Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He fell in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again.
But remember, kids: global warming’s just something Al Gore made up coz he was sore at losing the election.
Not sure why I read this stuff, as I have no connection whatever to education in the US, but a couple of posts recently caught my eye, one on the Freakanomics blog, and the other on Pissed Off (Teacher).
Stephen Dubner of Freakanomics, dips into the mailbag and quotes this correspondent:
Hi guys. I know you guys have railed against confusing correlation with causality, and also discussed various statistical problems, but you do not seem to have addressed one that affects many real world decisions. I have noticed what appears to be an increase in decisions based on single variant analysis and averaging, often ignoring consequences of those decisions and/or the context of the analysis. It seems you ought to address these, as they are right up your alley. Some simple common examples…
He gives 3: Post Office boxes, schools and testing, and global warming. Here’s an excerpt from the schools and testing example:
Another example happening in the SF Bay Area involves schools. The District looks at average standardized test scores of each school and closes the ones with the lowest average. They do not consider whether these ones which are lower have the poorest kids with least parent involvement and most transience and the like. But, by closing the school and moving them to a much larger school, these low performing kids continue to be low performers, they just do not pull down the average as much. Worse, these low performing kids often do worse (at least according to a recent study at Stanford) and/or drop out. Dropping out helps the averages, so you could argue it is a good policy (Texas allegedly uses that to improve their scores), but the consequences are likely dire for society (more crime or welfare or both). The problem is that the poor performing school may in fact have those particular kids doing much better than they would in another school (due to extra attention, etc), but decision makers are taught that “statistics do not lie”. This is the opposite of some of your situations (where statistics show “common sense” to be wrong).
My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don’t forget checkups He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I’ve got all my teeth.
When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he’d heard about the new state program. I knew he’d think it was great.
“Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?” I said.
“No,” he said. He didn’t seem too thrilled. “How will they do that?” “It’s quite simple,” I said. “They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist’s rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better,” I said. “Poor dentists who don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice.”
“That’s terrible,” he said.
“What? That’s not a good attitude,” I said. “Don’t you think we should try to improve children’s dental health in this state?”
“Sure I do,” he said, “but that’s not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry.”
“Why not?” I said. “It makes perfect sense to me.”
“Well, it’s so obvious,” he said. “Don’t you see that dentists don’t all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can’t control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don’t bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don’t get to do much preventive work. Also, many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well waterwhich is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?”
“It sounds like you’re making excuses,” I said. “I can’t believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn’t fear a little accountability.”
I have yet to see An Inconvenient Truth, but I’m already one of the converted (have been since I was about 16 when I did my own research after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), and I strongly agree with Gore:
“The climate crisis will only be stopped by an unprecedented and sustained global movement”, Gore said
and the Internet is one way this global movement can happen at the speed it needs to happen and reaching the critical mass of people it needs to reach.
I didn’t get much of an impression of Gore while he was Vice-President, but I recently saw him on Japanese TV, interviewed by a gaijin TV “talento” who revealed in the interview that he was a graduate of Al Gore’s alma mater. Al Gore had obviously done his homework on the program that was interviewing him; not only that but he also talked about the Japanese kanji for “crisis” and how it includes a character that means opportunity （the second of the compound character “kiki” meaning crisis – 危機）, whereas the English word “crisis” only suggests something negative. A smart guy. I was impressed. Check out the video.
As a follow-up to my previous post on work environment, here’s a pic of a different environment my partner-in-crime has created in a room which was not provided for that purpose. Unfortunately, this room will have to be dismantled in a few weeks, so I guess this photo has historical value! There’s of course nothing stopping us from re-creating this kind of thing in our own private offices (and we will). But what we are hoping for is a bigger space, so that we can entertain a number of folks without everyone being squashed up nose-to-nose.
I think it’s a cultural thing. The posters were nice: colourful and bright. But! They are the signs of someone else’s presence in the room, and that disturbs some teachers. Also, the posters were in English, and that classroom is used by a lot of different teachers teaching a lot of different subjects, of which English is only one.
I think Japanese would feel that posters on the wall were SOMEONE ELSE’S POSTERS and therefore an infringement on their personal space and autonomy, whereas I suspect many Westerners wouldn’t mind, and might actually welcome the introduction of colour to the bland, off-white blank walls.
Classes finished several weeks ago here in Japan (none now until April, but it’s not like we’re on vacation on anything, ya know, there’s tons to do like like like grades ‘n’ stuff really there is). I’ll try and put up some photos of my workspace. (I see WriteToMyBlog just added Flickr functionality but once again WriteToMyBlog refuses to publish my blog entries. Maybe it’s personal: “you seriously want me to publish this? Are you SURE??? I don’t think so. Forget it, pal. The world’s better off without it. Trust me.”
So it’s back to the ol’ reliable Performancing.
Damn. Can’t figure how to persuade Performancing to upload a photo.
So, what’s your workspace look like?