Category Archives: Education

Why I Have A Blog

To get past the gatekeepers.

I put up a(n admittedly semi-snarky) comment at Keith Cowing’s place yesterday, and he chose not to publish it (his comments section is moderated) for whatever reason. His blog, his call.

It was in response to “NASAAstronomer’s” comment that:

…if McCain and Palin win, we’ll be teaching creationism in our science classes, so how likely is it that space science will get funded?

My (unpublished until now) response:

Yes.

Right. I’m sure that will be one of their first acts, to mandate the teaching of creationism in science classes.

Can you explain to me how that works exactly? Will it be an executive order, or what?

This kind of Palin derangement is amazing. Lileks noticed it, too:

Here’s your Sarah Palin overreaction of the day. Presumably she took out the entrails, dried them, and used them to lynch librarians. It’s really obvious, isn’t it? She wants to kill Lady Liberty and all she represents. The plane is included in the picture because she personally shoots polar bears from above, like she’s GOD OR SOMETHING. The comments have the usual reasoned evaluations – she’s a PSYCHO, a LUNATIC. That picture is so sad and so true.

I don’t know if anyone’s stated the obvious yet, but this might be the first time people have become unhinged in advance over a vice-presidential candidate. Not to say some aren’t painting McCain as something the devil blurted out in a distracted moment during his daily conference call with Cheney, but a Veep? It took a while for people to believe that Cheney commissioned private snuff films with runaways dressed up to resemble a portion of the Bill of Rights, but Palin is She-Wolf of the Tundra right off the bat. And god help us she can use email, which means she will control the government. The most Spy ever did with Quayle was stick him in a dunce hat. By the time we reach the election Oliphant will probably draw Palin sodomizing by an oil derrick with guns for arms. I have to confess: I think Palin is an interesting politician, but the people she’s driving batty are much more fascinating.

Imagine twelve years of this.

Yes.

Well, we’ve survived eight years of BDS. I suspect that we’ll pull through a swamp of PDS.

Where Is The Pencil Czar?

George Will has more on economic ignorance:

The indignant student, who had first gone to Home Depot for a flashlight, says it “didn’t try to rip us off.” It was, however, out of flashlights. Ruth suggests that the reason Big Box had flashlights was that its prices were high. If prices were left at regular levels, the people who would have got the flashlights would have been those who got to the store first. With the higher prices, “someone who had candles at home decided to do without the flashlight and left it there for you on the shelf.” Neither Home Depot nor the student who was angry at Big Box had benefited from Home Depot’s price restraint.

Capitalism, Ruth reminds him, is a profit and loss system.Corfam–Du Pont’s fake leather that made awful shoes in the 1960s–and the Edsel quickly vanished. But, Ruth notes, “the post office and ethanol subsidies and agricultural price supports and mediocre public schools live forever.” They are insulated from market forces; they are created, in defiance of those forces, by government, which can disregard prices, which means disregarding the rational allocation of resources. To disrupt markets is to tamper with the unseen source of the harmony that is all around us.

The spontaneous emergence of social cooperation–the emergence of a system vastly more complex, responsive and efficient than any government could organize–is not universally acknowledged or appreciated. It discomforts a certain political sensibility, the one that exaggerates the importance of government and the competence of the political class.

Yes, an exaggeration that is reinforced by the propaganda inculcated into people by government schools.

Economic Ignorami

George Bush’s announcement this morning that the administration was concerned about “gouging” reminded me of why I wish that we’d had better options in the last two elections (and still do). I expect that kind of nonsense from Democrats, but you’d think that someone who was supposedly a businessman would know better. Or perhaps he does, and is just pandering. I’m not sure which is worse.

Every time we have a natural disaster like this, this idiotic topic comes up, and we once again have to explain Econ 101 to the products of our public school system, probably in futility. This time, it’s Rich Hailey’s turn.

Here’s what I wrote about it a three years ago, in the wake of Katrina.

[Update late morning]

Jeez, I thought that David Asman was smarter than that. Now he’s telling Fox viewers to take pictures of stations with high gas prices so that they can be reported to authorities. It’s hard for me to believe that Neal Cavuto would do that.

[Another update a minute or so later]

You know, I think that this is an explanation for socialism and collectivism’s continuing grip on the public mind, despite its long history of unending failure. There’s just something in human psychology to which it naturally appeals, and rationality just can’t break through. It just “feels” unfair for prices to go up in an emergency, regardless of the demonstrably bad consequences of attempting to legislate them.

[Late afternoon update]

Shannon Love explains how the gas station business works:

I’ll say it one more time for those who can’t be bothered to actually ask someone who owns a gas station. Gas stations set prices for the gas they sell today based on the wholesale price of the gas they will have to buy to replace it. Get it? The price you pay for a gallon today is the cost of the gallon the station will have buy to replace the one you just bought.

Gas stations sell gas at or near cost, so if they did not use replacement pricing any sudden spike in gas prices would shut them down and you couldn’t get any gas. I simply do not know why our public and private talking heads cannot understand and communicate this simple fact.

Because either they don’t know it, or they think that people don’t want to hear it. They operate on razor-thin margins, and can’t afford to hand out subsidized gas as charity, even if that wouldn’t screw up the market. And note, for those who say it’s “big oil” that is “maximizing profits” in the face of a national emergency, even if that were true (it’s not) “big oil” isn’t threatened with jail for “gouging.” It’s the gas station owner, who has no control over his wholesale gas costs. So people who demand that we crack down on gougers are essentially demanding that the station operators either operate at a loss, or pay fines, or go to jail. I don’t know why anyone would want to be in that business in the face of so much public ignorance about it.

Organize This

(Democrat) Sandra Tsing Lo writes that the Obamas should have been more supportive of their local school system:

it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year). The school’s Web site quotes all that ridiculous John Dewey nonsense about developing character while, of course, isolating your children from the poor. A pox on them and, while we’re at it, a pox on John Dewey! I’m sick to death of those inspirational Dewey quotes littering the Web sites of $20,000-plus-a-year private schools, all those gentle duo-tone-photographed murmurings about “building critical thinking and fostering democratic citizenship” in their cherished students, living large on their $20,000-a-year island.

Meanwhile, Joseph Biden, the Amtrak senator, standing up boldly for the right to be a Roman Catholic, appears to have sent all three children to the lovely looking Archmere Academy in Delaware. Archmere’s Web site notes some public school districts allow Archmere students to use public school buses. Well, isn’t that great — your tax dollars at work in the great state of Delaware because with $18,000 a year in tuition, they can’t afford their own buses.

Public schools are for the little people, to be run as the teachers’ unions desire, and according to John Dewey’s toxic design.

Rewiring Our Brains?

Is the Internet changing the way we think?

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going–so far as I can tell–but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

It’s anecdotal, but I’ve noticed the same thing. I used to read many more books (and magazines, such as The Economist) than I do now. Almost all of my reading occurs on line, and I am much less able to focus than I used to be. But it’s not clear whether this is an effect of aging, or new habits. More the latter, I suspect.

Why I Like Reading Blogs

I hadn’t thought about it before until I saw this post by Kate Woodbury, but it’s because blog posts contain a lot of the words “I” and “me.”

Since “no first-person” inevitably results in bad writing (an overabundance of passive voice; the use of “one” or “student” instead of “I”), I always tell my students, “You may use first-person in my class. In other classes, check with the instructor.”

I never thought much about WHY teachers were telling students this. I vaguely remember someone telling me not to use first-person, and I vaguely remember ignoring that someone; other than that, it didn’t seem like an important issue.

However, I recently discovered at least one reason teachers ban first-person: prevented from using first-person, students will set aside me-centered thinking and use credible evidence; that is, rather than saying, “I think this, thus it is true,” students will write, “According to expert X . . .”

I don’t buy this argument; in fact, I think banning first-person usage ends up doing more damage than good. If the problem is the lack of expert/credible sources in students’ writing, not using first-person doesn’t solve the problem; it just covers it up. After all, a first-person’s account could be more credible than an “expert’s” account. I’d much rather read a student’s personal/eyewitness account of 9/11 than a thousand third-person conspiracy theories.

The key is in the first sentence. Being forced to write in third person often results in stilted, boring prose. Unfortunately, the modern journalistic ethos, probably hammered into them in J-School, is that “objective” news stories must be written third person. This is why good bloggers (even taking away the bias) write far better and more readable pieces, than most conventional journalists. They don’t have to do it with one “I” tied behind their back.

[Via her post on liberal fascism and Calvinism]