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  • Friday Edition: The Recriminalization Trend

Friday Edition: The Recriminalization Trend

Plus: The lowdown on X/Twitter.

1. Buyer’s Remorse on Decriminalization

A number of cities and states are reversing course on relaxed drug laws and decriminalization. (WaPo)

The latest: British Columbia is walking back its decriminalization of hard drugs in the face of rising public drug use and complaints from voters.

  • Last year, overdose deaths in the Canadian province reached a record-high of 2,511.

  • In the first four months of 2024, 750 people died of overdoses.

What B.C. Premier David Eby told reporters in April: “The people who are struggling with addiction are people that we love. But sometimes, tough love is needed.”

It’s not just B.C.: A spike in overdose deaths prompted Oregon to recriminalize drug possession in April.

Related: Some residents are questioning the success of the pot experiment in Colorado, the poster child for legal weed.

The Denver Gazette editorial board lays out stats from the 10 years since legalization:

• A crime-rate surge from 2012 to 2022, up 21.6%, as eight neighboring states saw crime rates plateau or decrease.

• Traffic fatalities increased 57% over the past decade.

• A decadelong increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations, emergency room visits, poison control calls and fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by THC, based on data from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

• Suicides increased by 23% since legalization.

• Suicides among Colorado adolescents ages 15-19 have nearly doubled since legalization.

One cannot blame all this squarely on marijuana, but the correlation should raise red flags. And that’s only what statistics can measure.

Bubba’s Two Cents

Reforms to the old drug laws were probably necessary. Heck, even Republicans have acknowledged the war on drugs has had mixed results at best. But it’s possible the pendulum’s swung too far in the other direction.

2. The Indoctrination Debate

Are public schools indoctrinating students as conservatives claim, or is that just a myth, as liberals say? (The Free Press)

American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Robert Pondiscio says public schools have become “ideological boot camps” because teachers have been given too much leeway in classrooms.

Pondiscio in a new essay for The Free Press:

It’s true that schools might have a state- or district-adopted curriculum, but that doesn’t mean it’s getting taught. Nearly no category of public employee has the degree of autonomy of the average public school teacher—even the least experienced ones.

Teachers routinely create or cobble together their own lesson plans on the widely accepted theory that they know better than textbook publishers what books kids will enjoy reading and which topics might spark lively class discussions.

The evidence:

  • A 2017 RAND Corporation survey found that 99% of elementary teachers and 96% of secondary school teachers use self-developed or selected materials for teaching.

  • The advocacy group Parents Defending Education documented over 1,000 incidents of controversial lessons on race, gender and other issues not traceable to formally adopted curricula.

  • According to the Pulitzer Center, materials from the controversial 1619 Project reached 4,500 classrooms, despite being officially adopted by only three school districts in the entire country.

The examples:

  • Fort Lee High School, New Jersey: Teachers taught students that Hamas is a peaceful “resistance movement” and accused Israel of committing genocide.

  • PS 321, Brooklyn, New York: Teachers distributed an unauthorized activity book promoting Black Lives Matter and concepts like “queer affirming,” “transgender affirming” and “restorative justice.”

The outcome: A report from the New Teacher Project found students spend 500 hours per year on assignments inappropriate for their grade, equivalent to six months of wasted class time per core subject.

Bubba’s Two Cents

In 2022, the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country, caught a ton of flak for tweeting, “Educators love their students and know better than anyone what they need to learn and to thrive.” It shows how this debate centers around who should have the final say on what children are being taught. Regardless of the merits of any of these classroom lessons, convincing parents that someone else knows what's best for their kids will be a tough sell.

3. Checking In on Twitter

X/Twitter is now the top social platform for news and politics, meaning it’s likely to play an important role in election year discourse. (Pew Research Center)

A new Pew Research Center survey: 59% of X users use it to keep up with politics, compared to 36% on TikTok and 26% each on Facebook and Instagram.

According to a 2021 Pew study, 23% of U.S. adults use Twitter.

  • But a small percentage of X users are responsibly for the vast majority of content on the site — 25% of Twitter users create 97% of posts.

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, there’s been a big shift in how Republicans and Democrats view the platform.

Chart: Pew Research Center

When Musk bought the company in 2022, journalists warned he’d turn Twitter into a right-wing hellscape, and a spate of X alternatives started popping up.

  • While some rival companies, like Threads, claim to have racked up massive user bases, no one’s dethroned X when it comes to influence.

Meanwhile, fears that Musk’s ownership would lead to an epidemic of misinformation appear to have been misplaced.

  • A recent study published in JAMA on the accuracy of “Community Notes” about COVID-19 vaccine misinformation found 97% of notes were completely accurate, 2% partly accurate, and only 0.5% were inaccurate.

Bubba’s Two Cents

A relatively small segment of Americans use X, and an even smaller segment are actually posting content to the site, so why does it get so much attention in the media? Well, for better or worse, X has an outsized influence on shaping the news (studies have shown Twitter affects the stories journalists choose to cover). As we’ve said before, politics may be downstream of culture, but culture is downstream of media.

4. Putting a Thumb on the Bestseller List Scale

An investigation by The Economist found conservative books are 7 percentage points less likely to appear on the New York Times bestseller list than other books with similar sales. (The Economist)

Chart: The Economist

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