by Tyler Cowen
on October 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm
1. Daniel Mendelsohn on critics and criticism.
2. Good profile of Roland Fryer.
3. The economics of Gagosian.
4. Should we abolish pain?
5. Are women really more risk-averse than men?
What we care about are, “are the riskiest 1-5% of men much more risky than the riskiest 1-5% of women?” Because, it isn’t the 95% that destroy your business or hurt your family, its the extreme outliers.
She goes on about how similar the measures are visually along the majority of the histogram. But thatis pointless. Because honestly, if both are pretty close to the median, then the difference in risk taking between the two would be inconsequential even if they were statistically measurable.
From 2.: “EdLabs started by rooting out the culture that allowed failure. Fryer said that when he asks teachers what it would take to have a successful school, and they tell him better students, there’s a problem.”
Does Fryer know a better way to improve schools than to exchange the current students for a new set of students that are, say, two standard deviations higher in ability?
Right. How does Tyler write an editorial for the New York Times that repeats the same pablum about reforming education, without acknowledging the obvious? America’s diverse population will always, whether in a privatized education system or in a federal system regulated by national standards and accountability formulas, be characterized by inequality in achievement. No number of public sponsored commercials and billboards extolling minority scientists or high-minded op-eds by economists inveighing against teachers unions and calling for school choice is ever going to churn out STEM graduates from the ghetto.
If Fryer asked coaches what it would take to have a successful basketball or football program, and if the response was: better athletes, would he raise a similar hue and cry? What if exchanging the current athletes for a new set resulted not just in a group two standard deviations higher in ability but also vastly altered in racial composition as well?
>America’s diverse population will always, whether in a privatized education system or in a federal system regulated by national standards and accountability formulas, be characterized by inequality in achievement.
How do you explain the results of Success Academy under that theory?
“In statewide tests of third-graders in 2009 on combined subjects, Harlem Success Academy (the former name for the schools) ranked 32nd out of almost 3500 schools.”
Poor and “diverse” kids aren’t born idiots, they just need a proper environment.
How does Harlem Success Academy choose its students? Are they random kids who happen to live in the neighborhood or are they selecting the best students the inner city has to offer?
Of course a lottery is not random selection – it requires a parent willing to apply for their child. And when you consider the high attrition rates at Harlem Success Academy – poor performing students are marginalized, suspended and finally pushed out – the idea that it demonstrates that students of low average ability can be transformed, Cinderella-like, into the next generation’s elite is a joke.
Needless to say, the Eva Moskowitz’s of the world couldn’t care less. Such people could conceivably make a legitimate profit creating vocational schools which could actually do children in the inner city some good, but they’d rather make their fortunes by parasitizing off the latest fad of policy makers.
“No number of public sponsored commercials and billboards extolling minority scientists or high-minded op-eds by economists inveighing against teachers unions and calling for school choice is ever going to churn out STEM graduates from the ghetto.”
Few dispute that equality is impossible. But why is the current inequality level your favourite one?
Because football is a zero-sum game. Education is not.
But even that’s not true over the long haul. If anything, football is a shining example of how it is possible to improve training and teaching methods over time. A lower rung Division I-AA team from 2012 would slaughter – and I mean SLAUGHTER – a mid 1950s Oklahoma team (NCAA record 47 straight wins). Why? “Bo Bolinger – Left Guard – 5’10” 206 lbs.” Not to mention the advances in strategy — the 2012 team could line up in a 4 WR set, and the 1955’ers wouldn’t even know how to line up to defend such a thing. (There is most emphatically no football great stagnation).
Is the same true in education? Maybe. A 2012 physics major from Fresno State would know all sorts of things the 1955 physics major from Cal Tech wouldn’t, not because he’s smarter but because he’s been taught better.
LemmusLemmus : My understanding of what followed that statement suggests that the solution was to replace the teachers not the students.
Clearly unions are part of the problem. This is only alluded to in the article, but it is difficult to have change without more effort *and* accountability. The standard excuse about socioeconomic factors does not hold (according to Fryer). In general, I am deeply skeptical of academics who are media darlings (and Fryer may well turn out to be a specialist in just self-hype) – but at least hear him out and give him a fair shake. It may well be that he has two specialties.
I am not saying that other measures make no difference, but of course “student quality” is a biggie. To criticize teachers, as Fryer does, for pointing that out, is unreasonable at minimum.
I would also suggest that expectations that are too high can do harm.
I don’t accept that “nature beats nurture” implicit in some of the comments above, though nature may well constrain nurture, nor do I accept Fryer’s rejection of competition to achieve the result he wants, for competition is the best discovery procedure, better than Fryer’s research.
Discussion of public education in the US reminds me of discussion of the NHS in the UK: People know it sucks, on average, and simultaneously claim it’s the best system in the world! Can’t have it both ways.
#2 The drop in crime seems doable and worthwhile. I hope that it holds up. BTW what is happening on direct instruction?
“The program replaced 53 percent of the teachers and replaced all of the principals.”
There is the crux. The top of the administrative hierarchy often requires replacement, too. Burn the deadwood to light a fire in the minds of the students.
I haven’t read Pearce, so I do not know what he says, but what appears in this piece seems off the mark. Obviously Pearce does not reject the idea of strong ‘no’ signals being an important part of survival. In that case, should one replace the existing pain mechanism with some other one, what has one changed? One still experiences a rejection of one’s actions by the world through one’s own body. And what of the masochist? If one proscribes universal pain removal does the masochist not suffer a loss of happiness?
Elimination of pain which serves little useful purpose (for example, indication of chronic incurable disease) is quite probably welfare improving. Otherwise the abolition seems impossible: a trade of one pain for another.
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