The Epic Bureaucrat

by Corey Robin on February 5, 2015

Hannah Arendt often seems to counterpoise the epic nature of political action, the glorious and distinctive deeds of ancient heroes, to the anonymous and impersonal processes of modern life. Where is the Achilles of bureaucracy, the Pericles of the corporation? Nowhere, she appears to say: we live in an age where everyone behaves, no one rules.

Patchen Markell has an excellent article, “Anonymous Glory,” in the latest issue of the European Journal of Political Theory showing how subtly and carefully Arendt helps to undermine that distinction. The opposition she appears to draw between ancient action and modern behavior, between glorious deeds and impersonal processes, is not nearly as stark as we might imagine on a first—or second or third—read of her work.

There’s actually a wonderfully illustrative moment for Markell’s argument in the history of the New Deal. Hallie Flanagan—immortalized by Cherrie Jones in The Cradle Will Rock—was the head of the Federal Theater Project, which was an agency of the WPA, hiring actors, directors, stagehands, writers, and more, to, well, put on a show. In an article in 1939, in The Virginia Quarterly Review, she captures what Markell is talking about, turning the statistics of unemployment and poverty—and the Federal Theater Project’s efforts—into a glorious and heroic epic. “The bare statistics of Federal Theater,” she writes, “are in themselves a drama.” [click to continue…]

California Vaccination Exemptions by Type of School

by Kieran Healy on February 5, 2015

Update, Feb. 5th: Figure and Table updated to identify Catholic Private schools. And again later the same day, finding more Catholic schools.

I took another look at the vaccination exemption data I discussed the other day. This time I was interested in getting a closer look at the range of variation between different sorts of schools. My goal was to extract a bit more information about the different sorts of elementary schools in the state, just using the data from the Health Department spreadsheet. As we saw before, the smaller the unit of observation the more variability we are likely to uncover. So, looking at the rate of Personal Belief Exemptions (PBEs) in public vs private schools shows less variation than looking at the rates across counties, which in turn show less variation than what we observe at the district and school level. At the same time, the larger the number of observations within any particular category, the more variability there is likely to be as well. There are far more public schools than any other sort of school in California, so even if most public schools have very low rates of PBEs, the fact that there are thousands of them makes some outliers more likely.

To get a more fine-grained sense of the different sorts of schools there are, I used their names as a guide. How many private schools have the word “Christ” or “Christian” in their names, for example? How many have “Waldorf” or “Montessori”? This is an imperfect measure because it’s not guaranteed that, say, a private Christian academy will have the words “Christ” or “Christian” in its name. But it’s imperfect in a generally conservative direction—though not uniformly, as if you don’t search carefully you might mistake Christa McAuliffe Elementary, a public school, for a private Christian school. So you take care not to write regular expressions that aren’t too greedy, and double check against their public/private status, which is also given in the CDPH data. With this in mind we can produce a table of different types of schools ordered by mean PBE rate.

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