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December 2010

Some stuff that may tide you over

There will be no new posts here over the New Year's Day weekend and maybe for a few days after that. Here's some stuff that you might want to read until the Door is back. Happy New Year!

There's a veritable feast of stuff at Esquire's "What I've Learned: The Archive".

Attempts to answer 12 "Whys?"

"Why parents hate parenting".

"Why cold, dark, small, and depressive nations top the rankings".

"Why Are We Beginning to Hate Congress?" ["Beginning to"??]

"Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street?"

"Why Do IQ Scores Vary By Nation?"

"Why Are Fewer and Fewer U.S. Employees Satisfied With Their Jobs?"

"Why We Dream: Real Reasons Revealed".

"Why Texas is doing so much better economically than the rest of the nation".

"Why Geeks Hate the iPad".

"Why GPS voices are so condescending".

"Why the Latest Frontier of Statistical Research in Baseball Is Defense".

"Why Do Foreigners Like Fanta So Much?"

High school debate.

I've lamented before on this blog the awful decline of high school debate. Here is another, recent depressing example. Maybe even more discouraging is that a number of people are aware of the problems, but no change seems to be forthcoming. For example, a former debater was quoted nearly 15 years ago: "[contemporary debate is] an exercise which would provide good training for only two occupations: becoming an auctioneer and making Federal Express commercials. And that's all." What I hadn't known until recently was why high school debate has gotten so far off track. The answer it turns out, is connected to Harvard law professor, Lawrence Tribe. (Via the interesting Slate exchange, "Debating Debate Club".)

Continue reading "Some stuff that may tide you over" »

"An Extraordinary Speech"

I agree. Speech by Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC, 11/13/10. For my money, one of the most powerful phrases, ever, is "Semper Fidelis".

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty . . . into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight--for you.

Today is the 100th birthday of Ronald Coase

To mark the occasion The Economist has run "Why Do Firms Exist?"

And here's what George L. Priest said about "The Problem of Social Cost":

The political or ideological dimension of the Coase Theorem is often ignored. To Coase, the implication of the proposition that "In the absence of transaction costs, the assignment of liability will have no effect on the allocation of resources" is that courts and the government can do no good by interfering in markets. If government action can somehow reduce transaction costs, that may enhance welfare; otherwise, courts and the government are fooling themselves by attempting to improve upon market outcomes and should stay out. Coase’s ambition was to deflate arguments for more intrusive government, not—as it happened—to revolutionize our understanding of the operation of the legal system.

"The Sole Purpose of Education"

I'd quibble: I'd say it's not the "sole purpose" but it should be one of the primary ones.

Note that both statements are echoes of one of Henmingway's famous lines: "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector."

And it's why I've never been keen on core curriculum. In my estimation, such requirements do little to achieve that purpose. Sorry, American Council of Trustees and Alumni.


Harvard muffs an admission decision

An interesting question, which the article doesn't answer, is whether one or two people messed up, or whether this was an institutional failure. I doubt outsiders will ever know, but the case is a heck of a wake-up call regardless: student seeking to transfer to Harvard lied, big time, and for a while, got away with it.

A gushing letter of recommendation, purportedly from the director of college counseling at Phillips Academy, said Wheeler enrolled in the prestigious Andover prep school as a junior. The accompanying transcript, though, indicated he attended for four years.

Both documents turned out to be fake. . . .

A grade report from the College Board, which Wheeler has admitted faking, shows he earned the highest marks on 16 advanced-placement exams, an improbable feat. The majority of students taking AP exams take only one or two during their four years of high school, according to the College Board. Virtually none take 14 or more.

And there's more.

UPDATE: He also fooled Stanford's adminissions people.