In 1957, The New York Times [published] two lists of skills. One was drawn from a corporate personnel manual, the other from a kindergarten report card:
List A: Dependability; Stability; Imagination; Originality; Self-expression; Health and vitality; Ability to plan and control; Cooperation.
List B: Can be depended on; Contributes to the good work of others; Accepts and uses criticism; Thinks critically; Shows initiative; Plans work well; Physical resistance; Self-expression; Creative ability.
A successful executive in 1950s America, in short, was expected to have essentially the same skills as a well-behaved four-year-old. (B is the kindergarten list, by the way.)
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Education
A woman is telling me about her two sons . . . they’ve grown up to be fine young men, she says. It’s disappointing, of course, that neither of them managed to finish high school but it was really unavoidable because the older boy was much smarter than his peers and so he was always bored and academically unengaged and finally dropped out completely, and the younger boy just imitated whatever the older boy did.
I’ve heard this type of woulda-coulda-shoulda before and I have to admit I’ve never been totally receptive to it: this happened . . . then that happened . . . the kid did such-and-such . . .
It sounds very passive. Parents aren’t supposed to be passive observers. There are intervention points every day. If things aren’t going in the right direction, you do something to take them in a different direction.
Look in any classroom in America . . . you’ll see kids with a range of abilities. Are you telling me that all of the smartest kids are destined to fail because they’re smart? That because they’re smart, they have no option but to get bored and check out and fail?
Lots of smart kids do very well in school . . . they get good grades and test scores and they go to good colleges. What is the difference between those kids and the kids who get bored and check out and fail?
Think about it . . .
One of my colleagues at work has a son in 6th grade. She’s trying to figure out which math class to put him in for 7th grade.
Working backward, we know that “normal” kids take Algebra I in 9th grade, the smarter kids take Algebra I in 8th grade, and the smartest kids take Algebra I in 7th grade. Placement depends on how a kid scores on the math placement test.
My co-worker’s concern is if her kid gets a top score on the placement test and he’s eligible to take Algebra I in 7th grade, does she want him to do that, or to wait till 8th grade?
If he takes Algebra I in 7th grade, that would mean he’d be taking the hardest math classes all through high school. Would it be better from a college admission standpoint to take easier classes and get all A’s, or take the hardest classes and maybe get a B+?
Our kid has already been through the Irvine schools. He’s in college now so I can answer questions like this with the benefit of experience.
“I like to see kids push themselves to take the hardest challenge available,” I said. “Colleges are not impressed with kids who get A’s in easy classes.”
“But what if he takes hard classes and gets a B+?” she asked.
“My advice is, don’t get a B+.”
If your kid takes hard classes in high school and gets B’s in them, he or she may not be able to attend a top university, but it wasn’t their destiny to attend a top university. Your kid is not that kind of a kid.
That reminds me . . . Olympic figure skating is on TV this week. Are you watching it? Neither am I, but I’ve heard that some of the skaters actually fall down during their program.
They’re supposed to be the best skaters in the world. Even I could go out there and skate around for a few minutes without falling down. Granted, I couldn’t do any spins or jumps or skate backwards or anything like that.
The point is that to be recognized as the best at something, you can’t just do easy things well. You have to risk doing things that are hard to do. In the skating scenario, it’s not enough to say “I didn’t fall on my ass.” No, you didn’t, but you didn’t even try to do anything hard.
In any endeavor, you won’t impress people of discernment simply by avoiding anything that might give you some difficulty. Step up to the challenge.
The New York Times has been editorializing recently on the nation’s need to enlarge our pool of science and math students, with a particular focus on girls and minorities, and to encourage them to pursue careers that will keep the country competitive.
Here’s a list of the members of the NYT editorial board, including academic major(s), which I obtained from their online bios. See if you notice anything unusual.
- Andrew Rosenthal, Editor
- (American History)
- Terry Tang, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
- (Economics, Law)
- Robert B. Semple Jr., Associate Editor
- David Firestone, Projects Editor, National Politics, the White House and Congress
- Vikas Bajaj, Business, International Economics
- Philip M. Boffey, Science
- Francis X. Clines, National Politics, Congress, Campaign Finance
- (none listed)
- Lawrence Downes, Immigration, Veterans Issues
- (English, Journalism)
- Carol Giacomo, Foreign Affairs
- (English Literature)
- Mira Kamdar, International Affairs
- (French Literature)
- Verlyn Klinkenborg, Agriculture, Environment, Culture
- (English Literature)
- Juliet Lapidos, Culture
- (Comparative Literature, English Literature)
- Eleanor Randolph, New York State, Northeast Region, Media
- (none listed)
- Dorothy Samuels, Law, Civil Rights, National Affairs
- Serge Schmemann, International Affairs
- (none listed)
- Brent Staples, Education, Criminal Justice, Economics
- Masaru Tamamoto, International Affairs
- (International Relations)
- Teresa Tritch, Economic Issues, Tax Policy
- (German, Journalism)
- Jesse Wegman, The Supreme Court, Legal Affairs
Did you notice that no one on that list, including the science editor, has a degree in anything related to math or science?
Now you might say, “Well, I’ve never heard of any of these people so why should I care what they think?” That’s a fair point.
But still, one has to give them credit for having made it in the big city, despite their lack of interest in math and science. So why encourage students to pursue educational goals that they themselves had no interest in, when this lack of interest has evidently not been a hindrance? Why is this a credible course of action?
My family and I are enjoying a meal at a Japanese restaurant. In the booth behind me are a husband and wife and five kids, the oldest of whom looks to be about 12.
One of the kids, a boy of about 5, is standing up and running a toy car back and forth along the divider between his booth and our booth. He gets bored with that after a while and starts drumming on the divider with a pair of chopsticks.
The boy’s activities don’t bother me much . . . what bothers me is that it takes 15 minutes for one of the parents to tell him to stop it and sit down. He doesn’t do either and nothing else is said or done about the matter.
In the near future, this boy’s inability to sit still and follow directions will get him “diagnosed” by a schoolteacher as an ADHD kid, even though the real reason he can’t sit still and follow directions is that his parents never taught him to sit still and follow directions.
And folks, don’t have five kids. Raising a kid requires more than 20 percent of your attention.
Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday.
Why am I not shocked by that?
Because Americans on the whole are dumb and lazy. We have lots of dumb, lazy parents raising dumb, lazy kids. The average American kid doesn’t compare well academically to the average kid in an Asian country where academics and hard work are valued, or to the average kid from a small, homogenous European country where it’s easier to get everyone pulling in the same educational direction.
The U.S. is a big, diverse country and the average academic results are pulled down by a lot of dummkopfs.
But still, the smartest people in the world are Americans. Our smartest people are smarter than the smartest people in other lands.
You don’t think so? I’m looking at the list of winners of the 2013 Nobel Prizes . . . out of 11 recipients (I’m omitting the winners of the literature and peace prizes because those aren’t academic awards), eight are from the U.S. The other three are from Belgium, the UK and France, and the Frenchman is affiliated with Harvard University.
No one in Asian countries is winning any Nobel Prizes. Q.E.D.
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a public school district was legally justified in firing science instructor James Freshwater, who waved a Bible at his students, distributed religious pamphlets and talked about creationism in evolution lessons.
Personally, I’d fire him just based on the look of smug, benevolent certainty on his face. He doesn’t look like a man who struggles with doubt, which is the essence of science.
A junior high school math teacher posted this on Facebook:
That makes perfect sense to me. Work gets done a lot faster if the results don’t have to be correct.
Thus spoke The Programmer.
When racial preferences were banned by the voters in California, there were dire predictions that this would mean the virtual disappearance of black and Hispanic students from the University of California system. What in fact happened was a 2% decline in their enrollment in the University of California system as a whole, but an increase in the number of black and Hispanic students graduating, including an increase of 55% in the number graduating in four years and an increase of 63% in the number graduating in four years with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
Instead of the predicted drastic decline in enrollment in the system as a whole, there was a drastic redistribution of black and Hispanic students within the University of California system. Their enrollment dropped at the two most elite campuses, Berkeley and UCLA — by 42% at the former and 33% at the latter. But their enrollment rose by 22% at the Irvine campus, 18% at the Santa Cruz campus, and 65% at the University of California at Riverside. After this redistribution, the number of black and Hispanic students who graduated with degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering “rose by nearly 50 percent,” according to Sander and Taylor. The number of doctorates earned by black and Hispanic students in the system rose by about 20%.
In short, the problems created by the mismatching brought on by affirmative action gave way to significant improvements in the academic performances of black and Hispanic students in the University of California system after those preferences were banned.
The Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors Wednesday approved newly hired LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s three-year contract but not without faculty members voicing concerns. According to the terms, Cameron will receive $600,000 for the 2013 season, followed by $1.3 million and $1.5 million in the last two years of his contract.
LSU has faculty?!
Donald McKinney, director of wind ensembles and conducting and associate professor in the school of music, said he was “disheartened” in LSU’s handling of the future. He said the morale has been low and hopes LSU would change to retain faculty. McKinney, who’s a newer faculty member, said he’s heading to another university at the end of the semester. . . .
Nathan Crick, an associate professor in communication studies, echoed similar sentiments. Crick said he was sold false goods and now “it’s time to return them.” The professor said he’s leaving LSU for Texas A&M.
GOOD RIDDANCE, YOU PUSSIES! Your departure frees up more money for football!
Newly appointed LSU President King Alexander said he isn’t surprised of the issues in Louisiana because they are strikingly similar to California. Alexander is currently the president at California State University Long Beach but will take the lead at LSU beginning July 1.
King Alexander!? Well, President of LSU is quite a stepdown from King of Macedonia. He must be a big football fan.
Wait — what? Cal State Long Beach?! That place is a shithole. I guess it’s hard to find a guy who’d consider LSU an academic advancement.
God-DAMN I can’t wait for football season!
I get an email from the UCI-Gifted-Students mailing list. Shortly thereafter, a parent clicks Reply All to send out this response:
Please remove my name from your mailing list.
Wait, there’s more. A second parent then responds to the first parent, also via Reply All:
I'm one of receipents [sic] of the UCI-Gifted-Students emails, therefore not responsible and able to remove you. I wish I knew who to direct you to.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this story under the headline “Falling Diversity of Provosts Signals Challenge for Presidential Pipeline, Study Finds.”
FALLING DIVERSITY! LOOK OUT BELOW!
Ha ha . . . but seriously, who even knows what a provost is? I don’t. I’ve vaguely heard of it as an academic job title but that’s about it.
I know that Jon Provost played little Timmy on the Lassie TV series. I know that Marie Prevost was a one-time Mack Sennett bathing beauty and leading lady in the 1920s whose screen glory had faded by the time she died of acute alcoholism in a small Hollywood apartment at the age of 38.
By the way, I notice that Asian students are continuing to excel, even in the absence of Asian provosts. Go figure.
The University of Colorado has a $4.3 million grant to research the “problem” of 40 to 60 percent attrition rate among STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors.
Someone is missing an obvious point here, which is that there should be a large dropout rate for STEM majors. Incompetent technologists and engineers create disasters.
The music department, the English department, the philosophy department, etc., etc., can graduate their incompetent students without worrying that they’re going to build a collapsing bridge, blow up a space shuttle, disintegrate a Mars orbiter — you get the idea . . .
I took a Computational Finance midterm over the weekend on Coursera. I’ve taken a few Coursera classes before — they had quizzes, problem sets, programming assignments, essays — but none of them had a midterm or final exam.
It’s the first academic exam I’ve taken in at least a couple of decades, and the first exam ever in which — because it was online — I was able to enjoy the company of my life partner, Wild Turkey.
Here’s my result:
I lost the one point on this question right here:
If you understand the question, it’s obvious which one of the four I missed, but it may not be obvious what the right answer is. It wasn’t to me, anyway.
My wife asks, “Did you see the grading curve?”
“No, but when you score 149 out of 150, you leave it to others to worry about the curve.”
Coursera‘s been around long enough now that some classes are being offered for a second time, including a couple that I’ve taken and recommend:
First of all, it’s a great class. Rangel has a real passion for the material and he’s provided extra resources to accomodate online students, many of whom probably don’t have the math background of the average Cal Tech student.
He’s from Madrid, so his pronunciations and mannerisms are different, like the gesture below, which I captured from one of the video lectures.
He was explaining how something or other would increase our understanding of economics and he punctuated the word “understanding” by pointing at his head with two fingers. I don’t know what this gesture means in Spain, or if it means anything at all. Probably he knows what it means in America, but as I said, he’s passionate about the material and I think he loses himself in what he’s saying.
He’s also one of the only two people I know who pronounce the word “subsequent” as sub-SEEK-went, the other being one of my work colleagues, who’s actually from this country and therefore has no excuse . . .
Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later — NYTimes.com
Profits shmofits . . . if you’re not using Coursera.org, you are missing a life-changing opportunity.
- Parents who let their kids grow up stupid and blame the schools
- People who yawn or sneeze a LOT louder than necessary
- People who use the expression “we tip our hat [or cap] to those guys,” especially if they’re wearing a hat and they don’t physically tip it
In old days men studied for the sake of self-improvement; nowadays men study in order to impress other people. — Confucius