Tuesday, December 13, 2011

science in theory vs. practice

Speed Bump

From Ronald Bailey in Reason-- on whether Dems or GOP'ers are more anti-science...

Dems point to stem cells and global warming. But Dems are often opposed to animal testing and genetic engineering. And they're usually opposed to nuclear energy. The Dems also get votes for their support of abortion (which can't be solved by science, but if one relies on it, then abortions after a few weeks would be out-of-bounds).

Finally, "as law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues at the Yale Cultural Cognition Project have shown, the strong urge to avoid scientific and technological risk is far more characteristic of people who have egalitarian and communitarian values, that is to say, left-leaning folks..."

How do religions die? Generally they don't, which probably explains why there's so little literature on the subject...Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen. As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit...

Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that's another way religions die.

One of the changes among scientists in this century is the increasing number who believe that one can have complete and certain knowledge...I felt nostalgic for those times when even the greatest scientific minds admitted limits to what they knew. And when they recognized well that the key to the scientific method is that it is a way of knowing in which you can never completely prove that something is absolutely true. Instead, the important idea about the method is that any statement, to be scientific, must be open to disproof, and a way of knowing how to disprove it exists.Therefore, "Period, end of story" is something a scientist can say—but it isn't science...How about a little agnosticism in our scientific assertions...

This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced…There is also a more insidious and pervasive problem: a preference for positive results...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

research on the impact of school choices on Christian children

The Cardus report on the impact of Christian education choices-- or more precisely, the impact of the type of education chosen for children self-identifying Christians...

There are many interesting and some surprising results: 
-Conservative Protestant schooling is more likely to result in church leadership and feel well-prepared for relationships, but least likely to like new and exciting experiences. 
-Religious homeschoolers are most likely to feel prepared for a vibrant religious/spiritual life, but also to get divorced and to lack direction. (Sobering if true!)
-Those educated in Catholic schools earn the highest incomes, are most likely to make political contributions, and least likely to accept the authority of church leadership.
-Public schoolers are most likely to volunteer their time but least prepared for relationships. 
And so on...Check it out.

This blog post seems to do a nice job in surveying some of the other relevant literature and wrestling with the validity of the Cardus report. The most interesting comments are about religious homeschoolers and trying to figure out whether the report is accurate with respect to homeschoolers.

three articles on education

1.) the growth of homeschooling in the African-American community (Tiffany Owens in World)

2.) the growth of school choice programs across the nation (Sheryl Blunt in CT)

3.) new-and-improved research on educational levels and religious practice (Tim Dalrymple in World)

First, by many measures the more educated are more religiously observant. They are more likely to engage in worship and devotional activities, and to affirm the importance of religion in public life...The more educated, although they are no less likely to believe in God and the afterlife, are less likely to believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God, or that there is only one true religion. This suggests that the educational establishment is averse not to religiousness in general, but to particular forms of faith. Thus, as people grow more educated, they are more likely to switch to mainline denominations...Finally, different religious groups are affected by education differently. Evangelicals, for example, are especially likely to grow more devout and more observant with more education.

OJCPSB: Occupy JCPS Buses

That seems to be the motto of the JCPS administration-- where putting kids on buses in the pursuit of racial diversity is really important. One can't say whether it's more important than the quality of the education provided, but it's obvious that it's important given the resources devoted to this goal-- both in what's extracted from taxpayers and what's imposed on parents and children. 

Here's the primary article in the C-J (by Antoinette Kunz) preceding the start of school this Fall. It has some amazing statistics and factoids:

-"They des­perately hope the many changes they've put into place will pre­vent the prob­lems that kept some el­e­mentary students from getting home [during the first week last year]...400 chil­dren getting home af­ter 6 p.m., with some still on buses as late as 9 p.m."

-"930 school buses will hit the road as early as 5 a.m. to trans­port approxi­mately 66,000 of the dis­trict's 101,000 students."

-"Those buses will be equipped with new ra­dios that have channels programmed exclusively to each bus com­pound, cutting down on communication confu­sion. The dis­trict spent $1.2 million on the ra­dios earli­er this year..."

-" a new JCPS bus hot­line...so par­ents can get the information they need before sending their chil­dren to the bus stop Monday...manned by about 10 staff members..."

-"...also pro­viding 200 additional staff members at the dis­trict's 20 el­e­mentary bus depots to help 'en­sure the chil­dren get on and off the right buses'..."

-"at ev­ery el­e­mentary school, bus rid­ers will have luggage tags attached to their backpacks, with labels that des­ignate the child's name, bus number and bus stop.The luggage tags, which cost the dis­trict $16,000..."

-"...ask­ing par­ents to be pa­tient on the first day, but he said he hopes to have all the students back home by 6:30 p.m. Eventually, he said, all el­e­mentary students will be de­liv­ered home by 5:30 p.m..."


Here are more data from the latest editorial from the C-J'ers on the "busing tango"-- a nice term, except that it's more like police chasing those who want to break regulations instead of "it takes two/partners to tango".

-"...elementary student bus runs over 75 minutes now have been eliminated for the first time. The percentage of students riding between 60 and 70 minutes has been cut by two thirds to 2.8 percent (a total of 832 students) since the 2008-09 school year, the last one before the current assignment plan. The average elementary ride time is 29.2 minutes."

Those numbers are amazing enough, but the editorialists seem excited by an *average* bus ride of 30 minutes each way. 

JCPS is 16th in the country in terms of students transported daily, but 8th in miles driven. Among larger cities, Louisville is 3rd in terms of miles per bus (behind Chicago and Charlotte). 

They're good at driving kids around on buses. If only they were half that good at educating them...

more-on Keynesian failures

WaPo's Sarah Kliff in the C-J on the latest efforts to buy votes with our own money &/or efforts to "stimulate" the economy by robbing Peter to pay Paul...

The Obama administration will announce as much as $1 billion in funding today to hire, train and deploy health care workers, part of the White House’s broader “We Can’t Wait” agenda to bolster the economy after President Barack Obama’s jobs bill stalled in Congress...There will be an emphasis on speed, with new programs expected to be running within six months of funding...

Then again, the emphasis on speed is interesting, because fiscal policy is notoriously slow (in general) and President Obama has avoided "shovel-ready jobs" to pursue other agenda items. Here's the WSJ editorialists on an example:

President Obama used to be fond of "shovel-ready projects." He's also demanding that Congress pass his jobs bill immediately because 9% unemployment is a crisis, and, by the way, he's for making the U.S. less reliant on energy from tyrants. So how about putting 20,000 Americans to work on a North American energy project that's as shovel-ready as they come? Sorry...The $7 billion project is TransCanada's Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile underground pipeline that would deliver 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil a day from Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas...He's president of the 1%.

Then, there are the broader discussions of Keynesianism's intellectual death 40 years ago and its more recent failures in the policy realm. Here's Tim Cavanaugh in Reason...

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, a prominent voice in favor of Keynesian economic intervention, argued that the 2009 stimulus failed because it was not large enough to close a gap in aggregate demand. But the most important goal of the stimulus was achieved almost a year ago: Consumer spending returned to its pre-recession level in the last quarter of 2010...

So why aren’t Krugman and other Keynesian interventionists cheering? John Maynard Keynes’ general theory teaches us that now should be Miller Time. According to the standard [Keynesian] macroeconomic model, you revive a stagnant economy by closing the gap in aggregate demand. Taking up the slack in demand is supposed to be the heavy lifting of an economic recovery, the part of the job so big only the government can do it...And yet the economy stays narcotized...

“There’s really nothing in Keynesian theory that encompasses indebtedness—consumer indebtedness and corporate indebtedness,” Higgs said in a phone interview....Higgs points out that while spending is back, investment remains low...Higgs and others hold that money is staying in the vaults because of regime uncertainty. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, has created a new panoply of expenses for anybody looking to hire an employee, but the full range and nature of those expenses can’t be measured even by a team of lawyers...