Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not Just the U.S. is Unfriendly to White Boys

According to new UK government research, white teenage boys are less likely to pursue a university education than young men of Asian or African descent. The report found, for example, that white working-class men were 8.5 times(!) less likely to go to college than black and Asian middle-class women.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Overcoming Procrastination

Here's the link to my just-written article, "Overcoming Procrastination." It lists the strategies that have most often worked with my clients.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to Land a Job

There are four major ways to land a job:

— Answer ads. An easy way to sort through literally millions of job ads is to visit and Also, your professional association and other field-specific Web sites may list job ads. For a collection of general and field-specific sites see: The Riley Guide’s Job Site Directory.

Unless the ad gives you reason to do something else, the guts of your cover letter should consist of two columns: On the left side, list the job requirements stated in the ad; on the right side, describe how you meet that requirement.

— Recruiters/headhunters. Two ways to find on-target ones:

* Use an online database. An annotated list of them is at: The Riley Guide’s Recruiter Directory..

* Contact the human resources department at your most desired employers and ask, “When you use a headhunter to fill a position such as (insert your target job.”), who do you most often use?

— Direct contact. Make a list of 25 employers you’d like to work for, whether or not they’re advertising an on-target job opening. Identify one or more people at each organization with the power to hire you. Write a brief letter that highlights the elements of your background likely to impress that employer. Sample: “I’m a Ph.D. in psychology, with special expertise in issues faced by people in Generation Y. I am skilled at ethnographic research and in explaining complicated concepts to lay audiences. If you think I might be of help to you or if you’d be kind enough to offer some advice as to where I should turn, I’d really appreciate hearing from you.” Usually, your letter can be relatively generic, but you should include one customized paragraph explaining why you’re choosing to write to that employer.

— Networking. Make a list of the 50 people in your network most likely to introduce you to someone who could hire you for your target job. You say you don’t know 50? Remember that people from your alma mater(s,) your LinkedIn or Facebook contacts, your friends and relatives, even your hairdresser might help — they all know lots of people. Email or phone the 50, asking if they know someone at one of the above 25 employers who you should speak with, or anyone else for that matter, that might help you land your target job.

How to Finally Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

It’s often scary. You're seeing lots of your peers in full career flower: good income, power and influence, and a job title their parents just love to brag about.

And there you are, still fumbling around, toting a copy of What Color is Your Parachute or the results of the Strong Interest Inventory or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Here are some other ways to figure out what the hell you want to be when you grow up, even if you’re already supposed to be a grownup:

— Check the website of your undergraduate and, if you've got one, graduate degree program. They often contain a list of careers that people have entered with your degree.

— Attend alumni events where graduates from your program will be in attendance.

— On an online discussion group in your field, post a query such as, “What sorts of careers are people entering with a masters in physiological psychology (or whatever)?”

— Google terms such as careers philosophy or Ph.D. careers “molecular biology.”

— Visit the exhibit area at professional conferences in your field. Those booths are often staffed by senior people with the power to hire you. You'd ordinarily have a hard time gaining access to such people, yet at a conference, they're available to you in quantity.

One approach to a booth is to scan the written material on the booth’s table, then approach its staffer. Explain the sorts of things you might do for that organization and ask if that might be of interest. Then ask if the person could imagine other ways the organization might use someone like you. If you find a hot prospect, you might invite the person to a meal or a drink. That request might be too forward under normal circumstances, but at a conference, if it feels right, it’s probably an appropriate request.

— Browse annotated lists of careers. For example, there’s the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which comprehensively profiles 250 careers. Or consider (Warning: bias-alert here!) my misleadingly titled, Cool Careers for Dummies, 3rd Edition (Wiley, 2007), which offers brief, more subjective profiles of 500 careers, each with a recommended website or book for more information. The book also contains “The 35 Most Revealing Questions,” which also may help you home in on the right career choice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Elite Scientists Dissent from Climate Change Consensus

The new book, The Deniers, by Lawrence Solomon lists these (and many more) scientists as among those who dissent from the so-called consensus on climate change/global warming:

Dr. Edward Wegman--former chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences--demolishes the famous "hockey stick" graph that launched the global warming panic.

Dr. David Bromwich--president of the International Commission on Polar Meteorology--says "it's hard to see a global warming signal from the mainland of Antarctica right now."

Prof. Paul Reiter--Chief of Insects and Infectious Diseases at the famed Pasteur Institute--says "no major scientist with any long record in this field" accepts Al Gore's claim that global warming spreads mosquito-borne diseases.

Prof. Hendrik Tennekes--director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute--states "there exists no sound theoretical framework for climate predictability studies" used for global warming forecasts.

Dr. Christopher Landsea--past chairman of the American Meteorological Society's Committee on Tropical Meteorology and Tropical Cyclones--says "there are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity."

Dr. Antonino Zichichi--one of the world's foremost physicists, former president of the European Physical Society, who discovered nuclear antimatter--calls global warming models "incoherent and invalid."

Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski--world-renowned expert on the ancient ice cores used in climate research--says the U.N. "based its global-warming hypothesis on arbitrary assumptions and these assumptions, it is now clear, are false."

Prof. Tom V. Segalstad--head of the Geological Museum, University of Oslo--says "most leading geologists" know the U.N.'s views "of Earth processes are implausible."

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu--founding director of the International Arctic Research Center, twice named one of the "1,000 Most Cited Scientists," says much "Arctic warming during the last half of the last century is due to natural change."

Dr. Claude Allegre--member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and French Academy of Science, he was among the first to sound the alarm on the dangers of global warming. His view now: "The cause of this climate change is unknown."

Dr. Richard Lindzen--Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T., member, the National Research Council Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, says global warming alarmists "are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right."

Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov--head of the space research laboratory of the Russian Academy of Science's Pulkovo Observatory and of the International Space Station's Astrometria project says "the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

Dr. Richard Tol--Principal researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije Universiteit, and Adjunct Professor at the Center for Integrated Study of the Human Dimensions of Global Change, at Carnegie Mellon University, calls the most influential global warming report of all time "preposterous . . . alarmist and incompetent."

Dr. Sami Solanki--director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, who argues that changes in the Sun's state, not human activity, may be the principal cause of global warming: "The sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures."

Prof. Freeman Dyson--one of the world's most eminent physicists says the models used to justify global warming alarmism are "full of fudge factors" and "do not begin to describe the real world."

Dr. Eigils Friis-Christensen--director of the Danish National Space Centre, vice-president of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, who argues that changes in the Sun's behavior could account for most of the warming attributed by the UN to man-made CO2.

I feel the need to add one: Lord Christopher Monckton, a leading climate change scientist in the UK. He is the technical advisor to The Institute for Science and Public Policy. The site contains considerable data suggesting that claiming a global warming consensus is indeed premature.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to Evaluate Yourself at Work

I believe that we all should regularly evaluate ourselves in terms of 3 bottom lines:

1. The traditional one: How much benefit do you provide your employer for the money you're paid and the time you put in. Score yourself on this scale:
Much worse than average, score yourself -33. Much above average, score yourself +33. What score would you give yourself? ____ Dare you ask your boss or co-worker what score s/he'd give you?

2. Apart from your productivity, to what extent do you make the lives of your colleagues, bosses, co-workers and customers/clients more or less pleasant? Are you high-maintenance? Annoying? Make their lives more pleasant? If you make their lives much less pleasant, score yourself -33. If you make their lives much more pleasant, score yourself +33. Put your self-rating score here: ____. Dare you ask your boss or co-worker what score s/he'd give you?

3. To what extent does your work improve the world? From my value system, anyone having to do with tobacco would score -34. Researchers trying to find a cure for a major disease would score +34. What score would you give yourself? ___

Anyone who self-rates at +90 or higher should be very proud of themselves, and I'd be pleased if you'd post a comment, describing why you earn such a high score. That will be instructive to all of us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tim Russert, Sudden Heart Attack, and Sexism Against Men

Tim Russert’s untimely death from a sudden heart attack reminded me of the dramatic 50+-year-long gender disparity against men in health care research and outreach.

Many more men than women die of sudden heart attack and at an earlier age than do women of breast cancer.

Indeed, sudden heart attack is the #1 cause of premature death among men over 40. Yet, more money per capita is spent on breast cancer research.

And regarding outreach, there are a trivial number of prostate cancer ribbons compared with the number of pink ribbons against breast cancer. And have you ever seen even one ribbon against sudden heart attack?

More broadly, men die 5.3 years younger than women, and spend their last decade in worse health. There are more than four widows for every widower.

Yet when I searched PubMed, which indexes 3,000 medical journals over the past 58 years, I found 22,304 articles with the keywords “women’s health,” but only 586
with “men’s health.” That’s 39 articles related to women’s health for every one on men’s. A review of Charity Navigator, the leading database of nonprofits, finds that nearly all the gender-specific health-related nonprofits are on behalf of women.

If women suffer a deficit, for example, the “underrepresentation” of women in engineering, we typically see significant efforts at redress. Yet, when men have the deficit—even the ultimate deficit: they die younger—not only is there not redress, but the opposite occurs: disproportionate amounts of research and outreach are directed at women’s health.

I’ve heard these explanations to justify the double standard:
1. “It wouldn’t happen if, like women, men organized to protest.”
My response: Would you deny redress to women who are “underrepresented” if they hadn’t organized to protest?
2. “Men’s dying younger is their fault—if they’d only take better care of themselves.”
My response: The three major controllable causes of mortality and morbidity are obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking. Men have lower incidences of the first two. In any event, if women are “underrepresented” in engineering, would you deny them the redress by chastising them, “It’s your own fault. Do better in science and math.”?
3. “In the past, most health research was done on men. This only levels the playing field.”
My response: First, as cited, over the past 58 years—the period during which the greatest medical advances have been made—the opposite is true. And with regard to research that’s more than 58 years old, an underreported reason why women were often excluded from many experimental treatments was not lack of interest in women’s health but a concern that an experimental drug or treatment might damage a woman’s fetus.

And en toto, any deleterious effect that came from a smaller percentage of women being subjects in 58+-year-old medical research apparently was small: In, fact, the
life-expectancy gap in favor of women grew during every decade but one from 1900 through 1980.

The big question is why:
— Why do you think that, for the past 50+ years, the overwhelming majority of health care research has been on women’s health, despite men living shorter and in poorer last-decade health?
And consider these other male-death-related questions:
— Why do 92% of workplace deaths occur to men yet we rarely hear that statistic, while we frequently hear statistics such as, “Women earn 79 cents on the dollar compared with men?” (By the way, that statistic is misleading: Most current evidence suggests that for the same work, pay is, on average, roughly equal.)
— Why, still, must only men register with the U.S. military’s Selective Service?
— Why, still, are only men allowed to serve in direct combat? (resulting in the little-publicized fact that 99% of the Iraq War deaths have been men.)
— Why do the media emphasize when deaths occur to “women and children?”

I agree with men’s advocate Warren Farrell, who is the author of nine books including The Myth of Male Power and who has taught at Georgetown and the School of Medicine at U.C. San Diego. He believes the main reason is sexism: “Men are the disposable sex.”

Many of us have the opportunity to be gender-neutral or biased toward or against men in our professional lives.

For example, consider all the choices that higher educators can make:

— Which students to admit to your program
— Which readings to assign
— What content to present in class
— What research agenda to pursue
— Who to select as your research assistant
— What student thesis and dissertation topics to encourage
— Who to hire as a faculty member or administrator
— To whom to grant tenure
— Which studies to fund. (For example, should sudden heart attack studies be given higher priority?)

At this point in time, what do you think is the wisest stance for you, personally, to take?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

DON'T Give 110%.

I had a client today who always gives 110%. Yes, he reaps rewards, but he's stressed out much of the time, makes mistakes as a result, and hasn't developed close personal or professional relationships.

The most successful people I know give 90%. They try but rarely push themselves to the max. They stay in the moment, tackling whatever they're working on slow but steady, and don't waste time worrying about what's ahead.

They probably get a little less done than a 110%er but have the emotional reserve to not burn out, develop relationships, and enjoy whatever it is they're doing.

The Climate Change Consensus is Softening

A spate of new research and books claim we shouldn't yet make any efforts to try to stop "climate change:"

New book: The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so

New book: Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor

400+ prominent scientists dispute man-made global warming.

In a new book, Lies and Traps in Global Warming Affairs, Top Japanese ICPP(!) scientist now asserts that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "consensus" is a "fraud."

New studies indicate that the globe may be cooling, certainly not warming quickly.

In light of all these new data, before spending the unprecedented amounts of money and forcing the immense human sacrifices being contemplated, I believe that scientists should present to academic community, the mainstream media and general public the bases and models on which they've developed the core assertions in the climate change consensus:
1. The globe is warming and that warming is likely to accelerate.
2. The net negative impacts of that warming are likely large enough as to justify a massive effort to try to stop it.
3. The projected climate change is substantially man-made, as opposed to natural variation such as sunspot changes, as increasing numbers of climate scientists now believe.
4. That the realistically feasible effort to try to slow climate change would yield sufficient benefit to justify the mammoth effort that most ICPP scientists and political leaders insist will be required.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do We Need Less Pluribus and More Unum?

Recently, I attended my assistant’s master’s-degree commencement ceremony at San Francisco State University.

We entered the auditorium to Jamaican percussion. Then, the African-American emcee introduced the retiring chair, a man who said that his vision for the counseling department is to create a program in counseling the incarcerated, disproportionately minority. He introduced the keynote speaker, an African-American woman who spoke of the need to continue fighting for the underrepresented while an audience member waved a large Latino-Power flag. Next, a Latina professor praised an African-American student who had died. Then that professor handed out four student awards: three to Latinos and one to a white male who had been transgendered and did his thesis on transgender counseling. Finally, the graduates walked across the stage. Some added African-American or Latino shawls to their cap and gown. One pasted a Mexican flag on top of her mortarboard.

I wondered how the straight white male graduates must have felt. I’d imagine that many of them felt okay about it. After all, their education likely has included much rhetoric explaining why one should celebrate all forms of diversity except that of the straight white male. But I wondered how many, in their heart of hearts, felt sadness or anger at being marginalized.

I wondered how the of-color graduates felt about the ceremony?

I wondered how the audience of friends and family felt?

I wondered whether the ceremony and awards would, net, increase feelings of cross-group amity or enmity?

In light of all the wars and other enmity, worldwide, throughout the ages, that have been caused by various forms of tribalism, I left the auditorium wondering whether society wouldn’t be better off if we focused less on pluribus and more on unum.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Education is No Magic Pill--Part 2

This report comports with what I saw when I was teacher and when I supervised student teachers. And education is supposed to be the magic pill that will close the achievement gap?

A Libertarian's Case for Obama

Regular readers of this blog know that I disagree with Obama's core value: that America needs yet more redistributive "justice." They know that I lean libertarian.

Yet as I see this campaign unfold, I'm beginning to wonder if Obama might be the right president at this point in American and world history.

Because of four decades now of liberal-slanted media and college education, most of our best and brightest are liberals, so an Obama presidency would be filled with more capable (and idealistic) people than under a McCain presidency. As every venture capitalist knows, it's as important to invest in the best people as it is to invest in the best ideas.

Have listened today to a McCain town hall meeting, it's clear to me that he shows early signs of cardiovascular dementia. He too often makes little slips, such as "Here in Vermont and the rest of this state, I mean country." In itself, of course, that means nothing. But when it happens again and again, not just in this town meeting but in, for example, when discussing Shia, Sunni, and Al Qaeda, which should be in the wheelhouse of his expertise, and the fact that his cognitive functioning will only decline during his term in office, I am convinced that McCain's cognitive functioning is too weak to be the president of the United States.

We've never had a radical president, either radical left or radical right. While one can theorize all one wants, and indeed my theories suggest America, en toto, will be much worse under a radical Left administration, there may be a need for a grand experiment with a superliberal/radical president supported by an overwhelmingly liberal congress, which is what is projected. Obama indeed will be the most liberal president in U.S. history:
  • The non-partisan National Journal rated him America's most liberal senator, scoring him 100 out of 100 on liberality. And his liberality score has gone up every year he's been in office: #16 in 2005, #10 in 2006 and #1 in 2007. The trend suggests he'll grow ever more liberal.
  • Despite band-aid statements to avoid losing votes, his statements and long-term associations make clear that his core values are radical Hard-Left, for example, Black Liberation Theology.
  • His positions on health care, education, hatred of corporations, on illegal immigration (e.g., access to our most prestigious colleges even if it means legal residents are turned away,) are extraordinarily Leftist.
The gap between rich and poor has gotten too wide and perhaps a hard Leftist is needed to close the gap, and make the public feel that the cards aren't too stacked against them. (I know that statement is contradictory to my antipathy to redistributive "justice, " but, from where I sit, there is a need for modestly more progressivity of the tax code, but less redistributive "justice" in education, health care, and regarding illegal immigrants. I believe the net costs to America of the latter three are huge, and resulting in an overall worse America.)

Obama is a truly gifted orator, and whenever one deals with the masses, the ability to give a rousing speech is more important than real-world competence. Speechmaking inspires, and that is one of a president's main roles, especially in an era in which China, India, and other countries are in ascendancy while the U.S. is likely in unavoidable decline.

I have not decided whom I'm going to vote for, but consistent with my core belief that the major media has largely abdicated its responsibility to fairly present issues on all sides, having, on previous posts, presented the case against Obama, here I present the case for him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More doubts about career counselors

Regular readers of this blog may recall an anecdote about an anti-capitalist Harvard student who gave away all his money by throwing $100 bills onto the street, only to, soon after, take a job as a banker, where he likes his job. No career counselor would have encouraged him to pursue such a career.

Here's another such story. I know a member of the legislature in a major state whom no career counselor could have advised to pursue a career as a politician:

-- She strikes me as of only average intelligence.

-- She does not have charisma.

-- Although it's her first term, my best visual description of her is "withered old nun."

-- She is very hard of hearing, wearing hearing aids.

-- She is not a good public speaker.

-- She is a Democrat in a jurisdiction that is half Republican.

Yet she was recently elected to a major state's legislature and loves her job. I cannot imagine a career counselor who would have encouraged her to consider such a career.

And here's something else that makes me question the value of career counselors:

Most career counselors encourage people to "pursue your dreams." But most dreams are long-shots: performing, writing, fashion design, be the next Oprah, etc. For every 100 people counseled by career counselors who hold such dreams, 99 never earn an even bare middle-class living from a related pursuit. Sure, some of them may take on those activities as hobbies, but a person is paying a career counselor to help them find a career, not a hobby. The person knows he can paint canvases as a hobby.

The best way, in my view, to find a career is to read my book, Cool Careers for Dummies. (This is not an attempt to extract money from you. Remember, I am a career counselor. This post can only discourage you from wanting to see me. And I only get $1 a book in royalty (0 if you buy it used) and this post will probably result in no more than a handful of sales.) It contains quick profiles of 500+ careers and self-employment opportunities, plus practical, structured advice on how to get the training and land the job; e.g., the chapters, "The Right Resume in Less Time," "30 Days to a Good Job" and "Overcoming Procrastination."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Contrarian Career Advice: Forget Engineering

College-bound students, especially girls, are often encouraged to consider a career in engineering or computer science.

I think that's very risky. How long can we expect that American companies will be willing to pay U.S. prices for engineers and computer professionals when China and India have so many more engineers and computer professionals willing to work for less than half of what U.S. workers are? And when ever more work product can be sent over the Internet.

The rationale usually offered is that American workers are more innovative. That advantage is rapidly evaporating as Chinese and Indian universities have been revamping their curriculum to encourage innovative thinking.

From where I sit, unless you have unusually strong potential to be an engineer or computer programmer, it's wiser to learn how to be an entrepreneur. That can never be offshored. Also, it's more learnable than the advanced math and high-level reasoning required in engineering and computer science.

I am not a huge fan of the generic business major, but many students might be wise to consider a major or masters degree in entrepreneurship--as long as the faculty is dominated by successful entrepreneurs, not theoreticians. Here's Entrepreneur magazine's list of top undergraduate and graduate programs.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Victimization and Identity Politics Will Reach New Heights

I just listened to Hillary Clinton's concession speech. It was notable for her insistence that women are still serious victims of bias. Paired with Obama, who believes minorities are still treated unfairly, we will have a nation of ever growing victimhood among women and minorities.

As a white guy, I know that women and minorities allow me no credibility on this, but I deeply believe that, certainly over the last three decades, women and minorities have had more than equal opportunity in this country and that it is whites and men who are not getting treated fairly according to their merit.

And in response to the argument that we need reverse discrimination to compensate for past injustices, I deeply believe that the net effect of that is a large negative. It results in less competent, doctors, lawyers, and bridge builders. It results in quiet resentment among white boys and men, which reduce the likelihood of racial and gender understanding. And in the largest sense, from where I sit, it is a cosmic injustice.

A Secret to Great Writing or Performing

As often, as possible, surprise the reader or listener with something different that's at least as good as the expected. Examples:

In writing dialogue, have the protagonists say the non-obvious. Of course, the dialogue must be credible and true to the character's personality.

In writing music, look for opportunities to use a non-obvious chord or next melody note, as long as it doesn't destroy the piece's ethos--don't be different just to be different.

In performing dialogue or music, look for non-standard ways to say a word or play the phrase. The classic example of this is when a furious actor whispers, or a performer allows an unexpectedly long breath between sentences.

Curmudgeonly Musings

I feel dispirited today. Perhaps it's just all the opprobrium that higher educators have been firing at me following the publication of America's Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor's Degree in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But I think it's more than that. I feel like I'm living in the wrong era:
  • I am at my core, an elitist. Today, the world, especially the intelligensia, deifies egalitarianism.
  • I believe education is grossly overrated in its potential and certainly as implemented. The world thinks education is the magic pill.
  • I believe that men are a good, sometimes superior gender. The world thinks men are inferior.
To use a popular feminist term for men who don't agree with them, I'm a pterodactyl.

With that as context, here are the thoughts rolling around in my brain in my current curmudgeonly state:

I live near a school and today, the schoolyard was home to a celebration of the start of constructing a new replacement school building. My reaction: I hate celebrations. They accomplish nothing; they're often self-congratulatory narcissism for things that anyone can accomplish: Anyone can have a birthday, get married, be christened, or have a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony.) With today's grade inflation, nearly anyone can have a college degree, for godssake. And any educrat on the government dole can extort tax dollars from the public to build a building that will only obfuscate the crappy education that probably goes on inside. What good is it to put lipstick on a pig? You can gift-wrap a turd, but it's still a turd. I've seen great education go on in shacks and horrendous education go on in palaces. What counts are good teachers (live or online) and good kids. Period.

Then I started to read a book called Love Today by Maxim Biller. It reminded me of what a narcissistic waste of time romantic love usually is. You spend all sorts of time trying to get it or save it, often suffering enormously in the process. Indeed, many people, contrary to the aphorism, end up wondering if it's better not to have loved. And even when love is a net positive to a person, look at the opportunity costs. If the world redirected the time spent in the pursuit and maintenance of romantic love to activities more likely to make the world better, I think we'd all be better off.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Career Advice for Men

That's the title of my latest column on

Education is Not the Magic Pill

Linda Chavez, in her Commentary article, "Let Us by All Means, Have an Honest Conversation About Race, wrote:

" Despite what many critics claim (about how to address low achievement among African-Americans,) is the problem traceable to a lack of funding for predominantly black urban schools as opposed to the predominantly white schools of the suburbs? A recent General Accountability Office study found no consistent pattern of underfunded city schools. Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis, for example, spend more to educate their mostly black and Latino student populations than do the surrounding suburbs with their largely white student populations. Perhaps the most glaring example of the disconnection between funding levels and achievement is the school system of Washington, D.C., which spends more than $15,000 annually per pupil—almost twice the national average—but produces among the lowest achievement scores of any school system in the country."

A Wonderful Model for Finding a Career and Landing a Job

See The Five O'Clock Way. That link is to an entire newsletter. Their excellent and proven model for finding a career and landing the job appears after page 8.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Our Frightening Graduation Statistics

Following publication of my article America’s Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor’s Degree, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I received a fat packet from a Harry Stille, who, after retiring from the South Carolina legislature, started the Higher Education Policy Center.

That packet contained a variety of statistics on the four-year colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. I was particularly saddened to see that, except for UC Berkeley, which attracts an unusually high-performing student body, the graduation rates, especially at the public colleges, is frighteningly low.

Of course, the term “four-year” college is a misnomer. Most students at such institutions don’t graduate in four years … if at all. Here are the six-year graduation rates for these colleges and their students’ unbelievably low 25%ile SAT score.

San Francisco State: 880 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years.
Cal State East Bay: 770 SAT, 43 percent graduate in six years.
San Jose State: 860 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years
Sacramento State: 840 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years.

Even sadder, the true numbers are probably even worse. Those numbers were obtained by calculating the average of the numbers submitted to the U.S. News & World Report, Barron’s, Peterson’s, and Newsweek college guides. Many colleges do not submit data on all their students. For example, last I checked (a few years ago, admittedly) UC-Berkeley reports the results only for “regularly admitted freshmen.” That excluded the 6 percent who were admitted as “special admits.” I also know that other institutions exclude groups of low-performing students.

Four-year colleges must stop their obsession with making more money no matter what. They admit, every year, hundreds of thousands of students with poor high school records, and most of them suffer the terror of being clueless in their classes, accumulating a mountain of debt, little learning, and the enormous opportunity cost of what they could have been learning and accomplishing in an apprenticeship program, community college, at the elbow of an entrepreneur, or yes, even in the media-reviled military.

Never Let 'Em Catch You Networking

Have you ever met someone who's just a little too eager to befriend you?

And before long, you know why: The person is looking for a job or otherwise wants something from you? I don’t know about you, but I usually find myself then wanting to resist. My unconscious thought is something like, “This person doesn’t like me, s/he’s just trying to network me. And if s/he were that good, she wouldn’t need to do that.”

So, whether you’re trying to land a job or otherwise profit through networking, you might want to remember the ancient Chinese aphorism, “If you ask before a proper foundation is laid, your request will not be granted.”

Or if you feel you don’t have the time to lay much of a foundation, actor Spencer Tracy’s advice pertains. He said, “Never let ‘em catch you acting.” I say, “Never let ‘em catch you networking.”

Monday, June 2, 2008

Censored data on race and gender

The oddly titled site, La Griffe Du Lion, presents the sort of data on race and gender that is usually omitted from discussions.

I believe an even-handed examination of these data is crucial if, as Barack Obama urges, we are to have an honest, full-dimension discussion of race.

Such a clear-eyed examination is especially important if we hope to develop approaches to race and gender problems that will be more helpful than the past 50 years of massive, well-intentioned, but ultimately minimally cost-beneficial efforts.

We owe ourselves, the taxpayers, as well as women and minorities the willingness to examine all the data, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable.