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Current Affairs

January 26, 2015

"The Unappreciated Success Of Charter Schools"

Excellent short piece by economist Adam Ozimek on what the average obscures about charter school performance. (Link via Marginal Revolution.)

"The Real-Life Teachers of Spare Parts on What’s Wrong With US Schools"

I liked about half of this argument and disliked half. The part I liked:

WIRED: How did you come up with the idea of building complex robots at a school where kids need basic math and writing help?

Lajvardi: The kids were bored. That has far reaching implications. They dropped out or learned little because they weren’t finding anything interesting at school.

Cameron: Most kids think school is a lot of work, you get yelled at, it’s regimented. What Fredi and I did with the robotics club wasn’t school. We were just doing something that was a lot of fun.

"A Tsunami Of Change Is Coming To The Global Economy"

If you want a pessimistic forecast of the world economy over the next five or so years, this piece makes some interesting arguments.

January 22, 2015

"Ten Ways Men Oppress Women with Their Everyday Behavior"

Beautifully done.

1. Broplimenting

This is when a guy says something nice to you without asking for your consent first. Men should always ask. “Do you consent to me complimenting you?” before saying anything nice or else it’s assault. No, nonverbal cues don’t count – he still has to ask for explicit consent before offering that kind of affection.

January 20, 2015

". . . it is effulgently suicidal."

In an already distinguished career as a writer, this column is the best by Jonah Goldberg I've read yet.

I don’t dispute that Islamist terrorist attacks threaten to give Islam a bad name. (Actually, that ship probably sailed a long time ago for lots of people.) What I don’t get is why Muslims should have blanket immunity from the rules that apply to everyone else. If Israel does something bad, Jews are expected to condemn it — and they do. When a pro-lifer goes vigilante and blows up an abortion clinic, you can be damn sure that pro-life leaders are expected to denounce it — and they do. More to the point, the entire liberal establishment gets their dresses over their collective heads about the need to hold larger communities accountable. Just ask tea partiers, Evangelical Christians, gun-rights advocates, and my other fellow Legionaires of Doom.

The entire edifice of supposedly sophisticated left-wing thinking is about collective responsibility. . . .

We’re breeding generations of citizens who think attacking left-wing college administrators from the left is bold and courageous and denouncing Islamic extremism is racist. We apologize for the “root causes” that lead to actual violence, while we theorize endlessly about how ultimately we’re really to blame. Our military heroes are terroristic and the terrorists are misunderstood. That’s not merely dazzlingly idiotic; it is effulgently suicidal.

"Botched environmental predictions for 2015"

This is a great project for somebody: keep track of the Left's record on predictions.

You’ve heard the warnings: Global warming could doom humanity. Overpopulation and deforestation will destroy the planet. We’re going to run out of energy.

It isn’t happening right now, experts say, but it could happen in a few decades.

Yet, decades ago, experts warned that many catastrophes would happen now – by the year 2015. Yet they have not. found five predictions that went astray.

"More Is More: Why the Paradox of Choice Might Be a Myth"

From the first time I heard about the famous experiment, I thought it was baloney: the stakes were low, the situation not representative of the choices people actually face, and the sample was almost surely unrepresentative. The corollary worry that increasing choices were therefore bound to make us sad and crazy failed to recognize the significant increase in tools people now have for making choices.

So the recent failure to replicate the results is of little importance to me, but your mileage may vary.

See this for Barry Schwartz's reply. But also see this remark of his:

It’s just that sometimes choice is paralyzing, and sometimes it’s liberating, and we don’t know what determines which direction it’ll go in, yet. So I don’t think we can say unequivocally that too much choice is bad, because we don’t know the limits to that.

I'd give him an A for honesty, but a D- for the scientific importance of his theory.

"Ezekiel Emanuel: Go Ration Yourself'

David Catron does a fine job smacking yet another really dopey pronouncement from Mr. Emanuel. This is especially nice:

. . . he probably doesn’t experience much cognitive dissonance when suggesting that, in order to forestall the physician shortage caused by a program he helped design, right-minded people should forego a “benefit” they were coerced to purchase.

"Is rewarding straight-A students a problem?"

Of course. What would you expect from a modern public school?

A Maryland middle school has sparked heated controversy by holding an end-of-day pizza party for high-performing students. As Donna St. George reported in yesterday’s Washington Post, Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring only invited straight-A students to the final period celebration, while allowing B and C students to join after school. Students with less than a C average (306 of Eastern’s 865 students) weren’t invited at all. 

January 19, 2015

"The Year of Piketty"

Bloomberg columnist Clive Crook concisely summarizes the major attacks on Piketty's work and concludes with this vicious, mostly accurate swipe at how the social sciences work:

Attention, social scientists. Don't worry about being wrong, just be wrong in a big way. Be wrong because you over-reach. Be wrong the way Marx was wrong (but maybe hope for less collateral damage).

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