Tag Archives: education

Florida And Virginia Governments Rank Asians As Smartest, Blacks As Dumbest

Before you go on wondering if this is news from 1954, rest assured it’s from the time when a black man is running the country. Background: the No Child Left Behind Act that teachers love to hate set the audacious goal that all children should read at their grade level by 2014 — meaning that fifth graders actually read at a fifth grade level. This being a ludicrous goal, 33 states have asked for waivers so they can get their act together and maybe meet that goal a decade later.

Two of those 33 states are Florida and Virginia, and they both think they found a way to improve their overall test scores: since intelligence has been scientifically correlated to skin color, why not have separate-but-equal testing requirements for the big four races? That way, blacks, whose dark pigment blocks most of the sun’s knowledge rays from entering the brain, don’t have to suddenly become twice as smart in order to compete with the super-intelligent asians, who have an unfair advantage since their eyes are specially adapted for reading and memorizing.

photo by Sukanto Debnath

 

So, in order to make sure the four major races of man are each challenged at their particular level of intelligence, the Virginia legislature set the following passing test scores:

  • 82% for Asian students
  • 68% for whites
  • 52% for Latinos
  • 45% for blacks
  • 33% for kids with disabilities

Oh yeah, they also made sure to take into account the much tabooed fifth race: the mentally retarded. To be fair, it’s a sliding scale, because compared to the Asians, every other race is retarded. The Florida legislature, however, decided to go a slightly different racist route: they set goals for what percentage of students from each race should be reading at their grade level:

  • 90% of Asian students in reading, 92% in math
  • 88% of whites in reading, 86% in math
  • 81% of Hispanics in reading, 80% in math
  • 74% percent of blacks in reading, 74% in math
  • No goals for kids with disabilities

Florida officials, for their part, mentioned that their plan makes sense because students come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. However, they apparently found out that splitting kids up by socioeconomic background was too difficult, and decided to rely on the only attribute that, throughout American history, has made any sense as a discriminating factor: genealogy.

Some of the finer points of the racial segregation have yet to be made public. For example, are Indians and Chinese both counted as Asians? Indians look more like blacks, but perform more like Chinese, so it’s a tough call. Also, what about the smaller races: American Indians, Eskimos, those people from places in central Asia like Uzbekistan, and the occasional Aborigine? Are they all lumped together with one of the other races, possibly Latinos?

Olivia Munn is half Chinese

And what about those who aren’t pure-bloods? No word yet on what will be done about the mixed race kids like Obama, Tiger Woods, Lou Diamond Phillips and Olivia Munn. In Virginia, perhaps the passing grade will be based on a formula of one’s racial makeup: for each race in your blood, multiply the race’s passing score by what fraction of you is of that race, add them all up, and voila. The half black, half white kid’s passing score: 56.5%. The black kid with one Asian grandmother that his grandfather met on his tour in Vietnam: 54.5%. The kid with a grandparent from each race: 61.75% — better than pure-blood Latinos, but not as good as pure-blood whites. And then there’s the set of twins, one of which is black and the other white.

They could just use a simple majority rule: if you’re half or mostly Latino, you’re Latino. Or maybe they’ll just go with the one drop rule: one drop of black blood makes you black, and the only way you can be considered Asian is by having no black, Latino or white blood to contaminate the learning ability. They should also institute mandatory genetic tests, just to make sure that the kid who says he’s Latino is not actually just a tanned Italian trying to get out of studying.

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From Northwest Public Radio and The Palm Beach Post, via Slashdot

The Problem With Required High School Classes

The Washington Post has an op-ed piece by a guy asking why his son is required to take chemistry. He goes through the normal arguments you hear and debunks them:

  • We need to produce scientists and other nerds for the good of the economy. Sure, but forcing a kid who hates science to balance equations is just going to make him hate it more.
  • Kids need a general education that includes things they don’t like. Yeah, but a whole year of it, during which you learn the electron configuration of atoms (Lithium’s is 1s2 2s1) is overkill.
  • The skills they learn apply to other areas of life. Of course, but there are other subjects that will teach the same skills that have the benefit of being of interest to the kid.
  • They don’t get a choice in school because that’s how life is. Or maybe life is like that because, as kids, we’re indoctrinated with not having choices.

Warren Buffet

 

He also mentions the opportunity cost of required classes: because we were forced to take chemistry instead of economics, most of us know that air is composed of nitrogen and oxygen but have no idea what an opportunity cost is. This, despite the fact that 99% of us will never need to know about the composition of air, but we all deal with money every day. Whenever we forego doing one thing in favor of another thing, we lose the opportunity to do that first thing. If you took another job instead of the one you have, maybe you’d have gotten a promotion and would now be making more money — that’s the opportunity cost. Same goes if you bought a different car that broke down less often, or painted and sold a portrait instead of going to the movies. And the same applies to high school: by requiring classes that are useless to the student, it may actually hurt their education. It gained nothing for Warren Buffet to take chemistry, but learning economics made him a billionaire.

The same author has another very interesting article on even more disruptive education reform: that of not forcing all children to learn in the same way, at the same rate. If you have a kid with ADHD, it’s definitely worth a read.

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From The Washington Post, via Slashdot

Grad School Is Like Scientology

Great video exposing the scam of graduate education, in which you always have to pay for more levels and are urged to make donations for life. For one grad student, they gave her “a 200 square-foot room where she was forced to serve as a Residential Advisor to sexually rampant alcoholics.”

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From YouTube, via Neatorama

The Truth About College Education

Also, the less tangible effects of networking and being indoctrinated with the jargon and behaviors of the upper half.

From SMBC

The American Educational System Is Just Fine

The first international academic test was given in 1964, and American students came in almost last. That was almost 50 years ago and ever since then, it’s quite possible that not one good thing has been said about the American educational system. In fact, quite the opposite: the general consensus is that education in the US is abysmal, that Japan, Korea, Russia and China are producing super-students that will eventually take over the world, and that almost nothing about the way we teach children is good. But after 50 years of this, there’s quite a lot of history to reflect on and USA Today has an article with evidence to the contrary. It starts with this quote from 1983:

Our once unchallenged pre-eminence in commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. … The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity. — From A Nation At Risk: The Imperative For Educational Report, created by Reagan’s Secretary of Education

And there’s the first clue that in reality, nothing’s wrong with our educational system: thirty years later, America still leads the world in Nobel Prizes and scientific papers, its university system is the envy of the world, and standardized test scores keep increasing. Since the 1980s, Silicon Valley has become a global force that has quite literally changed the world — most dramatically via its role in the Arab Spring — and the growing list of discoveries, innovations and accomplishments shows no signs of slowing down.

 

Arab protester sending a Tweet

 

So how do we reconcile that reality with the numbers shown on international standardized tests, in which America is consistently embarrassed? The crux of the matter are the notions of freedom and opportunity: in many countries, especially the Asian ones, students have little choice but to do well, lest they bring great shame to their families, or worse, beatings on themselves. Of course, children are the same everywhere and since everyone can’t be a genius, schools in those countries gear their curriculums toward something everyone can master: memorization. Armed with the simplest of tools, repetition, any child can memorize entire books of history, science and mathematics, then regurgitate facts and formulas on standardized tests and appear smart in the same way a computer does.

But in the United States, education is largely up to the student and their parents. The opportunity to do well is available, and so is the freedom to fail. If a kid wants to devour encyclopedias and become a math wiz, he can. If he wants to sleep through high school and get a job at Wal-mart, that’s also fine: everyone doesn’t have to be MIT material. As a result, American education focuses less on rote memorization — which, by the way, will be useless in a world filled with Siri, Wolfram Alpha, and Watson — and more on critical thinking skills involving creativity and problem solving. (The No Child Left Behind Act is a step backward exactly for this reason.) And if you do well and work hard, the sky’s the limit: last week, a homeless kid got accepted into Harvard, thanks to his dedication.

 

Watson devastated his human opponents on Jeopardy!

 

Not that higher education is very important to success: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college. They had good ideas, creativity, a great work ethic and the drive to get past obstacles and ended up generating mountains of money, hiring a lot of people who buried their heads in books and did well in school, and outsourcing a lot of work to China — work that could easily be automated, if only Chinese workers cost more than robots.

And that leads to the trillion dollar question: do we want a nation of human robots, whose jobs will soon be automated out of existence, or do we want a nation of Steve Jobses, who feel stifled by onerous school work? The American educational system has always been geared toward the latter: it gives opportunity to everyone, it rewards students who want to do well, and gives them the freedom to make their own choices and mistakes — because that’s also how the world will treat them as adults. Education should prepare children for the real world, and what matters in the real world is drive, creativity and the ability to solve complex problems. The ability to take tests, on the other hand, has never made anyone a billionaire.

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From USA Today, via Slashdot and Melinda

Classroom Lectures Are Ineffective

NPR has an interesting article about an informal study done by a Harvard physics professor which shows that after taking a semester of physics, students only understood slightly more (14%) physics concepts than before. These concepts were basic ones, such as the fact that, in a vacuum, everything falls at the same rate — regardless of size or weight. In fact, in traditional classes where students supposedly learn by listening to a lecturer talk, only about 10% of the students actually understood the material well. And likely, those 10% probably learned it (or would’ve learned it) on their own.

14th century illustration by Laurentius de Voltolina showing a university lecture in Bologna

 

The reason we even have lectures may be outdated too: when universities first sprung up in the Middle Ages, textbooks were expensive. They still cost an arm and a leg, but back then, before Gutenberg and his printing press, they were unaffordable. So professors would verbally impart the wisdom contained in books, along with adding their own special spices, because that was the only practical means of knowledge transfer. Today, knowledge transfer is no longer a problem: the information itself is at our fingertips. But properly assimilating that information and understanding it — that is where classrooms can make a big difference.

In his classes, the aforementioned physics professor now has students read the material at home and do course work in small groups in the classroom. He puts up a question on a projector, asks the students to answer it, then talk about the answer. After this exercise, the rate of correct answers doubles, from 29% to 62%.

Bust of Socrates at the Louvre

 

We’ve seen before that Socrates thought knowledge can only be gathered meaningfully via dialog, in which ideas are interrogated; that writing is to knowledge as a picture of the Dalai Lama is to the real man — a shadow of the true subject. But in a world of limited resources, while reading about the Dalai and seeing him on YouTube gives only an incomplete knowledge of the man, it’s great prep work for actually meeting him in person. Likewise, pre-reading class material is great prep work for actual classroom dialog during which most of the actual learning happens, but where time is very limited.

Via NPR

The Dollar Value Of A College Degree

There are three schools of thought on why going to college is good:

  1. Cash. Having a college degree will help you get higher paying jobs.
  2. Enlightenment. It expands your mind: the higher education will teach you how to think properly, and that may or may not pay off financially, but it’ll make you a better person and vote the right way (which according to universities, is the left way).
  3. Fun. Where else will other people pay your way to get more cash and/or enlightenment, with the added benefit of racking up fun memories with irresponsible people (or is it the other way?), about which you then get to reminisce for the rest of your life?

Those last two reasons are no good to researchers because their effectiveness is largely immeasurable, so the ones at Georgetown decided to look at the trade-school aspect of college and see what the return on investment is for a college degree.  Then they wrote a big report on the subject, or so The Chronicle of Higher Education will have us believe.

It turns out — and this will be shocking to all of you who just arrived from Papua New Guinea — different degrees command different salaries! Generally speaking, the more practical a degree is, the higher the salary will be and the more abstract, the lower. So the arithmetic stuff (engineering, business, health, science) gets paid more than the reading/writing stuff (arts, policy, social work). Huge surprise, right? The researchers admit that it’s not, but the value of this data is the large number of majors they cataloged, which shows for example, the difference in earnings between a Geography major and a Criminology major. So you’re pretty interested in two sort of different things, you can now easily find out which will have the bigger financial payoff.

One caveat of the study is that it only compared bachelor degrees — doctors, lawyers, psychologists, etc are left out of this study and most of them would probably make more than the math-y bachelors.

Bottom line: even a social work bachelor degree is worth it, because on average even the people with the lowest-paying bachelor degrees earn about 150k$ more over the length of their career than high-school-only graduates. For other majors it’s a few hundred grand more, topping out with engineering at about a million dollars more.

From Georgetown University, via The Chronicle Of Higher Education and Slashdot