Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Mad Men Finale

I've been thinking about the Mad Men finale. The more I think, the more unfulfilled I am by it, because a significant subtext concerns the primacy and importance of work. First, the final scene is not about Don's enlightenment. Instead, it's about Don using a possibly life-transforming event to come up with a great pitch for work. Is he a better father or a better person? Nope. But he is a better pitchman. Life is something that you use to inform your work. Characters in this show don't work to live, they live to work.

Joan chooses work over love (or what might be love.) Roger is asked why he keeps working, and he replies "What else is there?" His new wife is the most recent in a series of wives. Has he found true happiness? Don't bet on it. She's crazy and he knows it. Pete gets his family back how? By getting a better job. Peggy might be the outlier. But not really. She does find love, but she finds love at and through work. She loves Stan partly because he's good at his job and because they have worked together for years. It's an office romance that is "consummated" at work. Their final scene is him kissing her on the forehead as she works. The interactions where we might have seen real human connection--between Don and Peggy or Don and Betty--occur over the phone.

As for poor Betty... Rather than cocoon and bring her family close, she goes back to school and keeps hustling until the end, acting as if nothing is happening. So she leaves Gene and Sally to cook and do dishes. Because, in the end, Mad Men might be saying that's what adult life is. Work.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Private schools are not better than public schools

A 2006 national comparison of scores on the NAEP, the Nation's Report Card, for example, found no significant differences between public and private school fourth and eighth graders, afer controlling for socoeconomic factors and race. The exceptions were fourth-grade math, where public school kids did better, and eighth-grade reading, where private school kids did better. Similarly, an international analysis of PISA scores completed in 2012 found that 90 percent of the apparent test-score edge at private schools came from the socoeconomic advantages of their students and disappeared when you compared them to similary affluent public schools.

From The Test by Anya Kamenetz

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Marshmallow Test might just be measuring social class

A 2012 experiment re-created Mischel's marshmallow test, telling children they could have two marshmallows instead of one if they waited for fifteen minutes. But this time the experimenter added a condition: in one case, the adults repeatedly broke promises to the child  subjects, while in the other condition they were shown to be reliable. The children in the "reliable adult" condition waited far longer. The study's lead author, Celeste Kidde at the University of Rochester, was inspired by her work at a homeless shelter. She wrote in the paper that the results imply that children rationally consider whether delaying gratification will actually pay off. In an unstable environment, such as that created by extreme poverty, "the only guaranteed treats are the ones you have actually swallowed." In other words, what looks like impulse control, like IQ before it, may be little more than a proxy measure for social class.

From The Test by Anya Kamenetz

Standardized test scores do no predict adult income. But something else does...

A paper produced at Stanford in 2008 found that students' behavior in middle school predicted adult income better than test scores. In fact, middle school test scores only predicted income for men with postsecondary degrees. The interesting part is how the researcher measured behavior: she simply asked two teachers to answer the following five questions.

"Is [the student] frequently absent? Is [the student] frequently tardy? Is [the student] consistently inattentive in class? Is [the student] frequently disruptive? Does [the student] rarely complete his homework?"

Makes sense to me. 

Here is a link to the study

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A major challenge to the current education system

“It used to be you had to go to a special institution to get information about a subject, but we live in the technology age and you can find anything you need on your phone,” says Jeremy Stuart, a documentary filmmaker, who, along with Dustin Woodard made a movie about homeschooling called Class Dismissed . “The whole paradigm has shifted. It’s no longer about how to access information, it’s about how to use the information, how to sift through it to determine how to apply it to your life. That’s incredibly empowering, and schools are not doing that.”

“The Internet does a great job of providing access to learning,” says Albert Wenger, a partner at New York’s Union Square Ventures. He and his wife Sue Danziger, the founder of online video startup Ziggeo, are having their three children homeschooled. “Pretty much everything you want to learn, you’ll be able to find out there. So that puts a premium on, Is this something you care about? Is this something you want to learn?”

from an article called "The Techies who are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids"

Are we telling too many kids they need to go to college?

According to this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23% of jobs require a bachelor's degree or higher.

Interestingly, according to this chart, 43% of US students between 25 and 34 have a bachelor's degree or higher.

Maybe we are overselling the necessity of a college education.