Category Archives: Education

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.


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.

Infinity Aerospace

Announcing tools to utilize ISS. Ardulab, is an Arduino modified with features to work on the station. Developed with NASA and Nanoracks. Enabled an 8th-grade class to do a plant-growth experiment for different light conditions in space, ready to fly. Takes up only ten percent of allowed volume, leaving remainder for experiments. Completely open source, hardware and software. Will be opening web site right after talk today.


Why Americans suck at it:

American institutions charged with training teachers in new approaches to math have proved largely unable to do it. At most education schools, the professors with the research budgets and deanships have little interest in the science of teaching. Indeed, when Lampert attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in the 1970s, she could find only one listing in the entire course catalog that used the word “teaching” in its title. (Today only 19 out of 231 courses include it.) Methods courses, meanwhile, are usually taught by the lowest ranks of professors — chronically underpaid, overworked and, ultimately, ineffective.

Without the right training, most teachers do not understand math well enough to teach it the way Lampert does. “Remember,” Lampert says, “American teachers are only a subset of Americans.” As graduates of American schools, they are no more likely to display numeracy than the rest of us. “I’m just not a math person,” Lampert says her education students would say with an apologetic shrug.

Consequently, the most powerful influence on teachers is the one most beyond our control. The sociologist Dan Lortie calls the phenomenon the apprenticeship of observation. Teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught, an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood. The apprenticeship of observation exacerbates what the education scholar Suzanne Wilson calls education reform’s double bind. The very people who embody the problem — teachers — are also the ones charged with solving it.

…Left to their own devices, teachers are once again trying to incorporate new ideas into old scripts, often botching them in the process. One especially nonsensical result stems from the Common Core’s suggestion that students not just find answers but also “illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.” The idea of utilizing arrays of dots makes sense in the hands of a skilled teacher, who can use them to help a student understand how multiplication actually works. For example, a teacher trying to explain multiplication might ask a student to first draw three rows of dots with two dots in each row and then imagine what the picture would look like with three or four or five dots in each row. Guiding the student through the exercise, the teacher could help her see that each march up the times table (3×2, 3×3, 3×4) just means adding another dot per row. But if a teacher doesn’t use the dots to illustrate bigger ideas, they become just another meaningless exercise. Instead of memorizing familiar steps, students now practice even stranger rituals, like drawing dots only to count them or breaking simple addition problems into complicated forms (62+26, for example, must become 60+2+20+6) without understanding why. This can make for even poorer math students. “In the hands of unprepared teachers,” Lampert says, “alternative algorithms are worse than just teaching them standard algorithms.”

No wonder parents and some mathematicians denigrate the reforms as “fuzzy math.” In the warped way untrained teachers interpret them, they are fuzzy.

It’s a long, but interesting, and depressing article.

I should note that I was one of the kids who suffered from the “New Math” in the sixties, but I had a great algebra teacher in junior high (I forget her name, but she was a black woman), and good ones in high school as well. We actually learned calculus and analytic geometry from Mr. Troyer.

[Update a while later]

The more I think about this, the more furious I get that we have these worthless schools of “education” that don’t even teach teachers to teach.


Frustration with the leftist fools who don’t understand the knowledge problem:

Mr. Bouie insists that he is not simply trying to make an excuse for the president’s revealed incompetence in sundry matters, but of course that is precisely what he and other apologists for the administration are doing. If they were really interested in complexity as such, then they would bring it up on the front end of the policy debate, rather than on the back end.

I’ve seen this happen so many times that every other policy debate looks to me like an ancient rerun of Three’s Company: Do you think there’ll be a comic misunderstanding in this episode, too? It unfolds like this: Politicians on the Barack Obama model promise that they will muster their native intelligence and empirical evidence to bring order to, e.g., the health-care industry, through the judicious application of regulation. People like me tell them that the effects of such regulation are almost certainly going to be other than what was intended, because such markets are too complex to be understandable, predictable, or steerable, even in principle. Even if every bureaucrat who touches health care or the labor market has the brain of an Einstein and the soul of a St. Thomas Becket, it will not turn out the way it is intended. And then, when it doesn’t turn out as intended, Jamelle Bouie et al. protest that the toldya-so chorus “betrays an ignorance of the size and complexity of the federal bureaucracy.”

And they never even consider the question: If the federal bureaucracy is so vast and complex that its behavior cannot be adequately managed, how is it that the phenomena that the bureaucracies are tasked with managing—orders of magnitude more complex than the bureaucracies themselves—are supposed to be manageable? To consider the question with any intellectual rigor is to accept real, meaningful, epistemic limits on what government can do.

Can’t have that. It doesn’t allow them to run other peoples’ lives.

Scientists And Philosophers

Why they need to talk to each other:

Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode. This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models. Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking. How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward. And then of course there are the ethical issues, including understanding how the climate debate has gone so badly wrong.