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From the New York Times:

As Other Districts Grapple With Segregation, This One Makes Integration Work

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — The 5,226-student district is one of the few in the country created through such a merger as part of a court-ordered integration effort, and one of even fewer that still endure. Even as communities around the country have been debating how to address school segregation, with some proposals for integration meeting fierce opposition, a new report from the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, calls Morris a model of “diversity and togetherness.”

… The Morris district is notable in that it has long been committed to diversity, even as the composition of its student body has changed. Meanwhile, schools nearby and in New York City have remained deeply segregated.

It’s worth noting that according to the Stanford Education Data Archive of school test scores, which I wrote about for Taki’s Magazine last spring, Morris has the 94th worst white-black test score gap out of more than 2000 school districts nationwide. Morris’s white-Hispanic test score gap is even more of a chasm: Morris comes in 29th worst in the entire country.

Generally speaking, liberal and wealthy districts suffer the worst racial disparities in school achievement. For example, the most gaping white-black disparity in the entire United States is found in Berkeley, CA.

The most impressive combinations of diversity, high average test scores, and modest racial gaps tend to be found in Texas exurbs, such as Frisco, the new home of the Dallas Cowboys.

… Paul Tractenberg, a professor emeritus at Rutgers Law School and the president of the Center for Diversity and Equality in Education, who co-wrote the Century Foundation report, says the [Morris, NJ] district has a “remarkable can-do attitude” that has allowed officials to continuously “rejigger what they are doing to accommodate the demands of the moment.”

The word “rejigger” strikes me as potentially problematic. I suspect that professors younger than emeritus would automatically shy away from saying “rejigger” to the New York Times.

You think you are a widely admired senior statesman in the war on white racism, but you don’t notice all the hungry eyes staring resentfully at your corner office from their cubicles. To them, you are just another Privileged Old White Man who is racistly and sexistly hogging one of the good jobs in the Social Justice Industry. Sure, maybe you’ll get away with using “rejigger” in 2016, but in 2017 you might be quoted on NPR using, say, the word “denigrate,” and a quick Twitterstorm later, you’ll be carrying a cardboard box of your personal effects down the elevator while a younger, nimbler SJW measures the drapes in your old office, little realizing that years later xe will in turn be fired for saying the word “doggerel,” not realizing the outrage that will ensue among CRISPR-enhanced Canine-Americans.

It’s the SJW Circle of Life:

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My new column in Taki’s Magazine is a review of an important new history of American education reform efforts from an HBD-aware perspective:

Getting Schooled
by Steve Sailer
November 04, 2015

My old friend Raymond Wolters, a professor of history at the U. of Delaware for 50 years, has come back from five months in the hospital waiting for his lung transplant to write the first narrative account to make sense of the fads and fashions that have roiled K–12 public schools since the failure of forced busing to prove a panacea for racial disparities in school achievement: The Long Crusade: Profiles in Education Reform, 1967–2014.

Granted, I’m biased in favor of The Long Crusade, in part because I didn’t have much hope that Professor Wolters would live through his health woes to write it, in part because I am quoted a few dozen times in it.

(By the way, seeing myself quoted alongside more respectable figures, I have to admit that I really do come across as a sarcastic bastard.)

Read the whole thing there.

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Screenshot 2015-10-27 19.43.58

One of the messages we hear constantly out of the media centers of Manhattan and Washington is that meekly accepting the plans of Manhattan and Washington to disperse underachieving minorities is the moral duty of flyover white schools and neighborhoods.

On the Upper West Side, though, the rules are different …

From the New York Times:

Manhattan Rezoning Fight Involves a School Called ‘Persistently Dangerous’
By KATE TAYLOR OCT. 27, 2015

It is as though the neighborhood were divided by an invisible wall.

On one side, children attend a public elementary school where test scores are high, the students are mostly white and well off, and the parent-teacher organization can raise $800,000 a year to pay for things like a resident chef.

On the other side, children attend a public elementary school where 87 percent of the students are black or Hispanic and 84 percent receive some form of public assistance. Just over a tenth pass the state reading and math tests. There is no library or art teacher.

The first school, Public School 199 on West 70th Street in Manhattan, is also seriously overcrowded, with a waiting list of nearly 100 children for kindergarten in recent years. The second, P.S. 191 on West 61st, has many empty seats.

Now, to address the overcrowding at P.S. 199, the New York City Education Department is proposing to redraw the line, transferring to P.S. 191 several blocks of apartment buildings where children are currently zoned for P.S. 199. The change would be controversial under any circumstances, but it is particularly so because the state this year put P.S. 191 on its list of “persistently dangerous” schools.

At heated public hearings, some parents on the Upper West Side have said they will move if they are rezoned to what they see as a failing school. Many have expressed resentment that some new buildings under construction would be zoned for P.S. 199 while their own buildings would be cast out. At a public meeting this month, when P.S. 191’s principal tried to speak about how she was addressing her school’s problems, she was shouted at.

The passion is not limited to people whose children attend city schools.

“I’m not a racist — it’s not that I don’t want my children to go to school in a mixed school,” Jared Larsen, who lives in a building that would be rezoned and has two children currently attending private school, said at a recent hearing. “But at the same time we want the best for our children. We want the best for our property value.”

The situation mirrors a rezoning battle playing out in Brooklyn, where the department wants to reduce crowding at a school similar in its demographics and popularity to P.S. 199. There, too, the department is proposing to move some students into a school with a mostly black and Hispanic population drawn from a large housing project. In that case, the department was unprepared for the intensity of opposition, not only from the parents whose homes would be rezoned, but also from current parents at the mostly minority school, who fear that their children will be displaced.

Parents at P.S. 191, which draws many of its students from a nearby housing project, Amsterdam Houses, have been less vocal. Conversations with several of them outside the school on Monday suggested that many did not have accurate information about the rezoning proposal, and that the timing, coming just after the school received the “persistently dangerous” label, had sown confusion and mistrust. The designation is used for schools that have a high rate of violent episodes over a two-year period. …

A report last year by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that New York City had the most segregated schools in the country.

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Who could have guessed?

Breaking news in the New York Times:

Analysis Finds Higher Expulsion Rates for Black Students
By MOTOKO RICH AUG. 24, 2015

With the Obama administration focused on reducing the number of suspensions, expulsions and arrests in public schools, a new analysis of federal data identifies districts in 13 Southern states where black students are suspended or expelled at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children.

The analysis, which will be formally released Tuesday by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on states where more than half of all the suspensions and expulsions of black students nationwide occurred. While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in these states, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions.

In some districts, the gaps were even more striking: in 132 Southern school districts, for example, black students were suspended at rates five times their representation in the student population, or higher.

Nationwide, according to the 2011 Obama Administration study “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008,” blacks were almost eight times more likely to be homicide offenders.

But, of course, noticing patterns and looking for simple explanations runs afoul of that dominant rule of 21st Century thought: Occam’s Racist.

In recent years, civil rights groups such as the Advancement Project and legal advocacy organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and Texas Appleseed have focused on reducing arrests and other severe disciplinary actions in schools.

Last year, the Obama administration issued guidelines advising schools to create more positive climates, set clear expectations and consequences for students, and ensure equity in discipline.

Still, “I am actually shocked that there is not more outrage,” said Shaun R. Harper, associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania and the executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education who was a co-author of the analysis. …

Blacks were suspended or expelled at rates higher than their representation in the student body in every one of the 13 states analyzed.

And that consistency proves that this has to be caused solely by white racism! What else could it be?

“We want policy makers, parents and everybody to understand that any degree of disproportionality is in need of redress and response,” Mr. Harper said. The analysis did not look at suspension or expulsion rates for other racial minorities.

What with the high cost of computing these days, who can afford the computer CPU cycles needed to add rows to your Excel spreadsheet to show how often Asian students get suspended?

… In addition to missing out on in-school learning time, students who are expelled or suspended are more likely to have later contact with the juvenile justice system than similar students who are not removed from school, studies have shown.

Some school districts have already begun to shift their policies to focus more on using counseling and trying to prevent or redefine problem behavior in the first place.

Mr. Harper said that education schools should focus more on raising awareness about racial disparities and prepare teachers to cope with tense situations without harsh discipline.

“This is at least partly attributed to people having these racist assumptions about black kids,” Mr. Harper said. “We argue that too little happens in schools of education to raise consciousness about that.”

Let me just quote the last line of the article again:

“We argue that too little happens in schools of education to raise consciousness about that.”

The last 60 years didn’t happen.

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A cornerstone of the conventional wisdom is that All We Have to Do is to spend a lot more money cognitively stimulating poor black children pre-K and that will close The Gap.

But down through history, it’s been assumed that better teachers should work with higher, not lower potential students: Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle, and so forth. Rather than pour extra resources into lower potential students, most cultures have allotted them to higher potential young people

So what if spending money on the conventional wisdom’s pre-K initiatives actually widens The Gap?

From the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Parental Incentives and Early Childhood Achievement: A Field Experiment in Chicago Heights

Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Steven D. Levitt, John A. List

NBER Working Paper No. 21477
Issued in August 2015

This article describes a randomized field experiment in which parents were provided financial incentives to engage in behaviors designed to increase early childhood cognitive and executive function skills through a parent academy. Parents were rewarded for attendance at early childhood sessions, completing homework assignments with their children, and for their child’s demonstration of mastery on interim assessments. This intervention had large and statistically significant positive impacts on both cognitive and non-cognitive test scores of Hispanics and Whites, but no impact on Blacks. These differential outcomes across races are not attributable to differences in observable characteristics (e.g. family size, mother’s age, mother’s education) or to the intensity of engagement with the program. Children with above median (pre-treatment) non cognitive scores accrue the most benefits from treatment.

Here’s the full paper.

For years I’ve argued that rather than obsess over boosting school achievement among blacks and Hispanics by roughly one standard deviations while not allowing whites and Asians to get better, we should try as a society to boost all groups by half a standard deviation.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Education, Freakonomics, IQ 
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With Puerto Rico in the news for threatening to go broke, Paul Krugman is worried that hedge funds want to “destroy the island’s education system in the name of fiscal responsibility.” But it turns out that Puerto Rican school administrators have largely done that already. Although Puerto Rico spends more per public school student than Utah and Idaho, and more per student on certain obscure but lucrative categories of school administration than any of the 50 states, its test scores are horrific.

It’s interesting to discover that Puerto Rico actually participated — on a preliminary basis — in the 2012 international PISA test of 15-year-olds, although PR’s scores were not released in 2013 like most places’ were.

Instead, a report on Puerto Rico’s PISA scores surfaced a half year later. This is similar to how quietly Puerto Rico’s scores on the federal NAEP test were released.

The PISA is scored like the SAT with an intended average (in wealthy OECD countries) of 500 and a standard deviation of 100.

As on the NAEP, Puerto Rico did really bad on the Math portion of the PISA, worse than Jordan, and better than only Colombia, Qatar, Indonesia, and Peru. (No doubt there are countries that would score worse than Peru, but they don’t participate in PISA.)

Puerto Rico averaged a 382, 99 points or about a standard deviation behind the U.S.’s 481.

Screenshot 2015-08-02 21.17.11

On PISA’s 0 to 6 scale of proficiency in math, 34% of Puerto Rican students scored at the lowest (0) level, and not enough students out of the sample size of 1668 scored at any of the three highest levels (4 > 544, 5>607, or 6>669) to report a statistically reliable percentage.

I’m estimating 0.8% scored in any of the top three ranges. In contrast, almost 1/4th of U.S. students scored at the 4-6 levels.

Public schools in Puerto Rico are notoriously ineffectual and corruptly administered, so 23% of all students in the commonwealth are sent to private schools. The PISA test included private school students in its sample, however.

More math score details from the report:

The U.S. Hispanic average score (455) was significantly higher than the Puerto Rico average score (382) by 73 scale score points.

The U.S. Hispanic female average score (450) was significantly higher than the Puerto Rico female average score (377) by 73 scale score points. Similarly, the U.S. Hispanic male average score (460) was significantly higher than the Puerto Rico male average score (387) by scale score points.

The U.S. Hispanic public school student average score (455) was significantly higher than the Puerto Rico public school student average score (370) by 85 scale score points. The U.S. Hispanic private school student average score (477) was significantly higher than the Puerto Rico private school student average score (424) by 53 scale score points.

Puerto Rico’s 10th percentile did badly, of course, but not superbad relative to other backwards places. Puerto Rico’s 90th percentile, however, scored as badly as the 90th percentile in any country.

This phenomenon of the Apathetic Elite seems more common in Latin America than most other places. For example, Mexico and Turkey are fairly similar overall, except that the really smart kids in Turkey, while relatively few in number, are still really smart, while Mexico just doesn’t seem to have much of a high end at all.

But Puerto Rico’s 90th percentile is way below even Mexico’s 90th percentile. My guess is that the high end Puerto Rican families get out of Puerto Rico, but that’s not particularly true for high end Mexicans, so I don’t know.

In defense of Puerto Rico, however, the test administrators rounded up a quite reasonable 91% of the 15-year-olds who were supposed to take the test, which is comparable to the coverage in the U.S., although not as good as in Finland or Netherlands. In contrast, Mexico somehow or other lost almost half of the youths who were supposed to take the test, and Costa Rica skimmed the cream even harder.

(Argentina’s miserable performance is related in part to the test administrators conscientiously rounding up about 4/5ths of the eligible youths. Conversely, Shanghai’s stratospheric scores may be related to test administrators not being all that diligent about rounding up the city’s huge population of children of proletarian migrants without legal permission to reside in Shanghai.)

Puerto Rico did slightly less awful on Science, scoring 401, 96 points behind the U.S. Two percent of Puerto Ricans scored at Level 4 on the 0 to 6 scale, versus 26% of Americans scoring 4, 5, or 6.

Puerto Rico did best in reading, scoring 404, which is 94 points behind the U.S.

• Tags: Education, NAEP, PISA, Puerto Rico 
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From the New York Times:

Are ‘Learning Styles’ a Symptom of Education’s Ills?
By ANNA NORTH FEBRUARY 25, 2015 10:29 AM February

Do you like to learn by seeing, hearing or doing?

According to some education researchers, it may not matter. They say the idea of teaching according to students’ “preferred learning styles” — auditory, visual or kinesthetic — has little to no empirical backing. But although criticism may be denting the idea’s popularity, it still persists — which may say something larger about the way teachers today are trained.

Students do have preferences when it comes to receiving information visually or verbally, said Mark A. McDaniel, a psychology professor at Washington University and a co-author of the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” But to prove that designing lessons to fit students’ preferred learning styles actually helps them learn better, you’d have to randomly assign students to receive, for instance, either a visually or a verbally based approach. If teaching to students’ learning styles works, said Dr. McDaniel, “what you should see is visual learners do better on the visual than the verbal instruction, and verbal learners do better on the verbal than the visual instruction.”

Not many studies have actually done such a random assignment, and of those that Dr. McDaniel and his co-authors examined in a 2009 paper, “none of them showed that kind of interaction.” And, said Harold Pashler, a psychology professor at the University of California, San Diego, and one of Dr. McDaniel’s co-authors on the study, no compelling evidence for teaching to students’ learning styles has emerged in the years since: “There’s one or two somewhat oddball studies,” he said, “but there’s a number of new negative findings that are more substantial.”

Hal Pashler is always worth paying attention to.

Still, according to Christian Jarrett at Wired, the concept remains popular. “It is propagated not only in hundreds of popular books,” he writes, “but also through international conferences and associations, by commercial companies who sell ways of measuring learning styles, and in teacher training programs.” He cites a study of teachers in a variety of countries that “found that 96 percent believed in the idea of preferred learning styles.”

And the biology professor Tanya Noel writes at her blog The Nucleoid that “there is ample evidence that teaching toward preferred learning styles does not seem to actually help people learn” but that “many teachers/professors and students waste time and energy on this, efforts they could be directing elsewhere.”

People no doubt differ in how best they learn. For example, my brain doesn’t engage well with abstractions and toy examples, but comes to life when dealing with examples drawn from large, massively important and controversial questions, such as racial differences. On the other hand, this makes many people hot under the collar and their IQs drop noticeably.

Dr. Pashler, too, has encountered regret from teachers who feel they should be doing more to tailor instruction to different learning styles: “They assume this is well established by the education field, that it would be great if they could only test people’s learning styles and differentiate education accordingly, but they feel sadly unable to do that because they don’t have the resources and the tests and everything else.”

Why this regret, if learning styles actually have so little support? “I think it’s because they’re taught this in the education schools,” said Dr. Pashler. Many masters’ programs in education “are really not very evidence-based,” he argued. “A lot of education-school faculty are really not examining outcome literature before they make recommendations.”

In a 2011 study, Daniel H. Robinson, now a professor of education at Colorado State University, and his co-authors found that only 18 percent of recommendations in teacher-education textbooks were based on intervention studies — the kind of studies, Dr. Robinson said in an interview, “that would allow you to make causal conclusions.” Sixty-four percent of the recommendations were based on secondary sources, not on primary research at all. “It was pretty discouraging,” said Dr. Robinson.

Part of the problem, said Dr. Pashler, is that doing high-quality education research in the first place is difficult. Researchers need to look at many classrooms to get statistically significant results, he explained, “because everybody in the classroom is potentially subject to other influences in common besides the ones that you’re manipulating” — if one class meets at 8 a.m., for instance, the students’ sleepiness could affect results. The need for lots of classrooms can make education research very expensive. And, he added, “getting informed consent for lots of people in schools is just a nightmare.”

Despite these obstacles, he said, “there is an evidence base that is slowly building up that educators can rely on.” But that evidence isn’t necessarily making its way to teachers.

And just because it gets to teachers doesn’t mean they necessarily employ it. “A lot of people, researchers included, forget one basic fact, which is that teachers are gatekeepers,” said Larry Cuban, an emeritus professor of education at Stanford who has questioned whether purportedly evidence-based educational approaches can succeed. Those who make decisions in education (like, for instance, purchasing technology for students) “forget that teachers are basically policy makers at the classroom door,” he said, “which then means that a lot of research doesn’t get past the classroom door.”

Assume for the sake of argument that students vary in terms of style of learning at which they are best. Then, surely, teachers vary at what style they are best at, too. So, should a teacher emphasize what’s she’s best at, or should she spend a lot of time during each class at what she’s weaker at?

Teachers are a little bit like stand-up comedians, and students are like comedy club audience members, who have different tastes. Some find impressions funniest, some like puns, some like observational humor. Should the comedian do a little bit of all the different styles of humor to accommodate the diversity of tastes in his audience, or should he concentrate on what he does best? Good question?

I have this odd perspective on teaching as the Second Worst Job in Showbiz because where I live, teaching is often a day job for people who try to keep their hand in the entertainment industry. For example, my late neighbor Bill taught driver’s ed, coached football, and other tasks for the LAUSD over several decades, all the while appearing in hundreds of television commercials that paid nice residuals.

People tend to think in simple moralistic terms about education, while they think more analytically about the entertainment they consume: it’s not solely a matter of entertainers ought to be trying harder, but audiences also realize that different talents tend to be talented at different things.

• Tags: Education 
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I wanted to come back to the popular NYT Magazine article “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” about how they teach math better in Japan, as you can tell because Japanese students average a higher PISA score than American students. According to the article, the Common Core now offers us another opportunity to teach math better. But, American teachers have consistently failed to exploit the opportunities offered them by educational theorists:

It wasn’t the first time that Americans had dreamed up a better way to teach math and then failed to implement it. The same pattern played out in the 1960s, when schools gripped by a post-Sputnik inferiority complex unveiled an ambitious “new math,” only to find, a few years later, that nothing actually changed. In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices.

You see, it’s not that the math fads of the past failed, it’s that they were never really tried.

In reality, the New Math mostly failed because it was an attempt by math professors to design a curriculum that makes sense to math professors wanting to create new math professors. To students, however, it was repetitious (every September from 1965-1970 I had to study the Number Line in the first chapter of each math textbook), boring, and pointless. The Number Line didn’t do anything to help me think more interesting thoughts about baseball statistics.

The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.

The trouble starts earlier when the Powers that Be adopt some smooth-talking salesman’s pitch for a whole new way to teach math without making him test it first on real students. The reason we have the Common Core is not because it aced its Phase I, II, and III experiments involving real students. It was never tested before roll-out.

No, we have the Common Core because David Coleman impressed Bill Gates as significantly less stupid than the typical education theorist, so Gates bribed the educational establishment to get behind Coleman’s baby and make it a fait accompli before anyone had a chance to ask: “Shouldn’t we test this first?” (And keep in mind that I’m relatively positive toward the Common Core versus most of the other junk out there. If our country is going to let one guy control education according to his whims, Bill Gates would be among the less bad choices for that guy.)

Carefully taught, the assignments can help make math more concrete. Students don’t just memorize their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations. But in practice, most teachers are unprepared and children are baffled, leaving parents furious.

This paragraph reflects today’s education establishment worldview about the past up until about last week. Until yesterday, children were forced to sit up perfectly straight in their desks and chant the time tables and get rapped on the knuckles with a ruler when they made a mistake. That’s why students “just memorize their times tables and addition facts” instead of developing Critical Thinking Skills and Concern about Social Justice.

In reality, of course, large fractions of students these days fail to memorize their times tables and addition facts.

In other words, liberals are completely amnesiac about how they’ve been running education for a long, long time.

For instance, I went to a Catholic parochial school with nuns, and there was a little knuckle-rapping still going on in the mid-1960s. But by the time I got to St. Francis de Sales’ 7th grade in 1970, the younger teachers had staged a coup and organized a junior high school teaching collective that was more relevant. Most of my schooling in 1970-72, as far as I can remember, consisted of listening in class to album sides from Abbey Road, Deja Vu, Hair, and Jesus Christ Superstar for examples of symbols and metaphors, and sitting in a circle and rapping about how the deaths of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morison bummed us out.

And this was at a prim parochial school. I went to public Millikan Junior High for summer school those years and it looked like Dazed and Confused. Granted, St. Francis de Sales is just over Coldwater Canyon from the Sunset Strip, so we were probably a year or two out in the lead of the rest of the country, but your junior high school probably went through the same changes within a half decade.

Let me repeat this NYT explanation of how things will be better if the educational theorists ever get their full funding:

Students don’t just memorize their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations.

Look, forcing students to memorize their times tables and addition facts (e.g., 6+7=13) is not something the current liberal-run system is all that great at. It’s boring for teachers. But you sure can’t apply arithmetic to real-life situations without being instantly aware and really confident that 6+7=13.

As for “understand how arithmetic works,” well, that’s a rabbit hole that more than a few of the greatest minds of the later 19th and early 20th Centuries went down:

“From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1+1=2.”

That’s on p. 379 of Volume I of Principia Mathematica by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead in 1910. (I haven’t actually read the previous 378 pages.)

There’s a difference between how to work with math and how math works. But the article on why Americans stink at math seems oblivious to that:

The new math of the ‘60s, the new new math of the ‘80s and today’s Common Core math all stem from the idea that the traditional way of teaching math simply does not work. As a nation, we suffer from an ailment that John Allen Paulos, a Temple University math professor and an author, calls innumeracy — the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read. On national tests, nearly two-thirds of fourth graders and eighth graders are not proficient in math. More than half of fourth graders taking the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress could not accurately read the temperature on a neatly drawn thermometer. (They did not understand that each hash mark represented two degrees rather than one, leading many students to mistake 46 degrees for 43 degrees.)

May I suggest that numeracy and mathematics are not necessarily the same thing. The New Math of the 1960s, for example, was definitely not intended to emphasize the kind of practical numeracy that say, a carpenter needs. It was intended to make students better at the higher, more abstract forms of mathematics that would form the underpinnings of their college and postgrad math courses that would allow the very smartest students to make the theoretical breakthroughs necessary to win the technological competition in the Cold War and/or create better grad students for math professors.

In general, numeracy and abstract higher math skills correlate, just as the ability to harmonize and the ability to read music correlate. But lots of star musicians are bad at reading music. For example, here’s a list of 15 guitarists who couldn’t read sheet music, including John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Eddie Van Halen. Similary, from Wikipedia on the Beatles’ song “Golden Slumbers” on Abbey Road:

“Golden Slumbers” is based on the poem “Cradle Song“, a lullaby by the dramatist Thomas Dekker. The poem appears in Dekker’s 1603 comedy Patient Grissel. McCartney saw sheet music for Dekker’s lullaby at his father’s home in Liverpool, left on a piano by his stepsister Ruth. Unable to read music, he created his own music.

My impression is that while McCartney lacks musical literacy, he’s quite good at numeracy and could probably tell you off the top of his head his annual after-tax royalties on “Golden Slumbers” and how much that bitch Yoko made off his song before Paul wrestled the rights back. (I don’t know specifically about “Golden Slumbers,” but there was a period of years in which 100% of the royalties from Paul’s “Yesterday” went to Yoko, and that sum is no doubt carved in Paul’s soul.)

By the lowly standards of pundits, and even by the higher standards of MBAs, I’m pretty numerate. I can do arithmetical stunts like calculating a weighted average in my head. But I let my wife help my sons with their high school math because all that stuff is over my head. It’s too abstract for me. I don’t like variables that can stand for different things, I like numbers that represent real things. If I didn’t like working with actual numbers so much, I might care more about working with pretend numbers.

Unlike most people, however, I don’t advise children to Be Like Me. But, I think people who theorize in the New York Times about education should try at least to be aware of these tradeoffs.

On the same multiple-choice test, three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression “15 + (2×15).” Even in Massachusetts, one of the country’s highest-performing states, math students are more than two years behind their counterparts in Shanghai.

Adulthood does not alleviate our quantitative deficiency. A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps.

This PIAAC test of adults from the PISA people showed that immigrants and blacks were pulling the U.S. scores way down versus other rich countries in Europe and Northeast Asia. From the New York Times last year :

The new study shows that foreign-born adults in the United States have much poorer-than-average skills, but even the native-born scored a bit below the international norms. White Americans fared better than the multicountry average in literacy, but were about average in the math and technology tests.

The NYT Magazine article assumes that numeracy is the same as understanding how math works. For example, in reactionary America in contrast to progressive Japan, according to the article,

Students learn not math but, in the words of one math educator, answer-getting. Instead of trying to convey, say, the essence of what it means to subtract fractions teachers tell students to draw butterflies and multiply along the diagonal wings, add the antennas and finally reduce and simplify as needed. The answer-getting strategies may serve them well for a class period of practice problems, but after a week, they forget. And students often can’t figure out how to apply the strategy for a particular problem to new problems.

In contrast, street children in Brazil are numerate and understand the essences:

But our innumeracy isn’t inevitable. In the 1970s and the 1980s, cognitive scientists studied a population known as the unschooled, people with little or no formal education. Observing workers at a Baltimore dairy factory in the ‘80s, the psychologist Sylvia Scribner noted that even basic tasks required an extensive amount of math. For instance, many of the workers charged with loading quarts and gallons of milk into crates had no more than a sixth-grade education. But they were able to do math, in order to assemble their loads efficiently, that was “equivalent to shifting between different base systems of numbers.” Throughout these mental calculations, errors were “virtually nonexistent.” And yet when these workers were out sick and the dairy’s better-educated office workers filled in for them, productivity declined.

The unschooled may have been more capable of complex math than people who were specifically taught it, but in the context of school, they were stymied by math they already knew. Studies of children in Brazil, who helped support their families by roaming the streets selling roasted peanuts and coconuts, showed that the children routinely solved complex problems in their heads to calculate a bill or make change. When cognitive scientists presented the children with the very same problem, however, this time with pen and paper, they stumbled. A 12-year-old boy who accurately computed the price of four coconuts at 35 cruzeiros each was later given the problem on paper. Incorrectly using the multiplication method he was taught in school, he came up with the wrong answer. Similarly, when Scribner gave her dairy workers tests using the language of math class, their scores averaged around 64 percent. The cognitive-science research suggested a startling cause of Americans’ innumeracy: school.

But of course the favela kids making change don’t understand the “essence” of arithmetic, not in the sense that say Bertrand Russell understood its essence. They have rules of thumb they follow that work fine for their tasks. Their techniques aren’t necessarily generalizable, however. Their change-making techniques aren’t going to be much use in getting them through Algebra II, which is now required to graduate high school in some regions in America.

So, in the real world, inculcating the numeracy to make change and getting all students through Algebra II turn out to be somewhat contradictory goals for the bottom half or so of the population. I don’t know what’s the best way to deal with this partial trade-off. But certainly the first step is to be able to publicly admit there is a tradeoff.

• Category: Science • Tags: American Media, Education, Math 
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Vroom, vroom, vrooom! The NYT editorializes:

Pre-K on the Starting Blocks 


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan to provide preschool education to every 4-year-old brings high expectations.

As a way to Fight Inequality Now, universal pre-K sounds … stately. The median age of the Forbes 400 is around 66, so if enrolling 4-year-olds in 2014 works as well as promised, it should really make a dent in about half of the Forbes 400 within 62 years, which is 2076.

I’ll be attending my 100th high school reunion (yearbook theme: The Spirit of ’76) via one of Robin Hanson’s downloaded ems, so I have that to look forward to, which is nice.

• Tags: Education 
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Over the years, I’ve given Michael Bloomberg a hard time. Why? Well, the billionaire New York City mayor who likes to claim that he has “the seventh-largest army in the world” seems like a worthy foe.
One of Bloomberg’s boasts has been that, based on rising test scores, he had fixed the New York City public schools: a few years ago, 82% of NYC students scored proficient or advanced in math!
This braggadocio contributed to his political foes in Albany deciding to toughen the tests, with predictable results. From the NYT:

At their peak, in 2009, 69 percent of city students were deemed proficient in English, and 82 percent in math, under less stringent exams. After concluding the tests had become too easy, the state made them harder to pass in 2010, resulting in score drops statewide. … Last year, … 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math.

This year, New York State revamped the tests even more radically. …

In New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the state exams in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department.

Kevin Drum points out that on the federal NAEP test, NYC is down slightly relative to the average big city over the last few years.

Statewide, 16 percent of black students and 18 percent of Hispanic students passed English exams, compared with 40 percent of white students and 50 percent of Asians.

There must be something uniquely peculiar about New York since the test score hierarchy turned out to be Asian: white: Hispanic: black. Who has ever seen that ranking before?

The exams were some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving. …

By the way, does anybody have an informed opinion on Common Core tests, which are currently slated to go into operation in another 44 states?
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The feds’ National Assessment of Educational Progress has a table of 4th and 8th grade vocabulary and reading comprehension scores by state. Sample size issues are of concern for smaller states which tend to bounce around, but we can state with a high degree of statistical confidence that the future of the state of California, the traditional State of the Future, looks dumb. Out of the 50 states, the Golden State ranks 48th, 47th, 48th, and 49th on various measures. Here’s the bottom six of 52 in the four different tests:

In contrast, Massachusetts is 1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st, while the District of Columbia was 52nd, 52nd, 52nd, and 52nd (in case you are wondering why D.C. is the 52nd state, Department of Defense schools rank 2nd, 5th, 2nd, 6th). Obviously, the problem is all those Republicans in California and D.C. If only D.C. would develop enlightened political opinions like Massachusetts, its test scores would soar.

Perhaps more relevantly, Texas is 37th, 36th, 37th, and 36th. Texas always beats California on the NAEP. Has anybody studied this to make sure this is not just a test artifact (e.g., Texas cares about the NAEP and California doesn’t)? If it isn’t, why the consistent difference? Texas is pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as California, and beggars can’t be choosers, so somebody ought to be investigating why Texas beats California.

One obvious objection is that the future isn’t as bad as it looks because Hispanics, as new immigrants, are just being held back by the inevitable biases of testing skills in English.

Indeed, this effect does exist, but how big is it? Here’s national 8th grade vocabulary. The first number is score at the 10th percentile, then 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th.

Let’s first compare whites and Asians. At the 10th percentile, Asians lag whites by 8 points. Presumably, a fair number of these Asian 8th graders just got off the plane from China, so their English vocabulary is limited. At the 25th percentile, the White-Asian gap is down to 5 points. At the median, it’s 3, at the 75th percentile it’s 0, and at the 90th percentile, Asians are out in the lead by a point.
Now, compare Hispanics to blacks, most of whom grow up speaking English, but as we all know from hundreds of articles, African-Americans grow up in conditions that would drive a Trappist Monk crazy for lack of speech. In black homes, nobody every talks, watches TV, or listens to rap music. So, black scores on language are bad, with unfortunate long-term consequences.
At the 10th percentile, where many of the Hispanics are newcomers, blacks lead by 2 points. At the 25th percentile, however, Hispanics are out in front by 1 point, by 2 at the median, 3 at the 75 percentile, and 4 at the 90th.
So, clearly, Hispanics who have all the advantages are, on average, a little smarter than blacks who have all the advantages. In other words, if immigration were shut off for a generation or two, Mexicans would appear, on average, perceptibly more on the ball academically than blacks. Indeed, that was my perception back in the 1970s in L.A., where the Chicanos had mostly been a stable population since WWII.
But, nationally, Hispanics only pick up 6 points on blacks going from the 10th to the 90th percentiles, while Asians pick up 9 points on whites, who are, to be frank, a lot more competition.
Being a little smarter than blacks is, well, good. Or, you could say with equal justice, less bad. On the other hand, Hispanics at the 90th percentile among Hispanics, typically those with all the advantages, are simply not playing in the same league as Asians and whites with all the advantages. They’re down there beating out blacks for third place, not being nationally competitive. There’s not a lot of high end in the Hispanic population.
However you look at it, it’s still not very encouraging considering that our leadership kind of bet the country on Hispanics.
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From my book review in Taki’s Magazine:

It’s a strange totem of the 21st century that if a brain scan can show us where something would happen inside the skull, we can therefore make it happen in ourselves; and also, hesto presto, we can fix African-American dysfunction by somehow making it happen in their brains. 

We don’t think this way about other organs, though. Consider the stomach. For a century or more, we’ve had a more than adequate knowledge of how the digestive system works. Yet on average we’re fatter than ever. Why? Not because the science of stomach scans hasn’t progressed enough, but because we like eating more than we like exercising.

Read the whole thing there.

• Tags: Books, Brain Scans, Education 
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Richard Posner is probably the most prominent judge in the U.S. not on the Supreme Court. He has to be the hardest working, as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and a senior lecturer at the U. of Chicago Law School. The author of approaching 40 books, by one measure he’s the most cited judge of the 20th Century. 

Posner has a joint blog with Gary Becker, the Nobel-winning UC economist, where they discuss a topic every week. Awhile back, they took on “Rating Teachers.” Judge Posner wrote:

I don’t think varying salaries on the basis of measures of teacher quality are a feasible reform. My reasons for this pessimistic judgment are several. First, teaching below the college level tends not to be attractive to competitive people. I happen to have a job, as a federal court of appeals judge, in which everyone is securely tenured and paid the same salary, even though the judges vary in ability, experience, and effort.

I.e., nobody works as hard as Posner.

There are many jobs of that sort, they have their pluses and their minuses, and it would be a mistake to think that all such jobs would be performed better if they were restructured along the Darwinian lines that prevail in business. It’s a mistake to think that everyone is a natural risk taker. Tenure, a wage that varies with seniority rather than measured output, and long summer vacations create a compensation package that is attractive to a certain kind of person.  

Second, while in a sample of millions, as in the study by Chetty et al. that Becker cites, it may well be inferrable, as the study finds, that teachers vary in the value they add to their students, within an individual school such an inference will be very difficult to draw. The average IQ and home environment of students in different classes may differ significantly, random factors may affect their future success, and there can be spillover effects from other classes. 

I know a lot about the history of the evolution of baseball statistics over the last 150 years, a lot more than I know about the development of teacher rating statistics. Maybe I’m not up to date, but my general impression is that teacher rating stats are about where baseball stats were in the late 1800s.

Here’s a concept for a nonfiction book. A lot of books come out that focus on schools, with journalists visiting KIPP schools, charter schools, etc. etc., and there’s always talk about value added test scores being used to evaluate teachers, but I’ve never seen a journalist follow some teachers, sitting in the back of the classroom, and then watch them get back their value-added test scores. Do the value-added scores match up with the journalists’ subjective impressions?

You may be saying, “Subjective? Everybody knows we have to trust only objective statistical measures, even if they were just made up this year!” In truth, subjective and objective evaluations improve each other. Right now, we have a bunch of brand new complicated value-added measurement systems with few ways of checking whether they seem plausible or not.

Suppose for example that a mediocre teacher teaches English, and a superb teacher teaches the same students history. Both teachers require essays. The superb teacher improves the students’ writing skills, and that in turn improves their performance in their English class, making the English teacher look better than he or she really is.  

Third, and related, varying teachers’ salaries by some output measure will induce all sorts of wasteful strategizing—office politics—what organization economists call “influence activities,” an aspect of agency costs—by teachers hoping to get a good quality rating. They will angle to get the best students assigned to their classes, even when salary is tied to “value added,” as discussed by Becker, because smarter students are likely to improve more.  

Fourth, although in principle the cost of higher salaries for the better teachers could be offset by reducing the salaries of the worse teachers, that is surely infeasible; so the Darwinian approach would cost more than the existing system, and maybe as much more as raising teacher salaries by a uniform percentage.  

Finally, I am not clear what we should think the problem of American education (below the college level) is. Most children of middle-class (say upper quartile of households, income starting at $80,000) Americans are white or Asian and attend good public or private schools, usually predominantly white. The average white IQ is of course 100 and the Asian (like the Jewish) almost one standard deviation higher, that is, 115. The average black IQ is 85, a full standard deviation below the white average, and the average Hispanic IQ has been estimated recently at 89. 

Black children in particular often come from disordered households, which has a negative effect on ability to learn and perhaps indeed on IQ (which is only partly hereditary) as well. Increasingly, black and Hispanic students find themselves in schools with few white or Asian students. The challenge to American education is to provide a useful education to the large number of Americans who are unlikely to benefit from a college education or from high school courses aimed at preparing students for college. The need is for a different curriculum and for a greater investment in these children’s preschool environment. We should recognize that we have different populations with different schooling needs and that  curricula and teaching methods should be revised accordingly. This recognition and response should precede tinkering with compensations systems.


• Tags: Education, IQ 
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What with the Chicago teacher’s strike, “charter schools” are in the news again. It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference among charter schools that gets overlooked.

For example, I knew the fine principal and some of the best teachers at my son’s public middle school. I was impressed that they went on to start a charter high school about six years ago. They are a high quality group of educators, but they’ve since struggled to find an adequate permanent home for their high school. I believe they are currently renting a couple of acres from a Korean church in Van Nuys, after an opportunity to acquire a more impressive space fell through. Real estate in the San Fernando Valley is expensive. 

You can see this even in the successful old private schools in the area that typically must deal with constricted grounds. My guess is that most of the better-known private schools would like to add either sports facilities or more students if they could find the room. Crespi, south of Ventura Boulevard in pricey Encino, concentrates on being a football powerhouse in part because they don’t have room for a baseball field. Flintridge Prep is slowly buying up adjoining million dollar houses in La Canada to knock down in order to lengthen its 80 yard football field. Even ultra-rich Harvard-Westlake in Coldwater Canyon is a little claustrophobic. They’ve got buildings galore, but not close to enough land for all the monuments to themselves that rich people would like to build on the campus. The thriving Jewish schools founded after busing came to the Valley in the late 1970s appear to be especially cramped for room because they got a late start in the real estate game.

On the other hand, many of the old public schools of the San Fernando Valley were carved out of farmland to serve a future huge population with ease. For example, Birmingham H.S. in Lake Balboa has 72 acres of easily freeway-accessible campus. Its spacious grounds are used routinely as a filming location by the entertainment industry. Birmingham went charter several years ago in a dispute over whether its lucrative stream of TV and Movie money should go to the school district as a whole or just to Birmingham. 

How much would 72 acres of land with a full set of facilities in the middle of the San Fernando Valley cost to rent? A half million dollars per month? A million?

And, for me, that raises a fundamental distinction between types of charters schools. Entrepreneurial educators who leave an established campus to hustle together a new charter school against the odds seem admirable. In contrast, educational power players who win control for themselves over giant real estate holdings under the guise of charter school reform might be equally admirable, but they should be viewed more skeptically than the adventurers setting out on their own. I’m not saying that all charter schools that take over elaborate facilities are a scam, just that if you gave me control of a place that might rent for a million dollars per month, there are, let’s just say, opportunities.

• Tags: Education 
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In education reform circles, it’s an article of faith that America needs higher quality people as public school teachers. (I like to point out that it would also help for America to have higher quality people as parents and students, but never mind for now.) One hurdle to getting people with options in life and a sense of self-respect to be public school teachers is the political indoctrination sessions they are forced to sit through, like Winston Smith at a Two-Minutes Hate. 

Verenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day. 

Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year. 

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood. 

“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.” 

Guitierrez, along with all of Portland Public Schools’ principals, will start the new school year off this week by drilling in on the language of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training being implemented in every building in phases during the past few years. 

Through intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives, the premise is that if educators can understand their own “white privilege,” then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance. 

Last Wednesday, the first day of the school year for staff, for example, the first item of business for teachers at Scott School was to have a Courageous Conversation — to examine a news article and discuss the “white privilege” it conveys.

Theodore Dalrymple has famously noted:

“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.

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Earlier in the summer, veteran sociologist Andrew Hacker caused a stir by arguing that algebra shouldn’t be a mandatory course in high schools and colleges:

Education Realist reviews the numbers and responds:

These numbers, on the surface, don’t support the conventional wisdom about math performance: namely, that elementary school teachers need improvement and that the seeds of our students’ failure in higher math starts in the lower grades. 

Elementary students are doing quite well. It’s only in advanced math, when the teachers are much more knowledgeable, with higher SAT scores and tougher credentialling tests, that student performance starts to decline dramatically.
What these numbers do suggest is that as math gets harder, fewer and fewer students achieve mastery, or anything near it. What they suggest, really, is that math knowledge doesn’t advance in a linear fashion. Shocking news, I know. We have all forgotten the Great Wisdom of Barbie. …

Anyway. With numbers like these, it’s hard not to just see this entire debate as insanely pointless. In California, at least, tens of thousands of high school kids are sitting in math classes that they don’t understand, feeling useless, understanding deep in their bones that education has nothing to offer them. Meanwhile, well-meaning people who have never spent an hour of their lives trying to explain advanced math concepts to the lower to middle section of the cognitive scale pontificate about teacher ability, statistics vs. algebra, college for everyone, and other useless fantasies that they are allowed to engage in because until our low performers represent the wide diversity of our country to perfection, no one’s going to ruin a career by pointing out that this a pipe dream. And of course, while they’re engaging in these fantasies, they’ll blame teachers, or poverty, or curriculum, or parents, or the kids, for the fact that their dreams aren’t reality. 

If we could just get whites and Asians to do a lot worse, no one would argue about the absurdity of sending everyone to college. 

Until then, everyone will divert themselves by engaging in this debate—which, like many kids stuck in the hell of unfair expectations, will go nowhere.

I’m a little less cynical. 

First, America has made a vast effort since 1983 to teach students more math, and the test scores suggest that it has been mildly successful.

Second, it’s worth trying to pound some abstract math into everybody’s heads just to find out which ones can do it. 

Third, there are massive diminishing returns to pounding, however. The Gates Foundations’ pushing for requiring Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II to graduate from public school is overkill. 

Fourth, we need a lot of effort and publicity put into figuring out what kinds of non-abstract math are useful. Consider construction, for example. Economic historians sometimes use carpenters’ wages as an index to compare wages over the centuries because carpenters have been around since before Jesus, and will probably be around for a long time in the future, too. Think about five categories of individuals in regards to construction work:

- Unemployable
- Laborer
- Carpenter
- Contractor
- Developer

The differences between Unemployable and Laborer are presumably mostly due to character. But differences in math skills can matter in moving up the ladder. It would be useful to have a curriculum for mastering practical arithmetic for students who don’t have what it takes for abstract math.

Fifth, the algebra v. statistics question is a good one. I was always mediocre at pure abstract thinking, but, for some reason, am good at very simple statistical thinking (and I am good at pulling up examples out of my memory). That’s a major reason why my insights are so orthogonal to almost everybody else’s. I don’t really know why that is.

Would teaching more statistics at a younger age do much for the quality of discourse in America? I don’t know. In some ways, probabilistic thinking is an old man’s game. It may not appeal much to the young, who are more imaginative, abstract, and idealistic.

• Tags: Education 
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Accounting would seem to be an ideal major for online higher education. There aren’t any labs and it has right and wrong answers so tests can be graded by computers. To be an accountant you have to pass the CPA exam, so why hang around college for four years taking random humanities courses when you could just study accounting really intensely at home for a couple of years and then pass the CPA exam?


Well, the accounting professional societies have been well aware of these arguments since the days of correspondence courses. And they don’t favor making it cheaper and faster for you to become an accountant like them. In their minds, they have quite enough competition as it is. Plus, it’s more pleasant to associate with fellow accountants who have also taken Art History rather just drudge away at accounting.

So, they’ve responded with a long state-by-state campaign for “The 150 Hour Requirement.” Over 40 states now require that anybody sitting the CPA exam must have 150 credit hours of higher education. That’s not four years of college, but five.

The American Institute of CPAs helpfully explains how to get your 150 hours:

Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master’s degree at the same school or at a different one; 

Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master’s in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting; 

Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master’s degree in accounting.

In this world, there are a lot of organized Powers that Be, such as the accounting professional organizations. And most of them don’t have much incentive to make college cheaper for those who aren’t part of organized Powers that Be.

• Tags: Education 
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The media furor over how Online Learning will make college irrelevant because everybody will go to MIT or Stanford from their bedroom reminds me that when I was a kid, you heard a lot about “correspondence courses.” Strivers took advanced courses by mail back then.

In Evelyn Waugh stories, a sure clue that a character is a lower middle class dweeb doomed to never rise in a society run by Oxbridge grads and Old Etonians is that he boasts of having signed up for some correspondence courses. 

How much has the effectiveness of distance learning improved due to technology? I’m sure it’s a little better now, but it seemed like the most motivated correspondence course students could learn a fair amount, although most just gave up. Or, is the current hubbub reflective not of a revolutionary improvement in technique, but that Stanford and MIT are putting their glamorous bricks and mortar brand names on some distance learning products, with the implication that some of their elite institution magic pixie dust will somehow rub off on guys living in their moms’ basement?

• Tags: Education 
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A slide show in the New York Times about a public school in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn: “Hopes for Diversity at a Brooklyn School.” The accompanying article is entitled “Integrating a School, One Child at a Time,” about federal tax dollars being used to desegregate Brooklyn public schools.

During a kindergarten ballet recital at Public School 257, in Williamsburg,  Prairie Jones [a little blonde girl] had a question for the dance instructor. Kylie Cao, to Prairie’s left, is the only Asian student in the kindergarten. 

The school was named a magnet school of the performing arts in 2010, with a mission, under the federal magnet program, of diversification. P.S. 257 is still predominantly Hispanic, despite its recruiting efforts.

This terminology may seem puzzling to readers familiar with the currently conventional uses of the words “diversity,” “integration,” and “desegregate” in the New York Times, as a euphemism for More Non-Asian Minorities: e.g., the Miami Heat are diverse, but UC San Diego is not diverse. Sure, this might be a little puzzling to the Man from Mars, but we’re all 21st Century grown-ups here and we’re familiar with how words are used these days.

In this case, however, the NYT is using terms like “diversity” and “integration” according to their old-fashioned dictionary definitions: a school becoming less Hispanic is becoming more diverse and more integrated, which is Good. 

How come? Because we’re talking about Williamsburg here. There is very little that subscribers to the New York Times care about more than the possibility that certain public schools in Brooklyn will become non-NAM enough for subscribers to send their children there. After all, putting two kids through private school in New York from K-12 costs about a million bucks. But if enough white people can send smoke signals to each other to agree upon which public schools they’ll all flock to, then ca-ching!

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From the New York Times Magazine, a long article about male teachers getting all inappropriate with boy students at an expensive NYC school a generation ago:

Prep-School Predators 

The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual Abuse

Horace Mann is a coed K-12 school, but virtually all the examples in the article involve boys in grades 7-12. For example, this NYT article has an account of how Horace Mann’s gay headmaster and his middle-aged teacher boyfriend plied the author, then a 17-year-old senior on Horace Mann’s baseball squad, and his 17-year-old friend Eric with drinks, while apparently ignoring the author’s 12-year-old brother:

At the end of dinner, Eric and I uttered some prearranged exit line, thanked our hosts, grabbed my brother and drove off drunk into the night, leaving the two grown men to pay the bill and finish out the evening as they might.

Were these middle-aged men motivated by pedophilia or by garden-variety homosexuality? To me that sounds like asking whether Barack Obama Sr. was motivated by pedophilia when he impregnated the President’s 17-year-old mother, or by heterosexuality.

If you look up “pedophilia” in Wikipedia, it says:

This article is about the sexual interest in prepubescent children. For the sexual act, see Child sexual abuse. For the primary sexual interest in 11–14 year old pubescents, see Hebephilia. For mid-to-late adolescents (15-19), see Ephebophilia. 

As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia, or paedophilia, is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents (persons age 16 or older) typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 13 years or younger, though onset of puberty may vary). 

I’m fascinated by how the human mind has terrible trouble with having mixed opinions about anybody. This leads to bizarre dichotomizations in the conventional wisdom. For example, in my lifetime, Charles Darwin has been promoted past sainthood to near divine status, while his half-cousin and successor Francis Galton has been demonized as the scapegoat for all the unfortunate consequences of the Darwinian revolution.

Similarly, over the last generation we’ve been instructed over and over that Gay Is Good, while at the same time going through frenzies of loathing about pedophiles. Therefore, anything bad can’t be homosexuality, it has to be pedophilia. 

You’ll notice that the concept of “homosexual harassment” barely exists in our culture at present. Neither is the useful notion of a “gay mafia” a popular way to think about these kind of cover-ups, where some offenders are allowed to go on for years, and others are quietly eased out with a good letter of recommendation.

In 1948, George Orwell pointed out the political advantages of the nonexistence of terms.

• Tags: Education 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
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What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?