I've always wondered why, despite Orson Welles reputation, his films were so difficult to find. Here's one of the few exceptions.
Schlock Mercenary: December 9, 2013
2 hours ago
Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
A great discovery solves a great problem but there is a grain of discovery in the solution of any problem. Your problem may be modest; but if it challenges your curiosity and brings into play your inventive faculties, and if you solve it by your own means, you may experience the tension and enjoy the triumph of discovery. Such experiences at a susceptible age may create a taste for mental work and leave their imprint on mind and character for a lifetime.Here's the entire preface, preprefaced with more of my thoughts on the subject.
Thus, a teacher of mathematics has a great opportunity. lf he fills his allotted time with drilling his students in routine operations he kills their interest, hampers their intellectual development, and misuses his opportunity. But if he challenges the curiosity of his students by setting them problems proportionate to their knowledge, and helps them to solve their problems with stimulating questions, he may give them a taste for, and some means of, independent thinking.
International testing began in the mid-1960s with a test of mathematics. The First International Mathematics Study tested 13-year-olds and high-school seniors in 12 nations. American 13-year-olds scored significantly lower than students in nine other countries and ahead of students in only one. On a test given only to students currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students scored last, behind those in the 11 other nations. On a test given to seniors not currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students again scored last.
The First International Science Study was given in the late 1960s and early 1970s to 10-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and seniors. The 10-year-olds did well, scoring behind only the Japanese; the 14-year-olds were about average. Among students in the senior year of high school, Americans scored last of eleven school systems.
In the Second International Mathematics Study (1981-82), students in 15 systems were tested. The students were 13-year-olds and seniors. The younger group of U.S. students placed at or near the median on most tests. The American seniors placed at or near the bottom on almost every test. The “average Japanese students achieved higher than the top 5% of the U.S. students in college preparatory mathematics” and “the algebra achievement of our most able students (the top 1%) was lower than that of the top 1% of any other country.” (The quote is from Curtis C. McKnight and others, The Underachieving Curriculum: Assessing U.S. Mathematics from an International Perspective, pp. 17, 26-27). I summarized the international assessments from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s in a book called National Standards in American Education: A Citizen’s Guide (Brookings, 1995).
The point worth noting here is that U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.
Does it matter?
In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964. He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.” He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores. Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.
Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”
Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”
For the last three decades the government has pursued a wide range of policies that have had the effect of redistributing income upward. For example our trade policy, by deliberately placing manufacturing workers in direct competition with low paid workers in the developing world, has lowered the wages of large segments of the work force. By contrast, we have left in place the restrictions that protect doctors and other highly paid professionals from foreign competition, ensuring that their pay stays high.
The question at issue is not the amount of redistribution, the question is the direction of the redistribution. The Post seems to want readers to imagine that the upward redistribution of the last three decades was just a fact of nature, as opposed to being an outcome of government policy. That is a major distortion of reality.
It is usual practice for research organizations (and in some cases, the government) to provide advance copies of their reports to objective journalists. That way, journalists have an opportunity to review the data and can write about them in a more informed fashion. Sometimes, journalists are permitted to share this embargoed information with diverse experts who can help the journalists understand possibly alternative interpretations.I know I've hammered this point before, but the education reform movement has been playing a very aggressive long game when it comes to lobbying and PR. Add to that a tradition of advocate research and a culture that tends to eschew firewalls and turn a blind eye to conflicts of interest, then lubricate the gears with a flood of government contracts and private grants. The result is a movement prone to all manner of problems and abuses.
In this case, however, the OECD and ED have instead given their PISA report to selected advocacy groups that can be counted on, for the most part, to echo official interpretations and participate as a chorus in the official release.* These are groups whose interpretation of the data has typically been aligned with that of the OECD and ED—that American schools are in decline and that international test scores portend an economic disaster for the United States, unless the school reform programs favored by the administration are followed.
The Department’s co-optation of these organizations in its official release is not an attempt to inform but rather to manipulate public opinion. Those with different interpretations of international test scores will see the reports only after the headlines have become history.
Such manipulation in the release of official government data would never be tolerated in fields where official data are taken seriously. Can you imagine the Census Bureau providing its poverty data in advance only to advocacy groups that supported the administration, and then releasing its report to the public at an event at which these advocacy groups were given slots on a program to praise the administration’s anti-poverty efforts? What if the Bureau of Labor Statistics gave its monthly unemployment report in advance to Democrats, but not to Republicans, and then invited Democratic congressional leaders to participate in the official release?
In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston, researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in high-poverty schools with low test scores, where kids performed at just around the 30th percentile in both reading and math. To fill some of those positions, they selected from a special group of transfer teachers, all of whom had top 20 percent track records of improving student achievement at lower poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to earn $20,000 to switch jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through the usual processes, in which principals select candidates from a regular applicant pool.but I have one big problem with the way she presents the findings.
If a transfer teacher stayed in her new, tougher placement for two years, she’d earn the $20,000 in five installments, regardless of how well her new students performed. In public education, $20,000 is a whopping sum, far more generous than the typical merit pay bonus of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
In the process, a remarkable thing happened. The transfer teachers significantly outperformed control-group teachers in the elementary grades, raising student achievement by 4 to 10 percentile points—a big improvement in the world of education policy, where infinitesimal increases are often celebrated.
That’s why the results of a new study, the Talent Transfer Initiative, financed by the federal government, are so important. Surprisingly, this experiment found merit pay can work.Up until about a month ago, we all knew what merit pay meant. Under these systems of compensation, your pay would vary based on certain performance metrics from the previous period.
Those victims should not be abandoned -- no American should be allowed to starve in retirement. But the federal government should not step in to guarantee those false promises, any more than it should attempt to re-create the vulnerable housing developments that were washed away by the storm.The context is that of the Detroit bankruptcy, where retirees are getting 16 cents on the dollar. There is also issues with health care that I am not clear about, but I am presuming that these people are eligible for Medicare (they are not eligible for Social Security since they did not participate in the contributions).
As you know, Adam Smith was a moral philosopher. You might want to ponder this quote from the Wealth of Nations:
“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.”I think that this really is the piece that modern objectivists (Randians) miss. Even in Atlas Shrugged, the hyper-capitalist society was clearly defined as being better for the average worker. In fact, the story of the company becoming socialist suggested that socialism under-mined values like generosity.