From our readers

From the Editors Innovation often sparks controversy, and so it wasn’t surprising that social media ignited in response to our annual American Ingenuity Awards issue. Our story about experiments by Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu, in which they implanted a false memory in a mouse, delighted some readers, who called the research “amazing” and “incredible.” Others echoed Cyndy Bowman Odenwald, who cautioned, “The possibilities for helping PTSD patients seems plausible, but the possibilities for misuse seems much larger to me, rather frightening actually.” Some breakthroughs seemed overdue. On Facebook, Namaste Adrienne and others applauded Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, for working to improve racial, ethnic and gender diversity at high-tech companies. Another reader was moved to thank Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey for “initiating a unique perceptual tool that realizes not only your dream, but what dreams may come by all of us to be shared on into the future!”And one fan tweeted to Rosanne Cash about Geoffrey Himes’ profile of the artist, “Sometimes, a great write-up can help me appreciate your gifts in whole new ways.”

Prison Education
This is a great idea [“The Great Escape”] and will help us all in the long run. It’s not about whether it’s free or not. An educated mind is a mind that makes better choices, a mind that is more tolerant of others (their opinions and their beliefs), a mind that is more open. A criminal that has been educated is more prone to changing his life and to feeling that he deserves a change in his life, a better life. Most of the men and women in prison have either not been given the opportunity or never grasped it themselves when they needed it. This is where reform will happen.
Joann Confeiteiro Sarcinella
on facebook

I do not think it is fair to all the non-criminals saddled with hefty student loans from the time they graduate into middle age. It’s about it being free for them (the offenders) but not for law-abiding citizens, most of whom have responsibilities that they try to meet honorably and other struggles. I can see a short and practical certification course for inmates and I think they should be granted a low-interest student loan to pay for it, payable after they are out in the world and working, same as anyone else. And it is a fallacy that education always improves character.
Dee Dunckley
on facebook

The article cited some results from a recent Rand Corporation study that I led. It noted our estimate of a 43 percent reduction in the likelihood of returning to prison for inmates who participate in education programs and then mentions that “[o]f course, the inmates who enroll in an education program and stick with it are self-selected for high motivation, so even that success rate comes with a statistical asterisk.” Actually, this latter point is not correct. Our estimates are based on studies that used rigorous methods to adjust for selection bias and eliminate it as an explanatory factor. Thus, the 43 percent estimate of reduced recidivism is unlikely to be driven by the self-selection of motivated inmates into education programs.
Lois Davis
Senior Policy Researcher
Rand Corporation
Santa Monica, California

Epic Poem
Jeff MacGregor’s masterwork about Bill Morrison [“Flood of Time”] was an utterly transformative piece of art, and certainly the first of its kind in the pages of Smithsonian magazine. I am amazed at what I just read and what’s more, I can’t stop rereading it. Pure genius on both fronts.
J.D. Brayton
Silver Spring, Maryland

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