Category Archives: Education

Climate Change

What we don’t know:

We shouldn’t worry, we should just accept that this will happen and we should adapt to it and regard it as a business opportunity.

Its arrogant to assume that climate will remain static.

The whole language of climate change is designed to confuse the public and policy makers

Bob Carter says the IPCC has accomplished the inversion of the null hypothesis, where the onus is now on disproving dangerous anthropogenic climate change

We should focus on protecting people from natural hazards, and not worrying about what is causing them

It makes sense to encourage alternative energy and see what happens.

Bob Carter closed with this: no scientist can tell you whether it will be warmer or cooler in 2020, so we should prepare for both.

Yes. We don’t know much more than we do know.

And as she notes, the people speaking sensibly are independent or retired, not those receiving government funding.

Idiot Education Administrators

This time, it’s not a public school, but college.
And as Glenn Reynolds notes, these morons now outnumber faculty on campus:

I’d sue all of these people personally, and make their lives a living hell until they left or were fired. And they should have to go through a forced psychiatric evaluation, too, to look at their tendency to abuse power and trust.

Yes.

What Keeps Women Out Of STEM

Among other things, they don’t like the dating pool. I wonder if The Big Bang Theory helps, or hurts with that perception?

[Update a few minutes later]

This seems vaguely related: Redefining boyhood. As a disease to be treated.

I guess you could say it’s a pre-existing condition.

The STEM Shortage

It’s a myth.

I agree. The problem isn’t a shortage of workers in that field. But innumeracy and scientific illiteracy is a big problem in our society, particularly among the voters. And that includes the illiteracy of those who mindlessly accept a lot of bogus nutrition and climate “science.”

Positioning Skeptics

Via Judith Curry, here’s a long but very interesting blog post on the obfuscation and misleading characterizations of the CAGW types:

It has been amusing to watch the apparent surprise of many climate scientists at their discovery that many “climate sceptics” are actually lukewarmers. Taking a rough and ready definition, that lukewarmers believe in AGW but doubt catastrophic AGW, one could reasonably place many of the more famous sceptics (Liljegren, McIntyre implicitly, Montford, Watts explicitly) in that camp, together with a number of “maverick” climate scientists (Curry, Lewis, Lindzen). Indeed it has long seemed to me that the unspoken position of Klimazwiebel itself has sympathy for lukewarmerdom.

What does not follow from this, however, is Ed’s suggestion that “the debate can crucially move on to what action is needed to deal with a warming planet”. Or to be more precise that is, as it always has been, a reasonable question, but a perfectly reasonable answer at the moment would be “little or nothing”. Many lukewarmers are also “policy sceptics”, and their view that current policy responses are hopelessly ineffective, with costs far exceeding any conceivable benefits, remains unchanged.

And straying briefly into more dangerous territory, lukewarmers can and do remain highly critical of the IPCC, the hockey stick, the climategate fiasco, the Lewandowsky nonsense, and the bizarre idea that sceptics are a bunch of “fossil fuel funded deniers”. True peace in our time requires mainstream climate science to acknowledge a few uncomfortable truths.

…As is discussed here often, the most powerful misconception of the climate debate is that is divides on the proposition ‘climate change is happening’. This is presented as a scientific claim, though when one tries to understand what it means, and what its consequences are, unpacking it reveals that it means precisely nothing, and the consequences might mean anything between a trivial change in the weather, through to the collapse of civilisation and the end of all life on Earth. This ambiguity turns nuanced arguments and analyses into cartoons, and would seem to put Lewis and Crok opposite the GWPF, who have published broad criticism of climate policy and also of some particular scientific questions. Worse, this tendency allows politics or ‘ideology’ to be presented as ‘science’, and so to preclude debate. All Ed Davey has to do, for instance, to wave away criticism of his energy policy is claim that it is the expression of denial of climate science. Grundmann’s thinking is no more sophisticated.

[Emphasis added]

As Benny Peiser says, the lukewarmer skeptics are trying to promote an open debate. The warm mongers are trying to shut it down. Mann’s legal action against me and Mark is part of that effort.

Clueless Scientists

Some thoughts on their foolish political tendencies. And as noted, this Sagan quote is crucial in the “settled climate science” debate:

Science is more than a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those that tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious who comes ambling along.

“Scientist” isn’t a profession. We are all scientists to one degree or another, if we are successful at every-day living.

Ukraine

Let it vote for partition.

I’ve never heard a good explanation of why we should hold this artificial “nation” together. Let the Europeans go with Europe, let the Russians go with Russia.

[Update a few minutes later]

Fascism, Russia and Ukraine:

The populist media campaign for the Eurasian Union is now in the hands of Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the most important talk show in Russia, and since December also the director of the state-run Russian media conglomerate designed to form national public opinion. Best known for saying that gays who die in car accidents should have their hearts cut from their bodies and incinerated, Kiselyov has taken Putin’s campaign against gay rights and transformed it into a weapon against European integration. Thus when the then German foreign minister, who is gay, visited Kiev in December and met with Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight champion and opposition politician, Kiselyov dismissed Klitschko as a gay icon. According to the Russian foreign minister, the exploitation of sexual politics is now to be an open weapon in the struggle against the “decadence” of the European Union.

Following the same strategy, Yanukovych’s government claimed, entirely falsely, that the price of closer relations with the European Union was the recognition of gay marriage in Ukraine. Kiselyov is quite open about the Russian media strategy toward the Maidan: to “apply the correct political technology,” then “bring it to the point of overheating” and bring to bear “the magnifying glass of TV and the Internet.”

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously? One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with this. World War II on the eastern front was fought chiefly in what was then Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus, not in Soviet Russia. Five percent of Russia was occupied by the Germans; all of Ukraine was occupied by the Germans. Apart from the Jews, whose suffering was by far the worst, the main victims of Nazi policies were not Russians but Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was no Russian army fighting in World War II, but rather a Soviet Red Army. Its soldiers were disproportionately Ukrainian, since it took so many losses in Ukraine and recruited from the local population. The army group that liberated Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front.

The other source of purported Eurasian moral legitimacy seems to be this: since the representatives of the Putin regime only very selectively distanced themselves from Stalinism, they are therefore reliable inheritors of Soviet history, and should be seen as the automatic opposite of Nazis, and therefore to be trusted to oppose the far right.

Again, much is wrong about this. World War II began with an alliance between Hitler and Stalin in 1939. It ended with the Soviet Union expelling surviving Jews across its own border into Poland. After the founding of the State of Israel, Stalin began associating Soviet Jews with a world capitalist conspiracy, and undertook a campaign of arrests, deportations, and murders of leading Jewish writers. When he died in 1953 he was preparing a larger campaign against Jews.

This all points out the meaninglessness of “right” and “left” in Eurasia, and the nonsense of the notion (as Jonah Goldberg is always quick to point out) that fascism is “right wing.” Both Nazism and Stalinism are perversions of Marxism (not to imply that Marxism can ever be applied in the real world unperverted). Their differences are trivial relative to their similarities.

[Update a while later]

This seems sort of peripherally related: “Time travelers, don’t kill Hitler.”

I disagree with the notion that the Holocaust was the Worst Thing Ever, or even uniquely evil. The notion that it is is largely squid ink to distract us from the much greater crimes of Stalin, Mao, and other communist monsters, whom much of academia either wants to downplay as unrepresentative of “true” Marxism, or actually admire.

[Update late morning]

No, fascism and socialism still aren’t opposites.

Diversity Of Thought

It’s the most important diversity, but the one that the Left absolutely will not tolerate.

One could easily dismiss these students as part of that long and glorious American tradition of smart young people saying stupid things. As Oscar Wilde remarked, “In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”

But we all know that this nonsense didn’t spring ex nihilo from their imaginations. As Allan Bloom showed a quarter century ago in The Closing of the American Mind, these ideas are taught.

Indeed, we are now up to our knees in this Orwellian bilge. Diversity means conformity.

And ignorance is strength.

Is Astrology Scientific?

So a lot of people have been discussing this paper, that shows that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to think that it is, but I question its results because the methodology seems flawed. They should have first asked the question: “Do you understnd the difference between astronomy and astrology?” Because there’s a possibility that some of the respondents were simply confused, and thinking the latter was the former. Which is a form of ignorance, but nowhere near as bad as knowing what astrology is and thinking it scientific.

Administrative Bloat And Astronomical Tuition

What to do about it:

Colleges and universities are nonprofits. When extra money comes in — as, until recently, has been the pattern — they can’t pay out excess profits to shareholders. Instead, the money goes to their effective owners, the administrators who hold the reins. As the Goldwater study notes, they get their “dividends” in the form of higher pay and benefits, and “more fellow administrators who can reduce their own workload or expand their empires.”

But with higher education now facing leaner years, and with students and parents unable to keep up with increasing tuition, what should be done? In short, colleges will have to rein in costs.

When asked what single step would do the most good, I’ve often responded semi-jokingly that U.S. News and World Report should adjust its college-ranking formula to reward schools with low costs and lean administrator-to-student ratios. But that’s not really a joke. Given schools’ exquisite sensitivity to the U.S. News rankings, that step would probably have more impact than most imaginable government regulations.

Something’s going to have to give.

Why Writers Are The Worst Procrastinators

An interesting (and dismaying) excerpt from Megan McArdle’s new book:

About six years ago, commentators started noticing a strange pattern of behavior among the young millennials who were pouring out of college. Eventually, the writer Ron Alsop would dub them the Trophy Kids. Despite the sound of it, this has nothing to do with “trophy wives.” Rather, it has to do with the way these kids were raised. This new generation was brought up to believe that there should be no winners and no losers, no scrubs or MVPs. Everyone, no matter how ineptly they perform, gets a trophy.

As these kids have moved into the workforce, managers complain that new graduates expect the workplace to replicate the cosy, well-structured environment of school. They demand concrete, well-described tasks and constant feedback, as if they were still trying to figure out what was going to be on the exam. “It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their egos,” one employer told Bruce Tulgan, the author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. “They walk in thinking they know more than they know.”

When I started asking around about this phenomenon, I was a bit skeptical. After all, us old geezers have been grousing about those young whippersnappers for centuries. But whenever I brought the subject up, I got a torrent of complaints, including from people who have been managing new hires for decades. They were able to compare them with previous classes, not just with some mental image of how great we all were at their age. And they insisted that something really has changed—something that’s not limited to the super-coddled children of the elite.

“I’ll hire someone who’s twenty-seven, and he’s fine,” says Todd, who manages a car rental operation in the Midwest. “But if I hire someone who’s twenty-three or twenty-four, they need everything spelled out for them, they want me to hover over their shoulder. It’s like somewhere in those three or four years, someone flipped a switch.” They are probably harder working and more conscientious than my generation. But many seem intensely uncomfortable with the comparatively unstructured world of work. No wonder so many elite students go into finance and consulting—jobs that surround them with other elite grads, with well-structured reviews and advancement.

Today’s new graduates may be better credentialed than previous generations, and are often very hardworking, but only when given very explicit direction. And they seem to demand constant praise. Is it any wonder, with so many adults hovering so closely over every aspect of their lives? Frantic parents of a certain socioeconomic level now give their kids the kind of intensive early grooming that used to be reserved for princelings or little Dalai Lamas.

All this “help” can be actively harmful. These days, I’m told, private schools in New York are (quietly, tactfully) trying to combat a minor epidemic of expensive tutors who do the kids’ work for them, something that would have been nearly unthinkable when I went through the system 20 years ago. Our parents were in league with the teachers, not us. But these days, fewer seem willing to risk letting young Silas or Gertrude fail out of the Ivy League.

The combination of the self-esteem movement and the demand for credentials has been a disaster.

The Rushdie Fatwa

It’s been a quarter of a century:

Most analyses of the Rushdie Rules focus exclusively on the growth of Islamism. But two other factors are even more important: Multiculturalism as practiced undercuts the will to sustain Western civilization against Islamist depredations while the Left’s making common political cause with Islamists gives the latter an entrée. In other words, the core of the problem lies not in Islam but in the West.

Yes, and there is a deep rot in our universities, as demonstrated by groups like the American Studies Association.

Should Americans Be Poorer?

Kevin Williamson takes on an idiot academic:

Labor is a resource, and American labor a particularly valuable one. Sensible people want Americans to work for the same reason that we want to make use of our natural gas and to irrigate California farmland: We want the country to be richer rather than poorer.

This sort of thing is utterly lost on Professor Hunnicutt, who produces from his pocket a particularly stale chestnut regarding Henry Ford, that he believed that paying higher wages was essential to “assuring adequate consumer demand.” I have often heard it said that Henry Ford was a genius for “paying his workers enough to afford his cars.” I very much doubt that Henry Ford believed any such thing, but perhaps he did; he believed a lot of crazy things. The actual history of Ford very strongly suggests that the firm paid market wages, higher than those paid by some similar firms largely because the company had difficulty keeping employees, who were quickly burnt out on its assembly lines. (Ford would sometimes see personnel turnover equivalent to the company’s entire work force in the course of a few months.) “Paid them enough to buy his cars” is a timeless, deathless myth, but it is economically illiterate on its face: Why doesn’t Ferrari pay its workers enough to buy Ferraris? Rolls-Royce? The belief that one can create a functioning consumer market for one’s own goods by overpaying for labor or any other input is magical thinking. But our academics have a weakness for magical thinking.

The newly organized anti-work faction for the most part is little more than the flashing of partisan gang signs: Obamacare apologists are abject, and there simply is no failing in the program that they will not attempt to defend. That is to be expected.

The real problem is that there are people who apparently actually believe this stuff. They have made an elementary conceptual error: National economies are not household economies. There are times in individuals’ lives when leisure becomes more valuable than the return from an additional hour’s work. We take vacations and retire for a reason. But you cannot put a national economy on vacation, much less retire it. To argue that Americans as a whole should work less is to argue that Americans should be poorer.

Yup. But it’s not like these people have even the most basic understanding of economics. They are stuck in the childishness of Marxism in their attitudes, even if they’ve never read a word of his works.

Che Guevara

…and the American (and other) idiots who admire him:

Che’s comrades and associates were equally ruthless. Venezuelan-born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, was trained in one of Che’s guerrilla camps outside Havana. He emerged from his studies a monster and became the most wanted terrorist on earth. “Bin Laden has followed a trail I myself blazed,” he said following Al Qaeda’s assault on New York and Washington. “I followed news of the September 11 attacks on the United States nonstop from the beginning. I can’t describe that wonderful feeling of relief.”

He is serving a life sentence in the French penal system for murder.

And yet anti-establishment young people all over the world have Che’s face on their walls and their T-shirts. Most of them don’t know anything real about the man they admire. They have no idea he was one of the most violently illiberal establishment figures in the Western Hemisphere’s history. They admire the image, which is and always has been a fraud.

Fontova quotes a Cuban exile who goes by the moniker Charlie Bravo who says Che’s fans in the West need a kick in the ass by reality. “I’d loved to have seen those Sorbonne and Berkeley and Berlin student protesters with their ‘groovy’ Che posters try their ‘anti-authority’ grandstanding in Cuba at the time. I’d love to have seen Che and his goons get their hands on them. They’d have gotten a quick lesson about the ‘fascism’ they were constantly complaining about—and firsthand. They would have quickly found themselves sweating and gasping from forced labor in Castros and Che’s concentration camps, or jabbed in the butt by ‘groovy’ bayonets when they dared slow down and perhaps getting their teeth shattered by a ‘groovy’ machine-gun butt if they adopted the same attitude in front of Che’s militia as they adopted in front of those campus cops.”

Of course, that’s not the only subject on which they need a kick in the ass by reality.

Read the whole thing, and be sure to hit Michael’s tip jar.

Obama Has A Point

Mark the day that Glenn Reynolds agrees with the president. I don’t think he goes far enough here, though:

Right now, too many people go to college by default, even if they don’t usually major in art history. College is a status symbol that many regard as essential to membership in the middle class, but now it’s a status symbol that requires a six-figure investment, often supported by student loans.

There’s nothing wrong with going to college, and there’s nothing wrong with liberal-arts majors, so long as they’re rigorous: The world does not enjoy a surplus of people who can think critically and write clearly, and America is certainly not overloaded with experts in foreign languages. The real problem is with non-rigorous majors, which are common. Those cost just as much, but leave their graduates no better off than when they entered, and often in debt to boot.

If they were only no better off, it wouldn’t be as bad, but many of them come out of the experience notably less educated and malinformed, in the sense that they have been indoctrinated into the nonsense that the faculty provides.

The Death Of The Humanities

Thoughts on the depths to which they’ve plunged, by classics professor Victor Davis Hanson:

…classical liberal education—despite the fashionable critique that it had never been disinterested—for a century was largely apolitical. Odysseus was critiqued as everyman, not an American CEO, a proto-Christian saint, or the caricature of white patriarchal privilege. Instead Homer made students of all races and classes and both genders think twice about the contradictions of the human experience: which is the greatest danger to civilization, the Lala land of the comfortable Lotus Eaters, or the brutal pre-polis savagery of the tribal Cyclopes? Telemachus was incidentally white, rich, and male, but essentially a youthful everyman coming of age, with all the angst and insecurities that will either overwhelm the inexperienced and lead to perpetual adolescence, or must be conquered on the path to adulthood. Odysseus towers among his lesser conniving and squabbling crewmen—but why then does his curiosity and audacity ensure that all his crewmen who hitch their star to the great man end up dead?

In the zero-sum game of the college curricula, what was crowded out over the last half-century was often the very sort of instruction that had once made employers take a risk in hiring a liberal arts major. Humanities students were more likely to craft good prose. They were trained to be inductive rather than deductive in their reasoning, possessed an appreciation of language and art, and knew the referents of the past well enough to put contemporary events into some sort of larger abstract context. In short, they were often considered ideal prospects as future captains of business, law, medicine, or engineering.

Not now. The world beyond the campus has learned that college students know how and why to take a political position but not how to defend it through logic and example. If employers are turned off by a lack of real knowledge, they are even more so when it is accompanied by zealousness. Ignorance and arrogance are a fatal combination.

Ignorance and arrogance is a deadly combo, as demonstrated by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Jobs And Technology

A good survey at The Economist on the coming tsunami on unskilled labor, for which no government is prepared. They’re right that the most important thing is to reform K through post-grad education, root and branch, but there are a lot of entrenched interests that will continue to fight that.