Mega quick hits (part II)

1) The case for delayed adulthood.  Given what we now know about brain maturation, there’s something to be said for this.

2) Joe Nocera on the absurdity of how cavalier credit card companies and retailers are with our data.  And a great example of why we often need government to get involved:

For years, the banks and the retail industry have spent more time accusing each other of causing the problem than seeking a solution. By October 2015, the United States is supposed to move to a more secure card system, using a chip and P.I.N. instead of a magnetic stripe, as Europe did years ago. But even that won’t put an end to data breaches. It will make it harder and more expensive for criminals to crack, but not impossible.

Which is why the federal government needs to get involved. With the banks and retailers at loggerheads, only the government has the ability to force a solution — or at least make it painful enough for companies with lax security to improve.

3) People without kids fare better on all sorts of measures, except one.

4) Arizona voters passed a referendum to take the politics out of redistricting.  Sadly, the Arizona Republican Party is suing to put politics back in.

5) Fun facts about the original Star Trek.

6) Nice essay from a science-oriented mom of a child with autism on the vaccine-autism non-link.

7) Didn’t know anything about Arkansas Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton before reading this profile.  Found it utterly fascinating.  And scary.

8) Cool experiment showing your brain actually making decisions while you sleep.

9) There’s not really any good reason at all for conservatives to oppose federal loans for students at community colleges.  Of course, they oppose this anyway.

10) We need to publish more replication research and studies with null results.

11) Thanks to Derek for sharing this thought-provoking piece on visiting a cattle feedlot written by a vegan nutritionist:

And, I have to say it.  If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

No, I’m not going to start eating meat again.

However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef.   Seriously.  I can’t imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed.  Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle.

12) Perhaps the best piece I’ve read on the current Ebola crisis.   And Vox points out that pretty much no disease ever has gone from body-fluid transmission to airborne so there’s really no reason to think Ebola will.

13) Enjoyed this Wonkblog piece on how restaurants are cutting back the size of their menus, but it didn’t quite have me convinced on the reasons why.  Drum, convinved me, though:

Hmmm. Let me say, based on precisely no evidence, that I find this unlikely. Have American tastes really gotten more refined since 2008? Color me skeptical. And even if American palates are more discriminating, are we seriously suggesting that this has affected the menu length at IHOP, Tony Roma’s, and Olive Garden—the three examples cited in the article? I hope this isn’t just my inner elitist showing, but I don’t normally associate those fine establishments with a “growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines.”

So, anyway, put me down firmly in the cost-cutting camp. Long menus got too expensive to support, and when the Great Recession hit, casual dining chains needed to cut costs. They did this by lopping off dishes that were either expensive to prep or not very popular or both. Occam’s Razor, my friends, Occam’s Razor.

Yeah, Occam’s Razor!  Which, I actually explaned to my 8-year old yesterday.

14) There’s been a bit of a “nerdwar” of late with election prediction.  Wonderful rejoinder to the whole thing from Hans Noel:

So we can’t learn very much about the models from Election Day. We learn a little, but only as much as we learn from any one election, which is not much. But I guarantee you someone will claim otherwise. Which is why I’m not interested in predicting the future. It leads people to say the least interesting things.

15) A number of high profile reports this week on the fact that Chimpanzees regularly murder their own species.  This is not news!  I remember learning about this in college 20+ years ago.  Yes, there has been some scientific debate about the issue, but based on the headlines I’ve seen this week you would think scientists had somehow just discovered this behavior.

16) The latest college arms race?  Who can build a better water park for their students.  Seriously.  The winner?  Texas Tech.  This place makes me wish I was still there!

17) So, this is really cool.  One of my good friends from middle and high school was permanently disabled (paraplegic) in a car accident when we were 16.  His wife is a writer and just had her essay about their life together in the NYT (the main point is that she’s the more disabled one–oh, and she really likes writing about sex).

Bill Bennett on the Common Core

Former Reagan Education Secretary has an Op-Ed in the WSJ making the “conservative case” for the Common Core.  Ummm, he’s just a little bit late to the party.  That ship has sailed.  Conservatives now “know” that Common Core is a massive, federal over-reach seeking to take over and ruin state-level education.  I love how John F. summed it up on FB:

LIKE if you agree that the U.S. needs a set of high-quality benchmarks for K-12 education that states voluntarily adopt. These benchmarks should require all students to be able to understand English composition and learn basic mathematical skills. They must at least require children to read the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and learn fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and the like. These standards should be developed by education experts including teachers, allow states to build upon them if they choose, and the standards should not prescribe what is taught in our classrooms or how it’s taught. What do you think???

I think it sounds great.  And so does Bill Bennett.  I was actually amused by how hard Bennett worked (given his audience) to make the case that there really was all sorts of bad Obama/liberal-ness all over Common Core, e.g.,

Conservatives have reason to be upset by this federal overreach. The Obama administration has run roughshod over individual rights and state sovereignty, on issues ranging from health care to climate change. But the federal intrusion into Common Core, however unwelcome and unhelpful,

But in the end, Bennett’s arguments come down to the same one’s whatever sane and sensible people who pay attention to reality use:

The same goes for math. Certain abilities—the grasp of fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and the like—should be the common knowledge of all.

That’s the fundamental idea behind a core curriculum: preserving and emphasizing what’s essential, in fields like literature and math, to a worthwhile education.

Of course all these things are true, but the Tea Party (which has clearly taken over the GOP) has never been all that interested in reality.  The best we can hope for is that the rubes are fooled by re-naming high standards “NC Goals for the Future” or whatever.  Because, I think/hope, not even the Tea Party is dumb enough to want to lower standards.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Trying to fight against illegal logging in the Amazon can be a deadly vocation.

2) Another great example of bureaucrats run amok: a 12-year old piano prodigy who misses school for international piano competitions is treated as an every day truant.  Frustrating that people so short-sighted and stupid are in a position to be making these decisions.

3) Probably not a good idea to pose with a statue of Jesus fellating you.  That said, the idea that somebody should go to prison for this is beyond absurd.

4) How failing tests helps you learn.

5) Really nice Vox piece on Obama and the (expanding) nature of presidential power.

6) During all the US Open coverage I kept hearing about the “Big Four” of men’s tennis and couldn’t’ help but think Andy Murray isn’t really in the same league as the top 3.  Turns out I’m right, but then again nobody else is close to Murrary.

7) Making the best use of NC’s current early voting laws.

8) Nearly a quarter of Americans have less education than their parents.  The OECD average in only 16%.  That’s not good.

9) It’s tough times for cereal manufacturers.  Personally, I never ate breakfast till after college and then I started having cereal every morning.  I was all about Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, etc., and then after a few years I switched over to only whole grain cereals.  For many years I was all about Frosted Mini-wheats.  I still like to snack on them, but like to start my day with more protein so Kashi Go Lean mixed with the much more flavorful Go Lean Crunch starts off most days.

10) Fred Kaplan says that Obama has about the best plan you could expect for Isis.  But there’s still a good chance it will fail.

11) America’s higher education stagnation.

12) Latest polls looking good for Kay Hagan in NC and this is good news for Democrats and the Senate.

13) Dahlia Lithwick on how Voter ID laws may actually worsen voter fraud.



Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting critique of the recent low-carb vs. low-fat study.

2) A Wake County, NC evangelical Christian teacher compares working in her godless, secular, high school to being in a concentration camp.  My favorite part… it’s been known to turn sweet, Christian girls into lesbians!

3) Was not expecting to find great commentary on the leaked celebrity nude photos in Playboy (I’m there just for the cultural commentary!)

4) Research shows the benefits of exercise especially for kids with ADHD.  I’ve got to get my son to read this and actually move around during his free time at school instead of playing on the computer.

5) Nice profile of competitive races (including my friend and former student, Sarah Crawford) in Wake County, NC.

6) Assessing teachers with student surveys.  With the right survey questions I think this can be a useful tool.  Ideally, this will be used not primarily for assessment, but as useful data to help teachers improve.  Elizabeth Green argues that we need to focus far more effort on ways to help teachers improve their skills and it sounds like their is some real potential if intelligently using the student survey data.

7) Robert Reich says college is a “ludicrous” waste of money.  He’s wrong.  But he is right that we need to invest way more in community colleges.

8) More on the NC prosecutor responsible for the conviction of the two NC men recently exonerated from a 30+ year old murder convictions.  He still insists he was right and that the men are guilty.  Scary to think of the power this man has had over people’s lives.

9) Really enjoyed this essay from a mom who has identical twins with TSC (the disease my son, Alex, has).   On a scientific level, I found it quite interesting how differently this genetic disease manifested in her two identical twins.

10) Love this libertarian deconstruction of how the Chancellor of UC-Berkely doesn’t really get free speech at all.

11) Auto-pilot is dangerous because it lulls humans into complacency.

12) Really bothered by this story of a Pennsylvania mom who has been sent to prison for providing her daughter an abortion pill.  No way that should be the proper punishment under the circumstances described.

13) I didn’t actually make it all the way through this AO Scott essay on the death of adulthood in American culture, but I really did enjoy the parts I read (I enjoy most anything that discusses Don Draper, Tony Soprano, and Walter White under a single theme).

Quick hits (part II)

1) 10 ways colleges can be not so financially nice to their students.

2) Speaking of college, some excellent do’s and don’t’s for effective studying.

3) It looks as if the hacked nude celebrity photos may be all about insecure security questions.

4) Great Radley Balko on how St. Louis county profits from poverty.  And Reihan Salam on how poverty has moved to the suburbs.

5) Here is one really, really weird animal.

6) Having a child is good for men’s careers; bad for women’s.  (Yes, with all the appropriate controls!) Bummer.

7) Not to say that this is the guy who set fire to my hotel last week, but as Kim said, many a Black male has been convicted on far less evidence.

8) I never watch baseball any more.  It’s just too boring.  And, it turns out that, empirically, it really has become more boring (i.e., more time for less offense).  And to think it is all because of strike zone cameras.  An obvious solution is to officially change the strike zone to what was being called before the cameras.  Alas, that won’t speed things up.

9) Nice essay on how humans are wired for negativity.

10) Tennis rackets through the times.  I remember switching from my wooden racket to a Jimmy Connors T-2000.  Before going fully graphite, I got a wood with graphite inlays.  And, ahh, for the good old days of my Wilson Sting.

11) Despite what their supporters say, NC school vouchers are definitely not about helping poor kids.


Quick hits (part I)

1) Nice piece from Emily Bazelon on the recent Texas abortion ruling.  Texas’ law is clearly and patently an “undue burden” (the key language fro 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood and it’s nice to see a judge who gets this.

2) Totally fascinated by this NYT piece suggesting that the key role of sleep is to essentially clean out our brain of the toxins produced during normal brain metabolism.

3) Love this idea about paying for performance with kids’ chores.  If I ever actually start making my kids do enough chores (a parent fail on my part) I think I’ll adopt the approach outlined here.

4) Students pay too much for college and it’s Reagan’s fault.  Had not hear this argument before.

5) Love the unrepentant bike bandits caught on camera.  If I did own an expensive bike, I do think I would invest in a tracker.

6) Can a lawsuit about concussions force FIFA to create safer policies for players?  Let’s hope so.

7) Love this from Seth Masket: Michael Barone dislikes political scientists.  And google.

8) Regular readers know that fecal transplants rock.  Interesting story about a place that is the fecal sample equivalent of a blood bank and how government regulators still have not figured out how to best deal with the issue.  I’m quite convinced I’d be a great donor for OpenBiome, but you’ve got to live in Boston to deliver fresh samples.

9) Nice essay from Jill Lepore on indelible visuals from recent news events (i.e., Ferguson, beheadings).

10) The Vox headline says it all: the class war is over and the rich won.

11) There’s been revisions to the AP US History exam that have conservatives up in arms (apparently the exam recognizes that there’s plenty of ugliness in American history, especially for non-whites– I guess nobody told Fox News).  Looks pretty good to me and Jamelle Bouie.

Critical thinking, higher education, and jobs

I’ve posted here many times about critical thinking and college and the excellent work on the topic in the book Academically Adrift.  Well, now the authors have done a follow up study look at the real-world outcomes for college students for whom they had tested their critical thinking.  The results are 1) not pretty; and, 2) emphasize more than ever how important it is that we university faculty truly do a good job in teaching critical thinking.  Nice summary in the Upshot:

Even after statistically controlling for students’ sociodemographic characteristics, college majors and college selectivity, those who finished school with high C.L.A. scores were significantly less likely to be unemployed than those who had low C.L.A. scores. The difference was even larger when it came to success in the workplace. Low-C.L.A. graduates were twice as likely as high-C.L.A. graduates to lose their jobs between 2010 and 2011, suggesting that employers can tell who got a good college education and who didn’t. Low-C.L.A. graduates were also 50 percent more likely to end up in an unskilled occupation, and were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

Given how much emphasis I have been placing on critical thinking since I first read Academically Adrift, it’s nice to know that all this really matters.  However, as the full article makes clear, on the whole, universities are simply not doing well enough at this task (though, social sciences are doing better than most).  I actually sent this article around to my department and will be looking to see what we as a departmental faculty can do to really ensure we are teaching our students these critical critical thinking skills.


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