In “The Engagement Gap” Mr. Blow says if you just look at social media and the number of likes, tweets and views, it seems as if President Obama is winning the race. Mr. Nocera, in “Reading, Math and Grit,” says character matters as much as schoolwork, or maybe even more. And new initiatives are showing how it can been taught. Ms. Collins has “A Convention Pop Quiz.” She says there was a lot of news that came out of the political conventions. Let’s see how much you remembered. No peeking at the answers, people! (I got an embarrassing number correct, and I hadn’t thought I was paying that much attention.) Here’s Mr. Blow:
Forget the enthusiasm gap, let’s focus on the engagement gap.
In particular, let’s focus on the gap in the level of media engagement — particularly social media engagement — between President Obama’s campaign and Mitt Romney’s. Obama is on the winning side of that gap.
A study earlier this month by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at how the campaigns are using social media this cycle. It found that:
“The Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms. Obama’s digital content also engendered more response from the public — twice the number of shares, views and comments of his posts.”
Obama also has twice the number of Twitter retweets and YouTube comments, likes or views as Romney, and nearly 80 percent more Facebook likes, according to the report.
Even Obama’s Thursday acceptance speech, which brought a little less pep to the rally than some had hoped, did incredibly well in social media. According to Twitter’s official blog, the speech “set a new record for political moments on Twitter.” Over all, according to the site:
“The Democratic National Convention has driven an incredible amount of Twitter conversation since the very first day — through the close of the official proceedings, we have seen more than 9.5 million Tweets sent about the events in Charlotte. Just the final day of the convention delivered roughly 4 million Tweets — approximately equal to the total number from the entire Republican National Convention.”
Even on television, the Democrats outperformed the Republicans. According to Nielsen, the Democratic convention drew more viewers than the Republicans on each night. And, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the Republican confab last Wednesday even had the embarrassing distinction of being outperformed on every station among viewers 18 to 49 years old by the TLC reality show, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which centers on the family of a 6-year-old pageant queen who says things like “a dolla makes me holla.”
(Let’s please have a moment of silence for America. O.K., proceed.)
According to a report about social network site, or SNS, users issued by the Pew Internet and American Life Project this week:
• 36 percent of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in keeping up with political news.
• 26 percent of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in recruiting people to get involved in political issues that matter to them.
• 25 percent of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them for debating or discussing political issues with others.
• 16 percent of SNS users say they have changed their views about a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on the sites.
And the report found that many of the president’s strongest supporters are more likely to use social networks for political information. The report noted:
“SNS-using blacks are significantly more likely than SNS-using whites to feel that the sites are important for these political activities. And younger SNS users (those ages 18 to 29) are more likely than older site users to think the sites are important in this way.”
As Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project of Excellence in Journalism, told The Financial Times this week, social media users are not truly representative of the electorate — only about 15 percent of the population is on Twitter, for instance — and conversation on social media “skews young and it skews activist.”
But, to me, that seems to be the benefit. Who better to do campaign legwork than those with young legs? Who better to do the retail evangelism required to get voters to the polls than the most activist evangelists?
It is too early to say what the Obama campaign’s digital edge will mean on Election Day, but if it can convert virtual engagement into actual turnout, that could turn a tough race into an easy one.
As The New York Times’s Nate Silver wrote this week on his FiveThirtyEight blog:
“There’s one advantage that President Obama has that Mitt Romney probably doesn’t. If he can get a good turnout from his base, he’ll be the heavy favorite to win in November — even if Mr. Romney gets a strong turnout as well.”
In this election, turnout is the whole ballgame. And since Republicans are doing all they can with voter suppression laws to limit the turnout of people who most often vote Democratic, social media might be a way to help even the score. The Democrats simply have to turn buzz into ballots.
“Like, tweet, volunteer, vote,” you might say.
The fly in this particular ointment, Mr. Blow, is that there are lots of folks like me — at or beyond retirement age, and who don’t twitter-twat. I also gave up on Facebook when everything under the sun wanted me to “like” it. I like my laundry detergent, but I don’t feel I need to be buddies with it. Unfortunately I’m afraid that too much of that cohort (not me) will shoot themselves in the foot and vote for Rmoney and ZEGS. Fingers crossed that’s not the case. Here’s Mr. Nocera:
Early in his acceptance speech Thursday night, President Obama gave a nod to his administration’s backing of education reform. “Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading,” he said, calling on the country to add 100,000 math and science teachers in the next decade. Then he moved on to other topics, like foreign policy and Medicare, that he clearly views as more vital to the campaign as it enters the home stretch.
It is hardly a surprise that education isn’t a heated subject in the presidential race. Not when the economy is still sluggish, and the fight over the role of government so central. Besides, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to fix education: George W. Bush with “No Child Left Behind,” and Obama with his administration’s “Race to the Top.” Those “real gains” notwithstanding, progress remains fitful and frustrating. Too many disadvantaged children remain poorly educated. Too many high school graduates don’t attend — or drop out — of college, which has become the prerequisite for a middle-class existence.
Which is why the publication of a new book, entitled “How Children Succeed,” written by Paul Tough, a former editor of the Times Magazine, is such a timely reminder that education remains the country’s most critical issue. In “How Children Succeed,” Tough argues that simply teaching math and reading — the so-called cognitive skills — isn’t nearly enough, especially for children who have grown up enduring the stresses of poverty. In fact, it might not even be the most important thing.
Rather, tapping into a great deal of recent research, Tough writes that the most important things to develop in students are “noncognitive skills,” which Tough labels as “character.” Many of the people who have done the research or are running the programs that Tough admires have different ways of expressing those skills. But they are essentially character traits that are necessary to succeed not just in school, but in life. Jeff Nelson, who runs a program in partnership with 23 Chicago high schools called OneGoal, which works to improve student achievement and helps students get into college, describes these traits as “resilience, integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism and ambition.” “They are the linchpin of what we do,” Nelson told me. Nelson calls them “leadership skills.” Tough uses the word “grit” a lot.
On some level, these are traits we all try to instill in our children. (Indeed, Tough devotes a section of his book to the anxiety of many upper-middle-class parents that they are failing in this regard.) But poor children too often don’t have parents who can serve that role. They develop habits that impede their ability to learn. Often they can’t even see what the point of learning is. They act indifferently or hostile in school, though that often masks feelings of hopelessness and anxiety.
What was most surprising to me was Tough’s insistence, bolstered by his reporting, that character is not something you have to learn as a small child, or are born with, but can be instilled even in teenagers who have had extraordinarily difficult lives and had no previous grounding in these traits. We get to meet a number of children who, with the help of a program or a mentor who stresses character, have turned their lives around remarkably. We meet Dave Levin, the founder of KIPP, perhaps the best charter school chain in the country, whose earliest graduates run into problems when they get to college — only 21 percent of them had graduated after six years, according to Tough — and then begins stressing character traits to turn things around.
And we also meet Nelson, the founder of OneGoal, which takes disadvantaged students when they are juniors in high school — most of whom believe that college is an unattainable goal — and transforms them into responsible young adults who can succeed in good universities. OneGoal has a “persistence rate,” as Nelson calls it, of 85 percent, meaning that that’s the percentage of students from OneGoal who are making their way through college. (The program hasn’t been around long enough to have a graduation rate.) By comparison, nationally, around only 8 percent of the poorest students ever graduate from college. Nelson told me that OneGoal is expanding to Houston next year, and it hopes to be in five cities by 2017.
I hope it happens. Tough’s book is utterly convincing that if disadvantaged students can learn the noncognitive skills that will allow them to persist in the face of difficulties — to reach for a goal even though it may off in the distance, to strive for something — they can achieve a better life.
It is easy to get discouraged about the state of education in America. Maybe that’s why the presidential candidates aren’t stressing it. Which is the other thing about “How Children Succeed.” It’s a source of optimism.
Now here’s Ms. Collins:
The presidential nominating conventions are over! Really. So. Over. Let’s see if you were paying attention.
I. Republican Multiple Choice
1. Shortly before the Republican convention opened, a new book quoted Mitt Romney as comparing the Tea Party to:
A) A hamster in a cage.
B) A dog on a car roof.
C) A ferret in a dishwasher.
D) A cat up a tree.
2. In a radio interview before the convention, Paul Ryan claimed he had once run a marathon in under three hours. In reality, Ryan’s best and only time was just over four hours in the:
A) Boston Marathon.
B) Run Crazy Horse in South Dakota.
C) Frankenthon Monster Marathon in Cedar Park, Tex.
D) Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth.
3. Because of the hurricane, Republicans had to skip the first day of their convention. As a result, they canceled the Donald Trump “surprise.” Published reports speculated that the surprise was going to be:
A) Trump attempting to fire an Obama impersonator.
B) Trump wandering through the convention center, demanding that delegates produce their birth certificates.
C) Trump spending quality time with Clint Eastwood’s hairstylist.
D) Trump challenging Paul Ryan to a long-distance race.
4. In response to Clint Eastwood’s speech:
A) Ann Romney called it “unique.”
B) Barack Obama invited Clint to the White House for a reconciliation beer.
C) Ann Romney called it “better than Tim Pawlenty’s.”
D) Eastwood was offered a cameo role in “The Expendables 3.”
II. Match the failed Republican presidential candidate with his/her convention role:
1) Newt Gingrich
2) Tim Pawlenty
3) Rick Santorum
4) Ron Paul
5) Rick Perry
6) Jon Huntsman
A) Got a four-minute film tribute, then refused to endorse Romney.
B) Never showed up.
C) Gave a speech about Ronald Reagan with his wife reading every other sentence.
D) Told Chuck Todd of NBC News that he would “absolutely” consider another presidential race in 2016.
E) Gave a speech comparing Barack Obama to “a big tattoo” and “that guy on the Bizarre Foods show.”
F) Speech mentioned “hands” 21 times, “Romney” three.
III: Democratic Multiple Choice:
1. During the convention, Democrats had two platform controversies, one about Jerusalem, and one about whether to mention:
A) All the founding fathers by name.
D) Mitt Romney’s car elevator.
2. Which of the following is NOT true about the keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro:
A) Has a twin brother who’s running for Congress.
B) Political activist mom once called the defenders of the Alamo “a bunch of drunks and crooks and slaveholding imperialists.”
C) Youngest mayor of a major U.S. city.
D) Once ran a marathon in under two hours.
3. Addressing the Democratic delegates, Scarlett Johansson urged young people to vote and also:
A) Berated an empty chair she said was filled with Mitt Romney.
B) Reminisced about her humble roots.
C) Bragged about the number of push-ups she does in her morning workout.
D) Expressed regret that more people did not go to see “We Bought a Zoo.”
4. Besides the usual assortment of mayors, governors, beleaguered workers, successful immigrants and former Republicans, the Democratic convention also featured a speech by a:
A) Dog who claimed to be a descendant of Romney’s beleaguered Irish setter.
C) Parade of swing-state moms.
D) Mormon who wasn’t Harry Reid.
IV. Match the Democrats with his or her convention achievement:
1. Barack Obama
2. Joe Biden
3. Bill Clinton
4. Michelle Obama
5. Harry Reid
6. John Kerry
A. Used the word “literally” 10 times in his speech.
B. Demanded that Mitt Romney show us his tax returns.
C. Made a convention promotion video with Harold and Kumar.
D. Prepared remarks: about 3,200 words. Actual remarks: about 5,500 words.
E. Stunned the world by exhibiting a sense of humor.
F. Failed to mention that Osama bin Laden is dead.
Answers: I: 1-C, 2-D, 3-A, 4-A
II: 1-C, 2-E, 3-F, 4-A, 5-D, 6-B
III: 1-B, 2-D, 3-B, 4-B
IV: 1-C, 2-A, 3-D, 4-F, 5-B, 6-E