Friday, January 18, 2019

Boys are BORN cavemen.  It's not "culture" or the schools that makes them that way

The article below has a slightly new wrinkle on an old claim that stereotyped masculine behaviour is encouraged in the school environment to the detriment of boys' academic performance.  The wrinkle is that Asian kids seem to be immune from that.  Every bit of evidence that they produce in favour of their various contentions is however in the hopeless old "correlation is causation" mode.  It proves nothing and ignores other explanations for what it observes.

As with most Leftist writing, it fails to consider WHY boys have such a rambunctious character.  They just assume that something in their environment teaches them that. 

But that is rubbish. Little boys are born as apprentice cavemen.  Even before they can walk they will be moving about energetically, climbing on things and generally getting into mischief.  Most mothers of boys will tell you that. And once they have become steady on their feet they will always be running and jumping and climbing.  Most little boys have only one speed -- top speed.  And when they do walk it is often a strut. Observing how masculine their little boys are from an early age, many mothers will lovingly describe their little boy as "My little man".

Little boys are the product of millions of years of primate evolution.  They have evolved to chase and catch juicy animals.  And that means they are born to run, jump, throw and hit.  That is what cavemen did and their descendants have inherited that as deeply inborn, vital characteristics.  It is so deeply embedded that it comes out from their earliest years.

So that is why boys are restless in classrooms and much prefer outdoor activities.  It also explains why men's sports are much more participated in and watched than are women's sports.  There have been great efforts in recent years to promote women's sport but the results are sad.  I was for a few moments watching on TV a major game of women's cricket in Australia recently.  Cricket is BIG in Australia.  But at the women's match I could not help noting all the empty seats in the stadium.

Males and females are both human so inherit all the same traits but they inherit them at different strengths.  There are some women who inherit a stronger weighting of masculine traits than usual -- producing the generally welcome "tomboys". The army never has a shortage of potential female recruits.

Leftists often talk of "culture" as being behind human differences.  They tend not to think about what is behind culture, however.  Very often it is inborn characteristics. So male genes are behind male culture.

In my experience, the most striking cultural difference that is best explained by genetics is the case of Australian Aborigines.  They are a VERY different group -- in good ways and bad.  They are superbly adapted to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that they lived before the white man came along but  do not fit into white society well at all.  They are a generally polite and friendly people but their employability is very low.

But for all their poor fit to white society, it has rather overwhelmed them.  The common language of urban Aborigines is not any native tongue but a broad Australian version of English. And most of their other customs and memories have gone the same way. Yet they still speak firmly of their "culture".  They speak of many important ways in which they differ from whites.  And they do differ. 

They have, as a major instance, an enormous compulsion to be part of a group.  They must always be in the company of other Aborigines.  White jailers sometimes put them into solitary confinement -- whereupon the Aborigine will do his best to commit suicide, sometimes successfully. The same phenomenon is behind the way an Aboriginal tribe will sometimes "sing" an erring member to death.  The singing is a formal way of casting the wrongdoer out of the tribe and into aloneness. No-one thereafter will have anything to do with him. Someone sung does normally die shortly thereafter. The excommunication and disfellowshipping of Christian groups has got nothing on Aboriginal "singing".

So amid their deculturation by white society, Aborigines, even part-Aborigines, retain some unique "cultural" characteristics. But they are not cultural at all.  They are inherited from days when a group was needed for a successful hunt.  So much that is attributed to culture is in fact inborn.  Genetics lie behind much that is glibly dismissed as culture.

So what about the Chinese?  Why do Chinese boys and girls differ very little in their pre-teenage years?  It is probably a combination of inherited and cultural factors.  Three thousand years as agriculturalists has probably reduced to some extent their inherited caveman instincts.  Germanic peoples were hunting much more recently -- and some still do.

But for historic reasons China has long had a great reverence for education, and educational achievement in particular. So, as has often been observed, Chinese children have their noses held to the grindstone from an early age.  Nothing is secondary to education. And if that means that outdoorsy instincts must be suppressed, then so be it.  Only when parental influence begins to wane in the teenage years do Chinese males become a bit more "boyish".

Over all, girls outperform boys in school. It starts as early as kindergarten. By the time students reach college, women graduate at a higher rate than men.

But there’s an exception. Asian-American boys match the grades of Asian-American girls in elementary school, a new study has found. For them, the gender achievement gap doesn’t appear until adolescence — at which point they start doing worse as a group than Asian- American girls.

The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that boys’ underperformance is not because of anything innate to boys. Instead, it seems, it’s largely because of something external: their school environments and peer influences.

Girls are encouraged to be diligent, cooperative and ambitious — all things that serve them well in school. Boys are more sensitive than girls to environmental influences, according to a variety of research, and they feel pressure to be strong, tough and athletic. They get the message that doing well in school is not masculine, social scientists say. Even in peer groups that prize good grades, it’s considered uncool to seem to try hard to earn them.

Asian-American boys are somehow sheltered from that message in early childhood. The reasons could give parents and teachers information about how to help boys of all races reach their full potential.

“These findings show it doesn’t have to be this way, that boys necessarily have to underachieve,” said Amy Hsin, the paper’s author and a sociologist at Queens College in New York.

“How we parent, how we help children think about their masculinity, and school culture and peer norms have effects on their performance in school.”

Looking at grade point averages of white and Asian-American students, she found that unlike white students, Asian- American boys and girls have no significant grade differences until ninth grade. Then, boys fall behind girls by the equivalent of one-third of a letter grade, about the same as the gender difference in white students’ grades, according to the new study, published last month in the journal Sociological Science.

It used data on about 9,200 white and 1,700 Asian-American students from two national studies that followed the same students over time (the groups were too small to analyze differences among Asian ethnic groups.) The results are not definitive. The sample size is relatively small, and the analysis uses grades, which, unlike test scores, are influenced by teachers’ subjective assessments of students. Yet the results fit with other research that shows the effect of outside influences on academic performance, particularly for boys.

One reason Asian-American children do so well as a group is that Asian immigrant families tend to be very focused on education, as the sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou described in their book, “The Asian American Achievement Paradox.”

One goal of a 1965 U.S. immigration law, which also abolished severe restrictions against immigration from regions such as Asia, was to give preference to professionals with specialized skills. Partly as a result, a little more than half of Chinese immigrants to the United States have a college degree or higher, versus less than 10 percent of adults in China in recent years, Ms. Lee said. They have tended to prioritize that their children earn straight As; attend a good college; and become a doctor, lawyer, scientist or engineer, the authors wrote. They have also shared information about things like SAT tutors and A.P. courses with their less educated Asian- American peers.

Another factor is the so-called model minority stereotype — that Asians as a group are supposed to be smart, successful and hard-working. This image masks high poverty and dropout rates among some Asian ethnic groups, yet as with all stereotypes, it can lead people to act in biased ways. Teachers tend to give Asian-American students higher grades and funnel them into advanced programs, the researchers found. Often, lowerperforming students have risen to meet these expectations of them, an effect social scientists refer to as stereotype promise.

For Asian-American boys, these influences change in adolescence, Ms. Hsin found, a time when children become more aware of their gender identity and are more influenced by peers. They also have to fight a pernicious perception that they are not masculine enough.

“The model minority myth frames Asian boys as being kind of nerdy, caring too much about doing well, so that may cause them to become less academically attached,” Ms. Hsin said.

“It’s not as stigmatizing for Asian girls because if you’re good at school and you really care, that kind of plays along with what you should be doing as a girl anyway.”

The new study offers a clue about how much school environments affect boys’ academic achievement. Ms. Hsin found that the gender gap for Asian- Americans in high school was smaller in schools that were less sports-focused, and where boys did better over all.

Other studies have also pinpointed the importance of the school and social environments, especially for boys.

One working paper found that the best-performing students had a combination of behaviors typically considered male and female. It used nationally representative survey data about gender norms for about 12,000 high school students, linked with their high school transcripts. The most traditionally feminine girls and the most masculine boys had the lowest grades.

The messages boys receive about how to be masculine come from local influences in their schools and communities and are often tied to to socioeconomic status, other research has shown. Boys perform better in school when achievement is considered to be desirable, and when they believe successful men get their power from education versus strength and toughness.

Boys in high-income communities are more likely to get those messages, research has shown.

Teachers’ expectations of students — and the biases behind them — also influence children’s performance. For example, white teachers are less likely than black teachers to refer black students to gifted programs, or to have high expectations for their potential. Yet as with Asian-American students, research shows that when teachers have high expectations for black students, they rise to meet them.

The fact that boys’ achievement varies in different school environments is a hopeful sign for parents and educators, Ms.

Hsin said, because it suggests ways to help all students.

Encourage academic achievement, she said, and talk about how it leads to success.

Researchers have other suggestions. Show them role models who got where they are by doing well in school. Emphasize the importance of hard work and daily practice, not innate skill.

Encourage both boys and girls to embrace a full range of character traits, and not to feel limited by stereotypical gender roles. Place high expectations on children, and give them opportunities to meet them — regardless of skin color.


UK: Schools will be marked down if pupils misbehave under new Ofsted inspection regime

About time

Schools will be marked down if pupils misbehave and are discourteous to each other, under Ofsted’s new inspection regime. The proposed framework, which will be published today, includes “behaviour and attitudes” as a stand-alone category for the first time. 

The move follows research by Ofsted which revealed a rise in “low level” disruption such as children playing on their mobile phones and other electronic devices in the classroom. 

Schools will be judged on whether there is a “safe, calm, orderly and positive environment”, the draft framework says.

Inspectors should observe pupils during break times and lunch as well as during lessons, and take note of “pupils’ respect for and courtesy and good manners towards each other and adults”. 

A school that has “deliberately" removed pupils from the school or “arranged for them to be absent” on the day of an inspection in an attempt to boost their Ofsted rating will likely be handed an instant “inadequate” grade for the category.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for education, said that new category was bought in to recognise the fact that low-level disruption is on the rise in classrooms, adding: “If every child behaved at school the standards would rocket up”.

The education watchdog published a report in 2014 which found that low-level disruption is an everyday part of school life, with pupils routinely using mobile phones, humming and swinging on chairs.

Children are losing up to an hour a day of teaching because of a damaging culture of disrespect in schools, the report concluded.

Mr Halford said that the research informed the new framework, explaining: "The problem now is more one about low level disruption - swinging on chairs, tapping when the teacher is talking, passing notes, whispering, mobile phones, you know getting distracted by electronic devices etc. That kind of thing is what has been on the rise, and is the bane of teachers' lives."

In the new framework, the “personal development” category will examine what schools do to build young people's resilience and confidence. This could include running a debating society, sports teams, drama clubs of cadet forces.

Inspections in England will no longer focus on exam results and grades, and instead will concentrate on whether pupils are being taught a broad curriculum, the framework says.

It also seeks to mark down schools that are guilty of “off-rolling”, where pupils are unjustifiably expelled because the school fears their exam results will drag the average down. 

Launching the consultation in a speech to the Sixth Form Colleges Association on Wednesday, the chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman will say: "The new quality of education judgment will look at how providers are deciding what to teach and why, how well they are doing it and whether it is leading to strong outcomes for young people.

"This will reward those who are ambitious and make sure that young people accumulate rich, well-connected knowledge and develop strong skills using this knowledge.

"This is all about raising true standards. Nothing is more pernicious to these than a culture of curriculum narrowing and teaching to the test."

The proposals will go out to consultation today [WEDS], with a view to implementing the new inspection framework from September.


Needed: A Revival of For-Profit Higher Education

The Obama Administration intensely disliked for-profit higher education. Political appointees in the U.S. Department of Education (Robert Shireman particularly stands out) as well as Democrats in Congress (e.g., former Senator Tom Harkin, current Senator Dick Durbin) constantly attacked the sector.

Most of them probably thought that businesses should not make profits from education, which they consider primarily a public good appropriately only provided by nonprofit schools.

All sorts of regulations were imposed: state certification requirements (forcing online companies to get state bureaucratic approval in every state in which they operated), gainful employment rules, etc.

These restrictions were ostensibly designed to protect student consumers from fraud, but since in most cases they did not apply to public not-for-profit institutions, they were highly discriminatory—clearly an attempt to stamp out the schools.

The effects of this are still being felt, as evidenced by the recent decision by the Education Corporation of America to close dozens of campuses with thousands of students. To be sure, there were a number of “bad apples” engaging in deceptive practices, although a non-discriminatory policy would have closed down some public institutions as well with very poor academic and employment outcomes.

I thought the unfortunately largely successful regulatory attack was a mistake for four reasons.

First, markets impose disciplines on all institutions charging a price for their services, including schools. In the case of the for-profits, however, that discipline is far greater, because tuition fees are virtually the only source of revenues, unlike nonprofit institutions dependent on government subsidies, endowment income or private gifts. At for-profits, satisfying the customer is critical to survival, and hence teaching is Job One—more so than at other institutions also promoting research, saving the earth (“sustainability”), achieving progressive objectives (“diversity”), providing entertainment (e.g., football), etc.

Second, that market discipline makes colleges more efficient. Resources are more intensely used. Most proprietary institutions rent pleasant but highly functional space with good parking on the outskirts of town or operate on-line—having no real campus. Instructors each teach several sections of needed core courses, not one or two sections of classes covering obscure tangential topics that the instructor favors.

Third, while traditional higher education talks about serving low-income persons, racial minorities and first-generation college students, the for-profits do it—without hiring an army of diversity coordinators to demonstrate institutional support for equal educational opportunity. Critics of proprietary education bash the schools for poor performance, a phenomenon largely a consequence of accepting large numbers of at-risk students. The elite private schools that heavily influence the culture of most American universities want it both ways—they want to sound like they love the poor and minorities, but they also want high academic standards, first-rate students and the like. These goals sometimes conflict, particularly given the abysmal circumstances at home and school facing many poor inner city kids prior to college.

Fourth, the proprietary schools emphasize preparing students for specific vocational objectives. Many are two-year or even nondegree schools offering certificates denoting competency in some needed vocation, such as welding, plumbing, or driving eighteen-wheel trucks over long distances. We need truck drivers and welders just as we need engineers and accountants, and Americans have neglected public vocational education, viewing it as second-rate, inferior training. The for-profit schools include many “career colleges” that often train students with limited interest or skills in traditional book-based learning who are capable of learning other very useful skills in a short period for less money than traditional four-year bachelor’s degree-granting institutions cost.

A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study suggests that on average the for-profits do less well in terms of academic performance than traditional schools. There are variations, however, around that average. I recently spoke at a CEO summit of leaders of scores of these institutions, and generally was impressed with their diligence, intelligence and, as far as I could see, integrity. I would buy a used car from a randomly selected president of one of those schools as eagerly as I would from presidents of traditional not-for-profit institutions. American higher education benefits from competition and diversity of its schools. Let’s preserve that, welcoming a vibrant network of proprietary schools.


No comments: