Category Archives: Education

Fighting The Left’s Fire With FIRE

Instapundit has some ideas for dealing with the war on college men:

You could add some street-theater when prospective freshmen tour the campus by putting up posters and passing out leaflets telling them that the campus is a “rights-free zone” for men or some such, too. And maybe demand that the admissions people warn admitted men that they won’t have due process, and then making a big stink when they won’t.

Yes, time to take back the campuses. Make all those administrators earn their money.

Nuevo Colorado

Continuing our tour of the six new Californias proposed by Tim Draper, this new state would be the only one with no Pacific coastline. Nonetheless, it has tremendous potential that is currently being hamstrung by Sacramento (or rather, the coastal voters who dominate the legislature). It would have a population of a little over four million, equivalent to Kentucky, and about a million fewer than Colorado. But as I’ll explain, its red depiction on the map below is appropriate, because it could be viewed as another Colorado in the making, except one only a couple-hour drive from the ocean.

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The New State Of Silicon Valley

Continuing my series (I now have four states up at Ricochet), the next state is Silicon Valley.

Unlike North California, Silicon Valley would be the new state with the most geographically misleading name. Shown in yellow on the map, it would encompass the current Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, but it would also include all else on that peninsula, including San Francisco, and the East Bay all the way up to Oakland and Berkeley in Alameda County and the bedroom communities of Contra Costa County, all of which is quite densely populated. And beyond that, it would also extend south, all the way down into the Big Sur coast, to the southern Monterey County line. It would be the third largest of the new states, with a current population of almost seven million, like Arizona, Washington or Massachusetts.

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Bias In Academia

…is destroying scientific integrity:

OK, it’s not exactly a “Sopranos” plot. But it’s pretty shady for the world of higher education. Chen went to great lengths to make up fake email addresses and even assume the names of other scientists to write approvingly of his own research.

In a sense, though, he was just exploiting the deep flaws of the peer review system. The academy has become a kind of club where friends give friends flattering assessments of research, which essentially guarantees promotions and tenure.

Here’s how the former editor of the British Medical Journal explained peer review:

“The editor looks at the title of the paper and sends it to two friends whom the editor thinks know something about the subject. If both advise publication the editor sends it to the printers. If both advise against publication the editor rejects the paper. If the reviewers disagree the editor sends it to a third reviewer and does whatever he or she advises. This … is little better than tossing a coin.”

But it’s not just the clubbiness of academia that is to blame. There is such ideological uniformity in the ivory tower that no one ever questions the important assumptions behind anyone else’s research.

Gee, where have we seen that sort of thing before?

I’d note, though, that contra the headline, it’s not a “liberal” bias. It’s a leftist bias.

North California

Just to the south of Jefferson, the new state of North California (shown as purple on the map) would be much larger, with a population of almost four million, comparable to Oregon or Oklahoma.

There is no other state that would really be comparable to North California, in terms of geography and climate. Unlike any of the other new states, it would have very little desert. It would have some of the best wine country in the world, in Napa and Sonoma counties. It would have the coastal beauty of Marin as well, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and the rest of the new state of Silicon Valley to its immediate south. Like Silicon Valley, it will have ocean access via the Golden Gate, from San Pablo and other northern bays, so it would have the option of building its own new ports.

As it is now, western North California would be a bedroom community for the industry of Silicon Valley to the south. With towns like Vallejo, Sausalito, Benicia, Santa Rosa and others along the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay system and Sacramento Delta, access between the two states would continue to be via ferries and toll bridges to San Francisco and Oakland, and Concord in Contra Costa County. One point of contention in a breakup will be which state gets both responsibility for, and revenue from, which bridges.

The eastern part of the new state would be much more rural, with the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and Gold Country in the western foothills of the mountains, and its own wine region centered in Amador County. The foothills and mountains will offer recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, and horseback, with skiing in the winter in south Tahoe. Gold Country, with its historical towns and sites, will continue to be a tourist draw. While not as high as the Sierras further south, there will be some snow pack in the northern mountains to feed the northern part of the delta, and provide water for the new state.

As with the current California, Sacramento would be a good candidate for state capital. The current Sacramento State would likely become the flagship of North California’s higher educational system, the University of North California. The campus of the University of California in Davis would probably have its focus broadened and strengthened from its current one of agricultural research, perhaps becoming North California State.

It will inherit a number of prisons, in Sacramento, Folsom, Vacaville, Mule Creek in Ione, and of course the infamous San Quentin, just over the Silicon Valley state line from San Francisco. As with Jefferson, it is possible that these will provide excess capacity for its own criminal needs (particularly if it, like Jefferson, were to legalize drugs), given that the majority of prisoners are likely generated by the big cities of Silicon Valley, and West and South California. So there may be opportunities for revenue from those states to continue to house their prisoners. Again, the new state may offer an opportunity for reform with an end to the guards’ unions.

With its current voters, North California will have a twelve-point voting edge for Democrats, 43% to a little over 31% for Republicans and almost 3% for the American Independent Party. But as with Jefferson, about twenty percent of those registered are unpartied, so the right Republican candidate and policies could potentially win the votes of the state for governor, senators and electors. A more libertarian Republican might do well there.

Next up, the city-state of Silicon Valley.

Academic Writing

Why does it stink?

The most popular answer outside the academy is the cynical one: Bad writing is a deliberate choice. Scholars in the softer fields spout obscure verbiage to hide the fact that they have nothing to say. They dress up the trivial and obvious with the trappings of scientific sophistication, hoping to bamboozle their audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook.

Though no doubt the bamboozlement theory applies to some academics some of the time, in my experience it does not ring true. I know many scholars who have nothing to hide and no need to impress. They do groundbreaking work on important subjects, reason well about clear ideas, and are honest, down-to-earth people. Still, their writing stinks.

The most popular answer inside the academy is the self-serving one: Difficult writing is unavoidable because of the abstractness and complexity of our subject matter. Every human pastime—music, cooking, sports, art—develops an argot to spare its enthusiasts from having to use a long-winded description every time they refer to a familiar concept in one another’s company. It would be tedious for a biologist to spell out the meaning of the term transcription factor every time she used it, and so we should not expect the tête-à-tête among professionals to be easily understood by amateurs.

But the insider-shorthand theory, too, doesn’t fit my experience. I suffer the daily experience of being baffled by articles in my field, my subfield, even my sub-sub-subfield. The methods section of an experimental paper explains, “Participants read assertions whose veracity was either affirmed or denied by the subsequent presentation of an assessment word.” After some detective work, I determined that it meant, “Participants read sentences, each followed by the word true or false.” The original academese was not as concise, accurate, or scientific as the plain English translation. So why did my colleague feel compelled to pile up the polysyllables?

RTWT

Public School As Child Abuse

Example #43,675,219:

Stuarts Draft fifth-grader Grace Karaffa appeared before the school board Thursday night, saying she had requested the substance while on the playground after suffering chapped lips.

“I was told I couldn’t use it. Then later that day they (lips) started to bleed so I asked for Chapstick again and I was told that it was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick,” Grace said.

Grace asked the school board to change its policy. “Chapstick allows the human body to heal the lips themselves and protects them in any weather from drying out,” she said. She concluded her speech by saying, “Please school board, allow us to have Chapstick.”

I don’t know if you have to be a moron to be a school-board member, but it certainly seems to help.

Ivy League Undergrads

They’re apparently not selected for high quality:

I am interested in Roman history, and had a discussion with someone with a background in classics and history at one of the Ivies. They kept quoting garbled and watered down versions of Peter Brown, rather than expressing their own original thoughts and ideas, in relation to the concept of material decline (a la Bryan Ward-Perkins). My impression was that this individual was somewhat taken aback that someone with a science background from a state school wasn’t impressed by the bluffing, and actually knew some of the literature in this area. They didn’t seem to comprehend that my goal wasn’t to seem smart, but to mine them for more information and insight. I came back empty in that regard.

The purpose of an Ivy League education is less about knowledge, and more about credentialing and building networks.

Here‘s Pinker’s TNR piece, which prompted Razib’s blog post.

[Update a few minutes later]

Definitely read the Pinker piece:

…why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? It would be an occasion for hilarity if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students, faculty, or president for their prowess in athletics or music, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates. In any case, the stereotype is provably false. Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have tracked a large sample of precocious teenagers identified solely by high performance on the SAT, and found that when they grew up, they not only excelled in academia, technology, medicine, and business, but won outsize recognition for their novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, and productions in dance, music, and theater. A comparison to a Harvard freshman class would be like a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back—forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Yes. It’s quite insidious, really.

Grievance Studies Departments

Just how bad is the “scholarship” there?

Because searches are perhaps the most opaque aspect of the academic process, the only way that the public will learn the identities of the other semi-finalists and finalists for the Illinois job is if the applicants themselves reveal it publicly. (The chances of that occurring are about zero: who would want to admit they were beaten out for a job by someone like Salaita?) But defenders of academic freedom should be as critical of the Indian Studies program as they are of the Illinois chancellor.

As Glenn notes, the primary function of such departments is as sinecures for otherwise talentless leftists. It’s all part and parcel of the huge publicly financed scam that much of academia has become.

Deserting From The Climate Wars

A lefty statistician has had enough:

As a statistician who teaches about the fundamental uncertainties of global climate models and the difficulty of finding data series that are good enough and long enough to find a recent trend in extreme weather and sea levels, I have for years scoffed at claims that “the debate is over.” The climate system is so complex and chaotic, and its many interactions so poorly understood on so many time scales, that I more think that there is little useful information with which to begin, let alone end, a debate.

“Anti-intellectual, and anti-science,” I would complain, as the catastrophists dominated mainstream debate, turning the noble scientific title of “skeptic” into the horrific libel of being a “denier” of a coming Holocaust. At least I could be thankful that the domination of mainstream and leftist debate did not translate into domination of policy. Both rich and poor countries continue to talk down fossil fuels while using them every chance they get, because these low-cost forms of energy have been the source of the economic growth and longer life expectancy the world has experienced in two dramatic waves: the industrialization of Europe, the United States and Japan in the 19th century and the industrialization of Korea, China, India, and others in Asia and to a lesser extent in Latin America and Africa in the 20th century.

…What finally brought me to my retirement from the Climate War was my attempt to think through the claims in a recent film about the Maldives Islands that my think-tank had sponsored. The former president had been a darling of the catastrophists, holding a cabinet meeting under water to show how his country would look if the wicked West didn’t stop warming the planet. A trip through journal articles, particularly one by a noted sea-level expert, Nils Axel-Morner, that disputed the rise in detail, showed me that the president’s claim is very hard to evaluate. Nowhere could I find evidence for dramatic changes over the past 40 years in the Maldives — which of course does not rule out dramatic changes being on the way — and I discovered that land sinks, and rises, to the clock of its underlying tectonic plates and geological formations as well as to the sea’s clock. Sea level is difficult to measure because it sloshes around, over tens of thousands of miles, and the measuring devices must be relative to some standard – the land, a dock, the bottom, all of which are always changing.

So here we are again on the Maldives, facing a question that relies on good historical data, systematic corrections and interpretations, and careful modeling. I could tell even before I read competing studies how the dispute would go. Just as with temperature, hurricanes, droughts, and global sea level, interested parties on both sides, skeptics and catastrophists, control the data and its manipulation, as well as the modeling. Even disinterested scientists are forced into line by the high political stakes, finding themselves either hailed and rewarded or castigated and exiled based on their results. I realized that no matter how much I studied the issue, I could never trust the data, the manipulation, and the models, because of the partisanship. And that is why the debate is over.

I’m gonna miss a lot of it – the excitement of learning about modeling, paleoclimate, satellite sounding, the 100,000 year cycles, how ice cores can provide temperature estimates, and the fun of watching students grapple with the possibility that everything they have been taught about climate change in college might be wrong. But I’m not gonna miss the stress of being the odd man out in my lefty think-tank, or of being in agreement with my usual foes. All I can say is, to people in both developed and developing countries, I hope I’ve helped just a little bit by being part of the resistance to the plan to de-industrialize your economies. So far, so good — not because we skeptics convinced anybody about the dangers of emissions, but because people remain convinced of their benefits.

Yes.

Public School As Child Abuse

And overpriced colleges as young-adult abuse:

The student was given two options: face an “administrative panel” whose decision would be final and unable to be appealed (but suspension or expulsion not an option) or face a Student Conduct Panel, which would leave room for appeal but put suspension/expulsion back on the table.

The administration’s “bright line” for determining guilt is (I AM NOT KIDDING) whether the incident “more likely than not” occurred. Any discussion about whether the shouted joke “more likely than not” should have resulted in having the book thrown at the student apparently isn’t up for discussion.

If either panel finds the student “more likely than not” guilty of making an offensive, one-line joke, she pays the administrative fees and deals with whatever punishment is decided. If declared “more likely than not” not guilty, no one pays anything, not even the couple whose existence was rendered ghastly and nightmarish by a couple of seconds of careless window shouting nearly three months ago.

Don’t give your money to these people. Especially don’t go into undischargeable debt to give money to these people.

Public Schools As Child Abuse

Example #1,456,382:

To be thorough, they should have searched the neighbor’s yard for a dead Triceratops, too. Everyone involved in this tragedy should be flogged naked through the streets, then put in the stocks wearing a dunce cap.

Hey, the kid deserved it! He’s probably also a young-earth creationist, what with his apparent belief in the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs.

A Federally Required Presumption Of Guilt

The latest anti-rights insanity coming from the Obama administration. It’s becoming child abuse to send a kid to public schools, or a son to college.

[Update a couple minutes later]

“If your boyfriend likes the First Amendment, be careful!”

This is how fascists think.

[Update a minute or so later]

“Law enforcement must take the lead in campus sexual assault cases.”

What a concept.

[Update another minute or so later]

“Illegals [immigrants] at the border have more rights than college students accused of rape.”

[Late-morning update]

No, one in five women on campus have not been raped.