Secret sauce

All my kids have now graduated from the local high school. I wondered  how many of the teachers realized what they were dealing with. Talking with my boys, it seems that two did, while most were sure that the rents were applying some secret, incredibly efficacious, high-pressure educational strategy. Of course if they’d really believed that, they should have wanted to know the recipe for the secret sauce, but they showed no interest.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Secret sauce

  1. Baron Von Plow says:

    Real question from someone who might be about to start having children: How do you raise your kids to accept your take on things knowing that the entire culture will be telling them the opposite and will be inclined to rebel against their parents?

    • BB753 says:

      In families, there are secret codes, memories and knowledge that need not to be told to outsiders. Teach them dissimulation.

    • TB says:

      I do it by knowing everything about everything. They think it’s magic, but actually I’m just a 50+-year-old guy who reads omnivorously.

      I was able to maintain the facade for years. Now they are in college, and one is studying genetic engineering, so she’s beyond me now in that field, and I have to ask her questions.

    • pyrrhus says:


    • If you consider your children sponges of various size, which will pick up the same amount of education regardless of the quality, it narrows your job to supervising the quality of their intake. Also, candlepower is not the only quality they will need going forward, so there are virtues of determination, charm, confidence, self-criticism, honesty, resilience, and a hundred others you can work on, in addition to keeping their exposure to Maya Angelou to a minimum. Unfortunately, many of those virtues may also show to have genetic components, and your efforts be largely superfluous, as my many hours of reading aloud and many dollars of private education for my children probably were. An additional note: they will be what they will be. We had no television and seldom went to movies, and son #2 in particular read enormously. He is now a filmmaker.

    • Jerome says:

      Home school. No ifs, ands or buts. Home school. It’s a lot easier than it looks.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It doesn’t make much difference.

        • Abraham Lincoln says:

          I’m pretty young and my public school system was reasonably white and middle-class. Assuming I was in class or somehow occupied by extraneous school-related activities (e.g. commuting or mindless busywork homework mostly) for 8 hours per day, 180 days per year, for 12 years, that’s about 20,000 hours of my young life simply flushed away. Granted, it wasn’t a total loss: I learned a fanatical contempt for the stupendous human-wasting machinery of The System… but must such a lesson really be so extraordinarily costly? If I had had 10k to spend on music, I could have been a concert-level pianist; with the other 10k, god only knows what else I could have done.

        • Jason says:

          It does here in Canada, where even math and science are now more concerned with teaching social justice and fairness, than arithmetic or the structure of a cell.
          Native schools run by Catholics on the reserves, have begun to outperform many schools in suburban, white, middle-class neighborhoods in the CTBS.

          • gcochran9 says:

            “have begun to outperform ”

            That would be interesting, and kinda cool. But I don’t believe it.

            • Dan_Kurt says:

              re: “But I don’t believe it.” GC

              You probably are correct if Canadian Indians are similar to American ones.

              Lived for two years on an Indian Reservation in the NW USA about a half a century ago. My wife for one year taught something called Pre-First which was for kids who after kindergarten were not ready for first grade. Pre-first was the only level at the school of K through 12 that needed TWO sections. Also, the federal government the year my wife taught the class sent to the reservation a Public Health Officer to do IQ equivalent tests on every 3 year old child. The Public Health Service provided medical care for the Indians and the public health service nurses knew where every child was located. Don’t ask me what was the test used. My recollection was that the IQ of those children was abysmally low.

              Dan Kurt

          • Frau Katze says:

            It’s terrible. My sister teaches Math at a university. She says the administration is constantly sending emails about natives, “Be sure your syllabus thanks the X Nation for
            hosting the university on unceded land.”

            Apparently the entire province is inceded. Likely the whole country. The SJWs are lunatics.

            A friend whose father teaches high school Math is thinking of early retirement because he can’t out how to “indiginize” Math.

            • dearieme says:

              Aw, come on, just set examples on trading. “If one squaw is worth five scalps, and one scalp is worth twenty beaver pelts, then ……”

            • gothamette says:

              Huh? Hasn’t he ever heard of “One little two little three little Indians”?

        • George Lesenby says:

          It makes a great deal of diffirence to the proles who suffer average public school demographics.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I guess we’re proles – and no, it didn’t make much difference.

            • gothamette says:

              It made a difference to me.

            • gothamette says:

              For those who think upbringing doesn’t make a difference, why did the Jewish guy (talented at math, LOL) not become at least a high school math teacher? (Gasp, might it have been his upbringing?)


              • Frau Katze says:

                Interesting story. The solution to her mysterious DNA results didn’t trace back to philanderers in the family but to a hospital mixing up two babies in 1913.

              • gothamette says:

                It is truly fascinating. I almost, I dunno, whatevered, when they said that Dad was talented at math. I mean, of course….but he went nowhere in life, because he was raised Irish.

                Dr. Cochran – there is a lesson to be learned here. LOL!

              • Frau Katze says:

                @Gothamette Yes, it is an interesting story. I sent it to my sister, who accidentally deleted it, and asked me to resend. I wonder how often that happened?

                It does seem he was somewhat held back by his Irish family. But in those days, it was much harder for anyone born working class (ie almost everyone) to get ahead, no matter how smart they were. My father was also born in 1913 to a working class family who had just arrived from Scotland. He was told he’d have to quit school after Grade 8, and get a job. He worked in a sawmill for a few months then decided to “run away to sea.”

                His break didn’t come till WW II broke out. He became a bomber pilot (with a forged high school diploma). After the war ended, veterans were given some assistance going to university. The forged diploma again came in handy.

                His parents weren’t nasty or mean, they just seem to lack drive to go past their low class status, or even consider it. They came from a remote part of the Highlands. My mother on the hand, also had an immigrant mother, but she was from England and she wanted her kids to have every opportunity she didn’t have. She gladly financed a university education for my mom (where she met my dad).

                I wonder if these two immigrant families were from different cultures. Just being near a city like London might have created a different mindset.

        • Hypothesis K: Parents make no significant non-genetic contribution to their children’s career success.
          Without investigation, I dismiss K.
          Under controlled conditions, lead bullets kill goats when fired at range X into body area Y. Depleted uranium bullets kill goats. Manganese bullets kill goats. Gold bullets kill goats. Silver bullets kill goats. Now some “scientist” says that bullets made of some specified alloy of molybdenum and iron will pass through living goats without doing any harm. Sounds unlikely. Do I really have to investigate this claim experimentally?
          I expect that studies which find that parents make no significant non-genetic impact on their children’s life trajectory achieve this result by “controlling for” (i.e., holding constant) factors which responsible parents will vary. Hypothesis K is unlikely, on evolutionary considerations. How could parental concern have evolved if parent attention makes no difference?

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      Private schools or homeschooling is one way.

    • Eponymous says:

      “How do you raise your kids to accept your take on things”

      I don’t want my kids to believe everything I believe! I want them to do better!

      So, teach them a scientific outlook (skeptical, empirical, and mathematical). Teach them as much science and math as possible. And let them read lots and lots of books.

      Probably your views are pretty heritable anyway.

    • Bruce says:

      The boys now seem to delight in being un-PC – it’s the best way to be rebellious – and they’re not likely to be sympathetic to the views of their liberal-shrew English teacher, etc.

    • ohwilleke says:

      With my last child entering his senior year this fall, I’ve learned that intentionally trying to “raise your kids” to do or be anything is pretty much futile. Kids learn through imitation, not instruction. Be the person you want your children to become and the rest will follow.

    • Jokah Macpherson says:

      I think this sort of shit is somewhat heritable so step #1 is make sure they’re yours.

      They don’t necessarily ‘accept your take on things’ but if you tended to see glitches in the cultural matrix there’s a good chance they will too and will come to similar conclusions on their own.

      • Jokah Macpherson says:

        Also, if it’s not too late, a possible step #2 would be selecting the other parent on an ‘innate skeptical disposition’ criterion rather whatever criteria people usually apply (I don’t think it’s that).

    • Frau Katze says:

      In my experience, you can’t. Have you read The Blank Slate? Parents have limited control over their kids whose behaviour is approximately 50% genetic and 50% cultural. The non-genetic part means kids copy their peers not their parents.

      Having kid is like rolling dice.

      • Cloveoil says:

        That has to change with the social circes of children includind 1) family size including extended family, and 2) free range kids versus overprotected kids.

        • Frau Katze says:

          There’s certainly a difference in clan/tribe societies. I’m not sure if the free-range v. overprotected has a long term significance. It would be a hard thing to measure.

    • OdShaman says:

      Answer every question honestly to the best of your knowledge and appropriately for their age and development. As they work out things for themselves they will realise that you weren’t totally brainwashed and will respect you half of the time. They won;t hate you.

  2. BB753 says:

    No wonder: high school teachers are usually dumb as bricks. Nothing seems to interest them except their paychecks and obeying all the rules of pc-speech.

    • dearieme says:

      Bad luck! Some of mine were excellent. (Though not in an American high school, I’ll grant you.)

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      My high school English teacher read Beowulf to us in Old English. Public high school 1959 Arlington, VA.

      It was once possible.

      • Janet says:

        In 1960, about 40% of the workforce had a high school diploma. In Virginia, truancy was not tracked as a statistic, nor were high school graduation rates (until 1967). Children who didn’t want to be there, just left and went to work instead (or, for the girls, got married and pregnant, and sometimes even in that order). Disruptive children were thrown out. Disabled ones were never allowed to enter. And let’s not get into the question of minorities– Arlington desegregated midway through the 1959 school year, as I’m sure you’re very aware; and I assure you, no black children in Virginia got Beowulf in high school regardless of their intelligence prior to that.

        If you restrict high school to the top 40-50%, then yes, it’ll look a lot like community college– because it will, in fact, be a community college. If you restrict high school to the top 95%, the US’s PISA scores would likely be as good as anywhere in the world. Because, of course, that’s exactly what most countries actually do– accept that the bottom X% of the children don’t belong in schooling, and so they never get tested at all.

        Forget Beowulf in high school. Send the 16-year-olds capable of Beowulf to community college, and let them get on with their lives. For the ones that aren’t capable, i.e. the majority of them, then focus the high schools on teaching them what they need to get a job and function in society– basic literacy and math, enough civics and history to function in our society, and very substantial job skills learned through work-study.

    • Gringo says:

      Of my four high school English teachers, two got doctorates several years after I graduated- in Linguistics and English. A third had learned Chinese in the Army, and translated Chinese pilots’ radio transmissions during the Korean War. Not dumb at all, but I hated English classes because the Junior Literary Critic method imposed on us to teach composition didn’t go over well with me.

      But yes, there were some who were dumb as bricks- including one who later got a doctorate in Education.

    • Craken says:

      Most of my AP level teachers 25 years ago were good. Some of the other teachers at least had a productive attitude and effort level. The other 60% were mostly time servers. I attended a public school in an affluent area. Since I mostly taught myself, I was only bothered by low quality teachers when they wasted my time with make-work.

    • Ursiform says:

      One of my revelations when I was about a junior was that in a few years I would be better educated than any of my teachers. I already knew more than some of them.

  3. Rodep says:

    You frequently use your children as proof of the efficacy of genetics. But as far as I can tell, the variables aren’t very isolated.

    A nuturist can point to stories like this:

    And say that the REAL special sauce was the small class sizes, or the caliber of teacher, or the parental expectations… but probably just Ginny’s growth mindset.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Do you think that Bryan Caplan as a otherwise strict hereditarian is full of it when he claims that “The Caplan School” is in spite of the miniscule conventional estimates of the effects of non-shared environment almost certainly significantly effective?

    Or did they as a professor and a valedictorian share the Secret Sauce?

    • Anonymous says:


    • SMack says:

      Caplan, a strict hereditarian? I doubt that. He thinks Western civilization infiltrates like hookworm for anyone who sets foot on European soil.

    • psmith says:

      I would imagine an important part of the point is that it’s more rewarding for everybody involved at the time, regardless of whether there’s any difference in long-term outcomes.

      (This also applies to homeschooling/unschooling/et cetera in general, of course.).

  5. Thiago Ribeiro says:

    “Talking with my boys, it seems that two did, while most were sure that the rents were applying some secret, incredibly efficacious, high-pressure educational strategy. Of course if they’d really believed that, they should have wanted to know the recipe for the secret sauce, but they showed no interest.”

    So they were sure… but not sure?? Even if there were aeducarional sauce and they knew it, would it make a difference? Doesn’t it depend of the ingredients? What if it were the “tiger mom” thing after all? Will they “tiger mom” their underperforming students? Make the parents do it? What if it were about having educated parents (i.e. nurture) instead of genes? Will they give each failing student “better” parents? If it is genetic… well, they still can not give the children better parents, can they? So why bother digging?

  6. Ledford Ledford says:

    What’s the Scotch-Irish equivalent of “Tiger Mother?”
    You should write “Battle Hymn of the Overmountain Father.”

  7. pyrrhus says:

    Any teachers who aren’t dumb as a post, and probably most who are, understand what the secret sauce is….Nothing teaches you genetics like teaching several kids from the same family. In my experience, there are no Fredos….

    • gcochran9 says:

      Lots of people refuse to understand this; the fraction is probably growing with time.. Has been going on for a while: a teacher commiserated with my little sister about all the pressure she must be under ( to make her valedictorian, etc). She said “What pressure?”

    • random observer says:

      IIRC Fredo was messed up in infancy by infectious disease- scarlet fever, or some such. Or, at least, there is a scene like this in Part 2 that always left me this impression.

  8. jb says:

    My mother taught high school biology, and she was well aware of genetics. She noted that of her good students, some were good because they worked really hard, while others were good because they were just naturally smart, and it all came easy to them.

    Interestingly, while she sometimes had good students who were black, those always fell into the first category, never the second.

  9. Space Ghost says:

    So you did their homework for them?

  10. mtkennedy21 says:

    I had five kids. Two are lawyers. One speaks four languages but the one who is the only sib with no college degree also owns the nicest house. He is a fireman and probably the smartest but never was interested in studying. He has been a fireman for 20 years.

  11. Peter Capstick says:

    Hey Greg,

    Off topic again but I’ve never read anything from you that hasn’t improved my understanding of the world (or at least been interesting), so: what your thoughts on electric vehicles in general and Tesla motors specifically?

    Will EVs radically reduce demand for oil in the long term?

    Wondering because I’ve been thinking about transferring to a top petroleum engineering program (Texas, Oklahoma), but a little concerned about the industry’s long term prospects. (To clarify, have a somewhat unusual backstory- went to a (relatively) elite university (Johns Hopkins), got kicked out in rather illustrious fashion due to substance abuse, then accumulated a half dozen arrests for similar reasons (no felonies and nothing violent, but still) before finally getting my shit together (i.e., sober) and getting back in school (about to start a year of exceedingly humbling community college atonement). Reputation-sensitive career paths are out as a consequence, but among well remunerated jobs, technical positions in the oil industry are attainable even w/ a criminal record from what I’ve read.)

    If you have any alternate recommendations wrt promising or emerging fields of study, I’m definitely interested. For the record, I’m 24, never took an IQ test but got a 2360 (800m, 800v, 760w) on the SAT and was a National Merit Semifinalist (NY cutoff) back in 2010. Got A’s in multivarible, diffeq, linear algebra (that’s as far as I got first time) as well.

    • Randall Parker says:

      Peter, study computer science and learn machine learning modeling. With those SAT scores you have the intellectual capacity to understand it. You will be more immune to the fortunes of specific industries. Many industries employ software developers. You can make more money. You can work in more locations.

      • Michel Rouzic says:

        Machine learning is quite possibly a fad with currently a rather high hype-to-practical-yield ratio. I’m not saying it’s useless, just that the hype levels are unwarranted and unlikely to last, so I wouldn’t steer anyone towards a career choice that in a few years might seem like a worse idea than creating a fidget spinner factory today.

        As for computer science in general I would only recommend it to people who already have it as a hobby since it’s overcrowded with people who have nothing to do there and would have gone for an MBA were they born 30 years earlier.

        Oil won’t go away anytime soon for many reasons, one is that air travel is increasing and definitely can’t turn electrical and biofuel currently doesn’t seem suitable, and that’s an industry in which you can use the same plane decades, so you can see from what’s being worked on that things shouldn’t be that different 20 years from now.

    • Dan_Kurt says:

      re: “…what your thoughts on electric vehicles in general and Tesla motors specifically?” PC

      1) Electric vehicles are unchanged since Edison and not the answer because of the Battery problem & cold weather performance.

      2) “Fossil fuels” are in such abundance that at least 1000 years of extractable reserves already are known even factoring in increasing usage. I saw in the late 1960s proven locations of gas and oil in Montana that have never been developed, and this was before fracking, in amounts that are staggering. The foreseeable future of man on this planet will involve gas and oil production. You and your children’s children will be using gas and oil because they will be the cheapest power source unless somehow Thorium reactors are developed.

      Dan Kurt

  12. Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe you. Of course they know, but u too pricky.

  13. J says:

    Solon to Croesus about hubris: “the happiness of a man cannot be judged until after his death.”

  14. JP says:

    Cochran and Mrs.Cochran, did yeoman’s work helping to slow down the collapse in the loyal American smart fraction. Well done sir.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s