Recently in Education Category

After the Exile: Poetry and the Death of Culture | Public Discourse

"I have lately begun to wonder whether a good gauge of what I and other professors in arts and letters accomplish might be this: to raise up a few students every year who could read my old issues of magazines like The Century and understand half of what is there.

"Academe has largely become an institution devoted to the destruction of cultural memory. Most of my best freshmen Honors students have never heard of Tennyson, much less had their imaginations formed by his eminently humane and approachable poetry. That is no reflection on Tennyson in particular. They have also never heard of Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, and any number of the great artists in what is supposedly their mother tongue....

"We are a people now illiterate in a way that is unprecedented for the human race. We can decipher linguistic signs on a page, but we have no songs and immemorial stories in our hearts....

"I have sometimes been accused of wishing that the culture roundabout me were truly Catholic, or truly Christian, or truly something or other, but my principal objection to it is that it is no longer, properly speaking, a culture at all. The deep roots have been severed. There is no agriculture in a dust bowl of tumbleweeds, and no human culture among people who derive their mental landscape from the ephemeral and quasi-lingual utterances of the mass media and, God help us, from the new and improved inanities of mass education."

The Bond villain libertarians of Guatemala | Washington Examiner

"Francisco Marroquin -- named after the first Bishop of Guatemala, who translated several of the indigenous languages -- is one of the best universities in Latin America. Its fees are at the upper end of the range, and it sets stiff entrance criteria, including a required fluency in English. All its undergraduates, whether they are studying law, medicine or architecture, are given a basic grounding in the principles of personal liberty and limited government.

"Does that sound like indoctrination? Perhaps it is. But only in the sense that all universities indoctrinate their students. We expect our places of learning to uphold certain standards: Respect for truth, decency towards others, self-restraint.

"What makes Francisco Marroquin unusual is not that it seeks to inculcate values. Rather, it's that those values are not the leftist ones prevalent in almost every other institution of higher education. Instead of promoting anti-racism as the supreme political value, Francisco Marroquin promotes freedom. Safe spaces, micro-aggressions and trigger warnings have no place in these handsome buildings. Students are constantly exhorted to think for themselves.

"To leftists, the place must seem like a Bond villain's lair. Although it's surrounded by Guatemala City, you wouldn't think so when you're there. The campus is in a ravine, overshadowed by the viridian spray of its arboretum -- the university governors take pride in the fact that, unlike some ecologists, they are engaging in practical conservation work rather than demanding that politicians do it for them. A socialist who stumbled upon the place would surely conclude that he had uncovered some "Boys From Brazil" type plot.

"The free-market liberalism taught here has a samizdat feel. Most undergraduates are as opposed to the big-government paternalism that passes for conservatism in Latin America as they are to the Left."

I Can't Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems | The Huffington Post

Remember when standardized tests asked only questions that had an objective, unambigious answer? Test companies got bored with that, so now you get multiple-choice questions on subjective interpretations of texts, rather than objective questions that are answered by the text's content, and poet Sara Holbrook, whose work was used in this way, is unhappy about it.

"Oh, goody. I'm a benchmark. Only guess what? The test prep materials neglected to insert the stanza break. I texted him an image of how the poem appeared in the original publication. Problem one solved. But guess what else? I just put that stanza break in there because when I read it aloud (I'm a performance poet), I pause there. Note: that is not an option among the answers because no one ever asked me why I did it.

"These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids' futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions....

"The only way to stop this nonsense is for parents to stand up and say, no more. No more will I let my kid be judged by random questions scored by slackers from Craigslist while I pay increased taxes for results that could just as easily have been predicted by an algorithm. That's not education, that's idiotic....

"My final reflection is this: any test that questions the motivations of the author without asking the author is a big baloney sandwich. Mostly test makers do this to dead people who can't protest. But I'm not dead.

"I protest."

JC in transition | Climate Etc.

Climate scientist Judith Curry is retiring from her tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech in order to enjoy

"A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment -- funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

"How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

"Let me relate an interaction that I had with a postdoc about a month ago. She wanted to meet me, as an avid reader of my blog. She works in a field that is certainly relevant to climate science, but she doesn't identify as a climate scientist. She says she gets questioned all the time about global warming issues, and doesn't know what to say, since topics like attribution, etc. are not topics that she explores as a scientist. WOW, a scientist that knows the difference! I advised her to keep her head down and keep doing the research that she thinks interesting and important, and to stay out of the climate debate UNLESS she decides to dig in and pursue it intellectually. Personal opinions about the science and political opinions about policies that are sort of related to your research expertise are just that - personal and political opinions.  Selling such opinions as contributing to a scientific consensus is very much worse than a joke....

"At this point, the private sector seems like a more 'honest' place for a scientist working in a politicized field than universities or government labs -- at least when you are your own boss....

"We'll see how all this plays out, but I figured I've earned the right to explore and do what I want. This is my definition of academic freedom (and I'm not asking anyone else to pay for it)."

Latin should be taught in every state primary school, says leading academic | The Independent

"Professor Dennis Hayes, an expert from the University of Derby and Chair of the College of Education Research Committee, has warned that Latin and ancient Greek along with modern languages are in danger of becoming 'the preserve of public [non-state] schools'.

"The revival of classic subjects within state schools would 'transform education', he has claimed, and urges state schools to do more in offering children a classical education...

"'As a minimum, Latin and classics should be taught in every primary school and continued into secondary school with the addition of ancient Greek,' he said, adding that the subjects could be offered by state schools through the Classics for All programme or the use of retired Latin teachers...

"However, the problem lies in teachers' attitudes, he said, adding that the teachers in his own training sessions would 'hate' the idea of teaching classics in all schools, because 'they think the only thing you need is Google'.

"'They confuse information with knowledge,' he said."

More here from Cambridge classical scholar Mary Beard:

"'There are all kinds of subjects that raise children's aspirations. That said, Latin, Greek and classical civilisation can be an eye-opener.

"'They offer all kinds of new ways of understanding the modern world as well as the ancient, and they are a wonderful way of exploring foundational literature and ideas, without having to ask the way to the train station in them.'"

An Update on Gender Imbalance in MIT Admissions Maker Portfolios

This is a disappointing bit of obsessing by MIT's administration about an insignificant difference in behavior among students seeking admission. Applicants can submit various kinds of portfolios -- research papers, video/audio of music or theater performances, art or architecture, and "maker" portfolios -- something you've built. Female applicants are more likely than male applicants to submit portfolios in every category except maker portfolios -- three times more likely than men to submit an art or architecture portfolio -- but MIT isn't worried about that. They're worried that men are about 2.5 times more likely than women to submit maker portfolios:

"We solicited advice from readers and took additional steps to increase the representation of women and the diversity of projects featured in public presentations and portfolio materials. After another admissions cycle, we regret to report that the patterns have not changed much.... As we approach the next admissions cycle, the Admissions Office is continuing to work on improving representation and recruitment, including an initiative, in partnership with Maker Media, that will leverage their intellectual property and community of Maker Faires with admissions' database of prospective students to help encourage more women to take up 'making' and identify as makers."

The researchers write: "However, the persistence of this pattern, despite several years of prior work to improve representation and reach targeted populations, leaves us questioning what other dynamics may be in play." Maybe reading Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus would help.

Here's the stat that jumps out at me: Men make up almost 70% of the applicant pool, but are only 51% of the admitted students, and only 53% of the entering freshman class. (By comparison, in 1984, women made up 29% of the incoming class.)

Afraid to speak up: In the era of trigger warnings, a tenured professor stays silent - The Washington Post

Prof. Rajshree Agarwal, director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, and a Cato adjunct scholar, says that self-censorship in the face of social pressure can be as deadly as government censorship to innovation and inquiry.

"German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann first wrote about the 'spiral of silence' in 1974. She recognized the human fear of isolation and people's willingness to keep unpopular opinions to themselves to avoid backlash. Even majority opinions can be stifled when the media amplify minority voices and makes them seem dominant.

"People often discuss academic freedom in the context of the First Amendment, which prohibits prior restraint imposed by heavy-handed governments. The spiral of silence is something different, and perhaps an even greater threat to the human spirit that drives innovation....

"Most people recognize the financial risk involved in starting an enterprise. But fearless leaders also take reputational risks. They must overcome the fears of retaliation, ostracism and derision that feed the spiral of silence....

"...I have been frontally attacked as a Koch 'stooge' by a professor in philosophy who did not even know me, when I chose to become the founding director at the Ed Snider Center. Such comments can take a toll on anyone, including tenured professors. Students and assistant professors who 'think different' are even more vulnerable because of the imbalance of power in academia....

"Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, highlighted the dangers of shutting people up under the guise of political correctness during a Snider Center free speech forum last week. 'It's really hard to innovate if you're afraid to open your mouth,' he said.

"People need filters. Self-regulation is part of emotional intelligence and necessary for reasoned and respectful discourse. But the distinction between self-regulation and self-censorship becomes blurry when a culture of fear silences opposing viewpoints in higher education.

"Rather than looking to others to fix the problem, though, it is imperative to remember that we are intellectual entrepreneurs, who must muster the courage to speak up. Because ideas matter, and academia is their marketplace."

The Intellectual Yet Idiot - Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Medium

"What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking "clerks" and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think... and 5) who to vote for....

"Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats who feel entitled to run our lives aren't even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. They cant tell science from scientism -- in fact in their eyes scientism looks more scientific than real science. (For instance it is trivial to show the following: much of what the Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types -- those who want to "nudge" us into some behavior -- much of what they would classify as "rational" or "irrational" (or some such categories indicating deviation from a desired or prescribed protocol) comes from their misunderstanding of probability theory and cosmetic use of first-order models.) They are also prone to mistake the ensemble for the linear aggregation of its components as we saw in the chapter extending the minority rule....

"The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn't understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are "red necks" or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term "uneducated". What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: "democracy" when it fits the IYI, and "populism" when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences. While rich people believe in one tax dollar one vote, more humanistic ones in one man one vote, Monsanto in one lobbyist one vote, the IYI believes in one Ivy League degree one-vote, with some equivalence for foreign elite schools and PhDs as these are needed in the club."

David Gelernter Transcript - Conversations with Bill Kristol

"Let's look at the generation after the Second World War. This is a cultural revolution, it seems to me to extend roughly from 1945 to 1970. So in 1970 everything is different. Things are radically different. And what happened during those 25 years? Colleges and universities became vastly, vastly more influential on American culture....

"Well, I think you saw these two processes just during the generation in which the Yale's and Harvard's and Stanford's became vastly more important than every before, because now everybody has got to get a BA. And journalists have to go to journalist school, and businessmen and teachers and all these guys. Law's a bigger profession than ever before. Medicine, suddenly doctors are making much more than anybody else - there was a period during which going to medical school was a frenzy.

"And during this same period, universities were being taken over by intellectuals and moving hard to the Left. Intellectuals have also been Leftist, have always been hard to the Left. So the dramatic steer to the Left coincides with a huge jump in the influence of American universities. We have a cultural revolution. And the cultural revolution is that we no longer love this country. We no longer have a high regard for this country or for the culture that produced it. We no longer have any particular feelings for Western Civilization....

"And we have a generational shift so that when we start in the 1970s and 80s, suddenly public schools' and college teaching went way down. ...

"So the schools were failing to teach but at least the parents had been educated before the cultural revolution. You know, they'd been educated in the 60s and the 50s, some by the 40s or the 30s. So they - When their children were taught garbage, when their children were taught nonsense, when their children were taught outright lies, at least the parents could say, "Hold on, not so fast, are you really sure about that?" Or "You know, there are Republicans in this country, too." Or, "You know, we've tried those policies, and they created catastrophes. Are you sure we should do this all again?"

"But what happened in - as we move out of the 90s and into the new century - the children educated in the first generation of the cultural revolution in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s, those children are now the young teachers. And then the not-so-young teachers. And they're the parents.

"And so the children who were being taught nonsense and garbage and lies in school, instead of going home and having the parents say, "Well, wait a minute, this is really idiotic, by the way." The parents say, "Yeah, that's what I was taught, too." You know, the same....

"So we have second-generation ignorance is much more potent than first-generation ignorance. It's not just a matter of one generation, of incremental change. It's more like multiplicative change. A curve going up very fast. And swamping us. Taking us by surprise."

The Yale Problem Begins in High School |

"The Yale problem refers to an unfortunate feedback loop: Once you allow victimhood culture to spread on your campus, you can expect ever more anger from students representing victim groups, coupled with demands for a deeper institutional commitment to victimhood culture, which leads inexorably to more anger, more demands, and more commitment. But the Yale problem didn't start at Yale. It started in high school. As long as many of our elite prep schools are turning out students who have only known eggshells and anger, whose social cognition is limited to a single dimension of victims and victimizers, and who demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, it's hard to imagine how any university can open students' minds and prepare them to converse respectfully with people who don't share their values. Especially when there are no adults around who don't share their values."