Linky Friday #55

Strange Days (1995)

Economics:

[Ec1] Adam Ozimek explains how deregulation of labor licensing standards could benefit the poor.

[Ec2] John Aziz argues that the boom-bust cycle is just something that we’re going to have to get used to.

[Ec3] While the recession hit men harder than women, it’s women who are facing longer-term unemployment.

[Ec4] From Vikram Bath: “I’ve heard people calling on the government to shut down some aid program if one dollar of corruption is found. On the other hand, four of the past seven governors of Illinois have gone to prison for corruption, and to my knowledge no one has demanded that Illinois schools be shut down or its highways closed.” –Bill Gates

Education:

[Ed1] It’s an ongoing debate over whether or not we want a lot more kids going into STEM and the computer fields. However, this seems pretty unambiguously bad to me. Not just the gender and racial imbalances, but the paltry numbers coming from some parts of the country.

[Ed2] A lot of people have been arguing that there is a bubble in higher education. Here’s an argument I am less familiar with that sounds like it might have some truth to it: People who can afford college aren’t having kids, and people who can’t are.

[Ed3] Some say that college rankings are ruining higher education. I know they play a role in my alma mater restricting future enrollment growth. Looks like gaming them is effective, however.

[Ed4] In the longer term, liberal arts majors make more than professional majors. What they mean, though, is “liberal arts majors are more likely to go to grad school and so end up making more money.”

[Ed5] At Scientific American, David Skorton argues that scientists should embrace the liberal arts.

America:

[A1] Among black liberals and a lot of white liberals, too, black conservatives suffer from a deficiency. This is often an unfair criticism, but the problem is that sometimes it’s not.

[A2] A new film about Mitt Romney points to a lack of confidence on his part as election day approached, which contradicts the book Double Down.

[A3] Kevin Williamson writes on the “big white ghetto” of Appalachia.

[A4] William Saletan looks at the numbers and says that it’s just not true that most Americans oppose the legality of most abortions. Which is right, though even by the poll he cites, most Americans support a stricter regime than Roe v Wade allows for. Oddly, American views haven’t changed since RvW passed.

[A5] Why do people need to google to ask why Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan are so cold? Can’t they look at a map? Here’s a map of people asking google why states are something they are.

Technology:

[T1] A new study suggests that Facebook will lose 80% of its user base by 2017. I’ll take that bet, if only because 2017 is only three years away and I don’t see a suitable replacement on the horizon. Will Oregmus won’t take that bet either, and says the research is flawed.

[T2] Candy Crush owns the word Candy.

[T3] Amazon is talking to networks about a set top box. Kindle TV? Wired says Netflix is going to rule TV.

[T4] The future of transportation: electric cars, robocars, flying cars, and trains.

Culture:

[C1] A study recently suggested that the MTV show 16 and Pregnant has reduced teenage pregnancy rates. Ryan Jacobs explains that this is not the case.

[C2] Tyler Cowen argues that streaming services encourage variety, while downloading services do not, while TechRadar laments binge-watching

[C3] According to new data, half of inmate rape is committed by guards and staff.

[C4] How in the world can you write an article about real life superheroes in costumes and not have photographs?

[C5] From Vikram Bath: “As if the day wasn’t bad enough, Seattle selecting Russell Wilson, a QB that doesn’t fit their offense at all, was by far the worst move of the draft. With the two worst moves of the draft, Seattle is the only team that received an F on draft day.”

Mind:

[M1] Procrastination is often a case of sacrificing tomorrow for today. Since our tomorrow self is something of a stranger to us, it’s easy to screw that guy.

[M2] A network scientist explains that your friends on Facebook really are doing way better than you. I find increasingly that I am an odd exception in that a whole lot of my Facebook friends spend a whole lot of time complaining about their lives.

[M3] I recently wrote a link on the virtues of pessimism. Today, the benefits of optimism.

Body:

[B1] The meaning of the finger.

[B2] DNA has solved a Titanic hoax.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

126 thoughts on “Linky Friday #55

  1. ed2: long term demographic trends are going to kill a lot of schools, especially the 4 year private joints. better recruitment strategies will help in the short term, but that model isn’t the best at adapting to kids who need more help getting up to form because of lousy secondary schools or what have you. bridge programs might help all around, but they are somewhat expensive to run.

    ed3: yup.

    Report

  2. Ed5:
    He says scientists need to do a better job of communicating with the public. Acknowledged.

    Then he says this means scientists should learn “art, music, literature, history and other humanities and social sciences”. I don’t see how this follows directly from a need to communicate with the public. I don’t think any number of art, music, or literature courses will help scientists be better able to communicate their ideas. I think it’s more likely that the author wanted to say something to support a liberal arts education (which I have no problem with) and lacked a better justification for it.

    Report

    • Just because I’m in a bad mood this AM… why do the liberal arts folks think it would be a good idea to add a whole bunch of additional classes to an engineering program that already takes a lot of bright students five years to complete, but never mention the possibility that the liberal arts students ought to have to pass basic calculus, probability and stats, physics, chemistry and biology? And an intro to engineering class that at least covers where your electricity and drinking water come from?

      That said, I’m an advocate for requiring everyone who gets a four-year degree to pass at least one semester of real composition. That is, a class where you have to write stuff every week and get real feedback on it, from spelling and syntax all the way up through clarity of exposition and organization. I’ve always thought it was a good idea; the year I spent as an IEEE journal referee convinced me that it needed to be a requirement.

      Report

      • “That said, I’m an advocate for requiring everyone who gets a four-year degree to pass at least one semester of real composition.”

        blessed are those who teach comp 101, for they are pushing a rock up a hill buttered with the tears of those who came before.

        Report

      • My undergrad had that and called it Freshmen Writing Seminar. Many students placed out via AP classes, though I did not (my HS didn’t offer any special prep for AP writing so I didn’t take the test). I was astounded by how bad some of the writing in that class was.

        “You haven’t used a single transitional phrase. In fact, you don’t even have a single compound sentence. And why the hell do you have two-and-a-half inch margins all the way around??? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU GET INTO THIS SCHOOL?!?!?!”

        Content was an issue as well. One girl wrote about a recent U2 concert she attended, noting how minimalist their stage was and talking about how they were “real musicians” because of this. When I pointed out that U2 was not always that way and were once known for huge stage sets (e.g. Zoo TV) and that it would sloppy to connect musicality with stage design, she insisted she shouldn’t have had to think about that. “Your persuasive essay isn’t all that persuasive.”

        We did a lot of peer editing. I walked out with zero friends from that class.

        BUT COME’ON!

        Report

      • blessed are those who teach comp 101, for they are pushing a rock up a hill buttered with the tears of those who came before.

        My undergraduate B.S. required English Comp 101 and 102, but they were literature classes graded on class participation rather than writing. I complained bitterly to the administration. Fortunately, I took a real comp class as a senior in high school, with an outstanding teacher. God bless you, Ms. Morgan, and your red pen. Also a two-semester high-school speech class, which was equally valuable. As I recall, among the teacher’s opening day remarks were, “The first time you stand up here to give a prepared speech, even though it’s in front of friends, your knees will shake and sweat will pour out of your armpits. If nothing else, I guarantee that by the time you finish this class, you’ll be past that.”

        Report

      • We have a friend in our neighborhood who is an English professor. Courses with writing components are pretty thankless. I think there are some high schools where you graduate knowing more or less how to write and others where you don’t, so college can be a grab bag, even at some pretty good colleges.

        Report

      • Well, I’m not sure if I count as a liberal arts folk or not (I got a third of a degree in Comp Sci before switching to Theater Arts, and now I’m back in grad school to get a Math teaching credential), but I’ve been arguing for years that humanities majors don’t take enough science and math.

        I can’t speak for all programs, but I’m satisfied that the engineering students at my Alma Mater take an appropriate amount of humanities courses. That said, if much more gets cut (and they’re seriously debating it), I don’t think it’s fair to keep calling the degree a Bachelor’s degree rather than an engineering certificate. The nurse who goes to school for four years to study nursing and doesn’t take literature classes doesn’t get a BS–He gets an RN.

        There’s a community college about half an our south of my own University that has a theater conservatory program that’s better than what my own university offers. But my friends who graduated from there have a certificate rather than a degree, because while they’re much better at theater tech than I will ever be, they never had to study biology or political science.

        The real issue is that we’re demanding a whole hell a lot more subject matter knowledge from our engineering graduates than we are from basically any other program–but we’re still pretending that it’s just a four-year bachelor’s degree. If i had to learn as much about theater as they do about engineering, I’d have been more than half way to a masters. I don’t know why we don’t just admit the truth of the matter and make engineering a five-year degree. I don’t think I know a single person who got through my school’s engineering program in less than five years.

        Report


      • I am of many minds on the subjects…

        I am reluctant to consign any field of study which requires five years to become reasonably competent to “certificate” status. Academia cannot anchor itself to the way things were 400 years ago and remain relevant; they either learn to accommodate STEM and its steadily expanding horizon for competence, or they become dangerously irrelevant in a technology-driven modern world.

        For example, I admit that one of my great fears is that public policy for nuclear fission power plants will largely be decided by people who cannot explain why nuclear waste can be hot and short-lived, or long-lived but not-nearly-so-hot, but not continuously hot and long-lived. At the same time, technologists who discount perceptions and the realities of politics are equally scary. At this point in time, no potential sites for a long-term waste disposal site have been eliminated by reason of science; but all proposed sites have been eliminated by politics.

        One of my great frustrations during my three years as staff for the Colorado legislature was software. I was in a difficult position, sitting between the legislators, most of whom were software clueless, and the executive-branch folks responsible for managing 100-million-line software systems to implement the policies (and policy changes) made by the legislature. I never did find a reasonable way to explain, “Senator, the fact that your 15-year-old nephew can hack up a dozen web pages that look like they do the easy part of what you want this system to do in an afternoon is meaningless. His hack doesn’t do the 500 other things that the system is required to do. It doesn’t conform to the 5,000 pages of federal specifications for audit hooks. Your nephew hasn’t done the hundreds of person-hours of work required by statute to show that he meets the state’s minimal requirements for firms that do mission-critical software. This isn’t a $100M project because the new features cost $100M to implement; it’s a $100M project because it has to be integrated flawlessly into an enormous existing body of work.”

        Report

      • , Well, it only takes the five years if you also expect the students to take the 40 quarter units of GE classes. If the students take literally nothing but STEM classes, those that could actually get registered for the classes they needed the quarter they needed them could finish in four years.

        Report

      • Agreed! I get so tired of being told I need more humanities education (in a program that was already 40+ credit hours more than a typical BA) by people who can not solve x^2 = 9 for x.

        And for the record, I took a couple of Comp classes, just for fun (& because I enjoyed the instructor). Both were taken at the community college I started at before transferring to University, and both well worth the time.

        Report

    • Depends. How many people understand chelating toxic substances in the human body?
      How many More People understand it after watching it MacGyvered on a Tv Show?

      (bonus points if you can name the tv show).

      Report

  3. Ed1: “It’s also worth noting that female and minority students interested in pursuing computer science in college could still be using AP math and physics courses as preparation even if they’re not taking the AP computer science exam itself.”

    Those numbers matter a great deal; handwaving through that caveat is rather poor analysis. If I remember correctly, my highschool had a plethora of AP classes and exam options, but didn’t have (now 20 years ago) AP Comp Sci, though per the internet, they do now.

    The more important AP tests, anyway, are the ones that tie into core curriculum requirements, like Calc and English. We should look at the gender and racial breakdowns in those tests if we are trying to truly measure inequalities. If we want to be STEM focused, then looks at Calc & Physics – and Biology and Chemistry, all more widespread offerings, as far as know, than AP comp sci. (i’ll bet the Calc and Phys still have a significant gender imbalance, Chem and Bio much less so)

    Plus, with some 88K students total per the internet, I’m sure you can fit the entire Wyoming school system within a single mid-size suburban county in the Bos-Was corridor.

    Report

    • You don’t have to go that far to get counties with comparable sizes. I live in Jefferson County, Colorado, and our school district has 85K kids enrolled in the public schools. We’re the biggest single school district in the state (for various reasons, 39 school districts in the county reorganized into a single unified district in 1950). El Paso County, the most populous county, has >100K kids enrolled, but spread across multiple districts.

      Report

  4. [T2] – Can a lawyer help me out here? I thought you couldn’t trademark any single word that is already in common usage, like “candy”, which is why companies usually make up new, specific, non-common words for their products, like “Kleenex” and “Polaroid” and “X-5”.

    It seems to me that trademarking a phrase not previously in common use like “Candy Crush” should be OK, and would allow a company to go after someone marketing an intentionally-confusingly-named video game like “Crush Candy”, without ridiculously making the very word “candy” off-limits.

    I mean, I can’t call my game “Donkey Kong”, but if the game actually involves donkeys, I should be able to use the word “donkey” in its name (though Leisure Suit Larry in Tijuana works just as well).

    Report

    • Common words in one context may be arbitrary or fanciful words in another. You couldn’t get a trademark on “candy” to sell candy, for example, but “candy” to sell a computer game is a different story.

      Also, part of the trademark analysis IS a question of whether competitors in the same area need to be able to use the word to accurately describe their products. “Candy” doesn’t describe the substance of what a computer game is, though, even if they are involved in the gameplay, so that would probably be a hard sell here.

      Also also, it seems like there were a large number of games that used the word “candy” in their titles before the trademark application was filed. There is a procedure in the trademark office for people to formally object to an application, but you have to be watching the applications diligently, and you have to work fast. Small time app makers, even if they were acting in good faith and not trying to rip off Candy Crush, probably were not doing that.

      Report

    • The other thing is, often when a company files for a trademark on a phrase, they will disclaim any very common words in the phrase. For example, if I want to TM “Fidelity Investments,” I would normally disclaim (voluntarily exempt from what I’m trying to trademark) the word “investments,” because there’s no way I could get a trademark on that word as applied to a financial institution. It makes the application process easier for me not to try.

      For some reason, King.com didn’t do that here. I’m not sure whether they should have gotten the “candy” TM or not, considering all the prior use, but it’s not necessarily as common a practice as all the Internet Outrage Articles are claiming.

      Report

  5. I’m a little confused as to how you are framing A1. “Deficiency” seems like a strange word to use, especially since you don’t offer the context in which they are deficient (deficiency is almost necessarily context specific; someone is deficient at something but is not deficient on the whole). Additionally, the criticism levied in that article against certain black conservatives can be said of just about anyone. of any color on any side of any aisle.

    Report

    • I agree that the criticism is not applicable only to black conservatives. Back on The Blog We Shall Not Speak Of, I wrote a post about how every single viewpoint out there about anything has proponents who are brilliant and proponents that are idiots. Of course there are going to be black conservatives who are conservative for good reasons and black conservatives who are conservative for bad reasons just as is the case with white conservatives or Jewish liberals or South Asian communists.

      Report

    • Absent a more specific description, I read and say “deficiency” when pertaining to people as a “character deficiency” or, more harshly, an “integrity deficiency.” Which, thinking about it further, probably isn’t fair in this case even when talking about the subset of black conservatives who are hucksters (made more problematic by the separate use of the D-word in the article). So I regret that description.

      You’re right that such criticisms can be levied by anyone, but I tagged the article because I believe it is something true of superstar black conservatives with greater frequency than elsewhere. In large part because that’s who the conservative movement has a tendency to promote within the black community.

      I remember a bloggingheads conversation between Glen Lowry and John McWhorter, two black intellectuals who flirted with conservatism before ultimately rejecting it. They talked, in passing, about their experiences in the movement and the expectation they felt to play specifically to white anxieties about racial issues. McWhorter commented about how they really, really wanted McWhorter to spend his time talking about how bad Jesse Jackson is. Like that was his job. The implication being that playing to white perceptions on JJ was how black conservatives could get ahead.

      I thought about that exchange as I was reading the article. Partially because it corresponds so well with my observational experiences. The GOP organizational structure very much lends itself to your having a “job” whether you’re black, white, or something else. This has its upsides and downsides. One of the downsides is that people like McWhorter (a professor at NYU at the time) can, will, and should say “buzz off” while people like JL Patterson won’t. They’re self-selecting badly.

      At least, that was what I got from the HHP article. Sometimes, of course, what you get out of an article is what you put into it. But these impressions and thoughts had been ruminating for a while and I thought that the article gave voice and context to these thoughts.

      Report

    • Along these lines, I was really disappointed how this thread turned out way back when. Blackwell was talking about Carson, but almost all of the pushback was “What, are you saying blacks can’t be conservative?!” when I thought at the time that there was probably something we could really learn about why African-Americans so often view black conservatives as they do. In the OP Blackwell kind of took it for granted and he didn’t participate in the comments, and unsurprisingly (given the complexion of the readership and other factors) nobody took up that banner to try to really explain it.

      Report

      • On some other places, I’ve seen liberals insist that any and every black conservative is really just out for money. Or, if they aren’t, they’re some sort of idiot for not getting it. Ugh.

        There are certainly ways in which the phenomenon plays out differently among black conservatives than it may play out with other groups. I just want to make sure we’re clear that any “deficiency” which might exist is a human one and not one unique to black conservatives. Which I trusted (and see now I was right to) you knew but the framing through me off a bit.

        Report

  6. C1: Nice finds! I award a point each to Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine for their claim that the show reduces teen childbearing. They have multiple measures all pointing to support their thesis. Their use of social media indicates a very direct relationship with the airing of the shows.

    I deduct a point each for the professors of communication at Indiana University and University of Utah who seem to have just found that MTV viewers aren’t as well-informed as non-MTV viewers. This is probably true, but it doesn’t mean the show has a negative effect on teenagers as a group.

    I haven’t read their piece aside from the PR, but I am suspicious of the other piece that seems to claim that MTV viewers aren’t as well-informed as non-MTV viewers. This is probably true, but it doesn’t mean the show causes them to become less informed.

    Report

    • I’d note that the first research linked looked at general populations, while the second focused in on the show’s biggest fans. Since they’re studying different populations, the findings aren’t really contradictory.

      Report

      • The observations aren’t contradictory, but the imputed causations are. The NBER piece suggests that the show causes awareness and reduces teen pregnancy. The Mass Communication and Society piece compares biggest fans to non-watchers and finds that the fans are less informed and imputes that the show causes them to be less informed, which is at best weak evidence that the show causes people to become less informed–especially when it is more than likely that uninformed people are probably more likely to be MTV watchers in the first place.

        I should note that I haven’t read their paper, which as far as I can see hasn’t appeared in the journal yet. I am going off the PR blurb on Indiana’s web site… http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2014/01/16-and-pregnant-teen-mom-shows-encourage-teen-pregnancy.shtml

        Report

  7. B2: Today I also learned that infotainment graphics and dramatic recreations of dubious veracity are not new phenomena (re: that New York Herald cover of Titanic hitting an iceberg in choppy seas)

    Report

  8. Ec4-Good for Bill Gates. He deserves a lot of kudos for pointing out the obvious.

    Ec2-I agree with Vikram, this is a really bad article. Everybody accepts that capitalism comes with boom-bust cycles. What people debate is whether there is a way to get out of a bust period. The Keynesians say yes there is. Others argue against this and the Marxists say that if we abandon capitalism than we won’t have the boom-bust period at all.

    Report

  9. A5: Does Google tailor searches to individuals? When I came across this a while back, I put a sample of states into queries of the form “why is so” and looked at the auto-complete offerings. In no cases was the word on the map at the top of the list Google gave me; in at least a couple of cases, the word from the map wasn’t even on the list.

    Report

  10. Ec3: In 2007, 35 percent of long-term unemployed were women; last year that figure stood at 44 percent.

    Although they try awfully hard to make this a “women hit hardest” story, men still make up a larger percentage of the long-term unemployed. It’s just that the gap has shrunk. The situation is actually worse for men than the above statistic implies, because men are more than half of the labor force.

    Report

  11. A3- Appalachia always fascinated me. You have those buxom young long haired women with fair skin wearing daisy dukes and I think I’ll shut up now. ;).

    Report

  12. A5:

    As we contemplate a move, I was tickled that we’re moving from a state whose word was “expensive” to one whose word is “smart”.

    Report

  13. A1: ‘fame orientated” is a valid critique one can throw at vast swaths of the modern right-wing movement(s), and was the story of the last national election cycle, and the Senate side of the mid-terms before that. And shaping up to continue to be the story for this year’s election and 2016’s.

    Fame-orientation has also been responsible for running at least one venerable think tank (Heritage) into the ground in a comparatively short time, (and commensurately has made AEI look less hackish, but it’s still pretty bad except for its foreign policy arm).

    And of course, this is the entirety of the internet-talk radio-Fox News circuit, which simultaneously elevates the mediocre and clips the ambitious.

    The odd thing is that, as far I as can tell, right-wing political operatives and grassroots people are still pretty good at the micro-political game, getting into school boards and the like, but so frequently flail and fail when they try to get larger (and more competitive) political offices.

    Report

  14. Ed4: It took me a while to figure out what a “professional major” was, but I clicked through the links and saw that they gave business and nursing as two examples in the press release. For those who didn’t read the article, it does not include science or engineering (the latter having the highest income by far at all career stages).

    This doesn’t really surprise me. Business is notorious as being a fallback for those who failed out of engineering or CS. I assume psychology is included in this category as well. My perception is that English and history majors generally tend to be pretty smart in comparison. It would be interesting to see salaries by major after controlling for SAT score.

    Report

  15. Ec2: This is not a new view. In the 19th century, economists viewed depressions and recessions as necessary corrective forces in any economy and there were plenty of recessions and depressions in the 19th century. The problem is that they and politicians often viewed any form of a welfare state or government work program as being horrible. People just needed to suffer in their Calvinist-Classical Economics worldview. I am not a utopian. Boom and Bust cycles are probably part of human nature and always will be. I absolutely reject the idea that people need to suffer because of mistakes that happen on the top though. My anger is that Wall Street and Corporate Executives seem to have insulated themselves from any failure while screaming that helping everyone else with welfare and aide amounts to “moral hazard.” Yet Dimon at JP Morgan received a big raise this year for steering the company through tough times instead of being punished. He has a win-win situation. He gets a raise if the company does well and a raise if they get hit with massive fines and scandals. He is blameless.

    Ec4: I like this quote but I am not sure it is completely true. I think there are plenty of bigots who would get a wicked joy at the idea of Chicago failing at least. There seem to be plenty of horrible “race realists” who are willing to use Detroit’s problems as evidence that Black people are not capable of leadership. The New Yorker ran a profile of the County Executive for affluent Oakland County, Michigan and he seemed to take a lot of sadistic pleasure at how his county was thriving while Detroit was suffering.

    Ed2: Besides Dhx, I have seen a few people predict that we are soon going to see a huge number of schools closing doors and locking up after their currently enrolled classes graduate. Paul Campos argues that law schools will soon be dropping like flies. I’m not so sure. Lots of schools have healthy enough endowments and loyal alumni that they can survive the current crunch and crisis. If any close, it will not be 4 year privates like dhx suggests but probably non-flagship/non-prestigious public universities. The UCs are going to be fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if SF State or some other the CSU campuses close down though. Private universities that are not quite at the elite level can always attract new money from abroad or the not-as-bright kids from America’s upper-middle class. You are probably right that people who can afford college can do so because they are not having kids or are having fewer kids and are upper-middle class professionals. My problem with Thiel is that he gives his grants to rare geniuses. I’d like to see him give a Thiel grant to a bright but not super-genius kid and see how that one does. Preferably someone with an inclination towards the arts and humanities.

    Ed3: I agree that the rankings probably do act as a beacon especially for parents especially for the perplexed. However, I think the damage they cause is through globalization and brutal competition. Now every college and university is aiming at a national or international student body. Gone is the idea that a college or university could exist to provide a good education for people in the immediate surrounding area or at least the native state. Our flagship public universities no longer exist to provide an education for in-state people, they exist to be beacons for research and globalization. There needs to be a space for moderately priced local colleges and universities and that seems to be going the way of the dodo.

    Ed4: I’ve pretty much been arguing this for years. Liberal arts and humanities students might suffer in the short term but they tend to be long-term winners and enter professions where the potential earnings are much higher than your average STEM major. As I understand it, STEM majors do very well as compared to other 21-30 year olds but generally their maximum earning potential is good but hits a definite ceiling at some point. The exception being people with STEM degrees who go into financial engineering, start their own companies, or get lucky with working for a company with lots of stock options.

    Ed5: The liberal arts v. STEM divide is decades old if not older. Richard Feynman decried the humanities requirements at MIT in his memoirs/autobiography. C.P. Snow gave a famous lecture on the Two Cultures in the 1950s because he was one of the few people to be a successful novelist and a successful scientist and bridge both cultures. The sides seem to view each other with a lot of distrust. I’ve had a lot of STEM types tell me that arts and humanities students and academics are just bullshit artists, their research is not research, and that anyone can get good grades in the arts and humanities. STEM types especially engineers seem to take their battle scars with a lot of pride and the idea that everything is graded on an impossibly steep curve so the highest graded person might still be failing the course. There also seems to be resentments thrown in about being mocked by the arty kids in high school especially the really pretty girls.

    A1: I think this problem exists on both the left and the right of all dimensions. You have solution oriented and fame oriented people for every ideology. Michael Moore strikes me as fame-oriented leftist. Interestingly a friend from law school (white guy) married a black woman. She is often more conservative than either of us especially on welfare-state/economic matters.

    A3: Well that was absolutely depressing. I’ve read numerous articles about Appalachia like this. It seems to be a problem without a solution. It was an area that was always poor and might always be poor.

    Report

    • Yes, the humanities are in general bullshit. If you can’t at least start talking about how to doubleblind your theory, you’re probably in the realm of “I made up a story”. Which is fine, just, you can’t trust stories nearly as much as you trust theories.
      [Aarne Thompson and folks like them excepted. Once you get enough stories together, you can start learning how stories work]

      Report

      • Also artistic talent is not innate. Most of are highly lauded artists did receive a good deal of training and education. They might have had some innate talent but I think they needed their training to become the artists that they bloomed into.

        Report

      • NewDealer,
        The study of history could be vastly improved by developing even a mild knowledge of economics. It’s economics and logistics that lets me say the Civil War was unnecessary, after all.

        That said, history is genuinely the art of sifting through gadzillions of facts to create a good and interesting story. I’ve yet to see much of it have terribly good predictive content (unless you’re going to count Krugman, but I say that’s cheating).

        As to art history? I am going to call a mulligan on that one, and would appreciate you providing evidence to support your position. I am suspicious that Art History is going to be about “The Stories Artists Told Each Other about What Art Was”. But I am fully prepared to be wrong about that.

        Report

      • I think people put way too much stock in economics being the cure-all explain-all of the universe. We need philosophy and psychology as well. I like the Ghandian creed of no economy without morality. We can argue that something is economically correct or efficient but is it moral? Is it ethical? Why should morality and ethics be sacrificed on the altar of political economy?

        Report

      • Yes, the humanities are in general bullshit. If you can’t at least start talking about how to doubleblind your theory, you’re probably in the realm of “I made up a story”.

        Interesting cross-link to Ed5. A description that I used to use frequently in advising inexperienced engineers writing papers/documents/proposals was “Think of it as if you were telling a short story. Where’s the beginning? What are the parts? How do they fit together? When should such-and-such a character be introduced? Does that character need to be introduced at all? Then once you’ve got a story, go back and fill in the math (if it’s that sort of paper).”

        Come to think of it, while I was getting my public policy MA and was the 50-something geek in a class full of 20-somethings, I used pretty much the same description when they asked me. Those MA students were generally better writers/speakers than the engineers. Although I’ll never forget the young woman who showed up to do her 15-minute presentation with 75 slides…

        Report

      • Yes, the humanities are in general bullshit.

        I’ve had 3 guest speakers in my classes this year. One was a U.S. Diplomat, undergrad degree in English Lit. One was a former exec in the shipping industry, now college prof and still business consultant, undergrad degree in history and religion. One was an exec in the textile industry, undergrad degree in English Lit.

        There’s some real gold in that bullshit, for those who know how to find it.

        Report

      • James,
        oh, no doubt about it. Diplomacy is generally the construction of mutually agreed upon stories about ones neighbors and opponents, anyhow.

        And management is often more about convincing people that you know what you’re doing, than actually knowing what you’re doing.

        Report

      • I’ve had 3 guest speakers in my classes this year. One was a U.S. Diplomat, undergrad degree in English Lit. One was a former exec in the shipping industry, now college prof and still business consultant, undergrad degree in history and religion. One was an exec in the textile industry, undergrad degree in English Lit.

        And I’l bet none of them knew how to optimize the click-though rate on web ads.

        Report

      • “It’s economics and logistics that lets me say the Civil War was unnecessary, after all.”

        And it is the liberal arts that explain why unnecessary wars are the only ones that occur.

        Report

      • LWA,
        not all wars are unnecessary. In this one, Lincoln was acting on insufficient information.
        (I choose to believe that his decision to go to war was not self-aggrandizing, which would be a reason to go to war that could be termed “necessary” to his wellbeing).

        Report

    • I’ve pretty much been arguing this for years. Liberal arts and humanities students might suffer in the short term but they tend to be long-term winners and enter professions where the potential earnings are much higher than your average STEM major.

      You didn’t read the article, did you?

      Report

      • Less snarkily, yes, it’s true that only a small minority of STEM majors make more than, say, $200,000 per year. But that’s also true of humanities majors, and the average STEM major makes more.

        Here’s a table of median starting salaries and mid-year salaries at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles. You can get the data set as text. I don’t want to add a second link and get caught in moderation, but do a Google search for “mid-career 90th percentile by major” (no quotes) and it’ll be the first result. I imported it into a spreadsheet for easy sorting and charting, and here’s what I found:

        The top 10 at the 90th percentile are Economics ($210k), Finance, Chemical Engineering, Math, Physics, Marketing, Industrial Engineering, Construction, Electrical Engineering, and Philosophy ($168k). Philosophy is the only real humanities major there. PoliSci is actually next (lobbyist?), and oddly enough, computer science (#17, $154k) and drama (#18, $153k). The humanities are generally behind STEM, although there’s definitely some convergence relative to median starting salaries.

        But if you look at median mid-career salaries, the top 10 are all STEM (economics is #5, but I consider that STEM since it’s heavily math-based). Philosophy is the top humanities major at #16, followed by PoliSci at #21 and History at #27 (right behind agriculture).

        The 75th percentile is also dominated by STEM, although philosophy and PoliSci make #10 and #16. Despite its strong showing at the 90th percentile, drama is near the bottom at both the median and 75th percentile.

        STEM also does well at the 10th and 25th percentiles.

        So yes, it’s true that no major is an absolute bar to a lucrative career (the lowest 90th percentile salaries were Spanish and religion, tied at $96.4k), but even at the 90th percentile, STEM generally pays better. Maybe things turn around for humanities at the 95th or 99th percentiles, but that’s not relevant for the vast majority of people.

        Report

    • NewDealer,

      Ed2: It’s not the schools with healthy endowments that would start dropping like flies. Campos’s University of Colorado will be fine (and he’s delusional if he has ever suggested otherwise) but others aren’t so well positioned. My understanding is that the number of free-standing law schools has increased considerably in recent years. Those are the ones I would expect to go, if it happens.

      Ed3: San Diego State is still relatively affordable, to the extent that any college is. I share your concerns about Cal-Berkeley. I think I wrote a post on it a while back. I have mixed feelings about my alma mater, which is actually the most expensive public school in the state (though it’s an inexpensive state, as far as college costs go). But it is good for the school, and I care about the school. So I have mixed feelings.

      Ed4: STEM outperforms liberal arts according to the study. It’s comparing liberal arts with professional degrees like business school and the like. Also, the caveat is important: liberal arts only closes in on business degrees when people with liberal arts majors get graduate degrees (which they do in higher numbers than professional degreed people do). Undergrad-to-undergrad, professional school wins.

      Report

      • Ed2: The free standing schools are where it gets hard. Contrary to popular belief, not all of them are new comers. Albany Law School has been around since the 1850s and is currently suffering from the law school crash. It is hard for an institution that has been around since 1850 to go bust. My law school is connected to a local university and has been around since 1913. It used to be a well-respected local law school (Tier II in US News speak) and supplied Northern California with lawyers for small and medium sized firms and the government. Now not as much. This is how I think rankings destroyed things. The school is suffering badly but I can’t see it closing so easily. FWIW I think my law school offers a very good legal education and emotionally supportive environment. The latter is rare for law schools. I attribute it to being Jesuit.

        On Cal v. CSUs. As far as I can tell, the UCs have had problems but most of their students manage to get their undegrad degrees in 4-5 years. Not so at SFSU at least. There were lots of stories about the campus having too many students and not enough resources. People spent years as students because they could fulfill their basic requirements and major requirements because classes would be filled to capacity too quickly and/or sessions would get cancelled because of a lack of resources. This is why I think it is the CSUs that will shut down if any.

        Report

      • Excess demand met with not enough funding and constantly cutting back on sections will eventually cause students to flee. How many people want to take 7-8 years to graduate because they can’t get into their required courses and sections keep getting cancelled?

        Report

      • Where are they gonna go? Mostly not to the UCs, mostly not to the privates, so…out of state? Just drop out?

        My guess is they’ll mostly pay the cost of taking longer to graduate than the cost of not getting a degree, private college tuition, or moving out of state. Some will shift, sure, but for most I expect that cost will be higher than the cost of sticking. I’d say no way in hell enough leave to result in serious talk of closing schools. CSUs have been through this before (my choice of which one to finish up in the ’90s was driven largely by which one was less affected by cuts), and all we’ve had since then is new ones being added.

        Cali’s population ain’t shrinking yet.

        Report

      • My wife was doing an MS degree at a CSU school when they were doing heavy furloughs of the faculty. She and her advisor spent a certain amount of “off the record” time in the lab against the rules to get their research done. At one point, they blew a breaker in the building on a furlough day and had to bolt like criminals. “Everybody OK? Good. Cheese it!”

        Report

      • tf,
        if you blow a breaker, the rule is go inside your steel-door lab and lock the door.
        The grad students, they will be coming.
        (everyone who didn’t save in the past hour, which was most of them).

        Report

    • I’ve read numerous articles about Appalachia like this. It seems to be a problem without a solution. It was an area that was always poor and might always be poor.

      The resource curse strikes again. The terrain is rugged, the population is sparse, so it’s hard to build infrastructure like transportation and communication except where you absolutely need it to get the coal/timber/ore. During boom times the resource industry pays so well that people don’t want to do anything else (except simple services); during the busts, there’s nothing else to do that isn’t already done better/cheaper somewhere else. If you’re lucky, there’s something to jump-start non-resource local business like tourism. Although that comes with its own problems: the rich and famous may live/stay in Aspen, but a lot of workers ride buses a long ways to and from work because they can’t afford Aspen.

      Report

      • Appalachia seems to be having the same problems as outher mountainous regions through out the world. Generally, mountain regions tend to be poor because the terrain leads to isolation from the rest of the world. The plus side is that your not on the invasion path for the most part. The sucky side is that your in for a rough and rugged existence.

        Report

    • “Lots of schools have healthy enough endowments and loyal alumni that they can survive the current crunch and crisis. If any close, it will not be 4 year privates like dhx suggests but probably non-flagship/non-prestigious public universities. ”

      nope.

      small, private, liberal arts oriented schools without professional programs (of which there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 in the us) are the ones who are mostly boned.

      they’re expensive, which limits their ability to adapt to changing marketplaces; you can’t compete on price with local state schools at all; they tend to be faculty led or co-governed, which creates inertia issues; even a healthy endowment doesn’t help things when most of these schools have a 70/30 or 80/20 mix in terms of their reliance on incoming tuition versus reliance upon investment income from the endowment; and their most recent cohort of graduates tend to earn less in the 10 years post graduation range due to the major mix and focus on non-professional degrees, limiting giving opportunities.

      on that last point: even if things even out when someone is in their 30s, generally speaking a “culture of giving” tends to need to take hold early on, otherwise a school relies on a small handful of donors who continue to age, find new projects, etc, but aren’t replaced by newer philanthropic rock stars.

      things are really bad for these schools, and they’re only going to get worse. look at the demographic shift and birthrate decline in the northeast and mid atlantic and it’s pretty clear that if you’re seeing 10 – 20% less students from high schools in your core areas, you’re going to have to a) compete harder and b) work on finding a way to set up bridge programs to keep kids who may be underprepared and outside of your traditional catchment area prepared both academically and socially so that they stay in your program.

      the families having kids can’t afford these schools, all of which tend to be very expensive compared to public options.

      most importantly: the vast majority of these schools didn’t make their classes last year – when you’re tuition dependent that is a serious problem.

      one of my worries is that if oberlin (or an oberlin like school) goes under it might start a chain reaction, because even though this is a smaller profile market, there are still “big names” which can influence the rest of the sector.

      i fully expect 10% of these kinds of schools to be out of business in the next 5-7 years; possibly as high as 20%. as i work at one of them, i’m pushing against this tide every single day and trying to come up with new ways to avoid absorption or shuttering.

      Report

      • I’m not seeing any proof here that there is a serious lack of upper-middle class and above families having kids or proof that schools like Oberlin are failing and suffering from declining enrollment. This partially seems like wish fulfillment because of your general mocking of stuff white people like and “librul arts”

        For the free-standing law schools and others, there is a serious enrollment decline.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/no-the-college-bubble-isnt-popping/282958/

        According to this article: 2 year public and 4 year for-profit univiersities like Phoenix were the ones that suffered enrollment declines in 2012-2013. Nonprofit 4-years saw a 1.3 percent increase in enrollment.

        According to their statistics, Oberlin had 5841 applications in 2012 and accepted nearly 2000 students. 667 students enrolled (45 students overlap with the college conservatory)

        Vassar College had nearly 7600 applicants for the class of 2017 with 1832 admitted and 666 matriculants. This number is up from when I attended between 1998-2002. My class had about 520 or students.

        Kenyon had over 4000 applicants for the class of 2017. Slightly over 1500 were accepted and 400 applied.

        Amherst College has an endowment of 1.8 billion dollars. Vassar College’s endowment is nearly 870 million. Oberlin College’s was around 661 million. Colby College had 650 million. Bowdoin College had 1 billion. Smith College 1.5 billion. Reed College.

        Kenyon’s endowment is relatively small compared to the above at 184 million. Bates is also small at 216 million.

        These schools are all still considered elite and have many more applicants than acceptances. They also have endowments that are no small numbers even the mere 184 million that is in Kenyon’s coffers.

        Please cite sources for colleges that did not meet their numbers and have small endowments.

        Report

      • I suspect it to be the case that if I’ve heard of it, it’ll probably be okay. But there are a lot of private schools well below Oberlin. Particularly religious schools, but not just them. Not that I’m saying they will shut down, but I think they probably would be the first to go.

        Report

      • http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/09/private-colleges-remain-under-weather

        http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2013/04/13/are-small-private-colleges-trouble/ndlYSWVGFAUjYVVWkqnjfK/story.html

        http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/30/prestigious-liberal-arts-colleges-face-ratings-downgrades

        you can cherry pick three or four big names but almost all of these schools aren’t a vassar. for every vassar or kenyon there are the 70% or so who failed to make their class in 2012.

        ever hear of chester college? well, you won’t ever again.

        no one in the industry – public or private, i should add – is ignoring this trend now, though most of them should have acted a decade ago while the getting was still good.

        you should hear the things going around at conferences. quite funereal, which is fitting given what’s coming.

        Report

      • “This partially seems like wish fulfillment because of your general mocking of stuff white people like and “librul arts””

        and yes i wish to lose my job, have my wife lose her chance at a tenure track position, and watch an old institution get bought up by some state school or fall into ruin because i like making fun of chowderheads.

        Report

      • Please cite sources for colleges that did not meet their numbers and have small endowments.

        Mine, for one. We’re up from 900 to just under 1500 over the last 8 years, but we desperately need to be over 1500. Our endowment has also grown over that time, but from a pitifully small beginning point, and is still <$40 million.

        There are more non-profit 4 year colleges like mine than there are like Oberlin, Amherst, etc. People just don’t know of them because they’re not well known.

        Report

  16. aziz is seriously conflating reserve currencies with assets? Ayiyi. The problems with that are multifold, but mostly they indicate someone who isn’t bothering to think about his examples before using them.

    Report

  17. That man writing an article on Appalachia is welcome to come up to Fayette County and revise his opinion. Crime rates in the rural areas around here are pretty damn bad — worse than in town if you’re white (there aren’t enough blacks out that way to get good numbers).

    Report

  18. On the subject of A4 I think it’s telling and very imicidal to the pro-life position that abortion rates in America have dropped down to pretty much the pre-Roe vs Wade levels even as abortion remains (largely) legal. What exactly are we supposed to be chasing pregnant women around with ultrasound wands over again?

    Report

    • the pro-life will attribute the drop to their efforts even though the drop occurred before the latest flurry of laws limiting access to reproductive health care went into effect.

      But it should be noted that a good part of the drop is due to wider-spread access to and use of chemical abortions; the early unwanted pregnancies are ending in the privacy of women’s homes, not the clinic.

      I expect we’ll see more pressure to roll these drugs back over the next few years, and they’ll become increasingly political for pro-life activists.

      Report

      • the pro-life will attribute the drop to their efforts even though the drop occurred before the latest flurry of laws limiting access to reproductive health care went into effect.

        The pro-choice often attribute the differential between abortion rates in red states and blue states to legal barriers to abortion. Well some do, but it’s complicated. When I say that red states have lower abortion rates due to cultural reasons, I am told about the laws. If I say that the laws are effective, I am told that it’s actually about the culture.

        My inclination is to say that both laws and culture are involved in the red/blue state divide. An interesting way to test how much of it is laws/culture and how much of it is increased access to after-the-fact contraception is whether the fall has been greater in red states (suggesting culture), states that have passed laws (suggesting laws), or blue ones (suggesting easier access to contraception). It wouldn’t be a definitive assessment, but might give us a clearer idea.

        Report

      • North, that’s factored into the statistics. Actually, technically, there are two sets of statistics. One follows the number of abortions in a particular state relative to its population, which is skewed by interstate abortions. Another (the one I typically use) follows pregnancies by state to their conclusion (by birth, miscarriage, or abortion). The folks at Guttmacher know what they’re doing.

        Report

      • How does Guttmacher learn about pregnancies? If a woman immediately seeks an abortion upon finding out she is pregnant, I presume they can get data on the abortion, but how do they learn where that pregnant woman’s pregnancy started?

        Report

      • I’m honestly not sure.It says that they get it through the “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States” report (also by Guttmacher), which in turn cites a report called “Trends in the Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions” (also Guttmacher) which itself includes separate tables for abortion incident by state of occurrence (where the abortion was performed) and abortion by state of residence (where the person who had the abortion lived). That data appears to be obtained from abortion provider surveys, which they have been performing since the 70’s.

        If this were coming from the Heritage Foundation or suchlike, I’d be suspicious that they are leaving something out to make Republican states (their people or their policies) look good. But I trust that Guttmacher is providing the best data that they have.

        I’ll also note on their abortion occurrence statistic, they include a disclaimer about interstate abortions potentially skewing the statistics. However for abortion-as-a-percentage-of-pregnancies they do not. And even if that is wrong, the table on the Trends/Characteristic report tells a very similar story of wide differences.

        Report

    • Making sure the sluts are properly ashamed. What’s the article? “The only moral abortion was mine”? Something like that?

      Interesting article detailing pro-life protestors showing up for theirs or their daughter’s abortions, and all singing variants of the same song: “I’m not a slut, or hate babies, or evil. I just can’t afford this baby/my daughter can’t ruin her life right now” unlike all the other women here for one”.

      Report

  19. Ed5:
    As New Dealer mentioned, the debate between STEM and humanities isn’t new, or going away soon.
    But there is another perspective- that the humanities are essential to business.

    If you look at CEOs, entrepreneurs, and in general the top earners in most companies, you don’t see wonky engineers, or the most part. We sort generally remain plateaued at the “well compensated” yet not “top earner” slots.

    The skill set of a CEO is generally not based on craft- that is, the actual doing of a thing. By the time any company has grown to any appreciable size, the founder or CEO has long since left the craft work to others.

    So what does a CEO actually do, all day? Mostly meetings, emails, phone calls; in other words, mostly just conferring with others and making decisions.

    STEM subjects can be helpful in this process, certainly in reading reports and spreadsheets. But mostly it is people management- forming relationships, building trust, ascertaining character and selecting the right person to fill the right job.

    In this, having read Jane Austin or Dickens, having studied the Bauhaus or Cubist art movement, or read the history of the French Revolution are all intensely valuable to developing the understanding of people which form the foundation of leadership skills..

    Report

    • Well, I see CEOs and Entrepreneurs who are math/sci geeks all the time.
      Of course, they sell their companies at the drop of a hat.
      Can always make more, ya?

      Report

    • In this, having read Jane Austin or Dickens, having studied the Bauhaus or Cubist art movement, or read the history of the French Revolution are all intensely valuable to developing the understanding of people which form the foundation of leadership skills.

      Remember when psychological researchers suddenly realized that the American college students they’d been doing all their research on might not actually be representative of humankind as a whole?

      This reminds me of that. I’m not convinced that reading Jane Austen tells us about anything about human psychology generally. It may tell us about Jane Austen’s beliefs about human psychology, but there’s no particular reason to believe her beliefs were correct. Ditto the Cubist and Bauhaus art movements. There’s obviously a great deal of selection bias involved there: Cubist art was made by the kinds of people who were attracted to the Cubist art movement, and artists tend to be weird in general. I’ll give you history, because that’s stuff that actually happened, not stuff that weird people made up.

      As Will’s list suggests, it doesn’t appear that liberal arts majors are particularly overrepresented among CEOs, and may even be a bit underrepresented. I don’t have statistics on major distribution from the 70s, but that seems a bit low to me.

      Report

  20. A5: Asking why it is so cold in the Northern Plains is not a dumb questions. Latitude is only one a many determinants of average (and extreme) temperatures. Dublin, Ireland is several degrees north of Bismarck, ND, yet has much milder winters. Sochi is about the same latitude as Sioux Falls, SD, yet there is talk of the Winter Olympics being held in a city with a “sub-tropical” climate.

    Report

      • When I visited Italy, I remember thinking that it must be considerably farther south than DC (where I lived at the time) because it was just so much damn warmer. It even seemed like the sun was more intense. But that was all in my head. Italy, like Spain, is roughly as far north as Maine. Fuck that. Get your shit together, Maine.

        Report

      • I live at the same latitude as the French Riviera. It’s 45 and raining there. It’s 16 here. At the same lattidude in Sapporo, Japan, it’s 1 degree. And around the Pacific, in Seattle, Washington, it’s 36, which is the coldest weather predicted for the next 10 days, and warmer then the 33-degree high in our 10-day forecast here in Maine.

        Weather does not depend so much on how far north you are as on how prevailing weather moves, to some degree. (Pun intended.) It’s only when you get close to the arctic circle, not half way between it and the equator (as all these places are,) that the being north instead of prevailing weather pattern has much impact on local climate. But the closer to the poles you get, the more any weather is local weather, too.

        Report

      • Weather does not depend so much on how far north you are as on how prevailing weather moves, to some degree.

        Also altitude, being stuck in the center of a large continent, humidity, neighboring oceans/mountains. Here near Denver, we might get a cold front that backs up the plains to the foothills and gives us -20F, or a chinook that comes down the mountains and gives us 65F. Both in February. Within three days of each other.

        Report

    • It’s not so much that I think the question is stupid as much as it’s not a question that would occur to me because it has such an obvious answer. Why isn’t Socchi more cold than it is? That’s an interesting question. Same with why New Mexico isn’t hot like Arizona is hot. The US definitely follows a particular pattern as far as that goes, with outliers here and there which the OP-mentioned states aren’t (though I will grant that South Dakota is the biggest outlier of the bunch, if any of them are outliers).

      What I find fascinating is places are humid and which ones aren’t.

      Report

  21. Ed4: Here’s a regression of early-career (around 26) income on college major and SAT scores (among other variables). It found that the most lucrative majors controlling for student quality were engineering, computer science, business, nursing, and criminology, in descending order. The worst-paying were psychology, biology, history, English, and education, in ascending order. GPA was a strong predictor of income, and math SAT score was significant while verbal SAT score was not. Race and sex were not significant.

    Report

Comments are closed.