Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More Common Core

More reasons not to like it:
Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked. The report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

No member of the Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language and only one held a doctorate in math. He was one of only three members with extensive experience writing standards. Two of the three refused to sign off on the standards...

Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram, the only member of the Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, said that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing countries. Milgram also wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
You can't hide the smell of doggy-doo forever.

Should Every Kid Go To College?

If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college? Wouldn’t the nation be better off if at some point it said to these young people, “you can go to college if you want, but we’re not paying for it”?
Read the whole thing here.

How Could Race Possibly Matter In This Case?

I received an email at school the other day.  Here's a snip:
On behalf of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), I am pleased to share with you an opportunity for practicing educators and educator preparation faculty to participate in standard setting activities for the following CSET tests that have been updated to align with the Common Core State Standards:

* CSET: English
* CSET: Mathematics
* CSET: Multiple Subjects

We are currently in the process of establishing three independent Subject Matter Advisory Panels to convene in Sacramento in September/October of 2014. During these conferences, pre-K-adult educators and educator preparation faculty will make recommendations that will be used by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standards for the updated tests, CSET: English, CSET: Mathematics, and CSET: Multiple Subjects...

The involvement of California educators who are representative of the state's diversity is critical to the success of each examination program. This involvement helps to ensure fair and accurate testing that confirms candidates have the knowledge and skills needed to perform the job of an educator in California public schools.
We all know that "diversity" means race--it certainly doesn't mean political persuasion!  Is the implication here that people of different races somehow need different "knowledge and skills...to perform the job of an educator in California public schools"?

Raping Mother Gaia

I consider myself a conservationist, not an environmentalist.  I don't know what this guy is, but his letter to his daughter's teacher is very interesting:
A US economics professor has published the letter he wrote to his daughter's schoolteacher explaining why he doesn't want his girl indoctrinated in the green religion. Steven Landsburg, a professor at Rochester, NY, included it as part of a longer essay in which he calls environmentalism a "coercive ideology" targeted specifically at children...
I quote now from his letter:
When we lived in Colorado, Cayley was the only Jewish child in her class. There were also a few Moslems. Occasionally, and especially around Christmas time, the teachers forgot about this diversity and made remarks that were appropriate only for the Christian children. These remarks came rarely, and were easily counteracted at home with explanations that different people believe different things, so we chose not to say anything at first. We changed our minds when we overheard a teacher telling a group of children that if Santa didn't come to your house, it meant you were a very bad child; this was within earshot of an Islamic child who certainly was not going to get a visit from Santa. At that point, we decided to share our concerns with the teachers. They were genuinely apologetic and there were no more incidents. I have no doubt that the teachers were good and honest people who had no intent to indoctrinate, only a certain naïveté derived from a provincial upbringing.

Perhaps that same sort of honest naïveté is what underlies the problems we've had at the JCC this year. Just as Cayley's teachers in Colorado were honestly oblivious to the fact that there is diversity in religion, it may be that her teachers at the JCC have been honestly oblivious that there is diversity in politics.

Let me then make that diversity clear. We are not environmentalists. We ardently oppose environmentalists. We consider environmentalism a form of mass hysteria akin to Islamic fundamentalism or the War on Drugs. We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights.

The preceding paragraph is intended to serve the same purpose as announcing to Cayley's Colorado teachers that we are not Christians. Some of them had never been aware of knowing anybody who was not a Christian, but they adjusted pretty quickly.

Once the Colorado teachers understood that we and a few other families did not subscribe to the beliefs that they were propagating, they instantly apologized and stopped. Nobody asked me what exactly it was about Christianity that I disagreed with; they simply recognized that they were unlikely to change our views on the subject, and certainly had no business inculcating our child with opposite views.

I contrast this with your reaction when I confronted you at the preschool graduation. You wanted to know my specific disagreements with what you had taught my child to say. I reject your right to ask that question. The entire program of environmentalism is as foreign to us as the doctrine of Christianity.
He's not saying you shouldn't recycle if you want to. He's saying you shouldn't force it on him.  In this case I don't see the harm of "live and let live".

I'm Surprised It Took This Long

The San Francisco Bay isn't so large, I'm surprised it took over 120 years to come upon this wreck:
The first images of the newly discovered wreckage of a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888, killing 16 people, were released Wednesday by federal ocean scientists.

The iron and wood steamship City of Chester went down on Aug. 22, 1888, after it was struck in dense fog by a larger ship...

More than 125 years later, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team found the shipwreck in 217 feet of water just inside the Golden Gate Bridge while the scientists were charting shipping channels.
I wish the article had linked to the images!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Global Warming

A couple days ago I wrote this post, which attracted the usual rantings of the lefties.  I pause, sigh, and move on.

Today I came across two related articles.  The first, from Gallup:
Over the past decade, Americans have clustered into three broad groups on global warming. The largest, currently describing 39% of U.S. adults, are what can be termed "Concerned Believers" -- those who attribute global warming to human actions and are worried about it. This is followed by the "Mixed Middle," at 36%. And one in four Americans -- the "Cool Skeptics" -- are not worried about global warming much or at all.
After more than a decade of beating the drums louder and louder, why are the members of the Church of Global Warming not having a greater impact on changing the minds of Americans?  Maybe because, for far more than a decade, we've heard the same Chicken Littles too many times:
On the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article in the May 2000 edition of Reason Magazine titled “Earth Day, Then and Now.” In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article.  Well, now that more than 40 years have passed, how accurate were those predictions around the time of the first Earth Day? Wrong, spectacularly wrong, and here are 18 examples...
I wrote here about several apocalyptic scares that have occurred just in my lifetime.  Here's why I'm skeptical about apocalypes:
What do they all have in common? Several things.

1. They all required immense, immediate governmental action,
2. action favored by leftists,
3. action that would have a seriously adverse effect on the global economy and prosperity,
4. to forestall apocalyptic consequences.
5. None of them happened.

Is it any wonder I'm skeptical about the claims of the Church of Global Warming?

NOT The Recommended Way To Become A Math Wiz

Some are born with it.  Some have to work at it.  Some are both.  But a bar fight?
Padgett’s world is bursting with mathematical patterns. He is one of a few people in the world who can draw approximations of fractals, the repeating geometric patterns that are building blocks of everything in the known universe, by hand. Tree leaves outside his window are evidence of Pythagoras’ theorem. The arc that light makes when it bounces off his car proves the power of pi.

He sees the parts that make up the whole. And his world is never boring, never without amazement. Even his dreams are made up of geometry.

“I can barely remember a time,” the 43-year-old says, “when I saw the world the way most everyone else does.”

Flash back 12 years: Padgett had dropped out of Tacoma (Wash.) Community College, and was a self-described “goof” with zero interest in academics, let alone math. The only time he dealt in numbers was to track the hours until his shift ended at his father’s furniture store, tally up his bar tab, or count bicep curls at the gym.

With his mullet, leather vest open to a bare chest, and skintight pants, he was more like a high-school student stuck in the 1980s — even though it was 2002, and he was a 31-year-old with a daughter...

Party time came to end the night of Friday, Sept. 13, 2002, at a karaoke bar near his home. There, two men attacked him from behind, punching him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.

He fell to the ground as the two men punched and kicked him, stopping only when he handed over his worthless jacket...

The next morning, while running the water in the bathroom, he noticed “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow. At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared.”
Wild.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Poetry

I'm not saying that, if I were elected world dictator, I'd ban poetry, but I myself certainly never really understood it:
However, discussing a poem can turn into an “in-class disembowelment of a poem’s meaning,” Simmons concedes.  Teachers are encouraged to teach a “process of demystification” rather than “curating a powerful experience through literature.”
Just say what you mean.   If people have to try to divine what you mean, then you're not communicating clearly.  You can communicate using imagery and emotion, but your meaning should still be clear.  Sheesh.

Global Warming Consensus

You can kick and scream, call him a denier, and make faux appeals to authority--but where is this guy wrong?
But these are my personal opinions and I preside over an organization that takes no official position on climate change. The National Association of Scholars isn't a body that can weigh the substantive merits of competing scientific models. We are referees, concerned that all sides play by the rules, not goalkeepers, much less goalmakers. And we have members who have diverse opinions about whether, how much, and where from climate change happens.

That diversity, of course, is nearly unheard of in the academy itself, where a hardened orthodoxy is enforced with increasing determination. The enforcement itself tells a story. No one has to enforce an orthodoxy on plate tectonics, quantum theory, or Andrew Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. All of these were once controversial. Wile's original proof was shown to be defective. He fixed it. The theories advanced by the accumulation of hard evidence and the rigor of the analysis.

In my own field, anthropology, I have lived through the replacement of "consensus" on the idea that the makers of the so-called Clovis spear points, which go back 13,500 years, were the first Native Americans. The "Clovis First" theory always had doubters but it dominated from the 1930s until 1999, when archaeologists in large numbers accepted the evidence of older populations. Likewise, there was a long-established consensus that Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens did not successfully interbreed--though here too there were always some dissenters. We now know for a certainty (based on the successful sequencing of the Neanderthal genome) that our species did indeed mix, and modern Europeans carry a percent or two of Neanderthal genes.

In time, scientific controversies get resolved, often by the emergence of new kinds of evidence that no one originally imagined. Views that are maintained, to some degree, by a wall of artificial "consensus" die hard. That, of course, was one of the lessons of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which inaugurated the long vogue for the word "paradigm" to describe a broadly accepted theory. Kuhn's work has often served as a warrant for those who see science as a social project amenable to political manipulation rather than an intellectual endeavor with strict standards of evidence and built-in mechanisms for correcting mistakes.

Thus when the "anthropogenic global warming" (AGW) folks insist that they command a "consensus" of climate scientists, they fully understand that they are engaged in a political act. They intend to summon the social and political dynamics that will create a "consensus," by defining the skeptics as a disreputable minority that need not even be counted. It is a big gamble since a substantial number of the skeptics are themselves well-established and highly respected scientists, such as MIT's Richard Lindzen, Princeton's Will Happer, and Institute of Advanced Studies' Freeman Dyson. But conjuring a new "paradigm" out of highly ambiguous data run through simulation computer models is tricky business and isn't likely to produce a "consensus" all on its own.

What's needed is the stamp of authority. And if that doesn't work, just keep stamping. Or stomping.
The author is president of the National Association of Scholars.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Female Vocalist CD

I never did get around to making a "summer music" CD last year, but oh well, I'm on to a new project.  I'd like to make a "women vocalists" CD, and here are the songs I'm tentatively considering:

Lorde--Royals
Cranberries--Zombie
10000 Maniacs--These Are Days
Adele--Set Fire to the Rain
Tracy Chapman--Change

Any recommendations in a similar vein?

Economics

Good points:
Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.
1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.
2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.
3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.
4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.
5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.
6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.
7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.
8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.
9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).
10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.
11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).
12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

Legos and Statistics

How well are Lego's designed?  And how constant is that design over the last 40 years?  This article answers all!  Means, standard devs, histograms, and regression lines--cool!
Here is the plan. Use a micrometer (the tool, not the unit) to measure the width of 2 bump LEGO blocks. Plot a histogram of the different sizes. Just to be clear, the micrometer is a tool that measures small sizes – around a millimeter to 20 millimeters. This particular one has markings down to 0.01 mm – for my measurements, I will estimate the size to 0.001 millimeters. Oh, one more point. There are lots of pieces that are two LEGO dots. For this data, I am mostly using 2 x 1 and 2 x 2 pieces. I will assume that both have the same size in the 2 bump direction.

Here is my first set of data...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Killed Off The Mastadons?

Mastodons roamed North America within human history.  What, in the absence of SUVs and coal-fired power plants, killed them off?
Mastodons -- elephant-like beasts that lumbered across North America more than 10,000 years ago -- are long extinct, but apparently it wasn't tooth decay that did them in.

A 9-year-old Michigan boy stumbled across something -- literally -- that, it turns out, is a mastodon tooth.
Something killed them all off.  I wonder what it could have been.

Climate changes.  It just does.  Sucks to be a mastodon.

Graduation Speakers

I get tired of stories of graduation speakers who get "disinvited" because some group of whiners decides that person isn't "worthy" enough to speak to them.  In other words, they disagree with something that person did or said, they pitch a fit, and then they get the (usually a) university to disinvite that person and choose someone else.

On my CNN phone app this morning I saw an article about Michelle Obama's planning to address high school graduates on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling.  Oddly enough I can't find that article after the briefest of searches on CNN's web site, but I found it on FoxNews.  It's from the AP, though, so it should satisfy lefties:
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day.

"I'm a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself," said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. "I've told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They've taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn't know our kids."
I view this as a legitimate concern of parents.  Graduation is about parents and their kids and their families; if having a certain speaker detracts too much from that, then that speaker should be cut.

In addition to the reduction in seats, can you imagine the other issues involved?  For example, having to arrive hours early just to get through labyrinthine security?  Parking and traffic?  What about anti-Obama protesters outside your kid's graduation?

No, this isn't the place for Michelle Obama.  It's reasonable that she should make a speech honoring the anniversary of Brown, but this is not the best venue in which to give that speech.  And before some whiny leftie throws out that I'm just anti-Obama and that's why I'm against her speech, let me share a little bit of my own history.

During my three underclass years at West Point, President Reagan never addressed a graduation.  I think we had Vice President Bush twice, but not President Reagan.  We thought for sure it was our turn.  The date and time of our graduation had been planned for years, and with that all the flight, train, and hotel reservations and days off work for the families and friends of over 1000 graduates.  President Reagan couldn't make our scheduled graduation date, though, but could if we rescheduled graduation for a few days later.  It was put up to us to decide, and we voted overwhelmingly to keep graduation when it was.  We got the retiring Army Chief of Staff as a speaker instead.

Our families came first.  That's what graduation is for.

Update, 4/20/14:  I take back the line above about "anti-Obama protestors".  We can't let protestors have a heckler's veto over graduation speakers--that's what I usually deplore, and should not have included it here.  In fact, protestors should be kept far enough away so that they do not disrupt the event.  They can have their free speech but they cannot prevent the free speech of others.

Update #2, 4/24/14This is the right decision:
First lady Michelle Obama is scrapping her plans to deliver a graduation speech for high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., after hundreds signed a petition in protest.

Instead of delivering a graduation speech, Obama will speak before the school district the day before graduation, and will deliver remarks at a "Senior Recognition Day."

More than 1,750 people had signed a petition protesting the first lady's appearance at the graduation ceremony, angered that security concerns would limit the number of friends and family who could attend...

The first lady's address is meant to commemorate the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Break Is Almost Over

A friend and I went up to the Gold Country today.  I didn't take any pictures at Empire Mine State Park but did get a couple in Grass Valley and Nevada City:
click to enlarge
 Old-school movie house in Grass Valley


Art deco in tiny Nevada City.  I love the "Pac-man font"!




Spring has definitely arrived in Nevada City.

More art deco Pac-man.  I'll bet these buildings were Depression-era public works projects.

Nevada City's own little version of San Francisco's Painted Ladies....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Ineffective Is This President?

His frequent "pivots" to jobs and/or the economy are proof that his "pivots" haven't worked:

He's as effective as Ross is here:

"I don't think it's gonna pivot anymore."  "You think?"

The Fundamental Division In US Politics

In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.

The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected. 
George Will is a pretty bright guy.
The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights. 

Creativity

It's not that I think creativity is overrated--it's vitally important.  However, except in some forms of art, creativity without any knowledge is kind of a waste, don't you think?

I don't know if the author of the tweet below intended to be ironic or not, but I found the comment not only funny but deep.  The idea on the thread was to come up with the plotline for education-related movies, here's one that made me laugh:
"The world's scientists are debilitated by disease; laypeople race against time to cure them using only creativity."
When it's important we care about genuine content knowledge, don't we?

Blame The School?

I have this conversation with students sometimes:  is it the school that compels you to take 4 AP classes at the same time?  Is it the school that schedules so many non-academic activities?  Is it the school that has you compete in multiple sports?

I have no doubt it's the school, backed up by the parents, that tells you that you must go to college.  But the school only provides opportunities for pressure, for the most part it's others who apply that pressure.

That's why I get fired up when people talk about the school when kids kill themselves:
His death is one of six apparent suicides at Fairfax’s W.T. Woodson High School during the past three years, including another student found dead the next day. The toll has left the school community reeling and prompted an urgent question: Why would so many teens from a single suburban school take their lives?
I don't think it's the school.  I think it's the community.
“There is too much stress in my life from school and the environment it creates, expectations for sports, expectations from my friends and expectations from my family,” Jack wrote. He ended with a simple: “Goodbye.”
School is the focus of a teenager's life.  Perhaps we need to clarify what is meant by "the school".  When I use that term, in general I'm referring to the adults who run it as opposed to the students who inhabit it.  Jack's list above indicates to me that school was a nexus for expectations from everybody in his life, not just the adults at his school.
Many wonder if there is a common thread. A number of parents and students said they worry about the fierce competition for limited spots in the state’s prestigious public university system.
This college arms race has got to stop.  We, the adults at school as well as the adults in the community, have got to stop insinuating, or even saying outright, that if you don't get into such-and-such a university, or any university at all, you won't be successful in life.  We've got to stop this masquerade of "college and career prep" wherein everyone has to go to some type of college, and some have to go to a Tier 1 school or be left behind.  That last one falls firmly on "the school's" shoulders

Kids get involved in that arms race because of adults.  Adults can look around all day and try to figure out why kids are killing themselves, but in this community it seems clear to me that the answer lies in the mirror.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome, Visitors!

It's interesting to check the Statcounter sometimes and see where visitors are coming from.  Consider these two:
click to enlarge

At first I thought, could these two places be any more different?  Then I realized they both involve "goofy".

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I'll be here all week!  Be sure to tip your waiters and  waitresses.

The SAT and Intelligence

Having a high enough SAT score from "back in the day" can get you into Mensa, so the smart people have some faith in the SAT as an intelligence test.  There's plenty of evidence that such faith is merited:
The College Board—the standardized testing behemoth that develops and administers the SAT and other tests—has redesigned its flagship product again. Beginning in spring 2016, the writing section will be optional, the reading section will no longer test “obscure” vocabulary words, and the math section will put more emphasis on solving problems with real-world relevance. Overall, as the College Board explains on its website, “The redesigned SAT will more closely reflect the real work of college and career, where a flexible command of evidence—whether found in text or graphic [sic]—is more important than ever.”

A number of pressures may be behind this redesign. Perhaps it’s competition from the ACT, or fear that unless the SAT is made to seem more relevant, more colleges will go the way of Wake Forest, Brandeis, and Sarah Lawrence and join the “test optional admissions movement,” which already boasts several hundred members. Or maybe it’s the wave of bad press that standardized testing, in general, has received over the past few years.

Critics of standardized testing are grabbing this opportunity to take their best shot at the SAT. They make two main arguments. The first is simply that a person’s SAT score is essentially meaningless—that it says nothing about whether that person will go on to succeed in college. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and longtime standardized testing critic, wrote in Time that the SAT “needs to be abandoned and replaced"...

Along the same lines, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in The New Yorker that “the SAT measures those skills—and really only those skills—necessary for the SATs.”

But this argument is wrong. The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a “complex portrait” of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an “astonishing achievement.”) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just first-year college GPA that SAT scores predict. In a four-year study that started with nearly 3,000 college students, a team of Michigan State University researchers led by Neal Schmitt found that test score (SAT or ACT—whichever the student took) correlated strongly with cumulative GPA at the end of the fourth year. If the students were ranked on both their test scores and cumulative GPAs, those who had test scores in the top half (above the 50th percentile, or median) would have had a roughly two-thirds chance of having a cumulative GPA in the top half. By contrast, students with bottom-half SAT scores would be only one-third likely to make it to the top half in GPA.

Test scores also predicted whether the students graduated: A student who scored in the 95th percentile on the SAT or ACT was about 60 percent more likely to graduate than a student who scored in the 50th percentile. Similarly impressive evidence supports the validity of the SAT’s graduate school counterparts: the Graduate Record Examinations, the Law School Admissions Test, and the Graduate Management Admission Test. A 2007 Science article summed up the evidence succinctly: “Standardized admissions tests have positive and useful relationships with subsequent student accomplishments.”

SAT scores even predict success beyond the college years...

The second popular anti-SAT argument is that, if the test measures anything at all, it’s not cognitive skill but socioeconomic status...It’s true that economic background correlates with SAT scores. Kids from well-off families tend to do better on the SAT. However, the correlation is far from perfect. In the University of Minnesota study of nearly 150,000 students, the correlation between socioeconomic status, or SES, and SAT was not trivial but not huge. (A perfect correlation has a value of 1; this one was .25.) What this means is that there are plenty of low-income students who get good scores on the SAT; there are even likely to be low-income students among those who achieve a perfect score on the SAT.
A correlation of .25 is very small.
What this all means is that the SAT measures something—some stable characteristic of high school students other than their parents’ income—that translates into success in college. And what could that characteristic be? General intelligence.
As the SAT is changed from an intelligence test to more of an achievement test, its primary usefulness is diluted.

There's plenty more in the article, including much about IQ and intelligence, and I encourage you to go read the whole thing.  Very interesting.

'Murica

I have a foreign exchange student who is just great to have in class.  He's very bright, very interesting, and fun to be around.

Several months ago I suggested that if he truly wanted to experience America, he should shoot some firearms.  Today we went to the range :-)  He was a pretty good shot on the .22 rifle we took--but what was cool was that the guy on the range next to us let him fire off a few shots on a 9mm pistol and a .357 Magnum!

Afterwards we went to Marie Calendar's and had some apple pie.  We did not, however, contrary to my previous plans, sing God Bless America.  I still think he had an American experience today.

If his host doesn't take him, perhaps some weekend I'll take him to the Gold Discovery Site at Coloma.  It's California in a way that San Francisco and Hollywood and surfing are not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's One Thing To Think About It, It's Another To Do It

We've probably all had that thought; sometimes, some people just need a butt-kicking.  And while that atavistic thought is no doubt normal, most of us are smart enough not to act on it:
Florida’s St. Lucie County School Board officially fired veteran teacher Dru Dehart after their investigation found that she encouraged six 8th grade students to beat up 7th grader Radravious Williams, WPTV NewsChannel 5 reports...

Darrisaw (the boy's mother) added, "[Dehart’s] remarks was, 'I got my eighth grade boys on you. You're not so tough now"...

WPEC CBS 12 spoke to Radravious’ parents about the board’s decision. “Through the entire situation and even when I got the news, I wasn’t, it’s no congratulations on ether side, because she's suffering and my son is still suffering," said Latasha Darrisaw. “As a person, as any parent, you want some kind of apology. But I guess we’ll get that whenever she’s ready.”

You Think Martin Bashir or Keith Olbermann Are Nice People?

I guess it's possible, but I don't see any stories like these about them.  Then again, they don't allow conservatives on MSNBC:
In the fall of 2013, I gave a TED talk on what I learned as a progressive, on-air talking head at Fox News, where I worked for two years before leaving and joining my current home, CNN. After all, one of the most frequent questions I was asked during my time at Fox was how I did it, how I was a fox in the henhouse – or a hen in the Fox house, if you will.

The questions came mostly from fellow liberals who had not watched much Fox News but had seen the most outlandish clips of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity that had made it to "The Daily Show" or YouTube. They perhaps imagined that walking down the hallway outside makeup, Mr. O'Reilly might yell then, too, instead of just saying hello. That's a funny notion, but it couldn't be further from the truth.
 
My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life. As I said in my TED talk, Sean Hannity is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet – and even now that I've parted ways with Fox, he remains a good friend and mentor.

For a radical progressive who once harbored negative stereotypes about folks on the right, it was a turning point for me to meet people such as Mr. Hannity, Karl Rove, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and so many others, and see that – though we certainly disagree profoundly on political issues – they're personable and kind and human. Just like me.

I'm In A Profession of Idiots

Anyone want to defend the role of the school, the cops, or the courts in this one?  Misplaced faith in these fields does untold damage to our nation:
Here comes another story highlighting the danger of schools "outsourcing" their disciplinary problems to law enforcement. As we've stated before, this does nothing more than turn routine misconduct into criminal behavior, which is a great way to derail a student's future.

A Pennsylvania teen, who claimed to have been bullied constantly (and ignored by school administration), made an audio recording of his tormentors using a school-supplied iPad. He brought this to the school's attention, which duly responded by calling the cops… to have him arrested for violating Pennsylvania's wiretapping law...

The judge said that bullying victims should first bring the problem to their parents -- which this student did. Next, she says the parents should let the school administrators know -- which she did. Finally, she says, let the school handle it -- which it did. And now, the student faces her -- having followed all the proper steps -- charged with disorderly conduct. And yet, despite this, she asserts that the system works and, indeed, has always worked in regards to this particular school. Logical fallacy piled on top of logical fallacy until a bullied kid is charged with a crime while his recorded tormentors remain unpunished.

The judge refused to believe that any one these esteemed administrators could have screwed up, failing to believe that they, too, are human and as prone to failure as anyone else. If they've never screwed up in the fast, all future misdeeds are forgiven (and forgotten) in advance. This is the sort of rationale that should never be deployed by a supposedly impartial overseer like a judge, because it's just as wrong as assuming every authority figure involved here is an irredeemable monster.

Maybe the future holds better outcomes, but for right now, everyone involved had a chance to stop this from reaching this illogical conclusion, but no one -- from the administrators to their legal team to local law enforcement to the presiding judge -- was interested in reining this in. In the end, it looks as though an innate desire to punish someone was satisfied every step of the way.
Is it really illegal in Pennsylvania to record people in public? Do people have an "expectation of privacy" in the open areas of school?  Are you "wiretapping" in Pennsylvania if you set up a camera on a street corner?

Update, 4/21/14:  The disinfectant of sunlight has made the cockroaches scurry for cover:
Throughout the entire debacle, not a single person involved even considered the possibility that the student had committed no crime or the fact that he had followed all of the school's prescribed steps for reporting bullying incidents. Instead, the desire to punish someone was obliged every step of the way.

Finally, someone within the justice system has chosen to act like an adult, rather than a bunch of clique-y, vindictive children...

More specifically, both the wiretapping charge (which was apparently still brought despite the involved officer's statement otherwise) and the disorderly conduct charge (which the judge found the student guilty of) were dropped
The DA was the adult in this case, but:
While it's nice that the DA has dropped the charges and allowed the student to proceed through school without criminal charges hanging over his head, one wonders if this same outcome would have forthcoming without the attendant public outcry. Any adult can start acting like one with enough public shaming. But the application of a little common sense would have averted this incident completely.

Why I'm Not An Isolationist

There's a streak in the Republican Party, one that rears its ugly head every few years, and that streak is isolationism.  Closing your eyes and pulling the blankets over your head might be effective for a four-year-old who wants to hide from monsters, but it's not very effective in a world where headlines like this are run:

Washington drives the world to war

Washington has lost Crimea. Instead of admitting that its plan for grabbing Ukraine has gone amiss, Washington is unable to admit a mistake and, therefore, is pushing the crisis to more dangerous levels. Russia, China, and Iran are in the way of Washington's hegemony and are targeted for attack. The attack on Russia is mounting.
The 80's called and they want their foreign policy back?  What an idiot.

There are bad guys in the world.  Pretending they don't exist, and pretending you can reason with them, is not a valid foreign policy.

If this is what a "reset" looks like, I'd hate to see continued failure!  Perhaps now would be a good time for some of that "flexibility" that President Obama talked about with Medvedev.