Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Awesome-O's Second Law

Comments over at Volokh Conspiracy just tickled me for some reason. The original post was about an essay by a sportswriter deploring the lack of reading in today's yout' and how that bodes ill for the republic. It's a topic I have touched on many times in my 1600+ posts. I take a contrary view. I think modern education is slightly better than education in my generation, even with all the PC idiocy that gets injected. Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good For You, how well American students compare to European ones in real life, and the misjudgments we conservatives make about education are all in here if you like. I do believe that education needs to undergo radical change. I just don't believe it was all that great 50 or 100 years ago either.

It's worth noting that I say that as one who comes from the fanatic fringe of reading.

Awesome-O's comment is worth sharing:
These dumb kids and their lithographs! Why, in my day, all we had were woodcuts. We didn't have any of this fancy metal lithography crap, and we were smarter for it.

Earlier in the comment section he had offered:
Okay, it's time for Awesome-O's Second Law: Society appears to be getting dumber because the observer's intelligence and/or knowledge continuously increases relative to that of society's average member.

This isn't really an example of Awesome-O's Second Law, but I always like to use Doonesbury as an illustration of the naivety of youth.

When Gary Trudeau started the strip, the older character were dumb and unenlightened, and the college-aged characters were brilliant and insightful. Now that the strip is what, about 40?, the older characters are wise, and the college-aged characters are mouth-breathing dolts. It turns out that whichever age cohort Trudeau is in is the smart one.
This accords happily with my Influence of Doonesbury post in 2006.

It took me awhile to find Awesome-O's First Law, BTW. It's nowhere near as gripping: "Any mention of Catullus will prompt an immediate use of a form of the verb irrumatio."


togo said...

...how well American students compare to European ones in real life...

I don't think so.
According to TIMSS, which is now far more credible and more widely accepted than SAT, it's between 8th and 12th grade that the gender and race gaps really take off.

But because media, educators, bureaucrats, politicians, and other powers that be studiously ignore the sad state of our high schools, as evidenced by SAT, TIMSS, NAEP, etc., and instead focus only on 8th grade performance, less than 7% of Americans are aware of just how low we scored in TIMSS at the 12th grade level. Comparing 8th grade scores understates the problem because 45 countries who participated in this study of more than half a million students around the world proved that the last four years of a student's education is the most important part, and 8th grade scores obviously miss that part. Of 45 countries whose 12th graders participated in TIMSS Math, the boys in 35 of those countries scored higher than the 8th grade math score, and those in 7 countries scored lower. In the US, 12th grade boys scored 56 points lower and 12th grade girls scored 104 points lower. Where Swiss 8th graders scored 46 points higher than ours in math, their 12th grade boys scored 102 points higher than our boys and 133 points higher than our girls.

How shocked they all would be if they realized that our 12th grade girls scored DEAD LAST in physics, 130 points lower than girls in Norway and almost 200 points lower than boys in Norway, simply because the scores of American girls from the 8th to 12th grade dropped even faster than our boys, whose scores dropped even more than that for girls in most other TIMSS nations. Conversely, relative to their 8th grade scores, 12th grade boys in Cyprus scored 89 points higher, in Norway scored 84 points higher, and in Sweden scored 66 points higher.

togo said...

I should have added this at the end:
the NEA/Colleges of Education/Educationist bureaucracies are savage impediments to progress.

In the area of public education the US is more PC leftist than many of the EU countries. Some brave conservative politician should "speak truth to power" about all of this.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

togo, I know that what you write is commonly believed among conservatives, and there is certainly some merit to it. Certainly, there is a lot of time wasted teaching the educators' values, overtly and covertly. I just don't think that's the whole story.

As to the tests, I believe what they measure is not quite what we want to know about what students are learning. We teach an adaptability in America - not just in our schools but in our entire culture - that is not such a priority elsewhere. I do not trust the reports of international test comparisons. There are too many exposes that those other countries that are supposedly eating our kids' lunch are not including everyone in their test group. Most European countries, for example, routinely exclude their school immigrant populations from the data, while ours are included. Further, we have more immigrants.

togo said...

The number of immigrants"/immigrants"(as in code for Muslims)in Europe seems to exaggerated by many. Though no doubt they are more highly represented in the school systems
due to earlier having much higher fertility rates.

Native-born US Hispanics (even to the fourth-generation) are failing

Peter Brimelow(who is both something of a "white nationalist" and a free-marketeer) found it worthwhile to write an entire book(and he's not a prolific author) attacking the NEA/AFT. So I think he doesn't entirely believe the "whites are doing fine academically, it's the blacks and hispanics that are the problem" notion that I've seen at GNXP.com and some other places. It's not like he was likely to make any money on the book.

The book received a lot of praise from various persons skeptical of the dominant left-liberal orthodoxy:

P.S. I'd like to know the percentages on the exclusion of learning disabled students from testing in the US. And are all non-English speakers really included?