Sunday assorted links


Slightly off topic, but #1 repeats a matra I now frequently hear in education: Know your audience.

When it comes to students, sometimes I think I do not want to know my audience. Discovering that they lack basic math skills or that they are uninterested in rigor, simply encourages me to dumb the course down to their level.

Not knowing my audience allows me to teach materials that I think they should learn. Period. And damn the course evaluations.

Great Courses, like Online Teaching are probably great entertainment. But anyone who actually wants to learn how to do something in the field has to actually pick up a text book and then plow through calculating a bunch of examples, or actually practicing speaking the language or actually doing research and writing an essay. I suspect like reading a newspaper, these course give the person doing them a sense that they know something about the subject and thus are cleverer than they are, as opposed to actually knowing something about the subject. There is no reason a sufficiently sefl motivated person couldn't do that on their own, but most people don't have the necessary will power. What actual physical schools seem to mostly about is proving the peer pressure to do the actual work. They are very expensive commitment devices.

"They are very expensive commitment devices." That's an interesting observation. I learnt to read German in a class that met for only a couple of hours a week for about 20 weeks. Obviously we each had to do almost all of the work outside class. I suspect that you are right: I would have found it far harder on my own. But there was the added benefit that work submitted was marked and discussed. That is a huge advantage, for me at least, over studying by yourself and then attempting some sort of tick-box online test.

I've taken so many great courses over the years. The benefit is giving you an ok understanding without the time commitment of a deeper dive. Great for those who spend a lot of time in a car or train, too.

right. they are great for the car. better than books on tape.

No, it's not going to be as comprehensive as an intro to Chemistry class with a lab, but nothing short of an actual course at a university will be. For the humanities and even some social sciences, they can be nearly as good as a university course; perhaps better given that the average Great Courses professor is much better at what they do than your average university professor.

"What actual physical schools seem to mostly about is proving the peer pressure to do the actual work."

A thousand times yes. This is why MOOCs and other purely online classes are effective only in niche situations, where the students are highly motivated, highly intelligent, or both. They cannot and will not replace bricks and mortar classes through the undergraduate level, and even at the graduate level there are many programs that cannot be effective if purely online.

Who cares whether Polar bears are against Putin? Anyway aren't they all mean to be dead by now?

Putin has brought them back from the dead after they all drowned due to Global Warming.

Is there nothing that Putin cannot do?????

Yeah, what does Putin have to do with this? Is there a rule that you have to bring up Putin every time something happens in Russia.

Anyway, the thing with hungry polar bears and weather stations happened before. Here is a photo from the 1980, one that, in my opinion, perfectly expresses Russian national character. Russian polar researcher feeds a hungry bear family with concentrated milk.

Yup. As all know, Putin=Russia.

Is there nothing Putin's ban on homosexuality cannot do?

It doesn't seem like your Elena Ferrante campaign is gaining any traction.

I claim no credit, but Ferrante has taken off in a big, big way.

Whoa! Tyler still reads the comments!

If Tyler reads his comments without hiring someone to filter out (and summarize if necessary) useless comments, or if he does not use some form of AI to do the same (the cost would be about five thousand in research assistant funds for a very very useful person, and about the low six figures, at this point in time, for a potentially marginally useful AI- the comparison would be enlightening, and might defray the costs), then I would be surprised . For those who resist trying Elena Ferrante try reading a long interview, free "on line", as they used to say; her explanations of which authors she respects are fascinating (unless I am confusing her with Vollman ....)

3. Why should a super-rich person wish to appear unpretentious? I suppose it is just the spirit of our age. Think of all the grooms and footmen Michael Bloomberg could have kept gainfully employed had he ridden in a carriage rather than a subway train.


On neighbourhood effects:

I think school effects are more important than neighbourhood effects (but due to funding formulas in the USA these are essentially the same).

I have lived in a few "poor neighbourhoods" in my time but always went to very decent schools because I decided to go into French immersion (this involved some travel time). It is helpful to go to a school where you can befriend the children of professors, teachers, entrepeneurs/industrial inventors, doctors, lawyers, etc. The shared inspirations go miles ...

Access to good parks and basketball courts, etc. (a favourite solution for many social justice advocates who are looking for hobbies other than drugs for disadvantaged youth) are largely irrelevant when a wide array of free or low cost extra-curriculars exist at school.

I was very lucky to go to school in the 1990s in Ontario. Things have gone downhill since then due to major cutbacks, and extra-curriculars are increasingly the privilege of parents who can afford to pay ever-increasing premiums for these activities. (I half expect some snotty comments from people who despise paying taxes which subsidize the activities of "poor" children, but thank you anyways, it made a huge difference in my youth).

I know nobody reads thoroughly across disciplines, but this is an area of my expertise so I'll chime in... the entirety of Sampson's Great American City (2012), and Sharkey and Faber's Where, When, Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away from the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects (2014, seem like the current essential reads to me on this subject.

What is your basis for believing that schools have an effect on student outcomes?

On #1, does anyone know how big the royalties for Great Courses can be? I was surprised by how eager the teachers were, given the upfront fees they mention in the article - it sounds like a lot of work. I'm sure there are many academics who would view those numbers as substantial, but I would have thought they draw their professors more from the "tenured, winner take all" side of academia who can make money from textbooks, consulting (although I suppose not liberal arts professors), etc. The article seemed to downplay royalties, but maybe they don't want to emphasize the possibility of those (thinking of future negotations). Also, if you're not tenured (but a great teacher), would doing this be viewed as a plus or a minus?

Did they assess the effects of government housing policies on neighborhoods? The HUD policies of 1960s and '70s destroyed miles and miles of neighborhoods. How did that affect the kiddies?

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