institutional aid

How to verify sources and be persuasive

This is, seemingly, something that people either never learned how to do or forgot how to do the moment they left school.  It’s come up recently, so I figured I’d post another how-to, this one tailored to demonstrate how you can actually get to “the bottom” of all the sources you see flung around this hellsite and others like it.

This comes in the form of asking yourself and the source material a number of questions.

What is the source?

  • Is the source a newspaper article, a meta-analysis, or a piece of hard data?  Is it an opinion piece, yellow journalism, or hard reporting?  Accurately determining what the source actually is, at its core, is critical to determining its value and the weight it has.
  • If you’ve got this you’ve done your first job, having a reason for what you believe.

Who wrote the source?

  • How credible are the authors of the source?
    • This boils down to a matter credentials and ethics.  If an author has no credentials to their name you’ll be hard-pressed to trust their analysis of the data they’re given.  If they’re acting in unethical manners (not reporting conflicts of interest, investigating/reporting on only one side of the story, etc.) then you similarly have little reason to trust the veracity of their claims.
  • What organizations are attached to the source?
    • Almost as important are the institutions who aided in the research.  The better respected, more cautious, and more objective the organization is the more trust you can instill in the piece.  A solid and reputable organization would be the first safeguard against trash research,
  • Your job is to analyze the validity of the source

Where was the source published?

  • Was it online or in a magazine?  A scientific journal or a book?  The Times or Tumblr?
    • Similar to the organizations attached to the piece, this is another level that factors into the analysis.  A piece that made it through my clipboard from Word to Tumblr gains nothing from the process.  A piece that made it through the double-blind peer-review process holds a LOT more weight to it because it’s already been through probably 3 or 4 different revisions from experts in the field combing through things like statistical modeling, experimental design, and analytical validity.
      • Publicly-available research from a scientific journal is never the first draft.  You can expect at least 2 revisions for a variety of things, with 5 or more being uncommon but not unheard of.
  • Keep paywalls in mind when using sources, as you’re trying to give people a reason to believe you.  If your source absolutely depends on people having a full dataset but they need to pay $80 to see what you’re talknig about they’re not going to believe you past the abstract.  
    • Sourcing a book is fine, but make sure you present the wholly sufficient context from the book.  If someone questions the logic of your source the reply of “read the whole book” is a failing.  
  • Your job is to give people a logical reason to believe you, not give them a summer reading list.

Does it use the most recent data?

  • What qualifies as “the most recent data” will vary from field to field, as we’re not exactly discovering new things about Victorian England but we are discovering new things about Astrophysics and Neurology.  But it is important that you use data as timely and recent as possible for the subject matter.
    • Using the newest data keeps your points relevant, your facts grounded, and your argument compelling.  Using data on homicide rates from the 1970s is useless unless it’s part of a trend.  Hell, using crime rates from 2010 is already significantly different from today’s dynamic.  
  • Your job is to curate your data into its best possible form.

Who was the target audience?

  • Was the research pointed at people with PhDs in the field?  Or is it for middle schoolers?
    • You need to reconcile the differences between your target audience and the source’s target audience.  If the original source is a jargon-dense and 56-page piece of research you can bet your ass that you’re going to need to digest it and break it down for people.  
  • Your job is to make your sources palatable.

How are you using the source?

  • Are you planning to use this as a primary, secondary, or tertiary source? 
    • How you plan to use this determines how you present the material and should be decided by what the actual source is.  If you’re trying to use this as newspaper as a secondary source you’re doing it wrong.  If you’re trying to pass off a meta-analysis as a primary source you’re going to both get and use the wrong information and commit academic dishonesty.
  • Are you using it to refute a claim being made, support your own claim, or as an objective reference?
    • This will detail the level of “unpacking” you’ll need to do.  If it’s a blank observation the source and a summary of it should be enough.  If you’re using it as evidence you need to explain why it supports your claim.  If you’re using it to debunk a point you need to explain why it shows the other person wrong and why it’s a better source than what they used.
  • Your job is to use the source adequately and appropriately.

Who is your intended audience?

  • Keep in mind, some sources just will not garner any weight with different populations no matter what they say.  AnCaps will not put any stock in the Communist Manifesto.  Right-Wingers will never trust what MSNBC has to say.  Feminists won’t put any weight in what the Bible has to say.
  • It is your job to tailor your argument to be as persuasive and credible as it can be.

“But what if I find a source that doesn’t hold up through these questions?”

Too bad.  If you can’t find proper evidence for your viewpoint you need to change your viewpoint.  Presuming you’re dealing with a rational person (hard to find, I know), if you can’t convince them then that is your failing and you need to re-examine how solid your own beliefs are.  If they’re unreasonable then that’s got nothing to do with you, but not everyone who disagrees with you will be crazy.

Also, a final piece of advice: don’t get so locked into your perspective that you put on ideological blinders.

Understanding Welfare

People throw around the word “welfare” as if our country is being sucked dry by takers, but there are actually a total of 83 programs run by the government that qualify as “welfare.” Some like to talk about welfare as if the government is mindlessly giving free bags of money without any strings attached or economic strategy behind it all so that lazy unemployed people can buy Cadillacs and eat steak for every meal, but take a look at what qualifies as “welfare” and decide for yourself if such programs might be valuable to our society or improve your life both directly and indirectly (via the Senate Budget Committee):

 Family Planning
 Consolidated Health Centers
 Transitional Cash and Medical Services
for Refugees
 State Children’s Health Insurance
Program (CHIP)
 Voluntary Medicare Prescription Drug
Benefit—Low-Income Subsidy
 Medicaid
 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
 Breast/Cervical Cancer Early Detection
 Maternal and Child Health Block Grant
 Indian Health Service
 Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) (cash aid)
 Supplemental Security Income
 Additional Child Tax Credit
 Earned Income Tax Credit (refundable
 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP)
 School Breakfast Program (free/reduced
price components)
 National School Lunch Program
(free/reduced price components)
 Special Supplemental Nutrition Program
for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
 Child and Adult Care Food Program
(lower income components)
 Summer Food Service Program
 Commodity Supplemental
 Food Program Nutrition Assistance for
Puerto Rico
 The Emergency Food Assistance
Program (TEFAP)
 Nutrition Program for the Elderly
 Indian Education
 Adult Basic Education Grants to States
 Federal Supplemental Educational
Opportunity Grant
 Education for the Disadvantaged—
Grants to Local Educational Agencies
(Title I-A)
 Title I Migrant Education Program
 Higher Education—Institutional Aid and
Developing Institutions
 Federal Work-Study
 Federal TRIO Programs
 Federal Pell Grants
 Education for Homeless Children and
 21st Century Community Learning
 Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness
for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP)
 Reading First and Early Reading First
 Rural Education Achievement Program
 Mathematics and Science Partnerships
 Improving Teacher Quality State Grants
 Academic Competitiveness and Smart
Grant Program
 Single-Family Rural Housing Loans
 Rural Rental Assistance Program
 Water and Waste Disposal for Rural
 Public Works and Economic
 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
 Supportive Housing for Persons with
 Section 8 Project-Based Rental
 Community Development Block Grants
 Homeless Assistance Grants
 Home Investment Partnerships Program
 Housing Opportunities for Persons with
 Public Housing
 Indian Housing Block Grants
 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
 Neighborhood Stabilization Program-1
 Grants to States for Low-Income
Housing in Lieu of Low-Income
Housing Credit Allocations
 Tax Credit Assistance Program
 Indian Human Services
 Older Americans Act Grants for
Supportive Services and Senior Centers
 Older Americans Act Family Caregiver
 Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) (social services)
 Child Support Enforcement
 Community Services Block Grant
 Child Care and Development Fund
 Head Start HHS
 Developmental Disabilities Support and
Advocacy Grants
 Foster Care
 Adoption Assistance
 Social Services Block Grant
 Chafee Foster Care Independence
 Emergency Food and Shelter Program
 Legal Services Corporation
 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) (employment and
training component)
 Community Service Employment for
Older Americans
 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult
 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth
 Social Services and Targeted Assistance
for Refugees
 Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) (employment and
 Foster Grandparents
 Job Corps
 Weatherization Assistance Program
 Low-Income Home Energy Assistance
Program (LIHEAP)

“I went to a four-year university.” “That job requires a one-year certificate.” “It’s a two-semester course.” “She’s a fifth-year senior.” What do these expressions have in common? They use time as the yardstick for higher education.

Essentially, this means measuring not how much you’ve learned, but how long you’ve spent trying to learn it.

The conventions of the credit hour, the semester and the academic year were formalized in the early 1900s. Time forms the template for designing college programs, accrediting them and — crucially — funding them using federal student aid.

But in 2013, for the first time, the Department of Education took steps to loosen the rules.

The new idea: Allow institutions to get student-aid funding by creating programs that directly measure learning, not time. Students can move at their own pace. The school certifies — measures — what they know and are able to do.

Competency-Based Education: No More Semesters?

Illustration credit: LA Johnson/NPR

The Effort to Overturn AB1266, which provides protections to transgender students in California, has officially FAILED!

A coalition of conservative organizations, lead by the Pacific Justice Institute and aided by lawyer Cathy Brennan has failed to gather enough valid signatures to force the student-protections bill onto this year’s coming ballot. Protection for transgender children stands as the law of the land in California!

My Fallout 4 Main Story Theory

Ok, so let’s stick with the theory that Vault 111 is an advanced android upload station designed as an experiment to see. When I say advanced I mean this particular model is made with some organic tissue to allow for life to be transferred into it. (This would also explain why radiation still affects the PC). All of the residents are plugged up to a mainframe that transfers them into their android counterpart. Some technical difficulty ensues and your character is the only one that powers up 200 years later. After discovering this your character decides to find a way to fix the mainframe to save their family as well as all of the others. Your character leaves 111 and runs into the Minutemen and their leader, Preston Garvey, agrees to give you information and power armor in exchange for helping them fend off the raiders/deathclaw. Afterwards, Preston tells you about the Institute and promises your character if anyone in the Wasteland could help with tech it would be them. Your character then travels to the Institute to get aid to fix the Vault. After arriving your character is not allowed access into the Institute unless they help them with the tasks. Later you find out the Institute and BoS are at war. Automatically you assume that the Institute people are the good guys because they’ve agreed to help you and the BoS just seem like greedy warmongers. But, later down the line, you find out that the Institute just wants you to give them the location and access to Vault 111 so they can get their hands on Vault-tech’s advanced version of androids. (This would, in essence, give the Institute leaders a way of mass producing an immortal army of human-android hybrids.) (Also, Vault 111 has a security system that only allows residents and Vault-tech employees access in this theory.) They promise they will save your family but you have to let the other resident’s androids become the property of the Institute. This is when you can decide to fight alongside the BoS against the Institute because they offer their help in restoring Vault 111 and letting the rest of the residents including your family to be “powered up”. In the end, no matter who you side with you end up getting killed in Vault 111 by the BoS or the Institute people who are there to help you. BoS believes the technology of 111 is too powerful to control and so they seek to destroy it. The Institute just wants all of the androids including your family’s and your’s.

The WSG helped me rough out this theory and refine it. This was the end result. If you would like some feedback on your own Fo4 theories or predictions leave them an ask or submit to their blog here-> wasteland-support-group !!!

We believe that the class character of the state will not permit that institution to aid the proletariat in its class struggle. Therefore, we teach the workers that what they really require is not to influence the state favorably toward them, but to put themselves in such position, through an economic class organization, that they will be enabled to pro­tect themselves against the hostility of the capitalist state.
—  Industrial Workers of the World, in their letter declining membership in the Soviet-led Red International of Trade Unions