Breathless with Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky. The 1980s remake of the classic Jean-Luc Goddard film about fatalistic love resonated, for some reason, with me. In the scene below, Jessie watches Monica from the balcony. The scene is beautifully set against the amazing sounds of Philip Glass' piano composition "Openings," with a truly sexy saxophone accompaniment. It was … cool.

It was a moment that defined a lot for me, as strange as that sounds for a middle school Catholic kid in southern Illinois.  And then, of course, there was the ending. Perhaps, Richard Gere's greatest cinematic moment. It left us all … breathless, ahhhh.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Deaths Linked to Marijuana Use in Colorado

When the state of Colorado was considering legalization of marijuana for recreational use, one of the primary arguments is that cannabis is safer to use than alcohol, which is responsible for thousands of deaths each year. The statistics certainly support the idea that marijuana is not a deadly drug. It's been accepted that you can't overdose on weed, and no one gets violent or dies from high speed crashes when "baked."

Until now.

In the past month, two deaths in Colorado are being directly linked to ingestion of THC-infused products. In March, a college student died after jumping off a balcony in a Holiday Inn during what was apparently a marijuana-induced psychotic episode. Levy Thamba was a 19-year-old college student who had come to Colorado for spring break. It is believed that he joined friends here for the purpose of trying out Colorado's new recreational marijuana business. Thamba and friends bought several THC-infused "cookies." While the cookie's dosage was supposedly six servings, and Thamba's friends each had "a slice," Thamba apparently felt nothing early on and ingested the whole cookie. Later on, Thamba became agitated, anxious, and openly hostile. After his friends calmed him down several times, Thamba began hallucinating and left the room. He jumped over the balcony to his death.

The second death linked to ingesting marijuana "edibles" is being ruled a homicide after a man high on weed and hallucinating allegedly shot his wife in the head while she was on the phone with 911. Kristine Kirk was shot and killed by her husband who had apparently ingested marijuana candies a few hours before. Richard Kirk will be charged with first degree murder in the case. When he was arrested, he apparently made bizarre religious statements and admitted shooting her. Kristine Kirk pleaded with the police to hurry after her husband removed their gun from the safe and began threatening the family. The couple have three young children.

This certainly changes the image of marijuana as a safe alternative to alcohol.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

America Is Not a Democracy - It's Worse

For as long as I've been teaching, I have always encouraged my students to understand the nuanced reality that "America is not a democracy." Despite the platitudes and the grandstanding of talk television, the reality of "democracy" in America is, in fact, limited by the U.S. Constitution. Instead, as most astute voters will explain, the United States of America is a democratic republic. Basically, we have representative democracy in that the voters elect representatives to voice their views and govern for them. This is not a bad thing, per se. It's really a blessing. For democracy - or "rule by the people" - is actually a logistical nightmare. It quickly devolves into anarchy. This is what prompted Winston Churchill to note, "Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others."

However, Churchill got it wrong.

The worst form of government is not a democracy, but more importantly, a democratic-republic that is actually not one, though it masquerades that way to a naive and ideological and misinformed electorate. And that is the conclusion drawn by a team of researchers at Princeton University. Apparently, close data analysis can reveal, and even prove, that America is not a democracy or democratic republic. It's, instead, a more sinister form of government than even fascism: The United States of America is an oligarchy. America is basically ruled by, and in the interest of, a small number of wealthy elite who can impose their will upon the legal system. Sadly, this is the system that people like Thomas Jefferson feared far more than tyranny. Tyranny is a clear and obvious enemy. An oligarch is a far more insidious one.

I have noted this for years in conversations and on blog discussions. America is an oligarchy because the power, for the most part, is concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few. And the recent SCOTUS rulings on campaign finance have only reinforced and emboldened this reality. Campaign finance is really nothing more than legalized bribery, and it's not "free" but instead very expensive speech. It only takes a cursory read of the news, or books like Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston to expose the true nature of our "democracy." Other great examples would include.

Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles Morris

Come Home America by William Greider

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Should Anyone Take Advice from Charles Murray?

Years ago, I was talking with a colleague about one of conservative pundit Pat Buchanan's books, and when I professed to like some of Pat's ideas, after I distilled the crazy out, my colleague asked, "Which part of his racist, sexist, anti-Semitism do you like?" That was, of course, a bit of a conversation stopper. Similar contempt and criticism could be - and is often - leveled at social critic Charles Murray, whose 1994 book The Bell Curve seemed to promote institutionalized racism on par with eugenics"theories" of the past. Since then, Murray has continued to publish, and while he continually upsets people, I would still say there is some validity in what he says after we "sift through the crazy."

After his criticism of poor, lower, middle class White Americans in 2012's Coming Apart, Murray has returned with a new book of advice, written in almost a lighthearted and genuine self-helpy sort of way. It's almost like something All I Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten author Charles Fulghum would write, if Fulghum was much more close-minded and mean-spirited. Yes, irony is intended. So, anyway, Murray is offering "Advice for a Happy Life" in his book The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead. Among the tidbits that Murray advises:
  • Consider marrying young
  • Learn to recognize a soul mate
  • Stop worrying about fame and fortune
  • Take religion seriously
And my favorite:
  • Watch Bill Murray's Groundhog Day repeatedly
There is a lot of wisdom and insight in Murray's advice, which truly does come across as curmudgeonly.  But nothing bad could come from the lessons in the Harold Ramis existential masterpiece about weatherman Phil Connors who lives a single day over and over until he gets it right.  Now, of course, all this is coming from Murray. So there is obviously another shoe to drop. And there is no shortage of critics weighing in on why we should not listen to Murray, or buy his curmudgeonly and biased book.

Josh Idelson writes for about "Tramp stamps, racism, and icky pronouns; 8 new tips from … Charles Murray"

Arit John at the asks, "Can Charles Murray do for lifestyle what he did for race relations?"

Jacob Osterhout of lets us know that "Bell Curve author Charles Murray knows what's best for you"

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wall Street Rigged, or Is It?

If you ask the average American if the stock market is corrupt, or even "rigged" to favor the wealthy, the answer would most likely be an unequivocal "yes." However, that represents a more general attitude toward the system, rather than true knowledge that the system is designed in a biased fashion. Now, it seems, there might be legitimate evidence of such corruption. Best-selling author Michael Lewis has uncovered in his latest book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt evidence that high speed traders can literally "rig" the stock market. He recently shared the basic facts with 60 Minutes.

Following the airing of the segment, Lewis also hit the talk shows to discuss his ideas and concerns.

Of course, not everyone believes there is such systemic bias and corruption. Immediately after the CBS segment aired, many Wall Street insiders and advocates quickly denounced Lewis' claims as "muckraking." Jack Bogle said "Michael Lewis Is Wrong."  Business Week said as much about the realities of high frequency trading. Now, Felix Salmon of Slate Magazine offers a detailed criticism of Lewis' book, basically arguing that Wall Street always has and always will be geared toward the wealthy.

While Lewis may be overstating the obvious - it is easier for the wealthy with access to greater resources to make money in stocks - I don't doubt or discount his concerns about what he exposed as some people legally gaming the system. It's just not right, and I am glad to hear that the government has opened investigations into the suspicions.