Discussion thread

I have little free time today, and am thus putting up a discussion thread. Readers can talk about anything they want. I’ll start with a suggestion, but you need not take it up.

There are a pair of articles in Psychology Today about how and why The University of California eliminated the SAT standardized achievement test despite its own council’s exhaustive reserach and recommendation that it be retained because it (especially in conjunction with high school grades) was one of the best predictors of college achievement (measured by grade point average, or GPA). You can read the two parts below, or just weigh in on the general trend of colleges and universities (and now graduate schools) eliminating standardized test results as criteria for admission.

Click on the screenshots to read:

Part 1:

Part 2

 

Or discuss what you want: Kamala Harris, the pandemic, or whatever, but try to keep the discussion reasonably coherent.

229 Comments

  1. BobTerrace
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    We seem to be back to the requirement to enter our name and email address.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      WordPress is acting up again today. To have my comment form already filled in with email and name, I had to sign out of WordPress and then sign in again.

      My apologies; this is the fault of WordPress.

    • Wunold
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      At first, I though you were talking about the Corona rules for gastronomy. 😀

      (Here in Germany, guests are required to give their personal data to the restaurant to track the potential infected in case of a Corona outbreak in the premises.)

      • Wunold
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        My English is (more) broken (than usually) today: “thoughT” and “potentialLY infected” 😛

        Any more mistakes can be gladly given to charity.

  2. John Donohue
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Dangerous dichotomy …

    A vs B ..

    A) “MMT” Modern Monetary Theory is activated on it’s front end: only the Federal Government can create and issue “money” and it is doing so in huge gulps of 2,3,4,5 Trillion in direct “forgivable loans” and direct stimulus payments, plus QE by the trillions on the backside.

    B) the required contingent mechanisms of MMT are not activated! FedGov cannot (yet?) issue jobs or permanent GBI to fight unemployment, tax at will or freeze wages/prices to avoid inflation, and cease the illusion of “selling” of “paying back” the instruments it creates.

    So, we have half a revolution. This is a recipe for ruin. Either the full MMT/GND/KeynesianTotality has to be implemented on all fronts, or repealed completely. Otherwise, the “NewNormal spending” will engulf the OldNormal elements and collapse the world economy.

    Half measures will avail us nothing.

    • ritaprangle
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Huh?
      You need to be more clear, at least for me to understand your major point. Break it down for people who don’t have economic tendencies or cares and don’t dwell in acronyms as if everyone understands them.

      • John Donohue
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 6:39 am | Permalink

        MMT = Modern Monetary Theory
        GBI = Guaranteed Basic Income
        GND = Green New Deal
        QE = Quantitative Easing
        KeynesianTotality = The Progressive project, including all four of the items I just identified, to move the US/World out of classic hard-money capitalism into fiat-money cartel capitalism mixed with welfare state.

        Once upon a time, wealth and prosperity were made thus: Individuals create value in themselves, they trade that value voluntarily with others in order to pay their way, they accumulate surplus and save it, they invest their surplus in enterprise, this makes wealth for themselves and others, everyone pays small taxes for the commons (protection against foreign aggression and rectification of violations domestically.

        Now, all of that is a quaint artifact. “Money” is generated out of thin air not based on production, distributed not based on contribution, spent not based on thrift, individuals and enterprise crank up debt, government declares the debt “forgiven,” and stupendous promises are made that a) this will happily continue like a perpetual motion machine; and b) prosperity will flow for elders and youngers the more the scheme is implemented.

        My point is this: it is dangerous to only partially implement this Keynesian dream. If you are going to issue “money” like a river flowing from the throat of God, you should jolly well implement the remaining control mechanisms needed. Guaranteed basic income (or a guaranteed well-paid Gov job if you so choose), massive and instant taxation of both wealth and income to fight inflation, “free” health care and education, and wage/price controls.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for your clarification, I see what you’re getting at. I want to add more, but this post with 200+ comments makes it impossible to respond/ask questions on some of your points. I’m a mile down here commenting and hate running up and down, trying to remember what you wrote. I guess I could copy/paste your entire comment and go from there, but just not going to.

          One of the problems with this new wordpress version. Posts with lots of comments makes it too cumbersome to respond to comments up thread, especially with so many details in a comment like yours.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg. It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.

      Lyndon Baines Johnson

      Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

      • John Donohue
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 6:14 am | Permalink

        @darwinwins, thank you for apologizing. Are you worried about the danger I am citing?

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          I don’t know. I am worried about the rate at which the national debt is being rung up (presently three trillion $ a year.) Not a problem now but could be when (if?) the economy and interest rates return to normal. To make matters worse, the debt is not being used for the most effective programs to help the economy, which is perhaps your point.

          Ooops, I feel something running down my leg. 😀

          • John Donohue
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            FY2020 will end in about 6 weeks, and the spending scorecard will likely be

            SocialServices/Stimulus 85%
            Defense of the nation 9%
            General Operations 3%
            Interest on debt 3%

            Keynesians claim that prosperity is created by government spending, and now 85% goes directly to people (or pays their doctors), who spend it. What ‘better’ could be done for the economy?

  3. GBJames
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    sub

    • rickflick
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      …and sub

      • bill
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        help the unhip; what is ‘sub’ in this context?

        • GBJames
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          Subscribe. So you can get comments emailed to you.

          • Wunold
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            Thanks, I always wondered about those posts, but never enough to ask about them by myself. 😉

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Subterranean Homesick Blues …

  4. merilee
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    A quibble: Jerry refers to the SAT standardized “achievement” tests. The basic SATs are aptitude tests (Math and Verbal) with specialized achievement tests only required by some colleges. I strongly favor keeping the aptitude tests, but they didn’t ask me.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      That’s what the “A” stands for but they are obviously also achievement tests. You can’t pass them without having learned geometry & algebra or having read widely enough to have a sizable vocabulary.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        A very fair point.

      • merilee
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        But there were also specific achievement tests in English and History and a few other things, I believe. Also the Writing Sample.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Yes, last time I did a standardized test (a non-engineering one), the GMAT, I had to write two essays for it. (Each was allowed 25 minutes.)

          Defying the reputation of engineers, I scored 11/12 points on the essays. 🙂

          • merilee
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            The engineers I’ve known well have all been pretty good writers.

  5. Roo
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I have a completely random thing that I’ve been wondering about, so this seems like the thread for it, ha ha! I recently listened to Sam Harris’s podcast with Robert Plomin. I thought it was quite interesting, even though I think Plomin goes a bit too far and almost turns genes into a form of fatalism.

    At any rate, what I find inexplicable is that Plomin and, if I remember correctly, some other behavioral geneticists seem to feel comfortable assuming the variations that we do see are ‘random’. Is this not just a God of the gaps argument? How exactly do they know they are random vs. attributable to variables we haven’t discovered yet? It seems that for any known variable, frequent exposure would still show trends in a given direction even if there is a somewhat random element to it. For example, if some people are more musically inclined because they just so happened, by chance, to be offered the opportunity to take up an instrument at just the right time, when some very complex constellation of factors in their brain meant they would be open to it, you would still expect that to happen more frequently among people who were offered the opportunity repeatedly. Not every single person, of course – if the ‘brain constellation’ had to be exactly right, some people would be offered the chance at the wrong moments, even if offered repeatedly. But overall, as a trend, a larger percentage of people in the group who were offered opportunities to play music repeatedly would end up being musically inclined, because the more frequently something happens, the higher the chances that it will happen at the required time. So that seems like a trend that could indeed be quantified and not at all random. It seems to me that ‘random’ here means ‘we don’t know’.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      I think “random” includes – and normally amounts to – “attributable to variables we haven’t discovered yet”. Random means that the variables we are interested in, plus the ones we know about, don’t predict the outcome. For example if you’re trying to explain people’s varying heights and the only causes you’re looking to understand (at your current stage of research) are diet and genes, you can consider any other variables to be “random”, provided they don’t correlate with diet or genes.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      At any rate, what I find inexplicable is that Plomin and, if I remember correctly, some other behavioral geneticists seem to feel comfortable assuming the variations that we do see are ‘random’. Is this not just a God of the gaps argument? How exactly do they know they are random vs. attributable to variables we haven’t discovered yet?

      That is not the correct description, but as we shall se it comes out in the sense those geneticists mean in their case.

      I can’t remember who said it, Dobzhansky perhaps, but variation is – unless it is acausal (time travelling) – indifferent to selection. (A physicist would say that “variation is orthogonal to selection”.) A variation event can’t possibly be informed on what a later selection outcome involving it will be.

      Mutations are observed to be non-random in respect to loci, type (transition vs transversion), or selection effects (nonadvantageous vs advantageous), and on, and on.

      So, which aspect of mutation is random?

      Mutations are said to be random in one respect: “A mutation is expected to occur with the same frequency under conditions in which it confers an advantage on the organism carrying it, confers no advantage, or is deleterious.”

      Sadly, this definition is misleading researchers, students, and the general public. This definition has nothing to do with randomness.

      [ https://judgestarling.tumblr.com/post/185365344166/mutations-are-not-random-mutations-are ]

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        I messed up a blockquote. Here is the last part of the comment again, hopefully with correct quote attribution:

        Mutations are observed to be non-random in respect to loci, type (transition vs transversion), or selection effects (nonadvantageous vs advantageous), and on, and on.

        So, which aspect of mutation is random?

        Mutations are said to be random in one respect: “A mutation is expected to occur with the same frequency under conditions in which it confers an advantage on the organism carrying it, confers no advantage, or is deleterious.”

        Sadly, this definition is misleading researchers, students, and the general public. This definition has nothing to do with randomness.

        [ https://judgestarling.tumblr.com/post/185365344166/mutations-are-not-random-mutations-are ]

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:33 am | Permalink

        Yeah I don’t like that way of using random either.

    • Roo
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Paul, Torbjörn, this is a quote from Plomin that may be illustrative of his general attitude:

      “Environmental effects are important but what we have learned in recent years is that they are mostly random – unsystematic and unstable – which means that we cannot do much about them.”

      For my part, I’m just having a hard time picturing what influences would fit this bill other than, say, things like chance exposure to viruses or pathogens (I believe there is a theory that this can trigger illnesses such as schizophrenia.)

    • savage
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      In the context of educational outcomes, which is Plomin’s specialty, “random” means that about every fashionable cause of different learning outcomes is not predictive. Whatever interventions have been tried don’t work, and “random” factors are what we are thus left with, at least at the present time.

      • Roo
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Maybe he was just going for what he sees as colloquial use of the word ‘random’ then – perhaps I’m nitpicking, but I gotta say I think there’s probably a clearer way to describe that. If some students do well in a program and some do not, to me the obvious conclusion is unknown variables, not randomness. I think, for example, that it’s possible we’ve put too much emphasis on human behavior in educational outcomes (understandable, since we are generally programmed to see cause and effect between what we do and what happens in the world,) and too little on less direct influences like diet, air quality, exercise, etc. Since getting pregnant and having my son I’ve done a ton of reading on various choices and how they impact children – often things you’d think would be tremendously influential, when really studied, show little impact. Daycare or stay-at-home, cry it out or cosleep – to me those seem like choices that would impact a child monumentally, but in areas where parental choice has really been studied extensively, for the most part it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. The areas where you do see some significant amount of difference (not huge, but still, significant,) seem to involve less direct factors – feeding on demand vs. scheduled feeding (impacting glucose supply to the developing brain, presumably); choline and DHA rich diet; prenatal exercise; air quality where you live, etc. Things like cultural influences (amount of extended family support or perception of educational attainment as important,) might fall into that category as well, although I’m not sure if Plomin has already looked at those in his studies.

  6. C.
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Considering the return to online only classes for grades K-12 In most states, and the struggles getting kids to get online and turn in any work, how relevant is this cobbled together education system? Will we just have to brace ourselves for a generation of undereducated adults? And if so, why didn’t WWI and WWII result in generations of morons when the education (And life) disruptions were far longer and much more severe?

    • Filippo
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “Will we just have to brace ourselves for a generation of undereducated adults?”

      I take some nominal comfort in that there will always be at least a few non-college-attending/college drop-out, intellectually-curious, self-disciplined/motivated autodidacts (E.g., Gore Vidal, Edward Snowden, Bill Gates).

    • rickflick
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      If a good vaccine arrives next spring (I’d say the chances for that are good), the fall of 2021 should return everything to normal-ish. I don’t think we are talking about students who will never see the inside of a school again. Skip a year and extend their high school one more year if needed. Actually, that would be a great incentive to study hard. Do well on exams and you don’t have to stay an extra year. Oh, my!

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Some very smart people (physicians, clinical researchers, market watchers), at the company I work for, think we could have 3 vaccines FDA approved by the end of Q3 2020.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          we could have 3 vaccines … by the end of Q3 2020.
          Leave some time for manufacturing and roll out. But, if you could vaccinate kids by Jan or Mar, you might be able to squeeze in some schooling over next summer. Nothing says they can’t do makeup during the summer.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

            I am very familiar with medical products (it’s my work). I can pretty much guarantee you that the Process Development and Manufacturing Engineers at these companies are hard at work spinning up those production lines right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have huge numbers of doses in hand already.

            All that said: Yes, commercialization of medical products (especially drugs/vaccines) is hard and heavy work. Most people don’t understand the effort needed to develop and commercialize these products. It’s huge. And expensive.

            • rickflick
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              I read that the US government was paying one company $1B or so to get production up on their vaccine. I wonder if they will do the same for all the US companies developing vaccines.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

                I read an article, I think in the Economist, about vaccine availability. This was early in the pandemic and the person who was being interviewed seemed like he was dead accurate.

                The article mentioned that you are most likely to be vaccinated if you happen to live in a place where the vaccine is being manufactured. So if Americans have the vaccine, Americans are more likely to be vaccinated quickly. Unfortunately, for the rest of the world, it is clear that the current American administration will not be willing to share the vaccine and would probably use it to bargain viciously for things from other countries as it bought up all the other vaccines.

                I think this article mentioned that it would take about 3 years for vaccination of most of the world (triaging who needs it first so vaccinating the most vulnerable then going from there) but some parts of the world may never see a vaccine (the so-called developing world). Of course, if we want this virus eradicated, we have to make sure that all places receive vaccines…..but then again, the spoiled west produces people who will refuse the vaccine.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

                I suspect one will get it faster in a Red state, or one with a Republican governor, than otherwise. People will have to kiss a Trump’s behind to be moved to the head of the line.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

                I expect they will support all the companies similarly. At least until we have clear efficacy winner(s).

                Responding to Diana: Favoring your own citizens is inevitable. It’s the job your citizens elected you to do.

                Imagine pitching this to any US (or other nation’s) Administration: We are going to give up X million vaccine doses to make them available for country Y. We estimate this will result in ZZ,ZZZ additional deaths in the USA due to COVID infections.

                Good luck with that! Imagine the furor.

                (I used to work for a Federal Agency: You (Federal employee) are legally bound to compute and assess such factors, especially/i> additional deaths due any regulatory/executive action.)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

                Oh you misunderstand….you may not be aware that the US stole PPE from other countries. Right off runways at some point. We expect the same crap to go down when a vaccine is available.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

                tRump using the vaccine as a bargaining chip and USians refusing to be jabbed for the sake of others, is what we’ve descended to. If tRump is turned out in November, perhaps things will look a little brighter.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      I would like to see the 4-6 moved online and K-3 (or at least 2) remain in person with smaller class sizes meeting in the rooms vacated by grades 4-6.

      This would be an excellent experiment in whether smaller class sizes really result in better learning for young children, and at the same time at the very least keep them on track. Parents can teach older kids, but teaching early elementary is more difficult than you would think.

      • Mike
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes these are good ideas. My kids go to an excellent public school system. It lacks the funding that would be needed to double the number of K-2 teachers in the system (and halve the class size). The school board can’t generate it’s own funding or go into debt. And one can’t double up on other teaching: teachers don’t have the bandwidth to teach both in-person and online; and one can’t free up some teachers to teach in-person by assigning other teachers double the number of students to teach online (like classes of 60-70 in grades 3-6). So this is not doable in our schools. But I agree it’s super important for younger kids to go back to school asap.

        • ladyatheist
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          The federal government can’t pay for that, but it can build ships we don’t need, aircraft we don’t need, and pay rent in Trump hotels so he can go golfing at his own resort at our expense.

          Hmmm

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Which teachers will be selected to give their lives for this plan. And how will they be selected?

        People seem pretty flip about forcing teachers to risk their lives when it’s completely unnecessary (unlike in health care (though even much of that is now remote), food supply chain, etc.).

        Health care workers only contact one person at a time. They can enforce masking. They are only in contact for a short period of time (time of contact matters!).

        Teachers would be in close contact with a large number of others (who won’t follow the rules; can’t follow the rules) in a closed space, generally with very poor HVAC (most school buildings have old, very bad HVAC), for many hours, every day. This is seriously stacking risk factors.

        If you spread kids into two classrooms, where does the other teacher come from? K-3 kids will not: Social distance, correctly wear masks, etc. Parents will continue to send their kids to school when they are sick, just as they do now.

        • C.
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Last I heard, a relative’s school was expecting their teachers to do a hybrid program where kids could choose to do the class online or in school, with no plan for how the teacher was supposed to manage to do both. Even if they were to install classroom cameras or something of the sort, as a chemistry course (of 300+ students) I took 8 years ago did, how do you check for understanding, engagement, appropriate behavior for online kids AND those sitting in front of you? Cloning?

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I thought the articles were very good and explain some of the problems with our left and right thinking. To conclude a test is racist because certain groups do worse than others is illogical thinking. The answer is false. Racism in the society can certainly be the reason for the differences in scores but that has nothing to do with the test. I believe that is what the articles explain. Providing equal education to all people should be the mission, not killing off testing.

    I took the SAT around 53 years ago so I have no idea what kind of a score I got or even much about what was on the tests. It was simply something you did between the junior and senior year in high school. I did not go to college at that time, I went later after serving in the military.

    To believe the test is racist, there should be some examples of the questions that would cause this conclusion. There were none provided.

    • C.
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I’ve been reading John McWhorter’s book “Losing the Race: Self-sabotage in Black America”. His overriding theme is that the biggest issues lay within the black community and culture, not outside it. He spends a great amount of time discussing the anti-intellectualism of African-American culture. I haven’t finished it yet but he makes some strong points, yet I see many of the same attitudes among the poor/working class white people I grew up around. What I’m pretty sure of though is lowering standards and expectations is not going to help.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        There isn’t a “the” black community anymore. There are middle class and educated people who are concerned about learning, as well as poor people who are strivers.

        The “underclass” of both races are anti-intellectual. The origin of that attitude is different, but the result is the same. Since you can no longer make a decent living putting together widgets in most American cities, and farms are increasingly industrialized, I can see how there would be some cognitive dissonance in clinging to that no-education lifestyle.

        And of course, if a blithering moron could be elected president…

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          “There isn’t a “the” black community anymore. There are middle class and educated people who are concerned about learning, as well as poor people who are strivers.”

          McWhorter addresses that exact point in that book. While middle-class blacks tend to outperform lower class blacks, they don’t do as well as their SES would predict. McWhorter noted the same lack of precision and anti-intellectual attitudes in his black students regardless of their SES.

          He did take pains to remark in the book that he DID NOT see these issues with black students from other parts of the world, such as the West Indies or certain African countries. Therefore, it seems to be something unique about black american culture.

          If you are familiar with Tom Sowell, he blames the strong early influence of southern white culture (which was often profoundly backward in the 18th and 19th centuries) on black populations, and believes that the residue of this southern backwardness still lives on in some black communities.

          • ladyatheist
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            Consider also that in the south it was illegal to teach a black person (enslaved or not) to read until Reconstruction. So the culture was far more oral-based than even low-wage white culture. Listeners grasped the meaning based on context whether the exact right word was used. As a well-read white person who grew up with a picky grandmother, I twitch a bit when I hear the wrong word, but I do understand what sound-alike word was meant by it, so communication is happening whether it’s “precise” or not. This would not translate to the verbal part of the SAT.

            • Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

              Thanks for the reply.

              No need to have “precise” in scare quotes…according to McWhorter, he really did see less attention to precision in academic work in his black american students. The good news is, once this deficit was identified in these students, it was amenable to instruction.

              The other deficit that he tended to see in his black american students was what he called a “lack of out of the box thinking..” as in they tended to more limited in their solutions and showed less ability to adopt the other side’s viewpoint when considering arguments. Also, he remarked that in his years of teaching, only the black students were the ones that tried to support their assertions by referring directly to the Bible as authority!

              But of course this is just one black professor’s opinion, and it is largely anecdotal. I’m not aware of any studies that address the precision issue or “out of the box thinking” in different racial groups.

            • Posted August 13, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              I think about the opportunities we have provided for our children. It’s pretty amazing really.

              – Exposure to art and music (we all play instruments).

              – Exposure to tons of reading. House full of books. They got any books they wanted, pretty much.

              – Lots of travel, including out of the US.

              – Seeing parents troop off to work every day, regardless. We work really hard around the house as well.

              – Two parents, each with beyond-Bachelor’s degrees (I never finished my Master’s; my wife has several advanced degrees).

              – Discussing saving money as a family. Seeing us deferring gratification.

              – A stable, comfortable home. Reliable cars. No food concerns. A safe home free from violence.

              So we have given them a huge boost up in their progress towards success in life. As any parent will do, to the best of their ability.

              Much in life is luck of the draw. Your genes (heck, I chose my parents really well, don’t know about you!). The status of your parents, their education, the country you are born into. Etc.

              We should be doing our best to provide supports and opportunities to our less fortunate fellow-citizens, especially school kids. My issue is with the expectation of equal outcomes, which simply isn’t possible.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Yes, I have always been skeptical of this line of reasoning. Seems more likely that the performance gap is due to failures of our educational system and/or home situation than question choices and wording. Seems like yet another attempt to control outcomes rather than deal with real problems.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        I think in earlier versions of the SAT there were examples that only someone with privilege would be able to answer, e.g., yacht is to boat as house is to…?

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Yet it could be argued that one doesn’t have to own a yacht, or even know someone who knows someone …, to know what a yacht is. I’m white with the usual privilege but I am sure I didn’t know anyone with a yacht when I took the SAT. Still, I would be ok if they changed the question but I have a hard time thinking it would change outcomes much. I suppose they have done studies on it though.

          • AlTazim
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

            Same here, I grew up very middle-class, didn’t have any friends or family who had a yacht down at the marina, but from watching movies or through ads on TV or radio for the big city regatta I was aware that a “yacht” is a fancy term for a boat.

            I do think there is a difference between removing cultural references that would be highly exclusionary from the test (for instance, a question that assumes familiarity with debutante balls) versus making the test “culturally relevant” or “culturally responsive” to every type of demographic taking the test, by using popular music artists or teen idols instead of classic authors and the latest texting lingo in questions instead of standard written English. It’s not a testmaker’s job to make the test interesting enough that highly distractable teenagers will care about it and have fun doing it, or so that they don’t feel bad while taking it.

          • Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

            Yeah. I grew up in a factory town, blue collar family, public schools, etc. I’m almost certain that by high school, EVERYONE I knew (or saw at school) knew roughly what a yacht was…and believe me, none of us had ever seen one.

            • Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

              Well, I live on the west coast so I have seen a few yachts. But even the most impoverished student has probably seen on on TV. It is well known that poor people pay close attention to the things that the rich have that they don’t. I was thinking that “yacht” was used in the lyrics to Gilligan’s Island or Beverly Hillbillies themes but it wasn’t.

              • phoffman56
                Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                And here I always thought the word “yacht” was a mispronunciation of “idiot”!

                Lucky me had rather demanding government exams, both to get out of Grade 7 in Quebec, and Grade 13 in Ontario. So fortunately for someone living a long ways from yacht country, no shit, no SAT.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

                It WAS used in a Looney Toons cartoon: “My name is Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire, I own a mansion and a yacht.”

          • chascpeterson
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            Here’s how I knew:

            • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

              Yes! It might be how I learned it too. Though there were no pictures of yachts so there needed to be more. Wouldn’t it be great if we could recall where or how we first learned words? I suppose some people remember stuff like that but I never do.

              • phoffman56
                Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

                “Wouldn’t it be great if we could recall where or how we first learned words?”

                Especially 4-letter words.

        • savage
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          Test makers try hard to eliminate any potentially upsetting or discriminatory items. Yet I doubt that questions that ask for words like yacht are the cause of the achievement gap. The word regatta never appeared on the SAT (contrary to a myth) and did not turn out to be discriminatory. Gaps are highest in the most g-loaded questions, i.e. those that ask for abstract reasoning.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        I am curious, how do first generation immigrants from other countries do on the SAT compared to the general population.

        Anecdotally, I know of several people who came to the US in their late grade school and early high school years and did well on the SAT/ACT, despite in a few of these cases not even knowing English when they first arrived!

        So they needed to negotiate not only an alien language, but an alien culture.

        If immigrant populations are still able to perform well on the test, this really calls into question how biased it is.

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know. An interesting question. I immigrated to the US as a young child but it was from England so not a problem.

        • ladyatheist
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          A lot of immigrants are educated, just not English-speaking. So some could be the children of a doctor, who go to excellent schools, have a home environment that values education, and who can afford tutors & prep schools.

          And then there are immigrants who have to work in the family business as teenagers, speak their native language in their neighborhood, and have a different idea of “success.”

          I bet those things have been studied & written up somewhere.

        • savage
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:20 am | Permalink

          Anecdotally, there are East Asian immigrants who are in remedial classes for English but ace math. Their English problems probably disappear in a few years or at worst a generation.

          Assuming no major biological disparities in cognitive traits (e.g. spatial (dis)advantage), this is what culturally biased testing would look like. However, if a student struggles in all subjects I find the discrimination hypothesis a lot less convincing.

    • AlTazim
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      There used to be some questions on the SAT (at least 35 years ago, if not more) that got coded as “white” when realistically they were “wealthy”: questions involving yachting and other things. They did assume some knowledge that certain students wouldn’t have: you can imagine what it would be like reading a question on the verbal section as a poor black kid from the inner city or a poor white kid from a trailer park in Arkansas and wondering what “lacrosse” is. But the SAT was under fire for things like this in the 70s, and such questions haven’t appeared on the test in at least two generations. The charge has stuck, though, because the changes to eliminate these biases didn’t eliminate differences in achievement.

  8. Posted August 12, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t have much to say about SATs so …

    Lately I have been thinking about philosophy and philosophers. I used to like philosophy but, lately, I have found it to be increasingly full of wooish thinking. I’m sure philosophy always had some wooish thinking but now it seems like it has become the norm. Has philosophy always been this bad? Who is doing good philosophy these days? Good from the perspective of someone who believes in science and is an open-minded materialist?

    • GEORGE SEPSO
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Paul, definitely try Peter Carruthers—an Englishman, but he’s been teaching at the University of Maryland for some time. He’s best currently at the intersection of cognitive science and philosophy.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. His name rings a bell so I think I must have read some of his work. I mostly liked what I just read on his Wikipedia page, except perhaps for this:

        “He has also written a book in applied ethics, arguing that animals do not have moral rights.”

        That said, I am not sure what moral rights he’s talking about so I’ll hold my judgement on this and read some more of his work.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Dan Dennett, of course. I’m sure he has students who have followed in his footsteps. I agree with you on philosophy. It’s fascinating to study the history of philosophical thinking, but today we have scientific questions that can potentially be answered. I think there are a few philosophical questions that remain unanswered, but they are essentially waiting for science to provide data in order to resolve them.
      — Origin of everything and why it exists
      — Consciousness
      — Why is God such a dick
      — etc.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Dan Dennett is good, of course. Unfortunately he’s not that active these days.

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          You may have already read this, but if not, De Rerum Natura by Lucretius who wrote in the first century B.C. It’s a poem explaining Epicurean philosophy. When I first encountered it, I was shocked that he was talking about atoms that long ago.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            I’m just now reading the Swerve, How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt.

            • merilee
              Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

              The Swerve is fantastic!

            • Mark R.
              Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

              Poggio!!! Great book.
              I’m reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. He was a stoic and naturally antithetical to Epicurus, yet he still held a few of their beliefs- like not being afraid of death (but probably for different reasons).
              Thomas Jefferson also considered himself an Epicurean. The pursuit of pleasure as life’s deepest meaning seems pretty sound to me. I do like Aurelius’ world-view as well. Perhaps a mixture of both is the philosophy of life that I appreciate.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

                Keep in mind that Epicurus was given a bad wrap by subsequent Christian writer. He was not about pleasure as Bacchanalia. He expected pleasure to include intellectual pursuits. Poggio and Lucretius knew this.
                Is Meditations simply the author’s words, or is the book a commentary on the whole era like the Swerve?

              • Mark R.
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                Indeed Epicurus wasn’t irresponsible in pleasure, though I think that’s what is implied nowadays by “Epicurean”. He valued the pleasure of friendship and conversation and being mindful and not obsessed with human power game stuff…politics and the like. I’ve never read Lucretius, but mean to.

                Meditations is in Aurelius’ own words. It’s his take on life I reckon. Sort of a self-help book written to himself. It’s quite engaging and brilliant and sad and beautiful…intimate. Hard to explain, really. But after 2,000 years, the words still resonate.

          • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

            Carlo Rovelli, in his book on quantum gravity, heaps praise on Lucretius for anticipating so much physics. Brownian motion! I did not know you could see Brownian motion with the naked eye, but evidently you can.

            • Mark R.
              Posted August 12, 2020 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

              Did not know that. Cool thing to know. Thanks.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I also have my patience tested recently. I came to the view that big philosophers want to own their own philosophical model, on which they build a lifetime. It might explain some thing, but the created understanding is often vastly exceeded by the effort to get into that thought.

      Their benefit are more to show ways to think about thinking, and perhaps they act like their own “story universe” with a larger part that is narrative or “just so story” — kind of like the worlds created by Tolkien, JK Rowling or George Lucas.

      I think that’s chiefly the reason why philosophy rests very much on name dropping and authority. I get that “philosophizing” will also teach ways to approach thinking, and at least push the a rational imagination, maybe not much after going through dozens of variant, but in general there’s value in that.

      I agree though that parts of philosophy are just as embarassing as theology, and not much different. It was once a disturbing realization that apparently intelligent people can entertain some of the most ridiculous ideas, but defend themselves with eccentric sophistication and obscurantism. Apparently, social or identity can outclass reason. It’s fine, but it should be regarded as poetry or some other genre of writing.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I agree. Although philosophy embraces critical thinking and objectivity, for the most part it lacks the ability to do experiments that succeed or fail. The only “right” theory is the one that convinces the most people. It’s even worse than politics in this way. And very much like theology or religion, as you say.

      • savage
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        > I think that’s chiefly the reason why philosophy rests very much on name dropping and authority.

        I suspect that is necessary because philosophers can ultimately not prove that they are right. But they like to declare ideas dead that they disagree with 🙂

        I have observed philosophy professors cultivating eccentric personalities (weird dress and speech patterns) to a far greater extent than the more brainy mathematicians or physicists. Without charisma, a philosopher can hardly build a following.

        • Mike
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          “I have observed philosophy professors cultivating eccentric personalities (weird dress and speech patterns) to a far greater extent than the more brainy mathematicians or physicists.”

          One of my neighbors is a forty-something philosophy professor. He is always seen in an Oxford shirt with a button-down collar, tweed jacket, patches on the elbows (bow tie optional). Always. Ninety-degree day in full sun; playing with his kids in the park; taking out the trash. Always.

          My interpretation is that this is part of his professional brand. IDK if this kind of branding is more widespread (and taken more seriously) among philosophers than among other academics.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      The best philosophy book I ever read was The Situated Self by Jenann Ismael – despite the writing being awkward at times, the reward when you finally understand is worth it. (Note to writers: lead with examples, don’t end with them.) The book is about the logic of self-reference, which turns out to be at the heart of a bunch of philosophical problems. Her book How Physics Makes Us Free ain’t half bad neither. She was a guest on Sean Carroll’s podcast, which is not surprising given that her main philosophical area seems to be philosophy of physics.

      Speaking of philosophy of science, you’ll have no trouble dodging woo there. Huw Price, David Albert, and David Wallace are some of my favorites.

      For phil. mind, Dennett of course, Owen Flanagan, Holly Andersen, and Antonio Damasio (I don’t care if he’s a neurologist, he counts.)

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Sam Harris has a brand new book out:

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        He has a touch of the woo about him now, doesn’t he?

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          Always had (meditation; which is as beneficial for health as taking a nap).

          • Mark R.
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            Ha! That’s a very good point. Especially if you have crazy dreams like I seem to have. Break up the cobwebs, dreams do.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I would answer your question: No.

          He says that you can experience human consciousness at a different level or degree of attention that everyday constant internal blather.

          The data seem pretty clear on this.

          I can’t claim to seen this myself, aside from being in “the zone” when doing hard rock-climbing, back country mountain skiing, or white water kayaking. And I can attest that even the “in the zone” state is very different from mundane consciousness.

          And the same for drug-induced conscious states.

          None of this posits any supernatural anything.

          My $0.02.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

            Please pardon the typos:

            “different level or degree of attention than everyday constant internal blather”

            “I can’t claim to have seen this myself, aside from being in “the zone” “

        • Posted August 15, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Well, he follows certain Buddhist practices and his wife teaches meditation and the like, and I’m OK with all that. I don’t really find him woo-ish.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      In the terms of our host Jerry, philosophy is not “an alternative way of knowing”. It can’t teach you how to put in water pipes (but it can be taught and parrot it).

      • rickflick
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        I think, logic and a knowledge of logical fallacies could be considered in the purview of philosophy. So, it might be good to think of modern philosophy as just the knowledge needed to think clearly.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:32 am | Permalink

          That’s certainly the good side of philosophy. Panpsychism, for example, is from the other side.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

            You’d think the logical, clear thinking, side would preclude the panpsychism side.

    • phoffman56
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      To be provocative, can anyone here give even a single specific proposition discovered by a person ‘doing philosophy’,which we have generally come to think is true, which has some reasonable amount of depth to it, and significance either particularly to humans, or maybe more generally, for example abstractly.

      Perhaps the ‘suggestion’ of Democritus IIRC that stuff is made of a small number of tiny particles is arguably a good answer. But maybe a drawback was the need for two millenia of time before good reasons became clear, and those came from physics. And it was the physicist Richard Feynman who used it as an answer to someone who asked him which particular scientific fact you’d tell someone or some alien who ‘knew nothing’ but you’re restricted to just one thing. IIRC Feynman was not a big fan of philosophy.

      Or at least, to reduce my not-well-hidden cynicism above, what is your all time greatest such proposition?

      Were it physics or chemistry or biology or even pure mathematics, instead of philosophy, there would be little hesitation for most people to answer that question.

      • AlTazim
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but empiricism, as a manner of epistemology, is considered a school of philosophy. The idea being that knowledge is what we perceive through our senses. The natural sciences are all grounded in empiricism, that is, that what scientists observe reflects some truth about the nature of reality. I am not sure what science would look like if most scientists generally rejected empiricism; how would you conduct experiments if observation and perception counted for very little?

        • darrelle
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 6:43 am | Permalink

          But what came first? Did philosophy produce a theory of empiricism and then people started using it? Or had people been using empirical methods for a long time and then philosophy described that? I think it’s pretty clear that it’s the latter.

          Philosophy may have formalized empiricism, studied it, and that has had some value, but I don’t think philosophy can take credit for inventing it and I don’t think that science wouldn’t have happened without it. When it comes down to it empiricism is simply the observation that seeing something actually occur is a better way of figuring out how something works than simply thinking about it. It doesn’t take a philosophy course on empiricism to get that. People have been using empirical methods for thousands of years.

      • Steve Gerrard
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:40 am | Permalink

        I nominate the Gettier problem, which challenges the widely held idea that knowledge is justified true belief.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettier_problem

        It is a nice example of how philosophy manages to turn seemingly sensible ideas into mush, followed by lots of interesting proposed revisions to try and rescue it.

        One example: a man thinks he sees a cow in a field, but he has only seen a billboard with a picture of a cow on it. There is, however, a cow out of sight behind the billboard. It would seem the man has a justified true belief – he believes there is a cow in the field, because he saw a cow in the field, and there is in fact a cow in the field. Nevertheless, something seems wrong about his supposed knowledge.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:39 am | Permalink

          Yeah, but it’s not the same cow. 😉 But seriously, these kind of problems don’t really impress me as they are bit sloppy with their definitions. They all seem to contain a “divide by zero” bit that makes them mush as you say.

          I haven’t heard of the Gettier problem, or have forgotten about it. Thanks for the reference. I’ll check it out.

        • phoffman56
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          Possibly there are philosophers who can do a better job of making the Gettier problem more convincing.

          But the wiki writer has exceptionally weak descriptions of “justified” in the three specific examples:

          Nothing at all is mentioned of it for the belief about owning a Ford.

          Acceptance of someone’s word for something is given for justification of who gets the job.

          A scientific mind set always has that nagging feeling ‘I hope that watch is still correct’
          when checking the time before something important to be on time for.

          Perhaps Gettier himself had written with more detail.

          So I guess the proposition I asked for in this case would be
          “Human definitions of ‘I have knowledge of xxxxx’ are no good so far”.
          But it seems to me that scientists rather than philosophers are much closer to understanding that statement, even if it will always be something of a mystery.

          Do philosophers as well as scientists get deeply into the question of the meaning of ‘approximately true’? Without thinking about that, you get all sorts of nonsensical statements about the so-called falsity of Newtonian mechanics.

          So this seems to be, along with all sorts of examples I could bore you with in formal logic, something where most philosophers sound like children when compared people to better characterized as scientists than as philosophers.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

            The real issue is that the human brain doesn’t really care about truth. Instead, it only thinks it does. The brain is a reaction machine. It takes input and produces output. When asked whether something is true, our brain produces a response by evaluating a complex function. There’s no truth inside the brain. Truth is still a valuable concept though.

            • bill
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

              “The real issue is that the human brain doesn’t really care about truth. Instead, it only thinks it does. ”

              a bold statement. but the truth is that when i think about caring, i care about thinking.

              pretty sure.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        You could say ethics does this. To prove it you would have to see how well a civilization or group does with these types of ethics applied….one example could be deciding who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t based on biomedical ethics that take a lot of considerations into place and rely on philosophical ideas like human flourishing.

        • phoffman56
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Good point. I know very little about biomedical ethics. Is it medical people or philosophers who have had more effect there?

          Certainly Peter Singer (Australian IIRC), at Princeton and a professor of philosophy, has certainly brought out a lot of controversy about the treatment of people versus other animals, not entirely medical. And euthanasia. I don’t know whether he has original truths, so much as better arguments for the truth of such propositions.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            I think they are a bit of both (medical and philosophical). Doctors are trained in biomedical ethics I believe (this may vary depending on where you do your doctorin’) but there are review boards and often they are populated with philosophy grads, among others. I took a biomedical ethics course a long time ago as an elective in university & it was pretty interesting.

    • savage
      Posted August 13, 2020 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Philosophy used to encompass science, social science, mathematics and more. Outstanding scholars would be called philosophers – Darwin still viewed himself as a “natural philosopher” – and this has helped the prestige of the field.

      It seems to me that the subject area of philosophers has gotten smaller. For instance, they had a lot of ideas about language and how the mind works. But now that we study these areas scientifically, their views are less and less relevant.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Now that Biden has picked his VP it is time for both of them to get on with the business at hand. Politics as usual should not be the game plan. They must make clear and convincing statements/speeches what Trump is doing and has done to this country. What he has done to the intelligence agencies, what he is doing to the post office to disrupt the election process. The democrats have been giving this guy a pass on so many things and getting the information out to the voting public is essential. Most people do not read and they are not going to get it from their news sources. Winning this election means putting all the heat on the guy who is currently causing all the problems not making speeches about what you are going to do when and if you get elected. Winning the Senate is just as critical as winning the executive. Without it democracy is dead.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I keep hearing this claim that Democrats are giving Trump a free pass on some issues but it is hard to see how they could do much more. They impeached the guy! The amount of anti-Trump rhetoric we hear on MSM is so much and so loud, it will automatically be taken as bias and Trump Derangement Syndrome even though I think they have done a pretty reasonable job given what they are up against. As with his constant lying, Trump has taken much of the bite out of criticism by the sheer volume triggered by his behavior.

      They obviously need to do something but I am not sure what it is. They need a new angle. I do imagine that efforts by the Lincoln Project, and other Never Trump organizations, are effective. I hear that their ad spending is going to increase dramatically as we approach election day. So will Trump and GOP spending too though.

    • GregZ
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Democrats always seem to bring a spoon to a gun fight.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Kamala Harris is no spoon!

        • chris moffatt
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

          Yeah!Don’t know what I would call her, definitely not ‘spoon’:

          https://observer.com/2015/03/california-prosecutor-falsifies-transcript-of-confession/

          https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/kamala-harris-record-district-attorney-san-francisco/

          Not somebody I would want for POTUS – and she will be; Biden doesn’t have a year left in him before he either resigns or is removed under Amendment 25

          Note the above are not alt-right references

          • Mark R.
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:17 am | Permalink

            Don’t judge someone by their past. People grow and change. That’s what we voters are for- the public forces politicians into the direction we want them to go. And it’s up to Harris to face up to her past mistakes and change for the better. There is no apparent evidence that Harris will lie about or obfuscate her history, or that past transgressions are repeated. This unyielding search for the “perfect” candidate is folly. Compare and contrast…there is only one choice in 2020.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        That is exactly right. There just does not seem to be any fire to their movement. And Paul’s comment on MSNBC. What is that what about 2000 people who watch on a regular basis. Come on.

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          Isn’t a lot of this due to the Trump Effect. If the head of the other party runs around blowing things up on a daily basis, it is hard to show any “fire”. That may sound a bit glib but I’m serious. For example, one current hot topic is BLM and racism in general. We might imagine that Dems would be working on bills to fight racism and giving eloquent speeches to help move public opinion. Of course, they currently aren’t in power. They can pass laws in the house but they don’t even get discussed in the Senate. Instead, they have to deal with an administration that wants to send troops into American cities, actively supports racism, and hints strongly at cheating in an election less than three months away. It is hard to generate much fire in such a situation. In fact, the only thing worth such fire is dumping Trump. There is plenty of fire behind that.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. A plastic spoon. One of those bendy ones.

    • Doubting Thomas
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The left has destroyed journalism. The left has destroyed education. Democratic cities are being burned and looted by others on the left and the Democratic leaders of those cities are watching with arms folded.

      I voted for Clinton last election, but I will vote against every Democrat I can in this one. I’m an atheist and I would vote for an open theocrat before I’ll vote for the most moderate Democrat. The left has gone mental and I want them all out of power.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Nonsense. Do you not know the history of the news business? Fox News. Newspapers everywhere owned by Rupert Murdoch. Radio news/talk/commentary is almost entirely right wing. But “the left” has destroyed it! Give me a break.

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          In the US, the problem is that outlets that were more reasonable “center left” have now gone completely woke. The NYT and the Washington Post are prime examples. MSNBC and CNN are barely watchable to me now…they seem as biased to left as the odious Fox News is to the right.

          It is this very sharp leftward, activist slant by formerly sober and objective sources of news and information that is so troubling to many of us.

          The right has been wallowing in the muck of a media echo chamber since the 80s (that’s when folks like Rush Limbaugh got going). Now the left is going that way as well…for shame.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            There is a difference. While I am distressed by the workish tilt that we talk about all the time here on WEIT, the fact remains that facts remain far more important to the “left side” media than to the right. The willingness to wallow in “alternate facts” does is not equally distributed. Saying otherwise, IMO, is asserting a false equivalence.

            • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

              If we let that Woke stuff go mainstream (or more mainstream than it is already), then the equivalence (Left vs Right with respect to facts) will no longer be false. We’ll all go to hell in a handbasket. This is why we fight.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

                Fine. But that’s comparing a reality to a potential reality. They aren’t the same.

          • phoffman56
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            “MSNBC and CNN are barely watchable to me now…they seem as biased to left as the odious Fox News is to the right.”

            There is a difference between Fox’s non-stop lies and CNN mostly telling some approximation to the truth, don’t you think?

            The talking heads on both, with their prejudices ‘on their sleeves’ do, and have always, driven me bananas on the increasingly rare occasions I look at the TV.

            But the blatant lying propaganda is on another level, really evil in this case. E.g. probably a basic cause of what can only be called mass murder, of at least an additional 100,000 dead USians, that Drumpf regime activity being cheered on by FOX’s ugly personalities.

            • Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

              “There is a difference between Fox’s non-stop lies and CNN mostly telling some approximation to the truth, don’t you think?”

              CNN commits egregious lies of omission. On certain important issues, they can be as bad as Fox.

              Why is it that someone like Tucker Carlson was the one to interview Brett Weinstein, and not these liberal outlets?

              Why did I never hear of Tony Timpa (the white George Floyd) on these left leaning outlets?

              Why is antifa given such soft treatment on these networks?

              Why did I have to read a WSG article by right wing Heather MacDonald to finally get some hard statistics on the actual number of police shootings compared to black on black violence in this country?

              How many police officers have been killed or injured in these protests? Much harder to find that info on left leaning sites…

              Why, as Jerry recently pointed out, does the NYT want to downplay the violence in cities such as Chicago?

              I could go on and on…

              While I admit that the lies of “commission” may still favor Fox over CNN and MSNBC, the lies of “omission” are a dead heat at this point.

        • Doubting Thomas
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          I understand that there are right wing news outlets. This doesn’t change the fact that both the overwhelming number of journalists and the overwhelming percentage of outlets are both on the left and moving farther left day by day.

          • phoffman56
            Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

            And so, for that reason, you will help Mass Murderer donald have another 4 years?

            It strikes me that your remarks here are a not very effective action of an ‘agent provocateur’ for that irreducibly evil regime. But I’ll assume it comes merely from wetness behind the ears.

            • Doubting Thomas
              Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

              I actually gave three reasons. I was just expounding on the one.

      • Historian
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        By any chance, did you vote for Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon member who won the Republican primary for a congressional seat from Georgia? Certainly, she is the non-mental candidate you can enthusiastically get behind.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/08/12/trumps-quiet-acceptance-qanon-has-become-something-bigger/?hpid=hp_politics1-8-12_bumpqanon-550pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Wow, step away from Fox News! Or whoever you’re getting your “information” from!

      • Curtis
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        You are not alone. I am a registered Democrat but I will be voting Libertarian and Republican.

        • phoffman56
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          Each get a towel and dry behind the other’s ears.
          This is worse than the non-stop ‘Hillary is terrible this and horrible that, but I’ll be voting for her anyway’, just prior to the election 4 years ago. And now there are 100,000 dead USians who would not be dead with virtually any other president.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            I agree Trump should go and that he has not done a good job at all with the epidemic.

            But there is enough blame to go around. States and large cities did not exactly cover themselves in glory. The US Congress is positively dysfunctional.

            Also, have our citizens done the best we can? As a group, did we absorb the advice of experts? Perhaps any failure to do that can be blamed on Trump as well, such was the idiocy of some of his misinformation.

            Yet even with an extremely competent president, we still would have had a fairly high death toll. But not as high as with Trump, I agree.

            Our Republic has been exposed by this. We were caught off guard despite good reason to anticipate such an epidemic, and we seem to lack the ability to mobilize a response to a crises on a coordinated national level. It doesn’t matter if one state is a model of lockdown and containment while three other neighboring states are openly ignoring the advice of experts.

            Removing Trump and replacing him with a man rapidly descending into senescence, and giving more power to a woke left, will not solve these underlying issues.

            • GBJames
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

              “The US Congress is positively dysfunctional.”

              This is simply not true. You confuse the Congress with Republican senatorial caucus. They are positively dysfunctional. They can’t even agree with themselves and refuse to allow the large volume of legislation sent to them by the highly functional House to be brought up for votes.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                “This is simply not true. You confuse the Congress with Republican senatorial caucus. They are positively dysfunctional.”

                And the end result is a dysfunctional Congress, no! Are they serving the country well in this epidemic?

                Whether it is the fault of the Republicans or the Dems, look at this from the perspective of an actual citizen who is looking towards that body as a whole to function.

                If a car is not running, and mechanic A says it’s the engine and mechanic B says it’s the transmission, this disagreement does not change the fact that a customer still has a non-functional car!

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                “Whether it is the fault of the Republicans or the Dems, look at this from the perspective of an actual citizen who is looking towards that body as a whole to function.”

                So you would prefer to look at it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know the truth? It’s the Republicans who are obstructing, particularly Mitch McConnell.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

                It is simpleminded in the extreme to refuse to recognize the source of the dysfunction. It means you are incapable of correcting it. Your metaphor makes more sense when you realize that you are the mechanic. And you aren’t a very good mechanic if a tire is flat and the best you can do is say “the car doesn’t drive right”. You probably shouldn’t even have a driver’s license with that kind of diagnostic skill. (To stretch your metaphor a bit further.)

            • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              I agree about the actions of the average American in the pandemic. Too much freedom, I say. On the other hand, it is mostly those who vote Republican that are talking about not wearing a mask as resistance to authoritarianism. This attitude started way before Trump. Trump just amplified it.

            • phoffman56
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              In a reply to a reply disagreeing with this statement:
              “I will be voting Libertarian and Republican”, you say
              “I agree Trump should go and that he has not done a good job at all with the epidemic.”

              Then comes a very large “But..”

              Two questions:

              Is this not rather contradictory of you, or did you just forgetfully neglect to mention that you disagreed with the earlier person who clearly stated that their vote would be to help Drumpf’s re-election?

              Is “..not a good job..” the same weakling thing you’d opine about Hitler’s regime?
              Or is it something you’d just fit between a mass murder of about 100,000 and one of about 6 million?

              I am quite sure that if Obama had still been president in 2020, the number of deaths would have been under 60,000, not over 160,000. You need only look at the timelines and at the experience of many other countries to see that. And maybe double or triple those numbers for, say, next February.

              Despite being more than twice as good in deaths per population, I am still disgusted with parts of my own country Canada, in this respect, particularly with respect to nursing homes, in Quebec especially, but also Ontario. But that has not been so blatantly clearly caused by the monstrous attitude towards human life that Mass Murderer donald exhibits daily.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    The U. of California is just catching up with me, seven decades late. When I was in the 4th grade, I organized a little protest group which rallied against all tests in general. We wanted to hold a demonstration in the street, but the crossing guard wouldn’t help us cross to the other side; and lacking a mimeograph machine, we had to set forth our revolutionary manifesto in crayon.

    As a sign of the times the U. Cal. is both eliminating the SAT and is leading the way in imposing Diversity Statements as a condition of employment. Perhaps soon, Cal. will replace all tests (e.g.for a pilot’s license or an MD degree) by affirmations of correct Progressive values. If only I had thought of this back then in the 4th grade!

    • rickflick
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think these changes will last very long. There are good reasons for testing: to avoid too many drop outs, and folks will stop teaching if they get too much hassle as to essential qualifications.

    • Mike
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Not just diversity statements or boilerplate about “the quality of their character”. One must have a record of advancing equity and diversity in one’s discipline in order to get past the first round of application screening at UC campuses. Unlike Rick I am not optimistic that this will change soon; seems likely to become the new normal.

  11. Hisorian
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    At the Foreign Affairs site, researcher Richard Inglehart has posted an article describing the global decline of religion. The news is almost all good. Since the site may be paywalled, here are the highlights:

    —————
    • “But since 2007, things have changed with surprising speed. From about 2007 to 2019, the overwhelming majority of the countries we studied—43 out of 49—became less religious. The decline in belief was not confined to high-income countries and appeared across most of the world. “
    • “Several forces are driving this trend, but the most powerful one is the waning hold of a set of beliefs closely linked to the imperative of maintaining high birthrates. Modern societies have become less religious in part because they no longer need to uphold the kinds of gender and sexual norms that the major world religions have instilled for centuries.”
    • “As unexpected as it may seem, countries that are less religious actually tend to be less corrupt and have lower murder rates than more religious ones.”
    • “In virtually every high-income country, religion has continued to decline. At the same time, many poor countries, together with most of the former communist states, have also become less religious.”
    • “India is the most important exception to the general pattern of declining religiosity.”
    • “The most dramatic shift away from religion has taken place among the American public.”
    • “Secularization doesn’t happen everywhere at once; it occurs when countries have attained high levels of existential security, and even then it usually moves at a glacial pace, as one generation replaces another.”
    • “But when a society reached a sufficiently high level of economic and physical security, younger generations grew up taking that security for granted, and the norms around fertility receded. Ideas, practices, and laws concerning gender equality, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality are now changing rapidly.”
    • “For centuries, religion has served as a force for social cohesion, reducing crime and encouraging compliance with the law. Every major religion inculcates some version of the biblical commandments “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not kill.” So it is understandable that religious conservatives fear that the retreat of religion will lead to social disarray, with rising corruption and crime. But to a surprising extent, that concern is not supported by the evidence.”
    • “Traditional religions can be dangerously divisive in contemporary global society. Religions inherently tend to present their norms as absolute values, despite the fact that they actually reflect their societies’ histories and socioeconomic characteristics. The rigidity of any absolute belief system can give rise to fanatical intolerance, as the historical conflicts between Catholics and Protestants and Christians and Muslims have demonstrated. “

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2020-08-11/religion-giving-god

    ——————–
    Many of these findings are not news to WEIT readers. Still, it is good to see how the claims of religion, especially in regards to morality, are pure crap. They also demonstrate how these trends are making American evangelicals panic stricken. It is foolish to predict that these trends will necessarily continue, but for now they are a shrinking breed. They look to Trump as their savior in a changing world that they neither understand nor welcome. It is now apparent more than ever why Trump must be defeated – to keep this shrinking band of fanatics from imposing their will on a nation ever growing more secular.

    I hope the comment is not too long.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Good news indeed. Thanks.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Good news indeed. Thanks for the info and the link.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Thank you. I would also like to see such an article or documentation about the current
      crop of young adults who are less well off than their parents, have concerns about global warming and have decided not to have children.

  12. eric
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    the President of the University recommends that the Regents approve a suspension of the current standardized test (ACT/SAT) requirement for undergraduate admissions until 2024 to allow the University to modify or create a new test that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC’s values.”

    I will bet money they don’t produce any new test, for two reasons. First, it would create a large disincentive for HS students to apply to the system – why apply to UC and be forced to take an extra test, when you can apply to any of hundreds of other schools just using the test you’ve already taken? Second, because if the authors are right, it won’t do much good – any test that is good at predicting University outcomes is going to produce results like the SAT, since the SAT predicts University outcomes fairly well. OTOH, any test that “corrects” the SAT’s results is likely to be less predictive of student success in college, meaning more students are going to throw their hard-earned money into the school only to fail out or leave, which is bad for both the students and the school.

    I thought California was on the right track with it’s “all CA students in the top 10% of an accredited school are guaranteed a place in the UC or Cal State systems.” That was bold, equitable, and a great promise to CA families – if your kid does his/her part and gets the grades, then we will do our part and guarantee him/her a shot in higher ed. But this decision is not the right track. Or at least, not the right reason to eliminate the SAT requirement.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Eric, Back in the 60s the California State Colleges Chancellor’s Office did a high school transcript study that determined percentages of high school students to be accepted in the university system (I don’t remember the figures now). All students who met lower division requirements at a community college were guaranteed entry to a university. More recently, I looked online to see if I could find current entry requirements. Do you happen to know such a source?

      • eric
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        I think here is a place to start. Though turns out they’ve changed the guarantee from top 10% to top 9% since I was familiar with the subject.

  13. Curtis
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The SATs are the single most objective method of evaluating students. Students with a 1500 currently have the ability to handle any major in a competitive college. Students with an 800 are not currently able to handle several difficult majors. (There are exceptions to both but not many.) A child with a 3.5 GPA may or may not currently be ready.

    Also SAT scores are a way of children evaluating universities. My daughter is being recruited for athletics. Looking at that SAT scores provided us with quick method of determining the academic quality of the school. If the school has SATs above X and her desired degree program, we look at the school. I had not heard of her current preferred choice but the SATs score made her take a look and she likes what she sees.

    • Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I think the SAT’s objectivity is what its detractors hate the most. As they see it, it just gets in the way of all those more squishy assessments.

    • AlTazim
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      And contrary to popular wisdom amongst the SAT critics, test prep is not that helpful and in most cases is not worth the dollar investment. If a student is very motivated and well-prepared, such a program might be able to add 100 points which is the difference between them going to a satellite campus of a good state program vs. going to the main campus. But the idea that even an individualized tutoring program is going to take a marginal 950 scoring student and add 400+ points to his score so he gets into a prestigious small liberal arts college with a big scholarship is not how it works.

      • Curtis
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Also a person who is willing to spend the time and effort to improve SATs scores tends to be the kind of student who spend the effort to do well in college. The last 100 points from hard work may be more important than the last 100 points from skill level.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        100 points could indeed make a difference. For highly competitive universities, there are so many applicants that any uptick in any area could be the difference between the “consider” pile and the slush pile.

        • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. It is often forgotten or ignored, but a large part of the student’s personal gain from college is the “Oh, you’re a Princeton grad!” effect. Every edge in the competition for entry counts. The fact that you can get an equally instructive education from the next-tier-down university is nice, but it doesn’t get you a seat at the Big Table.

        • AlTazim
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          As an aside, and again based on experience, it is very difficult to improve scores using a test program past somewhere between 1300 and 1350 on the SAT. At that point, it’s rapidly diminishing returns. I agree that 100 can make a difference from 1100 to 1200 so that you can get into a decent school (again, main campus vs. satellite campus), but even the best test prep program is very unlikely to take a 1410 candidate at a state school honors program and turn him or her into a 1510 candidate for an Ivy+ school.

      • eric
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        test prep is not that helpful and in most cases is not worth the dollar investment. If a student is very motivated…

        You’re missing the point of test prep; it’s for students who find self-motivation difficult. An analogy: anyone can go to the gym. So why does anyone need a trainer or buddy? Well, because when you have a partner, you’re much less likely to skip or ‘cheat’ on your personal goals. The same principle applies here; yes, anyone can prep for these tests on their own. But test prep provides a commitment, a scheduled time, a ‘buddy’ in the form of an instructor, a social commitment as it were. These things make it easier for people to meet their study goals and not ‘cheat’ on their test prep aspirations.

        And that’s okay. We’re not machines. Everyone needs such social and moral support for things we don’t like or want to do, at least some of the time. It’s a useful service even if, in theory, you could do everything they do for you on your own. Because what you’re paying for isn’t ‘can’t to can’ – you already can. You’re paying for ‘won’t to will.’

        • AlTazim
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          As someone who actually taught test prep courses after I graduated from college, no, I am not missing the point. There are plenty of kids who show up for those courses who aren’t motivated, and are there because their parents sent them. I couldn’t help those kids much, despite best attempts to enliven the lessons, they still felt like Snapchatting their friends, and they showed barely any improvement. The kids who did show improvement were almost uniformly the ones who wanted to be there and cared about improving their scores so that they could get into the college that they wanted.

    • Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      “Students with an 800 are not currently able to handle several difficult majors.”

      When I was 12, I scored well enough on a cognitive aptitude test to be part of a group that was allowed to take the SAT as a seventh grader.

      My score? 800..again as a 12 year old! Now, let’s just say that at age, there is no way that I could have done college level work, particularly in math.

      That should put things in perspective. If you are scoring around 800 on the SAT, your academic skills are about the same level as a mildly talented 7th grader.

  14. ladyatheist
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    The university where I work has required self-certification before students, faculty, and staff return to campus, as well as an e-signature on a promise to abide by guidelines (wear a mask, social distance, etc.) and to report for a test if symptomatic.

    The first day of class is the 24th.

    How long will it be before the university has to shut down?

    A – it won’t. It’s in a heavily Christianized state, and Christians wouldn’t lie.

    B – Halloween parties will be super spreader events. Shut-down will be November 7.

    C – Give it a month.

    D – If it takes a week it’s because nobody’s paying attention.

    E – They’ll change their minds on the 23rd and it will be all online.

    • eric
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      C. The virus’ incubation period is up to 2 weeks, so it’ll take one-three weeks before the numbers and symptoms become politically impossible to ignore.

      Though I will hope, for your sake, for E.

    • Mike
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      C.

  15. Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday, I listened to some “education experts” on my local NPR station carrying on about grades.

    Basically, they were saying:
    1. Abolish grades
    2. Abolish standardized testing

    While at the same time, saying, of course, we need to be able to assess the progress and accomplishments of students. People (parents, kids, colleges) need to know.

    They proposed: Portfolios for all students. Discussions of portfolios of work.

    This might work for small numbers of kids; but for colleges? How are they going to analyze (fairly or otherwise) 1000s of applications of portfolios and narrative discussions of portfolios? Good luck!

    How will parents assess how their kid is doing? How will they know if they are in the middle, high, or low? Can teachers even discuss this? Or is it “everyone gets a trophy”?

    One of the key advantages to grades and standardized test scores? Clarity and ease of use.

    Their cultural mismatch example was: “What if the question had to do with playing cricket?” That’s your best shot? Do you have a single example of a question like that in a US test (I doubt it extremely)?

    • Mike
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes this is ridiculous. One of the few laboratory science courses my university has continued to teach in-person is microbiology. Other lab courses have gone ahead with virtual labs, but for micro it’s not possible to certify that a student has learned, for example, sterile technique except to teach it in person in the lab and then require that person to demonstrate sterile technique before a panel of instructors. A portfolio and discussion is not adequate for lots of reasons, including that it would be unsafe to certify someone as qualified to handle microbes on the basis of a discussion of ideas about microbes.

    • AlTazim
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      The “portfolios” model is roughly how IEPs (individualized education plans) currently work under federal law for students who have been assessed with a learning disability. It’s extraordinarily expensive, as in some states each student with a disability requires at least one special advisor per student such assessed. It also makes lesson planning for classroom teachers extremely difficult, because they have to make sure their classes cater to each kid’s IEP. With IEPs, the idea is that, in the large majority of cases, these kids will not be going to college, except maybe community college where they might learn a basic vocation or trade (something technical like auto repair), and that they will work in the service industry or a similar field that doesn’t require a college degree. But they will still have the basics of a high school diploma.

      Applying this model to ALL students, though, would effectively destroy public education and turn the college admissions process into a nightmare of subjectivity.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        My wife is a public school teacher; we know all about IEPs.

        Thanks for explaining for Jerry’s “living room”!

      • eric
        Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        Universities mostly set their own admissions rules. Sure, the high schools could get rid of grades and tests. But then more schools would likely do what UC is threatening – i.e. coming up with their own entrance exams. And even if they don’t these freshman are going to get 6-8 weeks into their first semester and encounter…tests. It’s not like eliminating the SAT will prevent evaluating students via tests, it just pushes that process back a year or so.

        • AlTazim
          Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          Interestingly, most schools actually did used to have their own entrance exams. Then the College Board came along with the SAT in the 1920s, and by the time we had the GI bill in the post-war era and needed to standardize the process, the SAT had taken over. Now, the admissions process is dominated by contractual agreements with the College Board. If we do away with it, is that progress or regress? Hard to say.

          • eric
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            They still do, for specific subjects. For example, I think it’s pretty common for foreign language departments to have incoming freshman with years of a language on their transcript to still take a placement test (assuming the freshman wants to start at a higher level, and not at “101”).

            • merilee
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

              I did that with French.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Art schools evaluation portfolios every day, though.

      • Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Of course, completely different model.

        (Physical) art can usually be taken in quickly by visual inspection. And there’s no substitute. Words can’t compass what art is, what it communicates. (And they are harmful most of the time, IMO, Ref.: The Painted Word.)

        How does one quickly absorb a mathematics portfolio? The reason for math grades, English grades, etc. is to allow others to evaluate performance quickly and clearly.

        Why should someone assessing a student have to read through all their (representative) work (repeat that evaluation that their teacher, the person most familiar with their work, should have provided for them)? This is wasted time.

        There may be issues with how grades are assigned to individual students; but grades themselves? Any teacher can tell you how a student stacks up against their peers. And against standards of achievement (are we going to get rid of those too?).

        Seems to me, this movement is pushing for: Everyone gets a trophy in school. No ranking students. I’ve had a friend (actual friend) on FB object to my son’s (US public) school recognizing students for academic achievement! (What, pray tell, should we be recognizing students for?)

        • merilee
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          Loved The Painted Word!!

  16. Jim Danielson
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    If Biden wins are we going to see violence from the various right wing fringe groups?
    I’m thinking yes.
    What if Republicans are routed?
    I think that will make it even worse.
    I don’t see the ever increasing lunatic right ‘fringe’ accepting they are wrong. I see them doubling down on conspiracy theories and blaming everyone and everything else but themselves.

    I don’t see a good outcome even under the best case scenario of a route of Trump/Republicanism.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Maybe. I fear that, too. But I also that these lunatics are not capable of organizing themselves very well. I expect an increase in “fortify the homestead” and Cliven Bundy type of behavior.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I would only fear such violence if a substantial portion of US police forces or military were involved. Maybe Trump had that kind of support when he was elected but I doubt he does now. Certainly he no longer has the support of the top echelons of the military and that matters a lot. Same is probably true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of police management. I suspect that Trump’s recent deployment of the military to cities was partly to test and/or shore up his control of them prior to contesting the election.

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        Hmm. And with a black VP, the nuts will get extra nutty. This might be a good time to buy American Outdoor Brands Corporation stock (makers of Smith&Wesson).

      • Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        And: I think almost all public servants (including police, National Guard, etc.) will stand by their oaths to support the public safety and the Constitution.

        This means the loonies won’t get very far and will come out looking like what they would be: Criminals.

        I hope anyway.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          I saw a disturbing interview on Real Time with Bill Maher where he talked to Lawrence Wilkerson. Wilkerson says leadership in the military, etc is very good and they will protect the constitution etc. But there are factions of the rank and file who are Trump supporters and may not. He told a story of how after he talked about how the military was much more diverse than it once was with believers, non believers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Jedis, etc. a marine emailed him and said yes he’s friends with a muslim, but as soon as they are in combat together he is going to shoot him in the back.

          I find that incredibly chilling.

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Maybe, but I suspect it would be far less than the violence that would ultimately ensue (and be requires) if he wins again and legitimizes his base.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      The cognitive dissonance would depend on the investment they have made. The lunatic fringe will go onto some other conspiracy theory because they will lose fuel without their misleader-in-chief.

      I think the people who believed in “make America Great Again” and fell for supply-side economics may come around. The Covid-19 infusion of cash certainly disproved supply-side economics. And who could say Trump has made America great(er)?

      • Posted August 12, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you think Republicans have known that supply-side economics is a failure for a long time, if not from the very beginning. Seems almost calculated to line the pockets of rich people and corporations. Even the name is a sort of euphemism whose true meaning is “give to the rich and they will allow it to trickle down to the poor.” It doesn’t take much of a brain to realize that the rich don’t have to give it to the poor and they don’t have to invest it back into their companies. I’m a capitalist but it just seems like a silly idea.

    • John Donohue
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      “various right wing groups …” You mean The Militia?

      The Militia is quiet right now. Waiting to see the extent to which State, Local, and Federal law enforcement stands up against rioters and anarchists.

      It won’t matter who is elected … only “will Gov establish law and order.” If not, The Militia will be ready.

      If you think they are incompetent, disorganized, weak … please think again. Visualize a battle between 100 antifias who don’t know how to hold a gun and shoot themselves in the foot while raging and/or stoned … versus 10 Militia. Unfair fight.

      The “best” of Antifia military are already on display, in the Dem cities now, looking ridiculous. The Militia is quietly arming and taking target practice. You can’t see them. There might be 500 groups. They are hunters, survivors, and they probably have 100 million firearms.

      • Jim Danielson
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Atfifa as a threat is the fevered dream of the right. Nothing but a molehill into a mountain by people with an agenda to keep the Trump/Republican base scared and angry.

        The FBI has admitted the far right is the the domestic threat. The stats back them up.

        • John Donohue
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the FBI would say The Militia is the bigger threat, because it is huge, guerrilla-wise, vastly armed, and trained to kill. Not a ragtag of overpaid ($600wk) neo-adolescent nihilists.

          However, Antifia is the gang acting badly. Militia will remain polite and quiet if Law and Order is regained from the RagTag and maintained by Gov.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            You mean like these polite guys?

            • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

              And those polite guys wouldn’t last 30 minutes against the US military. That’s the basic fallacy of the whole “we’re going to oppose the tyrannical US government” nonsense.

              One Bradley vehicle would take of them.

              • John Donohue
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

                If a battle breaks out between 1000 Antifa/BLMers and 1000 Militia, which “side” will the US Federal Gov support? Even with a populist president, FedGov is doing little to quell the Left-wing riots now taking place.

                Can you point to an ongoing Right-wing destructive riot that Gov is allowing to go on and on and on, right now?

              • GBJames
                Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

                I think you have made the mistake of believing the Fox News propaganda as to the nature of the movement. Support for BLM in the US right now is 67% in the country. We have had 76 days in a row of BLM protests here in Milwaukee. Violence is not a feature. Only a fascist government, one that tRump would create the moment he could, would take the side of armed militias against two thirds of the population.

            • John Donohue
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

              Is that the worst link you can find???? How awful, “at least one lawmaker donned a bulletproof vest.”

              Not a shot fired, not a building burned, not anyone killed. That IS polite, compared with the riots in Dem cities day after day.

    • eric
      Posted August 13, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      I’m skeptical. Or perhaps jaded. Every election cycle you have some people predicting ‘the other side’ will cause massive unrest (Hilary’s secret national park muslim army!), and it never appears.

      The vast majority of US residents are law abiding, regular people, no matter how they vote. There is as little evidence supporting paranoid fears that large portions of the 35% of the country that self-describes as conservative is going to misbehave, as there is for the right’s paranoid fears that large portions of the 26% of the country that self-describes as liberal is going to misbehave. Maybe, in a bad year, 0.01% will actually misbehave.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        You don’t need 35%. One percent can cause enormous problems. And only one side of the spectrum has been arming itself to the teeth in preparation.

      • Jim Danielson
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        I don’t think I wrote ‘massive’, if I implied it I didn’t mean to.
        As GB James points out, only a tiny fraction of the population needs to act out. We’ve already seen numerous instances of right wing extremists using violence.

        It wasn’t too long ago a Trump supporter was sending bombs to Trump’s perceived enemies.
        One armed man tried to stop a mythical child sex trafficking ring in a pizza restaurant. Another tried to burn it down.

        The FBI has stated far right extremism is the top domestic terrorist threat. While there has been an anti-Trump shooter, they have been few and far between. The far right is the largest threat to US domestic security.
        Besides Trump and Republicans, that is.

        The right has become far right, the far right has become unhinged from reality, fed a constant diet of conspiracy theories. A number of them have, and are going to act out. The entire point of firearms is they are a force multiplier. Las Vegas was a perfect demonstration of the out sized force a single person can have.

  17. Caldwell Titcomb IV
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Article: “George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis”

    Why then are four police officers facing criminal charges if Floyd was killed be one?

    Answer: none of them are accused of killing him. Chauvin, the neck guy, is accused of “Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind”, etc., for not calling an amulance, under the same statutes used to charge people with murder who sold illegal drugs to someone who overdosed. Sorry, MSM misreporting is a pet peeve.

    Back to the subject.

    Here’s a summary of a big recent study with thousands of subjects, “Global Ancestry and Cognitive Ability” (full PDF) which showed that habitability of IQ is the same for blacks and whites (50%—70% for 14 year-olds ~70% to 90% for adults [pdf ref 9], and that the group difference is the same 1 standard deviation as for the SAT, as per subject article, and the same as it was 50 years ago, which puts lie to the conjecture that the differences are due to a racist society.

    • AlTazim
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      That charge is colloquially known as “depraved heart murder”, most jurisdictions have a statute on the books classifying that as 3rd degree murder, the lowest murder degree. It’s usually used, for instance against people who go on high-speed police chases running red lights and going the wrong way against traffic who end up killing someone or, in a famous case, a teenager who killed one of his friends while playing Russian roulette. Given that Minneapolis Police Department protocol authorized and recommended the knee-back-of-neck restraint methods, it’s extremely doubtful they will be able to convict Chauvin him on this because they would need to show extremely reckless disregard for life, and it’s really difficult to cast an officially prescribed technique as reckless. They could reasonably convict on the manslaughter charge, which doesn’t have as strict an intent standard.

      • John Donohue
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        @AlTazim

        I agree with your analysis. When the non-conviction comes down, there will be a renewed wave of unhappiness, ranging from hurt feelings to massive rioting.

        I saw this unfolding with Rodney King. I watched the stream of the trial, and the day the officer’s defense established the legality of the protocol, and the prosecution did not, or could not, counter it, I knew it would be “not guilty.”

        Los Angeles burned.

        It’s even worse with Chauvin … a) not only was he performing per protocol, he might not have been applying too much force. “I can’t breathe” is a symptom of both that “hold” and Fentanyl overdose and there are conflicting autopsy results; and b) there is no actually objective evidence Chauvin was acting on personal bigotry.

        Vast numbers of people in the US and around the world will not accept this (most won’t grasp the facts) and the outbreak will be horrendous.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          Mohammad Noor faced the same set of charges for his killing of Justine Ruszczyk, also in Minneapolis.

          Noor was found guilty of 3rd degree murder (with less justification than in Chauvin’s case, IMO).

          I predict the same outcome for Chauvin.

      • bill
        Posted August 13, 2020 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        my stint as medical examiner suggests that chauvin was not the cause of floyd’s death. nuchal (back of neck) compression causing asphyxiation should show signs at autopsy. i think it’s difficult to fatally compress the anterior structures of the neck with nuchal pressure against a flat surface in the first place. the official autopsy described a search for and failure to find such signs.

        chest compression, on the other hand, can be fatal with few or no signs at autopsy.

        legally this poses problems. the officer on the chest showed concern at several points, making a depraved state of mind hard to show. the lack of signs of trauma to the back and chest will be coupled with the toxicology findings to suggest that minimal pressure, coupled with drug intoxication caused his death.

        the issue will be further complicated by floyd’s stating ‘i can’t breathe’ at least 7 times before being put on the pavement. a reasonable person would see continued complaints as a continuation of whatever it was that caused that, as opposed to positional or traumatic asphyxia.

        the fact that the private autopsy announced no autopsy findings supporting their manner of death conclusion suggests also there were none.

        if the officers are charged in such a manner so that reasonable doubt about intent causes a not guilty verdict, we’ll see a strong reaction.

        • Posted August 13, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          I guess your opinion differs from the other policeman on the scene whose comments imply that excessive force was being used and was putting Floyd’s life in danger. I don’t much care if what the officer was doing was according to protocol, and he probably didn’t intend to kill Floyd, but the video shows that he didn’t have sufficient concern for preserving Floyd’s life, to put it mildly. I don’t think parsing rules and regulations avoids the officer’s disrespect for Floyd’s life.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            “the video shows that he didn’t have sufficient concern for preserving Floyd’s life”

            I think this is the key point of the event and the case.

      • Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        Chauvin is charged with both 2nd degree murder (this is political, IMO) and with 3rd degree murder, which I think fits the facts of the case. Chauvin did not (IMO) intend to kill Floyd.

        He did, however display indifference to his fate (“causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life”. MN Code 609.195)

        • darrelle
          Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          In MN 2nd degree murder does not require intention to kill. Subdivision 2 of the statute covers instances of “unintentional” killing.

          Section 1 (if I recall correctly) of Subdivision 2 seems to me to be a good fit for these circumstances. It covers, paraphrasing, “Killing that occurs while committing or attempting to commit a felony.”

          From what I understand to prosecute this they don’t need to prove intent to kill but only that Chauvin was aware that he was committing a felony and that Floyd’s death was a result of Chauvin’s actions. It seems well within the realm of possibility to me that they could successfully and legitimately show that Chauvin committed a felony, some sort of assault, and that he was aware that what he was doing was illegal.

          I think it’s even more probable that they can show that Chauvin’s actions resulted in Floyd’s death. The only complication I see there is that 1 of the other 2 officers that were holding Floyd down, the one in the middle on Floyd’s back, contributed significantly to Floyd’s death. Floyd might have been able to survive 9 to 10 minutes of Chauvin’s knees on his neck or the 2nd officers weight on his back, but there is no doubt that both combined is a much more dangerous situation to survive. One restricts blood flow to the brain and possibly restricts breathing as well depending on exactly how the force is applied, while the other restricts breathing by inhibiting expansion of the lungs.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

            It requires intent to commit a felony.

            I guarantee you that any jury in Minneapolis will find reasonable doubt that he intended to commit a felony.

            He thought he was following procedure.

            It was very similar to the case of Tony Timpa. The cops in that case thought they were doing things per procedure.

            • darrelle
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              You may very well be right about what a jury might think. I don’t know enough about it to guess.

              But as far as what actually happened, I think it approaches certainty that Chauvin and the other officers were aware that the law was being broken. The “we were following procedure” defense is no doubt commonly used as cover for situations in which the officer in question knew they were stepping over the line of procedure. There is a big difference between not knowing you are breaking the law and being habituated to not being called on it when you do break the law.

              Given that a number of law enforcement personnel that have seen the video of the event and are familiar with the procedure used by Chauvin have opined that he broke the law, I’d be very surprised if the procedure allows for 9 to 10 minutes duration of such “holds” or for a duration of 3 + minutes after the victim is non-responsive. I’d also be very surprised if the training for such procedures doesn’t include warnings about the possibility of permanent injury or death if the “hold” is held for too long.

              I don’t mean to argue against your point, that given past history the jury is unlikely to convict on murder 2. I’m just lamenting about the differences between what the case very likely happened to be VS how it will play out in court.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

                We see different things in the video I think (though not by much, I think).

                I see indifference and lack of training and possibly failure to follow procedure. Probably even “depraved” indifference. I think Chauvin should at least have tried a different position (bare minimum) when it was suggested by Officer Lane.

                Look at the affect of the officers. They were talking, they were basically relaxed. No one thought they were killing someone. Unless Chauvin is a complete sociopath (no one is suggesting this, that I’ve heard) or he wanted to become the notorious person on earth (he knew he was being filmed by bystanders), then he didn’t intend to and didn’t think he was actually killing Floyd.

                In my opinion, this was f!ck-up, not malice. (With human monkeys, f!ck-up is much more common than malicious action.)

                If you haven’t, I strongly recommend watching the Tony Timpa video
                . As Sam Harris has pointed out, the cops are using about the least amount of force they could in order to physically subdue Timpa. And Timpa died anyway.

              • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

                Adding to my comment at 1:28:

                All of which points to the need for better procedures and better training.

          • Posted August 13, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            I agree that the role of Kueng (pronounced “king”) (the guy on Floyd’s back) is unclear and almost certainly was a significant factor in Floyd’s death. It was his third shift as a police officer. He certainly looked to Chauvin for leadership.

            Keung is also African American.

            • merilee
              Posted August 13, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

              Kueng if African American, not Chinese or Korean??

  18. pablo
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    They eliminated the Seats because achievement is no longer a concern. Keeping students from complaining on Twitter is top priority.

    • pablo
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Goddamn autocorrect- SEATS is SATs.

  19. john reynolds
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    The SAT tests did not give an equality of outcome so they had to go.

    And totally beside the point I say we change the name Social Sciences to Social Engineering.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    This is both news and a potential topic of discussion: a new type of genome analysis reach further back into the past and reveal that – most likely – Homo Erectus alleles introgressed in humans [ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200806153558.htm , https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1008895 ]. Remember the Iceland result of seeing 5 % Denisovan alleles in Europeans? Seems like the ancient introgression passed into humans both through Neanderthals and Denisovans, testing that:

    – The old migration (200 – 300 kyrs ago) happened outside Africa since both Neanderthal and Denisovan alleles introgressed into the migrants.

    – The superarchaic lineage prefer a split date of 1 Myrs above older dates (but can still be Erectus).

    Mostly, the superarchaic had introgressed into all 3 other human lineages at the time of the old migration, so it fits H. erectus and the ancestors to those lineages splitting off in Africa. Erectus was possibly less successful than other Eurasian lineages, so their presence in Africa seems to be seen as spotty. Conversely the introgression rates match the population sizes and most likely – in my opinion – Erectus was merged into the other lineages as much as Neanderthals and Denisovans were merged into the final population. In any case, we carry a proud 0.1 % of alleles that took the long way around.
    https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article/figure/image?size=large&id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1008895.g003

    Fig 3. Population model assumed for inference using ARGweaver-D.
    Population sizes (constant per branch) are shown in parentheses. The model is invariant to the population sizes of the single-lineage chimpanzee and super-archaic hominin branches. Migration events are shown by arrows between populations; solid arrows are used for previously proposed events and dashed arrows for new events. All parameters except t_mig and t_div are held constant at the specified values.

    Discussion topic: Do we feel older or younger as a species knowing “it may be reasonable to assume that genetic exchange was likely whenever two groups overlapped in time and space.”?

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 12, 2020 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Seems the dynamically generated image can’t be hosted here, so click the link for a nice illustration of the to and fro’ of yore.

    • savage
      Posted August 13, 2020 at 12:14 am | Permalink

      Just as old as before.

      The de-facto definition of a homo sapiens is “historically attested hominid”.

  21. Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I have been hearing, over and over, that the progressives (the ones I hear on my local NPR station anyway) are calling for equal outcomes in: Housing, employment, access to all amenities. They only point to the outcomes*. This has become nearly universal.

    Here’s my question: Why would anyone work hard and defer gratification when there’s an authoritarian bureau/office/department that enforces equal outcomes?

    (*And assume that the inequalities can only come from oppression of one group by another.)

    • Posted August 13, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      And would others respect those that benefit from such mandated outcomes? Not so much.

  22. Posted August 14, 2020 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    New Russian vaccine; The Aeroflot of immunology!


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