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January 2005

EXTRA CREDIT PROBLEM. For research I'm doing, I'd like to explain the differences across U.S. states in the fraction of K-12 students classified as "gifted and talented".

I assume initially that in large groups of students, the fraction who are gifted and talented should be about the same. I say "about" because external conditions--poverty, for one--may prevent some students from reaching their potentials and also because high IQ workers are probably unequally distributed across states and so, therefore, would their children.

I further assume that most of the variation seen in the table linked to above is therefore due to differences in how "gifted and talented" students are identified which depends, in turn, on the educational systems of the states. Some support for this is that the simple correlation between the fraction of adults who hold graduate or professional degrees and the percentage of gifted and talented students is -.08; the fraction of adults who have bachelor's degrees, -.06; and median household income, -.03.

Some potential causal factors I want to explore are teacher unionization; political attitudes; economic and social inequality; and availability of private schools (which in the long run also would need to be explained).

As a quick-and-dirty test of the first two factors, I computed the correlation with the fraction of the electorate voting for Bush in 2004. I get .135; .195 without Maryland.

Suggestions welcome.

With sincere apologies to my older daughter, who cites Christina Hoff Summers in support of the proposition that it's amazing "how well behaved" college students are, some news about her alma mater, the Harvard of the South:

For the past five years, the homemaker has endured the future leaders of America vomiting in their yards, "hanging out" buck naked on their balconies and chanting during apparent rituals. . . .

Besides the weekly "it's Friday!" celebrations, members of university-recognized frats host unofficial off-campus parties, as do some renegade groups that have dumped their university and national affiliations but function like fraternities with none of the rules. . . .

Freshman Lisa Bonnifield criticized Duke administrators and the neighbors for being uptight. "What else do you expect us to be doing playing chess?" she said, before a friend dragged her over the campus wall.