Bright College Days: Part I

I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

Bryan Caplan’s view is that most people don’t like school – find it boring and rapidly forget most of what they do learn. Largely true, I think. I don’t much care about how boring school is – if lots of useful information were retained, it would be well worth it. But that doesn’t appear to be the case: surveys generally indicate that adults don’t remember much of what they studied in school, and in general don’t know much. Caplan says ” Basic literacy and numeracy are virtually the only book learning most American adults possess. While the average American spends years and years studying other subjects, they recall next to nothing about them.” Only about half of the general public knows that the Earth orbits the Sun, while few Harvard graduates know the cause of winter and summer. Probably this is true of Caplan as well: I see no reason to believe that he understands how to extract the cube root of eighty-seven, or why Van Buren failed of re-election. He says that he doesn’t remember anything from his Spanish classes, and I believe him.

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

Today, maybe a quarter of the population would deny that men, on average, have much greater upper body strength than women. That fraction is almost certainly higher in people with a college education. In reality, the difference is very large ( ~90% greater in men, about 3 standard deviations). We’re talking belief in something that flies in the face of reality, a notion obviously falsified every day of the week. Without some sort of powerful inculcation, no-one would believe this.

I think the fraction of the population that believed in butt-kicking babes was lower in 1920: probably less than 1%, with most of those believers suffering from tertiary syphilis. What changed? At the root, most of the change must stem from professor-types. There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them. Many of those absurd ideas now have wide currency.

This is a significant cost of education, one that Bryan Caplan does not discuss. It’s not just what you don’t know, it’s what you know that ain’t so.

More generally, the lasting scraps of education have political effects. They make for better or worse citizens. Not that higher education is the only factor influencing basic political tendencies ( thank God! ) but I think it matters.

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162 Responses to Bright College Days: Part I

  1. Dave Pinsen says:

    I remember the cube root business — at least the way I was taught, by a pretty young blonde math teacher. I don’t know if she’s why I remember, or that it seemed so tedious without a calculator: bracketing the number with perfect cubes, or whatever they’re called, and then trying numbers in between their cube roots times themselves 3 times. So for 87, the cube root would be somewhere between 4 (cube root of 84) and 5 (cube root of 125). So about 4.3.

    Nice to see you have a preview image for this post in your tweet, btw. I think you’ll get more clicks that way.

    • j says:

      A good example of perfectly useless knowledge. We used logarithm tables, my teacher was an Italian dwarf with a big head.

    • archandsuperior says:

      4^3 is 84? I do learn so much reading the comments here.

    • Joel says:

      f = x^3 – 87
      f’ = 3*x^2

      x_0 = 4
      x_1 = x_0 – f(x_0) / f'(x_0) = 4 – (64 – 87) / 48 = 4 + 23 / 48 ~ 4.48
      x_2 = 4.48 – (89.92 – 87) / 60.21 = 4.8 – 2.92 / 60.21 ~ 4.431

      4.431 ^ 3 ~ 86.997

      But my math teacher wasn’t nearly so pretty.

    • Jim says:

      Starting with 4 or 5 as an initial value Newton’s Method will give you the root to six decimals in 3 iterations. The number of significant decimals at each iteration roughly doubles so 4 iterations gives you the root to 12 decimals.

      Newton’s Method is easy to remember and program and can be used for all kinds of equations. For example I just quickly used an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the solution of x = cos x using Newton’s Method. Starting with 1 as an initial value it had the solution to 10 decimal places at the third iteration.

      • Jim says:

        Newton’s Method will also work for systems of equations in many variables. Again the number of accurate digits roughly doubles at each iteration,

    • pyrrhus says:

      Logarithms are precise, your approach is an easy common sense approximation….

      • Jim says:

        Newton’s Method for roots requires only rational operations. There are known methods for calculating any simple real root of a polynomial with real coefficients which actually have cubic convergence as opposed to the quadratic convergence of Newton’s Method. But Newton’s Method is so easy and quick that one would hardly ever need the cubic convergence methods.

        Newton’s Method works for systems of equations in many complex variables again with quadratic convergence, the number of accurate digits doubling with each iteration. It works in infinite dimensional Banach spaces, real or complex, and also with p-adic numbers. A modified version of Newton’s Method was the basis of Nash’s proof of the Embedding Theorem for compact Riemannian manifolds.

  2. j says:

    “Only about half of the general public knows that the Sun orbits the Earth”.

    This sentence invites comments by pedants like me. According to Discover magazine at least 74 per cent of Americans know the answer. That means that 26 per cent really don’t. Hopefully we are among those who know.

    • gcochran9 says:

      There are two answers allowed: if people guessed randomly they’d get 50% right. So 50% right = no one knows… 74% equates to about 50%. Do you want to hear how many know that it goes around in a year?

      • j says:

        This is a dangerous question to ask a pedant. Not long ago NASA’s SDO added one second to the solar year, Earth orbiting Sun, so probably not one of the questioned knew the correct answer.

    • MawBTS says:

      Even more pedantically, both answers are wrong. The Sun doesn’t orbit the Earth and the Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun. They both orbit their common center of mass, the barycenter.

      • j says:

        While we are at it, let me refer to The Three-Body Problem (三体). The Sun and the Earth – contra NASA, contra MawBTS – do not have a barycenter, because they are not alone. There are other bodies near and afar, big and small, constantly changing their positions. From my vantage point the whole thing is wobbling.

      • JayMan says:

        Which is of course well inside the Sun.

      • biz says:

        And even more pedantically, there is a perfectly valid framemwhere the Sun does orbit the Earth. It is not inertial, but the frame where the Earth orbits the Sun is not inertial either because of the Sun’s motion through the Galaxy.

    • Boyd Silken says:

      “Sun orbits the Earth”?

    • dlr says:

      Ha, another typo, an even funnier one : Gcochran9 typing fast said “Only about half of the general public knows that the Sun orbits the Earth”. And I bet 99% of the people reading the blog didn’t notice it. I certainly didn’t until j. quoted it, here. 🙂

      I don’t know how those tests are run, but, I assume that it was semi ‘volunteers’ or people doing it for a few bucks, or they had to do it as a part of high school graduation assessment testing BUT THEY DIDN”T GET ANY REWARD FOR HAVING MORE RIGHT ANSWERS. Plus the questions were so simple, and basic and boring, I am sure many people mentally dozed off from boredom and started working on autopilot. I mean, why even try for someone who is so rude as to waste your time asking such insultingly easy questions? Or maybe they got to leave as soon as they were done, ie, they were rewarded for speed, not accuracy. And some people would think it was funny or a payback to deliberately answer every question wrong. So, I’d say you have to make a lot of big assumptions about the level of motivation and general kindliness and cooperativeness of the test takers. And, as usual, those test results can be relied on about as much as most social science research…at least a 50-50 chance they have no relationship to reality. And perhaps I am being kind. Maybe a 75-80 % chance?

    • Randall Parker says:

      I had a problem with Caplan’s explanation (though the raw survey data still conveyed a picture of mass ignorance) of how often people actually knew something. If 50% of the people get the right answer to a question with two answers there are two possible interpretations:
      A) People were all just guessing. Noone has a clue.
      B) The wrong answer is way more appealing to ignorant people (e.g. the idea that the sun revolves around Earth seems plausible to ignorant people). So actually having 50% give the right answer indicates a lot of people remembering what they were taught.

      If there is not an appealing wrong answer then we can expect random choices made by igorant people. Then we can correctly calculate the people who have real knowledge. But if there is an appealing wrong answer it is much harder to figure out how many were guessing or really knowing.

  3. Andrew Swift says:

    I enjoyed the article, especially the example of body strength. And I agree about Caplan… he lives in some weird logical universe of his own.

    The main benefit I received from my (admittedly elite) college education was having to argue a lot, to defend my ideas.

    There’s a universe of difference between reading a bunch of blog posts about a subject and thinking you understand it, and spending a semester reading actual books and arguing in class about it.

    You may not necessarily understand the subject at the end of the class, but you will have some appreciation for the richness and complexity of the questions evoked.

    As to whether most college educations provide this kind of stimulation, I doubt it.

    • gcochran9 says:

      That’s just part I.

    • pyrrhus says:

      At West Point, measuring male vs female cadets, they found men were slightly over 100% stronger in the upper body…Which doesn’t make any difference when everyone can observe on a daily basis that men are much stronger, and women constantly make use of that fact…The ability to believe things that are transparently and obviously false by a large amount, such as that black people are just as smart as whites and asians, is a startling product of modern Academia….I don’t think it existed to any great degree in the past…

  4. MawBTS says:

    What do we make of the fact that Bryan Caplan wins almost all of his bets?

    To me, it looks like he takes up easily defended positions (“Ron Paul will not be the next US President”), and uses his fame and platform to attract weird cranks to bet against it. Sort of like a boxer who builds a 30-0 record by fighting midgets.

    …But is that right? A lot of the people he bets against don’t seem overly crankish. And some of predictions seem genuinely bold, such as Hillary losing the Presidential Election.

    (And for all the Captain Hindsights ready to condescendingly explain how Trump would obviously win and I’m an idiot for ever thinking otherwise…how much money did you make at betting markets with this knowledge? Were you willing to put your money where your mouth was, like Caplan did?)

    • Ziel says:

      He’s a smart bettor. Notice nearly all his bets are against a specific prediction – he lets others take a stand and bets against it, which is clever because specific expected things usually don’t happen exactly that way.

    • Michel Rouzic says:

      I bet about a month worth of living expenses and got over 4 back betting on Trump, and to me it was obvious not that he was going to win (I thought he was 60% likely to win, the percentage includes the uncertainty) but clear that he was absolutely more likely to win than commonly thought, which if right makes any bet good. It was obvious to anyone who understands that pollsters and pundits are full of it and that more often than not you’ll be right to believe the opposite of what they say, but that leaves everyone who believes all the BS they hear.

      So both views are right, it was obvious enough and you didn’t know enough about how everything involved works if you didn’t realise he was more likely to win, but on the other hand so few people understood enough about the situation and saw it coming that you have to give credit to Caplan for getting it right.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        There’s a guy on twitter who claims to be Nixon who does even better than Caplan when it comes to bets but I’m not inclined to take his advice on public policy, especially since he REALLY DOES seem to believe he’s Nixon. Besides, most of the people Caplan goes up against are Leftist loons who are even crazier than Caplan. In the Kingdom of the Blind…

      • “Looking for value,” as the sports bettors say. 58% winning bets is their make-a-living point. The famous bet on Leicester City that came in at 5000-1 over a year ago would have been a good example. With their best player coming back from prison and having finished strong, they sitll didn’t look like a good team, but were probably only 500-1 instead of 5000-1. Is was misvalued by the professionals because no one looks hard at things that unlikely, they just slap a number on it.

    • Chip Smith says:

      Caplan’s betting strategy is smart and conservative. He bets against faddish overconfidence, trusting long term trends. In no case on his books would I have taken the bait, but there will always be takers. It’s a neat trick as long as stable trends are stable. If he starts losing, we may have bigger issues to worry about.

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      Actually a large proportion of famous boxers do indeed have 30-0 records – at least early in their careers. You can see this pattern in Wikipedia boxing statistics. They don’t actually fight midgets. They fight hopeless, helpless guys who get beaten up for a living. Some job.

      It seems to take at least twenty fights against real palookas before most fighters are allowed to get in with any one who has any chance of fighting back.

      • pyrrhus says:

        Not in MMA, however, where a record of something like 18-2 is regarded as amazing, which tells you that the MMA is far more legitimate than boxing every was….

  5. GAGCAT says:

    I know what you mean about foxholes. Caplan’s a smart guy, but if aliens invaded from space he’d argue it would boost GDP.

  6. JayMan says:

    “I think the fraction of the population that believed in butt-kicking babes was lower in 1920: probably less than 1% … What changed?”

    Xena: Warrior Princess, Lara Croft, Katniss Everdeen, all the way up to Rey for pay Daisy Ridley today.

    • benespen says:

      I stumbled on an interesting data point for this subject this week. In 1976 Lenard Lakofka published an article “Women & Magic,” which he distributed in the July 1976 issue of his obscure fanzine Liaisons Dangereuses. In October, the third issue of The Dragon reprinted the article and added the subtitle, “Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D.”

      Lakofka made what looks like a good faith attempt to reflect average sex differences in the then new Dungeons and Dragons RPG. For his efforts, he was denounced as sexist, in part for suggesting that female characters were on average less good at killing things with swords and clubs.

      I find this controversy deeply funny, but it is clearly an early instance of the butt-kicking babe phenomenon in its native range: nerds. The kinds of people who will write letters to complain about RPG character creation are not remotely representative of the general population. However, they probably do overlap reasonably well with the kind of people who go on to produce influential media that help convince consumers that butt-kicking babes are real. Whedon and Abrams, I’m looking at you.

      Also, there was this illuminating gem:

      Admittedly, much of the outcry in Alarums came from men who played female characters, rather than from female players.

      • EoT says:

        Most of the fanbase for butt-kicking babes is weird nerdy guys who secretly fantasize about being a hot woman who acts like a man.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Really? Sounds like a tiny niche.

        • Ziel says:

          Yeah I don’t know about that, probably more nerdy guys who are too immature to appreciate romantic story lines but still want beautiful women to look at.

        • random observer says:

          The phenomenon seems to go back at least to that strange man who created the character of Wonder Woman decades earlier. He at least drew on the canon of Greek mythology, in which a certain amount of divinity can boost anyone’s capabilities quite a lot. But he seems to be a very early example of the this psychology, all the same.

          Looking at nerds over the past 35 years, the fascination seems to be one of three versions:
          1. desire to submit to the butt-kicking female superior
          2. [Overestimated] personal ability to equal and/or “tame” same
          3.sublimated desire to actually be that character.

          Not to get too Freudian. But that seems to cover the major bases.

          • random observer says:

            From the depths of 80s-90s nerd fandom, came the TV version of 50s comic “Tales from the Crypt”. Its genre would best be called “camp horror”.

            There was actually one episode about a weedy low-life guy who obtained some magic power to seduce the gorgeous pop star/model of his dreams, but it turned out that wasn’t enough. He had to actually be her to get what he wanted. Fortunately, dark powers obliged him.

            In retrospect, perhaps this script was instructive of some wider sensibility among nerd tv writers.

      • Anthony says:

        Among a certain sort of nerd (and possibly in a certain time period), the statement “men generally have much higher upper-body strength than women” isn’t really true.

    • Yudi says:

      Yeah, I don’t think this comes from higher education either. People like these movies and TV shows.

      Also, an ever-larger share of the population works in jobs where little physical effort is needed.

    • pyrrhus says:

      This delusion has led to some hilariously one-sided martial arts matches, so good for entertainment purposes. It also led to the Williams sisters, who claimed they could beat any man below #200 in the world, losing a match to an intoxicated #207 by scores of 6-0 and 6-1…

  7. superposition says:

    Are you going to look at what Haidt is saying about education, too? He claims education wasn’t completely poisoned until the later 1990s, but I learned there was no way I could survive in academia before then because I wasn’t a Marxist. These days corporate America isn’t much better.

    I agree about Caplan 100%. He sure does think he’s cute.

    People are more easily fooled re: biology because so few are physically active. No one questions the propaganda because we’re all sitting around getting fatter.

  8. Garr says:

    Would someone please plausibly explain how this fairly slim woman can bench-press 315+ pounds? Something about longer muscle-fibers as in chimpanzees, and higher percentage of fast-twitch fibers, due to a weird mutation, or what?:

    • benespen says:

      I would describe her as “beefy”, rather than slim. As for explanations, who knows? Could be beneficial mutations, could be PEDs, which are rampant in powerlifting, although she does seem to compete in the lifting federation that tests for that.

      If you a real point of comparison, look at the men’s records in the same meets. A guy back squatted 833 lbs. That is more than double Thompson’s 325 lb back squat. [2.56x for the pedants] These powerlifters are the far right tail of strength for both sexes. I don’t see anything unusual from a distribution point of view.

      • Garr says:

        However you’d describe her, she’s not overweight, and it would be surprising if a man her height with that pretty limited amount of upper body muscle (looks to me like what a male high school sprinter might have) benched 225, let alone 315+.

        Performance-enhancing drugs don’t explain it. They add the muscle mass that makes sense of extraordinary strength. A guy on steroids and human growth hormone is 50 pounds heavier than a guy who isn’t; the 50 pounds of extra muscle is what explains his extraordinary strength. This woman only weighs 140 pounds.

        Her squat’s not mind-blowing; it’s her bench-press that’s mind-blowing.

        Patrick Boyle, she’s a professional powerlifter; she’s not using fake weights.

        Of course, if she’s a mutant then if she passed on her mutation to sons they’d be way stronger than her. They’d bench 1000 pounds, not just 325. What I’m wondering about is whether she’s a mutant. It seems to me that she must be.

        • MawBTS says:

          I think drugs probably partially explain it.

          It’s not as simple as steroids = ridiculous muscle mass. Think of A-Rod and Lance Armstrong: neither of them look like bodybuilders. Much depends on the exact esthers and cycles, as well as training and diet. You can be strong yet small.

          This woman only weighs 140 pounds.

          That’s just her weight class!

          How it works: when you show up at a powerlifting meet, you have to weigh in. It’s desirable to be in the lightest weight class possible, so athletes spend days preparing. They cut their calories, and cut their water. By the time they hit the scale, they’re depleted and dehydrated. Once they’ve made weight, they shotgun water, and eat carbs.

          Jennifer Thompson might weigh 150lbs or more by the time she lifts. And when she’s training she might be heavier still.

          Also, women tend to have about 35% body fat. A professional athlete is probably a lot leaner than that.

      • pyrrhus says:

        In any event, the percentage of women who can bench press even 100 pounds is extremely low…I sometimes work out in jiujitsu with a woman who is a purple belt and also a 3d degree black belt in karate and super fit. Despite being forty years older, I am much stronger in the upper body….

        • William O. B'Livion says:


          When we were going to the gym together back in 2010 I had my wife on the 5×5 program. We got her bench up to about 125-130. Took about 4 months IIRC.

          Then again the percentage of women who bench is negligible.

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      The answer may be simpler than you imagine. There is now a spate of lifters making videos in which they use “fake weights’. The big thick plates they lift are believed to be rubber.

      There is a woman on YouTube named Heba Ali who can be seen lifting 900 lbs. She is a rather small woman.

    • MawBTS says:

      Decades of training, good genetics, and drugs. She seems to have fairly short arms, which helps (less distance to lockout).

      I have a slightly higher three-lift total (about 1100lbs) but a way worse bench press (242.5lb). She’s amazingly good at that lift.

      The raw bench press record is 739lb, if anyone’s curious.

    • Anon. says:

      If you compare the male and female records at the same weights, you will see that there is still a sizable difference. Thompson lifted 141.5kg in the 63kg weight class. The male record in the 66kg weight class (different classes for different sexes) is 188.5kg.

      How she does it: great genes, great body type (short hands), juice.

      • Garr says:

        I wonder what those genes do, exactly.

        It’s just that when you’re in a gym and you look at people doing upper-body exercises there’s a fairly consistent correlation between certain obviously apparent features such as muscle-mass in proportion to frame and what the person can do. (The correlation is less consistent with lower-body strength.) If you saw Jennifer Thompson in a weight-room you’d maybe guess she could bench 155 pounds at most. (There’s a cube-shaped woman about 4’8″ inches tall at my gym who can do a set of 3 at 165; she doesn’t look look like a human female, while Thompson does.) So there’s something extremely weird about her benching 325.

        Sometimes small thin men can bench astonishing amounts too, I know. So I have the same question about them — what’s different about them?

        • anon says:

          If you’re interested in science as it relates to strength training and bodybuilding, you might check out StrongerByScience (e.g. The owner and main author of the site is Greg Nuckols. Reading between the lines of things he’s written, I bet he understands/accepts HBD.

          • Garr says:

            Thanks! Perfect. I’m reading it now.

          • Greg Nuckols says:

            Just a note about Jen Thompson: she’s potentially the biggest outlier female athlete in any sport on the planet. When pooling across all weight classes using allometric scaling, her bench is 6.4 standard deviations from the mean female bench press. Her bench is actually still 2.14 standard deviations from the mean male bench press. There’s a big difference between 98th percentile (where she’d be if she was competing as a man, which is still pretty insane) and a 1 in 13,424,546,173 outlier (which is how she stacks up compared to other women), though.

  9. Maciano says:

    Caplan is an intelligent guy, but tell me what he’s going to do as a Polish Jew when the nazis occupy your country and start industrialized killing? And then during postwar Poland, as a business owner, when the Bolsheviks come to install a puppet communist dictatorship? Or as a libertine in revolutionary Iran? I don’t think pacifism, the NAP or tolerance will work out for you.

    And he’s dead wrong on terrorism or immigration being small problems. They’re small problems, because governments keep them small. When the Caplans get their way, it’s bye-bye Westciv.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Caplan is aided by the fact that, as a libertarian, he believes some things that are incontestably true – that Capitalism outperforms Socialism economically, that Communism was murderous lunacy, that most of our interventions in the Middle East have been counterproductive, etc. As long as your opponents are actually crazy people, such as leftists or neocons, this will get you a long way. But his overall philosophy is still fallacious. He’s the kind of guy who thinks that ordered, more or less peaceful societies just create themselves, which means he know little history and no biology.

    • JerryC says:

      I think the idea is that swamping western countries with immigrants and saying bye-bye to Westciv will prevent the Nazis from reappearing.

    • pyrrhus says:

      Caplan seems amazingly blind to the fact that Westciv won’t exist when enough low IQ third worlders have invaded the country….It’s almost as bad a delusion as not noticing that men are stronger than women…

  10. Jacob says:

    I’ve had Psych majors tell me that they didn’t think schizophrenia was a mental illness. You can explain to them the low average fitness of schizophrenics, its origins from mutational load, its correlations with stuff like your mother getting the flu during your first trimester- it all goes in one ear and out the other.

    I strongly suspect they just fail to answer the mind body problem- they must think that brains exist as a Cartesian conduit for some nonmaterial thought entity rather than an organ subject to selective pressures that exists to aid reproduction. How someone could miss that mark after taking neuroscience courses is beyond me.

    Where and how could that idea possibly enter someone’s head- and if they believe it, are they really qualified to do clinical or research psychology in any context at all?

  11. ilkarnal says:

    I have definitely found that half-remembered, not fully understood bits from high school helped me fully understand and solve chemistry problems years later. Smoothed the path.

    But I think the biggest cost of education is being ignored – all those lost years of productivity that could be captured if you gave the little buggers jobs! You could give them ‘humane’ working hours, ‘humane’ conditions, whatever, and still capture a great deal of valuable labor. Building skills and a work record earlier would be a big help.

    • albatross says:

      If the education we’re givibg them is doing them no good, we might as well let them play video games all day or something. Making kids do unpleasant things because it helps them later in life makes sense—making them do unpleasant things that benefit nobody is just dumb.

      • reiner Tor says:

        I think staying in school was probably more beneficial to me than playing video games, would be especially true if the video games taught me that ass-kicking babes were real.

    • pyrrhus says:

      There are quite a few examples now of kids bailing from the education “system” and becoming very successful coders…I know one kid who bailed after HS, started his own business, and the last I heard had about 30 employees.

  12. dlr says:

    This is an anecdote, not data, but, when I have to educate myself about something I was exposed to in school, I pick it up much, much fast, than when I have to educated myself about something that is completely new, that I wasn’t ever exposed to previously. It’s like 10x, easily. Even if the stuff I am re-learning is all a total blank when I start. So, some of the neural traces still have to be there, even if they are too faint to spontaneously all fire together at the same time in an attempt at conscious recall. Presumably all it takes is one or two synapses dropping down past some critical threshold to interfere with pulling the whole thought up, spontaneously, but, repairing those few weak places is way easier than laying down a whole new trace, from scratch.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I agree. Continuing your anecdote…

      It’s like the information is buried somewhere and you don’t know where till you get a clue from some current information on the same topic. It directs the brain where to start digging. Or something.

      I might not remember what the word for X is in French (in Canada, we took French in high school), but if I saw a sentence containing the word there’s a good chance I’d remember it. It would definitely help if was in a sentence, rather than on its own.

      Different things are differently. Music, for example, really seems to be easily remembered. Now, you may not remember anything else about it but know you’ve heard that tune. I remember Dave Barry writing a humour column about bizarre pieces of music you’d remember, while forgetting something that you were supposed to do that day.

    • pyrrhus says:

      I totally agree..I don’t really learn anything unless I have explored the ins and outs of the subject on my own time and in my own way. In the process, I typically learn that much of what I was taught in school was simply wrong…

  13. biz says:

    On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas

    Why do you assume those ideas were picked up years ago in college and are being regurgitated now? Aren’t they just getting those ideas from the media they consume and from their peer groups in present, real time?

    Today, maybe a quarter of the population would deny that men, on average, have much greater body strength than women.

    Some number will deny it in certain circles but that doesn’t mean they believe it. The number that actually believes it is minisule.

    • reiner Tor says:

      I don’t think people claiming to believe stupid and outlandish things are all lying.

      Jews are not smarter on average than the rest of us?

      Blacks (or Gypsies in my native Hungary) are not dumber on average than the rest of us?

      The Dutch are taller than Greeks because of nutrition?

      There are less female politicians or CEOs or scientists because discrimination?

      Stereotype threat is real?

      Many many many people actually believe these. I personally believed most of it at some point in time. (Perhaps all of it? I’m not sure I ever thought about why the Dutch were taller, but I remember having read something about their consumption of yoghurt.)

      Maybe I’m dumber than average. But still.

      • pyrrhus says:

        All the funnier because the builders of Stone Henge and many other ancient structures had a rather precise understanding of such matters…

      • biz says:

        Oh for sure, on those things you listed many people are actual believers.

        But women being of equal strength to men contradicts what anyone who leaves the house, and even some people who don’t leave the house, sees every single day of their lives. I was just saying that for that one in particular, which is the example that Greg used, there aren’t very many true believers.

  14. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    There is another reason that – few Harvard graduates know the cause of winter and summer.. Maybe they saw too many movies.

    There is surprisinly good big Hollywood historical film called “Agora”. It is an attempt to promote the fourth century female Greek philosopher Hypatia. So it is a drama supporting the feminist idea that women are just as good at math and the sciences as men.

    But to establish this thesis they make the story revolve around the mystery of the seasons. In the final reel Hypatia figures it out – something no mere man had ever been able to do. She realizes that the earth’s orbit is not circular as everyone hitherto had thought. She explains that at some times of the year the earth is closer to the sun (summer) and sometimes further (winter). The picture ends and the screen explains to the audience that the great Hypatia was the first person to ever figure this out.

    As I’m sure the readership of this blog all surely realize, this is nonsense. There is no mention of axial tilt but this goofy idea that our planet’s orbit is highly elliptical and that this causes the seasons. What is even more depressing is that no reviewer seems to have noticed the error. This is a multimillion dollar production with big sets and major stars that purports to convey real history to the viewing public.

    • Jim says:


    • Frau Katze says:

      Really? I can hardly believe that. An entire movie was produced and not a single person told them…?

    • Jim says:

      The ancient Greeks actually made some measurements of the yearly variation in the apparent size of the solar disk which of course is quite small. Probably their measurements were not very accurate. At any rate they knew that the distance from the Earth to the Sun does not vary much over the year. About 5 million kilometers compared to an average distance of about 150 million kilometers.

    • EoT says:

      That’s especially funny since that would presumably cause a year to have two summers and two winters. Although I guess these people are also not aware that the calendar year is based on the orbital period of the earth.

      • Gkai says:

        Really? The attraction center is at one focal point of the ellipse, not at the center, so no, it’s wrong, fly in the face of easy observations, but it’s not that stupid…

    • pyrrhus says:

      To be fair to Harvard, a fairly recent survey of Princeton students (described in a FB article!) disclosed that about 1/3 of them couldn’t locate the dates of the Civil War within 50 years…

    • Difference Maker says:

      Not sure whether to be pleased I never finished this movie

  15. SMack says:

    Here’s a real mystery about Caplan. How can the same guy who wrote “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” and “The Case Against Education” (which taken together argue that people are who they are thanks to heredity, and that neither parents nor teachers can shape them into anything they aren’t), how can the same guy also believe that immigrants become practitioners of Western Civ. simply by crossing a line on a map?

    It’s a genuinely odd dissonance, dwelling in that boy’s head. Most people who want open borders also believe humans are infinitely malleable. At least they’re consistent. Most people who admit the existence of human nature want nothing to do with open borders.

    Bryan’s the only guy I’ve ever seen who KNOWS what the twin-adoption studies show, and STILL wants to throw the gates wide open.

    • GAGCAT says:

      Good point, FYI here is his response to Hive mind:

      I can easily imagine Hive Mind inspiring a wave of IQ NIMBYism. I can also imagine it reinvigorating Soviet-style emigration restrictions to fight “brain drain.” This doesn’t mean Garett’s wrong, any more than nuclear war would invalidate Einstein’s theory of relativity. But it’s a sobering thought – and Garett doesn’t seem sobered by it.

      • SMack says:

        Wow, that’s a disappointing response for someone operating at Caplan’s level. At one point he pretty much says “Garrett should be more worried about people who might take his evidence against open borders and use it as evidence against open borders”.

        Sounds like a confession that he’s willing to bury evidence when it gets in the way of converting his moral intuitions into national policies.

        The appeal to transnational adoption studies isn’t great either. First of all because it’s crazy to keep the migrants flowing while we wait for that data to accumulate until even Bryan’s can no longer ignore it.

        Most of all because Bryan knows damn well what those adoptions studies will show. It’ll be the same thing they always show, which is the opposite of what he wants.

    • Michel Rouzic says:

      I’m afraid the simple truth is that it’s in the nature of his own people to consistently try to do just that.

      • SMack says:

        Know what you mean, not sure I buy it.

        Though I admit sometimes Caplan comes across in such a way, you wonder if Kevin MacDonald planted him for propaganda.

        • Anthony says:

          There was probably at some time a fitness advantage for the genes that allow someone to be able to understand certain facts and yet espouse opinions invalidated by those facts.

    • Frau Katze says:

      All economists believe in open borders because it lowers wages.

      It must be an axiom.

    • ghazisiz says:

      Caplan spoke at our university maybe 7 years ago. His talk was about immigration–an event I avoided since I didn’t trust myself to keep quiet. A colleague squired him around and told me afterwards that Caplan talked a lot about twin studies, as if he had just discovered them. Considering that this was about 14 years after Judith Rich Harris’ book, he was not exactly with the zeitgeist. I was amazed that he was unable to put two and two together to see the problem about immigration, and my best guess is that he was hanging on to the old Lewontin thing about only within-group genetic differences existing (not between-group). This would allow him to retain his advocacy for open borders, which are a kind of article of faith among libertarian economists, and Caplan definitely values his membership in that libertarian tribe.

      • Frau Katze says:

        He’d be shunned by economists if he came down against immigration. And I do mean shunned in the way certain religions will shun someone who leaves it.

        That may be the best explanation. There could be large numbers of people in prestigious positions who know darn well about the IQ problem but it would affect their personal life so badly they choose to not speak of it.

        There’s no way to tell.

        But there is one way prestigious economists could help. Get behind a “point-based” system of evaluating immigrants. We have in Canada (unless that unspeakable idiot Trudeau has done away with it)

        I can’t bring myself to read news very carefully.

        I’m already suffering enough depression and anxiety that I’ll be on meds for the rest of my life. My sister passes along big news.

        • gcochran9 says:

          “There’s no way to tell.” Tickle them?

        • Maciano says:

          Why is it so hard to believe for ppl that openborderite economists are sincere?

          We’ve just had a century with ideologists of all stripes Jacobins, fascists, nazis, bolsheviks, anarchists, progressives and 100s of others showing everyone utopianist dreams to supersede reason — to the point of murderous insanity.

          Clearly: these ppl are both insane AND sincere.

        • Rodep says:

          My impression of Trudeau, and the Liberals more broadly, is that they parrot all the social justice talking points, but mostly ignore it when it comes to making actual decisions. Not that their brand of semi-competent cynical centrism doesn’t have it’s own issues, but it’s better than actually drinking the Kool-Aid.

          For instance, my impression of their handling of the refugee crisis was: 1) Make a bunch of tweets and speeches about how welcoming Canada is, 2) Welcome enough refugees to make Canada look welcoming of refugees, 3) Limit the inflow to exactly that many.

          That said, I haven’t been following too closely. It might just seem this way because I’m surrounded by lefties who hate that he isn’t lefty enough.

          • Frau Katze says:

            What about the Liberal plan to get the population of Canada up to 100 million (it’s about 30 million now)? This is so upsetting to me that I’m ignoring articles about it. But maybe you can read this approving Globe & Mail article (OK, I read enough to see that they aiming for that by 2100).

            But just having this plan is awful. They’ll have to get started somehow. I’m not worrying about myself, but I do have children and grandchildren.


            • Rodep says:

              Is that a Liberal plan? As for as I can see, it’s a former banker who started a non-profit to promote a policy he likes. (the editorial itself is written by him, too)

              • Frau Katze says:

                Why can’t these idiots see they’re proposing something that can’t be a long term solution.

                All you hear from economists is growth, growth and more growth. How long can you keep that up? You don’t have to be an economic whiz to see the long term problem.

                Japan has stopped growing and won’t take immigrants. So maybe they’re less prosperous than they could be. But what they’re doing can be continued. If the population drops enough, I predict fertility rate will increase to replacement level. Of course I can’t prove that.

                But I can predict what will happen if we continue what we’re doing. I’m no “white nation” advocate I do think we should carefully vet all immigrants.

                The New York Times is furious because they think Trump wants to stop the “browning of America.”

              • Jim says:

                Japan is very mountainous with little arable land. They are way overpopulated.

            • Anthony says:

              Trudeau better be promoting global warming like crazy if he wants Canada to have 100 million people. It’s the only way it could work.

        • random observer says:

          I thought I was the only one in Canada having that problem based in part on public events, news, and what fellow Canadians talk about around me. Glad to not be the only one.

          It’s like living in a totalitarian yet cuddly and smiley-faced nuthouse.

  16. dearieme says:

    “She explains that at some times of the year the earth is closer to the sun (summer) and sometimes further (winter).” No wonder a mob of pedants tore her apart.

  17. Philip Neal says:

    I was at Oxford in the 1980s and worked in universities in the 1990s, just the time when old-fashioned workerism was giving way to political correctness. I don’t know where the new ideas came from but it wasn’t the lecturers, who were mostly traditional Labour supporters. In my limited experience, students are already left wing when they arrive and open indoctrination takes place at other points.

    One is the schools between the ages of 10 and 13, when children are encouraged to “think for themselves” about the alleged problems of the world. These have of course varied with the years. Forty-odd years ago I was informed by adults I respected that by the end of the 1980s Britain would have a one-child policy to prevent overpopulation and that a scarcity of fossil fuels would lead to the disappearance of the motor car. Last Christmas I heard my bright 10 year old nephew announce that he wanted to explore the Amazon one day, but that “50% of species” would be extinct by then. He had plainly been taught this as undisputed fact. British education is specialised – three subjects from 16, one from 18 – and once beliefs like this have been acquired, there is little reason or opportunity to revise them.

    The other is in the pseudo-universities, former vocational colleges where Jack the Lad learns sports management or photography and has his mind broadened with Theory, Frankfurt School nonsense tacked on to a purely practical course to turn it into a subject fit for future Bachelors of Arts.

  18. Frau Katze says:

    I don’t know what “butt-kicking babes” means. I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before. Can you explain?

    I think the fraction of the population that believed in butt-kicking babes was lower in 1920: probably less than 1%, with most of those believers suffering from tertiary syphilis. What changed? At the root, most of the change must stem from professor-types. There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them. Many of those absurd ideas now have wide currency.

    • Smithie says:

      Kicking butt (along with variants) is an idiom. It means easily prevailing in a fight, to the point of embarrassing someone. Babe, in this case, of course, means a good-looking woman.

      Ex: a supermodel defeating three or four Marines.

      • Frau Katze says:

        I’ve heard the phrase “kicking butt” but I’m having trouble remembering if it referred to physical fighting or was more metaphorical.

        I am positive I’ve never used the expression. What do you mean a supermodel and three Marines? What context?

        Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. It’s not a phrase women use. At least not the ones I know.

        • GAY_WEED_DAD_69 says:

          Fight scenes where some 5 foot 6, 140 pound woman beats up a whole group of men effortlessly. You see it in all sorts of action films.

        • benespen says:

          Here is a standard example. This sort of thing is very much directed at men.

        • Smithie says:

          In general, it can be physical fighting (with kicking or not) or metaphorical. Some added meaning comes from the context of the blog post. As it is basically a Hollywood trope that a slim woman may take heavy blows from several large, powerful, and skilled men at once, roll with them, and give back heavier blows, knocking the men senseless or even killing them.

          I realize you are supposed to suspend disbelief and Hollywood is about sex appeal. But my criticism of it would be that it is usually poor art – not proper spectacle – unless the woman has enormous acrobatic skill, like Michelle Yeoh did in her prime. That wouldn’t make it much more realistic, just more entertaining.

          But the whole point is less that movies are unrealistic and more that many currently seem to believe that women and men are physically interchangeable. For instance, there was recently some TV drama where a woman became a baseball star playing on a professional men’s team. I never watched it, but heard a young, egalitarian man make the ridiculous argument that because women have better manual dexterity, they would make good baseball players. He (a college grad) was obviously confusing manual dexterity for hand-eye coordination, but generally ignoring evolutionary theory. Males fighting each other, or needing to take down big game in order to mate successfully.

      • JerryC says:

        Whereas in the real world, actresses can’t even fend off a decrepit tub of goo like Harvey Weinstein, let alone take down a squad of Marines.

  19. We are having fun here. But no one mentioned picking up the Tom Lehrer reference, so I’ll claim first on that.

    First, Randall Parker’s idea that an appealing wrong answer influencing the result seems right. Human beings need to have an explanation, even a bad one. Few can tolerate leaving the answer they believe in and going out into the void, awaiting further review. This is how minds are changed – not by brute force in a single application (usually), but by having a plausible alternative that some people believe and finding one’s own view less and less tenable. We are loyal to our opinions. We don’t start from zero every morning. This can make the conversion look swift and very complete, when it has actually been gradual but subterranean.

    I don’t think warrior princesses and womyn’s studies are the overwhelming causes of the refusal to believe upper-body-strength reality, though they contribute. It starts early, in schools favoring conscientiousness, attentiveness, and fine-motor coordination and thus females, run by females who daily reward girls as “better.” Into this mix we have a societal arc that has allowed women into professions where they actually do turn out to be as good, near as good, or even better. The Grrl Power idea grows up that all these things they said women can’t do will eventually turn out to be socially-conditioned nonsense. There is an underlying narrative that Explains Everything. At this point confirmation bias kicks in and people acquire a lot of supporting evidence. Before puberty, the upper body strength of girls is closer (though not equal). There are female tennis players who are better than nearly all men. Textbooks and popular culture feature stories of girls doing strong things. Movies, comics, D&D, video games…

    Finally, there is tribal loyalty. People do not want to even have the wrongthink of believing that femaleses are less good at anything. Some lie, knowing or suspecting the truth, but others really sign on to the “If we gave girls hockey sticks when they were two…” belief. Yet even beyond that, one shows loyalty by believing the tribe when the evidence is against it. ANYONE can be loyal when you are reasonable. True loyalty is sticking with the tribe even when the evidence is against you. Scott Alexander over at Star Slate Codex wrote an excellent essay on that. He and his commenters reference this blog from time to time, BTW.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”

    • gcochran9 says:

      Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

    • Yudi says:

      One way to test how deep these ideas run is to check cases of assault of women by men. One could see if there has been an increase in women who try to fight off their assailants over the last few decades.

      • Frau Katze says:

        People try to fight back in a life or death situation instinctively.

        I have one anecdote: when my daughter was about 10 or so, her friend called her upset that “Mummy is hurting Daddy.” In a situation like that if I thought that anyone would be seriously hurt I would have called the police.

        Although the mother was a large, beefy, bad-tempered woman and the father was mild tempered and of slim build, it didn’t cross my mind to call anyone. Very few people in Canada have hand guns in their home so that scenario was very unlikely. The father was not ill or disabled in any way. I thought it impossible that she could serious injure him. If she’d even had a knife it might alarming but wouldn’t the daughter have mentioned it?

        And in the event, I was right. No injuries.

        • Yudi says:

          This is true, but back when people believed that women had no hope of winning in a fight with a man, a larger portion of them might have tried to run away than is the case now.

  20. When I started in mental health there were many who still believed that schizophrenia came from unresolved developmental conflicts or double-bind family systems, or that autism came from cold, rejecting parenting. I stopped seeing that by the 1990’s, but it still comes up from time to time now. You’d think that people who actually dealt with hundreds of schizophrenics couldn’t possibly believe that, but they did.

    Making the Harvard/earth orbit story even worse is that Cambridge is far enough above the equator that days do get noticeably shorter and longer over the year, which should be an additional clue.

    As to learning, I think dlr is correct that something once learned, even if forgotten, is easier to access. Memory is like cross-referenced filing cabinets, which is why you search for a word under many categories “It’s a longish word, begins with a ‘u’…maybe Germanic…” The labels on the folders and the cross-references fade, but if you can get into the right drawer and flip through, or if you start to look it up and do much-easier recognition memory, other information can suddenly be available. Bright minds learn things, whatever is lying around, which is why 60’s nerds read cereal boxes and liner notes on albums. As they will acquire quantity on their own, and can’t help but pick up a ton of what everyone is talking and writing about, it becomes important to pay attention to the quality of what they learn. As a tribe’s narrative tends to hang together pretty well, even if it is wrong, the college-bound/in college/went to college tribe has beliefs that reinforce each other, and are thus constantly used. Information that contradicts, or is even just outside the many narratives, are cups that have no shelves or cuphooks to go on.

    • Charles W Abbott says:

      “Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever, get it out.”

      Attributed to Cardinal Wolsey, re: King Henry VIII. Wikiquote has details.

      = – = – = – =

      It does seem that certain things just end up there in the memory synapses. Yes to the cereal box, album liner notes, and song lyrics in general. And also “Half-remembered fragments of bad advice,” as mentioned in the beginning of the novel Snow Crash.

  21. crew says:

    OT but there are claims there were Pygmies in Australia up until 1960 or so:

    I am not sure what to think.

  22. “Today, maybe a quarter of the population would deny that men, on average, have much greater upper body strength than women. That fraction is almost certainly higher in people with a college education.”

    I think this needs a statistical study. After all, the percentage of college grads in favor of nuclear energy is higher then the percentage of non-college grads.

  23. dearieme says:

    I enjoyed my undergraduate days enormously and also learned tons of stuff that I used in later life. It may be relevant that in those days only about 5% of my age cohort went to university. And quite a few of them were failed: the heaving out at the end of first year was fairly brutal, and there were further losses at the end of second and third years.

    I also greatly enjoyed secondary school. I don’t remember much about primary school but I do remember being bored silly. Consequently I propose we abolish primary school but retain secondary school and university.

  24. says:

    Re: “””Caplan said that only about 5 percent of Americans should go to a four-year college.”””

    Previously I suggested that in USA due to the high under-employment of university graduates, , it might be more cost effective to reduce the population %graduate from about 40% to 13% in line with the norms for the global developed countries. Otherwise it might be an expensive way to train burger flippers or basement computer gamers. Example of under-employment

    For USA the uni entry IQ for various university majors estimated from the SAT scores are available, . Merging the above data with the under-employment data showed that there are finer grain obvious characteristics. The merged data naturally split into two clusters with noticeable demarcation between them (strangely at IQ 115) and the cluster characteristics are opposite and statistically significant.

    For uni courses entry IQ (or SAT score) ≤ 115, it is strange that in the real world the %UnderEmploy increases with IQ, as if running away from courses like EarlyChildhood, Primary and Secondary Teaching or the lure of becoming multinational CEOs. Alternatively it could be that the universities dispite the high demand (and hence might be able to raise the entry scores) for those high %UnderEMp courses have decided to keep the min entry scores low to admit more students and hence having more tuition fees income. Or it might have something to do with diversity quota.

    For uni courses entry IQ > 115, the %UnderEMp decreases with IQ as commonly expected, with increasing entry scores and reducing student numbers, the prestige of the courses imporve and less graduates are under-employed.

    Because of the conflicting trends of the two clusters, on the left hand side it might be better to de-emphasize academic merits whereas the right hand side it is just the opposite, it might be apporpriate to split the universities into two types of independent organizations with different teaching strategy, just like the German system . The actual USA data implicitly showed that the min uni entry IQ should be 115 as in other developed countries.

    • says:

      This was posted elsewhere concerning if IQ affect graduate salaryies. The naturally occurring demarcation uni major entry IQ at 115 not only more or less influence the mindset of the graduates resulting in might be better teaching strategies and uni organization, it might also influence the graduates’ later job performance and salary levels and the perceptions of the employers and the market places on the values of the graduates.

      It is usual that people live and interact with people of the about the same abilty and background and it is understandable that they tend to extraplote from that position. However, to be able to draw conclusion across wider population a more comprehensive hard data are needed. The median wage early career data from the Fed is given here, . The university major entry IQ estimated from the SAT score is available here, . Merging the above data gives two charts.

      With respect to the under-employment rate it is clearer that the data split naturally into two clusters with the demarcation IQ about 115.

      With respect to the median wage using the demarcation IQ at 115, the characteristics are also different for the two clusters,

      For uni major entry IQ ≤ 115, there are no statistical significant trend within the range 103 ~ 115. The higher wage outliers are those dealing with confidential information (BusinessAdmin, Accounting) or life situation (Nursing, MedicalTechnician), otherwise statistically the salaries are not dependent on IQ. However, for uni major entry IQ > 115, the wage level statistically increasing with uni major entry IQ,

      MedianEarly = +1791.41*IQ -178043; # n=36; Rsq=0.4013; p=3.367e-05 *** (very signigficant)

      In this region on average each additional IQ point increases wage by $1791. STEM courses entry IQs are about 10 IQ points above 115, not to mention the lower than average rates of under-employment (defined as graduate working in a job not requiring a degree).

      Your world view most probably depend on where you are.

  25. cthulhu says:

    Marvelous and sly Heinlein reference, and to my favorite Heinlein book to boot! Dr. Russell would be proud.

  26. kot says:

    Caplan has his shtick where he pretends to be schizoid/Asbergerish and thus has to re-derive basic social constructs from scratch. Or maybe he’s not pretending.

    It’s a useful perspective sometimes, but other times he’s just beating around the bush.

    • MawBTS says:

      He does seem autistic. Could he be faking it?

      I’d think that it’s impossible to fake the positive qualities of autism (high IQ, powerful depth-first problem solving, large working memory). It’d be like faking that you can shoot a three-pointer. You either have the ability or you don’t.

      The bad qualities of autism (social incompetence, etc) are easy enough to mimic. I don’t know what advantage he gains from that, though.

      He has a wife and a large family, which is a bit unusual. Like Greg, he’s homeschooling his kids. Well, to be correct, he’s enrolling his kids in the “Caplan Family School”, with a 9-point attendance contract. The prom is going to suck.

  27. Kn83 says:

    The fantasy of butt-kicking babes is nothing new. There are numerous examples of it throughout world mythology and folklore. And its actually more popular in many non-western cultures (which don’t care about feminism) like Japan than in the P.C. West. Not everything has to have some sociopolitical cause. A lot men like it because they simply thing is cool (and sexy).

    • Smithie says:

      Brünhilde from the Nibelungenlied is definitely one memorable example, but arguably there are even older ones. Scáthach who trained Cú Chulainn. The Amazons.

      Good point about Japan. I think part of that comes from anime being a more fluid medium – easier to frame an action sequence in diverse ways than live action. Plus fantasy being more in the mainstream. But Japan doesn’t have the same political power dynamic being monoethnic, so there is less reason for egalitarian subtext to be added.

  28. Pingback: The Folly of Pacifism « Realities

  29. Reblogged this on The Daily Walk and commented:

    This is a very interesting read! Check it out.

  30. English Professor says:

    The information about the failure of Harvard students to know the cause of the seasons may be out of date. From the little bit I could find on the topic, the evidence goes back to the 1980s.

    I teach at a so-so university in the Midwest. This semester I’m teaching a course for honors freshmen on the nature of Modernity. One of our topics is the rise of science. So out of the blue I asked them to write down what causes the seasons. 17 out of the 21 students in the class used some version of the phrase axial tilt. (Of the 4 who got it wrong, two mentioned the idea of the earth being closer to the sun in summer, and two simply wrote something vague about the earth circling the sun.) These are all above-average students, but I doubt that any of them would have got into Harvard. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original Harvard survey, which had to be embarrassing, didn’t cause a change in high-school teaching on this particular subject. The students may be generally ill-informed on other topics of basic science.

  31. Pingback: The Folly of Pacifism (III) | POLITICS & PROSPERITY

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