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Monday, December 03, 2007

Educate Women. Destroy (and/or modify) Inferior Cultures

DeAngelis, S.F. (2007). Educating girls and human freedom. Enterprise Resilience Management Blog (Bradd C. Hayes, Ed.). December 3, 2007. Available online: http://enterpriseresilienceblog.typepad.com/enterprise_resilience_man/2007/12/educating-girls.html.

The reason I started blogging was that I was afraid my thoughts were limited by my poor capacity to remember what I think. Working memory is very limited, and I feared that I was not applying principles from one part of my thoughts to another. I was optimistic that blogging would help reveal these faults to me, and help me change my mind.

One of the areas I have improved on is the education of women in the Gap. For a long time, I bought into justifications like this:

As life expectancies have increased along with leisure time and increased opportunities, many cultures are re-visiting how they treat women, including how they educate them. Overall, this is a good thing. What business could thrive if half its employees were uneducated, untrained, and under-utilized? The same is true for societies. A society that undervalues the contribution that can be made by its women finds itself relying on half its brainpower and half its strength.

which, frankly is weak.

I first ran into this line of reasoning in Lewis' The Emergence of Modern Turkey, in the context of Kemalist reforms. The argument made is that only formally educating males reduces the quantity of workers, without affecting their quality. However, a work force that enjoys a childhood with more intensive education -- which could well be the case if every child essentially has an informal teacher in the home, or if boys do not have to compete with girls for the attention of formal teachers -- could well outperform a larger though poorer quality workforce. The answer is then non-obvious. Further, as someone who believes that tradition in largely an accumulation of strategies that worked in the past, such radical change struck me as a recipe for the destruction of a functioning culture and its replacement with something else.

And this brings me back to blogging. The first argument (educate women = a better workforce) is a logical leap. The second argument is true. But the first argument doesn't matter. The Gap is full of inferior cultures. Therefore, their change is a good thing.

"Inferior" of course means worse, and these Gappish low-quality cultures come in two broad kinds. First, the Islamic Gap contains modern cultures that are capable of high-level hostile engagement (physical, mental, moral) against globalization. Whatever problems existed in Islamic civilization a century ago have been exacerbated by exposure to French intellectuals, and we now have a truly bad situation on our hands with no end in sight.

Second, the African Gap contains populations that are simply lacking in the infrastructure required for success. Peoples in the Gap need to be scaffolded, with enough infrastructure provided to them so that they can climb up to the Core. While much of the the Islamic world is experiences a civil war that (hopefully) will end in radical culture transformation, Africa by contrast merely needs a reasonable chance of success.

Educating women is critical to both of these approaches. Through the Uma, educating women can break an otherwise continuous line of cultural transmission which gives us this mess. In Africa, educating women can lead to better educational outcomes. While these goals are different, both require women who are largely taken out of their traditional space and incorporated into the male-oriented formal domain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

General intelligence, working memory, and how American Public Schools hurt those who need them most

Colom, R., Rebollo, I., Palacios, A., Juan-Espinosa, M., & Kyllonen, P.C. (2004). Working memory is (almost) perfectly predicted by g. Intelligence, 32(3), 277-296. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2003.12.002.

Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Half Sigma, and other bloggers of note are going around on the question of the heritability of intelligence in general, and the possibility of biological causes for the differences in general intelligence obsered in different groups. While occasionally people speak carelessly, it's remarkable how far the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of all human differences being the result of different environments has already collapsed. There are three traditional ways to attack the notion in biologically-driven racial differences in general intelligence

  1. There is no such thing as general intelligence

  2. There are no such things are races

  3. The environmental conditions in which the races tend to exist are unequal

The first two criticism are discredited. One can deny g or ancestry in the same way that one can deny darwinian selection or the old Earth: through determined dogmatism.

The third criticism remains, if only because of the horrifying inequalities in the world today. Of course, environmental inequalities can rapidly turn into biological inequalities. One only needs to look at the Inbred Gap to know that. Yet it's also true that one can be trained to perform better on any subset of tests that are used to measure general intelligence. Thus the Flynn Effect: this or that measure will suddenly deviate from the rest, causing illusionary growth or shrinkage in differences.

One measure that very closely approximates g ("(almost) perfectly predicts," in the word of the paper's excited authors) is working memory.

This article analyzes if working memory (WM) is especially important to understand g. WM comprises the functions of focusing attention, conscious rehearsal, and transformation and mental manipulation of information, while g reflects the component variance that is common to all tests of ability. The centrality of WM in individual differences in information processing leads to some cognitive theorists to equate it with g. There are several studies relating WM with psychometric abilities like reasoning, fluid intelligence, spatial visualization, spatial relations, or perceptual speed, but there are very few studies relating WM with g, defined by several diverse tests. In three studies, we assessed crystallised intelligence (Gc), spatial ability (Gv), fluid intelligence (Gf), and psychometric speed (Gs) using various tests from the psychometric literature. Moreover, we assessed WM and processing speed (PS). WM tasks involve storage requirements, plus concurrent processing. PS tasks measure the speed by which the participants take a quick decision about the identity of some stimuli; 594 participants were tested. Confirmatory factor analyses yielded consistently high estimates of the loading of g over WM (.96 on average). WM is the latent factor best predicted by g. It is proposed that this is so because the later has much in common with the main characteristic of the former.

Working memory allows you to make sense of information, so that you can remember it. It is most important in that it makes it easier to memorize things. This also explains why school appears to lower general intelligence of high-performing populations, such as Chinese: if you are in an environment where high academic achievement is socially punished, excess working memory capacity naturally atrophies. Similarly, this may explain why the heritability of g increases in life: once out of the socialized public schools, an individuals' environment is more under his control, and an individual that enjoys tasks that involve the comprehension of complex materials will strengthen those neural connections more.

If g really is working memory, the educational implications are huge. The soft bigotry of low expectations is especially brutal to those apparently with low working memory capacity. Because working memory does not matter once a task is memorized. Memorization is the way-out of the trap of low working memory. And what's needed for memorization is clear: practice, academic discipline, and practice. Yet who believes that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education most majority-black schools are models of academic seriousness and discipline?

Even more tragic -- if the link between general intelligence and working memory is strong -- working memory is trivially easy to test. There's no need for race-conscious policies at all to battle what may be the worst racial inequality through education. We could close much of the achievement gap, regardless of average biological differences between races.

Instead, we have America's public schools.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Courtesy of Gene Expression, a sad tale of an intellectual meltdown over at Little Green Footballs (a right-of-center American blog) against Brussels Journal (a right-of-center European blog). Part of the case was this post:

In this society, everyone has grown up on lies that few are equipped to challenge. The older ones have grown up with plastic called leatherette, with cigarettes as symbols of sex appeal, and with Negroes in the front line in the Army but in the back line at the bus stop. And the younger ones have grown up in a world where a short coffee is “tall” and a medium one is “grande,” and one’s life is ruined for pointing out that the American blacks’ mean IQ of 85, and not racism, is the cause of their underepresentation in the upper echelons of government, business and the professions.

What's odd, of course, is that thinking about current differences in general intelligence (whatever their cause) sheds light on institutional, unjust discrimination in our society.

Consider "retardation" (the hip special-ed term of another day, roughly an IQ score below 70). There are two major categories of retardation

  • familial retardation, where the child's IQ is roughly the average of his parents'

  • organic retardation, where the child's IQ is significantly below the average of his parents

Individuals who are organically retarded have substantial difficulty in leading a normal life. Often organic retardation goes along with poor hygiene, poor grooming, or other general deficiencies in behavior.

Familial retardation, in contrast, pretty much means only that someone does less well in problems that involve spatial and logical reasoning.

Clearly, one's life is better if one is neither. But the problems facing the organically retarded are much, much more severe than those facing the familially retarded. And likewise, care that is appropriate for the organically retarded (a strong focus on basic social skills) would be neglectful for the familially retarded (who may require, by contrast, more intense schooling).

Yet many school systems lump both organically and familially retarded children together in one special education problem. As a consequence, the whole system of special education is biased toward organically retarded (disproportionately white) children who have basic problems with grooming and social interaction, deprivig familially retarded (disproportionately black) children of precisely the sort of intense schooling they need.

Of course, this is not to say that all familiailly retarded students are black, nor that all organically retarded students are white. Nor that most whites are organically retarded, nor that most blacks are familially retarded.

But the larger point remains: ignoring science because it is inconvenient does not make the world a better place. Ignoring inconvenient facts makes the world a worse place.

Ignoring inconvenient facts can lead to racist outcomes.

And such ignorance can cause stupid disagreements. Like LGF's attack on Brussels Journal.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More on school reform

I think one can reasonable sum of the developmental environment of a born-citizen of the United States as such:

0-18: stasis within natural bounds.
18-beyond: competitive free-markets in nearly all fields

Wouldn't it be more valuable to focus in teaching skills until the beginning of adolescence, and then focusing on career- and success- goals once adolescence begins?

(gnxp talked about this years ago, by the way)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

US Public Schools -- Still Terrible (after all these years)

Courtesy of Robert Paterson, who DNI informed me also attended the Boyd conference:

Spending v. Reading at American Public Schools

This blog's first post was on the terrible state of America's public schools. Our country, which has by far the best university's in the world, has a broken and sick system for educating those under 18.

I'm sympathetic to No Child Left Behind, not because it a wise policy, but because it is a step in smashing a system which is far, far worse.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Against The Racial Gap

It goes without saying that the Iraq War, as it has been fought since the "occupation" was begun, has been a disaster. Thousands of American lives have been lost in the persuit transition the Sunni Arab regime of Iraq into a liberal mandarin democracy. In terms of American lives lost, the Iraq War has been the greatest foreign policy disaster since 9/11... if not the Vietnam War. The Iraq War, 2004 till now, is the greatest stain on George Bush's legacy.

The Case Against George Bush

The decisions fo Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, alone, make up for Bush's errors in other places.

The goal of our time is "shrinking the gap," saving from lawlessness that portion of humanity stuck in tribal warfare and murderous violence. An important part of thsi is shrinking the Afro-Islamic Gap, using everything from a military-industrial complex to mass humiliation to save lives and make the world a better place.

However, there is a gap in America too. Most egregiously, tens of thousands of infants are put to death every year in abortions. In April, the Supreme Court took the first steps of ending recreational infanticide within the United States.

Now, more great news: the Supreme Court has sharply limited the ability of school districts to use race as a factor in school assignments.

A Ghettoized Community

It's impossible to talk about race in America without describing the population known as "black," so here goes. American blacks generally form a hyrbid population, with about a 20% ingression of caucasoid genetics into an otherwise 80% negroid population. (By comparison, Tiger Woods is 25% negroid while Barack Obama is 50%. Turkish "Turks" are about 20% Turkik and 80% Anatolian/"Greek".)

An old and regrettable policy in the United States has been to regard as "black" anyone with any negroid blood, and to then use this designation to determine public services. (A variation on this are is to regard anyone with any non-caucausoid blood as a "minority.") Whatever the motives of the racialists who created and enforced the plan, the effect has been the same: to minimize the exposure of "blacks" to the market system and instead enforced a ghettoized economy of rents and duties on them.

There is a reason that "African Americans" (those "blacks" whose ancestors were slaves in the American South) perform poorly as a population, and it is neither their genes nor their past as slaves (they share both with their higher-performing Afro-Carribiean fellow citizens). Rather, it is the history of race-based separation that they have faced in America, from the end of reconstruction to now, rather devised (largely) by American Democrats who felt that blacks were unable to compete with whites before Brown v. Board... to (largely) American Democrats who felt that blacks were unable to compete with whites after Brown v. Board.

The Supreme Court's decision today is a powerful blow to a racialist America, and a large step forward in the integration of all Americans into the Core.

Thank you Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Kennedy,Justice Scalia, and Justice Thomas.

Thank you, President Bush.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Politically correct. Yes. Realistic? No

Slashdot links the Guardian's summary of what the UK Ministery of Defense fears the world may look like in 30 years. Some thoughts below:

Actually, this would be a revolutionary petite bourgeious...

"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

And this:

Resentment among young people in the face of unrepresentative regimes "will find outlets in political militancy, including radical political Islam whose concept of Umma, the global Islamic community, and resistance to capitalism may lie uneasily in an international system based on nation-states and global market forces", the report warns. The effects of such resentment will be expressed through the migration of youth populations and global communications, encouraging contacts between diaspora communities and their countries of origin.

... is perhaps optimistic. Of greater concern to Europe are European Islamic No-Go Zones.

Nice bit about China though:

Tension between the Islamic world and the west will remain, and may increasingly be targeted at China "whose new-found materialism, economic vibrancy, and institutionalised atheism, will be an anathema to orthodox Islam".

The world would be very different in 9/11 had been directed against Shanghai and Beijing. Perhaps, as China connects with more and more New Core powers and threatens Islamic ruleset absolutism, that day may still come.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The National and Homeland Security Amendment

The class that abolished a parliamentary republic to embrace direct democracy still has that form of government. There's a notable drop in participation, which is typical of classes that undergo such a constitutional shift. Students -- and I think I can generalize this to most human beings -- dislike participation and deliberation, and go out of their way to avoid it.

The Tyranny of the People?

Nonetheless, after my suggestion the now leaderless class agreed to discuss the following potential amendment to the US Constitution:

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

By the end of the initial discussion, the class was largely split between people who opposed the amendment outright and others who opposed "loopholes in it" (such as the implied persecution of the Catholic Church).

I then altered the assignment, so that students were told that this amendment was guaranteed to pass, but they had the power to alter it to make it less offensive. While still vocally opposed by a healthy minority, the following revision removed most of the opposition

(i) No person who, through religious doctrine, belief, or sympathy may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

What changed? (Additions in italics, subtractions struck-through):

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

While the changes "narrowed" the amendment by moving away from foreign-control to actualy theats, the alterations "expanded" the amendment by including threats to homeland security, and not just national security. Two religious groups were openly discussed by the class: the Roman Catholic Church and the Ku Klux Klan. The RCC is apparently disestablished by the original amendment, while the Klan is apparently persecuted by the revised one.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Death of a Republic

"Congratulations on the abolition of the Parliamentary Republic and on the establishment of Direct Democracy!" Thus I ended my class today.

The People Are The Powerful

My Classes are Democracies and hold elections every week. I run my classrooms on a variant of the Iraqi model, with a proportionally-elected Assembly, a President chosen with 2/3rds of the Assembly, and a Prime Minister named by the President approved by half of the Assembly. I've played around with modifications of the design, but I enjoy starting off classes with the Assembly / President / Premier model of government.

The constitution can be modified by the Prime Minister presenting a proposal to the assembly, whereupon it must be approved by a 2/3rds vote. If so legislated, it must pass with a 2/3rds plurality in a plebiscite. The Constitution has been radically restructured before, and every time the variation has left the old infrastructure intact while some portion of it was changed. Once, a Supreme Court was established that could overrule the elected government at will, creating a Judicial Supremacist state. Another time, a Lebanese system of "confessions" was eneacted to parcel out different posts to different cliques. Thirdly, the Assembly was replaced with an "Assembly-of-the-Whole," with every student having one vote. And just last semester, an openly corrupt Prime Minister oversaw a series of fraudulent elections which created a very Medici feel to teaching.

But today, for the first time, the Republic itself passed into the world of memories and dreams.

Read more ...

13:55 Posted in Education | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: teaching, microdemocracy

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Student Nature, Introduction: Students as Genetic Organisms

My last series, Learning Evolved, was inspired by the fourth post in Classroom Democracy, "The Evolution of Learning." I took a two-page reaction paper and turned it into a sixteen page report because I was interested in the nexus between our evolutionary history and educational present. And now this series follows the pattern, turning the rumination of the first part of Learning Evolved, "Darwinism-Cognitivism," into a survey of the effects of genetics on teaching. Yet it also is inspired by the fourth part of that series, the humble bibliography. I had taken notes on and read many articles that I was not able to fit into the pages of Learning Evolved. Therefore, I went out of my way to write a series with as many previously neglected citations as possible.

Besides this prologue, Student Nature has four parts. The synopses below introduce the readings, but the individual posts should speak for themselves.

  • Part I, The Nature of the Student
    As all people share a common Universal Human Nature, all learners share a common Universal Student Nature. The all-student cognitive apparatus includes such things as the information-processing system (the OODA Loop), social cooperation, and automaticity.

  • Part II, The Natures of Our Students
    No two students are alike, and the particular student natures vary with age, sex, group, and of course individual. Some ideas are genetically harder for some students to grasp than others, while some types of intelligences and classroom behavior are irregularly distributed around the globe. A one-size-fits-all philosophy cannot possibly work.

  • Part III, Nature and Her Consequences
    Old ideas fall away when exposed to genetic scrutiny, and others stand only perilously. Yet if we aren't critical of our beloved ideas, reality will be. If they are not reinforced and adapted now they will be crushed later.

  • Part IV, Bibliography
    From Academy of Management Review to WITI Women, Alas Poor Darwin to Human Nature Review, the academic and popular literature is scoured to provide the best possible tdaxp series.

As I said once before: To all those who are interested in the intersection between evolution and education: enjoy!

09:40 Posted in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

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