David Thompson
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August 04, 2016

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Rafi

Milo on the BBC's 'Moral Maze'...

https://youtu.be/LkWO2VNuXrI

David

Milo on the BBC’s ‘Moral Maze’...

It’s one of those exchanges that doesn’t tell us much about the ostensible subject, in this case Donald Trump, but does say quite a lot about the assumptions that prevail at the BBC.

sH2

In academia, the past will be remembered by erasing any unflattering reference to it:

"in June, a Yale employee smashed a historic stained glass window at Calhoun he argued was demeaning because it showed black slaves harvesting cotton... the employee ultimately went totally unpunished for his stunt."

So if I go to an old church and see a stained glass window with a crucifixion on it, I can smash the window because crucifixion is worse than slavery?

#SocialJustice

sk60

Zoom.

http://sploid.gizmodo.com/incredible-camera-zoom-basically-takes-you-to-the-moon-1784796059

Farnsworth M Muldoon

But coyness aside, deliberately lowering standards is apparently a good thing.

Also a moot point given the way grades are given away.

An article from 2013 in the Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, revealed that the median grade had soared to A-minus: the most commonly awarded grade is an A.

From the blinding flash of the obvious department...

Universities pump up grades because many students like it.

More from the same department...

Administrators claim that tough grading leads to rivalry and stress for students.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that would lead to good students working harder to excel, and the ones who don't have a trust fund waiting and can't manage a gentleman's C to take up plumbing.

Stuck-Record

sH2

Absolutely.

There will be no complaints from SJWs when someone goes into a music store and starts smashing up Hip-Hop CDs that contain lyrics that are demeaning to gays, women or whites.

No complaints when they go to a University feminist dept and stage disruptive sit-ins to prevent their bigoted view of 'all men as rapist' from being taught.

No complaints when mosques that preach hatred of the West are closed and shuttered.

No complaints at all.

Burnsie

Yes. Because when a committee decides to dynamite things that are insufficiently liberal, it's legit. Totally.

R. Sherman

Given that Columbia et al. have eliminated admission standards and give everyone high grades already, why don't they just cut to the chase and send everyone who can borrow the tuition for four years the bachelor's degree of his/her choice? It would save on overhead and give the "students" a head start on their careers in the coastal elite.

David

why don’t they just cut to the chase and send everyone who can borrow the tuition for four years the bachelor’s degree of his/her choice?

It would save an awful lot of time, if not that much effort, apparently.

I was thinking back to when I was about to take my A-levels at school. Weeks before the exams, as part of the class’s preparation, we’d be given old exam papers to complete. If the paper was fairly recent there wasn’t much grumbling. But if the paper was from more than, say, five years ago, half the class would groan in complaint, knowing full well that although the papers covered the same areas we’d studied and were intended for people our age, they were invariable more demanding. Half-jokingly, I once asked a teacher if this meant that standards had fallen.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

It would save an awful lot of time, if not that much effort, apparently.

It would also spare them the four (or more) years of indoctrination so in the long run they might actually end up more educated, and watching suddenly redundant roving herds of "academics" trying to figure out how to live would be high comedy.

Hedgehog

Given that Columbia et al. have eliminated admission standards and give everyone high grades already, why don't they just cut to the chase and send everyone who can borrow the tuition for four years the bachelor's degree of his/her choice?

The flaw in this proposal is that it would eliminate said institutions' ability to discriminate in favor of the people they want to actually have the degree that they confer. If everybody who has the money gets the degree, that only reinforces the current hierarchy of privilege. Plus, of course, as pointed out above, it would render a significant portion of the academy unemployable as well as prevent these selfsame academics from indoctrinating the shock troops for the coming revolution of the proletariat.

Bill Elder

"The past year has seen an explosion in American colleges and universities dropping various aspects of the SAT and ACT exams as requirements in their admissions policies."

Dumb is the new smart - at least it is at commie martyrs U.

R. Sherman

@Hedgehog

They could still limit the number of degrees "awarded," i.e. keeping the supply artificially low thereby boosting the price, and maintaining the illusion that only the best and the brightest qualify. Actually, at Columbia it's close to that already given that it granted a degree to a women for carrying furniture around campus to call attention to a discredited claim of sexual assault.

Hedgehog

...maintaining the illusion that only the best and the brightest qualify.

I think that ship has sailed.

But otherwise, that is what these diploma mills have become. I think that the Obama administration's assault on for-profit education is a transparent attempt at eliminating the competition (and also a way to pave the way for his cronies to take over for-profit colleges after they have been "prepared" by his government goons. Nice college you've got there. It'd be a pity if something were to happen to it.)

As long as universities imparted actual knowledge*, the distinction between a for-profit and a not-for-profit education was pretty easy to make. Now that a degree from Columbia is no guarantee that you'll be doing anything besides serving tall lattes at Starbucks alongside a graduate from the online program of the University of Phoenix, it has become necessary to make that distinction more explicit.

* I concede that some still do, in some areas of study. Pretty much limited to the STEM fields. And even there I think that standards have slipped rather lamentably over the past couple of decades.

Trevor

... I once asked a teacher if this meant that standards had fallen.

Almost twenty years ago - now probably considered some sort of Golden Age - I sat an A-level in one of the less-commonly taught European languages I'd been learning at night school. Even allowing that the exam was intended for eighteen-year-olds, I was struck not just by the evident low expectations (O-level German was appreciably more demanding in the 1970s) but also by how insultingly childish the questions (and the abundant stimulus material) were. It seemed to be a given that candidates could not be expected to respond to questions presented in a neutral context, hence heavy-handed pandering to pop culture.

David

The second item here may be relevant.

Hedgehog

twenty years ago - now probably considered some sort of Golden Age

Yes, indeed, which only goes to show how our expectations have already decreased with the passage of time. Three hundred years ago, being educated meant having a more than passing acquaintance with history, literature, and the arts, back to and including those of Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as an understanding of the context for all of these.

Consider this: in your A-level for this unnamed less-commonly taught European language (Finnish? Estonian? Lapp?), the dumbing down of expectations led to any specific historical or cultural context being dropped in favor of pandering to pop culture.

By contrast, George Washington asked his officers to perform Joseph Addison's play "Cato, a Tragedy" for the Continental Army during their encampment at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778. To do that, he had to assume, and expect, that his officers would be familiar with the play itself, that they would be familiar with its main characters and with the historical references, and that they thus would understand the play's significance in the context of the struggle against tyranny during the waning days of the Roman Republic and be able to associate it with the endeavor in which they were engaged. And he had to further assume, and expect, that the troops themselves would know enough about all of this to take this as an exhortation to persevere in their cause through one of the most difficult parts of the campaign.

Needless to say, this sort of expectation can no longer be taken for granted. I presume that in this day and age the commanding officer would try to get the USO to schedule a fuckwit such as Justin Bieber for the entertainment of the troops.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Farnsworth M. Muldoon

Needless to say, this sort of expectation can no longer be taken for granted. I presume that in this day and age the commanding officer would try to get the USO to schedule a fuckwit such as Justin Bieber for the entertainment of the troops.

I would bet good money (dollars or pounds) that the rank and file (and officers) at Valley Forge would have been just as happy, if not more so, to see "Ye Middle∫ex Minstrels & Buxom Dancing Wenches" performing popular and patriotic tunes and reels as the play.

Regarding today's troops (US), the average age is 29, about half are between 22 and 30, and the lot of them more educated than the average citizen of similar age. 92% of all troops have a high school diploma, 89% have at least a BA. Sergeant Major of the Army's reading list for NCOs, former Chief of Staff of the Army's raeding list for officers. The myth of the all-volunteer force being knuckle draggers who couldn't get a job is just that, a myth.

So, having been on the receiving end of USO shows, if Addison's play were performed today, most of the troops would get it, and it would likely be well received if decently performed, and particularly so if there were Ye Buxom Wenches. Regarding fuckwits, they do on occasion show up (Colbert comes to mind), but the only reason people would show up for a fuckwit like Justin Bieber would be out of morbid curiosity, mind crushing boredom, or to make fun of him.

Chester Draws

Those officers performing Cato were officers. They probably couldn't cook a meal, sew, or fix a broken wheel -- they had servants for that. That leisured classes have time for leisure activities (shocker!) is no indication of where the ordinary person should be.

Academic standards have fallen, but mostly due to the democratisation of the process. When I went to University only 10% of the country did. Now it's nearly 50%. The top 10% haven't got any stupider though.

I found my old University Entrance exam from 35 years ago. It's not significantly different from what they do now, other than the numbers being easier back then because calculators weren't used.

Hedgehog

The myth of the all-volunteer force being knuckle draggers who couldn't get a job is just that, a myth.

I'm aware that the all-volunteer army is quite a few notches above the average of the population, and it is possible that most of the troops would get it if they were to be presented with Addison's play. However, what I'm talking about is the relaxation of standards, which is a phenomenon from above. While I'm sure the men at Valley Forge would have preferred "Ye Middle∫ex Minstrels & Buxom Dancing Wenches" (who wouldn't?), George Washington thought enough of them to hold them to a higher standard. I'm not sure this would occur nowadays. Certainly not if the civilian leadership is involved, since they seem to be more interested in social engineering outcomes than in the troops' ability to perform their duties.

Jen

"Politicians sell education as a solution to economic inequality because it has two features that politicians love: It sounds good, and people won’t discover that it isn’t true until much later. Plus, when you push spending on education, you can always count on support from educators, who have a lot of influence in the media".

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/08/04/college-tuition-enrollment-debt-graduate-unemployment-bubble-sykes-column/87995576/

Hedgehog

Academic standards have fallen, but mostly due to the democratisation of the process. When I went to University only 10% of the country did. Now it's nearly 50%. The top 10% haven't got any stupider though.

The top 10% may not have gotten any stupider, but I still think that they're less rigorously educated, mostly because they have been held to a much lower standard. The entire point of the piece to which David linked (by Russell Nieli, decrying grade inflation) is that everybody gets an A. It used to be that for the 10% of people who went to University, the average grade (according to Nieli) was a C+. Given that these 10% were already the pick of the litter, as it were, getting the next 40% enrolled into University should result in the average grade going down to at least a C-, if not a D. The fact that the average grade has instead gone up to an A- shows that, in addition to the democratization of the University, there has also been a massive relaxation of standards.

Now it's probably true that this relaxation has occurred primarily in fields in which standards are subjective anyway (grievance studies anyone?). Still, even the students in the more objective subjects seem to be less well-educated than they used to, at least as concerns anything outside of their narrow specialization. The assumption that a University graduate would have a basic knowledge of the culture of which he is a part (by which I mean the basics of Ancient history, the history of the country in which he lives, some knowledge of literature and the arts) is no longer a given. And this, I think, is a pity.

Farnsworth M. Muldoon

I'm not sure this would occur nowadays. Certainly not if the civilian leadership is involved...

I'll not argue the present civilian leadership, but during my tenure the standards, for both knowledge and performance, only went up at least at the tactical and operational levels - back in the day a reading list outside of FMs and TMs for NCOs would have been laughed at. After Vietnam the services were so unpopular they were taking nigh anyone even if the prospective troop could use a rock for an ID card and was delivered to the recruiter straight from the Paddy wagon. Now it is pretty much a buyers market, despite the war none of the services ever failed to meet recruiting goals, and, in my experience, the troops, regardless of service, are smarter and more more motivated than the olden days.

Nemo

Given the history of its founder Elihu Yale, anyone think that committee's first task will be deciding on a replacement name for Yale itself?

stan

Robert Byrd, the KKK Democrat guy, had hundreds of buildings, roads, and other junk named after him.

Hal

An observation of economics . . .

Pesky @jimwaterson asks Corbyn how he'll pay for his #10pledges. "We'll pay for it with an expanding economy"

Oh. Apparently followed by:

And now Corbyn's feed has stopped. Think @jimwaterson's question broke it.

Hate it when that happens . . . .

Vince N

commie martyrs U

Don't crush that stature-challenged person, hand me the pliers!

Chester Draws

We all know that grades are inflated nowadays. But let's not confuse that with education. Does anyone have any actual evidence, as opposed to mere assertion, that the top 10% of today are less well educated than fifty years ago?

I thought not. Provide evidence or cease your whining!

The sheer amount a person has to learn in a specialised field nowadays means that all round "classic" education is impossible.

Chester Draws

And personal anecdote is not evidence!

TomJ

Pesky @jimwaterson asks Corbyn how he'll pay for his #10pledges. "We'll pay for it with an expanding economy"

I've heard that somewhere before. How was it phrased? Oh yes, "sharing the proceeds of growth".

TomJ

On jobs at McDonalds; my Warrant Officer in my first tour told me that when he was an instructor at Halton his first question to a new basic course was who had worked at McDs and, of those, how many stars they'd got on their name badge. He then appointed the person with most as course leader, as his experience was they were likely to be moderately successful at organising themselves and others...

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Does anyone have any actual evidence, as opposed to mere assertion, that the top 10% of today are less well educated than fifty years ago?

If everyone is getting a grade of A, who do you tell who the top 10% actually are ?

Hedgehog

@Chester:

See, for example, this. While it does not provide quantitative evidence of differential levels of education between now and, say, 50 years ago, it does point to the definitional problem of what constitutes an education, particularly a "liberal" education.

I agree with you that the top 10% (however defined) have as much knowledge crammed into their heads now than they did 50 years ago, and probably significantly more than, say, 150 years ago. Where we differ is in this: you think that as long as they are full of knowledge, what it is that they know doesn't matter. I, on the other hand, believe that a well-functioning polity requires a certain amount of common knowledge to be shared by the people of the polity. I believe that the atomization of knowledge inherent in our highly specialized economy and the contemporaneous neglect or downright rejection of any common assumptions about the society in which we live leads to a situation that is dangerous for the continuation of this society. As W.F. Buckley famously quipped, "I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University." I am afraid that we are increasingly living in a society governed at least in part by the votes of highly "educated" idiots savants, many of whom are also, by dint of this "education," part of the technocratic class that manages the machinery of the government, and yet none of whom has any concept of how the society that they pretend to lead has gotten to be where it is and why it has been so spectacularly successful.

But you're welcome to disagree.

Farnsworth M. Muldoon

I agree with you that the top 10% (however defined) have as much knowledge crammed into their heads now than they did 50 years ago...I believe that the atomization of knowledge inherent in our highly specialized economy and the contemporaneous neglect or downright rejection of any common assumptions about the society in which we live leads to a situation that is dangerous for the continuation of this society.

Exactly, the specialized knowledge is greater, but the general less because the foundations are either not taught, or poorly taught, at least in the US, at both K-12 and college level. If one wants evidence, all one has to do is some simple searches to find stuff such as US students being geographically illiterate, or US history being marginalized in US schools. For that matter, all one has to do is wade David's posts to find examples of contemporary academic idiocy and inadequacy.

Chester Draws

Bit hard to be good at Geography when you are up to your eyes in Quantum Chemistry! It is literally impossible to have an all round education and also specialise to a high level.

I don't see that most people are worse educated than they were fifty years ago. Most kids I was at school with left at 15 or 16. Yet they were better educated than their current peers, who generally finish at 18? That seems fundamentally unlikely.

I think people lap up stories of how little modern kids know, without reflecting that it has always been so. (Stories that tell us how people stupidly think English is the most common language in the world, when it is actually Mandarin are a case in point. It is only Mandarin if you actually believe the Chinese government, who insist it is. Actually, there is a strong case to be made that it is actually English. But that would destroy the narrative.)

K Riches

There's a little paragraph written by Richard M Weaver (himself no stranger to academe) that I always thought sums up nicely the current revisionist attitudes to the concept of the University. I'll quote in in a moment. The current profound crisis in Academia has remote antecedents. The battles of the 19th C were fought over the development of the sciences as a utilitarianism to challenge the aesthetic and rhetorical sovereignty of the humanities and their guardianship of the political and cultural values of Western High-Cultural tradition. The quietly abstracted role of the humanities were seen as increasingly anachronistic, and as the licey-bearded one famously wrote.. 'the point is not to observe the world, but to change it'. The new intellectuals seeping into the universities armed with the new pseudo-scientific weapons of the dialectic and cultural relativism saw at last a usefulness denied to them after centuries roaming the cloisters, and writing dense treatises that perhaps a couple of hundred people would read, and wondering if the muffins would be hot when buttered, or if the Dean was a good at keeping wicket. A doctrine such as Marxism, only one of a fistful of comparative pseudo-scientific approaches to political and historical philosophy at the time of their nativity, have been seeds that have harvested a cats cradle of catastrophe for the modern University. Such scoundrels as Senior Gramsci and his cohorts are the real cuckoos in the academic nest.

Weaver wrote : This decline can be represented as a long series of abdications. He has found less and less ground for authority at the same time he thought he was setting himself up as the center of authority in the universe; indeed, there seems to exist here a dialectic process which takes away his power in proportion as he demonstrates that his independence entitles him to power'. Weaver is talking here about the decline of Western man, but apply that observation to the modern curricula, it's creeds of crude reductionism, and it's shameless ministry, and you can see what I'm getting at.

Farnsworth M. Muldoon

Bit hard to be good at Geography when you are up to your eyes in Quantum Chemistry! It is literally impossible to have an all round education and also specialise to a high level.

It is extremely possible and used to be the standard because the fundamentals, like history and geography, were taught in grade school, high school, and the first two years of college, even as a science major. No one is arguing that the specialists likely know more about their narrow lanes then their ancient peers did, but you don't forget Europe is not a country or that the Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor just because you are wrestling with physical chemistry.

Most kids I was at school with left at 15 or 16. Yet they were better educated than their current peers, who generally finish at 18? That seems fundamentally unlikely.

It depends on the school, but on average, yes they were better educated because of the fundamentals that were taught. Here is an 8th grade (12-13y/o) test from Kentucky in 1912, and note that these were mainly one room schools in the boondocks, and Kentucky has never been among the leaders in state education. If you asked the average 18 year old today to, "Tell what you know of the Gulf Stream," you would get the RCA dog look, and I doubt not one in 10,000 would get any of the geography questions right. All you have to do is look at the historical decline (and subsequent inflation) of standardized test scores (SATs &c.) to realize that the basic education (in the US at least) has been going down the tubes.

OTOH, the Bullit County 8th graders probably didn't know who the Kardashians of 1912 were.

David

Re hiding history, see also this:

The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Stout has announced that “two of three historic paintings depicting interactions between white traders and First Nations people” will be taken down from the school’s Harvey Hall due to their “potentially ‘harmful effect’ on students and other viewers.”

When you see the paintings, you may wonder just how much effort was required to find then “harmful” and offensive.

wtp

Bit hard to be good at Geography when you are up to your eyes in Quantum Chemistry! , etc.
This is something I get lost in. How do people who go on to be very good at things like chemistry, computer science, etc. manage to graduate high school? Surely you had to be able to find on a map significant countries like China, India, and Germany (there were two of them in my day so perhaps the odds were better?), yet I have had conversations with very "smart" people who don't seem to know these things. Now I will admit my language skills are not the best, I never understood what was "perfect" about the present perfect tense, but I would not have gotten out of the sixth grade without having to pass a test regarding the difference between 'there', 'their', and 'they're' and 'to', 'too', and 'two' nor know the difference twixt objective and subjective pronouns, and yet my email box is full of correspondence with "smart" people who somehow got Bachelors and even Masters degrees who frequently mix them up. It's even gotten to the point where I'm starting to pick up the bad habit myself, especially for some reason "their" and "they're". I can't blame spell checkers too much as I noticed this phenomenon decades ago. Some of the communication I get is almost stream-of-consciousness, which I suppose was why I had to read The Sound and the Fury back then.

Kind of a rhetorical question because I have a theory regarding many of the 'A' students with whom I went to school and I am now getting back in touch with (ending sentence with a preposition, i know, deal with it). Some have "failed to launch", relative to their youthful performances, anyway. It seems worse with the women. I discussed this once with one of the 'A' student women I knew in high school when I teased her about some commonly known historical fact she seemed unaware of yet she got better grades than I did in history. She said she just memorized all that stuff, pored (poured?) it out on the test and the next day forgot it all. Not talking about some obscure fact here, it was IIRC, something about the US Civil War and whether the South ever invaded the North. She seemed to have forgotten that Gettysburg was in Pennsylvania. I, OTOH, can't memorize for *&%# but got through school trying to make logical connection between facts. Or mockery. If I can mock it, I remember it.

When you see the paintings, you may wonder just how much effort was required to find then “harmful” and offensive.
It's an Emperor's Clothes thing. Only the most sophisticated people can see it.

David Gillies

wtp: there seems to be a good deal of intellectual incuriosity at work here. One young woman whom I am trying to coach through preliminary university acceptance exams is mulishly insistent that if something is not in the syllabus it is not worthwhile learning. I try to point out that the only reason I am able to answer some of the questions she has is precisely because I do not confine my reading to my professional field, but it falls on deaf ears. Was it ever thus? Is it just that I have twenty years more exposure to general knowledge, so can make the connections faster? It doesn't feel that way.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

When you see the paintings, you may wonder just how much effort was required to find then “harmful” and offensive.

One may also wonder how many real Indians versus white honkey cracker-ass jive mofo SJWs found them harmful or offensive, but I am guessing the number is roughly zero.

wtp

DG,
Was it ever thus?

There is a natural tendency toward "Just tell me what I need to know", and what with the nature of youth being bombarded with new information at some point they hit overload. Many of the books I read for school and even some for pleasure I have no recollection of the plots, though I'm sure reviewing a synopsis some of it would come back to me. So to some extent, context switching from literature to history and what interests men more than women, it is understandable. Hell, I even hit it today with the constant changes in the hot IT technologies and recalling some from the past. However the ability to load one's short-term brain with memorized information that is quickly forgotten seems to be a skill quite a few 'A' people have. Otherwise, as I indicate above, I don't see how many of them could have graduated high school let alone gone on to success in college. The more I consider it, the more doubts I have about the value of some people's credentials.

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