New York City meets Lake Wobegon!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2021

With Anchorage, Alaska thrown in: In fairness to Garrison Keillor, he meant it as a joke.

It was a joke he created for a well-known radio program broadcast by NPR. The leading authority on the matter offers this overview:

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town created by Garrison Keillor as the setting of the "News from Lake Wobegon" segment of the radio program A Prairie Home Companion...It is described as a small rural town in central Minnesota, and is peopled with fictional characters and places, many of which became familiar to listeners of the broadcast.

Lake Wobegon was a fictional town, peopled with fictional characters. It wasn't an actual place. The joke was part of the monologue with which Keillor started the weekly show:

Keillor's weekly monologue about Lake Wobegon included recurring elements:

The opening words of the monologue usually were "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie."

Lake Wobegon was called "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve."

The closing words of the monologue were "That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

In fairness, Keillor wasn't claiming that there was an actual town where the children were all above average. He was offering that as a joke, with the point of the joke unexplained.

We thought of Keillor's well-known joke as we read a front-page report in today's New York Times. Headline included, the news report starts like this:

SHAPIRO (10/16/21): Adams Commits, With Few Details, to Keeping Gifted Program in Schools

Eric Adams said on Friday that he would keep New York City’s elementary school gifted and talented program if, as expected, he wins the general election for mayor next month—a clear rebuke to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently announced plans to eliminate the program.

“There’s a new mayor next year, that mayor must evaluate how he’s going to deal with the gifted and talented program,” Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said in an interview with CNN. “He can’t get rid of it until next year,” he added of Mr. de Blasio.

Asked directly whether he would eliminate the gifted program, Mr. Adams replied, “no I would not, I would expand the opportunities for accelerated learning.”

In short, Bill de Blasio, the outgoing mayor, recently said that he would scrap  the city's elementary school "gifted and talented" program on his way out the door. He hadn't quite gotten around to doing this, or anything else, during his eight years as mayor.

Eric Adams, the likely incoming mayor, seemed to say that he would maintain the program, and possibly expand it in some undescribed way. We thought og Lake Wobegon when we read this later passage:

SHAPIRO: As to the gifted program, Mr. de Blasio said last week that he wanted to scrap the current system, including an admissions exam for 4-year-olds that has been heavily criticized, and start over with a new one that offers an accelerated education to every elementary school student.

Mr. Adams has yet to release his own plan for the city’s schools, and he has reversed course previously on at least one contentious education issue. But he made it clear on Friday that he was not going to let the outgoing mayor dictate a policy that has major implications for the nation’s largest school system.

De Blasio said that he wants to "offer an accelerated education" to every elementary school student. 

In fairness, it's a pretty thought. When we read that part of today's report, we thought of Lake Wobegon, the fictional town where the children are all above average. 

In actual towns, the various children, as a general matter, really aren't all above average. On its face, the very idea doesn't seem to make sense. That's the fact which served to make Keillor's statement a joke.

That said, so what? To de Blasio, playing hero ball, the children should all be offered "an accelerated education" in New York City's elementary schools.

On its face, that doesn't exactly seem to make sense. When you look at actual data, the notion may seem even less plausible, even perhaps a bit puzzling.

Yesterday, we suggested that the tribunes of our self-impressed tribe should stop making transparently stupid statements every time they speak. Today, we'll supply an add-on:

People like de Blasio should stop announcing to the world that they don't have the slightest idea about the interests and needs of kids in our low-income schools. They should stop the hero ball and the showboating. They should stop pretending to care.

Should every child in New York City receive "an accelerated education?" As noted, it's a pretty idea. but here are some actual data:

Scale scores, New York City Public Schools
All students, Grade 4 math, 2019 Naep
90th percentile: 276.06
75th percentile: 255.49
50th percentile: 231.73
25th percentile: 207.40
10th percentile: 184.36

In Grade 4 math, are the children all above average in the New York City schools? Just for a moment, let's madden ourselves with the boredom of a trip to the actual world:

In 2019, the average public school student in the United States scored 241.60 on the Naep's Grade 4 math test. (The Naep is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally-administered "gold standard" of domestic educational testing. For all Naep data, start here.)

The average fourth grader in New York City scored ten points lower than that. According to a very rough rule of thumb which is often applied to Naep scores, that would mean that the average New York City kid was one year behind his nationwide counterparts at this point in time.

That's a very rough comparison, but let's move on from there. According to the federal data, ten percent of New York City kids scored at 184.36 or below. 

(Nationwide, the corresponding score was 198.19. Gotham's tenth percentile child scored well below his counterpart nationwide.)

That seems to mean that ten percent of New York City's kids weren't performing anywhere near the national average on this measure of Grade 4 math. De Blasio has sat on his ascot with respect to this matter for the past eight years, but as he galavants out of office, he has now announced that even kids who are struggling in school to this extent should he "offered an accelerated education."

There's no way to have sufficient contempt for a tribal figurehead like this. There's no way to have sufficient contempt for the self-impressed tribe which has ignored the needs of those struggling kids since at least the 1960s, fluffing ourselves as we go.

The tribe in question is our own blue tribe, and our own blue tribe is routinely heinous. Our own blue tribe is dumb as a rock. Beyond that, we don't actually care.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for what we read in today's front-page report. Having said that, we'll add this:

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time  watching citizens in Anchorage, Alaska appear before the Anchorage city council to testify against a proposed mask mandate.

As a general matter, those people seemed to belong to the other, red tribe. We'd call that videotape sobering.

(We'd also note that the videotape didn't show what Rachel Maddow said it did in her latest bit of tribal propaganda / pandering.)

You have that sobering videotape from Anchorage—but then too, you have our own blue tribe. It's hard to have sufficient contempt for the way de Blasio has behaved, but our own blue tribe is so plainly uncaring, and so dumb, that this sort of thing has been the norm for decades.

After sitting on his ascot for eight years, Mayor de Blasio made a pleasing statement last week. On its face, his statement doesn't seem to make sense, but it's par for the course from our tribe—and everyone can see this but us.

How should New York City organize its schools? That's a daunting question. There's no easy answer to that.

That said, we've offered a tiny selection of data today. Our own blue tribe, so full of self-admiration, is  rarely willing to bore itself with information like that. 

(You will never see data like those in the Times. Those struggling children don't even exist on our tribe's two cable channels, where they talk about no one but Trump and how we'll soon have him locked up.)

Garrison Keillor meant it as a joke! Our own blue true, so full of self-regard, may perhaps have been too dumb (and too transparently uncaring) to understand this fact.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Those meetings in Anchorage were a sobering mess—but here within our own blue towns, can we be said to be sharper?

Once more for the road: The average fourth grader, nationwide, scored 241.60 on the Naep math test. Ten percent of New York City's kids scored 184 or below.

Those numbers seem to describe a truly gigantic "achievement gap"—a gap which is hard to quantify in colloquial terms. Within our tribe, we're so dumb, and so uncaring, that we're inclined to think that those struggling kids need "an accelerated education."

To us, that story feels good and it makes perfect sense. Everyone else is able to see what this seems to mean about us.

That tape from Anchorage is sobering. Then again, what about us?


58 comments:

  1. Ah, yes. Here's Jonathan Turley for your reading pleasure, dear Bob.

    Achieving Equity through Mediocrity: Why Elimination of Gifted Programs Should Worry Us all

    By the way, it's nice that you find citizens testifying against a proposed mask mandate sobering. But we're pretty certain that the rest of your liberal-zombie comrades are still inebriated by your cult's dumb propaganda.

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  2. "In actual towns, the various children, as a general matter, really aren't all above average."

    Statistically, it is possible for there to be a town where all of the children are above average. The way that would work is that the town is a subset of a larger entity, such as a county. If the average is calculated over the county, but parents of high ability with professional jobs have chosen to live in that town, it is entirely possible for their children to all be above the county average. Of course, they cannot all be above the town's average. There are enclaves like that, including Somerby's own silicon valley and small college towns (college students are not children) where the professors' kids are highly likely to be above average.

    But being "above average" wouldn't be enough to ensure participation in a gifted program. Most districts use a cut-off of two standard deviations above the mean for identifying gifted kids. Two standard deviations is the cut-off for extreme difference and clinical difference (abnormality) across a variety of human traits that have a normal distribution. When you get to the tails of that distribution, the kids are truly different and truly needing of intervention, not simply at the high end of normal variation.

    Somerby doesn't seem to understand statistics very well. Over the years, he has given no indication that he knows what a standard deviation is, even though it is a far more important measure of variability than the average (mean).

    Somerby doesn't even seem to know (doesn't acknowledge) that the basis for Keillor's joke about the children is that fond parents love their kids. We smile at it because we understand that all parents think their kids are above average, whether they actually are or not. And that's as it should be.

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  3. Gifted programs all over the country, not simply in New York, have struggled with the accusation of elitism that arises from their inability to identify gifted kids growing up in disadvantaged circumstances. Do such very smart kids exist? Yes, but they are hard to find because the traditional tests don't necessarily identify them. So other measures must be used, and this is where school districts fall down.

    Further school districts are unwilling to provide accelerated learning to gifted kids, worrying that they will then have no age-appropriate peer group to find friends and be social with, since acceleration typically means working with older kids. Parents worry about the social impacts of acceleration, despite many studies showing that it is the best intervention, especially for highly gifted kids. Parents may hold boys back so that they will be big enough to compete in sports. So, to avoid acceleration, schools provide "enrichment" instead and that appears to everyone like unfair extra attention that might benefit all kids, given to only a few who seem to also have economic and other advantages.

    If programs did consist of acceleration and were open to all kids who could handle the advanced work, the unfairness would be reduced. Kids would self-select because it is not fun attempting work you cannot do, so the kids who were not actually gifted but were being pushed by parents would eventually drop back into regular classes. Meanwhile, gifted kids would actually receive an effective intervention for a change.

    The benefit of acceleration is that it would permit very smart kids to attend college at a younger age and grad school younger, so that they could finish extended training such as PhDs or MDs earlier and begin their careers at an age similar to others, which means they could start their jobs, marry and buy homes and have families at a more traditional age, not delayed as occurs for many who pursue advanced education. Their contributions are important to our society, not just the kids themselves.

    DiBlasio is right to change the system and right to offer acceleration. It isn't clear what Adams is proposing.

    It is similarly unclear whether Somerby understands any of the issues involving education of gifted kids.

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  4. Somerby presents a bunch of achievement test scores which have nothing to do with identifying gifted children. Achievement refers to what has already been learned, not the capacity to learn. The tests used to identify giftedness involve reasoning and thinking skills, not just acquired knowledge. They are typically called aptitutde or IQ tests. NAEP is not such a test.

    Even if NAEP were such a test, giftedness is not found at the 90th percentile but at the 98th percentile, which is not reported in the scores Somerby has excerpted.

    NAEP is used to measure the state of education across the country. It is NOT used to identify specific kids who need educational intervention. It is used to identify which school districts are succeeding, not which children.

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  5. "That said, so what? To de Blasio, playing hero ball, the children should all be offered "an accelerated education" in New York City's elementary schools.

    On its face, that doesn't exactly seem to make sense."

    Accelerated means that kids would encounter advanced material at a younger age instead of in lock-step with age-peers. A child who is good at math would be allowed to work at his or her own pace instead of being held to what the average student is doing. That same child might be bad at reading and work at a less advanced pace in reading. This is the same kind individuation already provided to kids with special needs in most schools. DiBlasio is suggesting that gifted kids be treated like special needs kids, which is an enlightened way of looking at them. That is what they are. It has been more traditional for uninformed people to treat gifted kids as upper middle class over-indulged children from favorable environments, not kids who have qualitatively different learning needs.

    Somerby might understand that if he had taken appropriate teacher education courses in college instead of the 6 weeks of training provided by Teach for America.

    It may seem like a paradox but there can exist kids who have the capacity to learn much more than they have been exposed to, especially if they come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These are the kids currently being overlooked by programs that use achievement tests to identify gifted kids.

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  6. "the children should all be offered "an accelerated education"

    Being "offered" a chance to participate is not the same as accepting that invitation. A child who is struggling to do average level work is not likely to accept the chance to participate in accelerated learning. Somerby thinks it is ridiculous to offer the chance to every child because the NAEP numbers suggest that not many will accept.

    The problem is that educators have trouble knowing which kids might benefit. Gifted kids from unfortunate environments can look like special ed candidates. They can be disruptive in class or underachieve due to other concurrent problems (such as being gifted but also ADHD). They may have motivation or emotional issues that need to be addressed. Such kids can fail in a regular classroom but bloom when given appropriate interventions.

    Being "offered" means that kids are not being kept out of opportunities by gatekeepers (such as tests that don't properly identify minority/disadvantaged gifted kids). It doesn't mean that such opportunities are appropriate for all kids. Just as all kids are offered the opportunity to participate in sports. It doesn't mean they all will. But the kids and their parents get to decide, not just school administrators with a fixed and perhaps mistaken idea of what giftedness is like, especially for minority kids.

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  7. Somerby refers to DiBlasio as "playing hero ball" and sitting on his ascot, and talks about contempt for him, but DiBlasio knows much more about gifted education than Somerby does. DiBlasio is trying to make gifted education more fair. He isn't ignoring the needs of non-gifted kids in the schools. Those kids are being taught in appropriate-level classes supplemented by special education for those with learning problems. The same cannot be said for gifted kids, especially those from disadvantaged homes.

    Gifted kids with unmet needs may simply loaf through their classes, but they can also develop serious problems. They have higher suicide rates, are more likely to drop out of school, can become discipline problems and act out in class, develop low academic self-esteem that prevents them from setting goals appropriate to their ability, and at a minimum waste their own time and that of their teachers. In some districts, gifted kids get identified as smart during a special ed evaluation. They are referred to special ed by a teacher who only knows that they are not normal and seem to be having adjustment or emotional problems because they are disruptive. The special ed evaluation includes an IQ test among a battery of other assessments. When the correct placement is found, such kids improve dramatically. Before the establishment of gifted screening, this was the most common way to identify gifted kids.

    Some gifted kids have such difficulty enduring a classroom that doesn't meet their needs that they drop out. They may later return to college via GED or via the military. Some do not. A study of successful stand-up comedians, who are generally quite bright, found that most dropped out of high school in order to go to late-night open-mike nights where they learned to perform comedy. According to his own bio, Steve Martin, obviously gifted, went back to college (in philosophy) but was a terrible student in high school. His path is not unusual except in his level of ultimate success. Other gifted kids are not as fortunate.

    Decisions about how to educate gifted kids shouldn't be left to politicians when there is a literature about what works and best practices for their education. No one would make a political football out of how to educate deaf kids, so why is this other special need not being left to experts in the field? Partly, it is because of the myths about gifted kids, including that they don't need help and will do fine on their own, that they are simply over-indulged high income children with pushy parents, and that kids shouldn't be competing in school (except for sports).

    It seems likely to me that Somerby was in gifted classes as a child and resents that as much as he resents his Harvard education.

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  8. "The average fourth grader, nationwide, scored 241.60 on the Naep math test. Ten percent of New York City's kids scored 184 or below.

    Those numbers seem to describe a truly gigantic "achievement gap"—a gap which is hard to quantify in colloquial terms."

    Here Somerby attempts some statistical sleight-of-hand. He compares the performance of the New York 10th percentile against the mean for the nation. Why would he not compare New York's 10th percentile (bottom 10%) against the bottom 10% for the nation? Why would he not compare New York's mean against the nationwide mean? He is comparing New York worst The average fourth grader, nationwide, scored 241.60 on the Naep math test. Ten percent of New York City's kids scored 184 or below.

    Those numbers seem to describe a truly gigantic "achievement gap"—a gap which is hard to quantify in colloquial terms.

    This is an inappropriate comparison, unless one's purpose is to make New York look bad. Somerby has compared the lowest 10% (10th percentile) score for New York against the nation's mean (50th percentile) instead of comparing New York 10th percentile against the nation's 10th percentile, or New York's mean against the nation's mean.

    Somerby's obvious purpose is to make New York look worse than the nation, to make DiBlasio's education efforts look bad. But Somerby has put his thumb on the scales by not giving us an appropriate comparison, apples-to-apples not apples-to-oranges. This is dishonest or stupid or both. And all it says is that bad students do worse than average ones. Shame on Somerby!

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  9. Whoa, dear Bob, lookie here:

    Judge denies Jussie Smollett's bid to have criminal case dropped over 'faked' racist attack in 2019: Star will now face trial next month

    A sad day for the liberal cult, nicht wahr? Alas, there's still much work for you and your liberal comrades left to be done to destroy the judicial system...

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    Replies
    1. nicht wahr = German = dog whistle to alt-right Hitler worshippers

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    2. Whoa, nice. Thanks for the laughs, dear Corby.

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    3. ...any comment on Jussie Gutmensch Smollett's upcoming trial, by chance?

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    4. Is that one of those snowflakes who tried to overthrow the government because black people's votes counted in an election?

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  10. Learning ability is distributed in a bell curve. No matter how high the scores, there will be a lower 10% and an upper 10% with most of the scores clustered around the mean. Somerby seems to be assuming that if the schools were doing a good job, all students should have the same scores on tests. That is only going to happen if learning ability is evenly distributed across students, but we know that is not the case.

    Most human traits and abilities form this bell curve. People do not all have the same reaction times (speed to press a button given a go-ahead), that's why some people are better at shoot-em up or car chase video games than others. Height is not evenly distributed, even with the same nutrition. Athletic ability (coordination, strength, running speed) is not evenly distributed. If these things were evenly distributed, we would expect people to be more similar than they are.

    Somerby's expectation that all children should be above the mean is the same as Garrison Keillor's statement that all the kids in Wobegon are above average. Not achievable even with maximum effort, because all kids do not start out on a level playing field from birth. So schools work with kids at all levels, hopefully using Vygotsky's approach of starting with each kid wherever he or she is at and working from there. Somerby is happy to acknowledge this when he claims that all kids cannot be gifted, but not when he insists that no kid should inhabit the 10th percentile in New York schools or something is terribly terribly wrong.

    As humans, we pursue our areas of strength and work to improve weaknesses but we recognize that not all people are alike, nor should they be. But everyone can do better, no matter what their level. Somerby seems to think that gifted kids should not be permitted to do better, as long as any child is doing worse than they are. So he scoffs at DiBlasio's plan for making gifted education more accessible to all who want to pursue it (note, this is not the same as requiring all students to be accelerated, which is Somerby's straw man). Studies show that performance on IQ tests can be increased about 15 points (one standard deviation) by a favorable environment, no matter what the IQ. That is worth doing because it results in more life opportunities. Acceleration isn't the answer for all students -- just those who find the regular classroom insufficiently challenging. Kids need challenge in order to acquire study skills and good work habits, learn perseverence and understand that they too have limits, and to encourage them to set higher goals for themselves. Denying this learning to bright kids simply because they can easily do the standard curriculum, is abusive.

    Given the bell curve, Somerby's comparison of the 10th percentile with the mean is meaningless and mendacious.

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    Replies
    1. "That is only going to happen if learning ability is evenly distributed across students, but we know that is not the case."

      Oh really, dear dembot? So, if the test is '2 + 2 = ?', students should all get different scores?

      Please enlighten.

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    2. Mao,
      Only accepting "4" as the answer is intolerant towards Right-wingers.

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  11. According to the article:
    “Under Mr. de Blasio’s plan…the city would train all of its roughly 4,000 kindergarten teachers to accommodate students who need accelerated instruction within their general education classrooms.”

    Somerby misstates this: ”he has now announced that even kids who are struggling in school to this extent should he "offered an accelerated education."”

    According to the story, that isn’t what De Blasio announced.

    You see, the article also tells us that “Gifted programs in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods all but disappeared in many parts of the city after former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg introduced a citywide test-based threshold for admission into gifted classes.” This means that in many poor and predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods, there are no gifted programs anymore.

    Perhaps Somerby would like to inform the students in those neighborhoods that they shouldn’t have an opportunity for accelerated education because students like them score badly “on average” relative to the national average. I’m sure the gifted students being neglected in these neighborhoods will understand the perpetuation of a lack of opportunity because the average score for students in New York City is really low compared to the national average. It’s just statistics, hard and cold according to Somerby, who wishes to make children prisoners to average Naep scores. And he assumes that there must be no gifted or talented students in these schools because of average naep scores.

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  12. Somerby often makes good points about how testing and other aspects of K-12 education are underreported or misreported, but if he really cared himself, wouldn't he explain what should be done to improve education? Or even what the objectives should be?

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    Replies
    1. Hmm. What needs to be done, obviously, is getting rid of brain-dead liberals in every strata of the government service.

      Well, on the second thought: let us not get carried away. Manual labor should be fine.

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    2. It’s far easier to carp from the sidelines.

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  13. According to liberals, acknowledging reality is racist. This goes back to The Bell Curve, which committed the sin of accurately reporting average black IQ scores. Similarly today, I would be called a racist for mentioning that the average black IQ is 91. (I am not claiming that IQ is genetically determined. I'm merely reporting the result of IQ tests.)

    Of course, the failure to accurately diagnose the problem means that it won't be effectively attacked. But, as Bob points out, liberals don't really want to help blacks advance; liberals just want to feel good about themselves.

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    Replies
    1. You are assuming that test scores acccurately measure ability in black students. They don’t.

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    2. Corby - can you provide evidence supporting your contention? Or, are you simply in denial about the problem?

      IQ test scores are consistent with her indicators. As Bob often points out, black are 3 to 4 years behind whites in school, ON AVERAGE. My own field pretty much used to exclude blacks, Asians and women. However, Asians and women now excel at actuarial exams. Black lag. Blacks also lag in average SAT scores on average.

      (BYW my opinion FWIW is that Black do lag in IQ, and the reason is culture, not genetics. If you accept this idea, then the key to improving black IQs is to change the culture. That means encouraging 2-parent families, regular jobs, not doing drugs, etc. Anyhow that's my 2 cents worth.)

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    3. Correction: "IQ tests are consistent with OTHER indicators."

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    4. David, google and read articles by Claude Steele on “stereotype threat”. Also, see The Mismeasure of Man, a book about test bias. There are also textbooks and journal articles about identifying gifted minority students. They will discuss why you can’t just use test scores.

      I suspect that few black students talented in math would want to become actuaries instead of pursuing other careers, like Astronaut Ronald McNair did or astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson or Mae Jemison, who is an engineer, Astronaut and physician. Your approach isn’t a good way to figure out whether gifted black students exist.

      In my upper division college courses, I’ve learned that skin color does not predict grades. The problem is that standardized tests don’t predict college grades either. They only correlate with parental income. That’s why highly competitive universities are no longer using SAT and ACT scores for admission.

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    5. Corby -- Thanks for your comment. I read "The Mismeasure of Man" very carefully when it first came out. Although I greatly admire the writing and thinking skills of Stephen Jay Gould, I found that book unconvincing. I can't remember all the flaws I thought I found, but here's what I consider to be a major one. The book implicitly argues that some past measures of intelligence were greatly flawed, therefore current efforts to measure intelligence are also flawed. This is faulty logic.

      The book points out correctly that IQs of individuals and groups are not fixed. That shows that IQ is not genetic or not entirely genetic. As I said earlier, I agree with this point. But that doesn't mean that IQ is poor measure of general intelligence.

      BTW if one argues that IQ tests are inaccurate measures of intelligence, that doesn't prove that the intelligence gap between blacks and Asians is smaller than the IQ difference. For all we know, the gap could be larger.

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    6. https://www.edge.org/response-detail/25422

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    7. Thanks for the link, hardindr. He says, "There is nothing particularly revealing about these different distributions other than that they reflect some underlying socio- cultural differences." That's just what I said earlier. I said the difference between black and Asian average IQs was due to culture, not genetics.

      However, even if IQ is cultural, it can still measure intelligence. E.g., in Silicon Valley where I live, a lot more Asians than blacks are employed in high tech, despite affirmative action pressure to employ more blacks. Apparently, Asians are better than blacks, ON AVERAGE, at high tech stuff.

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    8. 'Black', 'Asian', what does it even mean? What difference does it make, dear David?

      Humyns have different skin hues, different eyes, noses, different heights, shoe sizes, hairlines. Yet, they're all humyns.

      Do you know that in France it's illegal to count individuals by race or ethnicity?

      Be smart, dear David, refuse to play liberal-hitlerian games.

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    9. IQ was created to measure innate intelligence. It clearly does not do that, so it is worthless for its intended purpose. Almost every discussions about IQ is a waste of time.

      "Asians" is a category that includes dozens of countries and over a billion people. The same can be said for "blacks." It means nothing to say that the average asian or black person is better or worse at any activity or measure.

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    10. Once again, people's choices of career do not reflect their abilities as much as their values, interests, and life experiences.

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    11. IQ was created to identify mentally retarded. That's what they called dembots back in the day.

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    12. The Binet IQ test was created in order to help integrate rural children into French schools when education became compulsory in France. Those kids were not retarded. They had not been educated in standard ways so teachers needed guidance about how to place them into grades when they started state-funded schools.

      This and similar tests were misused by the US to screen immigrants at Ellis Island, administering a test in English to immigrants who were not native speakers, if they spoke any English at all. Those with low scores were classified as mentally defective and not permitted entry. This was part of the nativist, anti-immigrant backlash of the early 1900s. IQ and aptitude tests were later used by the military to classify recruits into jobs, then adopted by business for use in hiring, and finally were widely used in schools for tracking and identification of children with learning problems. At that point, the problems with such tests began to be noted and their routine use challenged in the courts. Misuse of tests became the focus of public attention in the 1970s.

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    13. Binet himself never liked and didn't use the formulation of mental age divided by chronological age that constitutes an IQ score. The idea of classifying people using a single number strongly appealed to Americans but it doesn't make much sense given that cognition consists of many different cognitive processes.

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    14. Retardation can occur for many different reasons, most organic and some genetic. It is identified by failure of an infant to meet early developmental milestones, mostly involving motor functions (e.g., sitting up, walking) or by the presence of one of the genetic anomalies producing retardation.

      Children develop at different rates and it is foolish to suspect retardation because a child doesn't meet some average age described in a book (or displayed by a neighbor's child). This difference in pace of development continues in school. A child who is not ready for algebra at one age may pick it up easily later on, and such delays don't mean anything about intelligence except that precocious kids tend to be labeled as smart. These lags and spurts are not accommodated by standardized testing, which occurs at the same grade level for all children without considering their actual ages or rates of development.

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    15. Only a stupid fucking troll would consider it funny to use developmental disorders (retardation) to mock political opponents. This is what I mean by lack of empathy.

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    16. hardindr -- I partly agree with you that "It means nothing to say that the average asian or black person is better or worse at any activity or measure." Yes, it means nothing about any individual. However, it impacts policy.

      Today, differences in achievement are almost automatically blamed on racism. If the real cause is cultural differences, as Scott Atran and I believe, then the anti-racism policies won't be effective.

      Also, many liberals think it's right to deny or hide differences in average intelligence. This the Mayor of NY just canceled a program for gifted children, because too few blacks qualified. That hurts gifted children of all races.

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    17. David, black people do not all have the same culture. Eliminating a gifted program would be bad if it were not being replaced with another program that is fair to all children in the New York schools.

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    18. Dembots aren't anyone's political opponents, dear dembot. They are bots. Paid by Soros to vomit in comment threads.

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    19. Another set of lies told by a paid troll (Mao).

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    20. Mao was funnier when he pretended he wasn't paid to kiss the ass of the establishment.

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  14. "He hadn't quite gotten around to doing this, or anything else, during his eight years as mayor."

    DeBlasio was not a good mayor, but he ran on and implemented universal Pre-K in NYC. For Somerby to say he did nothing means he knows little about DeBlasio and NYC politics.

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-lessons-of-mayor-bill-de-blasios-universal-pre-k-initiative

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    1. It was widely reported, and easy to find if you google “De Blasio education achievements.”

      Somerby chooses to overlook this.

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  15. But did De Blasio really say that? Or, if he did say it, was it possibly just a grammatical slip up of a more complete statement that he repeatedly issues to describe his intentions? Because I heard a lengthy discussionwith the mayor on this very topic on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show, and IIRC, DeBlasio doesn't want to offer an accelerated education program to *each and every NYC student*. What he said, at least in this interview, that he wanted is to put in place a system that offers *the opportunity* to place into such a program to a far wider segment of the student population. Wider in terms of admissions criteria and wider in terms of age eligibility to place into such a program. Eliminating such narrow opportunity to a child at only the fourth grade level does seem, on the face of it, as absurd as saying all children are above average; it's a decision that shapes the child's life through 12th grade, and likely the rest of his life. That is absurd.

    Eric Adams may be putting up a straw man to hack down. If he is, it still sounds like he'd end up doing the same thing De Blasio is proposing under a different brand name.

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    1. It was in The NY Times report that, at least for kindergarten students, de Blasio wants to offer accelerated learning to those who need it in schools where it is not currently offered : “ Under Mr. de Blasio’s plan…the city would train all of its roughly 4,000 kindergarten teachers to accommodate students who need accelerated instruction within their general education classrooms.” Somerby surely read this part, but chose to misrepresent what de Blasio is doing.

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    2. DeBlasio is replacing a real program with an imaginary one.

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    3. That's what always happens when you change programs. You don't start two at once when they are both intended to do the same thing. All ideas start in someone's imagination.

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    4. Fair comment, 2:18, but IMO the new plan is not only imaginary, it's based on an imaginary idea. It sounds good to say, "train teachers to accommodate students who need accelerated instruction," but does anyone actually know how to do this? Where are all the school districts where such a plan has been instituted successfully? Where are the school district employees with the expertise and experience to do such training effectively? Can instruction provided as part of a class of all students match the instruction given in the current program?

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    5. David, you are writing as if there is not existing research about how to educate gifted kids, in and out of a mainstream classroom. This is where you leave the details to the experts. Somerby isn't fond of the idea that expertise exists, but there are professors of education specializing in gifted students and how to meet their needs. Gifted education is a credential program in many universities, so there are trained teachers. There are journals and conferences focusing on methods for teaching gifted kids. Of course this can be accomplished. DeBlasio didn't make this up -- it is part of the field of education.

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    6. @3:53 - I question the expertise of Professors of Education. Publishing journal articles or making conference presentations do not always equate to finding practical approaches that actually work. I will believe in DeBlasio's approach when I see schools where it is being used effectively.

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    7. https://www.city-journal.org/nycr-de-blasio-and-the-collapse-of-education-in-new-york

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    8. I’m sure you have no problem trusting this particular media report, Cecilia. It is surely objective and unbiased. Besides, the discussion here is about something that hasn’t been implemented yet.

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    9. I never “trust” anything I read from any source.

      I had read this piece some days ago, remembered it, and thought it made some interesting points.

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  16. An actual media critic might talk about why the media is not covering Biden's Build Back Better plan. According to Bernie Sanders:

    "Yet, polling also shows that despite President Biden having introduced this proposal five months ago, a majority of Americans have very little knowledge as to what is in this bill – one of the most consequential pieces of legislation for working people in the modern history of our country. Americans can be for the bill. They can be opposed to the bill. But it is absurd that so many of them don’t know what is in the bill.

    Why is that? There are a number of reasons but, at the top of the list, is the reality that the mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job in covering what actually is in the legislation. There have been endless stories about the politics of passing Build Back Better, the role of the president, the conflicts in the House and the Senate, the opposition of two senators, the size of the bill, etc. – but very limited coverage as to what the provisions of the bill are and the crises for working people that they address."

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    1. Why would anyone need to know the details of what is not going to happen -- precisely on account of it being too grandiose?

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  17. The last thing this world needs are gifted programs in education; most of you have misguided notions of what makes a healthy, happy society. The last thing we need are a bunch of Tracy Flick assholes running around mistakenly thinking they are masters of the universe, deserving their acquired wealth, when in fact their circumstances are merely the result of privilege and happenstance.

    What we need is solidarity and community (this is our natural state, while it is our current economic system that corrupts); no one deserves to experience joy any more than anybody else - to think otherwise is the root of the destruction of humanity. But to be honest most of you don't give a fuck about that, indeed, "not caring" is one of the defining characteristic of the Republican party.

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    1. Liberal "caring" is nothing but bullshit virtue signaling, dear dembot.

      Everyone knows that. Every humyn being, that is, zombies don't count.

      And, by the way, identifying the talented among the general population is one of the main purposes of public education.

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    ReplyDelete