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If you don’t like the results, sit on it for 2 years.

January 21, 2012 4 comments

That’s what happened to a new (old) study that showed that selling junk food to kids in school doesn’t lead to overweight kids. According to a study by Penn State sociology professor Jennifer Van Hook, Competitive Food Sales in
Schools and Childhood Obesity: A Longitudinal Study
:

Employing fixed effects models and a natural experimental approach, they found that children’s
weight gain between fifth and eighth grades was not associated with the introduction or the duration
of exposure to competitive food sales in middle school. Also, the relationship between competitive foods
and weight gain did not vary significantly by gender, race/ethnicity, or family socioeconomic status, and it
remained weak and insignificant across several alternative model specifications (bolded for emphasis)

The real travesty is that Prof. Van Hook sat on the data for almost two years.

Van Hook said that the findings surprised the researchers so much that they held off publishing for nearly two years “because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn’t there.”

This is a problem with a lot of junk science now. A lot of researchers fall victim to Belief Bias. They attribute the validity of the research based on what they believe the valid conclusion should be. In this case, Dr. Van Hook had already made up her mind that junk food in middles schools should lead to more overweight kids. When the data fails to show a correlation, they person simply thinks that there is an error in the data, not an error in themselves. They then try to tease (more like torture) the data to try and fit the preconceived paradigm. In this case, they couldn’t torture the data enough to find anything that fits what they think ought to be true. The opposite is also very true in Academia, when they have one piece of data that confirms their bias, they tout that data as proof positive that their hypothesis is right.

There is nothing wrong with this. This is how science is done. You make a hypothesis, form an experiment, look at the data to see if it fits with your hypothesis. Three things can happen; the data can fit your hypothesis, in which you try different experiment to test your hypothesis. If repeated experiment all confirm your hypothesis, you can make a reasonable assumption that your hypothesis is correct. The second thing to happen is that the data totally refutes your hypothesis, in which case you reject the hypothesis and try again. The third thing to happen (which is common) is that some sort of systemic error occurred in your experiments that makes the data inconclusive. The only thing to do is try to reformulate your experimental procedure to get rid of the error. That is what should happen.

The problem now is what to do with all that legislation that was passed aiming to help the children? Policies were put into place based off of bad science. They made the assumption that junk food in schools WERE the cause of obesity, before any data could be looked at. This is the central fallacy of most Statist (Paternal) solutions to societal problems. They are never really based on any actual science. They same can be said for cell phone bans around the country, when there is no evidence that banning cell phones while driving actual does anything?

The other thing about this junk food study, is that it shows once again that the conventional wisdom is usually wrong. It shows that Academics are the easiest people to fool. It shows the depths to which people will hold on to their beliefs when the data is staring them in the face telling them they are wrong. I do have to give credit where credit is due. The research, Dr. Van Hook, actually published the study. A lot of researchers get so married to their pet hypothesis, they will not publish anything that might refute it.

I highly recommend listening to this Econtalk podcast with Gary Taubes.

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what we know about the relationship between diet and disease. Taubes argues that for decades, doctors, the medical establishment, and government agencies encouraged Americans to reduce fat in their diet and increase carbohydrates in order to reduce heart disease. Taubes argues that the evidence for the connection between fat in the diet and heart disease was weak yet the consensus in favor of low-fat diets remained strong. Casual evidence (such as low heart disease rates among populations with little fat in their diet) ignores the possibilities that other factors such as low sugar consumption may explain the relationship. Underlying the conversation is a theme that causation can be difficult to establish in complex systems such as the human body and the economy.

College is essentially worthless.

January 22, 2011 5 comments

Two reports came out this week showing that college is really just a big waste of time and money.

The first shows that after two years, college kids haven’t really learned much of anything.

Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority, a new report shows.

Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives…

After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.

Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.

The second report (both are really from the same book) shows that many college students aren’t learning any critical thinking skills what so ever. No wonder they are all liberal!

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Only one word can be used to describe this, DUH!

I think the two things that are driving this are grade inflation and the money thrown at academia by government.

The grade inflation angle comes down to this. As grade get inflated higher and higher, employers can’t simply rely on a diploma or even a associate degree, as a measure of work potential. A HS diploma is worthless, they will give them to anyone as long as they go to class. So then employers look for a 4 year degree. As those have been going downhill, thanks to grade inflation, employers are going to be looking for Master’s degrees and higher to try to determine if the person is even worth all the time and capital required to bring someone on board. It’s not cheap to hire a new employee, especially for any technical field.

Schools are more than happy to spew out the paper for a bachelor’s degree. It’s easy money. Kids come to class if they want to, the professor has their grad students teach the class and grade papers and tests. The schools require all sorts of worthless classes in order to get a degree, none of which involve logic or reason anymore. The more classes the schools require means more student loan money in the schools coffers.

I’m sure if the schools could, they’d require 200 credits to graduate, all for the students best interests of course. /sarc

Now with the Federal Government handing out student loan money like it grew on trees, expect standards to get even worse.

Schools and academia are corrupt. Make no mistake that they are all motivated by money, just as everyone else is.

Categories: Academia, Books, Inflation, Schools

The Left wants to emulate Europe except….

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Except when it comes to monetary policies.

Why is it that, now when Europe wises up and reject Obama’s call for more monetary stimulus, does the left reject our European cousins. The latest G-20 was a disaster for Obama and the failed Keynesian policies of the past. Bush was a Keynesian, so why are we repeating those same failed policies? Oh hope and change, why do you always evade us.

I’m sure the answer lies somewhere that most of the Left like to think they are the smart ones. They constantly appeal to the experts but fail to realize when the expert is wrong or lying. How else can anyone justify continuing to read a Krugman article? The Left learned Keynesianism in school and that’s all they know. Since they won’t admit to being wrong, they bitterly cling to the Keynesian economics they learned from the “experts” in school. For a group of people, who by large, say they are for science, that is about as unscientific a methodology as you can get. Of course, it’s not science but scientism. It’s faith based science, where they take it as an article of faith that their experts, not any differing opinion’s experts, are always and forever right. That we know all that there is and nothing, no new set of evidence can “refudiate” it.

 

Sowell on Liberals and Conservatives

September 16, 2010 7 comments

Thomas Sowell hits a home run here.

The late liberal Professor Tony Judt of New York University gave this definition of liberals: “A liberal is someone who opposes interference in the affairs of others: who is tolerant of dissenting attitudes and unconventional behavior.”

According to Professor Judt, liberals favor “keeping other people out of our lives, leaving individuals the maximum space in which to live and flourish as they choose.”

That of course would be the classical definition of Liberalism. What we call Liberal in the US now, is anything but liberal. As Sowell says later, “‘progressive’ may be more in vogue.” Progressive is what todays version of liberals used to call themselves. That was back in the early 20th century, until Progressive policies gave us the Great Depression. Liberals love to forget that Hoover was a Progressive Republican. So Progressive that Democrats wanted him to run for the Democratic Party instead of Al Smith. But I digress, history is selective to the modern Democratic Party.

Does the sweeping legislation empowering federal officials to tell doctors, patients, hospitals, and insurance companies what to do, when it comes to medical care, sound like leaving individuals the maximum space to live their lives as they choose?

Communities that have had overwhelmingly liberal elected officials for decades abound in nanny state regulations, micro-managing everything from home-building to garbage collection. San Francisco is a classic example. Among its innumerable micro-managing laws is one recently passed requiring that gas stations must remove the little levers that allow motorists to pump gas into their cars without having to hold the nozzle.

Liberals are usually willing to let people violate the traditional standards of the larger society but crack down on those who dare to violate liberals’ own notions and fetishes.

Our academic institutions are overwhelmingly dominated by liberals. They feature speech codes that punish politically incorrect statements. Even to apply to many colleges and universities, students must have spent time as “volunteers” for activities arbitrarily defined by admissions committees as “community service.”

I think most modern liberals would stop reading there, thinking that Sowell is only berating them. If they’d be truly tolerant and keep reading they’d see Sowell take Conservatives to task as well.

As for conservatism, it has no specific political meaning, because everything depends on what you are trying to conserve. In the last days of the Soviet Union, those who were trying to maintain the Communist system were widely– and correctly– described as “conservatives,” though they had nothing in common with such conservatives as William F. Buckley or Milton Friedman.

Professor Friedman for years fought a losing battle against being labeled a conservative. He considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word and wrote a book titled “The Tyranny of the Status Quo.” Friedman proposed radical changes in things ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve System.

Sowell is making two points here. First and foremost, don’t get caught up in fancy rhetoric. Anyone that considers themselves educated and intelligent should always look past the flashiness of words to their real meaning.

The second point is also easy. Don’t get caught up with labels. People are much too complex to be labeled.

Plagiarism

August 3, 2010 1 comment

The NY Times has an interesting article on plagiarism yesterday.

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

The article goes on to wonder if it has something to do with the digital age. I say nay. I say it has less to do with copy/paste making it easier to plagiarise than before and it has everything to do with kids not getting the proper education up to and through college.

I agree with Jonathan Adler at Volokh (the comment section is gold, read them all);

Another possible explanation for the apparent rise in plagiarism is that many college students are simply unprepared for the type of academic work that is expected of them and engage in plagiarism even though they know it’s wrong.

At the University of California, Davis, of the 196 plagiarism cases referred to the disciplinary office last year, a majority did not involve students ignorant of the need to credit the writing of others.

Many times, said Donald J. Dudley, who oversees the discipline office on the campus of 32,000, it was students who intentionally copied — knowing it was wrong — who were “unwilling to engage the writing process.”

“Writing is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice,” he said.

I find this explanation more persuasive.  I also think the apparent rise in plagiarism is of a piece with the apparent rise in cheating by students generally.  The problem is not that academic standards are too strict for the Internet Age.  Rather, it’s that students are not taught that such standards really matter.

I see it getting played out like this. Student A has written papers in high school, where the teacher maybe didn’t catch plagiarism or didn’t care to do anything about it. The teacher doesn’t want to hurt the students self-esteem so give the kid an A for a mediocre paper with sub par citing. (A product of grade inflation in high schools trying to keep kids going through the system.) The student thinks that doing mediocre work is not only acceptable but the way it should be done. After all the kid did get an A right?

So now the kid goes to college and has to write a research paper. They think, “Well it was good enough for an A last time.” Couple that with the fact that this paper is probably for a class that the student doesn’t want to take anyway, say psychology, sociology or freshman english. Not only are they going to wait until the last-minute to do the paper, but in their race to finish it, they are going to lift a few lines, paragraphs or the whole damn paper. After all it’s just a fuck off class anyway, why should they have to do any actual work.

They submit the paper and the teacher sees obvious plagiarism, most likely because half the class somehow used the exact same wording for one or more sentences for the class wide paper. What does the teacher do? Reporting the problem to the dean is a hassle. Maybe if one or two kids were caught, but when half the class does it…that’s a lot of paper work. Too much hassle, so it goes unreported. (I linked to a few of the comments at  Volokh.)

Since a lot of the comment from the Volokh post are from actual college teachers and professors, I think that their input is very relevant. The common theme is lack of accountability , lack of academic integrity and lack of ethics. To me it all points to my favorite subject in Academia, grade inflation.

If you think about it, all plagiarism is, is a mode of how grade inflation works. A kids plagiarizes, if the teacher doesn’t do anything about it or if the administration doesn’t do anything about it (lack of ethics and accountability) then the kids gets off free with a passing grad (lack of academic integrity). Now they think that is acceptable behavior.

So what happens when that student goes into the real world? If they go into private business, and they get caught plagiarizing, they get fired and the company gets sued. If they go into public sector, they become Senators or Vice Presidents. Ha ha just kidding…or am I?

Teachers can easily stop plagiarism.

Ronald C. Den Otter: A few more thoughts. (1) When I assign papers, I try to make sure that the question(s) to be addressed are narrow enough that it would difficult to lift something from the Internet. As far as I know, this minimizes academic dishonesty.

Yet most teachers don’t do that. I see that as merely another form of grade inflation. They make the assignments easy. So easy that the kids don’t think they need to actually think about it, just copy down what someone else did.

Another reason that kids just don’t care about plagiarism is summed up nicely in this comment.

Angus says:

They are at school to learn…

That, I think, is one of the fundamental disconnects with students. Many of them are not there to learn, but because college is a hurdle they must overcome in order to get a job/career. They don’t see college classes in a broad sense (how will this teach me to think for myself in the future), but in a narrow sense (how will this help me to get a job?). Worse, administrators are now pursuing the same “standardized test” mentality so prevalent among K-12 grades, where student achievement has to be boiled down into numbers for pre-set “assessment outcomes.” You can’t really put a number on, for example, whether a student has become a good writer or thinker. So instead, assessment-minded administrators are pushing us to test for predetermined factoids, names, and dates that can be learned by pure memorization and easily counted on multiple choice exams. And scores showing “successful teaching” will increasingly involve teaching to the assessment test.

Categories: Academia, Inflation

Obama, Journolist and Media Elitism

July 27, 2010 4 comments

I wrote this comment over at JohnWSmart.com. It’s just more on my thoughts of Obama, Journolist and media Elitism.

As I said yesterday …they did it because they think they know better. They thought Obama had rays of sunshine coming out of his ass. They thought Obama was going to do everything he promised. They thought that everyone else was just too stupid to see how wonderful Obama was.
They were wrong. They can’t come to accept that they got taken by a conman. They can’t come to grips with it so they turn their self-loathing anger towards anyone who did know better. That’s why they hate the Hillary Dems so much. That’s why they hate the tea partiers so much. That’s why they hate Palin so much.
The media elite, professorial elite, etc still think they are so much better and smarter than everyone else. They don’t understand how normal regular people could see past the bullshit. In fact they don’t think anyone could have. So they invent reasons why people didn’t drink the Kool Aid.
Racism has to be the reason for a lot of them. They pick racism because it fits their narrative. Racist are dumb in their eyes, so they should have fallen for the Kool Aid, but the reason they didn’t was because their hatred for blacks overpowered everything else. How often did you hear accusations of racism against Hillary Dems?
That’s why they try to label the tea party as racist. The elite have no other explanation for why they didn’t fall for the Kool Aid. The same explanation goes to why they hate Palin so much as well. How often did you hear how dumb Palin is? That still doesn’t fit their narrative though. So they invent other things to throw at her to vilify her in their eyes. To them, Palin being a college educated woman, she should have fallen for the Kool Aid hook line and sinker, like all those other college educated women that think Obama is so wonderful.
It’s all about elitism. The email’s show that. They think they are better, faster smarter…and don’t understand how, if they got taken, why everyone else didn’t get taken with them. They don’t understand how anyone “dumber” than them, could have seen that the emperor has no cloths.

I’ve always thought that most of the disdain and animosity towards the tea party comes more from an aura of elitism than any thing else. You can see it every time  a Sanchez, Maddow, Olbermann or Mathews speaks about the tea party. There is nothing but disgust in their voices. Obviously, those “news” people know everything about the tea party already. They already ‘know” that the tea party must be racist for opposing the POTUS. It’s plainly evident every time they speak.

You would expect it from those people. You’d expect them to have a hatred for a President that they adore so much. But what about the Republicans and Libertarians? Why do prominent and intellectual GOP and Libertarians have the same disdain?

I recently read a article, Where to Libertarians Belong? on Reason.com. And I notices a very high level of Elitism on the part of Brink Lindsey. It made me think of other times at volokah.com and even Cafe Hayek, where the authors (professors in Law and Economic, respectively) have had similar levels of disdain for the tea party on an intellectual level. Almost all libertarians like the anti-Statism rhetoric from the tea party, but they don’t really support them. Is it elitism or skepticism?

Being academics, I’m more inclines to the former than the later. Academia is notorious for producing know it all’s and people that think they know better than anyone else. Everyone know about academic elitism. Now think about how that plays into the Journolist saga, remember than Kathleen Parker said (to paraphrase) don’t worry about it because most of the people were editors and professors. Of course my suspicions are in no way any proof of anything. I can’t link to that many articles because frankly I can’t remember where I saw writing that showed disdain for the tea party via elitism. It’s just a gut feeling I have after reading, literally hundreds and hundreds of blogs post and articles on various academic blogs and news sites. Just keep this in the back of your mind the next time you read things about the Obama and the tea party.

Harvard no longer needs exams, they just know their kids are smart!

File this under lazyness and lax standard at America’s institutions of higher learning.

At its meeting on May 11, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) adopted a bland-sounding motion that henceforth, “unless an instructor officially informs the Registrar by the end of the first week of the term” of the intention to end a course with a formal, seated exam, “the assumption shall be that the instructor will not be giving a three-hour final examination” and no slot will be reserved for it in the schedule.

No need to give exams, they just know that their students are smart. Giving an exam might hurt the self-esteem you know. So how are professors going to know if their students have learned anything during a semester?

I know the students will love it. Students don’t like tests, they tend to bring down ones grade. Students like easy, high point value busy work that requires no thinking what so ever. It seems like that is what they are getting at Harvard these days.

James Engell, Gurney professor of English literature and professor of comparative literature, rose to suggest that the trend toward fewer exams was not a trivial matter. Last fall, the English department (he is chair) had just five courses that ended with exams. Whatever the merits of requiring just a long final paper, he said, it meant that perhaps nothing beyond the paper itself was being used to evaluate what students were learning. Given that many departments—English, history, classics, for example—have also given up senior-year general examinations, it is increasingly unclear how to answer the question, “How are we assessing students?”

So remember that, the next time someone tells you that so and so is smart, he went to Harvard! In reality that doesn’t mean jack shit.