Politicized Topics in School, the War in Ukraine, Post-Quantum Cryptography: RAND Weekly Recap

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Aug 12, 2022

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss what educators think about politicized topics in school; the case for cautious optimism in Ukraine; the implications of Russia's declining profile in space; protecting against attacks from quantum computers; the intersection of racism and patient safety in health care; and hypothetical scenarios of a U.S.-China conflict.

Andrew Briscoe Elementary School's principal greets and distributes hand sanitizer to students while a teacher takes their temperature before they enter the building, in San Antonio, Texas, January 11, 2022, photo by Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters

Photo by Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters

What Educators Think About Politicized Topics in School

A RAND survey fielded in January examined how two often-politicized topics—the implementation of COVID-19 safety measures and classroom conversations about race, racism, or bias—have affected educators' well-being, instructional practices, and more.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Nearly half of U.S. principals and teachers said that the intrusion of political issues and opinions into their professions was a job-related stressor.
  • One-quarter of teachers surveyed reported having been directed to limit classroom conversations about political and social issues.
  • Many educators we surveyed—37 percent of teachers and 61 percent of principals—reported experiencing harassment related to their school's COVID-19 safety policies or classroom policies about race and racism during the first half of the 2021–2022 school year.

Our findings suggest that educators need more support managing politicized issues in their schools and classrooms. This could include clearer communication from leadership and increased support from preparation programs and in-service professional learning.

A Ukrainian service member looks on outside the city of Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine, as Russia's attack continues, June 19, 2022, photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

A Ukrainian service member looks on outside the city of Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine, June 19, 2022

Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

The Case for Cautious Optimism in Ukraine

Six months into Russia's war with Ukraine, where is the conflict headed? According to RAND experts, the outcome of the war is by no means clear, but the balance of military equipment, personnel, and willpower points toward a Ukrainian victory. “Although Ukraine is unlikely to throw Russia back to its borders any time soon,” they say, “the war will likely trend in Ukraine's favor in the coming months.” That is, however, only if the West does not “blink first” and move to pursue a negotiated settlement with Russia.

The International Space Station, November 25, 2009, photo by NASA

The International Space Station, November 25, 2009

Photo by NASA

Russia's Leaving the ISS. What Does That Mean for Space Security?

Russia recently announced it would pull out of the International Space Station program after 2024. As Russia's profile in space declines, it may pose security risks, say RAND experts. For one, Russia may now be less motivated to protect the low-Earth orbit environment from debris. And while it's unlikely that Moscow would specifically target the ISS in a conflict, Russia may now be less concerned about collateral damage to the ISS if it decides to attack other nearby satellites.

An inside look at an ion trap within Quantinuum's quantum computer, which processes data using trapped-ion technology, Broomfield, Colorado, December 6, 2021, photo by Quantinuum/Handout via Reuters

Quantinuum's quantum computer, which processes data using trapped-ion technology, Broomfield, Colorado, December 6, 2021

Photo by Quantinuum/Handout via Reuters

Hack Post-Quantum Cryptography Now So That Bad Actors Don't Do It Later

The National Institute for Standards and Technology recently selected new algorithms to establish a standard for post-quantum cryptography. To ensure these algorithms do their job—resist attacks from super-powerful quantum computers—RAND experts recommend holding a public hacking contest to identify potential weaknesses. Finding flaws in the algorithms before they are rolled out widely could help prevent more costly cybersecurity breaks in the future.

A young woman waiting for a nurse to get a syringe ready for an injection, photo by Lacheev/Getty Images

Photo by Lacheev/Getty Images

Does Racism Affect Patient Safety?

Patient safety events in health care settings—such as medical errors, diagnostic errors, and preventable injuries—are understudied. But evidence suggests that these events vary across patients from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and that minoritized patients are more likely to experience them. In a new report, researchers from RAND and MedStar Health examine this issue and provide recommendations to help improve patient safety and health equity.

China's PLA released footage on August 8, 2022, showing training exercises conducted by the Navy's 2nd Type 075 amphibious assault ship, the Guangxi, photo by EyePress via Reuters

China's People's Liberation Army released footage on Aug 8, 2022, showing training exercises conducted by an amphibious assault ship, the Guangxi

Photo by EyePress via Reuters

Hypothesizing the Return of Great Power War

Imagine this scenario: Sometime in the future, China has nearly reached the point of global primacy, and over many years, a low-intensity conflict unfolds across much of the world. Then, this low-intensity war evolves into a high-intensity war between the United States and China. In a new report, RAND researchers analyze how these hypothetical scenarios might unfold and consider the potential implications for U.S. security decisionmaking and defense planning.

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