2016/12/05

Not Really Education-Related

Two libertarian-oriented sites (Samizdata, Bizzyblog) and one feminist/socialist blog (the name of which I cannot remember) banned me for, ostensibly, arguing in favor of population control. Two socialist/atheist sites (Internet Infidels, International Skeptics) banned me, Internet Infidels for protesting a moderator's use of a banned insult ("racist") in response to my "what do you mean 'we', paleface?" and International Skeptics for modifying and reposting a comment that the Climate discussion moderator had deleted. In the latter case I suggested that one of their fair-haired children ("Trakar") had "stepped on his dick" when he (Trakar) disputed a comment that a climate scientist on his side of the argument had made. For the second time I tricked Trakar into disputing an argument from his side by representing it as my own. I thought that the moderator's objection was the coarse language, so I reposted the comment without the crude language. The moderator still took offense. Both Trakar's response and the moderator's response look tribal to me. Mark Kleiman's blog "The Reality-based Community" banned me for mentioning too often that contributors had participated in Ezra Klein's Journolist. One feminist/hippie-spiritualist blog, "Mahablog" (which smells of patchouli and probably thinks that quartz crystals cure herpes) banned me for defending (with quotes from John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, etc.) the proposition that Bush II told the truth (as the CIA presented it to him) abut Iraq's WMD.  JayMan banned me from his HBD blog for disputing his argument that parents make no significant  non-genetic contribution to their children's success. JayMan is very much worth reading. Mahablog has a thoughtful analysis of how the Clinton campaign bought  and then crashed the Democratic Party. 

Funny thing: although they should take greatest offense to my materialist, pro-abortion views, no Christian site has banned me.

P.Z. Myers issues the latest ban: "Buh-bye, Malcolm Kirkpatrick! Not a fan of racist creationist climate-change-deniers around these parts." He omitted "homophobic, sexist, Zinovievite running dog lackeys of American imperialism".

Myers and I crossed tracks perhaps ten years ago when I disputed his contention that the taxpayers of Minnesota could cut administrative costs with school district aggregation. I observed that, across the US,  costs rise and performance falls as school districts increase in size. That is a verifiable fact (well, statistical generalization). That governments realize economies across nationalized industries (e.g., "bend the (health care) cost curve downward") is an article of unshakable faith to the socialist faithful. That dispute over Minnesota district costs ended when Mike Antonucci (The Education Intelligence Agency) somehow noticed the discussion and took my side.

The latest ban followed these comments:
When Our Institutions Fail Us
Comments
(10. Malcolm)
(Tuttle): “The livelihoods of so many [astronomers and astrophysicists] are tied directly to funding that is controlled now by an erratic leader …”
That was your first mistake. I can see a decent “public goods” case for the search for Earth-crossing asteroids and the study of sun-like stars. Otherwise, why not let non-State organizations fund space research?
(Tuttle): ” … We have elected someone who doesn’t believe in climate change.”
Seems to me it’s the people who suggest that Earth’s climate would be stable absent anthropogenic CO2 who “don’t believe in climate change”.
(Myers): “His team is lead by Steve Bannon, a notorious racist, anti-semite, and misogynist.”
Evidence? Accusations by SPLC don’t qualify. Genuine –quotes– from Bannon or convictions for bias crime qualify.
You will find nothing like that.  
(11. Malcolm)
Question for all you proudly pro-science people: Do you exempt from natural selection the human nervous system in the last 100,000 years? Do you take as axiomatic that regional varieties of human cannot, axiomatically cannot, vary in nervous system function? If so, why?
(13. Malcolm)
“Steve Bannon, a notorious racist …”.
Defined by use, in modern American English, “racist” means “Caucasian who disagrees with a socialist”.
"Creationist"? How did Myers deduce that? I made an explicitly evolutionary argument for divergence of regional varieties of human.
"Climate-change denying"? Exactly backwards. As  I indicated, geological evidence of past climate change is an element of the AGW skeptics' case against the anthropogenic CO2-induced climate change hypothesis.
"Racist"?
Let me tell a story.

Perhaps twenty five years ago, as I sat nursing a beer in the UH Manoa Garden bar and studying a chess game out of a book, a young man whom I did not know asked if he might join me and follow along. We went through a few games and I invited him to join me and two of my friends for beer and chess in our regular Friday meeting. He did. The new guy, Damon, worked as a computer-literate sub for one of those temporary help agencies like Manpower, Kelly Girl, and Altris. Chris studied Physics. James, the best chess player in our group, maintained machinery in a hotel. Sometimes my ex, Mae. would sit with us. Sometimes James' friend Dave would join us. Dave would occasionally play, but he wasn't our strength. Chris, Damon, and I were about 1700 to 1800 USCF at the time. James was much better. 2000+, I'd guess. He was in the game against Judit Polgar once in a tournament game until his position fell apart around move 25. I wouldn't last past move 15.

Sometimes, after the bar closed, the party would move to the house I shared with Mae and another renter, Catalina. We would play until I crashed (I'm an extreme morning person). They would be asleep on the couch and on the carpet when I arose. Then we would go to breakfast at some coffee shop and then go to the beach or for a hike.

I enjoyed talking politics with Dave and Damon. Chris and James were not much interested. Dave used to hang with his friends in the Revolutionary Communist Party at an off-campus cafĂ©, The Bread Line. One day Dave told me that his communist friends had advised him to avoid that racist, Malcolm Kirkpatrick. I asked "toward which race am I supposedly hostile?" and he answered "every one but your own". I did not bother to answer. They might as well have said "he's eight feet tall".  Mae is Japanese. Catalina is African-American. Damon is African-American. James is Japanese/Chinese. Chris is Chinese/Hawaiian/Caucasian. Dave and I were the only Caucasians in the group.

Let me tell another story.

I shared for a year the rent on a house on St. Louis Heights Drive with a gay friend. Two of my friends, a Math professor and a Public Health professor, are gay rights activists. Three of my friends died of AIDS. I visited one, Robert, in the hospital during his last stay. I changed the bedpan when the nurse was busy elsewhere. The stool was slimy and watery. Mae visited Robert some days later and she told me that Robert asked how my contest with the Hawaii DOE was going. May we all go out with as much class.

Between 1996 and 2006 I ran for Board of Education every election cycle, sometimes for the Honolulu District seat and sometimes for the Oahu at-large seat. One year the issue of including sexual orientation as a category protected from hate speech (section 19, Student Code of Conduct) arose. At a public forum a reporter raised the question to the panel of candidates. When the mike came to me I said "I don't want to minimize the harm that verbal abuse can inflict but it seems to me if you live in a democracy and you believe in free speech you have an obligation to grow a thick skin".  A few seats down the line another candidate agreed. The Honolulu Advertiser reported that candidate's agreement, but did not credit me with the initial answer. I was by then a non-person to The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, The Honolulu Advertiser, and The Honolulu Weekly .

Some organizations send to all candidates a standard questionnaire. One year the issue of same-sex marriage appeared. I opposed (and still oppose) same-sex marriage; it's a court-imposed tax increase on married heterosexual couples and all unmarried taxpayers. My Math Professor friend endorsed my candidacy in a newsletter. It wasn't personal; it was strategy. As the non-incumbent, I would have less power from accumulated seniority (not that the Hawaii DOE performs marriages). The fact that he knew me personally was unrelated to his argument. My Public Health Professor friend told me that the question "What about that bigot, Kirkpatrick?" arose among his activist friends and he told them "We've been neighbors for thirty years and I never got any of that off him." Verdict for the accused. Case closed.

Why do they do this? Myers, for example,  might say "Malcolm Kirkpatrick endorses laissez faire capitalism because he pulls down $20 million per year as  CEO of a multinational corporation with an annual revenue stream in the billions" and the refutation would be immediately obvious. Would I wear these  clothes and drive this beat-up truck if I were wealthy? Better to suggest some invisible thought crime: racist, sexist,  creationist, climate denying homophobic free market ideologue.  

Perhaps it works on people who have no access to contrary information, but ...
(a) it makes the accuser look like a fool or a liar and a bully to the accused, such as Trump voters who have had it up to here with Political Correctness and know that the intrusive welfare State is bankrupt.
(b) It makes the accuser look like a fool or a liar and a bully to any outside observer who can read. Backtrack to the comments that set Myers off. Creationist? Obviously not. Climate-change denying? Obviously not. Racist? On what evidence?

Related: Robin Hanson, Overcoming Bias, "Careful Who you call Racist".

Again, why do they do this? Some HBD blogger suggested a phenomenon he called "boiling off" to explain cult devotion. Whatever it takes to accept, say, membership in the Amish community varies between individuals. "Amishness" is heritable. As the less faithful fall away, the devout reinforce the faith by endogamy. Perhaps the strategy is instinctive. Myers, while often reasonable on questions biological, has a foul mouth. His cult may shrink as his foul mouth and patently absurd arguments (e.g., college professors are "lower-middle class") drive wavering members away, but the fraction that remains becomes, by the distillation process, increasingly devout.

2016/06/23

Welcome to Hawaii

Read this.
"I'm just trying to do my work as best as I can. . I'm not getting the support from above," Friel told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "The pushback is coming from those that I'm investigating, which are actually management that has been in place before I came on the various islands. There's a lot of politics being played here."
When I would describe waste and fraud within the DOE to employees of other State and County agencies, they would typically respond: "You should see where I work." People apparently believe "if it is this bad everywhere, the State would fall apart". It is this bad everywhere and the State is falling apart.  

2016/05/17

Two Important Posts from Dedicated Homeschoolers

One: “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about.” 
Two: " ... all the things they did in preschool I do better or at least as well at home."

2016/05/02

The Basics

(CNN): "Principal Diane Daprocida of P.S. 94, an elementary school in the Bronx, says she has been waiting for one thing since she started running the school 10 years ago. .. a way to teach her teachers, many of whom have four years or less of teaching experience, how to teach reading.'
"Our universities do not teach teachers how to (teach reading) at the undergraduate level, ... It's philosophy of education, sociology of education, classroom management. I mean, I can't even remember. It's been so long since I've been to school, but they are coming through a traditional track not knowing how to teach reading, just the overall basic components of it."

Classroom teachers have offered the same criticisms of their wasted hours in Education courses for decades, as have several studies of the relation between teachers' College of Education coursework and student performance. Colleges of Education add nothing to teacher competence.
Colleges of Education degrade teacher performance, as measured by student performance, below the level that teachers with degrees in their subject would achieve. The current State-monopoly system presents an incentive structure that rewards inefficient instruction at all levels. At the early-education level, the system degrades performance below the level that parents with no college at all would achieve. Basic Reading and basic Math instruction provide examples of the fundamental failure of Colleges of Education. Remember Whole Language? Colleges of Education promoted this incoherent strategy of basic Reading instruction for years. Mounting evidence of failure did not dissuade the "expert" advocates of Whole Language in Colleges of Education. Whole Language fell to an argument from authority in the form of a critical open letter  in the New York  Times to which academics with superior credentials at prestigious institutions (e.g., Steven Pinker, MIT)  attached their names. Colleges of Education continue to promote "Discovery" methods of Math instruction, despite as thorough a refutation (Project Follow-Through) as Whole Language suffered.
Why expect otherwise? The mystique of expertise sustains the professional Education industry. Why, otherwise, would parents surrender their children to experts to attain a result that they (i.e., individual parents) could attain? Benjamin Franklin, who attended school for a total of two years between age 10 and 12, wrote that he could not remember a time when he did not know how to read. At age eight or so my older sister taught my younger sister, age four or so, to read as an accidental result of playing "school".  Basic Math (counting,  the decimal digits, place-holding notation, whole number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)  requires even less expertise in an instructor than does basic Reading.  
Expertise matters. Few unsupported homeschooling parents could extemporaneously provide the breadth and depth of instruction that a full-service high school provides. Since few high school teachers can, either, this observation fails as a defense of Colleges of Education, compulsory attendance statutes, or of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 school  subsidy. While, above the level of basic Reading and basic Arithmetic, experts have something to offer, the experts need not deal with children in person. Books crystalize expertise. The decidedly non-expert Education majors in US middle school History and Math classes use this crystalized expertise. So, also, can non-expert homeschooling parents use the crystalized expertise that books embody. Colleges of Education have nothing to offer. Colleges of Education disguise their irrelevance with strident political advocacy in the form of "philosophy of education, sociology of education, classroom management".     
The current structure of the US Education industry relies on the mystique of "expertise". The costs of this structure include the $600 billion+ per year tax subsidy to K-12 schools and the subsidies that Colleges of Education receive. This total provides a lower limit of the costs of the current structure.  A more accurate total would include, additionally, the opportunity cost  to students of the time that they spend in school (otherwise, why the need for compulsory attendance statutes and child labor laws), losses due to crime, the lifetime cost of prisons for the poor children whose lives we trash, losses from depressed lifetime productivity, and the opportunity cost to society of the lost innovation in education technology that an unsubsidized competitive market in education services would generate.
Which brings us back to our starting point: why Colleges of Education fail at their basic task. "What works?" is an empirical question to which an experiment will provide more reliable answers than will the self-interested Divine Inspiration that College of Education faculty offer. In public policy, "experiment" means federalism or competitive markets in goods and services. A State-monopoly provider is an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a maximally ineffective experimental design.  In the current institutional/legal environment, efficient performance does not pay. A $600 billion+ per year K-12 revenue stream and the thousands of College of Education faculty positions across the US  depend on K-12 enrollment. Curricula that would allow K-12 teachers to produce a 14 year-old actuary, electrical engineer, mason, programmer, or welder would allow homeschooling parents to do the same. Efficiency does not pay.  
And that is why, oh best beloved, after nearly two centuries of existence the US State-monopoly K-12 school system hires teachers who learn their craft from Professors of Education who do not know how children learn to read.

2016/02/12

Adios, Andrew Coulson

Neal McCluskey  and Jason Bedrick mark Andrew Coulson's passing, far too early. Andrew and I corresponded some years ago via email and he  he asked if I would send the statistics I had compiled on the relation between age (start) of compulsory attendance and NAEP test scores (positive. Later is better) and district size and NAEP test scores (negative. Smaller is better). He said that he would pass these to Caroline Hoxby, a far more statistically sophisticated analyst than I. Perhaps she needed a laugh. Coulson's  Market Education makes the historical case that the education industry thrives without State (government, generally) compulsory attendance, subsidy, regulation, or direct operation.      

2016/02/04

Confirmation Bias?

Teacher credential requirements maintain the mystique of the education industry. Otherwise, why not let parents decide what, where, and how their children learn? I found one class (Statistics) in the College of Education useful. Professor Ayabe suggested a year-to-year recursive grading system. Based on my experience of the useless College of Education coursework and later analysis of State-level credential requirements and State-level NAEP performance, I oppose State-imposed restrictions on whom principals may hire (aside from excluding pedophiles and other dangerous criminals).

Anyway, I am quite prepared to believe this:
Take the evidence on GPA and SAT scores. Some research suggests that these screens can predict teacher effectiveness, but the differences are small, and there’s no clear tipping point guiding states on where to set their expectations. The evidence on coursework and certification requirements is even weaker..