Here's another reason why some educators/administrators don't like standardized tests (see yesterday's item): Testing puts a numerical face on the dimensions of America's efforts in the area of social engineering. Given affirmative action's loss of luster in the wake of several damning court decisions and voter referendums, administrators in Higher Ed—who were always its most ardent practitioners—have tried to fly under the radar in their continuing endeavors to micromanage equality and "social justice" (or their conception of same). If the data quoted in this story are valid, it appears that a given black applicant to Harvard can get in with an SAT score that's fully 450 points lower than a given Asian applicant, and 310 points lower than your everyday white applicant. As the entire exam comprises 2400 points, a 450-point margin is a difference of nearly 20%. That is huge in a society in which major qualitative decisions are made daily on the basis of fractional increments of a single percentage point. As I wrote in an essay back during my senior year at Brooklyn College (1972), which was just then embracing affirmative action, "Even if it's true that the underperformance of minority students is an ongoing vestige of slavery and oppression, it strikes me as fundamentally unfair that a random white [or Asian] student of today, who has never owned a slave and has no personal history of oppressing anyone, should have to suffer for it in recompense. Two wrongs don't make a right." (Apologies for having ended on a cliched note. Hey, I was young.)
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
Monday, May 04, 2015
Thursday, April 30, 2015
The Oprah Effect: a grim retrospective. A very nice piece on how Oprah's weakness for "crackpot" theories (and the purveyors of same) has tarnished her legacy. The author focuses chiefly on Dr. Oz and bogus health advice, dragging Jenny McCarthy in as an aside, but no list of Winfrey's Wackos would be complete without the likes of Marianne "Miracles" Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, The Secret's Rhonda Byrne and, of course, the occasionally fatal James Arthur Ray. Here's a second piece in the same vein, and with a bit more detail.
From April 27:
Courtesy of long-time SHAMblogger Londoner, here's a cautionary tale for our times: about the New Agey 23-year-old wellness blogger who beat the brain cancer she didn't have by eating foods whose therapeutic mechanisms she doesn't understand. This is a story, of course, with relevance that extends well beyond young Belle Gibson, bogus cancer cures and the whole anti-gluten fad. I'm drawn to the way the author describes Jenny McCarthy's "harping on the idea that the medical establishment is not to be trusted–only outsiders like her speak the truth." It's a line that I'm sure will resonate among hipsters and conspiracy nuts...but...why? Whence today's passion for pseudoscience and/or being nakedly anti-science? And here's a great line from a second article on Gibsob: "[She] needed to fake cancer, because the New Age narrative of transcending physical and spiritual sickness is so ingrained into its marketing. New Age philosophy is the clearest example of a utopian movement utterly absorbed by capitalism, which it once (feebly) opposed." The latter line reminds one of Salty Droid's investigation of sleazy online marketing, in particular the loose consortium of New Age interests known (yes, even to themselves) as The Syndicate. Finally, how telling is it that some folks have rallied to Gibson's defense (just as they've rallied to Dr. Oz's defense), hailing her work as symbolically truthful in the same way that (a) some addiction activists united with diehard Oprah-philes to defend James (Million Little Lies) Frey and (b) black activists clung to the narrative of the Michael Brown shooting long after it became clear that Brown was neither a choir boy nor the poster child for ruthless police oppression of blacks. We sort ourselves into teams and then, having done that, there's no going back. We're the ones in the know and we must be right, even if we aren't. We see this with McCarthy's anti-vax crusade, too; doesn't matter how much she and her cause are repudiated, her movement remains intact. This helps explain how long-defeated diseases like measles gain footholds anew in hipster strongholds like the Bay Area.
I barely scratched the surface here and probably did not do justice to Londoner's tip, but I invite you to follow the links above or do some independent research. And as always, report back and/or comment.
Friday, April 24, 2015
This story [sic], "I Can Sum Up My Marriage in These 11 Texts I've Sent My Husband," is getting major play in social media today, and I'm dumbfounded. I particularly don't get the "attagirls" it's eliciting from other housewives, who just seem to think it's such a hoot. (One woman on Facebook commented that she was "peeing myself" as she read it.) Is this really how today's women see marriage and life?
The author, Susannah B. Lewis, does not appear to be 87 years old, but that's certainly how she sounds.
For one thing, we're still in that dark place where it's the husband's role to seek nonstop sex and it's the wife's role to try to fend him off? More pointedly, one gathers from Example No. 6 that (a) men compliment their wives only in an effort to get laid, (b) women will not have sex when they're menstruating, and (c) in any case men are put off by the mere idea of boinking a menstruating partner. This is in 2014, we're talking? I suppose it would shock Ms. Lewis to her bloody core that some guys consider it an uber-turn-on to have sex at "that time of the month," up to and including mutual oral?
The bigger point, though, is the cliched nature of the back and forth, and the archaic mentality it represents. Her name may be Lewis, but this can only be a Duggar woman.