Assorted links

1. How are some select people younger than thirty changing the world?  A photo gallery, with explanations.

2. German storage markets in everything: “Rather than taking up the limited space available for hand luggage with bulky winter coats, Frankfurt Airport is allowing customers to check in their jackets for a small fee.”

3. The importance of being first in your class (pdf).

4. “The referendum in Catalonia will be held less than a month after a similar vote in Scotland…”

5. Cliff paths.  And The Thin Airport (Marshall Islands).

6. New Republic best books list.


#3: The conclusion of the study is that a kid at the top of his/her primary school class would do better in secondary school than a kid with a similar score than a kid from a different school who ranked lower. They attribute it to confidence.

But could it be that the child who was at the top of his/her class was not doing his/her best because he/she was already the best among his/her peers? Maybe, if that kid had been in a more demanding class, he/she would have done better, and the better performance in secondary school simply reflects that kid's hidden potential.

You may have a point there. Before college, I was always at the top of my class, and I developed some lazy habits that did not serve me well in college. My parents would ask why I never had any homework. I did it all at lunch or during other classes. I wanted my after-school time to be completely free, and it was. I had very little competition in high school, but college was something else. I barely made it through, going to lectures, taking the tests, and not really studying at all. And this was while taking a very heavy class load, so I could graduate at 19. I do not recommend this to anybody.

In the students I tutored, I found that their sense of self mattered significantly. If they thought of themselves as someone who always got an A and attached a sense of self worth to that outcome, they were incapable of accepting any other outcome. I found it useful as a tutor to exploit this.

When people define themselves as smarter than everyone else, they get really prickly when the evidence suggests otherwise. I wouldn't call this confidence.

On the other hand, students who think of themselves as incapable of learning math, interestingly enough, also have their sense of self challenged when I suggest they can learn the subject. Students react angrily when I don't accept their statement that they cannot learn math, that it is too confusing, that their brain isn't wired that way, that it is illogical (!!!), that it is useless, and on. The emotional outburst when a concept that was eluding them is explained can be savage. Challenging their identity as someone who cannot learn math by demonstrating that they can, in fact, learn factoring can assault their very sense of being.

I don't know how to conduct a study that would separate out confidence, or lack thereof, from a self identity tied to a particular outcome, but it would be interesting. Confidence in self != confidence in outcome.

I am thinking that a kid with identical standardized test scores but lower ranked in school maybe is not exhibiting the drive and focus necessary to move to the top (in class rank) and thus maybe is again unfocused in the next school up. My skim of the article might have caused me to miss something, though.

#3 I read the paper because I was skeptical initially but it is a very solid study, and I am adjusting my priors.
Full paper here

My hesitation was that their results do not fit with the evidence that redshirting, placing your children a grade lower than they could, does not have a positive effect beyond elementary school. For example

Contrary to my expectations, the authors also did not hypothesize that the outcomes were related to 'framing', the pseudo-scientific concept that is used in the social sciences so much to explain away uncomfortable realities.

Their results do fit with studies that show that being successful and winning increases testosterone levels in men.

Finally, the authors did not discuss whether we should thus look for bad elementary schools to put our children in so they come out on top

I am not convinced that it is simply a matter of confidence. It would have been interesting to know the teachers' and administrators' rankings of the primary students. There is often competition for educational investments (teachers attention, academic teams, scholarships, etc.) and top performers would have an advantage. Confidence comes from skill and that takes investment. I think this study may simply be a sign that those investments are too scarce. Cheap talk to build confidence won't improve the situation.

We looked into a various other mechanisms (including parental investment by subject, learning about own ability ect) but came to the conclusion that the formation of positive non-cognitive skills , such as confidence/resilience though being highly ranked is the most convincing mechanism. We are still very open to ideas to further tease out other mechanisms, but I hope that empirical finding in itself is interesting.

Our intuition is that confidence may not directly improve educational outcomes, only that confidence/resilience in a subject may affect the cost of effort/return to effort in that subject. So a student trying to improve overall grades would adjust to invest more time in the subject they are relatively more efficient in. Like you say, improved skill comes from investment and this investment may come from the child herself preferring maths to English.

When we go into elementary school we may not have a sense of ‘self’ (a wooly term I know), but by the end of elementary school we my start to think of ourselves as a ‘maths person’ or an ‘English person’ or an ‘arty person’. This would be determined by absolute and relative achievement, but also rank position amongst peers.

I find our most convincing specification one where we allow for individual effects, such that each student can have a different average growth rate between the ages 11 and 14. We find in this specification that students who were ranked higher in one subject in elementary school had a higher than their average growth rate in that subject during secondary school.

I agree, the findings doesn't sit well with the red-shirting literature, there is also this paper:

But the findings may be informative to the mixed results found in the selective schools literature, which find no gains from attending a selective school (Abdulkadiroglu et al., 2009; Clark, 2010; Kling et al., 2007; Cullen, et al., 2006; Angrist and Lang, 2004). These papers use a regression discontinuity framework, comparing those that just got in to those that just did not. By definition, those that just got in would be the lowest ranked in their school and those that didn't highest.

Whilst not speaking to the issue directly (as we are looking at subsequent outcomes), this may be a reason why there aren't large gains from attending these selective schools.

Robert, consider this theory: suppose child A and child B have the same test scores in primary school, but A is low-ranked in a great school, and B is highly-ranked in a poor school. My guess is that child B has more underlying talent, and therefore might be expected to perform better later on (e.g. if later tests more directly measure ability, or if the students' educational opportunities mean-revert).

Another way to phrase it: rank contains residual information about ability after controlling for test scores, because high rank measures educational adversity in primary school.

Can you rule that out as an explanation for your findings?

Measurement error is a key concern.

However, your basic story only works when comparing across schools but we can also include student effects.

This means that a particular student with identical national test scores across English, maths and science does better later on if ranked higher in, say, English during primary. The key thing is that this student was taught all three subjects in the same school, so school-sorting is taken out.

We can also control for how good your class was on average in primary (subtle distributional differences then generate the variation...) and how well your former classmates do later on. This means any talent/measurement story would also need to be subject-specific, it's not just about who went to a better school.

We still worried lots about this and in the paper we ran a series of additional robustness checks and simulations to convince ourself that this is not going on. We could not replicate our results using a measurement error story and even making (from our point of view) very unfavourable assumptions.

Finally, we are finding negative effects of low ranks, too, as well as heterogeneity by gender and income. To generate our results, overall, this measurement error would need to be gender-subject-income-specific and work along the whole rank distribution and not just the top or bottom.

Perhaps red-shirting is accompanied by a stated or unstated message that the child wasn't ready for school when most of his/her peers were. Grade school kids also know the relative ages of their peers. The red-shirted child might discount his/her own performance advantages, and classmates might as well. Any initial advantage to red-shirting is lost over time.

One thing I've noticed about all these various magazine staffers' Best Books of 2013 lists is how they are dominated by literary tastes, even though everybody would admit in the abstract that we are living in an era of nonfiction. And indeed these magazines publish almost no fiction or poetry.

But a huge fraction of our journalists were English majors.

Completely agree, and would add that the NR's contibuters to this list seemed somewhat politicized. It is a bit like reading the Guardian's lists, of both Best Books of the Year, and top ten films within a genre. But I'm an Independent, so I would say this...

The political nature of their picks is a bit sad really. I like their review of Dallas1963 that starts out by admitting that the Right did not kill JFK. But goes on to review the book exactly as if they did. Yes, the Hunts may have been weird. But they did not kill Kennedy. A friend of the TNR did. They need to accept it.

Their tastes differ from yours. It's not a crime - though God knows you'd probably like it to be.

Millian, you really take Sailer for a progressive?

Thank goodness they publish no poetry. Most of the contemporary poetry I've read is very similar to contemporary art.

7 fiction books out of 18, is it not enough?

I just found my reading for the next long flight, the book from Pedro Mairal =) A short story from this guy:

1. How are some select people younger than thirty changing the world? A photo gallery, with explanations.

What's interesting is that none of them appear to be "changing the world." They're all representative of the established orthodoxy's views.

What do you expect from Time? Surely not promotion of anyone truly disruptive, who challenges the status quo.

Leading a successful radical political opposition is not the single, only way to change the world. For instance, some people did it with paintings, or ball bearings.

Yes, James is right. Out of the 30 people only the 12 below (12/30 = 40%) are not pie-carves, establishment-ists, and bulls hitters. The modern rent-seeking economy is geared towards rewarding the parasites not the producers. Not coincidentally 40-60% of OECD countries comprises government, the acme of rent seeking. Hell I'm one myself and I got rich doing nothing; meanwhile my friends in science still struggle to get by while I semi-retired years ago. - RL

Kristen Titus
The Coder

Leslie Dewan
The Nuclear Pioneer

Ann Makosinski
The Inventor

Danielle Fong
The Energy Whisperer

William Kamkwamba
The Connector

Fred Ehrsam
The Broker

Arthur Zang
The Healer

Ludwick Marishane
The Protector

Jack Andraka
The Researcher

Brittany Wenger
The Diagnostician

Taylor Wilson
The Next Einstein

LOL. I started looking at the Time list and gave up after the 5th profile, because they seemed to be the type of person that probably won't change the world. However, "your" list looks a lot more interesting. I may have to click further.

perhaps they are helping us take "small steps toward a much better world"?

And including Ezra supports the saying that sometimes you need to take a step back.

#1 - those children aren't "changing the world" any more than I'm "changing the world." Not even close. These are worldchangers:

Augustus Caesar
Jesus of Nazareth
Galileo Galilei
George Washington
Maximillien Robespierre
James Watt
Charles Darwin
Karl Marx
Gavrilo Princip
Vladimir Lenin
Adolf Hitler
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Bill Gates

Very high standards

Well, the standard is "changing the world." That's pretty high!

Ed Snowden?

Has Snowden really changed much?

Maybe not - but compared to many of the people on this list Snowden has had a hell of a lot mroe impact. But being that this is Time Magazine what they really mean is "People under 30 who truely exemplify Established Orthodoxy".

Snowden deserves to be on this list more than this Brandon Stanton guy

'Has Snowden really changed much?"

Maybe. Google's encrypted all it's internal traffic. Big move. Others are following. Some may sue.

Perhaps we'll see more deployment of encryption?

Depending on their cut-off date, Snowden maybe considered too old (born June 21, 1983).

Well, for starters no one on your list is younger than 30. But, yes, I agree with your broader point.

Now *this* is a cliff path

When watching the Hobbit films I wonder who is in charge of maintaining those staircases built into the sides of the mountains. Who submits bids?

I wonder what sort of inflation Middle Earth will see once all that Dwarven gold is unleashed.

Maybe all the war in LOTR proper could have been prevented by a good central bank.

"once all that Dwarven gold is unleashed."

Apparently you don't quite grasp Dwarven psychology.


I spoiled The Hunger Games for my daughter by pointing out that a society wealthy enough and technologically advanced enough to generate man-eating cyborgs out of the ground would just automate the mines and pay people not to work.

Remember "Waterworld?" I nearly choked to death on my popcorn when Kevin Costner's "gills" electrolyzed oxygen gas from water, which he then blew into his co-stars mouth. Not to mention the producers also apparently never put two-and-two together from watching ice cubes melt in their drink glasses.

"I wonder who is in charge of maintaining those staircases built into the sides of the mountains."

The Goblins do. They are also known as the Central Taxing Authority and/or Toll Booth union. Their tolls can be quite high and their not very committed to customer service. But then again, we are talking about a Tax collector, so the standards are not very high.

#2 More than German markets it also speaks tons about German flying patterns. None of them are flying anywhere that remotely needs a coat!

Around Christmas or New Year, transit through Frankfurt and you'd think there was a refugee exodus to sunny lands. It's like flight after flight to Majorca, Tunisia, Bangkok n places like that. The Germans take the prize for seasonal sun worshipers of the world.

Fraport could make a ton selling flip flops, sunscreen n Bermudas.

Well isn't that the point? The offer is you can leave your coat at the airport in wintry Germany instead of flying it to sunny Maldives and back.

5. They left out the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast of Kauai.

Also the trail to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park.

I walked this Angel's Landing once. It's beautiful, but unless you are fat or carry a lot, it's not really scary. Great views into the valley!

The referedum in Catalonia will not be held.

#5: This is a scary walk in China:

I make a stop at the airport in Majuro whenever I go home... it doesn't seem so bad in person... no worse than any of the other airports in the island hopper flights.

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