Friday, July 19, 2013

How political correctness will kill an easy way to identify more of our most talented students

Charles Murray

The United States’ economy desperately needs all the scientific, engineering, and IT geniuses it can find. One of the most important functions that the SAT can serve is to identify young Americans with that kind of intellectual potential.

For many years, the scholarly literature has indicated that we have been missing a lot of that talent because one of its key components, spatial ability, is not identified by the verbal component of the SAT and only partially identified by the math component. The current best guess is that we’re failing to identify about half of students within the top one percent of spatial ability. That estimate comes from an important new study by scholars at Vanderbilt University about to be published in Psychological Science and already summarized in the New York Times.

The good news is that IQ tests have accurately measured spatial ability for decades and the items to do so could easily be incorporated into the SAT. The bad news is that it’s extremely unlikely that the College Board, which administers the SAT, will have the nerve to do so. Why? Because the largest gender differences and the largest ethnic differences are found in the subtests that measure spatial skills.

Here’s the dilemma facing the top brass at the College Board: if they add a spatial component to go with their math and verbal components, they will indeed identify lots of extremely talented students whose potential is underestimated by the existing components of the SAT. But that spatial component will also show larger gender and ethnic differences than the other components (if you’re curious, the big winners from such a revision of the SAT would be Asians and males).

What do you suppose the chances are that the College Board will be willing to take the heat for such a result? If you want to make a bet, I’ll take zero and you can have everything else.


Islamic history will now be foisted on all British kids in school

Beginning in 2014, the United Kingdom will require all British schoolchildren to complete a unit on the history of Islam, proudly reports Press TV, Iran’s very own 24-hour English language news organization.

British Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the addition of a Muslim-specific component after revisions were made to address an outcry over a prior draft that did not include any references to the monotheistic Abrahamic religion.

Muslims were among the most vocal critics. The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents about 500 Islamic institutes across Britain, declared that it was “deeply disappointed.”

The revised curriculum is “great,” though, according to Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques. Sulla believes that people in the country could use “a better understanding of all faiths,” notes Press TV.

“There is already a good understanding of Christianity taught in schools,” Mulla told the Iranian media outlet. “But I don’t think a lot of Christians really understand what the Muslim faith is about.”

Islam is technically the third-largest religious affiliation in the country, according to The Guardian. Christianity is the largest religious group. People claiming to have no religion is the second. Those two groups make up the vast majority of Britons.

A spokesman for the Blackburn Diocese Board of Education spoke favorably of the new draft curriculum.

“As is well known, the early Islamic civilizations gave much to the world,” the spokesman said, “and we would certainly support the teaching of such an important part of world history.”

The British government is currently establishing a new national curriculum for primary and secondary education. The finished product is supposed to be introduced in schools in the fall of 2014.


Australia:  Governments fail to reach deal on education funding despite optimistic phone calls

HOPES of a Queensland deal on Gonski seem to have been dashed with state Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek saying he sees no point in meeting his Commonwealth counterpart again.

Mr Langbroek had initially been positive about a potential deal after holding a phone hook-up with federal Education Minister Bill Shorten yesterday afternoon.

But it is understood things changed after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office sent a letter to Premier Campbell Newman's director-general Jon Grayson suggesting a funding model adjustment and a revised offer.

"The impact of this adjustment, and the new funding profile for Queensland, is a reduction to its base funding of $1.3 billion over 2014-19," the letter states.

But it did not address Mr Newman's concerns including his request for the increased bureaucracy involved in the reforms to be wound back.

Just hours after the Premier's department received the letter, Mr Langbroek issued a statement saying he saw no point in meeting Mr Shorten again. Mr Shorten, however, said he would push on with negotiations despite Mr Langbroek's declaration.

"We're not going to walk away from the negotiating table because of some intemperate language from Mr Langbroek," Mr Shorten said.

"Our priority has always been to get more resources into Queensland schools so that Queensland kids get the best start in life."

He said his offer to fly to Brisbane and meet with Mr Langbroek remained.


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