Monday assorted links

by on February 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Albatross!

2. Do economic recoveries die of old age?  It doesn’t seem so.  And Tim Taylor comments and teaches us the word “paraedolia”: “looking at randomness and perceiving patterns that aren’t really there.”

3. The future of higher ed: a mentor for every student.

4. More evidence that negative interest rates aren’t working.  They are not just a reflection of bad conditions, the tax on intermediation seems positively harmful, and there are ways to run an expansionary monetary policy which don’t involve this tax.

5. “The schools’ proclivity to “do everything right” may be limiting students’ impulses toward the rebellion and inquisitiveness that could lead to greater skepticism and creativity.

1 Anonimit February 15, 2016 at 12:24 pm

#5 plus one million. As faculty at one of those schools I see that we don’t get enough students who are courageous enough to follow their impulses. We need to loosen the filter.

2 Cliff February 15, 2016 at 3:01 pm

I took this as sarcasm

3 Brett February 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm

2. So that’s what that’s called? I’m still just going to call them “Type I Errors”. It’s easier to remember and say.

3. It might be better just to assign people, and let them shift mentors if it doesn’t work out.

4 ivvenalis February 16, 2016 at 1:02 am

Except that “Type I error” contains no information about what it refers to in the absence of a specific reference, particularly in distinguishing it from the equally esoteric “type II” error of opposite meaning. “Paraedolia” at least contains etymological information in addition to having seniority. I’d suggest sticking with “false positive” if you want to be reliably understood.

5 Curt F. February 16, 2016 at 1:23 am

+ 1

6 Nathan W February 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm

I could never keep them straight, personally. I made sure to memorize for a couple exams, but, like names of various genes and enzymes that I had to memorize for biology stuff, I always had a hard time memorizing things with names that don`t mean anything.

7 Bob February 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

All these articles about admissions seem to be about trying to persuade colleges to adopt a certain admissions standard preferred by the author. Even when these articles ostensibly criticize admissions standards, they’re really just proposing a different admissions standard.

There are over 4,000 colleges in the US. Why not let and encourage colleges to have different admissions standards? If school X just wants eggheads, and school Y wants poets, why not let them, and indeed encourage them to have independent admissions standards? Of course there’s disparate impact and all that, but you can still have different admissions standards with de facto ethnic quotas. Poets U can fill its black quota with black students who among the black student population are good at or into poetry.

8 Axa February 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Yes, the problem is just at the end line of the text: “This is what all institutions of higher learning ought to be looking for…”. It’s dumb to expect diversity by asking ALL universities to do the same.

9 Alain February 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

It sounds like the problem is the following:

“Within the group of high achievers whose SATs and GPAs are already off the charts”, already off the charts you say? Sounds like the 1995 reentering (and perhaps the changes of 1994 as well) have caused most of the shenanigans we are seeing in college admittance.

His issue with some poet not making it in due to lackluster math scores? An 800 verbal in the 1994 test would have raised eyebrows, no matter the math score.

The progressives wanted to obliterate the meritocracy of the SAT in 1995. They succeeded. The assumed that the meritocracy of college admission would likewise fall as soon as the SAT, which powered it, fell. The admissions version of the Lucas Critique however stymied them as parents, gifted students, and admissions boards scrambled to find other signals. Sadly, those signals were commonly less available to those at the bottom of the SES ladder, but that’s what happens when progressives mess with things.

The simplest solution would be to go back to the SAT of 1994/1995. But that would require the progressives to admit defeat. Instead we will hear cry after cry of injustice and patch upon patch will be generated. Each patch with the intention of enriching their favorite class.

They are the worst.

10 Hoosier February 15, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Why not create an SAT that tests critical thinking skills? That asks you to write a poem? You can and should test , but it can be done better than the SAT. If you want a system like Japan- and some people do, I get it- where tests scores are all that matters then you’ll be very happy with the status quo.

11 Alain February 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Sounds like a great idea. Go develop your own test, market it, show the value it provides over a properly calibrated SAT and go be a billionaire. Go add value.

Don’t go smashing tests that work quite well since you disagree with their results. Don’t be a progressive, don’t go smashing the looms.

12 Hoosier February 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm

What value does the SAT provide? Is there literature on this? Is it that “value” subjective?

13 Cliff February 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Yes there is literature. It predicts college success better than grades. It is a measure of college-readiness.

14 anon February 15, 2016 at 1:49 pm

I agree that all colleges should be different.

If I had one though, I would data mine for what inputs produced good outputs (graduation and rapid employment), and then I would just randomly pick applicants matching that profile. If that meant mean freshman IQ of 120 instead of 125, so be it

15 The Original D February 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

What if it meant white freshman?

16 ivvenalis February 16, 2016 at 1:13 am

That’s easy. You just add a “Diversity” fudge factor to your inputs until it gives you the output you want.

17 George February 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

2. I could be wrong, but I thought apophenia was the inclination to find patterns in random data (e.g., to see a trend in a random walk distribution). On the other hand, pareidolia is seeing previously recognized images within a group of random forms (e.g., seeing a face on the moon or an elephant in the clouds).

18 Eric Rasmusen February 15, 2016 at 10:48 pm

In Wikipedia, it’s spelled pareidolia. The difference important because the root is eidolos, image. Apophenia seems to be synonymous. That’s OK— we need at least one good word for such an important concept, and two may be even better. Apophenia’s easier to spell, though.

19 rayward February 15, 2016 at 1:20 pm

2. Predictable cycles in a “closed” economy, but not in an “open” economy. The study (and theory) of economic development focuses on the emerging economies when today it ought to focus on the advanced economies since the gains in the former seem to come at a high cost in the latter. Indeed, what little attention is devoted to the advanced economies is usually on the many (perceived) dysfunctions of the losers in the shift of productive capital from the advanced economies to the emerging economies; it’s their fault they are losers, so there’s nothing to see here. Ho hum. If Silicon Valley were picked up and moved to, say, Singapore, would anyone notice that it adversely affected Silicon Valley, California? You betcha!

20 Donald Pretari February 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

#5…John Searle was one of my mentors at Berkeley. Here, at about 1:46:00, he explains why he prizes upper division Berkeley students ( And he contrasts them with students he has taught elsewhere ):

One tangent…I never knew the political positions of my teachers. I don’t think it ever even occurred to me to try and find out their politics. Even with George Lakoff, who has become famous for political writing and who was another of my mentors, I can’t ever remember discussing politics. Indeed, about 90% of our discussions centered around showing why Chomsky’s linguistic theory was wrong. The other 10% of our discussions concerned our own views of linguistic theory. Now, you might find this funny, but we were simply obsessed with linguistic theory and didn’t have time for much else.

21 Dzhaughn February 15, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Excellent word, thanks. However, it looks like the spelling is “Pareidolia,” according to Merriam-Websters, Wikipedia, others. “Eidolon” is “phantom.”

22 Dzhaughn February 15, 2016 at 2:03 pm

In fact, Mr. Taylor has the correct spelling in the article linked to by the mispelled word.

23 Ray Lopez February 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm

#2 – “However, the historical record since World War II does not support the view that the probability of recession increases with the length of the recovery.” too short a time frame. Also, post-WWII economies were anomalous “one-time” events, if you believe Gordon’s work, as well as TC’s “Great Stagnation” thesis. So, contrary to the paper, indeed the length of a recovery is a factor in the probability of recession. At the upper limit, the K-wave (Kondratiev wave) of 40-60 years determines the length of any expansion.

24 bill February 15, 2016 at 2:34 pm

If we needed negative IOR, I’m for it. But the discussion of this tax seems misplaced, especially now.
For 95 years (1913 to 2008) IOR was set at 0% and that was called a tax because it was usually less than market rates for overnight deposits.
But for the last 7+ years, IOR has been at 25bps and now 50bps which is MORE than what everyone else can get (only the banks can earn IOR). If we just dropped IOR to 0% today, that would be a tremendous stimulus and it would lead to above target inflation very quickly unless the Fed sold off about $3 trillion from its balance sheet. The Fed can’t keep the Fed Funds rate at 50 bps without IOR unless it sold off that $3 trillion. That would be the real normalization.
Tactically, I think that’s the direction they should head. Lower IOR today to 20 bps and start letting the balance sheet unwind. Positive IOR is not “normal”. We should be trying to get the balance sheet back to normal and the quickest path to that is lowering IOR, not raising it.

25 Jason Bayz February 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

#5 What a lot of nonsense, the tired and discredited attack against standardized testing. Cole writes:

The brilliant poet, distinguished novelist, or political cartoonist of the future who just did not care about that physics course in his or her sophomore year (and received a grade that showed it) is told that he or she doesn’t have a prayer of getting into one of the selective schools. So is the kid who starts out entertaining tourists on the street but who will eventually do extraordinary work as a performance artist. There is an appreciation for diverse talents, but only if they go hand-in-hand with great College Board scores and uniformly high GPAs.

As opposed to the brilliant poet, distinguished novelist, or political cartoonist of the future who did do good in his physics class? I would point out that with all the nonsensical claims spread by characters such as Cole it is good for our political cartoonists to have mathematical skills.

Cole acknowledges that “there is a superabundance of applicants who are extraordinary by almost any of the standard numerical indicators: GPA, SAT, and ACT.” Presumably these students aren’t really extraordinary. His alternative system is for a super “holistic” system:

Their first order of business would be to define the types of students they seek and how those students will fit into the education offered at their institution. Obviously, the criteria for admissions are apt to be quite different at a place like MIT than they would be at Amherst. The admissions staff, composed of people with experience identifying talent and potential in the various domains of intelligence, could make the first big cut. When the number of students has been winnowed from, say, 35,000 to 3,500, the faculty committee could then discuss these applicants. Of the 3,500, perhaps 2,000 would be interviewed by two of the faculty on the admissions committee—as is done in the final phase of admissions to medical schools.

He doesn’t go into detail about how these individuals would identity the talent and potential, the interview would only be done for “perhaps 2,000” students. Winnowing down to that point would presumably done through self descriptive admissions essays. And surely every single essay will be written by the students themselves who will be 100% honest about a passion for poetry or political science.

That article should be interpreted as an attack on standards of excellence. Instead of rewarding hard work and intelligence, the system will reward individuals in a completely opaque, subjective fashion. This situation would be ideal for a system of discrimination in favor of certain ethnic groups and the children of the elite. Cole, we should mention, is Jewish.

Cole observes:

By gauging the achievement of secondary-school students according to current admissions standards, many of the top schools seem to have taken the quirkiness out of the student body—and the rebelliousness of intellect, style, and thought that is often critical to doing something important in fields other than law or medicine. And in my experience, it shows. I’ve noticed that students today are rarely willing to challenge their teachers in class.(…)

Yet the trend towards students becoming less willing to challenge authority is found everywhere, not merely at the most elite universities. I think it’s due to two things, restrictions on freedom of speech and the general trend toward greater pussification of the youth.

26 JB February 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm

“The trend towards students becoming less willing to challenge authority is found everywhere, not merely at the most elite universities. I think it’s due to two things, restrictions on freedom of speech and the general trend toward greater pussification of the youth.”

It’s due to the drastic increase in returns to completing college (or the drastic increase in penalty for not doing so). Kids have learned to put their heads down and get their degree so they can have even the smallest of shots at a decent job. Challenging authority is one of the first things that goes by the wayside in such a system.

Call that pussification or an increased understanding of their personal incentives, that’s what’s going on.

On the other hand, there’s the increased willingness to challenge authority shown by brutal activist crowds, which tends to crowd out other forms of authority-challenging.

27 JWatts February 16, 2016 at 12:11 am

“It’s due to the drastic increase in returns to completing college (or the drastic increase in penalty for not doing so).”

Haven’t the returns to college been dropping since WW2?

28 Nathan W February 17, 2016 at 9:19 pm

I think he means to emphasize the second part of the sentence, which is mathematically similar from the perspective of the student.

In 1960, with a high school diploma you could get a factory job, marry and buy a house at 22. These days, with a high school diploma you can get a job at Walmart and rent 500 square feet.

29 Nathan W February 17, 2016 at 9:13 pm

“the tired and discredited attack against standardized testing”

We could alternatively try to evaluate the ability of students to succeed in an economy with millions of different potential jobs by evaluating them on the basis of just four or five areas, even though we know there are many more.

We could also outlaw private tutors and private schools, and perhaps even nannies and additional homework help at home, to ensure that the standardized test scores accurately reflected the abilities the purport to reflect.

“it is good for our political cartoonists to have mathematical skills”

What on earth for? Just so you can exclude people with skills that are irrelevant to their future professions?

“He doesn’t go into detail about how these individuals would identity the talent and potential”

Case closed. The guy who proposes an initial idea hasn’t pre-mapped out the nation wide rollout, and therefore we should disregard it.

“That article should be interpreted as an attack on standards of excellence”

Only if you have blind faith in standardized tests. What about truly brilliant people who simply don’t do well on test day? There are lots of people like that.

” Instead of rewarding hard work and intelligence, the system will reward individuals in a completely opaque, subjective fashion.”

Businesses would be outraged to find that this is happening. Question: why don’t more businesses administer tests as a part of the hiring process? If firms are so prescient, presumably they would use them more, no?

” This situation would be ideal for a system of discrimination in favor of certain ethnic groups and the children of the elite.”

I can’t possibly fathom any sort of quota system that could protect against this.

“restrictions on freedom of speech”

Such as?

“the general trend toward greater pussification of the youth”

Yeah, the notion that it’s not OK to treat other people like garbage can obviously be assumed to affect our views about authority.

30 MC February 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

5. “educators and schools need to instill in students a thirst to pursue their own interests, even if it is at the expense of creating the “well-rounded” student.”

Au contraire. The purpose of a liberal education–as distinct from a trade school–is precisely to challenge students to learn about things that they might not want to learn about in order to make them better and ultimately happier human beings. And even if one subscribes to Cole’s stunted view of higher education, as the example of Steve Jobs shows, a broader range of education actually helps people pursue their field of endeavor in unexpected ways.

31 8 February 15, 2016 at 6:42 pm

2. Modern economics: “looking at models and perceiving reality that doesn’t really exist.”

32 A February 16, 2016 at 12:48 am

#4 is typical of the negative rates discussion in that it assumes the conclusion. Why aren’t economists working on a methodologies for distinguishing causality from the confounding factors involing negative rates? For example, JPM’s evidence for negative credit impacts is HIGHER interest rates:

“Denmark and Switzerland introduced very negative policy rates in 2015. In Denmark bank lending rates for new loans to non-financial corporations rose by around 20bp during 2015 vs. a decline of 50bp during 2014. Bank lending rates for new loans to households were flat during 2015 vs. a decline of 100bp during 2014. In Switzerland, bank lending rates for new loans to non-financial corporations went marginally higher by around 5bp during both 2015 and 2014. Bank lending rates for fixed-rate mortgage loans declined during January 2015 but have been drifting higher since then. Bank lending rates for variable-rate mortgage loans linked to a base rate rose by 10bp during 2015.”

As a certain blogger says, don’t reason from a price change. This link shows mortgage lending volume in Denmark: Good luck finding evidence of negative impacts.

33 Roberto February 16, 2016 at 2:42 am

I was a student of John Searle and George Lakoff too. With George, yes, it was 90% why Chomsky was wrong about linguistics. At that time Searle was interested in why Chomsky was wrong too, but it was all speech acts. I never heard anything about politics when I was at Berkeley. And that was way back then.

34 John February 16, 2016 at 9:43 am

I recommend the author check out the College of Creative Studies (CCS) at UCSB. It seeks out those students that are passionate and excel in a specific area and may not be perfectly well rounded. A typical admit might have an 800 math SAT and have taken upper division computer science college courses in high school, but may have also had a B- junior year English and did not volunteer at the local soup kitchen. The goal of the school is to produce creators of knowledge rather than just consumers of knowledge. The students begin research in year 1 and enroll in accelerated small group seminars in their chosen field as freshman. For instance the typical math major will cover the entire undergrad math curriculum in the first three semesters.

The students to a large extent are self-selected. Not many high school students are willing to turn down far more prestigious names to attend what to an outsider looks like a hippie college at a good, but not great public university. But, the model appears to work. A majority of the students go on to elite graduate programs and so far one student has won a Nobel (Carol Greider).

35 sam February 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm

#5: The problem with university admissions is that the university is attempting to achieve three very divergent goals using one system:

1: Admit minorities in quantity greater than their current distribution in the talent pool to ensure government funding. (Thus “holistic admission”)

2: Nurture the white, upper-middle-class, liberal culture that the staff and most of the faculty belong to. (Thus the soup kitchens and volunteering)

3: Admit enough rich kids (who pay full tuition) and smart kids (who might get rich and donate in the future) to pay for it all.

None of these three groups like each other, and thus the university must come up with the appearance of a single admissions criterion.

36 JohnBinNH February 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm

To refine the above: a college doesn’t want smart kids as such. The upper rank ones want a few super-smart kids who might become famous (e.g. Nobel-potential) for future glory. But all of them want kids who might become rich and who would also credit the college for their success. Kids who become rich but don’t feel loyalty and gratitude to the old _alma_mater_ are not wanted. So colleges look for evidence of being a ‘joiner’. Hence the preferences for children of alumni and for sports team members.

37 Nathan W February 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm

3) Fully expanded, I can’t possibly imagine how charging students with finding a university mentor could possibly contribute to further entrenchment on inequality. Poor people will definitely be able to access mentors of similar quality as their peers whose parents have networks of successful wealthy people.

5) Strongly agree that over-reliance on standardized testing is bad. Even China is coming around on this, and many top universities are increasingly considering thing things like extracurriculars and volunteering.

As the article points out, the broad-based standardized test will exclude basically anyone who is weak in even one area, even if they are truly world class thinkers for their age in several other areas.

I liked the approach used in Ontario when I graduated in the 1990s. Universities took your top six scores for grade 13 classes, so if you didn’t do that well in one or two classes (which applied to me) you could still get into top notch universities (Waterloo engineering, for me). Perhaps SAT results could provide two scores, one being the aggregate score, and a second score which dropped the scores in the one or two worst areas of performance. A lot of students who know they are weak in a couple subjects might try generally harder as a result.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: