Sunday, September 20, 2015

Credentialism and its outcomes

In the 20 years during which I was an active academic researcher, I was repeatedly appalled by the low intellectual standards that I found in papers by colleagues.  They repeatedly ignored basic scientific caution and, all too often, concluded what they wanted to conclude, regardless of what their data actually showed.  I got a couple of papers a year published in the academic journals pointing that sort of thing out. See here

I have no background in climatology and only the most basic background in physics and chemistry -- but even from that low starting point I have often found that in climate-related articles there are the most glaring follies too.  One instance is attributing the high surface temperature of Venus to a "runaway greenhouse effect" -- when that temperature is perfectly well explained by basic adiabatics -- as the outcome of the pressure exerted by the huge Venusian atmosphere.  And just basic logic seems often to be overlooked.  So I have always suspected that climate science is just as impoverished intellectually as science in the fields that I am more familiar with.

And an exquitiste demonstration of that has just been put up by Willis Eschenbach.  He takes a climate paper from a most prestigious academic journal -- "Nature" -- and tears it to very small shreds.  "Nature" is of course a great temple of global warming.  I have done some pretty savage shredding of other people's papers in my time but the comprehensive shredding by Eschenbach leaves me way behind.  It is a classic. 

So how come?  How come science is often so unscientific?  Credentialism plays an obvious part.  The number of years of formal education that a person gets on average has been steadily climbing for many years.  Teachers, for instance, once learnt their job as apprentices but now a four-year degree is normally required.  And the inevitable outcome of credentialism is a great expansion of the higher education sector.  All those degree-hungry people have to be taught. And the teachers concerned have to earn their stripes.  To prove yourself as an academic you need to do research and get the results published in some respectable outlet.

But all men are not equal and those who are capable of rigorous scientific thinking is apparently few.  The sort of article that I and Eschenbach find absurd is the product of the credentialled but incapable.  There are just far too many academics around who are not up to the job.  But they are needed because there are so many students to be taught.

Is there a solution?  I think there is.  But it will be as unpopular as it is simple.  Student loans and grants should be given only to those who can be shown to be in the top 5% of IQ.  Some people who fail such a test will still be able to enroll if they can self-fund but the overall effect should be a large reduction in student numbers.  And with fewer students to be taught, universities can be more selective about the teachers they hire.  And better selected teachers should do better conceived and executed research -- JR

Dumb school authorities could not tell a clock from a bomb

The kid's science teacher told them it was a clock but they still insisted on making assholes of themselves.  I guess it made them feel like big men -- and too bad about the kid.  It's typical of the over-reactions that one often sees in schools these days.  This one got big attention only because the kid was Muslim

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.

“The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,” Boyd said, describing the incident as a “naive accident.”

Asked if the teen’s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.

“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” he said. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”

The chief touted the “outstanding relationship” he’s had with the Muslim community in Irving. He said he talked to members of the Muslim community this morning and plans to meet with Ahmed's father later today.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference outside the family’s home, Ahmed’s father said he’s proud of his son and wowed by his skills.

“He fixed my phone, my car, my computer,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said. “He is a very smart, brilliant kid.”

Mohamed said he’s lived in America for 30 years, but this was a new experience for him.

“That is not America,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said of his son’s humiliation after being handcuffed in front of his classmates.

But Mohamed said he’s also been touched by the outpouring of support for his son.  “What is happening is touching the heart of everyone with children,” he said. “And that is America.”


Ahmed Mohamed Wasn’t the First: 9 Other Times Schools Treated Students Like Criminals

As school policies have gotten stricter, students in schools across the United States have been disciplined for things like playing make-believe games. (Photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)
Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student in Irving, Texas, made headlines yesterday after local authorities arrested him for bringing a homemade clock to his high school.

According to news reports, the teen showed his creation to an English teacher before being taken out of school in handcuffs. 

But Mohamed is not the first student to face the unintended backlash of zero-tolerance policies at schools in the United States. Here are nine other instances in recent years where students were treated like criminals for seemingly innocuous behavior:

1. A Pennsylvania kindergartner was suspended for talking about shooting her Hello Kitty bubble gun while waiting in line for the bus in January 2013. According to reports, the bubble gun was not with her at the time. When pressed to explain why she brought up the gun, the little girl told a professional counselor that one of her friends likes Hello Kitty. Due to her young age, the girl’s suspension was cut down to two days.  

2. In September of 2014, an 11-year-old boy was suspended from his Virginia school for 364 days after having a leaf that resembled marijuana in his backpack. As the Daily Signal previously reported, the school knew the leaf was not marijuana, but still suspended the boy. He was charged with marijuana possession in a juvenile court. Months after the fact, the charges were dropped after the leaf field-tested negative for marijuana three times.

3. A 15-year-old boy was convicted of disorderly conduct, a step down from possible felony wiretapping charges, after recording seven minutes of audio on his school-issued iPad in 2014 during a math class at his Pennsylvania high school. He wanted to use the recording as evidence that he was being bullied at school. The alleged bullies were not investigated, while the boy was kicked out of his special-needs math class.

4. 18-year-old Jordan Wiser spent 13 days in jail and faced felony charges for possession of a weapon for carrying a pocket knife in an EMT vest which was stored in a car parked on school property in Ohio. The knife was said to be in violation of school policy. A first responder and certified emergency vehicle operator, Wiser had the knife in his vest in case he needed to cut through seat belts in the line of duty.

5. Tenth-grade-student Da’von Shaw from Ohio had planned to conduct a healthy breakfast demonstration for his speech class by packing craisins, an apple, and a knife to cut the apple in his school bag. But upon seeing the knife, Shaw’s teacher immediately confiscated the utensil. Shaw was reportedly suspended from school for five days, and received a suspension letter that charged him with bringing a weapon to school.

6. In Texas, nine-year-old Aiden Steward was suspended for making a terrorist threat after bringing a ring to class and telling another boy the “magic” ring could make him disappear. As it turned out, the boy had just seen the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

7. Alex Evans, a seven-year-old from Colorado, found himself suspended from school after throwing an imaginary grenade into a sandbox filled with pretend evil forces. The second grader said he was trying to be a hero to “rescue the world” from make-believe bad guys.

8. In Maryland, a seven-year-old second-grader was suspended after chewing a Pop-Tart breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun. It was reported that he had said, “Look, I made a gun.” 

9. 13-year-old Kyle Bradford faced detention for sharing his lunch at school in California. After seeing a friend unhappy with his own cheese sandwich, Bradford gave his classmate his chicken burrito. The school had a policy in place to prevent students from exchanging meals. “I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage,” Bradford told news affiliate KRCR-TV.


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