Anyone interested in education should read this article, ‘The Shadow Scholar,’ in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
‘Ed Dante’ makes a living writing essays for school and university students.
A teenager asked me a couple of week ago whether school and university qualifications were of benefit in finding work in the IT industry.
I said no. School and university qualifications are not generally regarded as providing objective evidence of actually knowing anything, or being able to do anything.
Partly this is because school results, and to a lesser but still significant extent, university results, are an indication, not of skills, knowledge, or ability, but of how much of an effort the teacher thinks has been made, given the student’s struggles, limitations and background.
In other words, a poor student from a home background of drunkeness and violence is likely to be given grades equal to those of a very good student who does not face those difficulties.
This may be kind and motherly and caring, but it is of no help to employers, nor, in the end, to the student.
It also helps if you agree with the teachers’/lecturers’ perspectives and generally suck up to them by pretending to be interested in what they say.
Industry qualifications have no such issues. No one cares if your mother was a heroin addict, or if you have dyslexia or ADHD, or if you think the lecturer is a really cool guy. You do the study, you go to an exam centre, you prove who you are, you take an exam with a high fail rate (up to 90%) in a secure environment with cameras or real people watching you, and you pass or fail.
There is no lily-livered nonsense about some people not coping with exams. If they can’t cope with exams they are not going to cope with the pressures and stress of a real-world job.
And the result is that employers have confidence in the qualifications that are awarded. They show that a person really does know what he or she says she knows, and can do the work he or she says he can.
Some cheating occurs, of course. You can probably slip the manager of a testing centre in Pakistan $1000 to let someone else take the test for you.
But nothing compared with the wholesale rorting of ‘continuous assessment’ at schools and universities.
A couple of quotes from the article:
You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students’ writing. I have seen the word “desperate” misspelled every way you can imagine. And these students truly are desperate. They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren’t getting it.
For those of you who have ever mentored a student through the writing of a dissertation, served on a thesis-review committee, or guided a graduate student through a formal research process, I have a question: Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally competent research? How does that student get by you?
I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created …
… for the first two types of students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven’t mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a particularly quick way to “master” English. And those who are hopelessly deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.
Two days had passed since I last heard from the business student. Overnight I had received 14 e-mails from her. She had additional instructions for the assignment, such as “but more again please make sure they are a good link betwee the leticture review and all the chapter and the benfet of my paper. finally do you think the level of this work? how match i can get it?” …
… it’s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I’d say education is the worst. I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents.
One of the arguments for the existence of God is that without God, there can be no objective moral standards. Rights are whatever we decide they are, good and bad are whatever we decide they are.
But we all do acknowledge objective standards of morality – some things are good, and some things are bad, no matter what anyone, or any particular society says about it.
Therefore these standards do exist. Therefore God must exist.
I don’t think this is a particularly compelling argument.
It is entirely possible, even if there were no God, that it could be useful from an evolutionary point of view for us to believe in objective moral standards, even though, of course, no such standards would or could actually exist.
But the non-existence of objective ethical standards is nonetheless problematic for atheists who wish to claim that atheism is as intrinsically moral as the teachings of Jesus (more, as they see it, because based in reality) and leads to just as ethical and caring a society.
Atheists are fond of pointing out the horror stories (again, as they see it – careful examination of the facts often tells a different story) in Christian history. The Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition, for example.
But it is worth keeping in mind that the Soviet Union killed off in an average day approximately the same number of people as the Spanish Inqusition sent back to secular authorities to be executed in its entire 300 year history .
We take the equality of women, kindness to children, fairness in dealing with strangers, etc, for granted, precisely because we have 2000 years of Christian history behind us. These values are so normative for us that we assume they are shared by everyone.
But history shows this is not the case.
Jeff Jacoby on Town Hall has more:
It may seem obvious to us today that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. Would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai? It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. “We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal,’’ wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that “it is not anger but reason’’ that justifies the murder of handicapped children.
Reason is not enough. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. What makes us think we’re right?
The God who created us created us to be good. Atheists may believe — and spend a small fortune advertising — that we can all be “good without God.’’ History tells a very different story.
Even the San Fancisco Chronicle notes that this recent trip to Asia extends a long losing streak which grows out of catastrophically declining credibility in the US and overseas.
The lack of credibility grows out of perceived inconsistencies between policies and reality, promises and actions.
Like Ed, I can honestly say that I thought right from the beginning that such an outcome was inevitable.
Barack Obama has no business experience, no military experience, and has never run anything in his life.
I was gobsmacked when he was elected, and am gobsmacked still, that anyone seriously thought they had any reason to believe he was qualified to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.
I wouldn’t give him a job running a cake stall.
This is just for World of Warcraft players.
And all I want to say is that for pure levelling, grinding works.
This is a partial screen shot of my level 70 death Knight, grinding a spot in Howling Fjord. Unrested – yes unrested – XP per hour is around 195k.
In the olden days, a year ago, the fastest way to level was questing. But with the PUG system, I now think the fastest way is to find a good grinding spot (the one above will run you from lvl 69 to lvl 72 without problems), stay there, and constantly re-queue for dungeons.
Of course, doing quests is a large part of the fun of the game. But for pure levelling speed, it’s now grinding and instances.
One more showing rested XP, for those who were inclined to doubt:
95% of my customers are great – patient, considerate, etc.
And then there’s the other 5%.
Just two examples.
It is time to close. I have swept the floor, closed all the photo processing equipment down, and am tallying up the till.
A woman comes in. ‘I need some photos done,’ she says.
‘Sorry, we close at 12. I have turned all the machines off.’
‘But I need these done today.’
‘We’ll be here at 8.30 on Monday. If you come in then we’ll do them for you straight away.’
‘That’s no good to me. I need these this afternoon.’
‘I’m sorry. I can’t help you. Even if I turned the machines on again, it would take at least half an hour to process, and I have appointments after work.’
What I felt like saying, of course, was that if it was that important to her that her photos be done that day, she should have made sure she got to the shop before closing time.
It’s the same with those airport documentaries showing people having hissy fits because they are late for their planes.
If it is that important that you get on your plane, make sure you get there on time, for heaven’s sake. And if you don’t, it’s your fault, not the airline staff’s. Grow up and take some responsibility.
Sleazy, smelly guy with bits of food crusted around his mouth, married to attractive and intelligent woman 25 years younger than him. Has got several nasty viruses on his wife’s computer because he has been using it to look at porn while she is away. Has to be fixed before she gets back.
OK, whatever. I fix the thing. He takes it home. Three days later he rings again.
‘This computer is infected again.’
‘OK. How did that happen?’
‘I don’t know. I was just looking at some websites and these warnings started coming up.’
‘Ah. All right. Well bring it in to me, and I’ll clean it off again.’
‘You’ll do it free this time, right? This is follow-up service.’
This was a customer I wasn’t anxious to please anyway, but even if it had been someone I liked, the answer would have been the same.
It would be like someone driving thier car into a tree, taking it to the panel beater and getting it repaired, then driving into the same tree again and demanding the panel beater fix it free the second time.
And it comes down to the same thing – people not taking responsibility for their actions.
It is a disease our governments encourage.
I am starting to feel something akin to outrage at the way Kangaroo Island’s doctors continue to hold medical services on the island to ransom.
See my earlier post for more details about the background.
Briefly, after a long period of negotiation between government and doctors’ organisations, a contract was offered to rural doctors under which they would provide medical services through local hospitals.
Doctors were under no pressure to accept the contract. If individual doctors or practices believed they could not take responsibility for providing the specified services, or that the remuneration offered was insufficient, they could decline CHSA’s offer.
Country Health SA would still have a responsibility to provide those services, and would then need to set up their own clinics, or supply visiting doctors. Obviously, local GPs would hardly then be in a position to complain about unfair competition!
The contract was designed to provide consistent services in rural and remote SA, at a fair cost to the taxpayer, and with fair remuneration to local GPs.
The Rural Doctors Association of SA recommended doctors accept the contract, although not perfect, as the best possible outcome for a first attempt at a uniform contract.
Although some practitioners believed that the amount offered as an on call allowance was inadequate to cover the costs of disruption to practice, the vast majority of doctors accepted the contract, knowing that it was essentially a ‘trial run’ that would only last for eighteen months, while further fine tuning was done.
The amount of the on call allowance is $135,000 per annum, or approximately $370 per day. It is the highest rate of on call allowance paid to doctors in any state in Australia. It is a payment simply for being available. If a doctor is actually called out to the hospital both travelling allowances and normal fee for service rates are paid.
Doctors on KI have said they are willing to accept the contract except for the on call services, or that they will agree to provide those services if more money is offered.
CHSA has said said right from the beginning that neither of these are options. One of the reasons for the negotiation of a new contract was to break the old system which was inconsistent, unfair to taxpayers and the majority of rural doctors, and frequently offered higher pay to doctors in monopoly practices for no other reason than that they were willing to blackmail the health department by refusing to provide services until their pay demands were met.
Everyone agreed that this was unfair and had to change. Again, see my previous post for more detail on this. It would simply be wrong for CHSA to agree to a special deal for KI doctors. There is nothing to justify treating KI as different from any other remote SA community.
Sadly, despite the fact that CHSA has been perfectly consistent in its message, KI doctors continue to represent themselves as victims of some sort of government conspiracy.
Claims are made that CHSA has acted in bad faith. It hasn’t. That locums have provided sub standard services. They haven’t. That CHSA has issued threats. It hasn’t.
What CHSA has said is that doctors are free to accept the contract or not. If they do not, then those services have to be provided in some other way.
I am pleased to see that CHSA has finally bitten the bullet on this.
After nearly a year of waiting, discussions, and disruption to local medical services, they have given doctors a deadline, the 12th of November, by which the contract must be signed. If doctors do not agree, then CHSA will begin to consider other means by which services may be provided.
The doctors will say that the island doesn’t need this, and doesn’t need another clinic. That is debatable. What is not debatable is that the people of Kangaroo Island have a right to reliable medical services.
If local doctors choose not to provide those services, they can hardly complain when Health SA does.
Darn good advice.
From The Mercury:
A well known Hobart psychologist has got some advice for those people still consumed with grief for Packed to the Rafters character Mel Rafter – get real.
Dr Harry Stanton said people still feeling sad over the TV death were likely to be bored with their own lives, and therefore identifying with people who are more exciting even if they are not real.
So basically – ‘Get a life.’
It sounds a bit harsh, but the opposite (which is the more common practice), of encouraging people to think about their feelings, to go over what has upset them, and worst of all ‘to try to remember’ past traumatic incidents, does more harm than good.
If you are feeling down, get some sunshine, go for a walk, do something nice for your neighbour. You may not have a choice about how you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do about it.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
More than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.
The review of the now scrapped federal government solar rebate scheme, conducted by ANU researchers Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson, also found the rebates did little to generate a solar manufacturing industry in Australia, instead sending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars offshore.
Mr Macintosh, deputy head of ANU’s Centre for Climate Law and Policy, told The Age yesterday the rebate had been ”beautiful politics, terrible policy”.
”I can’t see there is anything to be gained continuing to subsidise rooftop solar PV [photovoltaics] in areas where households have easy access to the energy grid,” he said.
Electricity bills for the rest of us could be more than 20% higher to cover the cost of the ridiculously high feedback tariffs paid to people who own solar panels – which were also paid for by the rest of us.
‘Beautiful politics, terrible policy.’ That is the Labor way, of course – intentions count for more than outcomes.
If it all goes wrong, eg, insulation, immigration, overpriced school buildings no-one wanted in the first place, laptops for every student, no dams, no water, carbon tax, the NBN, etc, etc, they can say in all honesty, ‘But we meant well.’ And the sad thing is, they probably did.
They just didn’t think.
The Age reports that:
A Melbourne private girls’ school that prevented a lesbian student from attending the school formal with her girlfriend is being inundated with messages from irate readers around the world accusing the school of discrimination.
A private school, at a private dance for its students, should be forced to allow a sixteen year old to bring her fifteen year old sex partner?
Sadly, but not surprisingly, given the Age’s ever decreasing demographic, the school is being accused of homophobia, discrimination, etc, while the girl and her parents are presented as victims of moralising conservatism.
The only thing the girl and her parents are victims of is a bit of common sense and decency.
The People’s Republic of San Francisco has decreed that happiness is no longer permitted. At least, not in the form of happy meals. Or any other meals that include toys and TOO MANY CALORIES. Such meals are now banned.
Meanwhile, back in less ‘liberal’ and consequently, less authoritarian, Australia, a professor of health education and nutrition has pointed out that fears about childhood obesity have been exaggerated by the media. She goes on to say that restrictions on the availability of junk food will do lttle to resolve the problems that do exist:
“People have to stop exaggerating the numbers about childhood obesity – that’s not to say that it is not an issue but you know, hysteria, fear campaigns and exaggeration are not very scientific,” said Dr O’Dea.
Professor O’Dea also points out that childhood obesity is largely a problem for the poor. Tackling poverty, she suggests, is the best long-term way to tackle childhood obesity and many other children’s health issues.
But it seems to me that childhood obesity is evidence of one of the key attitudes that keeps some people poor.
There is nothing wrong with take aways as an occasional treat. But good quality day to day food; fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, lean meat, etc, is cheaper than McDonalds or KFC.
Of course, such meals take a little longer to prepare, and need some thinking in advance.
So if take away food (take-out if you’re an American) is more expensive, why do people on low incomes eat more of it?
It is easy to claim that poverty is caused by structural injustices. And some is. The anti-development policies of organisations like Greenpeace, and their lobbying of governments and organisations like the Word Bank, have kept incomes and life spans in some third world countries much lower than they would otherwise be.
But in wealthy western countries this is less often the case. Poverty, and the disadvantages to children it causes, cannot be changed by acts of government.
‘The poor will be with you always’ Mt 26:11
One of my wife Kathy’s relatives was Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
I have never visited the US, and am sorry I never had the chance to meet him.
Alex was one of the great pioneers of animation, and the creator of the first animated programme for TV, Crusader Rabbit.
Rocky and Bullwinkle were amusing to children. To intelligent adults, they were frequently remarkably insightful social commentary.
Time has published a thoughtful reflection on his life, and especially on the crucial role he played in the development of animated movies and TV shows.
Perhaps even more important than his obvious energy, creativity and insight, he was a caring man who was much loved by his family and friends.
This is little short of farcical.
Leaker and big noter in chief Kevin Rudd, along with Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard, were so concerned about the possibility of then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s leaking sensitive budget information that after bogus meetings at which he was present, they held other meetings at which the decisions were made.
Three points to note about this:
1. There was no evidence Tanner was leaking anything. In contrast to some of the others in those meetings, he has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy.
2. Tanner knew he was being shut out, because his staff spoke to him about policy decisions he had not been told about by the gang of three.
3. Tanner has a brain cell. I suspect his disagreement with the three-fold consenus on some key budget issues was the real reason they did not want him around.
So much easier to get things done in an atmosphere of consensus.
It’s just that, when an atmosphere of consensus is built by shutting out anyone who might have a different view, it is usually the wrong things that end up being done.
Bombs found on planes in Dubai and Britain were large enough to have destroyed the planes mid-air, killing all on board, and causing further casualties if the bombs exploded over populated areas.
A woman named Hanan al Samawi has been arrested in Yemen. The Telegraph headline says she is an engineering student, while later in the text it reports: She was arrested at a house in a poor area in the west of Sana’a, where she is studying medicine at the university.
Engineering, medicine, whatever. These are not areas of study which the poor usually take up.
There are three points here.
First, the Telegraph needs to get some new copy editors. Accuracy is important. It is not good enough in a major national daily to have a headline contradicted by the text immediately below it.
Second, the female of the species is as dangerous as the male. There is no justification for policies which discriminate against men in relation to being held in detention centres, for example, on the basis that they are likely to be terrorists whereas women are not.
And finally, terrorism does not have its roots in poverty. There is a great deal of talk about understanding the causes of terrorism. The commonly identified causes in such talks are Western imperialism and Western monopolisation of consumer goods.
This is nonsense. The major source of terrorist activity is radical Islam. Thai Buddhists, African animists, and Orthodox believers living in Siberia, all of whom suffer poverty compared with the West, are not burning down schools and blowing up planes.
Osama Bin Laden, of course, is a multi-millionaire. Terrorism has nothing to do with poverty.
It has everything to do with what its perpetrators keep telling us is the reason for their actions: They hate infidels, and believe they are commanded to destroy them.
Did you know that when Walker: Texas Ranger was first screened in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris, just to be on safe side?
Now there is evidence he has kicked a hole in time itself.
An unknown elderly woman has been spotted talking on a mobile phone in 1928 footage of the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.
The only plausible explanation for this is that Chuck Norris threw a roundhouse kick so fast it disrupted time itself, and the woman, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just walked through the portal this created. She’s probably still confused about why she can’t get any reception.
Before you dismiss this, keep the following facts in mind:
Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and smack himself in the back of the head.
Ghosts are caused by Chuck Norris killing bad guys so fast that death cannot keep up.
Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.
Some people wear Superman pajamas, but Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
Actually, Chuck Norris really is a bit of a superman. As well as being a competent actor, genuine martial arts champion, and all around decent guy, he is a clear thinker and talented writer.
You can find his columns on Town Hall, including his latest on the extraordinary and frighteningly wasteful growth in US Federal government spending.