Andew Sullivan lauds Charled Murray April 16, 2009Posted by Evil Bender in education, News and politics.
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I frequently disagree with Andrew Sullivan, as you might expect since he’s conservative and I’m progressive. But I’ve consistently found him to be among the most thoughtful and interesting public intellectuals on the conservative side: he tends to be thoughtful and enlightening, even when being oh-so-wrong.
Which just makes posts like this one all the more painful:
As always, the less educated:
The overall unemployment rate for the more educated is only 4.3 percent. Individuals with a high school degree, but no college, have a 10 percent unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted). The unemployment rate for high school dropouts is 15.5 percent. Moreover, the unemployment rate gap between the most- and least-skilled is widening, not narrowing. Between February and March, the unemployment rate for college graduates increased by one-tenth of a percentage point. Among high school dropouts, the unemployment rate increased by four-tenths of a point.
Charles Murray was onto something, wasn’t he?
Sigh. It takes a really twisted worldview to see stats that clearly correlate education and achievement and use them to argue that they really demonstrate that poor people are really dumber than rich people. The most charitable thing I can say about such an argument is that it is a highly implausible reading of the data. When I’m feeling less-than-charitable here, I’m inclined to believe that the argument in Murray’s The Bell Curve functions as a conservative creation myth of sorts, providing a pseudo-scientific justification for conservative and “libertarian” systems which maintain cultural hierarchies.
Or maybe I’m not being fair to Sullivan: perhaps he really doesn’t mean what this short post seems to mean. After all, when you follow up a link to a story with a pithy comment, you always have the out, Instapundit style, of pointing out that you didn’t say anything too specific and therefore your critics are misreading you. Perhaps Sullivan will clarify.
Until then, though, I see no option but to conclude that Sullivan believes the link between lack of education and high unemployment is a function not of fewer economic opportunities for the uneducated, but of the poor’s innate inferiority.
(Aside: I suspect most of my readers won’t be the least surprised by my analysis, as I’ve been here before. But if you’re not convinced, read Gould’s Mismeasure of Man. He lays out quite plainly why arguments based on IQ are deeply flawed, and discusses the history of how they have been frequently used (as Sullivan seems to be using them) to justify one’s prejudices. )
Via PZ, I learn about the blog “Homeschool Hints,” writen by Janine, a fundamentalist homeschooling mom whose bigotry is outlandish even by fundamentalist standards (usually even fundamentalists don’t display their homophobia quite so openly). She’s already taken down the post PZ linked to, and put up and even more hilarious one.
Her blog really is a heaping helping of crazy. But my very “favorite” thing about it (so far; it really is a gift that keeps on giving) is that she is also, predictably, one of those particularly crazy people who need to protect her children from great literature:
Followup on Glick’s Schlafly award July 11, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in education, News and politics, wingnuts.
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When I mocked Edward Bernard Glick for his substance-free anti-education screed, I had speculated that the “quote” he attributed to the unnamed head of the Duke psychology department might not in fact exist:
Please cite your source, Mr. Glick. A web search of the phrase returns only one result: your essay. As a responsible scholar, surely you know that quoting an unnamed professor on an unnamed “radio interview” is unacceptable.
It turns out I was right to be suspicious. You see, Glick had “quoted” from a supposed radio interview that never happened. He misremembered (to be charitable) a quote he had heard months earlier, misremembered where he heard the quote, and who said it. He literally got everything wrong, except to note that the quote (which was incorrect) had come from someone at Duke.
Confronted with this reality, Glick admitted to being completely wrong:
Inside Higher Ed located him to ask for the source of the quote and in an interview Wednesday, Glick confirmed that there is no such quote.
Glick said that he heard a quote on a radio show, while he was washing the dishes, “months and months ago,” before he ever thought about writing the column. When he was read the quote that College Freedom suspected he heard, Glick confirmed that that was the quote he had heard — not the one he wrote.
So why did Glick, who should be familiar with academic standards or at least basic honesty, put quotation marks around an attributed quote when he knew full well he was not actually quoting, but paraphrasing a quote he’s heard months before?
Asked if he knew of any department chair anywhere who had uttered the words he used, Glick said “No.” But he added that it was still correct. “Do I believe that is true? Yes,” he said, adding that he believes that regardless of what department chairs at top universities say or don’t say, those in many disciplines will not hire Republicans. “I am convinced that is the climate today.”
And that is why Glick’s take on Higher Education is completely irrelevant. He had exactly one piece of evidence to support his claim (outside of a brief quote by, ahem, Ann Coulter) and that quote was, at best, misremembered and attributed incorrectly as though it were a direct quote. Confronted with that, Glick’s defense is that he believes the quote to be accurate, even if no one actually said it.
Sadly, I must remind Mr. Glick that in the academic world, one’s opinion presented without any non-fabricated evidence is not persuasive. Claiming viewpoint descrimination while lying to make your case is a sure way to ensure you have absolutely no credibility.
Thank you, Mr. Glick, for demonstrating the academic bias against people who fabricate evidence and defame strangers.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite. [...]
The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.
The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.
That’s right, folks, the Religious Right, self-appointed champions of Truth against the tide of evil liberal relativism, are pushing for a bill that would require schools to reward students for positing religious answers to any “otherwise permissible subject” (rtf of the bill is available here).
I should think it obvious that such a law would be incredibly destructive to real education, as facts are forced to become subservient to unsupported religious beliefs. If for some of my readers, it’s not immediately clear why a student should not be allowed to claim that A Magic Man Done It is an acceptable answer to scientific questions, consider answers provided by any religion but the one you happen to support:
Question: What causes lightning?
Surely that deserves full credit, right?
Naturally this problem isn’t limited to science, either. There are all kinds of crazy religious views on history, for example. Should Mormon students be given credit for factually incorrect versions of American history that have Native Americans being descendants of the Jews? Should Christian students be given credit for arguing that America was founded by God to be a “City on a Hill,” when asked to describe the country’s founding?
It never ceases to amaze me how us “evil secular progressives” are blamed for trying to ruin students education, when there are those on the extreme right who are actively arguing that students should be rewarded for giving incorrect answers, as long as they can argue their ignorance isn’t simple lack of understanding but instead is based on their religious views?
Somehow that’s what we’ve come to: proposed laws that enshrine religiously-motivated ignorance as knowledge.
Phyllis Schlafly: wouldn’t pass my composition class October 3, 2007Posted by Evil Bender in education, language and lit, wingnuts.
Sadly, No! and Shakesville are already all over Phyllis Schlafly’s latest screed, “Advice to College Students: Don’t Major in English,” but I’ll take a moment to bring my expertise to the subject. You see, Schafly’s problem is that she can’t write as well as my Junior Comp students. In fact, her essay would fail at the Freshman level.* So to support the cause of education, I will provide comments for Schlafly so that she can better her writing.
Before I get to that, though, let me add this: if I were Schlafly, I’d be terrified of English, too: a good English education will help teach critical thinking, and even a little of that is enough to show Schlafly for the intellectual lightweight she is.
Now, on to her essay:
I get papers: open thread October 1, 2007Posted by Evil Bender in Blogging, education, language and lit.
…stacks and stacks of papers. And sometimes, despite my sincere attempts to get students to critically evaluate what they’re going to say, despite peer review and conferences with me, they still manage to say things that destroy their credibility, tank their essays, and make my brain explode. A highlight from this last batch:
Plate techtonics[sic], Darwin’s evolution theory, Lamarckism, and phlogiston theory were all widely held to be true by a consensus of scientists, but later proven false.
Naturally, no evidence was offered for the downfall of plate tectonics, let alone evolutionary theory. Almost like the student doesn’t know what he’s talking about. What’s really bad, though, is the above is from a paper denying human-caused global warming. Way to establish scientific credibility, eh?
This was terrible in a whole different way:
By all means I am NOT a racist person, but just about every other country has a national language and everyone knows that Americans speak English, so why is it that when you call a business or look at signs, there is an English side and a Spanish side [sic]. Even when you buy a bookshelf or something else along those lines that you have to put together, the directions are in both English and Spanish. Like I said, I am not racist. I just don’t want to have to keep pressing 1 for English when we are in America.
It must be tough pressing one–illegal immigration is a huge problem, after all. I would also like to advise English-only advocates to learn from my student’s misstep and make sure you don’t make grammatical errors while arguing for the importance of English.
So that’s my life at the moment. What’s the word from y’all?
Some mockery to get you through the next few days July 26, 2007Posted by Evil Bender in education, wingnuts.
It’s going to be slow around here for a while,* so until August rolls around and I’m back to more regular posting, you should check out this site, via the always-enlightening Rev BigDumbChimp. It’s Don McLeroy, who will be running the Texas public schools now. Ouch. McLeroy would be a useful asset in many lines of work, no doubt, but education isn’t one of them. He’s a Creationist, doesn’t believe in environmentalism, and thinks medieval Christianity was a great gift to the world.
What is it about the development of the West that made it so remarkable and unique? Why in the West are all people important? What is the ultimate source of these ideals of freedom, equality and limited government? What was the defining ideological force that uniquely shaped the West’s political development, especially in its formative medieval period?
I believe the best and really only answer to all the above questions is the gradual assimilation of Judeo-Christianity in the West. By arguing that humankind is “made in the image of God”, medieval thinkers developed the idea of the dignity of the individual, not something arbitrary-man-given, but a reality, inherent in every person-God-given.
The usual right-wing idiocy that we need their particular belief system in order to be moral. Of course he ignores the great Western secular traditions out of which democracy sprang and which were largely responsible, on their reemergence, of bringing the light of reason to the dark ages. It’s important to note that he doesn’t have even a bit of a grasp on Western history, because of what he argues for:
Hy Ruchlis in Clear Thinking , 1962, makes the connection of facts to problem solving by observing “a body of facts accumulates and makes it possible for people to solve many more problems than they could ever hope to handle successfully solely by their own thinking processes.”
Filling the mind with knowledge and facts is, in fact, the special task given to education.
Nice 45-year-old citation. He’s clearly up on the scholarship. I have to wonder about the kind of person who thinks facts, not critical thinking, are the real subject of education. Facts are great, important things, but it is reason which allows us to make use of them. Filling kids’ heads with route memorization of facts if foolish and–ask anyone who’s spent hours diagramming sentences and memorizing multiplication tables–deadening to the intellectual process. We need facts presented to students in a context that challenges them to think about the facts. And we don’t need the uninformed–men like McLeroy who think the earth it 6,000 years old–to decide which “facts” they receive.
I’m reminded of the opening scene from Dicken’s Hard Times. The speaker is Thomas Gradgrind, a misguided educator whose family will fall apart around him:
“NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, — nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was, — all helped the emphasis.
“In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!”
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
In the next chapter, Gradgrind will proceed to chastise children for using their imagination, for daring to think for themselves. It is exactly what McLeroy plans to do: destroy childen’s ability to think by stuffing them so full of “facts” that there is no room for real education.
As a Kansan, I’ve seen this battle play out in my home state, and I wish Texas well in combating this foolish doctrine.
*I’m moving! And I’m going to be teaching again! And I’ll have more time to blog!