Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘SATs

Procrastination Won’t Procrastinate Itself

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1959 memo lists government regulations for Yeti hunting.

1. Royalty of Rs. 5000/- Indian Currency will have to be paid to His Majesty’s Government of Nepal for a permit to carry out an expedition in search of ‘Yeti’.

2. In case ‘Yeti’ is traced it can be photographed or caught alive but it must not be killed or shot at except in an emergency arising out of self defence. All photographs taken of the animal, the creature itself if captured alive or dead, must be surrended to the Government of Nepal at the earliest time.

3. News and reports throwing light on the actual existence of the creature must be submitted to the Government of Nepal as soon as they are available and must not in any way be given out to the Press or Reporters for publicity without the permission of the Government of Nepal.

* What was neoliberalism?

* What could possibly go wrong? We Need To Start Running Schools Like Hedge Funds.

* The SAT never failed; why, it’s never really been tried!

The Unbearable Lightness of Precarious Employment.

Sarah Kendzior vs. the Boomers.

* Campus is about to be completely taken over by March Madness.

* And what could possibly go wrong? Billionaire unveils new ‘Titanic II’ cruise ship design.

Because It Was There

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Written by gerrycanavan

October 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

‘Who Says Meritocracy Says Oligarchy’

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The Nation excerpts Chris Hayes.

The dynamic Michels identifies applies, in an analogous way, to our own cherished system of meritocracy. In order for it to live up to its ideals, a meritocracy must comply with two principles. The first is the Principle of Difference, which holds that there is vast differentiation among people in their ability and that we should embrace this natural hierarchy and set ourselves the challenge of matching the hardest-working and most talented to the most difficult, important and remunerative tasks.

The second is the Principle of Mobility. Over time, there must be some continuous, competitive selection process that ensures performance is rewarded and failure punished. That is, the delegation of duties cannot simply be made once and then fixed in place over a career or between generations. People must be able to rise and fall along with their accomplishments and failures. When a slugger loses his swing, he should be benched; when a trader loses money, his bonus should be cut. At the broader social level, we hope that the talented children of the poor will ascend to positions of power and prestige while the mediocre sons of the wealthy will not be charged with life-and-death decisions. Over time, in other words, society will have mechanisms that act as a sort of pump, constantly ensuring that the talented and hard-working are propelled upward, while the mediocre trickle downward.

But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.”

Consider, for example, the next “meritocracy” that graduates of Hunter encounter. American universities are the central institution of the modern meritocracy, and yet, as Daniel Golden documents in his devastating book The Price of Admission, atop the ostensibly meritocratic architecture of SATs and high school grades is built an entire tower of preference and subsidy for the privileged:

At least one third of the students at elite universities, and at least half at liberal arts colleges, are flagged for preferential treatment in the admissions process. While minorities make up 10 to 15 percent of a typical student body, affluent whites dominate other preferred groups: recruited athletes (10 to 25 percent of students); alumni children, also known as “legacies” (10 to 25 percent); development cases (2 to 5 percent); children of celebrities and politicians (1 to 2 percent); and children of faculty members (1 to 3 percent).

This doesn’t even count the advantages that wealthy children have in terms of private tutors, test prep, and access to expensive private high schools and college counselors. All together, this layered system of preferences for the children of the privileged amounts to, in Golden’s words, “affirmative action for rich white people.” It is not so much the meritocracy as idealized and celebrated but rather the ancient practice of “elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves.”

A pure functioning meritocracy would produce a society with growing inequality, but that inequality would come along with a correlated increase in social mobility. As the educational system and business world got better and better at finding inherent merit wherever it lay, you would see the bright kids of the poor boosted to the upper echelons of society, with the untalented progeny of the best and brightest relegated to the bottom of the social pyramid where they belong.

But the Iron Law of Meritocracy makes a different prediction: that societies ordered around the meritocratic ideal will produce inequality without the attendant mobility. Indeed, over time, a society will become more unequal and less mobile as those who ascend its heights create means of preserving and defending their privilege and find ways to pass it on across generations. And this, as it turns out, is a pretty spot-on description of the trajectory of the American economy since the mid-1970s.

Thursday Night

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* Maryland votes in gay marriage! 42 to go.

* A new study finds academic dads abusing paternity league.

* How to predict a student’s SAT score: Look at the parents’ tax return.

* Map of the night: U.S. military and CIA interventions since World War II.

* Regarding The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.

* Two terrible tastes that taste bad together: Rick Santorum and for-profit colleges.

* Mittpocalypse: Romney Drops Below 40 Percent Against Obama in Rasmussen Tracking Poll. Not that Obama’s doing so great either.

* Taibbi is loving it.

* Ron Paul, Peter Theil, and Palantir.

* USPSocalypse.

* Furious backpedaling in Virginia.

* Republic Windows and Doors has been re-occupied. Elsewhere in Occupied America: Rebecca Solnit rhapsodizes—but maybe also eulogizes—Occupy Oakland, while a group affiliated with Occupy Wall Street will host a national convention in July.

“We feel that following the footsteps of our founding fathers is the right way to go,” an organizer told the AP.

I propose we rethink that.

* Why do people make false confessions?

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has confirmed that scientists have found errors in a physics experiment that recorded particles traveling 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light in late 2011. But now, the agency says that one of the errors means the particles could have been traveling faster than that!

* And today’s chilling vision of things to come: “Mutated Trout Raise New Concerns Near Mine Sites.” Enjoy your weekend!

A Few for Sunday

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Some of these I first saw at the triumphant return of zunguzungu’s Sunday Reading. You may have also seen his piece “The Grass Is Closed” on the arbitrariness of power this weekend, already linked everywhere.

* Chapel Hill anarchists occupy downtown building. Occupy Minnesota protestors occupy foreclosed home.

* UC groups endorse November 15 strike.

* An interview with Susie Cagle.

* The moral clarity of empire:

It’s over 800 billion dollars that we have expended [in Iraq]. I believe that Iraq should pay us back for the money that we spent, and I believe that Iraq should pay the families that lost a loved one several million dollars per life, I think at minimum.

* The Culturally Biased SAT: Hip-Hop Edition.

* From last week, but now more than ever: “Italy is now the biggest story in the world.”

* Except for this one: When do we hit the point of no return for climate change?

And, as the IEA found, we’re about five years away from building enough carbon-spewing infrastructure to lock us in and make it extremely difficult — maybe impossible — to avoid 450 ppm. The point of no return comes around 2017.

* Fat primates rejoice! Obese Monkeys Lose Weight on Drug that Attacks Blood Supply of Fat Cells.

* And I saw this the other day, but forgot to post it: Sam Harris on self-defense.

This is the core principle of self-defense: Do whatever you can to avoid a physical confrontation, but the moment avoidance fails, attack explosively for the purposes of escape—not to mete out justice, or to teach a bully a lesson, or to apprehend a criminal. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way that seems necessary to ensure your escape.⁠

Stay safe out there.

Class and Race Bias in the SAT

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Psychometricians like Freedle and his colleagues at ETS, which was then managing the SAT, looked at how different ethnicities that were matched at different scoring levels (those who had scored 360 on the SAT verbal test, then those who had scored 380, and so on) did on each item.

At each level of ability, but particularly in the lower-scoring groups, white students on average did better than blacks on the easier items, whereas blacks on average did better than whites on the harder ones. (Whites, however, as a group did better overall.)

This was unexpected. The deeper Freedle got into it, the more uncomfortable his supervisors seemed to be with his work. He had to revise one paper more than 11 times before they allowed him to publish it.

Hard questions, those that produced more wrong answers, tended to have longer, less common words. Easy questions tended to have shorter, more common words. Freedle thought this was key to the relative success African American students had with the harder ones. Simpler words tended to have more meanings, and in some cases different meanings in white middle class neighborhoods than they had in underprivileged minority neighborhoods, he concluded. This, he said, could help explain why African American students did worse on questions with common words than on questions that depended on harder, but less ambiguous words they studied at school.

On average, he said, black students were performing only slightly above matched-ability whites on hard questions. But averages did not submit applications to colleges. Individual students did. Some of those individuals, he discovered, would have gotten a boost of a hundred points or more on the SAT if the score was weighted toward the hard items. He proposed that the College Board offer a supplement to SAT scores, called the Revised-SAT, or R-SAT, which would be calculated based only on the hard items. This, he said, would “greatly increase the number of high-scoring minority individuals.” (via yet another MetaFilter argument about linguistic prescriptivism)

Written by gerrycanavan

June 19, 2010 at 10:33 am

Closing a Few Tabs

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Closing a few tabs.

* Scientific American considers the cognitive advantages of depression.

* Marginal Revolution has a nature/nuture post on educational outcomes in adoptees.

* Dark Stores of the American recession. More at MeFi, including the British counterpart.

* The Beatles, remastered in mono. Reviews are positive.

* …last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.

Among their choices: James Patterson‘s adrenaline-fueled “Maximum Ride” books, plenty of young-adult chick-lit novels and even the “Captain Underpants” series of comic-book-style novels. You had me until “Captain Underpants.” (via Vu)

* Smells of New York.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 30, 2009 at 2:31 pm