blueollie

Feeling Feisty!

Paul Krugman I really love this guy:

Jonathan Chait and Robert Waldmann, in slightly different ways, highlight a crucial dynamic in American political debate: the extent to which public figures are punished for actually knowing what they’re talking about.

It goes like this: Person A says “Black is white” — perhaps out of ignorance, although more often out of a deliberate effort to obfuscate. Person B says, “No, black isn’t white — here are the facts.”

And Person B is considered to have lost the exchange — you see, he came across as arrogant and condescending. […]

Chait professes himself puzzled by the right’s intellectual insecurity. Me, not so much. Here’s how I see it: in our current political culture, the background noise is overwhelmingly one of conservative platitudes. People who have strong feelings about politics but are intellectually incurious tend to pick up those platitudes, and repeat them in the belief that this makes them sound smart. (Ezra Klein once described Dick Armey thus: “He’s like a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”)

Inevitably, then, such people react with rage when they’re shown up on their facts or basic logic — it’s an attack on their sense of self-worth.

I’d one more thing: many conservatives judge whether something is “right” or not if it fits their world view. Example: you can show a conservative reams of data which supports that “abstinence only” sex education programs don’t work. But they will support it anyway as it is “morally right” to them. You can say the same thing about health care reform; a public policy might actually end up giving more people insurance and end up being less of a drain on the economy. But some conservatives won’t support that policy anyway because, well, the policy is “morally wrong” (e. g., violates some virtue that they accept).

Frankly all of us are a bit that way (I think); after all, how many liberals would support a program that paid potential criminals not to steal, even if we could prove that such a program would save money via reduced security and reduced police costs?

But conservatives are a bit more driven by the desire to “keep order”.

Global Warming and Climate Change: here is Al Gore’s op-ed in the New York Times. Yes, I like him. If you think that he is worthy of ridicule, you can go “Dick Cheney” yourself.

Now to a snippet of Al Gore’s piece

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.

The heavy snowfalls this month have been used as fodder for ridicule by those who argue that global warming is a myth, yet scientists have long pointed out that warmer global temperatures have been increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, putting significantly more moisture into the atmosphere — thus causing heavier downfalls of both rain and snow in particular regions, including the Northeastern United States. Just as it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees, neither should we miss the climate for the snowstorm.

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.

The bottom line: climate change is neither proved nor disproved by a few brief, local events. The important thing is the long term trend.

Religion Yes, religious groups should be able to meet on public college campuses. But if they can’t abide by the same non-discrimination rules that the other student groups have to adhere to, then they aren’t entitled to be funded by the public college funds:

“Religious groups on campus have a choice,” says Ethan Schulman, a lawyer representing the school. “If they want to be eligible to receive public funds and access to facilities, they cannot discriminate in selecting members and officers. If they wish to discriminate, they can continue to meet, but without the benefit of public funds and support.” […]

Jesse Choper, a law professor at UC Berkeley, says that conflicting legal precedents are at work. In 2000, the Supreme Court decided that the Boy Scouts were within their rights to deny membership to homosexuals. However, Choper notes, “even if you have a First Amendment right to do something, it does not entitle you to funding to exercise your right.”

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, civil liberties, economy, health care, nature, obama, political humor, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science | 2 Comments

28 February 2010

Workout notes I didn’t feel that good when I woke up; in fact I slept for 30 extra minutes. Nevertheless I kicked myself out of bed and went to the pool.

Idea: swim long and gentle until I got sick of it, and then do enough to get 5500 total.

Result: 5500 yards in 1:35:47; 1:18 slower than my PB but my second fastest ever. Just because I am a numbers geek, I’ll list the splits of this swim and of my previous 3 attempts (note: the 1:36:23 WAS a PB when I did it)

17 Dec. 2009 1 Jan. 2010 17Jan. 2010 28 Feb. 2010
1:36:23 1:38:27 1:34:29 1:35:47
17:42 (+10) 17:52 (-2) 17:40 (+29) 17:33 (+8)
17:08 (-24) 17:36 (-18) 16:56 (-15) 17:11 (-14)
17:14 (-18) 17:45 (-9) 16:53 (-18) 17:14 (-11)
17:36 (+4) 17:48 (-6) 17:00 (-11) 17:26 (+1)
17:43 (+11) 18:02 (+8) 17:18 (+7) 17:32 (+7)
8:57 (+11) 9:22 (+25) 8:40 (+4) 8:49( +6)

Note: the + – numbers are how far off I was from my “average time per 1000” for that particular swim; of course the last number is how far off I was from my “average 500” on that swim. Note that I usually “fold” during my last 1500; I gained 22, 23, 11 and 13 seconds on that segment; my last 500 is especially bad, though that has improved on my last couple of trials.

Time per mile: today, 30:40 per mile; PB pace was 30:14 per mile. 30 minutes per mile, while slow for a good swimmer, is tough for me.

For more on my history:

Past 5K time trials and efforts:

3 March 2007, 1:36:49

6 April 2007, 1:36:51

August 17, 2008, 1:37:11

Big Shoulders 2008, 1:36:34 (also previous reports from 2006 and 2001)

Why didn’t I feel good when I woke up?
1. Too much soy milk yesterday.
2. I had some mild body aches; I then remembered yesterday’s weight lifting session which was more intense than usual.
3. I didn’t sleep that well; I stayed up too late watching the boxing matches.
(for the record, I had Jones being Bruceles 97-93 and Roman beaing Rosado 96-94, though this match was hard to score. Usually, the rounds went like this: first minute even, next 90 seconds, Roman would win and Rosado would close furiously and dominate the last 30 seconds; how does one score such a round? That is why it was a split decision (Rosado won).

Injury For the second night in a row, my calf/lower hamstring bothered me in the last 2-3 hours of my sleep. I am going to have to stretch it out before I sleep and to put a pillow under the back of my knee.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | boxing, injury, swimming, time trial/ race, training | 2 Comments

Best Exercise Scene in a Movie: Ever.

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🙂

February 28, 2010 Posted by | humor, movies, spandex | Leave a comment

27 February 2010 part II

Workout notes today, just weights as follows:

Bench press (barbell): 135 x 10, 155 x 8, 175 x 3, 185 x 2 (not that easy)
Military press and curls: (barbell and curling bar) 95 x 5, ? x 10, 95 x 4, ? (70?) x 8
Pull ups (10)
Lat pull downs (10 x 120)
yoga leg lifts (20)
Dumbbell routine( curls 7 x 30, military 45 x 8, bench 75 x 6)
Pull ups (wide) 10
yoga leg lifts (20)
Dumbbell routine (curls 10 x 25, military 45 x 8, bench 75 x 9)
yoga leg lifts (20)
yoga head stand: 4 minutes

Tomorrow: I hope to get in a longish swim (in excess of 4000 yards, depending on how I feel)
Given that my injury recovery (calf/lower hamstring) might take some time, this event is looking more appealing.

If I decide to do this (it would be a “family weekend trip”), I’d need to build up with long swims done every other week: 2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.75, 3, 3.25, 3.5 hours which would be a 12 week program.

As far as my injury goes: I am facing something like this.

As far as my bout with sickness: I am all but completely over it but I need to build back strength and endurance.

Mental attitude, depression and all that
I’ve been thinking about mental attitudes, emotions, depression and all that. It would be inappropriate for me to say all that is bothering me at the moment but there are some personal issues going on. But I almost always get in a bad mood over the winter (I don’t like the cold, dark season). I’ve also been injured (in terms of the ability to do long distance runs and walks) and I also have had a class load switch from some sophomore-technical stuff to, well, a different kind of schedule with different kinds of students (one interesting class though).

So I’ve been down. Yes, others have had far worse (loss of job, loss of very close loved ones, horrible weather, disasters, serious illnesses, etc.).

But does my being down actually serve a purpose? This article lays out the hypothesis that this might be the case! I’ll lay out parts of it:

Here is the gist of what the article explores:

The mystery of depression is not that it exists — the mind, like the flesh, is prone to malfunction. Instead, the paradox of depression has long been its prevalence. While most mental illnesses are extremely rare — schizophrenia, for example, is seen in less than 1 percent of the population — depression is everywhere, as inescapable as the common cold. Every year, approximately 7 percent of us will be afflicted to some degree by the awful mental state that William Styron described as a “gray drizzle of horror . . . a storm of murk.” Obsessed with our pain, we will retreat from everything. We will stop eating, unless we start eating too much. Sex will lose its appeal; sleep will become a frustrating pursuit. We will always be tired, even though we will do less and less. We will think a lot about death.
[…]
The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse. Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction. Maybe Darwin was right. We suffer — we suffer terribly — but we don’t suffer in vain.

The article reviews some of the “obvious downsides”.

Now we get to some of the hypothesis:

Imagine, for instance, a depression triggered by a bitter divorce. The ruminations might take the form of regret (“I should have been a better spouse”), recurring counterfactuals (“What if I hadn’t had my affair?”) and anxiety about the future (“How will the kids deal with it? Can I afford my alimony payments?”). While such thoughts reinforce the depression — that’s why therapists try to stop the ruminative cycle — Andrews and Thomson wondered if they might also help people prepare for bachelorhood or allow people to learn from their mistakes. “I started thinking about how, even if you are depressed for a few months, the depression might be worth it if it helps you better understand social relationships,” Andrews says. “Maybe you realize you need to be less rigid or more loving. Those are insights that can come out of depression, and they can be very valuable.” […]

The capacity for intense focus, they note, relies in large part on a brain area called the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), which is located a few inches behind the forehead. While this area has been associated with a wide variety of mental talents, like conceptual knowledge and verb conjugation, it seems to be especially important for maintaining attention. Experiments show that neurons in the VLPFC must fire continuously to keep us on task so that we don’t become sidetracked by irrelevant information. Furthermore, deficits in the VLPFC have been associated with attention-deficit disorder.

Several studies found an increase in brain activity (as measured indirectly by blood flow) in the VLPFC of depressed patients. Most recently, a paper to be published next month by neuroscientists in China found a spike in “functional connectivity” between the lateral prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain in depressed patients, with more severe depressions leading to more prefrontal activity. One explanation for this finding is that the hyperactive VLPFC underlies rumination, allowing people to stay focused on their problem. (Andrews and Thomson argue that this relentless fixation also explains the cognitive deficits of depressed subjects, as they are too busy thinking about their real-life problems to bother with an artificial lab exercise; their VLPFC can’t be bothered to care.) Human attention is a scarce resource — the neural effects of depression make sure the resource is efficiently allocated.

But the reliance on the VLPFC doesn’t just lead us to fixate on our depressing situation; it also leads to an extremely analytical style of thinking. That’s because rumination is largely rooted in working memory, a kind of mental scratchpad that allows us to “work” with all the information stuck in consciousness. When people rely on working memory — and it doesn’t matter if they’re doing long division or contemplating a relationship gone wrong — they tend to think in a more deliberate fashion, breaking down their complex problems into their simpler parts.

The bad news is that this deliberate thought process is slow, tiresome and prone to distraction; the prefrontal cortex soon grows exhausted and gives out. Andrews and Thomson see depression as a way of bolstering our feeble analytical skills, making it easier to pay continuous attention to a difficult dilemma. The downcast mood and activation of the VLPFC are part of a “coordinated system” that, Andrews and Thomson say, exists “for the specific purpose of effectively analyzing the complex life problem that triggered the depression.” If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.

So, the ability to bear down is there, but at a price. The article goes on to note that this is just a hypothesis that attempts to explain one type of depression; it doesn’t explain all of it and the result is far from being settled.

But it is something worth thinking about.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | injury, mind, Personal Issues, science, sickness, swimming, training, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

27 February 2010

Ok, this is a bit of Olympic fluff at the start, for at least the first minute. 🙂
At the end, he talks about the health care issue and throws out yet another olive branch toward compromise. Note: the Republicans won’t budge.

Posts

Yes, I’d love to believe this study which “links a higher IQ to being liberal and atheist”. But, well, I think that the PZ Myers (a liberal atheist) questions the merit of the study.

In all honesty, I see it this way:

In short, conservatives are good at organizing (think of military officers, CEO’s). So, I might not want to socialize with them (ok, I don’t) and I don’t want to talk to them, but they do serve an important function and many of them are very smart.

Of course, many of them are idiots who can’t accept that our society is secular:

When I saw this article this morning reporting that Obama Administration aides were scheduled to meet with representatives of the Secular Coalition for America today, I wondered how long it would take for some Religious Right group to throw a fit that the Administration was meeting with atheists.

Turns out, it took about an hour:

The advocacy group In God We Trust today ripped the Obama administration for meeting to plot political strategy with 60 atheist activists representing organizations comprising the Secular Coalition of America.

“It is one thing for Administration to meet with groups of varying viewpoints, but it is quite another for a senior official to sit down with activists representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation,” says In God We Trust’s Chairman Bishop Council Nedd.

“President Obama seems to believe that it is a good idea to have a key senior aide plan political strategy with people who believe faith in God is a disease,” Nedd says. “Some of the people in this coalition believe the world would be better off with no Christians and no Jews and they aren’t shy about it. The fact that this meeting is happening at all is an affront to the vast majority of people of all faiths who believe in God.”

“The President should tell the American people whether he believes these groups’ hate-filled views to be ‘mainstream’ and worthy of his supposedly inclusive administration,” Nedd says.

Outrageous!

To them, the fact that the President is meeting with a secular/atheist group is a dire threat to order; they think that their superstitions should have a privileged position.

The same group is upset that students aren’t forced by law to say the Pledge of Allegiance (I prefer the original version without the “Under God” phrase).

See the history here.: if the version in the video sounds funny it was because it was this one:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Which was changed to this:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1954, the “under god” phrase was added.

Words Mano Singham talks about the word “retard” and how other commonly used words (idiot, moron, imbecile) used to have technical meanings.

Boxing I saw two excellent fights on Friday Night Fights last night:

In a great fight, WBA #1/IBF #5 super bantamweight, WBO #3 featherweight Antonio Escalante (23-2 14 KOs) hammered out a hard fought ten round unanimous decision over rugged Mickey Roman (28-7, 20 KOs) […]Roman relentlessly pressured the more mobile Escalante and both boxers landed big shots during vicious exchanges as the rounds progressed. Escalante finally dropped Roman with a barrage of punches in round eight. Roman stormed back in round nine, but Escalante took in the final round to win a 97-92, 96-93, 96-93 nod.

I had the fight at 97-92 (7-3 advantage in rounds with one 10-8 round to Escalante); I thought that Roman, while tough, absorbed a ton of punishment. He did land some big shots though.

Unbeaten junior welterweight prospect Danny Garcia (16-0, 10 KOs) won a close ten round split decision over Ashley Theophane (25-4-1, 7 KOs). Scores were 95-94, 96-94 Garcia, 95-94 Theophane. Garcia was deducted a point in round nine for a low blow.

Here, I had Garcia 96-93; I think that he landed the more punishing blows.

But this leads me to wonder: why do I like boxing? On one hand, I respect those who do this well (I sucked) and I can appreciate how hard these guys train and work at their craft. I appreciate what sort of athletes these guys are and I appreciate the guts it takes to get in the ring with someone who knows what they are doing.

On the other hand: is it right for me to be entertained by two people who are ruining their health? Sure they have a choice, and sure, some might question MY sanity for undertaking 100 mile foot races (I’ve finished a 100 miler 4 times in my life on foot; once on a bike).

Ah, who knows. People are complicated animals.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | atheism, Barack Obama, boxing, civil liberties, health care, marathons, mind, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, superstition | Leave a comment

26 February 2010: Mostly Personal Thoughts

Workout notes 2200 yard workout: 500 back/free, 500 side/free, 10 x (25 fly, 25 free): started on the 1:05 and then walked it back to finish the set in 9:51, 500 drill/free (fins), 4 x 50 paddle.

I was a bit weak though at the start, I was the only male and had women on either side of me. 🙂

Note: my cold is all but gone.

Topics: Political Humor, It happens to the successful too, Ethics of zoos, My approach to atheism

Political Humor

It happens to the successful too
I was amused by this post by Paul Krugman (Nobel laureate in economics):

Update: And the driveway is now shoveled — for the moment, anyway; snow is still falling and the township plows may make one more pass, sealing us in all over again. But I’m gonna treat myself to a hot chocolate.

Wow: you mean even the most successful among us sometimes get sealed in by government snowplows? I thought that only happened to mediocre people like myself. 🙂

In all honesty, I get get irritated by many things (snow, the snow plows, cold weather, lazy students, athletic injuries, misbehavior by family members). When these happen, I often think “had I done better in grad school, I wouldn’t have to put up with this”. In fact, even the most successful people do NOT have hassle free lives.

Ethics of Zoos Jerry Coyne wrote an emotional, powerful post questioning the morality of institutions that keep animals captive for human entertainment (e. g., zoos, Sea World and its competitors, for example). I should point out that in this post, he makes many of the same points that my wife makes in our discussions. Here is a snippet:

Against these benefits, even if real and not the product of zoo hype, we should weigh the misery and unhappiness of captive animals, especially those animals that, we think, are capable of conscious suffering. To me, at least, this is a serious factor. What gives humans the right to extract an animal from its environment—an environment to which it is adapted and in which it presumably knows how to make a living—and turn it into a sort of sideshow exhibit? This becomes especially serious when the animals, like elephants and lions, are social, and can’t be kept in captivity with a decent-sized social group.

If this topic interests you, read the whole post. Coyne discusses the potential “pros” of zoos and weighs them against the “cons”.

My thoughts: I am very conflicted. On one hand, I like animals and enjoy seeing them in person. I also was fascinated to watch the monkeys and baboons associate with one another; the similarities between their behavior and human behavior was astonishing to me.

But: are the animals suffering? In some cases, how can they NOT be suffering due to isolation and, well, boredom?

But: well, many of the animals don’t lead lives that are so good when they are in the wild:

Is this preferable to being in a zoo?

I admit that, deep down, I agree with my wife and with Jerry Coyne. But it is hard for me to let go because I grew up loving zoos; I remember the Uneno Zoo in Japan (Tokyo), the San Diego Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo (in Chicago); I’ve also participated in Peoria Zoo events.

But changing my mind about zoos is going to be a bit painful. It reminds me of the days when I was 9 years old and living in Texas. I used to go out at night and catch very large gulf coast toads (bufo valliceps). I’d fill a box with dirt, bugs and grass and keep several of them with me overnight.

The next day, I’d let them go and I’d cry because I missed them! But I knew that they belonged outside; the next weekend I’d do it all again. 🙂

Atheism
I found an interesting blog called proudatheists. Here is a sample post. Most of this post is on point; the only thing I disagree with is this claim:

* In the U.S., anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic, and anti-homosexual groups are almost always Christian-based, not secular.

Neo Nazi groups rarely have a pro-religion agenda. Of course, groups like the KKK and the Nation of Islam do.

But that isn’t my point for bringing up this blog (which I do enjoy). My point is that this blog appears to be promoting atheism as something good. I don’t see it that way. To me, atheism is my reaction to the facts that I know; I am an atheist for the same reason I accept evolution, gravity and other facts of science: it not only seems to be the best fit to the current data but also is, in my mind the natural “null hypothesis”.

If one wants to claim that their is a deity, the burden of proof is on them; the null hypothesis is “nothing supernatural”. I’ve seen no evidence even within an astronomical unit of reaching a p-value of .05. 🙂

Therefore, atheism isn’t so much “good” as it is “correct”, as I see it. Of course, I remain open to evidence that I haven’t seen before.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Blogroll, evolution, nature, Personal Issues, political humor, politics/social, racism, religion, superstition, swimming, training | 4 Comments

The Health Care Summit

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February 26, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, health care, politics, republicans | Leave a comment

McDonald’s Fail

epic fail pictures – McDonald’s Fail, video, friend, food, chicken, head, mcdonalds, news, tv

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February 25, 2010 Posted by | humor | Leave a comment

25 February 2010 (afternoon quips)

Workout notes Gentle 4000 yard swim over lunch: I started with 3000 yards straight: 17:51 first 1000 (stopped to move equipment but kept the watch running so the first 250 was 4:48), then 34:30 for the second 2000. Then I did 10 x (25 drill/25 free) with fins, then a grab bag 500 of 100 paddle, 100 side, 200 of 25 fly, 25 back, 50 paddle, 50 back.

The pool got crowded again; I ended up sharing some of my laps with a skinny woman in a tiny tri-kini. Personally, I like the one-piece suits better as they give more “creep”. 🙂

I was also amused that a collection of old farts and out-of-shape college students attempted to race me for a length or two; come on, I was doing 51-52 second laps!! 🙂
(for the uninitiated: that is WAY slow for a serious swimmer but a bit faster than your average non-competitive lap swimmer)

Toward the end, a better swimmer got in; I wish that she had been there for the meat of my 3000.

Note: I am still weak from last week’s virus/cold combination. Also note that my calf/behind the knee injury was barking at me though I don’t appear to have strength loss. It’s been 2 weeks of “no running, no elliptical” and I’ve been told that this type of injury usually takes 6 weeks of “no running, no cycling, no walking” to clear up completely.

Comment: I had commented on the Time “Is a college degree overrated” article. (the Time article) I was gentle.

If you want to see some “gloves off” comments, go here. Scroll to the third comment. 🙂

February 25, 2010 Posted by | education, injury, sickness, training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 February 2010

Workout notes Yoga class this morning; perhaps a swim over lunch?

Humor

How come this never happens to me? 🙂

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

How come I’ve never seen this? 🙂

Police Fail
see more Epic Fails

And the Rat character in Pearls Before Swine is insufferable:

Education? Are too many people going to college these days? Ramesh Ponnuru from Time weighs in:

[…]The benefits of putting more people in college are also oversold. Part of the college wage premium is an illusion. People who go to college are, on average, smarter than people who don’t. In an economy that increasingly rewards intelligence, you’d expect college grads to pull ahead of the pack even if their diplomas signified nothing but their smarts. College must make many students more productive workers. But at least some of the apparent value of a college degree, and maybe a lot of it, reflects the fact that employers can use it as a rough measure of job applicants’ intelligence and willingness to work hard.

We could probably increase the number of high school seniors who are ready to go to college — and likely to make it to graduation — if we made the K-12 system more academically rigorous. But let’s face it: college isn’t for everyone, especially if it takes the form of four years of going to classes on a campus. (See pictures of the college dorm’s evolution.)

To talk about college this way may sound élitist. It may even sound philistine, since the purpose of a liberal-arts education is to produce well-rounded citizens rather than productive workers. But perhaps it is more foolishly élitist to think that going to school until age 22 is necessary to being well-rounded, or to tell millions of kids that their future depends on performing a task that only a minority of them can actually accomplish.
[…]

(hat tip: Legal Satyricon)

They have a point. For one, many students currently in college plainly don’t want to be there; they tolerate it (at least some of them) as it is a ticket to a better job or as a way to please their parents.
And, to be blunt, there is the regression to the mean effect: the larger the proportion of the population that goes to college, the more that the intellectual average approaches the average of the population as a whole.

I see some of this on social network sites; many (I am NOT talking about you, Jason!) who openly brag about how well they are doing in their undergraduate programs really aren’t that bright; in fact, few of them would have survived the undergraduate academic program that I went through, much less “made straight A’s”.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | education, humor, politics/social | 1 Comment