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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

OTP November 2012 - Moneypoll! The Pundits vs. The Election-Data Nerds

Come next Tuesday night, we’ll get a resolution (let’s hope) to a great ongoing battle of 2012: not just the Presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but the one between the pundits trying to analyze that race with their guts and a new breed of statistics gurus trying to forecast it with data.

In Election 2012 as seen by the pundits–political journalists on the trail, commentators in cable-news studios–the campaign is a jump ball. There’s a slight lead for Mitt Romney in national polls and slight leads for Barack Obama in swing-state polls, and no good way of predicting next Tuesday’s outcome beyond flipping a coin. ...

Bonus link: Esquire - The Enemies of Nate Silver

Joe Kehoskie Posted: October 31, 2012 at 11:42 PM | 11298 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mr president, off-topic, politics, sabermetrics, usa

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   7001. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:06 PM (#4300206)
to argue otherwise is not a racist argument, its a dont-put-ordinary-thinkers-on-the-court argument


As long as it's an argument against both Sotomayor and Thomas, then yeah, sure. But you and your conservative lawyer friends are not exactly typical in this regard, and "she's merely an ordinary thinker" was not exactly the criticism that Sotomayor's opponents used.
   7002. Lassus Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4300207)
'Zop, discounting my post is no big deal. But #6998 does a great job of completely ignoring #6927 which shockingly happens to deal specifically and directly with what you just wrote.
   7003. DA Baracus Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:11 PM (#4300210)
i think it would be better for the court if folks got away from always appointing judges/lawyers.

some other perspectives would be useful in my estimation


What kind of perspectives?
   7004. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4300212)
Well, for starters, losing a seat to reapportionment means that you don't have the same underlying conditions. Second, Philadelphia is about 6:1 D, and surrounded by suburbs that are about 60:40 D. Drawing districts that used slivers of Philadelphia and its suburbs to disenfranchise big chunks of exurbs would not be the opposite of gerrymandering.

EDIT: also, the new PA delegation will be 13-5 R, not 14-4.
All good points. And my bad on the number! I'll retire the Pennsy complaining though I still think it's ridiculous.

   7005. Monty Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4300213)
What kind of perspectives?


Morning radio DJs.
   7006. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4300216)
What kind of perspectives?
Elected office. Legislators who have worked on policy.
   7007. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM (#4300218)
da

greg beat me to it but that is one example
   7008. Tripon Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM (#4300219)
Which is not going to happen in this hyper partisan environment.
   7009. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4300220)
What kind of perspectives?


Pig farmers.
   7010. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:26 PM (#4300221)
tripon

it was a suggestion

i didn't claimm it was a viable suggestion
   7011. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:28 PM (#4300222)
Speaking of redistricting, I didn't realize how bad gerrymandered some of the districts in Maryland were. I'm convinced Maryland's 3rd district is some sort of a fractal.


Statistically the most gerrymandered state in the nation.
http://marylandreporter.com/2011/12/29/md-congressional-districts-may-be-most-gerrymandered-in-nation/
   7012. formerly dp Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4300223)
Why would you (or Nate) think those same people who aren't ready for complex policy arguments are ready for a nuanced, data-driven approach to horserace coverage? As we saw in this go-around, the data then becomes politicized, another issue that requires "balanced" coverage-- because anything else would require those talking heads to evaluate evidence rather than simply just presenting diametrically opposed opinions about it.

I don't think I said anything about "balanced" coverage. And I think it's fantastically optimistic; like, fantasy on the level of hoping Daenerys brings dragons back to the world in order to defeat the coming ice demons; to think the population at large is going to become suddenly complex and nuanced enough to... well, much of anything.


You didn't say it-- that's what the networks say-- the illusion of balance above taking a position. If they're going to cover Nate's 'objective' analysis, they'll have to balance it with 'objective' analysis that shows the opposing position. That's how the game's played. My point is just that Punditized Nate isn't doing anything to make the problem of bad political journalism any better, and may inadvertently be making it worse. Look at how much he became a lightning rod in the popular press-- all that time spent bickering about the polls is time not spent discussing issues. You can respond cynically with "well, they would just do a shitty job talking about those too" and I agree. But that doesn't change the fact that a lot of this election became about Nate Silver, rather than the election. That's not Nate improving the impoverished state of political journalism, that's Nate becoming part of the circus.

and I'm also not comfortable with the "TV news just gives people what they want to watch" reductionism.

I didn't say I was comfortable with it. I said the world is the world.

I think you're misperceiving your object. The gap between 'what audiences want' and 'what the producers provide' is immense, and there's room for a good deal of play within those parameters. People choose from the range of available options. Those options suck, and their producers blame audiences for not demanding better. All that does is perpetually defer responsibility away from the parties most able to determine the programming. It's a cop-out, not an explanation.
   7013. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4300224)
I'll retire the Pennsy complaining though I still think it's ridiculous.


Good. Complain about my state instead.

Virginia House Vote with 2575/2588 precincts reporting:

R: 1,834,857 50.60%
D: 1,736,014 47.88%
O: 55,011 1.52%

Republicans won 8 of 11 seats.
   7014. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:40 PM (#4300229)
'Zop, discounting my post is no big deal. But #6998 does a great job of completely ignoring #6927 which shockingly happens to deal specifically and directly with what you just wrote.


Well, I didn't want to get into a pissing war over the relative qualifications of various justices, then and now. But the post is factually wrong: O'Connor and, especially, Stephens were significantly more qualfied than Sotomayor. Just to take O'Connor, she basically matched or exceeded Sotomayor at every step of her career except she did so in an era when folks were trying to push down, not "affirmatively" lift up women. And even O'Connor was, in the end, given a boost onto the Court because of her gender.

If you make no allowance for the fact that at every step in her career, folks were fighting for the opportunity to hire Sotomayor as a token latina, she "qualifies" for the Supreme Court in the same sense that Jim Rice qualifies for the Hall of Fame - she's better than the worst justices already elevated.
   7015. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4300232)
Which is not going to happen in this hyper partisan environment.
It'd be interesting to see. No doubt the Senate would reward picking one of its elder statesmen by getting them through, but no one would pick a 70-year-old Justice. A new Senator might be trickier.

I don't know that being a former Governor is quite as helpful, but both Deval Patrick and Janet Napolitano are supposedly on the very short lists.

Ed to add: One good thing that an elected official would do is to get away from the dance where people pretend they've never thought about abortion. It doesn't convince anybody and is an embarrassment to all concerned. I don't know that hearings can accomplish anything good, and I'm not at all convinced that we've had better nominees since they started having hearings, but I do dislike the current situation where people are picked because they don't have a record on abortion, then pretend not to have thought about it.
   7016. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:04 PM (#4300237)
Well, I didn't want to get into a pissing war over the relative qualifications of various justices, then and now. But the post is factually wrong: O'Connor and, especially, Stephens were significantly more qualfied than Sotomayor. Just to take O'Connor, she basically matched or exceeded Sotomayor at every step of her career except she did so in an era when folks were trying to push down, not "affirmatively" lift up women. And even O'Connor was, in the end, given a boost onto the Court because of her gender.

If you make no allowance for the fact that at every step in her career, folks were fighting for the opportunity to hire Sotomayor as a token latina, she "qualifies" for the Supreme Court in the same sense that Jim Rice qualifies for the Hall of Fame - she's better than the worst justices already elevated.
This just isn't true. She's indistinguishable from the average Supreme Court Justice, which is a big difference than being better than the worst.

Skip the last three admins if that gets too partisan, and you're at the list I posted before:
No one in the world though Souter or Kennedy were transcendent intellectual figures and they won were perfectly standard Justices. Scalia was thought a big intellectual figure at the time. O'Connor and Stephens were also totally regular picks, good judges and lawyers from the provinces. Rehnquist was a politico. Powell, Blackmon, Berger. Not a one of them had any powerhouse intellectual reputation. All of them were totally within the margins of Justice performance.


Again, put her in comparison with Kennedy, who was approved 97-0:
Kennedy was a Stanford undergrad/Harvard Law grad who practiced in Sacramento and helped out some state agencies and then was appointed to the appeals court and 12 years later was a Supreme. Sotomayor was a Princeton undergrad Yale Law grad who worked for Morgenthau at the DA's office, worked at a firm became partner and was appointed federal district judge (by Bush 1), then 6 years later appellate, then 10 years later Supreme. There's just not any basis for thinking one is qualified and the other isn't.


Most people can name 10 or so Justices who seemed unusually brilliant. There have been 112 people on the Court. The rest? Lots of hackish governors and solid but unspectacular appellate judges and some upstanding citizen-type lawyers who were good practitioners but not game changers. Sotomayor like Kennedy fits type 2 to a tee, for better or worse.

Let's go far back to get away from present partisan divides and do FDR/Ike:

FDR picked
Hugo Black who had a distinguished career but was a politico at the time and not known as an intellect
Stanley Reed--who did not graduate from law school but was a respected Solicitor General
Felix Frankfurter--Boom!
William Douglas--turned out to be brilliant (if eccentric) but was picked at the time because he was not well known and would be uncontroversial (and because he was pushed by business leaders!)
Frank Murphy was Gov of Michigan and Attorney General
James Byrnes was a Senator from South Carolina
Robert Jackson was Attorney General. Certainly a distinguished jurist but not a Frankfurter type.
Wiley Rutledge was a law school dean and appellate court judge

During this time Learned Hand was available.

You do not even want to look at Truman's picks.

Ike's picks:
Earl Warren--genial governor not known as any intellect, before or during time on court
John Marshall Harlan--only one year as appellate judge but was known as a great lawyer
William Brennan--a Jersey pol
Charles Whittaker--had been an appellate court judge for a year
Potter Stewart--former city councilman, sitting appellate court judge

Sotomayor would fit dead center on either of those lists (though some of the people who looked undistinguished at the time like Brennan and Douglas turned out to have long and distinguished careers.)

I think it was Douglas who said in one of his memoirs that if Learned Hand wasn't a Supreme Court Justice, no one in history could say that he deserved to be on the court. It's luck and timing. I'm not a fan of Posner but obviously he's a more formidable intellect than the people his party has nominated, and Tribe is more formidable than most of the Dem picks.

It's normal, not unusual, for the best minds not to be on the court. And it's normal for people on the court to have CVs just like Sotomayor's, if not worse.
   7017. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:12 PM (#4300240)
OK Dan, who am I?

Check your email!
   7018. spike Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4300246)
   7019. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:54 PM (#4300247)
But to argue otherwise is not a racist argument, its a dont-put-ordinary-thinkers-on-the-court argument.


I thought the whole point of conservative jurisprudence theory was to avoid "not-ordinary-thinkers" on the court and to just put in "umpires" to "call balls and strikes." Conservative justices wouldn't really be thinking outside the box that often, would they?
   7020. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:56 PM (#4300249)
GOP in Fantasyland
Dean Chambers, a conservative blogger who gained popularity on the right by setting up a junk-science Romney-boosting site called UnSkewed Polls, implied that FiveThirtyEight was skewed by Silver’s sexual orientation. Chambers wrote that Silver is “of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the ‘Mr. New Castrati’ voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program.” (To which Silver responded with a classic Tweet: “Unskewedpolls argument: Nate Silver seems kinda gay + ??? = Romney landslide!”)
   7021. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:56 PM (#4300250)
What kind of perspectives?


Someone other than Jews and Catholics, perhaps?
   7022. TerpNats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 07:58 PM (#4300251)
I'd like to see some Supreme Court justices who attended public universities as both an undergrad and for a law degree. There are some top-rate institutions that produce fine judges and lawyers, and so what if they don't have the damned Ivy imprimatur?
   7023. Tripon Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4300252)
Same reason why most presidents are from the Ivy League. They're just that well connected.
   7024. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:07 PM (#4300254)
You didn't say it-- that's what the networks say-- the illusion of balance above taking a position. If they're going to cover Nate's 'objective' analysis, they'll have to balance it with 'objective' analysis that shows the opposing position. That's how the game's played. My point is just that Punditized Nate isn't doing anything to make the problem of bad political journalism any better, and may inadvertently be making it worse. Look at how much he became a lightning rod in the popular press-- all that time spent bickering about the polls is time not spent discussing issues. You can respond cynically with "well, they would just do a shitty job talking about those too" and I agree. But that doesn't change the fact that a lot of this election became about Nate Silver, rather than the election. That's not Nate improving the impoverished state of political journalism, that's Nate becoming part of the circus.


Stare not into the abyss, right? I guess what it comes down to me with me is similar to the baseball thing. You run statistical analysis to figure out trends in the aggregate. Nate did that really well and provided rational people a useful tool for measuring likely outcomes of the election. That's like building a projection system to evaluate free agents or draft picks. That tool's not going to teach an 18 year old kid proper footwork at the bag, or correct a hitch in a potential slugger's swing, or stop the talking head idiots from being idiots. It's just a tool for evaluating trends in the aggregate.

I don't think it's Nate's job to improve "the impoverished state of political journalism." You can't fix stupid. The fact that this election became "about Nate" is indicative of the state of politics, not indicative of something good or bad about Nate or his process. The fact that one party is so engulfed in a chasm of post-modern truthlessnes, to the point that they honestly believe that if they clap loud enough the electorate will magically cease to lean Dem and thus Tinkerbell shall live, is a problem external to Nate Silver.

I think you're misperceiving your object. The gap between 'what audiences want' and 'what the producers provide' is immense, and there's room for a good deal of play within those parameters. People choose from the range of available options. Those options suck, and their producers blame audiences for not demanding better. All that does is perpetually defer responsibility away from the parties most able to determine the programming. It's a cop-out, not an explanation.


I think you're correct here, in a sense. I don't know what it has to do with Nate. Dan doesn't run ZIPs to improve the Orioles front office. He runs ZIPs to demonstrate a better method of evaluation than the Orioles have historically shown.
   7025. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM (#4300257)
I hate to break this to you, but it is a racist attack. Taking your claim as true for the sake of argument, the mere fact that Sotomayor got a "boost" due to affirmative action does NOT mean she was underqualified. She might have been perfectly qualified, but the school (say) identified her as AA for its own purposes. The fact that you equate AA with "unqualified" is precisely a racist assumption.


I love it when liberals act shocked, shocked to learn that the cost of affirmative action is that peoples' accomplishments may be unfairly denigrated. As if opponents of AA didn't cite this as a specific problem with the policies, only to be handwaved away by liberals.
   7026. zenbitz Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM (#4300258)
convinced Maryland's 3rd district is some sort of a fractal.


Oh yeah? What's It's zipcode?
   7027. Tripon Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM (#4300260)
How much money does Allan West have on hand? He's only going to be able to run this lawsuit for so long.
   7028. Lassus Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM (#4300262)
I love it when liberals act shocked, shocked to learn that the cost of affirmative action is that peoples' accomplishments may be unfairly denigrated.

It's not a shock.
   7029. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:45 PM (#4300269)
I love it when liberals act shocked, shocked to learn that the cost of affirmative action is that peoples' accomplishments may be unfairly denigrated. As if opponents of AA didn't cite this as a specific problem with the policies, only to be handwaved away by liberals.
People will criticize any appointment a Dem makes. So what? I'm not shocked by that, nor do I take those criticisms as the basis upon which to act in the future, since those same people will invent new criticisms.

Stephen Carter's criticisms of Affirmative Action are very interesting but it's more interesting to see his criticisms of Affirmative Action critics. Because he accepts the Aff Action is a problem, but is always startled to realize that most critics think everyone else got in fair and square.

In fact, men did not have to compete with women at Princeton or Yale until 1969 (and Yale promised that they would admit the same number of men to make sure no man was beaten out of a spot by a female applicant.) Admission rates were crazily high prior to the late 60s because no one applied. A friend of my dad's got in to Dartmouth in the mid-60s and was totally overwhelmed by the work and asked how he had been admitted, and they said they hadn't had an applicant from Mississippi in five years and were curious to see what one looked like. Not as a joke.

But nobody looks at those generations and says, Yale Schmale. No those people are all true blue.

It's like the baseball numbers from the 1920s. Yes, you have to discount the Negro League guys but you also have to discount MLB too, since they weren't competing against everybody. And that's true of the Ivy League guys in the years before and around Sotomayor's entrance.

And the energy directed at affirmative action admits is not directed at other forms of privileged admissions, especially athletics (which is a huge pool at some of the Ivies and SLACs) and legacy admits.

And--this is Carter's real point--no one also takes into account the fact that even the people who got in "clean" got lucky because there's no rational way to make the final cuts when the pool is so vast. Everyone got lucky.

His proposal is to cut out the 35-40% of the applicants who don't fit and let everyone else in by lottery. So everyone has to accept that they are there in part by luck.

Just as no one really deserves the Supreme Court--it's a statistical fluke to be the right age at the right time in the right administration in the right confirmation setup--no one in his view really deserves to get into Yale Law.

   7030. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4300272)
The title of Broadwell's book:

All In: The Education of General David Petraeus

"All in." Obviously. "The Education of General David Petraeus." You can't make it up. Hustler Video won't be able to come up with a better title when they do their spoof of this, starring Alektra Blue as Mrs. Broadwell.
   7031. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4300273)
Stephen Carter's criticisms of Affirmative Action are very interesting but it's more interesting to see his criticisms of Affirmative Action critics. Because he accepts the Aff Action is a problem, but is always startled to realize that most critics think everyone else got in fair and square.


This. Good lord, a thousand times, this. The fact of the matter is that even if we stipulate the argument that affirmative action creates incentives to replace middle-tier white guys with similarly qualified middle-tiered not-white-guys, this doesn't change the fact that white men are STILL the most entitled, preferred, unfairly promoted class of applicant to *anything.*

For ####'s sake, George W. Bush got into Yale. Say what you will about the man's presidency, but rational people should be able to agree that he had no place in ####### Yale, right?
   7032. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 08:57 PM (#4300275)
For ####'s sake, George W. Bush got into Yale. Say what you will about the man's presidency, but rational people should be able to agree that he had no place in ####### Yale, right?
A family member knew both GWB and Kerry there and thought what was interesting was that it was obvious that 1) neither was that bright and 2) that didn't make them stand out. In other words he would say sure they belonged at Yale in mid 60s, cause lots of guys there then were just as meh as them. He cannot get his mind around how much smarter the student body is--in aggregate--over the last 30 years or so. Always some brilliant guys, but now most of them seem brilliant to him.

But, hey, obviously the early 1960s were the time of good admissions practices and today is the time of terrible admissions, right?

Ed. to add: To be clear he didn't think either GWB or Kerry was dumb, just run of the mill 115-120 IQ guys. On the other side, Willie Taft (great-grandson of the president) was widely believed to be one of the 2-3 smartest guys on campus and a family friend who taught a St Paul's said Taft was one of the 2 best students he taught in decades there, so you got some good material in the big names, too.
   7033. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4300282)
Ed. to add: To be clear he didn't think either GWB or Kerry was dumb, just run of the mill 115-120 IQ guys. On the other side, Willie Taft (great-grandson of the president) was widely believed to be one of the 2-3 smartest guys on campus and a family friend who taught a St Paul's said Taft was one of the 2 best students he taught in decades there, so you got some good material in the big names, too.


Yeah, but I suspect that under a nameless, meritocratic admission system, Willie Taft the fourth or whatever gets in anyway. The point is that Bush, nor Kerry, nor half of the group of white males who made up "Yalies" and "Harvard Men" from previous generations had any business being there on merit. But the whinging chorus never bothers to recognize this blatantly obvious fact when they're singing the blues about how affirmative action is bringing the white man down.

Is Sonya Sotomayor an "ordinary thinker?" Maybe. But it's not like she replaced the cream of the crop. "Oh god, George Bush, IV might have to compete with a woman of ethnic descent in 2020!" The shame of it all.
   7034. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4300283)
A friend who worked in admissions at a top college told me they started looking for variety of any kind not because of any order but because there were just too many ######-A great students to choose from and no way to figure out how to choose by the end. Anything that made someone memorable since they gave up on making clear judgments by the last round.

And guys--of any race--essentially get a bump in admissions at all but the smaller and most-competitive schools since the pool of strong males is not that deep and there are almost an infinite number of straight-A girls from very good high schools to fill not just the Ivies but all kinds of schools below them in the pecking order.

I am sure from now on everyone will ask of all men of this generation about the bump they received because the college couldn't get enough guys without a special boost.
   7035. formerly dp Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:19 PM (#4300285)
That tool's not going to teach an 18 year old kid proper footwork at the bag, or correct a hitch in a potential slugger's swing, or stop the talking head idiots from being idiots. It's just a tool for evaluating trends in the aggregate.

Right. But tools are more than just tools-- they're often vehicles for desire. Especially statistical modeling, which often shifts very easily from 'just a model' to 'a means to know the unknowable.'
I don't think it's Nate's job to improve "the impoverished state of political journalism." You can't fix stupid. The fact that this election became "about Nate" is indicative of the state of politics, not indicative of something good or bad about Nate or his process.

I agree with that entirely, except that Nate 1) it was Nate himself pointing out this problem, and 2) Nate used the pulpit criticize the pundits for the ways they make data say things it's incapable of saying, and then provided them with more data in order to do just that. That's not his fault, of course, but it is a somewhat predictable reaction to his work's popularity, and, as others have pointed out, the fact that he has made himself synonymous with his method.

I think you're misperceiving your object. The gap between 'what audiences want' and 'what the producers provide' is immense, and there's room for a good deal of play within those parameters. People choose from the range of available options. Those options suck, and their producers blame audiences for not demanding better. All that does is perpetually defer responsibility away from the parties most able to determine the programming. It's a cop-out, not an explanation.

I think you're correct here, in a sense. I don't know what it has to do with Nate.

You claimed to be describing the world as it is-- that news media are giving audiences crap because that's what the audiences want. From that perspective, it doesn't matter what anyone within that structure does, because they'll always be dragged down by the stupid wants of those stupid audiences. What this has to do with Nate: I get the sense that Nate sees himself engaged in a bigger and more important project than he was with the baseball stuff. The stakes are certainly higher. So he seems to want to push the level of discourse up a notch, not just invent better tools. But that might be too much projecting on my part-- I don't read his work as regularly as a lot of people here do. I'll repeat that Silver's popularity isn't just as a result of his ability to produce good data-- being a good writer/communicator, and knowing how to build a brand around his data have helped a good deal. I know Nate used to do forensics stuff, so he's obviously trained in argumentation, and that comes out in his writing.

---
GregD: Are you a black woman? If not, I think it's OK for me to tell you that IMO #7029 is a really great post.
   7036. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:23 PM (#4300286)
But, hey, obviously the early 1960s were the time of good admissions practices and today is the time of terrible admissions, right?

In 1962 Duke was promoting itself as "the Harvard of the South", and was loaded with high school valedictorians.** I got in there with a 1401 combined SAT, a DC public high school class ranking barely in the upper third, and a nice recommendation from my high school baseball coach to Ace Parker, who then was the baseball coach at Duke. I graduated with a 2.443 GPA and in the top half of the graduating class. All accomplished with about half an hour a night spent on homework, classes skipped by the bushel, and the rest of it spent on far more interesting pursuits. If I were to apply to Duke today I wouldn't make it past the first cut, and if I got in via a clerical error I'd either have to put in ten times the work or I wouldn't last a semester. There were a hell of a lot of smart kids at Duke then, but they were easily matched by the number of slugs. And this was supposedly one of the best schools in the entire South, if not the best. It was a case study of Affirmative Action, Old School style, and anyone who thinks that what we have now, imperfect as it may be, isn't a vast improvement over that state of affairs, is nothing but a ####### snake oil salesman.

**During orientation assembly we got this, verbatim: "Gentlemen, shake hands with the man to the left of you. Now shake hands with the man to the right of you. You have just shaken hands with a valedictorian." I am not making this up.
   7037. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:26 PM (#4300288)
GregD: Are you a black woman? If not, I think it's OK for me to tell you that IMO #7029 is a really great post.

I was going to say that about #7016's excellent history lesson, but I'll add #7029 for good measure, as well as a couple of Sam's comments. It's nice to see the real world enter some of these discussions once in a while.
   7038. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:27 PM (#4300289)
The title of Broadwell's book:
All In: The Education of General David Petraeus

"All in." Obviously. "The Education of General David Petraeus." You can't make it up. Hustler Video won't be able to come up with a better title when they do their spoof of this, starring Alektra Blue as Mrs. Broadwell.


I'd go with "Embedded."
   7039. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4300290)
Yeah, but I suspect that under a nameless, meritocratic admission system, Willie Taft the fourth or whatever gets in anyway. The point is that Bush, nor Kerry, nor half of the group of white males who made up "Yalies" and "Harvard Men" from previous generations had any business being there on merit. But the whinging chorus never bothers to recognize this blatantly obvious fact when they're singing the blues about how affirmative action is bringing the white man down.
Of course I agree with you.
GregD: Are you a black woman? If not, I think it's OK for me to tell you that IMO #7029 is a really great post.
Ha! I love the Carter lottery hypothesis (though he says he's actually proposed it in faculty meetings as a serious proposal) because it's so disturbing. He definitely isolates one interesting thing about the affirmative action debate, which is how important it is to creating (in his view) false views of merit among people who also had luck on their side but attribute every flaw in the admissions system to affirmative action.

My friend in admissions says all the time make sure your daughters play sports or music well or something of that nature, because otherwise their academics won't matter. There's just so so so many straight-A girls in the pools now that it is impossible for them to stand out on academic grounds even if they are perfect across the board without something else to add in. There's real concern that some of the best schools will start to follow the "lesser" scholars and end up wildly imbalanced female-to-male ratio in the next decades. Boys can't compete! Luckily they get a little leg up here and there.
   7040. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4300291)
In other words he would say sure they belonged at Yale in mid 60s, cause lots of guys there then were just as meh as them. He cannot get his mind around how much smarter the student body is--in aggregate--over the last 30 years or so.


I attended MIT in the late 1970s, and every single person I met was an absolute freaking genius. Even the custodial staff.

Seriously, though, I have a daughter who is a second year at UVA and a son who is a HS senior, and it is just stunning to me how much deeper the applicant pool is nowadays than what my wife and I were competing against back in the day. 40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.
   7041. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4300292)
Seriously, though, I have a daughter who is a second year at UVA and a son who is a HS senior, and it is just stunning to me how much deeper the applicant pool is nowadays than what my wife and I were competing against back in the day. 40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.


This is interesting because any time I talk to my professor friends teaching at these elite universities, they talk about how none of their students can write. I feel this is a relatively recent complaint. Of course this doesn't necessarily contradict the idea that the quality of students is rising. It also might not be true.
   7042. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM (#4300294)
Seriously, though, I have a daughter who is a second year at UVA and a son who is a HS senior, and it is just stunning to me how much deeper the applicant pool is nowadays than what my wife and I were competing against back in the day. 40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.
The demographics are so much tougher for this generation, and although that may ease for a while in a couple of years in 8-10 years they look like they are going to be if anything more brutal. You've got a large aggregate of kids. You've got the addition of lots of children of high-skilled (if sometimes low-status) immigrants. You've got parents fearful of declining status so investing huge amounts.
   7043. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:37 PM (#4300295)
GregD: Are you a black woman? If not, I think it's OK for me to tell you that IMO #7029 is a really great post.


I am thinking through your other points - yes, actually thinking through them before replying. I totally lose the internet tonight. But I wanted to take the quick hit to point out that this is simply fantastic.
   7044. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4300296)
Yeah eyeballing California, only one Republican district was over 70% Republican and that one was 73%. I think they won 15 out of 53. I don't know what the statewide congressional popular vote was but can imagine the Reps getting a map where they won 17 or 18 but it's not crazily far off. It's totally different than the Democrats winning the statewide congressional vote and getting 4 of 18 seats in Pennsy. Not at all the same.
While PA's map is obscene, CA's isn't far off. I'm using the terrific site at

http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/congress.html#list

My preference would be for a mathematical-spatial solution, like beginning in one corner of a state, and simply expanding outward (square or circle) until 1/# of congresspeople is reached. Then, begin creating the next district.

This is always an appealing explanation but is exactly wrong. With the same underlying conditions, the redistricting after 2000 produced hugely different outcomes. 12-7 Reps in 2011, 12-7 Dem in 2009, 11-8 Dems in 2007, 12-7 Republican in 2005. It's easy, not hard, to make competitive districts there that flip the state in each election. This is entirely manmade, not natural.
Yes. Using the de facto rules currently in place, I can give PA an extremely Democratic congressional slate. Anyone could.

--------------

And as several people pointed out, I was way, way off when I wrote,

Back in 2008 I remember the NYT quoting someone or other to the effect that 'no woman with Obama's resume could have run', that the lack of gravitas many voters impute to women would be all the more difficult to overcome in the absence of a long resume. If true, that might rule out all the women in Cilliza's list except for Clinton.
Oof. You all missed the key point, though, which is what I wrote immediately following:

Damned if I know, though.
Partial credit?

I'm flattered to be a topic of (admittedly minor) discussion. If it fuels the speculation, I can say only that I am indeed, and all, Jack Carter. However, I was turned on to the excellent political discussion on this site by a member of my household, if that helps. I was also alerted in advance to the left-leaning tendencies of the discussion, which suits me fine. That's where my head and heart lead me. In mid-October I decided to pay attention again to politics, and as a reader of the NYT was aware of Nate Silver. His links to baseball along with my housemate's regard for this site led me here. I hope I've been a useful contributor. Incidentally, an earlier thread I frequented was closed down without fanfare. Is that typical?
   7045. formerly dp Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4300297)
My friend in admissions says all the time make sure your daughters play sports or music well or something of that nature, because otherwise their academics won't matter. There's just so so so many straight-A girls in the pools now that it is impossible for them to stand out on academic grounds even if they are perfect across the board without something else to add in. There's real concern that some of the best schools will start to follow the "lesser" scholars and end up wildly imbalanced female-to-male ratio in the next decades. Boys can't compete! Luckily they get a little leg up here and there.

This is 100% true, except in fields like Engineering and Computer Science, which are still AFAIK weighted very heavily male.
===

This is interesting because any time I talk to my professor friends teaching at these elite universities, they talk about how none of their students can write. I feel this is a relatively recent complaint. Of course this doesn't necessarily contradict the idea that the quality of students is rising. It also might not be true.

I have always sort of dismissed these complaints as nostalgic. I have a hard time believing that the average student in the 1980s was a better writer than the average student today.
   7046. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:42 PM (#4300299)
I love it when liberals act shocked, shocked to learn that the cost of affirmative action is that peoples' accomplishments may be unfairly denigrated. As if opponents of AA didn't cite this as a specific problem with the policies, only to be handwaved away by liberals.
It was much better when all accomplishments were fairly recognized, and the only unfairness laid in opportunity.
   7047. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:44 PM (#4300301)
This is interesting because any time I talk to my professor friends teaching at these elite universities, they talk about how none of their students can write. I feel this is a relatively recent complaint. Of course this doesn't necessarily contradict the idea that the quality of students is rising. It also might not be true.


All of my professors used to complain about how none of their students could write 35 years ago. But like I said, that was MIT so it was certainly true. And I think your professor friends' complaints are also likely valid, and possibly with a similar cause -- bright kids get pushed so hard toward STEM-type choices that they devote relatively little time to learning the art of writing and revision. And writing is hard.

Both of my own kids are a fair bit stronger at writing than at math. I think that has helped them to distinguish themselves from the crowd a little. They're at least exceptions, even if not particularly exceptional.
   7048. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:45 PM (#4300302)
Has "Jack Carter" admitted to being Something Other yet?
   7049. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4300303)
Using the de facto rules currently in place, I can give PA an extremely Democratic congressional slate. Anyone could.


That doesn't mean your map would be any more or less fair than the current one.
   7050. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 11, 2012 at 09:55 PM (#4300305)
my firm had this super smart russian lad working as an analyst. had all the papers, was a whiz at dissecting complex financials and could make the dense stuff understandable. in verbal form

couldn't write to save his life. why? wouldn't or couldn't use articles. just a stream of nouns and verbs and everything else but no articles. you don't appreciate articles until you don't have them. and he would be asked to use them and he would nod and smile and not change. and we all wondered how the h8ll did he graduate from major u.s. universities and not use articles.

anyway, thought i would share that story given the current discussion

we had to fire him. he harrassed some women. we could have survived no articles given his role
   7051. Srul Itza At Home Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM (#4300306)
I attended MIT in the late 1970s, and every single person I met was an absolute freaking genius. Even the custodial staff.


I was there 73-77. Worked at thursday. Lived at Bexley.
   7052. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM (#4300308)
you don't appreciate articles until you don't have them.


But from your story, it would seem that Russians neither have them nor appreciate them.
   7053. Srul Itza At Home Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM (#4300310)
All of my professors used to complain about how none of their students could write 35 years ago. But like I said, that was MIT so it was certainly true.


Not of all of us. But what most of them lacked in verbal skills, they made up for in an even more complete lack of social skills.
   7054. Mefisto Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4300311)
Seriously, though, I have a daughter who is a second year at UVA and a son who is a HS senior, and it is just stunning to me how much deeper the applicant pool is nowadays than what my wife and I were competing against back in the day. 40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.


Here's the way make this point: My father has a Ph.D. in engineering (Stanford). He took calculus as a sophomore in college. I took calculus as a senior in high school. My daughters took it as juniors in high school.

Kids today have it SO much harder.
   7055. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:10 PM (#4300312)
40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.


Fifteen years ago, I got a perfect score on my SATs, I was pretty close to the top of my high school class, and I got wait-listed or rejected by all kinds of top-tier schools (including Brown). I'm not complaining - I ended up at Duke, and I was very happy there. I just wanted to throw it on the floor as a data point. If you want to get into an Ivy, it's a pretty ferocious peer group.
   7056. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:11 PM (#4300314)
Here's the way make this point: My father has a Ph.D. in engineering (Stanford). He took calculus as a sophomore in college. I took calculus as a senior in high school. My daughters took it as juniors in high school.

Kids today have it SO much harder.


Well, either that, or calculus has gotten easier with the passage of time...
   7057. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:13 PM (#4300316)
I was there 73-77. Worked at thursday. Lived at Bexley.


Yeah, I knew that. We knew each other. I just change my handle every couple of years.
   7058. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4300318)
either that, or calculus has gotten easier with the passage of time...


Not for me it hasn't. (Srul and I were both somewhat misplaced at the Institute.)
   7059. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:30 PM (#4300322)
As of 10:00 AM Saturday morning:

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE:
Obama : 61,820,108 (50.54%)
Romney : 58,563,101 (47.88%)
Others : 1,927,014 (1.58%)

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE OUTSIDE THE SOUTH:
Obama : 42,769,338 (53.95%)
Romney : 35,100,308 (44.28%)
Others : 1,405,601 (1.77%)

(The South defined as Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.)
   7060. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM (#4300323)
During orientation assembly we got this, verbatim: "Gentlemen, shake hands with the man to the left of you. Now shake hands with the man to the right of you. You have just shaken hands with a valedictorian." I am not making this up.


If everybody shakes hands with the person to their left, haven't they already shaken hands with the person to their right, by definition?
   7061. tshipman Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4300324)
Has "Jack Carter" admitted to being Something Other yet?


I don't think so. Nats Homer hasn't acknowledged whoever his other identity is. Syzmborski hasn't admitted to "He's Bought a Bat like Prince Fielder."

   7062. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4300325)
Right. But tools are more than just tools-- they're often vehicles for desire. Especially statistical modeling, which often shifts very easily from 'just a model' to 'a means to know the unknowable.'


I appreciate the nod to Deleuze there, and I promise you that I will keep an eye out for when Nate jumps the shark from modeling uncertain modulations of perceptibility to claiming to be presenting the thing-in-itself.

I agree with that entirely, except that Nate 1) it was Nate himself pointing out this problem, and 2) Nate used the pulpit criticize the pundits for the ways they make data say things it's incapable of saying, and then provided them with more data in order to do just that. That's not his fault, of course, but it is a somewhat predictable reaction to his work's popularity, and, as others have pointed out, the fact that he has made himself synonymous with his method.


I'd like to think that if I randomly saved a baby who had fallen down a well and was called to sit on the talk show circuit for it, I'd also use that pulpit to criticize the pundits for the ways they make data say things it's incapable of saying. If I ever crash land an airplane in the Hudson River, I'm using my 15 minutes to go all Jon Stewart against Tucker Carlson on Crossfire, dammit. I don't hold against Nate the fact that he used the pulpit for a good purpose, even if it wasn't the point of his being in the pulpit, per se.

I also disagree that he gave them "more data in order to do just that." It's like blaming Oppenheimer for Nagasaki.

You claimed to be describing the world as it is--


Nitpick of limited usefulness: I claim to describe the world as it presents, not as it is.

that news media are giving audiences crap because that's what the audiences want. From that perspective, it doesn't matter what anyone within that structure does, because they'll always be dragged down by the stupid wants of those stupid audiences. What this has to do with Nate: I get the sense that Nate sees himself engaged in a bigger and more important project than he was with the baseball stuff. The stakes are certainly higher. So he seems to want to push the level of discourse up a notch, not just invent better tools. But that might be too much projecting on my part-- I don't read his work as regularly as a lot of people here do. I'll repeat that Silver's popularity isn't just as a result of his ability to produce good data-- being a good writer/communicator, and knowing how to build a brand around his data have helped a good deal. I know Nate used to do forensics stuff, so he's obviously trained in argumentation, and that comes out in his writing.


I think you are correct in that 1) the audiences get crap because they want crap and 2) the producers provide crap because that's what sells, and 3) Nate wants to be above it and 4) thinks he can help fix it with smarter data.

This indicates to me that Nate is a starry-eyed fool who will eventually be broken on the rocks of reality.
   7063. Jim Wisinski Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:42 PM (#4300327)
(The South defined as Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.)


Florida might be in the south but it isn't in The South. North Florida might greatly resemble Alabama or whatever but the state as a whole is a total mishmash bearing little resemblance to our neighbors to the direct north/northwest.
   7064. tshipman Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4300330)
(The South defined as Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.)


Florida might be in the south but it isn't in The South. North Florida might greatly resemble Alabama or whatever but the state as a whole is a total mishmash bearing little resemblance to our neighbors to the direct north/northwest.


Yeah, Oklahoma isn't really "the South" either.
   7065. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:47 PM (#4300332)
Yeah, Oklahoma isn't really "the South" either.


Concur. This is just saying "Romney did even worse if you remove the states where he did well!" It's the exit polling equivalent of arbitrary end points.
   7066. Srul Itza At Home Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4300333)
I just change my handle every couple of years.


Makes it hard to keep up with the old Neyer Boarders.
   7067. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM (#4300334)
That list of states includes those recognied by the the Confederacy plus Oklahoma, which was considered a Confederate territory, so it's a reasonable definition, though in that case Missouri ought to be included.
   7068. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM (#4300335)
Seriously, though, I have a daughter who is a second year at UVA and a son who is a HS senior, and it is just stunning to me how much deeper the applicant pool is nowadays than what my wife and I were competing against back in the day. 40 years ago, an SAT verbal score like my son's might have gotten you into Brown pretty much by itself; now UVA is a "reach" for students like him, even as a legacy.


This is interesting because any time I talk to my professor friends teaching at these elite universities, they talk about how none of their students can write. I feel this is a relatively recent complaint. Of course this doesn't necessarily contradict the idea that the quality of students is rising. It also might not be true.

My wife taught undergrads at Brown as a TA in the mid-90's when she was taking her PhD classes. She always complained about her students' writing ability, and from what I saw of some of the papers she got handed to her, she was right. Misspelled words, garbled syntax, incoherent thought, etc. OTOH I'm not sure that typical undergraduate writing had been any better 30 years before that. Nostalgia can be a powerful fogger.

-------------------------------------------

Here's the way make this point: My father has a Ph.D. in engineering (Stanford). He took calculus as a sophomore in college. I took calculus as a senior in high school. My daughters took it as juniors in high school.

IIRC I took calculus as a high school senior in 1962, after geometry in 10th grade and trigonometry in 11th.

Our goddaughter goes to the same public Jr. High School in DC that I went to 56 years ago. We took algebra in 8th grade. She's now taking it in 6th grade.

We never had a minute of homework in 6th grade, which then was part of elementary school, not Jr. High. She has 3 hours of homework a night, and has had to prepare for both an in-school debate on student drug screening and an out-of-school debate downtown on Iran's nuclear development program. She loves it so far and just got a sterling first trimester report card, but I can't believe that she's not going to have long term stress issues. I would not want to be in her shoes today. Nearly every goddam hour of her day is pre-determined by adults.
   7069. PerroX Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4300336)
So Vlad's a Dookie. Wbo else besides Andy?
   7070. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 10:57 PM (#4300338)
My wife taught undergrads at Brown as a TA in the mid-90's when she was taking her PhD classes. She always complained about her students' writing ability, and from what I saw of some of the papers she got handed to her, she was right. Misspelled words, garbled syntax, incoherent thought, etc. OTOH I'm not sure that typical undergraduate writing had been any better 30 years before that. Nostalgia can be a powerful fogger.


All children are stupid. All of them. Your children are friggin' morons too. When we went to college the vast majority of us sucked at writing as well. Hell, half of you lot still suck at writing.

Me fail English? That unpossible!
   7071. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:01 PM (#4300340)
Has "Jack Carter" admitted to being Something Other yet?


Not sure, but I guess this is where I come in...

I'm Spartacus!
   7072. PerroX Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:01 PM (#4300342)
My wife taught undergrads at Brown as a TA in the mid-90's when she was taking her PhD classes. She always complained about her students' writing ability, and from what I saw of some of the papers she got handed to her, she was right. Misspelled words, garbled syntax, incoherent thought, etc. OTOH I'm not sure that typical undergraduate writing had been any better 30 years before that. Nostalgia can be a powerful fogger.


My daughter was one of the best writers in her high school, but I can barely read some of her college papers. She reports back that the professors approve of garbled syntax and incoherent thought.... Actually, she's taking college classes at UNCW as part of a high school program, and should be halfway to an undergrad degree at the end of the spring. She's applied to Princeton and Columbia, but will almost certainly end up staying in state at Chapel Hill or Cow College. Her first calculus class was in tenth grade. She's taking science classes already that I couldn't get past chapter one. Not too worried about her writing.
   7073. Every Inge Counts Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM (#4300343)
And guys--of any race--essentially get a bump in admissions at all but the smaller and most-competitive schools since the pool of strong males is not that deep and there are almost an infinite number of straight-A girls from very good high schools to fill not just the Ivies but all kinds of schools below them in the pecking order.

I am sure from now on everyone will ask of all men of this generation about the bump they received because the college couldn't get enough guys without a special boost.


Just finished Hanna Rosin's The End of Men which talked about this, especially at private universities.
   7074. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4300344)
During orientation assembly we got this, verbatim: "Gentlemen, shake hands with the man to the left of you. Now shake hands with the man to the right of you. You have just shaken hands with a valedictorian." I am not making this up.

If everybody shakes hands with the person to their left, haven't they already shaken hands with the person to their right, by definition?


Hey, man, this was Duke, not MIT or Swarthmore. The Dean who said that was a Duke grad, but he did say it. What I think he was trying to get at was that every other (or every third) freshman had been first in his class in high school, but he didn't elaborate.

-----------------------------------------------

Florida might be in the south but it isn't in The South. North Florida might greatly resemble Alabama or whatever but the state as a whole is a total mishmash bearing little resemblance to our neighbors to the direct north/northwest.

What that says to me is that many or most states are purely a geographical construct. Cairo, Illinois is about twice as far to Chicago as it is to Mississippi, and there are dozens of states with divisions that parallel those between the red states and the blue states.
   7075. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:05 PM (#4300345)
The writing question is fascinating. I deal with this and have opinions but have no idea if they are right. But there are a few likely answers:

1) Professors hate to grade essays and especially hate to grade poorly written essays--it makes me yell aloud. Ergo Professors complain about what they see in every generation, ergo professors always say the people in front of them are the worst writers ever even if the writing is basically the same

It captures my cynical view of human nature but isn't fully persuasive.

2) Broader ranges of students are in colleges--both based upon overall grades (no doubt many girls are in college who would not have gone to college in prior generations, including pretty mediocre ones) and facility with English as opposed to other languages (also more true now than 20 years ago in colleges)--and so student writing has stayed the same but professors are exposed to worse writing since previously the really terrible writers weren't part of the pool.

This clearly explains some of it, esp when it's from people at big public universities comparing implicitly to the SLAC they went to.

3) Students have gotten worse because they're focusing on other stuff.

Maybe?

4) Students have gotten worse because teaching for "voice" and "expression" have made students unable to pump out clear, organized 5-paragraph essays.

I hate to say it but I fear this is a piece--maybe just a marginal piece--of the story. My sample is limited but when I taught students who mostly went to parochial high schools, they all were afraid to voice opinions but all could write boring but well-punctuated and outlined 5-paragraph essays. So that rigid model teaches something. None of them could find a thesis with a headlamp, though.

When I've taught kids who went through the expressive model, many of them have interesting theses...and almost none of them can turn it into a good essay.

I don't know what the balance is, as people who come from other countries are always amazed at how verbally proficient our students are in class discussions--which is valuable--but it's a dilemma.

5) Technology. Word processors killed writing.

I don't believe this but almost all old profs do.
   7076. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:05 PM (#4300346)
So Vlad's a Dookie. Wbo else besides Andy?

I only half qualify, since I've rooted for Carolina since I was 12.
   7077. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:08 PM (#4300352)
5)Technology. Word processors killed writing.


Video killed the poesy star?
   7078. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:10 PM (#4300353)
To bring the writing conversation out of the clouds* and back to earth, let me just say this: if Chris Dial could write a functional paragraph he'd be a superstar by now.

*Aristophanes; Socrates; read a book!**

**Ben Edlund; The Tick.
   7079. PerroX Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:10 PM (#4300354)
I found it hard to write good sentences with very much THC in my bloodstream.
   7080. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:11 PM (#4300355)
5) Technology. Word processors killed writing.

I don't believe this but almost all old profs do.


Jeez, I wouldn't think so. If you ever spent hours on end trying to correct mistakes on a pre-IBM selectric typewriter, it was a powerful incentive to just say "#### it" and keep moving. It's a hundred times easier now to edit your own writing and make it at least semi-literate.
   7081. Dan The Mediocre Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM (#4300358)
**Ben Edlund; The Tick.


The Tick is not something I'd ever thought I'd see you reference.
   7082. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:19 PM (#4300360)
I'm a complicated man, Dan.
   7083. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:24 PM (#4300363)
So:

The FBI is investigating the Director of the CIA for weeks or months, and the President of the US apparently isn't told.

Can anyone explain this?

It seems to me that if Obama wasn't told, it's a problem, and if he was told, it's a problem.

Under what scenario is this not a problem?
   7084. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:28 PM (#4300365)
Why would you tell the POTUS that you're investigating the Dir. CIA?
   7085. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4300371)
Why wouldn't you?
   7086. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:39 PM (#4300372)
What's weird is according to the wsj cantor knew about it on Halloween an kept quiet
   7087. Dale Sams Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4300373)
That list of states includes those recognied by the the Confederacy plus Oklahoma, which was considered a Confederate territory, so it's a reasonable definition, though in that case Missouri ought to be included.


Oklahoma was not a Conf territory.

Indian Territory had tribes that held slaves and many tribes allied themselves with the rebs.
   7088. GregD Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4300377)
And Missouri was not part of the Confederacy.

Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy but is clearly very Southern in its identity. Merton Coulter: Kentucky waited to secede until after Appomattox.
   7089. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM (#4300378)
My students' writing is terrible (Big 10 school), but I can attest that a lot of students' writing was terrible at the elite private college I went to 10 years ago. Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.
   7090. Monty Posted: November 11, 2012 at 11:57 PM (#4300379)
5) Technology. Word processors killed writing.


Crazy talk. Thanks to the Internet, there is exponentially more text-based communication than there was fifty years ago. Consider this website, for example; to replicate it in 1962, you'd need a lot of typewriters and carbon paper. And envelopes and stamps. We're living in a world where everyone has strong opinions on nitpicky points of grammar that most people never knew existed.

This is a golden age of writing.
   7091. PreservedFish Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:11 AM (#4300382)
This is a golden age of writing.


Writing frequency or writing quality?
   7092. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:13 AM (#4300383)
I'll just say that a lot of the writing I've seen from undergraduates could not be the product of a mind that's good at anything else, either. Believe me, I've been in archives and seen lots of undergraduate work from the '60s and '70s in the course of my research, and while the best isn't any better than the best work today, the worst is much better than the worst today. But since more students are admitted than used to be, I assume that they're just reaching farther into the barrel than they used to. The top is the same size, and present just the same, and the bottom of what's present is bigger.

There are more kids coming out of high school with straight A's because of grade inflation. Kids (their parents) spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on classes that drill them for specific standardized tests. It's no wonder they seem "smarter."

In reality, they know more of some things than kids in the '60s, and less of other things. Newsflash: kids are more likely to learn what they get taught than what they don't get taught. Writing ability is created by a combination of reading and verbal/communicative intelligence. If the kids with high verbal aptitude do a lot of reading, they'll become good writers. If they don't, they won't. If kids with mediocre verbal aptitude (who might have high aptitude of some other kind) do a lot of reading, they might become okay writers. If they don't do a lot of reading, they won't become okay writers. Math can be drilled. Kids with high math aptitude will excel if drilled. Kids with low math aptitude can still pick up a fair amount if drilled. So kids know more math coming out of high school than they used to, but less language. Some of the kids are really learning the math, and that's good. Most are just getting drilled, and it's coming at the expense of things that they could maybe have really learned and gotten good at. It's a matter of what's emphasized, not a matter of increased ability.

If something else was emphasized, there'd be a similar problem with the something else. In the '60s, some kids could put words together, but didn't really know anything, including how to put numbers together. Now, maybe the same kids can manipulate numbers, but this time they still don't really know anything, including how to put words together.

Edit: The writing on this site is of a generally high quality. When smart people, like the ones on this site, write, they base their writing on the things they've read, and smarter people (any type of intelligence, now) tend to read enough to be at least adequate writers. But there are a whole lot of idiots out there on the internet. The 21st century is the golden age of everything and the lowest ebb of everything. There's more great everything and more terrible everything. Overall, that's good, because you can go get what's great and steer clear of what isn't.
   7093. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM (#4300384)
During orientation assembly we got this, verbatim: "Gentlemen, shake hands with the man to the left of you. Now shake hands with the man to the right of you. You have just shaken hands with a valedictorian." I am not making this up.

If everybody shakes hands with the person to their left, haven't they already shaken hands with the person to their right, by definition?
Well, he did say it was a southern school...

She loves it so far and just got a sterling first trimester report card, but I can't believe that she's not going to have long term stress issues. I would not want to be in her shoes today. Nearly every goddam hour of her day is pre-determined by adults.


A well-worn sentiment follows, but I do appreciate (and did then) how unstructured my childhood was. I'll note one thing that I haven't heard enough of elsewhere, is that it's terribly presumptuous for adults to imagine that children aren't capable of developing real and important skills in their absence. It's fine to be steered, then left alone, but continual supervision is counterproductive. I knew and know kids who are watched and watched, and it's sad to see them play, so often so tentatively, watching the adults watching them to see if what they're doing is approved, if it's okay.

5) Technology. Word processors killed writing.

I don't believe this but almost all old profs do.

Jeez, I wouldn't think so. If you ever spent hours on end trying to correct mistakes on a pre-IBM selectric typewriter, it was a powerful incentive to just say "#### it" and keep moving. It's a hundred times easier now to edit your own writing and make it at least semi-literate.
This is what occurred to me, too. Anyone who wrote after the invention of copiers and before word processors remembers splicing in scissored replacements for mistyped words and awkward sentences on fragments of paper using magic tape and white out, then stopping at the copying store on the way to class to make a smooth copy of the finished paper. \"#### it" isn't only tempting, but by page twelve becomes the default position.

So:

The FBI is investigating the Director of the CIA for weeks or months, and the President of the US apparently isn't told.

Can anyone explain this?
Sure--plausible deniability. If you're investigating him for turning over secrets to al Qaeda, you tell the President so he doesn't tell Petraeus national secrets. If it's for marital infidelity, you don't, since presumably Michelle's virtue is not at stake. I imagine it's assumed that there's a ton you don't tell POTUS so that he doesn't get brought into all the things you don't what him brought into.

Has "Jack Carter" admitted to being Something Other yet?
"Ray (RDP)", given the generally delusional (though mercifully brief) nature of your inevitably partisan posts, I'm reluctant to ask... "Something Other" than what?
   7094. Monty Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM (#4300386)
Writing frequency or writing quality?


Writing quantity, at all levels of quantity. More terrible writing and more excellent writing.

Let me demonstrate one part of what I'm talking about: everybody knows how to type now. Everybody.
   7095. Monty Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:18 AM (#4300387)
"Ray (RDP)", given the generally delusional (though mercifully brief) nature of your inevitably partisan posts, I'm reluctant to ask... "Something Other" than what?


See, when you pretend you don't know what he's talking about, that doesn't convince anybody.
   7096. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:18 AM (#4300388)
The FBI is investigating the Director of the CIA for weeks or months, and the President of the US apparently isn't told.

Can anyone explain this?

It seems to me that if Obama wasn't told, it's a problem, and if he was told, it's a problem.


Disagree.

Unless there's a pertinent national security issue, I don't believe the FBI should be reporting the ongoing results of an investigation to the president.
   7097. asinwreck Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:18 AM (#4300389)
my firm had this super smart russian lad working as an analyst. had all the papers, was a whiz at dissecting complex financials and could make the dense stuff understandable. in verbal form

couldn't write to save his life. why? wouldn't or couldn't use articles. just a stream of nouns and verbs and everything else but no articles. you don't appreciate articles until you don't have them. and he would be asked to use them and he would nod and smile and not change. and we all wondered how the h8ll did he graduate from major u.s. universities and not use articles.


I once edited a collection of student essays. By far the most evocative one was by a Latvian student, and his essay was the one that required the heaviest copyediting because he did not use articles. Aside from that, he was a wonderful writer.

The largest change I have seen in undergraduate writing over the past two decades involves how plagiarism affects their writing. The worst case I have seen was at an elite liberal-arts college where one student pasted in material from Wikipedia that included an image, URLs, and formatting. Most students are not as clumsy, but the internet has changed the way I structure research and writing assignments. As for syntax, spelling, and structural issues, it is as it was.
   7098. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:21 AM (#4300391)
The FBI is investigating the Director of the CIA for weeks or months, and the President of the US apparently isn't told.

Can anyone explain this?


Nixon's dead?
   7099. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:25 AM (#4300392)
Sure--plausible deniability. If you're investigating him for turning over secrets to al Qaeda, you tell the President so he doesn't tell Petraeus national secrets. If it's for marital infidelity, you don't, since presumably Michelle's virtue is not at stake.


I read this three times and it makes no sense, and at best is non-responsive. They weren't investigating him for "marital infidelity" - do you have even the faintest notion of the facts thus far? - and you don't provide any reason for why they wouldn't inform the president of the investigation in any event.
   7100. OCF Posted: November 12, 2012 at 12:25 AM (#4300393)
Oklahoma was not a Conf territory.

Indian Territory had tribes that held slaves and many tribes allied themselves with the rebs.


Yeah, as one born and raised in Oklahoma, I was going to mention this. For one thing, I never considered myself to be Southern. Part of that is accent - a border between the southern family of accents and the midwestern family runs through the state. In northern Oklahoma, I grew up speaking with a generally midwestern accent.

But ...

Yes, some of the Indians owned slaves, and that, in part, created some mixed loyalties. They split three ways: pro-Union, pro-Confederate, and "not our fight." The split wasn't between tribes but within tribes. And they lost out and were screwed and punished afterwards by having much of their land taken away. My best guess is they would have been screwed out of land no matter what they had done. But the tribes don't now define Oklahoma and haven't defined it since 1907. The permanent identity of Oklahoma emerged through the white settlement boom of the late 1880's and 1890's, including assorted land runs and land lotteries. And that white influx was more Southern that I was ever willing to acknowledge.
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