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PHOTON COURIER
 
Sunday, November 27, 2011  
INTERESTING ASSERTION

...it may be said that at any time when finance is under attack through the political authority, it is an infallible sign that the political authority is already exercising too much authority over the economic life of the nation through manipulation of finance, whether by exorbitant taxation, uncontrolled expenditure, unlimited borrowing, or currency depreciation.

--Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open


6:48 AM

Wednesday, November 23, 2011  
THANKSGIVING AND TEMPORAL BIGOTRY

(Basically a run of an earlier post)

Stuart Buck encountered a teacher who said “Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?” (“She said this as if she had read it in some authoritative source”, Stuart comments.)

She probably had read it in some supposedly-authoritative source, but it’s an idiotic statement nevertheless. What, precisely, is this wonderful knowledge that high-school seniors have today and which the 40-year-olds of 1840 or 1900 were lacking?

The example of knowledge that people usually throw out is “computers.” But the truth is, to be a casual user of computers (I’m not talking about programming and systems design), you don’t need much knowledge. You need “keyboarding skills”–once called “typing.” And you need to know some simple conventions as to how the operating system expects you to interact with it. That’s about it. Not much informational or conceptual depth there.

Consider the knowledge possessed by by the Captain of a sailing merchant ship, circa 1840. He had to understand celestial navigation: this meant he had to understand trigonometry and logarithms. He had to possess the knowledge–mostly “tacit knowledge,” rather than book-learning–of how to handle his ship in various winds and weathers. He might well be responsible for making deals concerning cargo in various ports, and hence had to have a reasonable understanding of business and of trade conditions. He had to have some knowledge of maritime law.

Outside of the strictly professional sphere, his knowedge probably depended on his family background. If he came from a family that was reasonably well-off, he probably knew several of Shakespeare’s plays. He probably had a smattering of Latin and even Greek. Of how many high-school (or college) seniors can these statements be made today?

(In his post, Stuart compares knowledge levels using his grandfather–a farmer–as an example.)

Today’s “progressives,” particularly those in the educational field, seem to have a deep desire to put down previous generations, and to assume we have nothing to learn from them. It’s a form of temporal bigotry. Indeed, Thanksgiving is a good time to resist temporal bigotry by reflecting on the contributions of earlier generations and on what we can learn from their experiences.

As C S Lewis said: If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its neighboring units. If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. (Approximate quote.)

How better to conduct such destruction than to tell people that previous generations were ignorant and that we have nothing to learn from them?

(Last year I cross-posted the above at Chicago Boyz, where it resulted in an interesting discussion thread)


6:51 PM

 
BRICKBATS AND ROSES

...from Bill Waddell, who is in fine form. The brickbats are for Whirlpool, specifically their approach to manufacturing:

Inventory doesn't turn at Whirlpool because their flow is a non-issue. Instead, their 'assets' meander from China in slow boats and ooze through their factories like so much primordial sludge.

...and the congressional Gang of Six, especially their lack of private-sector experience.. The roses are for the application of Lean methods to a Thanksgiving food drive by a guy from Toyota.


10:46 AM

Sunday, November 20, 2011  
DRUCKER ON EDUCATION, 1969

About a week ago Instapundit linked this Wikipedia article about the higher-education bubble, noting especially the point that William Bennett predicted the bubble back in 1987. The post reminded me of some interesting and rather prescient comments that Peter Drucker made about education even earlier, in his 1969 book The Age of Discontinuity. A few excerpts:

Resources and expectations:

Education has become by far the largest community expenditure in the American economy...Teachers of all kinds, now the largest single occupational group in the American labor force, outnumber by a good margin steelworkers, teamsters and salespeople, indeed even farmers...Education has become the key to opportunity and advancement all over the modern world, replacing birth, wealth, and perhaps even talent. Education has become the first value choice of modern man.

This is success such as no schoolmaster through the ages would have dared dream of...Signs abound that all is not well with education. While expenditures have been skyrocketing--and will keep on going up--the taxpayers are getting visibly restless.


Credentials and social mobility:

The most serious impact of the long years of schooling is, however, the "diploma curtain" between those with degrees and those without. It threatens to cut society in two for the first time in American history...By denying opportunity to those without higher education, we are denying access to contribution and performance to a large number of people of superior ability, intelligence, and capacity to achieve...I expect, within ten years or so, to see a proposal before one of our state legislatures or up for referendum to ban, on applications for employment, all questions related to educational status...I, for one, shall vote for this proposal if I can.

Dangers of "elite" universities:

One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the "elite institution" which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties "matter." This restricts and impoverishes the whole society...The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim...

It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A. and M. is an engineer and not a draftsman. Yet this is the flexibility Europe needs in order to overcome the brain drain and to close the technology gap.


continued at Chicago Boyz


1:58 PM

Tuesday, November 15, 2011  
BIG PRESTIGE PROJECTS AND THE OBAMA WAY

Barack Obama:

"It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us, and Singapore having better airports than us. And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth --- that used to be us." (Nov 3, 2010)

"America became an economic superpower because we knew how to build things. We built the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hoover Dam, and the Interstate Highway System. And now, we're settling for China having the best high-speed rail, and Singapore having better airports? When did that happen? "(Oct 25 2011)

George Savage juxtaposes the latter Obama statement with his decision, only two weeks later, to delay approval for the construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, which was estimated to provide about 20,000 jobs, as well as having an obvious beneficial impact on America's energy security. Indeed, it should be obvious at this point that the main inhibitors to the building of any large project whatsoever are regulatory overreach and complexity and the exploitation of the legal and regulatory environment by precisely the kind of activists that Obama the community organizer has spent much of his life encouraging. Obama's complaints about us not building things resemble the plea of the defendant who killed both of his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan. (More thoughts on large projects then versus now at my post like swimming in glue.)

But in addition to the above point, the kinds of projects about which Obama waxes enthusiastic (to the degree that any enthusiasm is contained in his rather flat emotional range) reveal much about the "progressive" economic worldview.

continued at Chicago Boyz


12:13 PM

Monday, November 14, 2011  
WHAT AMERICA DOES BEST

Some thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson


8:36 AM

Sunday, November 13, 2011  
FICTION AND EMPATHY

An article by Keith Oatley, in Scientific American/Mind, asserts a connection between exposure to fiction and the development of empathy. It's not a new idea--IIRC, the idea that seeing plays and reading novels has tended to increase empathy throughout entire societies has been asserted by Harold Bloom, among others--but Oatley describes empirical research he's done to test this assertion.

In one experiment, Oatley and colleagues assessed the reading habits of 94 adults, separating fiction from nonfiction. They also tested the subjects on measures of emotion perception (being able to discern a person's emotional state from a photo of only the eyes) and social cognition (being able to draw conclusions about the relationships among people based on video clips.) This study showed a "strong" interconnection between fiction reading and social skills, especially between fiction reading and the emotion-perception factor. This correlation, of course, does not by itself demonstrate the direction of causality.

Another study involved assigning 303 adults to read either a short story or an essay from the New Yorker and following up with tests of analytical and social reasoning. Those who read the story tended to do better on the social reasoning test than those who read the nonfiction essay.

Oatley argues that "Good social skills require having a well-developed theory of mind...the ability to take the perspectives of other people, to make mental models of others, and to understand that someone else might have beliefs and intentions that are different from your own." He says that children start to acquire this ability at about 4 years old, and that "the ability to gauge emotion from pictures of just the eyes correlates with theory-of-mind skills, as does the capacity for empathy."

continued at Chicago Boyz


4:41 AM

Friday, November 11, 2011  
VETERANS DAY 2011

Neptunus Lex has some thoughts

Do not fail to follow the link to this music video: the war was in color

Update: Some photographs of WWI battlefields today...link via this post from Sgt Mom.


4:37 AM

Sunday, November 06, 2011  
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING

Moscow in 1963...a collection of photographs taken by John Hinderaker's parents during their trip there

Sunstone...did it make navigation for the Vikings possible on cloudy days?

Should college degrees be required for fire chiefs?

How people ruin their chances of ever achieving power

Cincinnati in 1848....a Daguerreotype panorama

Some worrisome signs for the Chinese economy

Responsibility...some thoughts from Bookworm

The Nordstrom Innovation Lab...an unusual approach to software development. They refer to themselves as "a Lean startup inside a Fortune 500 company."

Fire engines, fighter jets, and nannies


4:29 AM

Friday, November 04, 2011  
FREEDOM AND FEAR

A highly-recommended post from Chicago Girl Sgt Mom.


7:52 PM

Thursday, November 03, 2011  
LIVE/WORK IN NYC?

...or are you planning a trip there in the near future?

If you're down around the financial district, you might stop in at the Milk Street Cafe.

Here's why it's important.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open


4:30 PM

Wednesday, November 02, 2011  
THE DOWNWARD MOBILITY OF THE VIRTUECRATS

A thoughtful piece by Kenneth Anderson.

(Via Maggie's Farm, from whom the title of this post is lifted)

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open


5:09 AM

 
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