Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Should Colleges be More Accountable?

A few weeks ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education published my article, America’s Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor’s Degree.

One of that article’s contentions is that each college’s student recruitment materials be required to include a report card containing such information as graduation rates and average student growth in thinking skills, writing, etc. disaggregated by SAT score bands.

I’ve been pleased that the article has generated national interest: It has been republished in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dallas Morning News, and I was interviewed about it on a number of shows including National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation. I’ve received so many supportive emails from professors, administrators, students, and former students.

The article has also generated many responses in the Chronicle’s Forum, not all positive. In this blog post, I list the major criticisms of my call for a required college report card and my response to each criticism:

Criticism #1: “Surely teaching isn’t poor at teaching-oriented institutions, of which there are thousands. In my R1 department, the quality of teaching by top-notch research profs is amazingly (emphasis mine) good, with a few glaring exceptions.”

My Response
Here are my criteria for “amazing” teaching. How many faculty members could honestly describe themselves as “amazing?”

— Providing instruction that will cause significant growth in the critical competencies:

— thinking skills

— writing skills

— responsible citizenship

— information literacy (for example, competent use of libraries, Google, etc)

— an understanding of the scientific method

— the ability to think probabilistically

— the ability to estimate accurately

— an appreciation of iconic music and art through the ages

— an appreciation of the universal themes in literature and the major definitions and tensions within, for example, love, jealousy, ambition, greed, alienation, the meaning of life, fear, prejudice, death, etc.

— Often using immersive activities such as simulations, role plays, and debates, which increase the likelihood of growth in those competencies.

— The willingness to be truly available, one-on-one, to students as intellectual and emotional mentors. That means the clich├ęd but invaluable long talks, walks, coffees, and dinners with students, asking them questions, for example, about their search for meaning, career, responsible citizenship, wisdom, etc.

From where I sit, that is the standard to which we should aspire. And if teaching faculty members don’t have the time or ability to be “amazing,” colleges need to change the bases on which teaching faculty are hired, provided tutelage, and promoted.

Criticism #2: “Is it colleges’ fault if students are bored? Shouldn’t they be taking more responsibility for their educations?” (My article cited the Higher Education Research Institute national study that found that 44.6% of freshmen at four-year colleges were frequently bored in class.)

My response
It is the admissions committee’s fault for admitting severely underprepared students, who are far more likely to be bored. (Wouldn’t you be bored as a student in a class for which you were severely underprepared?)

And faculty must take responsibility for not boring the fully qualified. Faculty has an obligation to choose content that reasonably qualified undergraduate students would find valuable, presented in interactive, engaging ways to ensure that they, at least, retain the critical learnings listed above.

Criticism #3: Requiring colleges to administer a test of value-added is a bad idea: It wouldn’t measure the important things and/or would cost too much to administer.

My Response
The Collegiate Learning Assessment, a non-multiple-choice, computer-administered test of reasoning, problem solving, and writing, has been widely recommended by higher education reform commissions and cogently defended in “Collegiate Learning Assessment: Facts and Fantasy,” Evaluation Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, 2007, pp 415-439.

Of course, no test measures everything, but each institution’s administering an exam such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment to a random sample of freshmen and then again to those students as seniors would provide a cost-effective index of a college’s value-added. Of course, the sample quality would be diminished by the fact that colleges will vary in the percentage and characteristics of the tested freshmen who left the college before their senior year. Nonetheless, it would be a most useful tool for comparing colleges and for helping a college to evaluate its effectiveness.

Should 4-Year Colleges Admit Underprepared Students?

My Chronicle of Higher Education article, America’s Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor’s Degree argued that four-year colleges should not admit underprepared students.

A number of posters to the Chronicle Forum disagree. Here are their arguments and my responses:

Criticism #1: Marginal students struggle even with a college degree. Why would you discourage them from getting even that?

My Response
As my article documented, every year, four-year colleges enroll hundreds of thousands of students who graduated in the bottom half of their high-school class, the large majority of whom learn little, acquire much debt, and have only a 1/3 chance of graduating even if given 8 1/2 years.

Those students will likely learn more and have a brighter career future if they choose an option other than four-year college: an apprenticeship program, community college, career college, the military, or a launchpad job at the elbow of a fund raiser, ethical small-business owner, electrician, etc. Because colleges are turning out ever more college graduates at the same time as employers are offshoring, part-timing, and automating ever more white-collar jobs, even if those weak students manage to beat the large odds and get their degree, they are likely to be among the weakest college graduates and thus more career-at-risk than if they had chosen one of the aforementioned paths.

I felt compelled to write America’s Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor’s Degree in part, because I’ve seen countless students who struggled in high school pushed to college where they dropped out or managed to — six to 10 years later — finish their degree, only to find themselves unable to get a better job than they could have gotten as a mere high-school graduate. And, importantly, most of them lack the thinking and communication skills one would expect even of a marginal college graduate. Meanwhile, they see their peers happier and more successful in a career such as the aforementioned.

Criticism #2: Some students did badly in high school but blossomed in college.

My Response
The evidence is dispositive: For every late-blooming success, there are many who fail, and for whom a non-college path would have been wiser.

Most physicians wouldn’t prescribe a treatment that took four to eight years, cost a fortune, and had a high risk of failure. And if a physician did so without fully informing the patient, the patient would likely sue and win in any court in the land. Yet every year, four-year colleges administer such a treatment — providing nowhere near full disclosure — to hundreds of thousands of underprepared students, the large majority of whom end up dropping out having acquired little learning, much debt, and damaged self-esteem.

And not only are the colleges not sued, government rewards them with ever-increased financial aid, which allows the colleges to continue to raise tuition beyond the cost of inflation.

Criticism #3: Don’t just blame the colleges for admitting underprepared students. High school counselors have a responsibility too.

My Response
I agree, but colleges must first provide counselors with the data on average learning gains, graduation rates, and employment for students, disaggregated by SAT score bands. That would greatly help high-school counselors assist students in weighing the cost-benefit of four-year college versus the aforementioned options.

The Problem with Meritocracy

Readers of this blog know that I believe strongly in meritocracy, but all ideologies have weaknesses.

The weakness of meritocracy is that a significant percentage of people lose in a meritocracy, largely due to factors beyond their control: their genes, which parents and what community they were born into, etc.

I believe that citizens, the government, and nonprofits have a moral obligation to attempt to mitigate some of that random unfairness.

The controversy comes in how much to distribute from those with the greatest potential to contribute to society to those with the least.

Controversy also comes from the dishonest Leftists who play the race, class, and gender cards to arm-twist for support for social programs. Nearly all those programs have shown little benefit, even the vaunted Head Start, and certainly not enough benefit to justify taking tax dollars from the ever-more strapped middle and working class to pay for them.

As someone with a social science Ph.D. from Berkeley, specializing in the evaluation of such programs, I am convinced that almost no education or other such programs yet exist that yield sufficient benefit to force taxpayers to pay for it. One possible exception would be top-quality, one-on-one mentoring/tutoring programs.

What I would fund are bold research initiatives aimed at finding truly new and more promising sorts of interventions.

Amazing Resume Software

I just got a copy of the latest version (version 15) of ResumeMaker. ($29.95) In addition to being a superior tool for creating or revising your resume, it
  • helps you create cover letters
  • automatically posts your resume on 80 major job sites
  • blasts your resume to a zillion employers (Actually, very occasionally, you can get a job that way--and because the risk is so low, why not try--unless you need to keep your employer or others from knowing you're job searching.)
  • Prepares you for your interviews with a video tutorial in which you can record and listen to your practice answers.
Candidly, I have not yet had time to try this latest version out and am swamped, but I'd bet anything, it's well worth the $29.95.

If you've tried ResumeMaker, feel free to post your reviews as a comment here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm Now the Guest Blogger at the Chronicle of Higher Education

Through June, 2008, I am the Guest Blogger in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I'm blogging about two things:
  • Improving higher education: Why we must, and how.
  • Career advice for college professors and administrators.
I've already made three posts there.

Because of my blogging there, I'll won't post here as often, through the end of June. But in addition to seeing my posts there, I'll try to copy them here a day or two later. (My contract with them requires that delay.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Article That Made Me Want to Cry and Hug Its Author

What a smart, hard-working, and superbrave woman is Christina Hoff Sommers. Her dispositive article on the substitution of gender equity for merit in science careers is so worth reading, whether you're a feminist, an angry male, or simply someone interested is seeing how America's future is being derailed by gender (and race) victimization politics. I urge you to read it.

While I'm no John McCain fan , (I'll be voting Libertarian although I so wish they had a better candidate than Bob Barr?!) I believe that the election of Obama or Clinton will result in ever more replacement of meritocracy with reverse discrimination.

Hail to YouTube/Google and Men

I, again and again, watch and listen, on YouTube, to Glenn Gould's amazing performance of Bach's sublime Goldberg Variations.

What a miracle: to be able to revivify Gould and his amazing performance for us all to hear whenever we want, for free. I am filled with gratitude to the geniuses at Google/YouTube who make it possible.

Two points:

-- In an era in which we take great pains to praise women for their contributions to the world, may I point out that it is highly likely that most of the people that allow us to experience the wonders of Google and YouTube are men. And of course, so are Gould and Bach, not to mention Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, indeed nearly all great composers, even the leading contemporary classical composers, long after the women's movement created opportunities for women composers.

-- As the Internet gets ever more congested, viewing and listening to most sound- and graphic-intensive files including YouTube is getting more difficult. For example, every few seconds, Bach's/Gould's genius is interrupted by "buffering." Would you bet that the persons who develop a solution will be mostly men or mostly women?

Another Feeble Defense of College

I have serious problems with David Leonhardt's article in today's New York Times: "A Diploma's Worth: Ask Her."

1, He paints with a too-broad brush: He fails to acknowledge that the hundreds of thousands of college freshmen at four-year colleges who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, drop out at enormous rates: According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, only 1/3 graduate even if given 8 1/2 years,

2. He defined success only in economic terms. College students learn frighteningly little. According to a 2006 Pew study, half of all college seniors score below the "proficient" level, which means they can't understand a newspaper editorial!

The value-added learning of college is so small relative to the opportunity cost--what they could have been doing with the time and money had they not been sitting through arcane classes, getting drunk in student housing, etc. For example, one could be apprenticing an the elbow of a successful entrepreneur or tradesperson while avocationally becoming an activist citizen by blogging and joining meetup groups.

3. He calls for more funding of colleges. Colleges are extraordinarily well funded. What they need --as he does mention--is more accountability. That is the central thrust of my just-published article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: America's Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor's Degree.

4. He accepts uncritically the horrifically misleading statistic that women earn 77 cents on the dollar. FOR THE SAME WORK, as documented in the book Why Men Earn More, women and men are paid essentially equally.

5. He celebrates the increase in the percentage of women obtaining college degrees without even acknowledging, let alone being concerned about the fact that in the class of 2008, only 1/3 of the college graduates are men, which will devastate them in the job market. If women or minorities were to have the deficit, the article would likely call for a massive increase in effort to help them. But when men suffer the deficit, we merely celebrate women's accomplishments.

Horrendously Biased Anti-Boy Study, of course, widely and uncritically reported

Articles in the Washington Post (front page) and New York Times report uncritically, a horribly biased study, which will kill the deserved concern for boys' badly lagging girls in school and being Ritalinized en masse.

The media should have gotten the first clue of its being biased when they noticed who funded it: the American Association of University Women. If a study on smoking was funded by the tobacco industry, would you give it much credibility? At minimum, wouldn't you vet it carefully?

Yet regarding gender issues, the media has a double standard for how it vets and reports pro woman/minority research vs pro male (let alone, pro-white) research findings : It censors the latter and reports the former uncritically and as thought it were fact, to wit, the title of the article, "No Crisis For Boys In Schools, Study Says."

Here are the problems with the AAUW study:

1. It says, deceptively, that both boys and girls scores have increased. Why did the study (or at least the reporting) omit is that girls' scores increased much more? In a world in which ever higher-level skill is required, does it mean there's no crisis for boys if their scores have increased a bit while girls' have increased much more? Why did the media not probe that finding as it surely would have if it were a pro-male finding?

2. The study says there's virtually no gap between boys and girls who enter college. Of course not---the requirements for getting into college are roughly equal for boys and girls. What the study (or the reporting) fails to say is that many more girls than boys go to college. Why did the media not probe that finding as it would have it were a pro-male finding?

2a. The study reports that since 1982, 57% of the college graduates are women. Why do the study's authors go back to 1982? To hide the fact that the gap is larger today. For the class of 2008 the ratio is 60/40 and is projected to increase further. Wouldn't the media have probed that finding if it were pro-male?

3. The study reports the terribly deceptive statistic: "Among all women and men working full time, year-round, median annual earnings for women were 77 percent of men's earnings in 2005." Of course, the study (or the reporting) doesn't mention that a far smaller percentage of women are working full-time. And it doesn't mention that women disproportionately avoid the high-paying fields: engineering, computer science, coal mining, sewer repair, etc. And that even those who work full-time work, on average, far fewer hours than men who work full-time. Or that women in corporations are far less likely to do the things required to be promoted to higher-level jobs, such as move their family to a far-flung place (Montgomery, Alabama anyone?) As reported in the book, Why Men Earn More, FOR THE SAME WORK, women earn the same or more than men. Why does the media give a free pass to such as misleading statistic as "women earn 77 cents on the dollar?" Wouldn't the media vet that claim if the statistic favored men?

4. The study omits the fact that eight times as many boys as girls are put on the methamphetamine-like Ritalin and similar drugs. If it was a pro-male finding, wouldn't the media have made the effort to interview and quote sources that would have presented that? But because the AAUW study advocates for females, the media somehow didn't bother.

5. The study omits that the suicide rate for boys is 400% of girls'. If it were the reverse, wouldn't the media have made the effort to interview and quote sources that would have presented that? But because the AAUW study advocates for females, the media somehow didn't bother.

6. The study omits that boys drop out of high school at a significantly higher rate. If if the reverse were reported, wouldn't the media have made the effort to interview and quote sources that would have presented that? But because the AAUW study advocates for females, the media somehow didn't bother.

Truly, I don't understand why the media would be so relentlessly unfair to boys and men.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is the Media That Powerful and That Leftist-Biased?

Someone wrote a comment on a previous post, which I rejected but shouldn't have. It basically asked, "If the mainstream (liberal) media is so powerful, how did John Kerry and Al Gore not get elected?"

The reason is that since the 2004 Bush win, the media has increasingly decided that it will allow itself to be as biased as necessary to get results it wants.

You protest, "But there is no one media." In fact, there is. Most people enter the field of journalism because they "want to make a difference" (as defined in liberals' terms), but in journalism school were taught that they need to hide their biases. However, at recent journalist conventions, online discussion groups, and even in bellwether journalism schools such as U.C. Berkeley, journalists are increasingly told they can be biased, invoking flimsy (to me, frightening) rationales such as "bias is inevitable so stop trying to hide it" or "Liberal views are the righteous ones, so it's ethical to express your biases."

Thus, ever more journalists feel justified in doing what they originally wanted to do: Instead of reporting all sides of an issue fairly, to manipulate the public into believing what they believe. So now, with people like Keith Obermann on MSNBC and most commentators and writers in the New York Times and CNN leading the way, the media's coverage of the 2008 presidential election has been and will ever more be Leftist propaganda.

As a member of the media, I get to hear it all--my colleagues privately brag about the 1,000 subtle ways they attempt to manipulate so subtly as to be undetectable by an unsuspecting public. For example, whenever a Republican makes an assertion, the media describes it as "an attack," "a salvo," etc. Yet if a Democrat makes an assertion, it's "an idea," a 'response," etc.

So, yes, I am convinced that the mainstream media indeed has a huge Leftist bias and will do what it takes to manipulate the public into believing, for example, that a liberal should be president, illegals should be given amnesty, national health care should be enacted no matter what toll it takes on now-insured people, and even more resources should be redistributed to women and minorities, without regard to merit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Example of What Obama Will Be Like as President

Today, Barack Obama said, "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

Obama's core principle is redistributive "justice." That means from those with the greatest ability to those with the greatest need---apparently even if it means we must go hungry and be too hot or too cold in our homes.

That of course, is signature Marxist philosophy. And indeed, some of Obama's closest relationships have been with Marxist sympathizers: Weatherman Underground bomber William Ayres, "Black Liberation Theologian" Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Communist party leader Frank Marshall Davis. Obama's 's official blogger, Sam Graham-Felsen is a passionate devotee of hard-Left, America-hater Noam Chomsky. And of course, there's Obama's wife: Michelle Obama. Here is her most recent redistributive "justice" pronouncement: “The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.”

Speaking of health care, redistributive "justice" will, of course, apply there--with frightening implications. Obama's health care plan will result in people with good health care (because they were good enough of an employee to be hired for a job with health insurance, had saved up enough money to buy their own, or on Medicare) having to give up that good health care and pay for health care for others', including, for example, lazy heroin addicts and illegal aliens. (No, they're not "undocumented immigrants"--that's another of those focus-group-tested phrases designed to elicit sympathy even if the term is inaccurate.) You cannot insure 47,000,000 more Americans with the same number of doctors and nurses without decimating the quality of our health care, especially since many of those 47,000,000 don't have the money to pay for health care.

In future years, the Obama plan is sure to degrade our health care even more because when foreigners see that-- as in 1986--amnesty was defacto granted to all illegals (which is what Obama promises to do as soon as he takes office--if it hasn't already been passed into law, which currently is being attempted) many millions more of the world's needy will sneak into the U.S. illegally. That will continue until U.S health care and other upsides of American life decline to the levels in their home country.

Ironically, Obama's core goal (for everyone in the world to live better and close to equally well) will be subverted by redistributing resources from those with the greatest potential to solve society's problems to those with the least.

Fortunately, the American system of government has checks and balances, so Obama's frighteningly extremist views (Remember that the nonpartisan National Journal rated him 100/100: the Senate's most liberal senator, moreso even than self-described socialist Bernie Sanders) an at-least-modestly more moderate Congress will keep him in check--hopefully.

Note that I am assuming Obama will be president. America's most powerful force is not the "military-industrial complex" but the ever more Leftist-biased media, and they want the most liberal candidate possible, hence Obama will be a shoo-in.

It will be an interesting eight years.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Unfair Male Bashing

I was watching a PBS panel discussion among four women (nary a man) about why newly hired women scientists get strong evaluations yet half of women scientists stop working within the first few years. They offered only three explanations: machismo, sexual harassment, and employers not accommodating to employees' motherhood.

Why did none of the panel members mention any of these, which I have heard again and again from my women clients:
  • Many women soon tire of the rigors and isolation of scientist work. Indeed recent research finds that women, on average, just aren't interested enough in science to make a long-term career out of it.
  • They end up valuing being a mother more than working outside the home.
  • They find it easier to be a stay-at-home mom.
As always in the mainstream (read "liberal") media, it's easier to just blame men.

Obama and White Men

This is just the smallest thing, but it suggests the impact of the race consciousness Obama will bring. On April 24, the AFL-CIO (which will no doubt vigorously campaign for Obama) issued a report: AFL-CIO Cites Rise in Hispanic Workplace Deaths." The fact that only 990 of the 5840 workplace deaths occurred to Hispanics didn't matter. The AFL-CIO report focused only on the Latinos.

Of course, it didn't mention the percentage of deaths that occurred to men vs women, even though you can be sure most of the deaths were to men by looking at the occupations with the largest percentage of workplace deaths: construction: transportation and warehousing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. Warren Farrell's statement, "Men are the disposable sex" is triply true for white men.

I am confident that when Obama gets elected, he will revert from his on-the-stump rhetoric designed to calm white male fears to what he's done in the past: calling for dramatic additional redistribution of resources from white men to minorities and women.

It won't matter, for example, that men die 5 1/2 years earlier than women and live their last decade in worse health. You can bet that the 50-year-long practice of conducting almost all-gender- and race-specific research on women and minorities will continue.

Curing Your Procrastination

Think of the moment you're supposed to start working.

Are you aware of that moment? If not, part of the solution may be to force yourself to remember, for example, "9:00 is when I have to start working." You might even set a timer to go off at 9.

If you are aware of the moment, but let yourself get distracted by other activities, which of these is the cause and cure:
  • Laziness: Remind yourself that, like a heroin addict, the short-term pleasure will be outweighed by the long-term pain. Also, think of how good you'll feel when you get the task done and reap the benefits of that.
  • Fear of failure/rejection. Of course, sometimes fear of failure is a legitimate self-warning. For example, maybe the risk of starting that business or going back to college is too great. But often, the fear is irrational. If so, remember, if you don't try, you ensure failure. If you try and fail, couldn't you survive? And so what if those failures help you realize you are just average or mediocre. Not everyone can be a star. Just plain folk are worthy too. The only people who are unworthy are parasites: surviving mainly on other people's misery and/or largesse. Give yourself a break.
  • Fear of success: True, people may expect more of you if you succeed, but remember: You're worthy even if despite your best efforts, your results are mediocre. And if you fear success because it will make someone feel bad, remember that worthy people will rejoice in your success. If your co-worker or family member resents your success, does that person deserve your sabotaging yourself for that person?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Low-Risk, Fast-Start E-Business

1. Visit Google Trends to see which search terms are being searched much more than they were yesterday. Today's #1 is "John Phillip Law," an actor who died today. (I wouldn't choose that one because it's unlikely to stay hot for more than a couple of days.)

2. Create an e-commerce site, for example, using Yahoo Small Business E-Commerce Solutions. Get a domain name as close to the term as possible. In our example, you'd try to get something as close to as possible.

3. Sign up to be an Amazon Associate--that gets you 5% of revenue clicked through from your site.

4. Search for books, videos, and other products related to your selected search term (In our example: John Phillip Law.) For each product you think is good (in part, based on the reviews on Amazon,) paste its image and URL (which has your Amazon Associate number embedded) onto your site's home page.

4. On the home page, mention the search term perhaps a half-dozen times. But don't just repeat the word one after the other. Use the term so it logically makes sense within the text.

5. Watch the money roll in.

6. Keep repeating the above process with other hot Google Trends terms that are likely to stay hot for at least a couple of weeks.

7. When one of your sites starts to make less money than the cost of maintaining it, drop it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Intriguing Presidential/VP Combos

Obama and Warren Buffett
Obama and Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google)
Obama and Jeffrey Immelt (CEO of GE)
McCain and Dianne Feinstein
Obama and Rahm Emanuel
Obama and Chuck Schumer
Obama and McCain
McCain and Obama
Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton
Obama and Bill Clinton
Obama and Hillary Clinton
Clinton and Obama
Obama and Bloomberg
Obama and David Gergen
Obama and Lou Dobbs
McCain and Christopher Hitchens
McCain and Newt Gingrich
Any candidate and me

My newest entrepreneurial idea

Convert a cafe that is located near a university into a "Town Hall Cafe" where, every hour, patrons discuss a different topic of current interest.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why "Live in the Moment" is such potent advice

The advice to live in the moment is ubiquitous but has merit. Reasons:  
  • It gives you a fresh start--without the baggage of your past or fears of your future
  • It precludes your being overwhelmed--If you're only contemplating your next one-second task, you're unlikely to feel overwhelmed.
  • It maximizes pleasure: You are fully savoring what you're eating, reading, feeling, listening to.
It can even work while you're working. For example, as I'm writing this, I'm not particularly enjoying the effort to figure out what to say. But I make sure to take a moment of pleasure with every completed paragraph, when I'm done with the first draft, when I reread it and find ways to improve it, when I click, "publish post" and see it published, and whenever I get a positive or edifying comment on that post.

Me on NPR's Talk of the Nation

I was discussing my article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: America's Most Overrated Product.

Here's the link to the audio interview

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Most Deadly Double Standard

Men die far earlier from heart disease, indeed from all causes. Men live 5 1/2 years shorter than women and spend their last decade in worse health.

Yet the vast majority of gender-specific health research and education are for women. Think of the sea of pink ribbons for breast cancer research. Where are the ribbons for the many more men who die earlier of sudden heart attack?

It's sexist and unfair. Imagine that all literacy programs were aimed at whites, even though Blacks have a much higher illiteracy rate. It would never come to be, or if it did, would trigger national outrage and the program pulled. But when women are the beneficiary, there's no problem. Think about it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Why the Political Campaign is So Repulsive...And a Better Approach YOU can take

You've probably never heard of George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute nor political consultant, Drew Westin nor pollster Frank Luntz.

They are the Josef Goebbels of American politics--teaching candidates manipulative propaganda techniques to obfuscate the issues. They replace facts with focus-group and even MRI-tested manipulative phrases. It disgusts me.

We can't ban them but, please, avoid listening to the candidates--they are robots merely mouthing the focus-group tested phrases. Read commentaries from all quarters.

I cited my favorite sites in an earlier post, but here are some recent worthy articles:

The New York Times' comparison of candidates on the issues

Salon's recent take on the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

The Economist's endorsement of Obama for the nomination but not necessarily the presidency.

Charles Krauthammer's support of Clinton for the nomination (in the National Review.)

A call for a Libertarian-oriented president by the editor of the libertarian Reason magazine. (This was published in the L.A. Times.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I don't believe in the pursuit of happiness

If happiness occurs while I'm producing something beneficial, then fine. But pursuing happiness for its own sake distracts from that more important component of the life well-led. I know that makes me a stick in the mud, but that's what I believe.

The Most Important Article on Education--PERIOD.

I urge you to read THIS.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How to Motivate Someone

In dealing with people with at least moderate self-esteem, you can often motivate them to do something by insisting they'll fail at it.

For more ways to get motivated see Self-Discipline in Ten Days.

Or read the free articles on overcoming procrastination on my website. When you get there, on the left menu, click on "procrastination."

Finally, an article on education that makes sense

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who's Hiring? No Surprise: the Government

I'm not sure it's good news for taxpayers--government isn't the most efficient spender of your money--but it is good news for job seekers: USA Today reports government statistics that while the private sector is cutting jobs, government is hiring so vigorously, you'd think the economy was booming.

Government is the last bastion of well-paying, fully benefited jobs, rarely requiring you to work more than 40 hours a week, in which it's almost impossible to get fired--except, perhaps, if you're a white male who tells a woman she looks attractive. ;-)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Good Communication Skills Reduces to One Word

The word is courtesy:

The courtesy to talk at the right time: "Do you have a moment?"

The courtesy to speak in pleasant tones: slowly, with pauses to give people time to assimilate what you're saying, near the bottom of your pitch range, but when emphasizing a key point, increasing pitch and volume and decreasing speed.

The courtesy to be brief: 10-60 seconds per utterance. That doesn't overwhelm the listener.

The courtesy to ask permission before criticizing: "Would you mind if I offered a suggestion?"

The courtesy to criticize with minimal impact on their self-esteem: "I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to (insert suggestion). What do you think?"

Courteous communication is invaluable to enhancing your credibility and likeability.

Sorting Students is GOOD

Tracking students into high and low tracks, and having high standards for college admission are anathema to liberals.

I am liberal on a number of issues, but among my strongest-held beliefs is that the costs of not-sorting students are far greater than the costs of sorting.
For example, mixing high- and low-ability kids in the same class virtually ensures that both groups often receive inappropriate-level instruction and an exhausted teacher. Metaevaluations of ability-grouping studies bear this out.

And, yes, it should be done early. The longer we wait, the greater the costs. Of course, I'm not just talking about dollar costs. I'm talking about the costs to both low- and high-achieving kids, to teachers, and importantly, to the larger society.