Elite schools, birthright, and credentials

In mixing together the truly talented with the rich and powerful, elite US universities perform a useful service to both groups. Khan is discussing themes related to his book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. See also Credentialism and elite employment , Credentialism and elite performance, and Defining Merit. Bloomberg View: Save …

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War – What is it Good For?

President Obama is about to release his budget for fiscal year 2017. There is every reason to believe that the amount we spend for war will dwarf every other discretionary expenditure. The National Priorities Project “Costs of National Security” website helps paint that picture. But numbers are cold facts that like the winter winds numb …

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John Locke

Newcomers to the Thornapple Blog may not know that January has been “food ethics icons month” ever since 2011. We started out with some very well-known names and by 2013 we were doing rock-star farmers. Last year the theme was population growth. This year I’ve decided to focus on some bona fide philosopher types, people …

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Truly Exceptional

I got a survey this week asking about my experience getting my car serviced at Williams Volkswagen here in Lansing. I’m very happy with the service department at Williams, by the way. I’ve bought three cars from them in the decade I’ve lived in Michigan. But the survey sent by Volkswagen of America kind of …

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Credit and the Public Good, Part 1

(An earlier version of this was published in City Pulse, a local alternative weekly serving Michigan’s Capitol region.) I suspect that few folks reading this don’t have an account at a bank or credit union. I belong to two credit unions. Credit unions differ from traditional private banks in that they are member owned. This …

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John McWhorter: the truth about mismatch

I’m shocked that CNN published Columbia professor John McWhorter’s editorial on Scalia’s mismatch comments. His remarks challenge the mainstream media narrative, and require some thought from the reader. CNN: Those who consider themselves on black people’s side are having a field day dismissing Justice Antonin Scalia as a racist. His sin was suggesting that black …

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Arming Ourselves to Death

Such a fixation our culture has on guns and violence as a response to fear. From Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech warning against the Military Industrial Complex to the NRA’s no holds barred to make sure everyone has a gun on them at all times, our culture is sick, probably cancerous, and possibly stage 4. …

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Microaggressions, Moral Cultures, and the Culture of Victimhood

Two sociologists theorize the campus culture of victimhood as a transition to a third moral culture, supplanting earlier cultures centered around honor and dignity. Their theory gives a possible explanation for why a well-meaning liberal like Yale Professor Christakis has such difficulty communicating with protestors in the videos above. Christakis is focused on logic, rationality, …

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Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, by Tom Wolfe. First appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, April 1971. (The Sixties lasted well into the Seventies!) Collected, together with Radical Chic, in this Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition (2009). Tom Wolfe understands the human animal like no sociologist around. He tweaks his reader’s every buried thought and prejudice. He sees through …

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Struggles at Yale

I used to eat at Silliman College (one of Yale’s residential colleges) with other physics professors, mainly because it was the closest cafeteria where we could get a free lunch. The free lunches were meant to encourage us to mingle with undergraduates at the college. But I was one of few professors that actually enjoyed …

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GIS. For the rest of us.

  Amanda Tickner, the new map librarian, lead the workshop This week I went to a workshop at the MSU Library titled “Making a choropleth map with graduated symbols,” mainly because the only word I understood in the title was “map.” The workshop was led by Amanda Tickner, the new map librarian and knower of all …

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Meritocracy and DNA

Read Toby Young’s new article The Fall of the Meritocracy. The adoption of civil service and educational placement examinations in England and France in the 19th century was consciously based on the Chinese model (see Les Grandes Ecoles Chinoises). Although imperfect, exams work: we have no better system for filtering talent. But few are willing to acknowledge …

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Lackeys of the plutocracy?

This essay is an entertaining read, if somewhat wrong headed. See here for an earlier post that discusses Steve Pinker’s response to Deresiewicz’s earlier article Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League. The Neoliberal Arts (Harpers): … Now that the customer-service mentality has conquered academia, colleges are falling all over themselves to give their students …

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American teens are losing their religion

Fig 2. Percentage of American adolescents endorsing “none” for religious affiliation, 1966–2014. From Twenge et al. (2015) Generational and Time Period Differences in American Adolescents’ Religious Orientation, 1966–2014, PLoS ONE. Press release \o/ – See more at: http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com/2015/05/american-teens-are-losing-their-religion.html#sthash.0354hveO.dpuf Tweet

Imperial exams and human capital

The dangers of rent seeking and the educational signaling trap. Although the imperial examinations were probably g loaded (and hence supplied the bureaucracy with talented administrators for hundreds of years), it would have been better to examine candidates on useful knowledge, which every participant would then acquire to some degree. See also Les Grandes Ecoles …

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Our Kids and Coming Apart

Nick Lemann reviews Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam. At the descriptive level, Putnam’s conclusions seem very similar to those of Charles Murray in Coming Apart. Of course, description is much easier to obtain than causality. NYBooks: … By the logic of the book, access to social capital ought to …

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Value-Added College Rankings

New report from Brookings estimates value added (in terms of economic success) by university, controlling for input factors such as student quality and family income. This is just the first step toward outcomes-driven rankings of universities that will be far more useful than the existing rankings, which are largely based on prestige. Brief summary. See …

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Nutritional Density

This week’s blog has nothing to do the ratio of calories to vitamins, minerals and the other weenie bits in our food that make it healthy (or not, as the case may be). Today I’m wrapping up an unusually long trajectory of musings on the connection between explaining the uptick in obesity and taking some …

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The Fires of Mordor

We’re right in the middle of a multi-week theme here at the Thornapple Blog, so if you are just dropping in you might find it helpful to go all the way back to February if you want to get the full treatment. But the synopsis is that we’re taking a dive into moral dietetics: the …

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Income, wealth, and IQ

I’m occasionally asked about financial returns to cognitive ability. As a rough rule of thumb, judging from the graphs below (obtained here), I would say: On average, an increase of IQ by one SD corresponds to  ~ $30k per annum of additional income. (Somewhat less than 1 SD in income; the distribution is far from …

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Four Little Questions

What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes? What are your fears and what are your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? What is the course of action that best serves this understanding? Could these four little questions – that appear and reappear …

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The rich (and powerful) are different

Discussions at the meeting I just attended are off the record, so I have nothing to report. But I will link to some previous posts of relevance: Creators and Rulers How the World Works Educational background of US elites A word cloud produced from the collective bios would feature: Harvard, Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Rhodes, Marshall, …

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Educational background of US elites

Jonathan Wai writes in Quartz about returns to elite education in the US. Wai also notes that more than ten percent of all Senators, billionaires, Federal judges, and Fortune 500 CEOs hold Harvard degrees of some kind. See also Credentialism and elite performance, and further links therein. Blue = attended elite undergraduate college or graduate school (no …

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Article update: Implementing evidence-based practice in underrepresented communities

I am a believer in the importance of social workers (and other health and social service professionals) using research evidence to inform their practice. That’s why I spend hours teaching reluctant social work students statistics and research methods and how to evaluate the quality of a research study. I am also straightforward about the challenges …

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TEDxMSU: Hot or Not? Just Try.

Shouting “Sex!” in front of nearly 2,000 people can be scary, but it proved to be a pretty effective way to grab an audience’s attention. On March 4th, 2015, I delivered a TED talk on my evolution research at TEDxMSU, an independently organized TED event held at Michigan State University. The process to getting selected …

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Rigorous inequalities

  The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(3): 189-204 (2014) DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.3.189 Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative …

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Relational Value

It may seem trite and it may be overworked but it doesn’t hurt to notice how comforting food can be to people from time to time. I’m not talking about so-called “comfort food”. That’s become a restaurant industry term for foods that hark back to the middle-class menus that were pretty standard across Middle America …

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Cupholder

Dinner conversation last night led someone to remark that aside from Italy, California has the best food in the world. I didn’t bite. Maybe there’s something to this, because although I spend relatively little time in California, I have had some very good meals there. Yet the image that comes to mind with California food …

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