One two three four! One two three four! Gabba Gabba Hey- Blast Through an important study today! (Thank you, goodnight!)

September 30, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the second greatest rock band of all time invented Punk Rock by taking 1950s do-wap songs and speeding them up to under two minutes, added a splash of psycho. The Friedman Foundation has gotten in on the act with these cool info-graphic slide shows that you can blast through a study in under two minutes, and like the Ramones, it is also awesome. Check it out here.

 


The Brown Shirt Left

September 29, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I attended a debate last night between gubernatorial candidates Doug Ducey (R) and Fred Duval (D) on K-12 policy. Unfortunately what would have otherwise been a civil exchange of ideas between two candidates who pass the “would like to have a beer with” test was marred by protesters in the audience who attempted to hijack the event by screaming invective on entirely unrelated matters from the audience.

It seems almost unnecessary to say that the protesters were uniformly on the far left. I’m 47 years old, have seen this happen several times, and have yet to see a right of center group behave in such an anti-democratic fashion. I’m not saying it has never happened, just that I have never once seen it happen.

The person who should be most upset by this is Fred Duval. Duval is obviously a decent guy and I would put the odds that he had anything to do with this squarely at zero. Nevertheless, when a group of people shouting random hostility at his opponent act like a group of brown-shirt fascists, it’s nothing but bad. This was Duval’s best chance to make his points with the public on the subject that he has emphasized more than any other, and that chance was essentially lost. Ducey handled the situation well, receiving a thunderous round of applause in elegantly rebuking the protestors. Game, set match Ducey.

Attempting to shout down opponents is contemptible and against the most basic tenets of democracy. I would say exactly the same thing if a group of conservatives disrupted a debate by attempting to shout down the Mr. Duval.  Notice the muted reaction of the Arizona Republic. If a group of Russell Pearce supporters had shown up in force to scream at Fred Duval I hate to say that I strongly suspect that it would have been a top of the fold front page story rather than a buried note in page three. Seeing this unfold made me wonder if the era of public debates might not be drawing to a close. It is much easier to keep things under control in a studio. The only other alternative is to hire a ton of security, which raises the cost of public events considerably. Either way, we will have fewer civil and public exchanges so long as a vocal minority of Americans lack a basic commitment to civility.

If so, illiberal forces will have stolen something from us. I took my sons aged 14 and almost 13 to the debate last night, and I wonder how many more such events they will have the opportunity to attend. The soft bigotry of low expectations seems very much at work here. We’ve grown to expect some left-wing groups to behave like fascists. We should have much higher expectations.

The misguided people engaging in brown-shirt tactics should remember an old slogan of the left- the whole world is watching. You may have deluded yourself with some complex rationalization justifying attempting to shout down opponents, but don’t expect decent people of either the left or right to believe it.


On the move with our man McShane

September 25, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

See Mike go…see Mike dodge infographics!

 


Stop Nick Cage Before He Kills Again!

September 25, 2014

Spurious Correlations

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This graph of the correlation between the number of Nicholas Cage films and the number of swimming pool drownings in each year (correlation = 0.666004) and many more await you at Spurious Correlations.

Here’s the graph of the age of Miss America and the number of murders by steam, hot vapors and hot objects (correlation = 0.870127):

Spurious Correlations 2

Perhaps you scoff at such weak correlations. It may interest you to know that the marriage rate in Kentucky and the number of people who drown after falling out of a fishing boat correlate at 0.952407! What on earth are newlyweds doing in Kentucky, and how do we put a stop to it?

HT Michael Strain


One Two Minerva is Coming for You, Three Four Better Lock the Door, Five Six grab a crucifix, Seven Eight Gonna Stay Up Late

September 24, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Check out this interesting profile of the Minerva Project by Graeme Wood in the Atlantic: The Future of College? Minerva is the first elite university founded in the United States since Rice over a century ago, costs half as much as Rice, and talks of serving as the asteroid to end the Cretaceous period of American academia.

How am I supposed to hire dozens of new non-teaching staffers this week with all these dreadful explosions going on?

I find myself vaguely skeptical. The graduate student association at Rice after all has this great bar they run in the basement of the Chemistry building called Valhalla. Minerva won’t have that, and college might not be the same without it. Maybe living in Europe, Asia and South America would be even better than Valhalla, especially when it is half the price of Rice. If the Minervas of the world disrupt Rice in Christensen inspired inferno of creative destruction, I hope Rice can hang on long enough for me to savor one final pint with Odin and the boys before academic Ragnarok reaches its inevitable conclusion.

Speaking of Odin, there is a lot of bold talk in this article from from a one-eyed fat man someone with 33 students, but on the other hand fortune sometimes favors the bold. The decision to avoid federal money alone makes me want to root for them. Let’s see how they do.


Sentences that Aren’t Worth Finishing

September 24, 2014

solomon01Aristotle_Plato  JLocke

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Robert Pondiscio: “Our earliest thinkers about education—men like Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, and Horace Mann…”


Standards are Important… NOT!

September 23, 2014

My students, Charlie Belin and Brian Kisida, have a new article in the journal, Educational Policy, that examines the relationship between state science standards and science achievement according to NAEP.  As an indicator of the quality of state science standards they use Fordham’s ranking of those standards.  They find no relationship between Fordham’s ranking of standards and achievement.

Possible explanations for this result include:

1) Fordham is lousy at judging the quality of standards.

2) The quality of standards doesn’t matter.

I’m inclined toward the latter explanation, but either way, would it seem like a good idea to blow hundreds of millions, engage in endless and destructive in-fighting, and consume nearly all of the energy of the reform movement on something that makes virtually no difference?

I know, I know… the standards crowd readily admits that standards, by themselves, are not the issue.  It’s the way we link standards to teacher training, professional development, and assessments with consequences for teachers and students that really matters.  OK, so standards only matter if we also achieve a level of benevolent, top-down control over key aspects of the education system that has never been accomplished before.

Where have I heard this kind of argument before?  Oh yeah! That’s what the crazy guy in Harvard Square was yelling about when he said that the past failures of communism didn’t matter because it would finally work if we just did it correctly and completely.  And how much coercion and forced conformity would be required in the futile effort to achieve this level of top-down control?

Of course, it is also possible that Charlie and Brian’s analysis failed to capture the true causal relationship between standards and achievement given that is is only an observational study.  But if that is the case, the burden would still be on the advocates for national standards to demonstrate the causal connection between the reform they advocate and improved outcomes.  We shouldn’t remake all of American education on a hunch and a rationalization borrowed from the failure of communism.


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