Sunday, December 27, 2015

Can a good teacher be bad for you?

In asking the above question, I am suggesting a paradox.  And I think the answer is mostly No.  But I want to give a small story about when good teachers were bad for someone I know.

He went to a private school and private schools usually have the best teachers.  Why?  Because private schools are more orderly and have brighter students, two things which are not unconnected.  Why are the students brighter?  Because you need a fair bit of money to send a kid there and people with more money generally have more brains too -- as the much execrated Charles Murray pointed out two decades ago. And brainy parents tend to have brainy kids

No teacher however likes to spend most of his/her time getting the students to sit down and shut up, so most would prefer to teach in a private school, where students have the willingness to listen and the ability to learn.  So private schools have the pick of the teachers and mostly manage to hire good ones.

And part of that is that private High Schools are often able to put before their students that rare breed, a MALE teacher.  And that does help male students, who tend to get put down and disrespected by female teachers.

So the lad I have in mind went to a private school where the mathematics teachers were male (funnily enough!) and who were very enthusiastic about their subject.  And they enthused the boy.  Which was something of a pity.  Because he became a mathematician. He spent 8 years at distinguished universities studying it.

But he wasn't in fact very good at it. He could do it all but he was not good enough for it to lead to his heart's desire:  A good job.  And that showed up in his performance on ability tests.  He was brilliant at verbal tasks but only in the top third for mathematics.  Any guidance counsellor would have steered him away from mathematics and into something more verbal.

So were the 8 years he spent on mathematics wasted?  Not really.  Most people remember their time at university as a good time in their lives and he had 8 years of that, which he did enjoy.  And coming from an affluent family he did not have fees or loans to worry about.

But it all worked out in the end.  After he gave up on mathematics, he studied computer programming for a year.  And he found his niche there. He did use his verbal ability, but in a non-obvious way.  He was soon hired as a computer programmer.  And he loves doing it.  He gets paid a lot of money to do what is for him fun.  And why is it fun?  Partly  because it is easy for him but also because it is like a puzzle that you always manage to solve.  As a former FORTRAN programmer myself, I can vouch for how rewarding it is.

Programming is basically an exercise in being relentlessly precise and logical so it seems a bit odd that it should be associated with verbal ability but it seems to be. My strengths too  are mostly verbal rather than mathematical and I almost got to the stage where I could write FORTRAN in my sleep.  FORTRAN dreams?  They can happen, though they don't lead to usable code

But the point is that a computer language is a language, if I can be tautological. A language like FORTRAN or C is a way of talking to a computer and telling it to do things -- so that is how it seems to work.  The commands in a computer language are in fact mostly in English:  DO, IF, SWITCH, WRITE etc.  It's a reminder that computers are another great gift to the world from the English-speaking people -- people whom the Left scornfully refer to as "Dead white males".

So the lad was derailed for 8 years by good teachers. He spent 8 years doing something that was hard for him and which led nowhere -- but needed only one year of studies to reach his Elysium.  He could have reached it much earlier.

Home schooling of 20,000 children across Britain will be reviewed amid fears they are being 'radicalised by parents'

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has called for a review of home schooling amid concerns that thousands of children are being radicalised by their own parents.

It is unclear how many children and young adults are being home schooled but it is thought to be in the region of 20,000 to 50,000.

Parents do not have to inform their council that they are educating their children at home, leaving the government in the dark about the number of kids at risk of radicalisation through education at home. 

'There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well,' a senior government source told the Independent on Sunday.

'But we need to know where the children are and to be certain that they are safe.

'For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling their child's mind with poison. We just don't know. We don't have reliable figures,' the source said.

The Education Secretary's new approach comes after the announcement of an investigation into the activities of unregistered schools and madrassahs.

Concerns have been made about the teaching in some madrassahs with concerns that religious extremists are using an inappropriate curriculum.

Ofsted’s chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw has previously spoken about the 'serious and growing threat' of unregistered Islamic centers.

'We have provided Ofsted with extra inspectors to eradicate extremism in education,' a Department of Education spokesman said.

'We are working with them to address their concerns about home education being exploited, while safeguarding the rights of parents to determine how and where to educate their children.' they said.

Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell has called for urgent action against the threat of extremist content being used in home school curriculums, calling the failure of action 'completely unacceptable.'

'It is vital that action is taken to ensure that all children, whether in school or taught at home, are given the knowledge and skills to succeed, not taught a narrow curriculum of hate and bigotry.'

'Yet, just last week it was revealed that the Government had let children remain in illegal, unregistered schools for weeks, where they were exposed to narrow curriculums, misogynist, homophobic and anti-Semitic material. This is completely unacceptable.'


Reality vs. 'Mismatch': Becoming Unhinged at Justice Scalia Over Race

Defenders of racial preferences are good at two things: ignoring the real-world consequences of their policies, and attacking anyone who notices the consequences.

At the recent argument in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Justice Scalia asked a question that illustrated that the victims of racial preferences in college admissions include not only the people denied admission because they are not the preferred race, but also the people preferences are designed to help.

At oral argument, Justice Scalia said:

    "There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas".

Justice Scalia pointed out something known as "mismatch." It is the common-sense notion that if you are admitted to a school where you would not have been accepted except for your skin color, you might not do as well as the other students who were admitted on credentials alone.

Mismatch is an outcome consistent with life. Were I to be handed a slot in the 2016 Masters, I would finish in last place by dozens of strokes.

If common sense alone isn't good enough, data support the mismatch theory. Gail Heriot details some of the research on the subject, and has her own paper published by the Heritage Foundation explaining mismatch in greater detail.

In essence, when applicants are thrown into a college or law school where they wouldn't otherwise qualify, they do worse and drop out at greater rates. This means fewer, not more, minority doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Mismatch also conveniently creates a culture of grievance on campus, where a segment of the student population struggles in substantial part because of racial preferences.

That Justice Scalia mentioned this troublesome fact caused the racial grievance industry to become unhinged. They did what they do whenever someone questions the policy of government treating people differently because of the color of their skin: they attacked. As my friend Hans von Spakovsky (and co-author Elizabeth Slattery) noted:

    The Left has whipped itself into a frenzy, but as these comments demonstrate, Scalia’s critics have deliberately missed the point. Rather than look into the research Scalia was citing, they have launched scurrilous and false claims of racism. It’s easier to engage in racial demagoguery than to address the problem head on, and Scalia highlighted a real problem -- academic mismatch.

The often vulgar Paul Campos at Salon ran with this headline:

    "Scalia’s raging hypocrisy: Encroaching senility, raging racism, or does he no longer give a f*ck?"

Chauncey Devega gets a two-fer at Salon by disparaging Justice Scalia and Donald Trump at the same time:  "Is Justice Antonin Scalia auditioning for a job as Donald Trump’s ghostwriter?"

Devega calls the data on mismatch "pseudo scientific racism."

The racialist left like Devega and Campos cannot tolerate anyone questioning their orthodoxy, because there is too much money and power to be had by treating people differently based on skin color. Those who don't want to hear about mismatch are too busy conducting diversity training consulting for major corporations and earning fat salaries at 501(c)(3) organizations sowing racial grievance on campus.

I am reminded of an odd gathering from when I attended law school at the University of South Carolina a quarter-century ago. Some of us began to notice that groups of first-year black law students would gather without fanfare at the school at night in classrooms. Teaching at the front of the classroom was a third-year white law student who was on the law review.

After some discreet inquiries, we came to learn these were race-based tutoring sessions provided by the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Whites need not apply for help, even if they wanted it.

The sessions were almost certainly illegal, and were likely a byproduct of the mismatch that Justice Scalia alluded to in the Supreme Court last week. The tutoring sessions were designed to overcome the effects of mismatch by helping these students get through a very demanding first year of law school. Naturally, those of us without the right skin color organized our own study sessions without the benefit of the government provided tutors.

Some might think that a state law school in South Carolina had a special obligation to enhance the crop of minority lawyers 25 years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Perhaps. But the mismatch created by race preferences were something the law school did not wish to be discussed, and something in 2015 many still don't want to be discussed. The nasty reaction to Justice Scalia demonstrates how damaging the truth can be to years of treating people differently because of their race.


Hapless graduates sue their former universities in shockingly high numbers

IT WAS supposed to be easy. Clark Moffatt would put in the work and study hard, and one day be rewarded with his dream job as a lawyer working in the America criminal justice system. But nearly a decade after graduating, he has yet to land a job in the profession

With a wife and two kids to support — and more than $230,000 in student debt — he made a desperate move which has, ironically, placed him in the courtroom, but in a role he didn’t wish to play.
Mr Moffatt is suing his law school, claiming it intentionally misled students and exaggerated postgraduation employment figures and future salary expectations.

It might sound like sour grapes but he is just the latest in a growing number of graduates in the US suing universities in an effort to recoup their tuition fees as the lofty promises once held by higher education come crashing down.

“It’s both frustrating and, to a degree, humiliating,” Mr Moffatt, who now lives in a mobile home and uses food stamps to help feed his family, told Business Insider.

He, along with 11 other graduates from San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law, have filed two separate legal complaints against the university.

They claim the law school promoted employment figures among graduates that topped 90 per cent. But they did not disclose that those figures included part-time and nonlegal work including a pool cleaner and a sales clerk at Victoria’s Secret. The figures were also derived from a very small sample of graduates.

Another plaintiff in the complaint, Nikki Nguyen, left a $US69,000-a-year job at Boeing in 2006 to pursue a law degree at the university. She too has struggled to find a job after graduating and watched her student debt blow out to more than $240,000.

“Schools are setting up a lot of people to fail,” Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a non-profit legal education policy group told the Associated Press this month.

Mr Moffatt is currently a full-time Uber driver and uses the money to support his children and his wife who is terminally-ill with cancer.

“For the longest time, I just thought I was unlucky — life had dealt me a crap hand post-graduation,” he said of his job search. “(But) I came to the realisation maybe I wasn’t just unlucky. Maybe there was something bigger afoot.”

And talking to other graduates from the San Diego university, he found out he wasn’t alone.

It has been a rather tumultuous environment for the for-profit education sector in America as of late. Many for-profit schools have been accused of aggressively recruiting students with a focus on depositing their federally backed student loans rather than providing them with a quality education.

But with scores of graduates finding out their prospects aren’t as rosy as they were led to believe, many are fighting back. A dozen similar law suits have been filed in recent years against universities including the University of San Francisco School of Law, New York Law School and the Florida Coastal School of Law.

While the sense of betrayal is felt among graduating students across the country, as the Wall Street Journalpoints out, most of the suits have so far been unsuccessful.

It’s not just law students displaying a proclivity to pursue litigious retribution. The Medieval Literature department at Harvard University, the Greek Studies department at the prestigious Cornell University and the Philosophy department at NYU have all been the target of class action lawsuits from hapless graduates.

New York woman Trina Thompson was one of the earlier graduates to sue her former school when she sought to have her $US72,000 tuition costs reimbursed in 2009 after her bachelor of business administration degree in information technology failed to get her employed.

Some grievances are more valid than others. Such as the 13 graduates who filed a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota in October alleging fraud and misrepresentation by the school meant they didn’t receive standard teaching licenses upon graduating.

But, regardless of the complaint, it is clear there is a growing disenchantment felt among a generation of educated Americans who feel ripped off by the system.


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