January 23, 2012

Redmond v. Palo Alto over Yale v. Jail

The lifestyles of the rich and famous of Silicon Valley span the dimensions from Larry Ellison-style Living Large to those who like a quiet upper middle class suburban existence (private jets not necessarily excluded). For example, Steve Jobs was too persnickety to get around to ever building the Japanese minimalist dream house he had planned, so his wife just moved him and the kids into the old part of Palo Alto, which is mostly a lot of nice two story houses on fairly small lots. Others in the neighborhood include Larry Page of Google and venture capitalist John Doerr. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook recently traded up from a 3k square foot to a 4k sf house around the corner.

All this is just an intro to say that people in Palo Alto tend to be a little less clueless than elsewhere.

On the other hand, Bill Gates lives in a 66,000 square foot house in the Seattle area. And one of the Gates Foundations' obsessions has been to get all the public high schools in California to require that all students to graduate must pass all the courses (known as the "A-G Requirements") necessary for admission to a University of California college, even though, by law, UC schools are for the top 1/8th of California's high school graduates. This is classic "Yale or Jail" thinking by the Gates Foundation: We'll force every student in California to be eligible for the elite UC system by threatening them that if they don't pass all the A-G requirements, they'll go through life as high school dropouts! What could possibly go wrong?

Most places, the educational bureaucracy is made up of people who are better with words than numbers, so if the Gates Foundation tells them to do it, they think it must be a great idea and announce that all the new 9th graders can't get a diploma without passing Algebra II. Later on, the high school math teachers quietly convince the administrations to postpone implementing this until next year. In a lot of places, it's been quietly postponed for many years in a row. The LA school board, for instance, passed an Algebra II requirement in 2005 at Gates' behest, but has yet to enforce it. But Come the Revolution, comrades, we'll all eat strawberries and like them.

Palo Alto, in contrast, is one of the few places where the math teachers have the confidence to say that the Gates Foundation plan is stupid.

So, this Redmond v. Palo Alto angle makes this Achievement Gap story from Palo Alto High School interesting. From the San Jose Mercury-News:
Palo Alto math teachers oppose higher math graduation requirements
By Sharon Noguchi snoguchi@mercurynews.com 
Against the resolute push for higher academic standards geared toward preparing students for college, the Palo Alto High School math department has drawn a line in the sand. 
Don't prepare all students for University of California entrance, the math faculty argues, because not all students can master quadratic equations and logarithmic functions. 
Their counterpush against raising graduation standards to include Algebra II has angered educators and parents who believe schools, including districts like Palo Alto with strong college-going cultures, are failing poor and minority students by expecting too little of them. 
The parents point to startling statistics: In the Palo Alto and Gunn high schools' 2011 class of seniors, only 15 percent of African-Americans and 40 percent of Latinos completed the prerequisites for the University of California and California State University with a C or better. That compares with 79.5 percent districtwide meeting those so-called A-G requirements. 

The A-G requirements includes two years of a foreign language (increasingly only Spanish is on offer in California), which is hard on African-American youths because foreign language courses are hard in general, and blacks have so little interest in Spanish. And it demands Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, which is a great idea for Lake Wobegon H.S., but Algebra II is a big hurdle for the 49.99% of young people who are below average in intelligence.
"It is disgraceful," said Kim Bomar, a parent of two Palo Alto elementary children, "in this district where some kids are doing so extremely well and the resources are so extremely rich." 
Other districts, including San Jose Unified, East Side Union and San Francisco Unified, set A-G as the default curriculum, and in Palo Alto the administration had recommended the district follow suit. The school board is set to take up the issue in the spring. But Palo Alto High's math teachers oppose the recommendation. Yes, bump up the graduation requirement to three years of math, they argue, but don't require students to master Algebra II -- because they say not everyone can. ... 
Palo Alto High math department chair Radu Toma said critics confuse standards with achievement. "They make the assumption just by setting the bar up there, the bar will be reached," he said. "I'm not saying it's impossible; it's a big gamble."
The risk, he said, is that courses will be devaluated. 

Mr. Toma grew up in Communist Romania, so he's heard enough Grand Plans for one lifetime.
He said other districts' A-G standards aren't examples to follow. In San Jose Unified, which has had required A-G courses for 10 years, only 42 percent of seniors -- compared with Palo Alto's 80 percent -- last year completed them with a C or better, as UC requires. Students who aren't on track to complete the requirement may take different courses, spokeswoman Karen Fuqua said. 
Toma said that while students elsewhere may pass Algebra II, 45 percent of CSU and UC students must take remedial math. That doesn't happen with Palo Alto graduates, he said. "When our kids finish with Algebra II, we are not pretending they completed Algebra II." Teachers, he said, are doing everything possible to support students in achieving their personal best in math. 
The brouhaha escalated last fall, with the circulation of a letter signed by all but one of the math department's teachers, arguing against adoption of the A-G standards. "Diluting the standards in our regular lane to basic benchmarks, which might allow every student to pass Algebra II, would end up hurting the district's reputation and, implicitly, all of our students." 
The letter also took a swipe at students who fail: "Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters and parents have the means and will to support and guide their children in tandem with us, their teachers. Not all of them." 
On Sunday, Toma said, "I am sorry that a couple of paragraphs in our letter that were quoted out of context led some community members who do not know our department, our program and our results, to doubt our commitment to all our students," Toma said. 
Toma said last week that he did not mean to insult families, and said he believes all parents care about their children's success. 
The letter provoked outrage. "It was unacceptable. It was racially insensitive," said Tremaine Kirkman, president of the Student Equity Action Network at Palo Alto High. His group provides tutoring and helps with college applications. In Palo Alto, he said, "no matter how well you understand math, it's such a fast pace you need a tutor to survive." 
On the first day of calculus, he said his teacher told the class: "There's no way to switch down a lane; if you can't keep up, you have to get a tutor." Palo Alto high schools have five lanes of math. 
In light of the math department's opposition, the Palo Alto school board postponed a decision on A-G. Emmett D. Carson, president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, called the delay "disheartening" and suggested the board risks damaging students' chances in life. 
The larger problem, Kirkman said, is that Palo Alto schools track some students early on toward failure, including placing a disproportionate number of black and Latino children into special education. 
Toma said the department would support adding another year of math -- geometry -- to Palo Alto's graduation requirement. In the San Mateo Union High School District, which requires three years of math, 68 percent completed it last year, Curriculum Director Cynthia Clark said. 
That is doable, Toma said; adding Algebra II isn't. "The educational system in our country is littered with grandiose initiatives or policies that failed because the bar was set unrealistically high," he said. "Making this huge jump is not going to better our kids' math education."

52 comments:

Sid said...

The funny thing is that growing up in a Seattle public high school made HBD a blisteringly mundane reality for me. It was quite jaw dropping to see the feats of doublethink many of the smarter students and faculty exhibited when they pondered how to make the not-so-smarts behave better... (In a nutshell, smart students would make the crudest, vilest racist jokes in private, while parroting in public the glories that "diversity" brings to our communities.)

I think Bill Gates is similarly cynical. He's obsessed with IQ, and seems so self-absorbed that he views the rest of mankind on a scale of differing levels of stupidity. But, he must also support rounding up the ants and have them all pass through an absurdly difficult high school education, so his name will have better PR.

spandrell said...

Meritocracy has been doing a good job of emptying the lower classes of their smart kids, thus leaving them unable to defend themselves (no smart union leaders).

But if Gates wants everyone who can't cut Algebra II to be lower class, we'll get a lot of high verbal lawyer types in poverty who aren't gonna keep quiet.

Maya said...

The high school that I attended had Basic Algebra II, Regular Algebra II, Advanced Algebra II and Honors Algebra II.

See? It's totally possible to allow the kids who actually can learn to signal to colleges that they actually learned while fulfilling the requirement of signing off on every kid's transcript. We had the same system going for geometry too. Only some students' geometry class involved, mostly, trig, and some kids reviewed shapes.

Maya said...

"I think Bill Gates is similarly cynical."

Maybe. But Bill gates grew up in a posh suburb, didn't he? Perhaps he really hasn't met a lot of people who couldn't pass Algebra II with a "C". Also, perhaps to him the level of Algebra II is so absurdly low that he doesn't see what the problem is.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Mr. Toma thinks that geometry will be more achievable for the students than algebra II. The high school geometry class that I took many years ago consisted of writing mathematical proofs the first semester and solving challenging numerical problems the second semester (sort of trig-lite). That geometry class, especially the first semester, was much more challenging than algebra II, which included a heavier dose of trigonometry. I guess it's going to be about reviewing the pretty shapes, like Mays said.

Anonymous said...

What's even more interesting than the fact that the small population of California blacks isn't a bit smarter than blacks in the rest of the US is the fact that all those math whizzes aren't equating to fantastic feats of architecture and engineering. Why aren't we living in incredibly cheap, wonderful, energy efficient houses? Why does computer technology change in fits and starts leaving a pile of rubbish that really smart people could recycle into something better and not outdated and crappy?

Why is it that that many people's brains heating up while performing advanced mathematical calculations at a relatively young age has not transformed any of our societies (with the possible exception of Nordics in Northern Europe). Instead we get technology that is obsolete before we buy it and old systems that must be scrapped instead of renovated. Nothing changes from decade to decade. Some people get the newer versions earlier than others but the whole process continues much the same as it has since we had those huge mainframe computers. And there has to be so much waste piling up in the form of cellphones, various types of computers along with the media designed for them.

I hope you weren't trying to impress me with why such brilliant Asian minds aren't being plucked from the Jr highs where they're most certainly already doing calculus and placed in engineering schools where they won't be wasting any time on that kiddie math in high school.

dearieme said...

"devaluated": de-bloody-valuated? It's time to require a Use-of-English examination for schoolteachers. Raise that bar!

AMac said...

I'm especially charmed by reporter Sharon Noguchi's doubleplusgoodthink:

"The [math teachers'] letter also took a swipe at students who fail: 'Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters and parents have the means and will to support and guide their children in tandem with us, their teachers. Not all of them.'"

Sharon is so right -- hatefacts are indeed swipey.

Is Irony taught in Honors sections of English class at Palo Alto high? If so, the smarter-fraction students can chuckle at what follows:

"The letter provoked outrage. 'It was unacceptable. It was racially insensitive,' said Tremaine Kirkman, president of the Student Equity Action Network at Palo Alto High... In Palo Alto, he said, 'no matter how well you understand math, it's such a fast pace you need a tutor to survive.'"

Not nature! Not nurture! Help, this paper bag has me trapped!

Scots-Irish Presbyterian Ministers Association said...

Meritocracy has been doing a good job of emptying the lower classes of their smart kids, thus leaving them unable to defend themselves (no smart union leaders).

Don't worry, we'll be more than happy to fill the void.

XTeacher said...

I attended a high-achieving high school. About ten percent of the class were either Merit Finalists or got a Merit Letter of Commendation- which 2% get nationwide.

There was a General Math class for the lower 10-15%- no algebra. They graduated from high school and led productive lives without any knowledge of algebra.

Algebra II isn't for everyone. Ditto Algebra I.

I liked Spandrell's comment about lawyer types not hacking Algebra II.

Marlowe said...

Wikipedia on Bill Gates education:

"At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school."

And the school itself:

"Lakeside School is a private/independent school located in the Haller Lake neighborhood at the north city limits of Seattle, Washington, USA, for grades 5–12.

Lakeside sends 100% of its graduating class to four-year colleges. Its most famous alumni are Bill Gates and Paul Allen, founders of Microsoft, who got their start programming tic-tac-toe on a time-shared computer provided by the Lakeside Mothers' Association and the Lakeside Mathematics Department."

I think rich, privately educated persons who pay very little in tax ought not to interfere with the state educational system which they did not even pass through en route to their wealth.

David said...

>"devaluated": de-bloody-valuated? It's time to require a Use-of-English examination for schoolteachers. Raise that bar!<

Now don't get all misorientated, there.

beowulf said...

Have every student go at their own pace with digital tutors. The bar to clear for a high school diploma should be the GED. Any student who passes that prior to the end of their senior year should then go on to take college or vocational classes online.

Justin said...

When I was a jr. high math teacher, a parent BROKE DOWN IN TEARS in front of me during a parent-teacher conference, when I told her the district was going to require Alg 2 to graduate.

She immediately recognized that none of her 3 sons was going to graduate. It was really depressing. All three of her sons spent HOURS every day getting math tutoring, just to struggle with basic math. Requiring Alg 2 of all graduates is just cruelty of the highest order.

Robert Holmgren said...

Since Mr. Gates is so smart shouldn't we expect of him to design and build his own home? After all, those construction workers are mere idiots.

NOTA said...

Anonymous:

Yeah, I'm contemplating your question as I sit reading blogs on my iPad over a wifi network, taking a break from work (telecommuting today). Damn, when will we notice an impact from having most of our smart mathy kids funneled into advanced math classes in high school and then funneled off to college? If it wrren't a workday, I'd contemplate this over some streamed TV show via Netflix or a video game. Since it is a workday, maybe I'll go pull down a couple recently published papers in my field and read them. What a puzzler.

NOTA said...

Maya:

It seems plausible to me that Gates so seldom interacts with people of normal intelligence he has no intuition for how hard stuff like algebra is for the folks on the left end of the bell curve. In my daily life, other than maybe the baristas at the coffee shop or the waitresses at restaurants, I almost never interact with people for whom Algebra II in high school was a serious barrier. In this bubble, it's not so hard to imagine that the human baseline is capable of learning a fair bit of algebra and trig, rather than capable of learning a fair bit of practical arithmetic and learning to read. And in more selective bubbles, that perceived baseline moves up. What does the average Caltech physics professor or MIT student think the human baseline is? I mean, calc and diff EQ are not really hard, they just get a little tedious with remembering all that bag of tricks. Programming is something everyone can learn to do pretty well, right? And so on.

Anonymous said...

I'd label this campaign: Dewey II.

This time around Gates wants the 'factory' to produce H1b replacements.

----

The elites are stuck on stupid and as a parody of Hitlerism and Stalinism still want to produce the New ( American ) Man. (TM)

DNA is really getting in the way of their fantasy.

Maya said...

"It's time to require a Use-of-English examination for schoolteachers. Raise that bar!"

Oh, they do require it. Praxis I is the first exam in teacher certification process, and its purpose is to ensure that the teachers have adequate skills in math, reading and English. An aborted monkey could pass that test while strung out on methadone, yet a lot (the majority?) of people don't pass it on the first try.

not a hacker said...

Blacks could easily pass Algebra II, and even Calculus and set theory, if Sabril's people only cared about them. But they only want to teach WASP's and Asians.

sid storch said...

For you data junkies, here are the math grades of one motivated kid who got a 630 math SAT in 1975. Algebra I (B), Geometry (A-), Algebra II [quadratics] (B), Trig. (B), Analytic Geometry (C),
Math 16A [UCB's calculus for dummies], (D, drop).

Anonymous said...

Arrogant High IQ Geeks assume everyone could be like them if they just tried harder is not news to me.

I am in the High IQ bracket and good with math but I found Algebra II to be difficult, I can't imagine how people from unstable homes or who are just dumb as bricks would find it.

Also, unless all these people are suddenly going to be programmers and MS is going to hire them, the skills are a waste of time, money and effort

The people who can make a perfectly good living in sales, service and skilled trades do not need them and shouldn't be forced to take them.

The rest simply can't handle them and trying to cut people out of the economy is sooner than later going to backfire.

You won't have enough consumers to pay for your defenders and they'll either vote you out, flood you out or take you it.

In high school that thinking would get you a wedgie or roughed up. In real life, it gets you a revolution by people who make the late Pol Lot and the Zetas look like humanitarians of the year.

airtommy said...

But Bill gates grew up in a posh suburb, didn't he?

Not just that, but he was born in 1955, so his childhood was not affected by the 1965 Immigration Ac, nor the de facto opening of our southern border.

C. Van Carter said...

Could he be delusionally extrapolating from his own school days? Gates attended Lakeside High School, where 100% of its graduating class go on to four-year colleges.

Anonymous said...

Don't think it's a San Francisco v. Seattle philosophical difference, just that Gates may have been swayed by political and foundation types because he happens to be the world's/ America's richest person. Larry Ellison who is also super rich prefers to spend his money on himself, so he probably doesn't get as many requests. Gates' home is really his only grandiose expenditure, unlike Ellison and his Microsoft number 2 Paul Allen, Gates doesn't buy himself a lot of toys. I think both Ellison and Allen have 3 mega yachts apiece, plus Ellison I think owns multiple jets including I believe a MiG-29 he bought from the Russians. Ellison's house is valued north of $100M, and he spent $200m to build a mega-yacht which he later sold to David Geffen. He also spent over $180m on 10 properties in Malibu in 2004 and 2005. Deep down I think Gates realizes his "expert advice" was wrong, but the money is already in the pipeline. Too bad Gates, Ellison, and Allen just don't spend their foundation money on science and technology like Rockefeller and Sloan did.

Jack Aubrey said...

I think the time has come to create different degrees of high school diplomas with, ideally, similar standards across the US.

High schools will neveer get away with increasing graduation standards for everyone because that would lead to increased drop-out rates for minorities. So instead hand out Basic Diplomas for those who graduate under current requirements and award an Honors Diploma, perhaps with certifications in certain fields of study. That way a diploma can be used as a guide for potential employers without forcing every student to attend college.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think we should require our students to win Nobel Prizes, so we would know we haven't set the bar too low. Then our HS graduates would beat everyone else's.

lycopene said...

Re: Gates Algebra II requirement, I prefer Maya's explanation (egocentrism, seeing everyone as being like yourself) over Sid's (cynicism - Gates is too powerful, too efficacious for that I think), but, it's not completely satisfying. I'm sure Gates cares very much about education, but wouldn't he have informed himself about race, being such a freak for IQ? Wouldn't you investigate the racial differences etc? Perhaps he feels that NAMs can do it if they just try harder (I'm not saying they couldn't).

No Standard Too Low said...

As a former resident of Palo Alto, this will be an interesting fight.

You have the generally intelligent, successful and ambitious parents of PA who want a rigourous if well-rounded education for thier kids on one corner.

In the other corner you have the usual suspects: public figures mouthing empty PC nonsense with great indignity to score status points, the self-interested and race hustlers, and the entire public education system whose biggest trend of late is to dumb everything down until everyone is above average.

The demographics of Palo Alto are:

64.2% White
27.1% Asian
(91.3% Subtotal)

6.2% Latino
1.9% Black
(8.1% Subtotal)

Who will win? What will come out of it all?

What do even more narrowly academically rigourous communities in the Bay Area (eg Cupertino, Fremont and other pockets of first generation Indian and Chiense) do to keep their schools from being gutted by the recent No Standard Too Low educrat trend?

Jack Aubrey said...

I don't know what Gates's motivations are, but I find it hard to believe he'd let ~$3 billion a year go to waste just so people can think well of him.

Guys like Gates grow up surrounded by smart people. His mom was an heiress, dad was a prominent lawyer, and all the kids at his exclusive private school probably came from good, two parent families and were an SD or two above the average American. All of them could grasp most of what was being taught in the classroom. Gates could mentally assign those who didn't succeed as simply coming from a bad upbringing, "if only they tried harder or had better parenting."

What Gates really needs is to adopt a few kids from Guatemala, Somalia, and Appalachia from birth, let Melinda breastfeed them, send them to Lakeside, raise them to adulthood, and see that yes, Virginia, it's not all about upbringing.

It's not that I don't think you shouldn't help the less fortunate. It's just that you aren't helping them if you're imposing standards that are impossible for them to reach.

PacRim Jim said...

Don't worry, American students. China will be glad to educate its students in math.
American workers need not look for a well-paying jobs. There will be plenty of jobs at 7-Eleven pumping Slurpees.
See, you didn't need math after all.
English, either, for that matter.

For you students concerned about your future, the two most important things to study are English composition and math, including calculus.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions said...

What's alarming is that this has passed easily from edu-corp functionaries onto the "Waiting for Superman" ticket-buyers. Suddenly these days I'm encountering more suburban-dwelling AM-radio-listening white folk who actually believe this hogwash, viz. that having all HS'ers here take & retake precalc by fiat will somehow make California totally more better. I would say it's going to end in tears but progressivism now seems to be about never learning from abject failure.

morleysafer said...

"I think the time has come to create different degrees of high school diplomas with, ideally, similar standards across the US" - that has been the established system in W. Europe for many decades, particularly among the export-driven nations, but the general cultural insanity pervading America since the 1890s will never permit it.

Maya said...

"and the entire public education system whose biggest trend of late is to dumb everything down until everyone is above average."

You'd be shocked how hard it is to achieve that goal. I mean, if your ONLY goal was to change the standards to such an extent that everyone tested proficient, you would still, probably, fail. I supervised the high stakes test last spring in a 3rd grade classroom (we were supposed to supervise a different class each day of the testing week to prevent cheating, or something). There, I watched most kids circle the wrong multiple choice answer to the question: "How long is this pencil?" There was a picture of the pencil laying alongside of a ruler with the inches clearly marked. The pencil ended precisely at the 3rd inch, and a huge, fat "3" was placed at that mark. Where would you lower the standards from that point?

Maya said...

"I don't know what Gates's motivations are, but I find it hard to believe he'd let ~$3 billion a year go to waste just so people can think well of him. "

Would he, perhaps, do it to make his beloved wife happy? Of course, I don't know what motivates Gates either.

Dr. Lexus said...

"A-G Subjects" is not a helpful name for it; in good time I trust it will be rechristened as Tha Stunner Septet, or GED-luxx

Kylie said...

"I watched most kids circle the wrong multiple choice answer to the question: 'How long is this pencil?' There was a picture of the pencil laying alongside of a ruler with the inches clearly marked. The pencil ended precisely at the 3rd inch, and a huge, fat '3' was placed at that mark. Where would you lower the standards from that point?"

I'd probably just show the same picture of the pencil and the ruler and ask, "Which one is the pencil?"

Maya said...

"I'd probably just show the same picture of the pencil and the ruler and ask, "Which one is the pencil?""

But the test was for measuring math skills... Perhaps, they could've asked, "How many pencils are there in this picture?"

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

Why is it that that many people's brains heating up while performing advanced mathematical calculations at a relatively young age has not transformed any of our societies (with the possible exception of Nordics in Northern Europe). "

And what inventions, pray tell, did these superior Nordic Supermen come up with?

Engineer Dad said...

The elites are stuck on stupid and as a parody of Hitlerism and Stalinism still want to produce the New ( American ) Man. (TM)

DNA is really getting in the way of their fantasy.


And therein lies the problem. It is enormously depressing to listen to KQED and KCBS talking heads prattle on about empty education theories and carefully designed societal sky-hooks. On this topic newspapers were more objective 100 years ago. We as species have successfully practiced flora and fauna husbandry for 9000 years, yet we lose all objectivity when society is under the microscope.

Aren't those news readers just a little curious about how things really work? This is why I find them so contemptible sometimes.

Space aliens laugh at our unwillingness to think clearly. A quasi-religious comedy on seven nights a week.

beaker said...

from Using Waste, Swedish City Shrinks its Fossil Fuel Use

"But Kristianstad has already crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels.

But this area in southern Sweden, best known as the home of Absolut vodka, has not generally substituted solar panels or wind turbines for the traditional fuels it has forsaken. Instead, as befits a region that is an epicenter of farming and food processing, it generates energy from a motley assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines.

A hulking 10-year-old plant on the outskirts of Kristianstad uses a biological process to transform the detritus into biogas, a form of methane. That gas is burned to create heat and electricity, or is refined as a fuel for cars."

ATBOTL said...

"But if Gates wants everyone who can't cut Algebra II to be lower class, we'll get a lot of high verbal lawyer types in poverty who aren't gonna keep quiet."

Do you really think that there are many lawyers who didn't pass algebra II in high school?

That's gotta be up there with the guy who said that black Africans never hunted animals until whitey showed them how.

jtollison78 said...

I can't believe how many people are certain that Gates simple doesn't have a clue. Gates scored 1590 on an old, high ceiling SAT. This puts his IQ over 160.

On an early safari, he dismissed the idea of feeding Africa, figuring it wouldn't make any difference in the long run. He later realized they just need to be brought through the demographic transition. Education is one of many factors in this process, and I've started to wonder if his attempts at educating the inner city in the US might be aimed at reducing their fertility rate.

I strongly believe that Gates and Buffet are fighting the good fight here, at least on the population front. I don't know if they can outrun the limits to growth.

John

RKU said...

jtollison78: I can't believe how many people are certain that Gates simple doesn't have a clue...Education is one of many factors in this process, and I've started to wonder if his attempts at educating the inner city in the US might be aimed at reducing their fertility rate.

A major problem with this analysis is that most of the billions Gates has been spending on education seem to have been misdirected into programs that don't work, like all that "small school magic" nonsense. If Gates' implementation is based on what all the Ed School idiots say and is worthless, that raises the likelihood his overall plan is equally misguided.

Now Gates may be quite wealthy, but he lives drenched in a sea of media information, and if all that media information is consistent but incorrect, he might easily fall into error. If the NYT, the WSJ, the Economist, and the Atlantic all say the same thing, he might very likely believe it. Especially that all these MSM outlets can insult him or cause him other types of trouble if he doesn't go along with them.

Here's a small but similar example. When the Facebook movie was about to come out, portraying the Facebook guy as a total crook, the Facebook guy gave $100M to the schools of Newark, NJ. Does anybody really think that will fix those schools? Does anybody really believe the Facebook guy though it would? But it earned him some quick points with the MSM that controls all of our society. The whole situation was very similar to some medieval king murdering his brother and donating a lot of money to the Church to make up for it.

Maya said...

"Do you really think that there are many lawyers who didn't pass algebra II in high school?"

I don't think there are many successful lawyers out there who couldn't pass Algebra II. Most young lawyers who actually work/ people around my age in good law schools that I know went up to calculus in high school. Then, most of them never wanted to see math again and majored in English and International Studies. Still, the vast majority has the ability to get a 3 on the Calc AB AP exam, or so it seems.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

And what inventions, pray tell, did these superior Nordic Supermen come up with?

First, how to survive at 60+ degrees north. Second, how to thrive at 60+ degrees north, to the point of having surplusage for distribution to those humans who can't cut it even in lush environments like Haiti.

jtollison78 said...

"If Gates' implementation is based on what all the Ed School idiots say and is worthless, that raises the likelihood his overall plan is equally misguided."

Just to be clear here, it's not clear that IQ is a limiting factor when it comes to fertility. From 1800 to 1940, white women in the US had an average of 7 children. Compare that to modern african americans. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition#United_States )

I'm not suggesting that very smart people can't get caught up in their own little world and go down the wrong path. But Buffet has Gate's ear, and Buffet is very good at modeling the world. And, of course, Melinda has attended the Bilderberg meetings. I'm quite convinced that he has the big picture in mind here.

As for Zuckerberg, you're not seriously comparing the foresight of a 27 year old with that of a 56 year old who's listening to an 81 year old? They're all supergeniuses, but I'm far more willing to believe Zuckerberg got caught up in the moment, lost in his own tight knit world, or is bowing to the media.

John

Svigor said...

The high school geometry class that I took many years ago consisted of writing mathematical proofs the first semester and solving challenging numerical problems the second semester (sort of trig-lite).

Same here. That first semester was by far the most fun I've ever had in math class.

Svigor said...

Instead we get technology that is obsolete before we buy it and old systems that must be scrapped instead of renovated.

Er, you seem to be conflating "smart" and "interested in the common good." Planned obsolescence is what smart people do to make money off a herd that isn't so smart. If the average person were smarter, we'd have done away with a lot of planned obsolescence long ago; it's not like they can't build a washing machine that lasts forever and is easy to repair - they don't want to. They want to sell you a new one.

Defeated said...

The most shocking aspect of your post is the humble homes of the filthy rich. It is very encouraging. I wish they would start an Asceticism Channel on cable to compete with HGTV (house porn). What an example for us debt ridden over-indulgers.

Can't one of them volunteer to take over Freddie or Frannie, just so they can say to borrowers, "You want what size house?!, I could buy your homeland and I live in a bungalow! Absolutely No!!"

A great book written years ago, Class by Paul Fussell, is a very funny explanation of how the upper classes don't define themselves by mere possessions.

Maya said...

"The most shocking aspect of your post is the humble homes of the filthy rich. It is very encouraging. I wish they would start an Asceticism Channel on cable to compete with HGTV (house porn). What an example for us debt ridden over-indulgers."

Aha. And none of them wear diamonds nor platinum chains. And they don't own a bunch of flashy cars either. (Zuckerberg drives a Honda Fit.) And they are all attached to highly educated women around their own age who, though reasonably attractive, couldn't make money using their looks, (with a possible exception of Larry Page's wife who is a gorgeous science researcher). And none of them bought themselves private jets. Jobs's was a gift, and Larry Page buys planes for NASA research. People of this type, usually, don't care to be on TV.

Robert Holmgren said...

The description of the neighborhood surrounding Steve Jobs' home is quite accurate. However, Mark Zuckerberg does not literally live around the corner from Jobs--unless the corner extends two miles apart.