Category Archives: Education

Sweeping It Under The Carpet

I’ve been very disappointed in my alma mater, in its continuing racist efforts to give preferences to students not on the content of their character or quality of their academics, but purely on the color of their skin, not to mention its defiance of the law and Supreme Court rulings against this egregious behavior. It now turns out that, in an ongoing effort to continue to illegally discriminate, it has been withholding data and lying to the courts:

Before the UM clamped down on CIR’s request for data, Sander was able to confirm his earlier finding that the undergraduate system may have produced fewer harms than the law school system. For one thing, the newly-produced data showed that a substantial number of minorities with strong credentials attend the UM undergraduate college. These students could have been admitted without any consideration of race and presumably resisted offers from more competitive schools to attend the UM. It was thus possible for Sander to compare, for the first time, the academic records of UM undergraduate minorities who did not receive a racial preference with those who undoubtedly did.

According to Sander, there were dramatic differences between the two groups. Undergraduate blacks at the UM who were admitted without a preference had a graduation rate of 93% — higher than the rate for comparable white students, and far higher than the graduation rate of the school as a whole. In stark contrast, UM undergraduate blacks who received a preference had a graduation rate of 47%. If Sander is right, it raises a real question whether this latter group benefited from the UM’s heavy use of race or whether they would not have had better academic outcomes at less prestigious schools.

While Judge Lawson now has dismissed the case, the reason probably has less to do with the law and more to do with the what the evidence was starting to show about the real harms of the preferential admissions policies followed for years by the UM and other schools. For the time being, Judge Lawson has sidelined the effort to get a full decade’s worth of data as part of this litigation. But given what even three years worth of data seems to show, schools like Michigan will find it increasingly difficult to keep this data secret. If even the “holistic” use of race makes it difficult for minority students to compete academically, the moral and legal imperative to publicize and analyze this information becomes great.

This has done a real, damaging disservice to the minorities in whose supposed interest these misguided programs were designed. Instead of going to a school better suited to their abilities and succeeding, many of them flunk out in the face of the stiff competition in Ann Arbor or, if they make it through, fail the bar, when they may have been successful lawyers going to a second-tier law school. Of course, I suspect that the response of the geniuses who came up with this scheme would be to insist that they be given additional bar scores for their skin color to level the field…

In any event…

All of this is a far cry from last January when Mary Sue Coleman, Governor Granholm and the rest of the political establishment said they would keep Prop. 2 tied up in legal knots for years. While BAMN’s decision to sue seemed like a good idea last year, it’s a good idea that turned into their worst nightmare. Too bad for them.

Don’t look for any boo hoos from me. This seems like poetic justice.

This Would Be A Disaster

Academia has already been greatly damaged by post-modernists and an extreme leftist bias over the past few decades, but fortunately math and science have been spared, to date. Those days may be coming to an end, though, as Christina Hoff Sommers warns about the potential Title IXing of science, based (ironically) on shoddy science (similar to the “comparable worth” myth).

An End To Journalism Schools?

Let’s hope so. A key point that the author misses, though, is that one doesn’t really learn anything in them, other than how to report things. It’s a metadegree, like a degree in education (though not quite as bad).

One of the reasons that much reporting is so bad, and that many bloggers can run circles around so-called journalists, is that they actually have knowledge to impart, and they can usefully analyze events in a way that a generalist, or “journalist,” simply can’t.

The State Of Education In California

Lileks has some thoughts:

Of course, home-schooling Bolsheviks will have less reason to complain soon. “This bill would delete provisions that prohibit a teacher giving instruction in a school from teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism.” Apparently the teacher’s right to teach Communism trumps your right to school your kid yourself.

What a world. Sometimes, when I look at the educational system here–primary, secondary, college–I wonder if we really won the Cold War.

[Update mid morning]

Apparently the LA Times got the story wrong (What! Say it ain’t so!) about not allowing unaccredited parents to home school, so the situation in California is not as dire as originally thought in regard to home schoolers.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking on the part of the Times’ reporter and editor, since that paper has long been in the tank for the teachers’ union.

Mystery “Solved”

Scientists now have a plausible, and likely theory for what created the Burgess Shale:

By looking over hundreds of micro-thin slices of rock taken from the famous shales, the researchers have reconstructed the series of catastrophic underwater landslides of “mud-rich slurry” that killed tens of thousands of marine animals representing hundreds of species, then sealed them instantly – and enduringly – in a deep-sea tomb.

The mass death was “not a nice way to go, perhaps, but a swift one – and one that guaranteed immortality (of a sort) for these strange creatures,” said University of Leicester geochemist Sarah Gabbott, lead author of a study published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Geological Society.

I use the scare quote because that’s the word used in the headline. This kind of language, I think, is (at least partly) what bothers people who continue to rebel against evolution, and science. It is a certainty of language (like “fact,” rather than “theory”) that they consider hubristic, and arrogant. After all, when Sherlock Holmes “solved” a case, it generally was the last word, case closed.

In this case, what the word means is that scientists have come up with a plausible explanation for an event for which they’d been struggling to come up with one for a long time, and it is sufficiently plausible that there are few scientists who argue against it, thus presenting a consensus. Does it mean that they have “proven” that this is what happened? No. As I’ve written many times, science is not about proving things–scientists leave that to the mathematicians. What scientists do (ideally) is to posit theories that are both reasonable and disprovable, yet remain undisproved.

There may be some other explanation for what happened up in what is now Yoho National Park that corresponds better to what really happened, but until someone comes up with one that makes more sense, or comes up with some inconvenient indisputable fact that knocks this one down, it (like evolution itself) is what most scientists, particularly the ones who study such things for a living, will believe.

And of course, I won’t even get started on how upset some anti-science (and yes, that’s what they are, even if they don’t recognize it) types will get over the statement that one of the ancestors of humans is in that shale.

[Update a few minutes later]

Oh, the main point about which I put up this post. This is an excellent illustration of how rare are the circumstances in which we find the keys to our biological past. Those that demand that we cannot know the history of life until every creature has died on the body of its parents, perfectly preserved, are being unreasonable. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, we do science with the (rare) evidence that we have, not the evidence we’d like to have. There will always be many huge holes in the fabric of the evidence, barring the development of a time machine to the past. We simply do the best we can with what we have, and put together theories that best conform to it. To say that God (or whoever) did it isn’t science–it’s just a cop out. And that is true completely independently from the existence (or not) of God (or whoever).

Mystery “Solved”

Scientists now have a plausible, and likely theory for what created the Burgess Shale:

By looking over hundreds of micro-thin slices of rock taken from the famous shales, the researchers have reconstructed the series of catastrophic underwater landslides of “mud-rich slurry” that killed tens of thousands of marine animals representing hundreds of species, then sealed them instantly – and enduringly – in a deep-sea tomb.

The mass death was “not a nice way to go, perhaps, but a swift one – and one that guaranteed immortality (of a sort) for these strange creatures,” said University of Leicester geochemist Sarah Gabbott, lead author of a study published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Geological Society.

I use the scare quote because that’s the word used in the headline. This kind of language, I think, is (at least partly) what bothers people who continue to rebel against evolution, and science. It is a certainty of language (like “fact,” rather than “theory”) that they consider hubristic, and arrogant. After all, when Sherlock Holmes “solved” a case, it generally was the last word, case closed.

In this case, what the word means is that scientists have come up with a plausible explanation for an event for which they’d been struggling to come up with one for a long time, and it is sufficiently plausible that there are few scientists who argue against it, thus presenting a consensus. Does it mean that they have “proven” that this is what happened? No. As I’ve written many times, science is not about proving things–scientists leave that to the mathematicians. What scientists do (ideally) is to posit theories that are both reasonable and disprovable, yet remain undisproved.

There may be some other explanation for what happened up in what is now Yoho National Park that corresponds better to what really happened, but until someone comes up with one that makes more sense, or comes up with some inconvenient indisputable fact that knocks this one down, it (like evolution itself) is what most scientists, particularly the ones who study such things for a living, will believe.

And of course, I won’t even get started on how upset some anti-science (and yes, that’s what they are, even if they don’t recognize it) types will get over the statement that one of the ancestors of humans is in that shale.

[Update a few minutes later]

Oh, the main point about which I put up this post. This is an excellent illustration of how rare are the circumstances in which we find the keys to our biological past. Those that demand that we cannot know the history of life until every creature has died on the body of its parents, perfectly preserved, are being unreasonable. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, we do science with the (rare) evidence that we have, not the evidence we’d like to have. There will always be many huge holes in the fabric of the evidence, barring the development of a time machine to the past. We simply do the best we can with what we have, and put together theories that best conform to it. To say that God (or whoever) did it isn’t science–it’s just a cop out. And that is true completely independently from the existence (or not) of God (or whoever).

Mystery “Solved”

Scientists now have a plausible, and likely theory for what created the Burgess Shale:

By looking over hundreds of micro-thin slices of rock taken from the famous shales, the researchers have reconstructed the series of catastrophic underwater landslides of “mud-rich slurry” that killed tens of thousands of marine animals representing hundreds of species, then sealed them instantly – and enduringly – in a deep-sea tomb.

The mass death was “not a nice way to go, perhaps, but a swift one – and one that guaranteed immortality (of a sort) for these strange creatures,” said University of Leicester geochemist Sarah Gabbott, lead author of a study published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Geological Society.

I use the scare quote because that’s the word used in the headline. This kind of language, I think, is (at least partly) what bothers people who continue to rebel against evolution, and science. It is a certainty of language (like “fact,” rather than “theory”) that they consider hubristic, and arrogant. After all, when Sherlock Holmes “solved” a case, it generally was the last word, case closed.

In this case, what the word means is that scientists have come up with a plausible explanation for an event for which they’d been struggling to come up with one for a long time, and it is sufficiently plausible that there are few scientists who argue against it, thus presenting a consensus. Does it mean that they have “proven” that this is what happened? No. As I’ve written many times, science is not about proving things–scientists leave that to the mathematicians. What scientists do (ideally) is to posit theories that are both reasonable and disprovable, yet remain undisproved.

There may be some other explanation for what happened up in what is now Yoho National Park that corresponds better to what really happened, but until someone comes up with one that makes more sense, or comes up with some inconvenient indisputable fact that knocks this one down, it (like evolution itself) is what most scientists, particularly the ones who study such things for a living, will believe.

And of course, I won’t even get started on how upset some anti-science (and yes, that’s what they are, even if they don’t recognize it) types will get over the statement that one of the ancestors of humans is in that shale.

[Update a few minutes later]

Oh, the main point about which I put up this post. This is an excellent illustration of how rare are the circumstances in which we find the keys to our biological past. Those that demand that we cannot know the history of life until every creature has died on the body of its parents, perfectly preserved, are being unreasonable. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, we do science with the (rare) evidence that we have, not the evidence we’d like to have. There will always be many huge holes in the fabric of the evidence, barring the development of a time machine to the past. We simply do the best we can with what we have, and put together theories that best conform to it. To say that God (or whoever) did it isn’t science–it’s just a cop out. And that is true completely independently from the existence (or not) of God (or whoever).

An Evolutionary Golden Oldie

In light of the decision of my current home state, Florida, to teach evolution as “only a theory” (as though there’s something wrong with that), I thought that I’d repost a post from early on in the blog. You can no longer comment on it there, but you can here, if anyone is inclined. Here is the repost:

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The Jury Is In

In a post last week, amidst a lot of discussion of evolution, Orrin Judd made the mistaken claim that evolution is not a falsifiable theory (in the Popperian sense), and that (even more bizarrely and egregiously) defenders of it thought that this strengthened it.

On a related note, he also added to his list of questions about evolution a twelfth one: What would it take to persuade me that evolution was not the best theory to explain life? What evidence, to me, would disprove it? I told him that it was a good question, and that I’d ponder it.

Well, I did ponder it, and here is my response.

First of all, the theory is certainly falsifiable (again, in the theoretical Popperian formulation). If I were coming to the problem fresh, with no data, and someone proposed the theory of evolution to me, I would ask things like:

Does all life seem to be related at some level?

Is there a mechanism by which small changes can occur in reproduction?

Does this mechanism allow beneficial changes?

Can these changes in turn be passed on to the offspring?

Is there sufficient time for such changes to result in the variety of phenotypes that we see today?

There are other questions that could be asked as well, but a “No” answer to any of the above would constitute a falsification of the theory. Thus the theory is indeed falsifiable, as any useful scientific theory must be.

The problem is not that the theory isn’t falsifiable, but that people opposed to evolution imagine that the answer to some or all of the above questions is “No,” and that the theory is indeed false.

But to answer Orrin’s question, at this point, knowing the overwhelming nature of the existing evidentiary record, no, I can’t imagine any new evidence that would change my mind at this point. Any anomalies are viewed as that, and an explanation for them is to be looked for within the prevailing theory.

And lest you think me close minded, consider an analogy. An ex-football player’s wife is brutally murdered, with a friend. All of the evidence points to his guilt, including the DNA evidence. There is little/no evidence that points to anyone else’s guilt. Had I been on the jury that decided that case, it would have at least hung. I might have even persuaded a different verdict, but that’s unlikely, because I’m sure that the jury had members who were a) predisposed to acquit regardless of the evidence and/or b) incapable of critical thinking and logic, as evidenced by post-trial interviews with them.

But for me to believe that ex-football player innocent, I would have to accept the following (which was in fact the defense strategy):

“I know that some of the evidence looks bad for my client, but he was framed. And I can show that some of the evidence is faulty, therefore you should throw all of it out as suspect. I don’t have an alternate theory as to who did the murders, but that’s not my job–I’m just showing that there’s insufficient evidence to prove that my client did it. Someone else did it–no one knows who–it doesn’t matter. And that someone else, or some other someone else, also planted evidence to make it look like my client did it. It might be the most logical conclusion to believe that my client did it, but that would be wrong–the real conclusion is that it is a plot to confuse, and it just looks like he did it. Therefore you shouldn’t believe the evidence.”

Is this a compelling argument? It was to some of the jury members. And it apparently is to people who don’t want to believe that life could evolve as a random, undirected process.

The only way that I could believe that OJ Simpson is innocent at this point would be for someone else to come forward, admit to the crime, and explain how he planted all of the abundant evidence that indicated Orenthal’s guilt.

The equivalent for evolution, I guess, would be for God (or whoever) to reveal himself to me in some clear, unambiguous, and convincing fashion, and to tell me that he planted the evidence. At which point, of course, science goes right out the window.

But absent that, the evidence compels me to believe that OJ Simpson murdered his wife (as it did a later jury in the civil suit), and the evidence compels me to believe that evolution is as valid a theory as is universal gravitation.

An Argument For Home Schooling

Here we have something that might happen more often than you think: a retired teacher who was illiterate until the age of forty eight:

“When I was a child I was just sort of just moved along when I got to high school I wanted to participate in athletics. At that time in high school I went underground. I decided to behave myself and do what it took. I started cheating by turning in other peoples’ paper, dated the valedictorian, and ran around with college prep kids,” said Corcoran.

“I couldn’t read words but I could read the system and I could read people,” adds Corcoran.

He stole tests and pursuaded friends to complete his assignments. Corcoran earned an athletic scholarship to Texas Western College. He said his cheating intensified, claiming he cheated in every class.

“I passed a bluebook out the window to a friend I painstakingly copied four essay questions off the board in U.S. government class that was required, and hoped my friend would get it back to me with the right answers,” Corcoran said.

In 1961, Corcoran graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education, while still illiterate he contends. He then went on to become a teacher during a teacher shortage.

“When I graduated from the university, the school district in El Paso, where I went to school, gave almost all the college education graduates a job,” said Corcoran.

What does this say about:

  • His primary school?
  • His high school?
  • The college that accepted him?
  • Schools of “Education” in general?
  • The school in which he taught for seventeen years?

He isn’t impressed:

In retrospect, Corcoran said, his deceit took him a long time to accept.

“As a teacher it really made me sick to think that I was a teacher who couldn’t read. It is embarrassing for me, and it’s embarrassing for this nation and it’s embarrassing for schools that we’re failing to teach our children how to read, write and spell!”

No kidding.