Education

Here is the transcript and audio (no video).

We discuss what makes Florida special, why business writing is so terrible, Eddie Murphy, whether social conservatives can be funny (in public), the weirdness of Peter Pan, how he is so productive, playing guitar with Roger McGuinn, DT, the future of comedy, and much much more.  Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: If I look at old slapstick, it doesn’t seem funny at all. Intuitively, you would think slapstick, being only physical, would have a much longer half-life. What I find funny is very culturally specific references. Now, am I strange?

BARRY: Well, not about slapstick. When I was a little guy, I maybe thought that the Three Stooges were kind of funny but that stopped a long time ago. Some physical humor is still funny to me. Abbott and Costello were pretty physical, but they were funny without being slapstick. Just hitting each other in the nose and going, “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” never struck me as funny at all. I have forgotten the second part of your question.

On different comedians and what’s not funny anymore

COWEN: You mentioned Abbott and Costello. If you’re willing, I’ll talk about a few comedians, or mention a few, and you can tell me what you found funny with them, didn’t find funny.

Let’s start with Abbott and Costello. Favorite of my father. I’ve watched almost all the movies. As I kid, I didn’t find them funny, but I actually started to find them funny in retrospect after having watched a bit of Seinfeld and Larry David. What’s your take on Abbott and Costello?

BARRY: Yeah, I can see the connection there. It more relies on you letting it — the humor — slowly develop and the characters themselves being the humor without coming right out and saying what’s funny about it: The one who never understands what’s going on, the one who’s always losing his patience with the other one. The first, maybe, three or four times, it’s just mildly amusing. But after a while, when you see it coming, that becomes very funny to you.

It’s very rare to find that kind of patience in humor anymore. I don’t think the audience is as generous as it used to be, allowing humor to build the way it did in an Abbott and Costello sketch.

COWEN: And is Abbott or Costello funnier to you? Abbott being the straight man.

BARRY: Yeah, I think Abbott is funnier.

COWEN: I think he’s much funnier.

Most of all, I was impressed by Dave Barry as a managerial force for his own career.  Again, here is the link.

It is long, and thus below the fold… Read More →

A University of Georgia professor has adopted a “stress reduction policy” that will allow students to select their own grades if they “feel unduly stressed” by the ones they earned.

According to online course syllabi for two of Dr. Richard Watson’s fall business courses, he has introduced the policy because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.”

Here is a bit more, but you get the idea.  On RateMyProfessor, some considered him tough.

…the theater and film industry are beginning to recognize the need for “intimacy directors,” people who specialize in choreographing onstage intimacy.

They are practitioners who use concrete guidelines and techniques, such as the “four pillars” of intimacy direction, according to Alicia Rodis, a member of Intimacy Directors International.

Consent: Get the performers’ permission — including concrete boundaries and out of bounds body parts, and do it before you start.

Communication: Keep talking throughout the process. What’s working, what’s not, who’s touching who and how and do they feel safe.

Choreography: Performers wouldn’t spontaneously add an extra pirouette to a dance number or an extra kick to a fight scene. Don’t add an ass grab or extra kissing.

Context: Just because you kiss someone in one scene doesn’t mean you can kiss them in another scene without communicating about adjusting the choreography and seeking consent to do so. Just because someone is topless with you on stage, it doesn’t mean they won’t mind being topless around you offstage, or in another scene onstage.

To explore the ideas of intimacy and safety on stage in a variety of situations, LEO spoke with Rodis, as well as Tony Prince, a local director; and Sarah Flanagan, a Louisville-based fight director.

And:

Rodis, the New York intimacy director, started as a fight director, and that led to her new focus. She shared one experience from that evolution.

“There was one show I was working on where there was a woman who slapped the man and then kissed him. So I was brought in for the slap.”

She ended up working on the slap and the kiss. For that kiss, she used her stage combat skills. That included asking standard questions like where do the actors touch each other, and new questions like how long does the kiss last?

Here is the full story, via Catherine Rampell.

Overall, the results support co-occurrence theories that predict simultaneous secular gains in specialized abilities and declines in g.

NB: this is for memory tests alone.  Here is the paper, via Rolf Degen.

Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs.

Furthermore:

…cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs…

That is from Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service: Evidence from India, by Rema Hanna and Shing-Yi Wang.  Here are ungated copies.

According to a study recently published in The Review of Economic Studies, access to legal marijuana may significantly reduce academic performance.

The study took advantage of a natural experiment in the Dutch city of Maastricht. In 2011, the city sought to pull back some of the marijuana tourism going to its coffee shops, where marijuana sales are legally tolerated. So through the local association of cannabis shop owners, it banned some foreigners of certain nationalities from buying pot at these venues.

This let researchers Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz, in the cleverly titled “‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance,” compare the academic outcomes of Maastricht University students with varying levels of access to legal pot.

What they found: The students who weren’t allowed to legally access marijuana saw their grades significantly improve, especially in classes that require numerical and mathematical skills.

Here is the full Vox story.  I strongly believe it is morally wrong to throw people in jail for smoking such substances, but still policy decisions have real consequences, we should know what those are, and I am not convinced that full availability of marijuana is the optimal approach.

Here are ungated copies, noting there have been significant revisions in the paper along the way.

Partner Choice, Investment in Children, and the Marital College Premium, by Pierre-André Chiappori, Bernard Salanié and Yoram Weiss

We construct a model of household decision-making in which agents consume a private and a public good, interpreted as children’s welfare. Children’s utility depends on their human capital, which depends on the time their parents spend with them and on the parents’ human capital. We first show that as returns to human capital increase, couples at the top of the income distribution should spend more time with their children. This in turn should reinforce assortative matching, in a sense that we precisely define. We then embed the model into a transferable utility matching framework with random preferences, a la Choo and Siow (2006), which we estimate using US marriage data for individuals born between 1943 and 1972. We find that the preference for partners of the same education has significantly increased for white individuals, particularly for the highly educated. We find no evidence of such an increase for black individuals. Moreover, in line with theoretical predictions, we find that the “marital college-plus premium” has increased for women but not for men.

Full-Text Access | Supplementary Materials

Here are ungated versions.

Here’s the video of the Heritage session on occupational licensing. All the talks were good; short and to the point. Maureen Ohlhausen, Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission leads off, Paul Larkin discusses some of the legal issues and legislation, my comments begin around 28:20 followed by Dexter Price who talks about his personal experience trying to get a DC license–he is more than qualified for his job in property management but DC requires that in order to manage property he needs a very expensive and time consuming realtor’s license even though he has no interest in buying and selling property.

Now it is textbooks:

When primary school administrators in the U.K. choose study materials for the fall semester this year, they will have a new option: math textbooks imported from Shanghai, a city celebrated as a global math power.

In the books, the British pound will replace references to the Chinese yuan. But in just about every other way, the versions of Real Shanghai Maths available in London will be exactly like those used in China, the ideas, sequencing and methods kept intact.

It is a remarkable admission by British education authorities that their own methods have stumbled, and that Chinese educators – after years of racking up world firsts in math scores – have developed something admirable enough to import in whole cloth.

Here is the full article, via A.T., our A.T.

Here is the podcast and transcript (no video), Atul was in top form.  We covered the marginal value of health care, the progress of AI in medicine, whether we should fear genetic engineering, whether the checklist method applies to marriage (maybe so!), whether FDA regulation is too tough, whether surgical procedures should be more tightly regulated, Michael Crichton and Stevie Wonder, wearables, what makes him weep, Knausgaard and Ferrante, why surgeons leave sponges in patients, how he has been so successful, his own performance as a medical patient, and much more.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: A lot of critics have charged that to get a new drug through the FDA, it takes too many years and too much money, and that somehow the process should be liberalized. Do you agree or disagree?

GAWANDE: I generally disagree. It’s a trade-off in values at some basic level. In the 1950s, we had no real FDA, and you had the opportunity to put out, to innovate in all kinds of ways, and that innovation capability gave us modern cardiac surgery and gave us steroids and antibiotics, but it also gave us frontal lobotomies, and it gave us the Tuskegee experiment and a variety of other things.

The process that we have regulation around both the ethics of what we’re doing and that we have some safety process along the way is totally appropriate. I think a lot of lessons about when the HIV community became involved in the FDA process to drive approaches that smoothed and sped up the decision-making process, and also got the public enough involved to be able to say . . . That community said, “Look, there are places where we’re willing to take greater risks for the sake of speed.”

People are trying to treat the FDA process as a technical issue. When what it is, is it’s an issue about what are the risks we are genuinely willing to take, and what are the risks that we’re not?

And:

COWEN: The idea of nudge.

GAWANDE: I think overrated.

COWEN: Why?

GAWANDE: I think that there are important insights in nudge units and in that research capacity, but when you step back and say, “What are the biggest problems in clinical behavior and delivery of healthcare?” the nudges are focused on small solutions that have not demonstrated capacity for major scale.

The kind of nudge capability is something we’ve built into the stuff we’ve done, whether it’s checklists or coaching, but it’s been only one. We’ve had to add other tools. You could not get to massive reductions in deaths in surgery or childbirth or massive improvements in end-of-life outcomes based on just those behavioral science insights alone. We’ve had to move to organizational insights and to piece together multiple kinds of layers of understanding in order to drive high-volume change in healthcare delivery.

Definitely recommended, this was one of my favorite “episodes.”

No, I don’t approve of the second Putin-Trump meeting, but I’d like to consider this as a game theory problem without its current political connotations.

Why is it bad to attend such a meeting without your own translator?

Let’s say I meet with a Greek, to talk about debt renegotiation, and don’t bring my own translator.  You might think I am at the mercy of the other translator, the one hired by my Greek peer.

But how so?  If the Greek speaker wishes to mislead me, he doesn’t need a biased translator to do so.  He can just lie to me or otherwise mislead me in the original Greek.  Either translation, from an American or Greek translator, will communicate the same lie or deception.

Alternatively, assume I believe there is some “noise” between the Greek statement and its translation into English.  Some of this may stem from the imperfections of the translation process itself, or perhaps the translator has her own agenda.

If I bring my own translator, that removes the influence of the agenda of the Greek translator, but probably keeps the noise and imperfections.  But is that good or bad on net?

1. I now face risk from the agenda of my own translator.  That may be more biased or skewing than the agenda of the Greek translator, especially since it may relate to splits within American rather than Greek politics.

2. It might be better if I am fooled by a Greek translator who to some extent wishes to subvert the interests of her own government.  For instance, the Greek translator might wish to keep smooth relations by not communicating all of the cuss words behind a threat.

3. The Greek speaker might in fact know he is regularly subverted by his own translator, and adjust his words accordingly.  The “subverted” communication, as conveyed by the Greek translator, may in fact be the intended message, and thus there is little harm from the subversion.

4. By not having your own translator present, you are keeping as private information what and when you will reveal to your own countrymen.  That may put you in a stronger bluffing or bargaining position.

4b. In the other direction, note you may wish to have your own translator so that your negotiating partner can do without his!  That may put him in a stronger position with respect to his home interest groups and thus facilitate a deal.

Overall, it is not obvious that I am so much better off having my own translator.  In fact, it seems your own translator is there, to some extent, to constrain you, as is evident from some of the discussion of the Putin-Trump meeting.  For instance, it is being claimed Trump might have wanted to say things to Putin that no American functionary could be allowed to hear.  If that is true, it might be bad for America, but it need not be bad for Trump’s self-interest.

On this question, the economics of having your own note-taker, or your own taping mechanism, might be very different from that of translator, but that would be another post.

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit from it:

In a recent Financial Times interview, Sherry Turkle, a professor of social psychology at MIT, and a leading expert on cyber interactions, criticized robot education. “The robot can never be in an authentic relationship,” she said. “Why should we normalize what is false and in the realm of [a] pretend relationship from the start?” She’s opposed to robot companions more generally, again for their artificiality.

Yet K-12 education itself is a highly artificial creation, from the chalk to the schoolhouses to the standardized achievement tests, not to mention the internet learning and the classroom TV. Thinking back on my own experience, I didn’t especially care if my teachers were “authentic” (in fact, I suspected quite a few were running a kind of personality con), provided they communicated their knowledge and radiated some charisma.

And:

My biggest concern about robot education, by the way, involves humans. Children sometimes trust robots too much. Teachers and administrators could use robots to gather confidential information about children and their families, as the children may think they are talking to a robot only, rather than creating a database for future scrutiny. This could be addressed by comprehensive privacy standards, probably a good idea in any case.

Do read the whole thing.

I will be having a Conversation with him on Sept.6, locale and time to be announced.  In the meantime, what should I ask him?

I thank you all in advance for your sage and balanced judgments.

It is with Writing Routines, here is the interview, here is one bit:

When you first sit down to write, how do you start?

The keyboard is the most useful part, though I will check my email and maybe Twitter first, so I don’t miss something big.

What’s your process for editing your own work?

I repeatedly edit it many times, at least ten. I just keep on doing it, until I can’t think of further improvements. I can’t say that is a process in any formal sense, simply a recognition that the “process” to date hasn’t worked very well and so it must continue. I don’t pretend this is efficient.

And this:

For better or worse, I just don’t have that many modes.