Hope in academia?
Thanks again to Dennis Dutton’s Arts & Letters Daily for the link to Graphs on the death of Marxism, postmodernism, and other stupid academic fads.
The author, named “agnostic”, did a text search on articles from the journals indexed at JSTOR (you have to be at a university to use it, or you can pay yourself). He searched for the number of times certain faddish words like Marxism, deconstruction, post colonialism, hegemony, and the like were used in academic prose. He found that they all peaked—some in the late 1990s, others in the early 2000s—and are on the decline.
There are a number of caveats to his analysis, which he acknowledges. The biggest is that the counts are normalized by the number of articles published nor the number of authors publishing. Plus, he didn’t check for the growth of any new fad words,
Still, it is hard not to be hopeful that some academics in the humanities are regaining their minds.
Too many kids in school?
I had never been to that blog before, so I was delighted to find a discussion of Charles Murray’s contention that there are too many kids going to college in the post College is Still the Best Payoff. The analysis presented by the blogger isn’t fully convincing and I don’t think he countered Murray’s suggestion that the best in trades earn more than the average or below average with college degrees.
Murray is well known for arguing that too many kids with “low IQs” are going to college when they should not.
On this topic was a link to the blog The Inductivist, by a gentleman who might also be a statistician. Look for the post from Wednesday, August 27, 2008, wherein he states
Every semester I get a stack of confidential letters describing all sorts of diagnosed learning disorders, along with requests to make accommodations for these students. They need extra time on exams, permission to record lectures, etc.
Educators seem to be more comfortable recognizing limits if they are understood as disorders. We are told that these students are not dumb; they are smart, but just face extra obstacles.
Maybe people don’t like “dumb” because it sounds like forever, and labeling it as a disability enhances our compassion for the person, and it gives hope that eventually we’ll discover a cure. The medicalization of IQ might be the only palatable way to confront the reality.
I left this comment:
I was a visiting professor at Central Michigan U last fall, teaching statistics courses.
I got one of these letters in each of three classes of about 30 students. My impression, after talking with colleagues, was that this was a usual number.
If these letters truly represent learning disabilities among introductory statistics students, then that is an enormous rate.
So what is more likely: (1) The rate of learning disabilities in colleges students really is about 1 in 30, or (2) Learning disabilities are being over diagnosed so that kids don’t drop out of school (and that school loses tuition dollars).
JH, what do you say?
Henry Ford Anniversary
Today was an important anniversary date for Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Strangely, they didn’t post any information about it on their site.
Again from A&LD, a link to a story about the discovery of a new prime number. Edson Smith at UCLA lead a group to find a new Mersenne prime, which is a prime of the form 2P-1 where P itself is a prime. Smith’s new prime has P = 43,112,609, and the new prime itself has 13 million digits!
You have to be a real geek to get excited about news like this. But if you own at least one copy of The Book of Prime Number Records by Paulo Ribenboim, then today is a happy day.
Stuff Scientists Like
You know those scientific inaccuracies that the directors miss or ignore? Explosions in space and whatnot?
Well, scientists love to gripe about them. Loudly and repeatedly. Both while in the theater and thereafter.
Later they enjoy arguing about whether said inaccuracies fundamentally undermine the quality of the film. Eventually someone gets frustrated and storms off.
Anybody who has ever watched a movie/television with me will know just what he is talking about.
“Why can’t they just pay some guy like me fifty bucks to tell them that that’s impossible! Hell, there are hundreds of geeks out there that would edit scripts for free! This makes no sense! Let me tell you exactly why what there trying can’t be done…”