Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says (via Falkenblog):
The fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.
The fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.
By ANNA M. PHILLIPS
Nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools in the fall, 22 percent more than last year and more than double the number four years ago, setting off a fierce competition for the most sought-after programs in the system.
On their face, the results, released on Friday by the Education Department, paint a portrait of a city in which some neighborhoods appear to be entirely above average. In Districts 2 and 3, which encompass most of Manhattan below 110th Street, more students scored at or above the 90th percentile on the entrance exam, the cutoff point, than scored below it.
But experts pointed to several possible reasons for the large increase. For one, more middle-class and wealthy parents are staying in the city and choosing to send their children to public schools, rather than moving to the suburbs or pursuing increasingly expensive private schools. And the switch to a test-based admissions system four years ago has given rise to test-preparation services, from booklets costing a few dollars to courses costing hundreds or more, raising concerns that the test’s results were being skewed. ...
Of the children who scored high enough on the entrance exam to be eligible for a gifted program, more than half — 2,656 — qualified for the five most selective schools by scoring at or above the 97th percentile. But those schools — three in Manhattan and one each in Brooklyn and Queens — have only about 400 kindergarten seats. The rest of the 4,912 children qualified for one of the dozens of gifted programs spread throughout the five boroughs.
Gifted programs generally offer an accelerated curriculum, as well as the opportunity to be around other high-performing children.
The city did not provide a racial breakdown of students who qualified, but as in years past, the more affluent districts — 2 and 3 in Manhattan, in neighborhoods west and south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and in northeastern Queens — had the most students qualify. In District 2, 949 children qualified for a gifted program, far more than in any other district.District 2 starts at about 96th St. on the Upper East Side and includes all of Manhattan south of Central Park, except, amazingly enough, Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. (And even that's gentrifying.)
In District 3, 505 children qualified. By contrast, in District 7, in the South Bronx, only six children qualified for gifted placements and none for the five most exclusive schools.
Every year since 2008, when the city put the current testing program into effect and 2,230 students qualified for seats in gifted and talented kindergarten classes, the number of children scoring at or above the 90th percentile has steadily grown. The chancellor in 2008, Joel I. Klein, made the change to standardize the admissions process, replacing a system in which each district set its own standards for entry, a process that drew criticism from parents who said favoritism sometimes played a role.
But the new process has come under scrutiny for its complete reliance on the test — actually two exams, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, a knowledge test.
In January, the city awarded Pearson a three-year contract for roughly $5.5 million to replace the Bracken exam with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which city education officials contend will better measure ability.
The contract places restrictions on Pearson’s ability to sell its test materials to anyone outside the Education Department, to make it harder for test-preparation companies to get their hands on them.
... Always on the alert for changes to admissions policies, some tutoring companies, true to the nature of their profession, are prepared for it.
One of the companies, Aristotle Circle, already offers a $300 “test preparation and enrichment kit” designed for the Naglieri and similar exams.
“You can build a better mousetrap, it doesn’t matter,” said Suzanne Rheault, one of Aristotle’s founders. “There’s no way you can stop it because now the idea of preparing for the kindergarten test is totally the norm. The stakes are so high.”
By Dana Milbank, Friday, April 13, 4:12 PM
The Rev. Al Sharpton is lord of all he surveys.
“Check out this,” the flamboyant civil rights leader told me during breakfast at his organization’s annual meeting this week. He flipped through the program until he found a full-page ad with the logos of Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. “News Corporation Proudly Supports National Action Network’s 2012 Convention,” it said.
Sharpton grinned. “They bash me on Fox News,” he said. “But they sponsor my conference.”
Everybody wants to be on Sharpton’s good side these days. No fewer than five Cabinet officers and a senior White House official went to this year’s convention to kiss his ring. President Obama spoke at last year’s conference and has sought Sharpton’s advice on policy. Sharpton has a show on MSNBC five nights a week, and he doles out airtime to a procession of politicians and journalists (including me).
Wednesday night brought the sweetest moment yet in Sharpton’s long and controversial career: the announcement that Florida authorities would charge Trayvon Martin’s shooter. Sharpton, at the request of the boy’s parents, had done more than anyone else to bring the case national attention.
Just hours before the announcement that George Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder, Martin’s parents held a joint news conference with Sharpton — and a few hours before that, Attorney General Eric Holder, also at the convention, praised Sharpton for his “tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless.”
It was confirmation that Sharpton has pulled off one of the rarest second acts in American public life: from pariah to power player.
“It was a huge moment, because it was the coming together of everything,” Sharpton said, with his trademark vainglory. “We had the attorney general here and one of the biggest civil rights cases of the 21st century, and having to do TV and radio shows at the same time, it was all combined for everybody to see.” ...
On Thursday, the day after his most visible career triumph, Sharpton worked the ballroom at Washington’s convention center, grinning for photographs. Opening up for his breakfast speaker, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Sharpton regaled the crowd with a story of how Obama invited him and Newt Gingrich to the Oval Office and asked them to launch a five-city tour promoting education reform. When Duncan took the microphone, he requested “a huge round of applause for our leader, Reverend Al Sharpton.”
Across India, Nepotism as a Way of Life
By MANU JOSEPH
NEW DELHI — The Indian upper class, like royalty, is sexually transmitted. Politics, business, mainstream cinema and other occupations where talent is subordinate to lineage are dominated by family cartels, who plant their own over the rest. The Indian elite is a system where there is a 100 percent reservation for its own genetic material. And the most underrated joke in the country is when this class joins the middle class in lamenting reservations for the poorest Indians from the “backward” castes in colleges and jobs.
The urban middle class, too, is a beneficiary of the generous and tenacious Indian family, which subsidizes its children far longer and deeper than is generally accepted. Only a young Indian who is not supported by a family purse will appreciate the simple fact that he or she does not compete with other young people for a shot at a decent life but with whole families. The Indian is less an individual and more the mascot of his family background — much the way Rahul Gandhi is the mascot of the Gandhi dynasty. ...
Bilawal Zardari, 23, is chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Rahul Gandhi, 41, is a general secretary of the Congress party. Bilawal Zardari’s prime qualification for the position he holds is that he is the son of the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto and grandson of the late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Mr. Gandhi’s is that he is the son of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and grandson of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi. [And great-grandson of India's first prime minister, Nehru.]...
In mainstream Hindi cinema, all the top actors cast in lead roles, barring one, are sons of former film stars, directors or writers. ... It is unusual for Indian businessmen to donate to charity because such generosity is at the expense of their primary function — to materially enrich the lives of their children. ...
The parents stand by their children for a long time, buying them apartments and cars, and putting those with no family support at considerable disadvantage. In return, the useful parents exert considerable power over their children long after they cease to be children.
The Indian cricket star Yuvraj Singh is more often photographed with his mother than with pretty girls. In any other country it would be unusual to see a young sports star photographed so often with his mama. Rahul Dravid, one of the most revered cricketers, once dated a top actress, but he married the girl his mother picked.
Q.: I want to ask Tracy and Sybrina, either of you can take this question. If you were to come face to face with George Zimmerman, what do you want to tell him? What do you want to ask him?
A.: One of the things that I still believe in: a person should apologize when they are actually remorseful for what they've done. I believe it was an accident. I believe that it just got out of control, and he couldn't turn the clock back. I would ask him, did he know that that was a minor, that that was a teenager and that he did not have a weapon? I would ask him -- that I understand that his family is hurting, but think about our family that lost our teenage son. I mean, it's just very difficult to live with day in and day out. I'm sure his parents can pick up the phone and call him, but we can't pick up the phone and call Trayvon anymore.
On the other hand, the context here is advice to kids. Deciding which situation says, “Stay out of this!” and which says, “Help the guy” requires an act of judgment. Kids don’t have very good judgment; so a blanket “Stay out of this!” is not bad advice in context.
Karl E. Meyer, a former member of the New York Times editorial board, is a co-author of “Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds.”
By KARL E. MEYER
Published: April 11, 2012
THE French language is justly renowned for its clarity and precision. Yet on a seemingly simple matter its speakers stumble into a fog — who or what can be defined as French? The question arose afresh in the wake of the Toulouse killings. No one doubted that the perpetrator was 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, a native son of Algerian descent. But was Mr. Merah French?
Impossible, declared four members of Parliament belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party. In a joint statement, they insisted that Mr. Merah “had nothing French about him but his identity papers.”
Nonsense, retorted the left-wing journal Libération: “Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster.” A childhood friend of Mr. Merah provided a poignant elaboration: “Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France.”
These opposing approaches to what it means to be French — one rooted in an uncompromising ideal of assimilation, the other grounded in the messy realities of multiculturalism — struck a chord with me. While researching a book on the politics of diversity with my wife, Shareen Blair Brysac, I encountered not only the exclusionary attitude prevailing in metropolitan Paris, but also the more tolerant worldview epitomized by the port city of Marseille — a worldview that the rest of France would be well served to embrace. ...
Can and should the Marseillais spirit of civilized tolerance spread northward? My wife and I were reminded that it was a throng of volunteers singing a melody as they marched to Paris from already polyglot Marseille who gave France its national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”
Details released today in documents by the State Attorney’s Office reveal a catalogue of hundreds of bloody items examined by investigators in the home of a Naples man accused of beheading his girlfriend last July.
Christopher Serna, 35, is charged with second-degree murder while evincing a depraved mind. ... Bishop's head was stuck on a pole in the living room. Her nude body was found on the floor in a pool of blood in a bedroom.
Good evening everyone. I am Angela Corey, special prosecutor for the Trayvon Martin case. Just moments ago, we spoke by phone with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. Three weeks ago our prosecution team promised those sweet parents we would get answers to all of their questions, no matter where our quest for truth led us.
> Jurors also played and replayed the best evidence in the case--the videotape of the beating that had been taken by an amateur and enhanced by the FBI.
> "We went through it frame by frame, slow-motion, fast-motion, God I don't know how many times we watched that thing," Juror No. 9 said.
> The tape, made by a bystander, could not answer all their questions. It was blurry at one crucial moment after King was struck and fell to the ground. Some jurors said they could see Powell using his baton to bash the fallen King in the head. But others had difficulty seeing head blows, even when the tape was viewed frame by frame.
> All could see a powerful blow that Powell later landed across King's chest. King was on the ground at the time, on his back.
> "That chest blow was unreasonable and we felt it was not to effect an arrest but just to hurt the guy," No. 9 said. "That convinced about a third of us."
> Powell's laughter while making a radio call to request an ambulance for King also contributed to jurors' impressions that he had acted callously. But the panel stopped short of taking a vote.
The northern half of Mali has just declared independence, and would henceforth like that you call it Azawad, pretty please. “We solemnly proclaim the independence of Azawad as of today,” Mossa ag Attaher, a rebel spokesman, told the France 24 TV channel on Friday, April 6.
The area was traditionally inhabited by Tuareg people, Moors, Songhay and Fulas (Fula: Fulɓe; French: Peul). In the 1950 census, nomads (Songhay, Moors, Tuareg people) accounted for up to 95% of the inhabitants.
Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu also have a number of Bambara, who settled there mainly after the 1960s.
We read the article with some care. The passage recalled by Bioy was perhaps the only surprising one. The rest of it seemed very plausible, quite in keeping with the general tone of the work and (as is natural) a bit boring. Reading it over again, we discovered beneath its rigorous prose a fundamental vagueness. Of the fourteen names which figured in the geographical part, we only recognized three - Khorasan, Armenia, Erzerum - interpolated in the text in an ambiguous way. Of the historical names, only one: the impostor magician Smerdis, invoked more as a metaphor. The note seemed to fix the boundaries of Uqbar, but its nebulous reference points were rivers and craters and mountain ranges of that same region. We read, for example, that the lowlands of Tsai Khaldun and the Axa Delta marked the southern frontier and that on the islands of the delta wild horses procreate.
Lucasfilm pulled the plug on its bid to develop the old Grady Ranch on Tuesday, citing bitter opposition from neighbors and regulatory delays, and said it intends to sell the land for a low-income subdivision development.
"The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors," the firm owned by billionaire filmmaker George Lucas added.
"We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough," ...
"We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low-income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit."
The Derbyshire Affair, America’s latest Two Minutes Hate over race, provides a fresh example with which to assess social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s framework for why some people are liberal and others conservative. Although Haidt’s readable new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, does much to explain this dichotomy, he never quite articulates the most fundamental explanation.
Guillen’s comments appeared in a Time magazine article, in which he said he “loved” and “respected” Castro, the longtime Cuban leader. Time reported that Guillen said: “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years,” but Castro is still here, he added, referring to Castro as an expletive.
... So… most genetic load in humans is made up of many, many mutations that each have fairly small effects. A smaller fraction of the genetic load consists of mutations with big effects on fitness.
... One important point is that a single highly deleterious mutation has a good chance of pushing the whole organism in some odd direction in phenotype space. In other words, the same mutation that drops your IQ, or damages your heart, may also make you look funny. At lower IQs, more and more kids are considered to suffer from ‘organic’ retardation. On the other hand, a higher-than-average number of small-effect mutations should also interfere with really complex systems such as the brain (and reduce IQ), but because of the law of large numbers, wouldn’t tend to have any particular direction in phenotype space. As far as I can tell, an extra-large dose of small-effect mutations, which we will henceforth call genetic noise, would not make you funny-looking.
Individuals can vary in the amount of genetic noise they carry, and populations can as well, depending on the relative intensity of selection and on the mutation rate, which might also differ. For example, although having an unusually old father does not much affect the amount of genetic noise an individual carries, a culture in which fathers were typically 55 would undoubtedly accumulate an unusually high amount of genetic noise, over a couple of millennia.
If a kid’s parents have a higher-than-average amount of genetic noise, on average the kid will as well. This sure looks like what we usually call non-organic or familial retardation.
Most of the within-population variation in IQ looks to be familial rather than organic. If I’m right, this means that most IQ variation – what we might call the normal range – is caused by differences in the number of slightly deleterious mutations. None of them would show up in a QTL search, because all are rare. And that is where we stand thus far: no intelligence QTLs have been found – although you never know what you’ll see in the next population. On the other hand, shared chromosomal segments would mostly contain the same slightly deleterious mutations, and so IQ should correlate with genetic similarity, which is what Visscher has found.
Many great scientists and mathematicians have likely had relatively low levels of genetic noise combined with some fairly deleterious de novo mutations; with the net effect of a powerful mental engine strangely focused on some particular topic not directly related to fitness. Low noise, high weirdness. Math, not sheilas. One might look for advanced paternal age in such cases.
Had you been a woman traveling in second class on the Titanic a century ago, your chances of survival were quite favorable — 86 percent were saved. For the men in second class, one of whom was my grandfather Lawrence Beesley, the odds were the reverse — only 14 percent survived, and the rest were drowned in the freezing waters of the Atlantic.
Notions of male chivalry toward the weaker sex have since been cast aside, and it is no longer de rigueur for a man to yield his seat on a bus, or a lifeboat, to someone of the opposite sex. But in the Edwardian era it was a moral code with a force stronger than law. When the order was given on the Titanic for families to be separated and for women to board lifeboats first, no man rushed ahead.
I have often wondered how my grandfather managed to beat the heavy odds against his survival.
David Laitin (Stanford University), Daniel Posner (UCLA)
[appeared in APSA-CP: The Comparative Politics Newsletter 12 (Winter 2001)]
In recent years, ethnic fractionalization has emerged as a central variable in quantitative analyses of outcomes ranging from economic growth rates (Easterly and Levine, 1997) and the quality of governance (La Porta et al, 1999) to ethnic conflict (Kay et al, 2000) and the frequency of coups d’etat (Londregan and Poole, 1990). Almost all such analyses employ, either alone or in combination with other measures, the same measure of ethnic fractionalization. This index, called ELF (for Ethno-Linguistic Fractionalization), is available for 129 countries – indeed, its broad coverage is the principal reason for its widespread adoption – and reflects the likelihood that two people chosen at random will be from different ethnic groups. It is calculated using the Herfindahl concentration formula from data compiled in a global survey of ethnic groups published in the Atlas Narodov Mira (1964) and subsequently included in Taylor and Hudson (1972).
Users of the ELF index have analyzed their results, to their peril, without any regard to the constructivist findings in the literature on ethnicity. Constructivist findings would make the standard ELF index suspect for four different reasons.
First, the users of the ELF index assume that a country’s degree of ethnic fractionalization is fixed, analogous to its topography or its distance from the equator. To the extent that a country’s boundaries do not change, it is assumed, its ELF score should remain constant. Constructivist theories of ethnicity, however, would compel us to challenge this assumption. They would lead us to expect changes in the level of ethnic fractionalization over time, as people over generations assimilate, differentiate, amalgamate, break-apart, immigrate and emigrate.
Take the case of Somalia.
At independence, Isaaqs (from former British Somaliland) and Hawiyes (from former Italian Somalia) insisted they spoke the same language, and any survey of linguistic diversity undertaken at the time would have reflected this. In recent years, however, Isaaqs have begun consciously differentiating their speech forms from those of the Hawiyes as part of an attempt to justify recognition for their secessionist republic – much as Croat and Serb intellectuals and linguists have done over the past fifteen years in the Balkans (Greenberg, 2000). A linguistic survey conducted today would thus produce a quite different accounting of linguistic divisions in both former Yugoslavia and former Somalia.
Clan distinctions in Somalia have undergone a similar metamorphosis. With the decline of the dictatorship of Mohammed Siyaad Barre in the late 1980s, what had previously been considered one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in Africa became severely divided by inter-clan fractionalization, with a concomitant change in the level of aggregation that is considered appropriate by political analysts. Studies of Somalia in the 1960s that focused on clan-based divisions tended to concentrate their analysis at the highest level of division (the clan family), of which there are three.
But amid the fractionalization caused by the civil war that broke the country apart a decade ago, more recent analyses have tended to emphasize distinctions among clans and even sub-clans. Thus, due to the civil war, a survey of ethnic fractionalization today would yield a substantially larger number of clans (and a correspondingly higher fractionalization index value) than one undertaken forty years ago. Contrary to the assumptions of most users of the ELF index, levels of ethnic fractionalization in Somalia have been dynamic over time, not stable givens of the landscape. Constructivist findings would thus seem to demand that fractionalization scores be provided over a time series to accommodate such changes.
No one can deny the legitimacy and urgency of the points raised by [Shelby] Steele, [Bill] O’Reilly and [Juan] Williams. Black-on-black violent crime is a national disgrace — all you have to do is take a look at the numbers.
What lacks legitimacy, however, is the underlying intent of the Steele-O’Reilly-Williams argument, and that is to somehow strip the Martin case of its standing as a national preoccupation — of civil rights leaders and of the media. Those folks, along with the general public, have latched onto Trayvon Martin for a combination of several compelling reasons: How could a 17-year-old kid doing nothing wrong wind up shot to death walking home from the convenience store? How could the authorities bungle the case in so many ways? Do neighborhood watch captains provide protection or menace? What’s the deal with the stand-your-ground law?
Those issues may not have the heft of black-on-black crime. But there’s no law directing the media to obsess only over the country’s most socially pressing problem at any given point in time. The media responds to stories, and the tragic incident that went down on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., qualifies many times over. The more attention to this case, the better.
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
As JustOneMinute‘s Tom Maguire reminded me, when you publish something so bad you face a giant adverse defamation verdict–well that’s exactly when you try not to fire the reporter or editor responsible. If you fire them, they’re likely to cut a separate deal with the plaintiff and testify in court about how sloppy your editorial practices were, how you had it in for plaintiff all along, etc.
In this case, I suspect the N.S. might have some valuable information to offer a plaintiff’s lawyer. Like how maybe there was a surge of enthusiasm at, yes, the highest levels of NBC News for turning this story into a clear cut emotional morality play (fueled by trendy social media!) and riding it to higher ratings for days, if not weeks. If you go to the March 20 Nightly News broadcast (available here) you can see NBC’s Ron Allen letting viewers imagine the racial epithet Zimmerman used for the man he was following. Oh, wait. …
The N.S. was reportedly a “seasoned” producer. Seasoned producers (and reporters) know what the bosses want. …