William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 145 of 606

Most Damning Indictment On Primary Education You’ll Ever See

Don’t think too hard, Johnny boy.

The Washington Post published an email from an anonymous “veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland,” that I am only just stopping myself from quoting in full.

It’s all there. The relentless, crushing demand for less-than-mediocrity, the exculpation of the kiddies from every duty and responsibility, the insane parents (who waited too long to have their one precious) demanding not that their issue learn anything but are “awarded” high grades, insipid, cowering “leadership”, the reliance on educational fads recommended by “research,” the soul-sucking banality, the quest for absolute uniformity.

I think back to the Lower Permian to a music teacher I had in high school, a man who wouldn’t last a day in a modern school. He insisted we learned. He punished when we didn’t. He would glower and throw his baton in the air in disgust. He would not ask but demand the best we could give. He wanted perfection and though I can’t say he got it, he got something close. He’d be chased into the woods by a pack of rabid, grade-obsessed, raving parents today.

Maybe the biggest relevant difference between then and now for us is the insane lust for quantification, which are the quotes I’ll highlight:

In a world where I am constantly instructed to “differentiate” my methods, I am condemned for using different resources than those provided because if I do, we are unable to share “data” with the county and the nation at large…

Sure, using different resources and strategies among schools may make data sharing more difficult, but haven’t we gone far enough with data? Each child is not a number or a data point. They can only be compared to the developmental capabilities set forth by medicine, not education, and to their own previous progress.

Seems everybody has to have like data, else how can comparisons be made? If it can’t be quantified, Science says, it isn’t real, it hasn’t happened. So artificial constructs are created, one-size-fits-all tests which become the sole criteria for success. As Agnes Larson told us, just wait until the Feds—driven into action by panting do-gooders and hey-sounds-like-a-fine-idea-to-me-ers (yes, me-ers)—do the same to college which “accept” government money. Student loans, which the government now controls (thanks to Obamacare; remember how they snuck that in?), “accepting” money will be defined as taking the money given to students as loans.

In addition, teachers cannot and should not be evaluated on the grades of their students. Who then would try to teach the boy who will never progress past third grade due to a brain injury? Who then will teach the girl that refuses to complete any work? Who then would teach any special education classes? What stops me from skewing my grades to keep the world off my back? Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.

The doctrine of Unexpected Consequences dictates that as soon as teachers are paid by how well their students do, then all students will become A+ students. If there was a mania for “teaching to the test” before, that’s the only form of teaching that we’ll see in the future. Retesting, allowable or now, will be a regular feature. There have already been mini-scandals where teachers themselves have “taken” tests for students. Look for these to become non-scandalous.

Though I referenced Robert Greene Ingersoll formerly, Clifford Stroll has already addressed our country’s educational misgivings in a single sentence: “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, and understanding is not wisdom.” It is time that we fall on our sword. In our rabid pursuit of data and blame, we have sacrificed wisdom and abandoned its fruits.

Amen, sister, amen.

The Slow Death Of Perversion

My, what a pretty goat.

“Used to be, my boy,” said the grandfather, “We used to call people who wanted to bugger the creatures of the forests perverts.”

“What’s a pervert, grandpa?” asked Jimmy.

“A pervert? Why, somebody who engages in unnatural sexual acts. Or wishes they could.”

“My teacher says there are no such things as unnatural sexual acts, there are only bigots who want to impose their mortality of the rest of us.”

“That’s morality, Jimmy” said the grandfather, patting his head.


Bestiality is legal in certain Enlightened countries (you know who you are), though the custom is under attack from animal “rights” activists who worry that the four-footed objects of lust are suffering because they cannot give “consent.” Animals also don’t give “consent” to being made into sausages because they are (what used to be called) dumb beasts, but that is a diminishing view.

The continuing legality of barnyard beddings is a battle between factions on the left and it’s not clear which side will win, lust or “rights.” Lust is making great strides in the West and it can’t be counted out, but I’m betting on “rights”, only because they have the edge in going public. Still difficult to admit that you think of your pet armadillo “in that way.”

But not for everybody. Like those (mainly women) who write “Monster Porn”. Heard of this? A genre—also called “crypto-smut”—where women imagine extraordinarily explicit and anatomically challenging encounters with anything from Bigfoot, to tentacled space aliens, to leprechauns, to squishy sea creatures, to satyrs, to lusty canines, to who knows what. Business Week (who else?) did an exposé on the subject. It discovered titles like “Alien Seed”, “Taken By the Monsters 4”, “Boffing Bigfoot”, and “the newly released ‘Bigfoot Did Me … And I Liked It'” [ellipsis added: the text at the link is NSFW and may not be safe for home, either].

Scientific American (a journal of politics), always at the forefront, caught hold of this in John Horgan’s “What ‘Monster Porn’ Says about Science and Sexuality.

Horgan is anxious to tell us he’s hip: “Prudes have attacked monster porn for promoting sexual violence and bestiality.” Prude is judgmental, a word which acknowledges there are lines between normal and perverse. Horgan thus hints that monster porn is not perverse, though perhaps bestiality is. But monster porn just is literary (to stretch a word) bestiality. There are distinctions between acts and imagination, though surely both can be perverse—if perversion exists.

Here’s what I love about monster porn: It’s a wonderfully wacky reminder that human sexuality is too weird, wild and woolly to be captured by modern science, and especially by theories that reduce our behaviors to genes…

Evolutionary psychology is hard-pressed to explain homosexual lust, let alone lust for Godzilla.

So Horgan is not a “prude” on this wild and woolly matter (Tom Cruise says scientology is the same) but that science can’t explain it, either. Which is not surprising because science is necessarily mute of the subjects of ethics and morality.

Not that long ago man-on-man sexual activities were held perverse by the majority. Yet when backwoodsman Phil Robertson described the nature of these acts in far less detail than the books noted above our notables took dramatically to their fainting couches and pretended to be horrified. Most of the horror was of the idea that anybody could say they found man-on-man sexual activities perverse. There has thus been a reversal: it is now perverse to be disgusted.

An example from our cultural elites, FX’s new show Chozen. Its Facebook page (also NSFW) says it’s “an animated comedy about its title character, ‘Chozen,’ a gay white rapper fresh out of prison.” The pictures and tag lines (one especially raunchy tag-line about prison has been removed recently) prove the emphasis is on “gay.” As Variety says, think “oiled-up teddy bears“. Even Forbes delicately enthuses, “Chozen knows exactly who he is and makes no attempts to hide it. He’s an openly gay, white rapper with a taste for the kinky and possibly illegal” acts. They say the series is “hard to judge.”

Others are wondering at the loss of perversion. Like Elizabeth McCaw, who concludes that if perversion are those acts contrary to natural human male-female mating, then man-on-man sexual activities are perverse. But then so are re-marriage after divorce, pornography, and masturbation. These acts are now celebrated, with elites championing the education of masturbation as early as grade school.

McCaw’s natural law position has the benefit of being understandable and clear, even if you don’t agree with it. Further, it has a sound philosophical basis and workable rules with a long tradition of common assent. Now, if you oppose natural law, you still must draw a line or no line, but based on what? Opinion, mostly, personal disgust or delight. “I don’t feel it’s wrong” is often heard. “As long as it doesn’t harm anybody” is too, but this is always a non sequitur because the opposition (e.g. holders of natural law) claim there is harm. But never mind that here.

The future? The chipping away by the elites will continue and fewer things will be called perverse. It’s already a toss up on which side of the divide polygamy lies. Sexual activities with children, especially infants, is likely to remain a perversion for the foreseeable future, but the age which a person is considered “consenting” will shrink. Like bestiality, necrophilia will come to seem less perverse, mostly because of the “no harm” argument, but considerable social stigmas will remain. Men pretending to be women and vice versa will gain in prominence and privilege; others will be required to play along (as it were).

Sexual activities in public, particularly man-on-man acts, will continue to be “celebrated”; see for example particular festivals in San Francisco, Rose Bowl (same-sex “wedding”) parades, Thanksgiving (Kinky Boots) parades, etc.). In one Enlightened country it is already now not illegal (saying “it’s legal” doesn’t capture the proper tone) to masturbate in public. The judge allowing this employed a “no harm” variant. Look for more open flies in your neighborhood; more nudity of every kind.

As above, it will seem increasingly socially but not sexually perverse to dispute these trends. To remain chaste or virgin is already an excuse for comedy and pity; these states will soon be badges of dishonor, they are already said to be “unhealthy.” People in the spotlight will be expected to name their objects of lust. The nascent movement in Christianity which identifies same-sex lust as a “gift” from God will gain strength (lust for children, animals, the dead and so on is not yet seen as a “gift”). It’s unclear how long until you’re expected to send visitors to your home out into the street so that passersby might have a go at them.

Recommended reading: Anne Hendershott’s The Politics of Deviance.

Update Even before the writing was dry, pixelly speaking, the predictions have proved correct.

National Academy Of Sciences Mistakes Politics For Science. Again

Only immoral people don’t buy these.

Sometimes I want to write but only tears will come.

I (a member of no party) quote from the opening of a recent “scientific” study published by that august organization, the National Academy of Sciences:

Although protecting the environment is likely to be a priority for political liberals (a category that typically corresponds to the Democratic Party in the United States), political conservatives (a category that typically corresponds to the Republican Party in the United States) may find that this issue conflicts with the ideology to which they subscribe.

Yes, lefties love the earth, would lay down their lives for her; they call her pet names (Gaia, Mother); they want to protect her, non-ideologically “save” here, because if they didn’t she would disappear into a quantum hole and forever vanish. Or something. Righties, the big meanies, want to dig that quantum hole; they want to destroy the environment because the only thing green they love is money; they would sooner pee in a snowbank than in a low-flush toilet: they have no choice, the ideology to which they subscribe won’t let them do anything but.

The peer-reviewed science paper is “Political ideology affects energy-efficiency attitudes and choices” by Dena Gromet and some other delightful intellectuals.

Gromet first asked some folks about their “moral obligation” to reduce “the level of carbon emissions that harm the environment.” After a needlessly complex statistical analysis he concluded “that more politically conservative individuals were less in favor of investment in energy-efficient technology than were those who were more politically liberal.” Which could also be put “liberals were more in favor of higher government spending.” Investment forsooth!

Gromet’s second great scientific “finding”: “In a real-choice context, more conservative individuals were less likely to purchase a more expensive energy-efficient light bulb when it was labeled with an environmental message than when it was unlabeled.” It will turn out (see below) Gromet could equally have written, “liberal individuals were more likely to purchase a more expensive bulb when it was labeled with an environmental message.”

Gromet showed 210 people recruited from some college two light bulbs, a lethal-mercury-filled eco-bulb with or without the sticker “Protect the Environment” which cost either $0.50 or $1.50 and a paleolithic now-banned-to-protect-the-environment incandescent bulb which cost $0.50. Gromet gave people $2 for their troubles and another $2 to buy a bulb and were told they could keep the change after the “purchase.”

Participants were asked how their “choice would express to others who they were, their values, and their political beliefs, as well as how much it would affirm them”.

I bought a Butterfinger the other day and I recall thinking as I proudly slipped it into my shirt pocket—with enough wrapper sticking out for all to see—how much it affirmed me.

Anyway, Gromet ran some horrific regression input with all sorts of derived values and out popped a wee p-value which confirmed liberals though well of themselves for paying $1.50 for a bulb worth $0.50. I think. The actual analysis is a mess so it’s difficult to tell what happened.

As you can plainly see, this paper, cheerleading as it was for the liberal view, even though this bias was probably unintentional, has nothing to do with science. How moral it is to reduce CO2 is—need I say this?—a moral and not a scientific question. And anyway, the opinions of some people off the street after they were harangued with some left-leaning lecture aren’t even valuable as sociology.

And what does the experiment to buy affirmation bulbs prove? That people will drive their Priuses down to Wholefoods to spend five bucks per “organic” free-range carrot and then proudly put a sticker on their bumper announcing the same, and that others will cruise to the Winn Dixie in their F150s and load up on carrot cake and not feel a frisson of moral delight while doing do?

Big science is now (almost entirely?) a handmaiden of politics.


Thanks to Rob Ryan for alerting us to this, um, paper.

Call For American Studies Association To Expand Boycott To United States

Boycotting for fun and profit since 2013

Members of that well known ethics group the American Studies Association met and decided that the principle of social justice (or something) demanded they boycott Israel. So they did.

Not individuals Israelis, you understand, but the State itself; specially, the universities which are located in that State. But not the people in the universities. As the ASA takes pains to emphasize, “This boycott targets institutions” but “not individual scholars, students, or cultural workers”. Strangely, ASA members can also venture to Israel and collaborate with the academics there. Just not the institutions.

Weak boycott, then. Still, a brave political stance to make. If an Israeli institution makes its way to our shores, they’ll be snubbed by the ASA, of course. Though I’m not too clear on how an Israeli institution can make it the distance. Lot of water between here and there. But hey, these guys all have PhDs so they must know what they’re doing.

Now, I hadn’t heard of the ASA before the boycott so I decided to investigate. Turns out they publish American Quarterly which “represents innovative”—uh oh—“interdisciplinary scholarship” with our “hemispheric neighbors.” Diversity: I forgot diversity; it’s in there, I forget where. What kind of articles can that mean?

How about “‘Oh Hell, May, Why Don’t You People Have a Cookbook?’: Camp Humor and Gay Domesticity“. Goal was to “reconsider the role of domestic space in shaping gay male identity”.

The short story (yes) “Us” by Karen Joy Fowler

It takes our breath away to imagine it. We ourselves have never seen, never eaten these things. Many among us are waiting for a world like that, a world beyond the world.

Sometimes, in these new lands, we found others of our kind. This might mean war. Or sex. Or both.

You understand.

I don’t. But then there was “Cockfight Nationalism: Blood Sport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building.” “This essay explores the symbiotic relationship between animal welfare and ideologies of nation building and exceptionalism during a series of struggles over cockfighting in the new US Empire in the early twentieth century.”

And what has to be my favorite, maybe of all time, Greta Gaard’s “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies.

Isn’t there a good German word for that which is beyond parody? Email me. Sic on all that follows.

What critical framework is sufficiently inclusive to describe these uses of milk across nations, genders, races, species, and environments? Because milk is produced by female mammals, a feminist perspective seems to offer a logical foundation for such inquiry.

Using standard feminist methodology, twentieth-century vegan feminists and animal ecofeminists challenged animal suffering in its many manifestations…by developing a feminist theoretical perspective on the intersections of species, gender, race, class, sexuality, and nature.

Motivated by an intellectual and experiential understanding of the mutually reinforcing interconnections among diverse forms of oppression, vegan feminists and ecofeminists positioned their own liberation and well-being as variously raced, classed, gendered, and sexual humans to be fundamentally interconnected to the well-being of other nondominant human and animal species, augmenting Patricia Hill Collins’s definition of intersectionality to include species as well.

You’ll be luckier than I if you read that not while having cookies (Fig Newtons) and milk. I’m switching to whiskey and never going back.

Listen, these kinds of articles are fun when the faculty gets together in their conference rooms to pleasure each other with tales of oppression and woe—right before they seek teaching releases to concentrate on penning works like “Orthodox Transgressions: The Ideology of Cross-Species, Cross-Class, and Interracial Queerness in Lucía Puenzo’s Novel El niño pez (The Fish Child)“—but they’re frightening the children.

I want to be kind, but it’s almost as if the people who write this stuff actually believe it. Innocent civilians wandering into university libraries pulling down copies of American Quarterly won’t understand the concept of academic oneupmanship: they’ll think the articles are meant to be taken seriously. These poor individuals might even act on those beliefs with Gods knows what ill effects on civilization. And what about the students! The scholarship of ASA members is thus a menace.

So not only is the Israeli boycott a fine idea, it should be expanded immediately to include the United States. And not just to the institutions but the people, too. Join me in signing this petition which demands that ASA members have positively no contact with anybody in Israel or the United States. They are not to give formal talks, classes, or seminars. They are most certainly not to lend anybody reading material. They are not to write anything.

Let’s get going. Together we can make a difference!

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