Doctor Doctor Give Me the News

Credentials don’t make an incorrect argument right, and the lack of them can’t make a correct argument wrong. The track record tells you more – George Green and Srinivasa Ramanujan ( and Freeman Dyson)  did what they did.  In that sense, degrees don’t matter.

But they can give you signals of greater or lesser utility.   Ph.Ds in math or the hard sciences prove you have some brains – not necessarily that you will make good use of them, or that you’ll be useful, but sure, you probably have some brains.   Or at least you once did. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you know much outside your specialization, or have much sense.   Although you might.

What about a Ph.D. in psychology? it doesn’t mean that you can’t have some brains, but its predictive value isn’t very high.

An M.D.?  Again, doesn’t mean that you can’t be smart, but, usually, not born puzzle solvers.  Significantly overrated by both the general public and holders as an indicator of general omnicompetence.

Ph.D. in education?  On average, it predicts that you’re dumber than someone with a B.A in education, already below the general college average.

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95 Responses to Doctor Doctor Give Me the News

  1. pyrrhus says:

    Last I checked, Education majors had by far the lowest average GRE scores of any major…But now you tell me it gets worse?

    • AnonFinn says:

      In Finland kindergarten teachers, subject teachers and cadet officers are at the bottom. Then elementary school teachers and adult education majors are above fine arts, which is weird because elementary teachers are paid significantly less than high school subject teachers. My gf must be the exception to the rule because she scored around 97th percentile in finnish and math.
      Medicine, psychology and economics are at the top.

      • ghazisiz says:

        In my parent’s day, in their Nordic country, gymnasium teachers were very prestigious — they thought themselves better than even very successful business people. So teaching attracted high quality people.

        A friend has a PhD from Harvard. She told me that, at Harvard, the average undergraduate is smarter than the average graduate student — the best of the undergraduates go to law and medicine, not to a PhD program. In the US, look for the real brains in the top tiers of medicine and law. Of course, physics, mathematics, and philosophy would be exceptions to that rule.

        • AnonFinn says:

          The quality of students in stem-fields fell sharply when tracking was abolished between 1970-1985. The economy grew fast compared to more developed nations and much of the banking regulations were also abolished around the same time and the public sector was expanding quickly, so I suppose that a lot of smart kids had many new options, stable sinecures and high finance.

          The right and some high-profile professors wanted to resume tracking and promote stem-education, but they were silenced and humiliated when Finland kicked butt in the first PISA-evaluations. Maybe there was some magic dirt in Finland, but the recent influx of immigrants and fervent inclusion/integration sure don’t help. It is looking worse each year.

        • DiogenesNYC says:

          My experience is that ambitious undergrads from H are typically drawn into Tech and Finance as well as Law and Medicine. Each destination tends to fall out of favor from time to time depending on economic winds (mostly recessions) or recent regulatory shifts (eg Volcker Rule, Obamacare, etc).

          From my perspective, the Grad students weren’t obviously any less smart than undergrads, but some were less well-rounded.

          • ghazisiz says:

            I’ve heard that graduates from the Ivies have an advantage on Wall Street owing to the number of very rich people they met during college, allowing them to tap a large network of potential clients. The graduates who go into finance might therefore owe their success to big-5 characteristics such as extroversion and agreeableness, and not necessarily to unusually high intelligence.
            Tech would be different.

  2. Frau Katze says:

    It’s not that easy to get into med school in Canada. You need high marks, honour first class in one of the sciences. My daughter got in after getting a degree in chemistry. Maybe they’ve relaxed the standard since then (2000),

    Nonetheless we are importing people from poor corrupt countries and letting them practice in non-urban places, before they have taken the required test,

    • Henry Scrope says:

      Same in UK, we really really need to keep up high admissions standards in our medical and dental schools but anyone can come in from certain countries with lower standards and practice. I’m sure some of them have photoshop medical degrees.

      • James says:

        Sure, sure. If saying so helps you to sleep at night…

      • Frau Katze says:

        It’s pretty bad. My sister lives in small city and has personal experience.

        • TB says:

          Over half the docs in my hospital are foreign, from many different countries, Poland, Ghana, Korea, China, India, Pakistan etc. In general very smart in their fields, and contra Greg good enough ‘puzzle solvers’ in their narrow disciplines. I don’t expect them to be generalists or know much outside their specialties.

          That they are not US-born doesn’t worry me, except that I question why we should need to import so many docs when we have an abundance of home-grown talent. That’s a failure on a different level.

          • Frau Katze says:

            I don’t mean to imply that all migrant doctors are incompetent. My GP is from India but his degree is from Cambridge according to his diploma so he’s no different from anyone educated in the West. (It might have been Oxford, I can’t remember).

            But incompetent ones can slip through.

            Also, I read a story at the Financial Times saying that so many doctors trained in Poland have left (they can earn much more in Western Europe, Canada, etc.) that’s there now a serious shortage in Poland. It’s very bad as they try to deal with Covid. Open borders don’t work, you lose all your talent if there are large GDP differences.

            So we definitely should recruit in our own countries. The population here in Canada has increased greatly but not the number of medical schools. I think they might have here one in Victoria now. The one in Vancouver was the only in BC when my daughter went.

            There’s other odd cases. In Romania I think you go to medical school right out of high school (not sure). There’s this one man, who had been practicing but now he’s quit to run a political video channel.. So he might as well have left the country.

            The education requirements take so long in Canada (and there’s then your low paying residency) that I don’t think many leave to run Youtube channels.

            • Alex says:

              Hi, Romanian here. You are right. You can go to Med-school straight out of high school. Actually, not can, you do. People changing from one area to another is the exception here, especially for time intensive vocations like medicine. That is generally the case in the entire former Communist world, because we cram more teaching into high school. Many people have remarked on how the East focuses more on theory and the West more on practical knowledge and skills in pre-University teaching. This was probably not a reaction to how things were shaping up in the West, but it had the result of not developing pre-Med, pre-Law, pre-whatever institutions that delay working life by another two-four years. This is becoming moot on the other end, because of credential inflation that makes people seek out Master’s degrees right after graduation.

              The idea is to give children access to enough theory to make up their minds about where they want to go during late high school and reasonably have a shot at getting there. So, in Romania, the system is set up so you can go to a Mathematics-Informatics track in high school but still be able to pivot enough so that, with the omnipresent tutoring outside school in the teacher’s home, you could enter Law, Medicine, or anything else you like. People in the social sciences track would find it much more difficult to recoup the Math to enter Polytechnic, though, and people who went to “technical schools” (trades schools) or economic high schools (feeders for clerical work and business/economics studies) would find it harder to go to Med and Law, I guess, but they are a minority of high schoolers. I think the system would be less flexible if it were not stratified by ambitious parents sending children to Math-Info track regardless of their interests, since that is perceived as the more prestigious option and giving more options for advancement. So the system adjusts to let bright kids go anywhere they want from almost any track by frontloading the curriculum with enough theory into everything so they can pass University entrance examinations (biology for Med, grammar/syntax and logic for Law). I graduated Math-Info track, the world was my oyster and I could try out for literally any University track I wanted so long as I hunkered down on the necessary subjects in twelfth grade. You have very few elective courses, but a wide assortment of mandatory ones so, by twelfth grade, I had had a semester of formal logics, a semester of economic theory, two years of Latin, biology ranging from genetics to plants to anatomy, enough math and physics to enter the aeronautics track or pure Math track etc. 8 hours a day, five days a week, 10 minute breaks between classes, no lunch breaks, no after-school programs included. Then tutoring (cram school) in groups of 5 with the teacher (at his home, pay the teacher directly), all throughout high school for the desperate, the ambitious and the dummies, 12th grade only for the reasonably smart slackers.

              Leaving results aside, since obviously the left half of the Bell Curve will not benefit from the additional knowledge unless in case of individual passions for one subject or another, it is common knowledge that we teach much more math and physics to kids than in the West. There is a liberal movement afoot to reduce the overall quantity in favor of practical knowledge and skills, with the argument that kids are exhausted, there is too much to fully understand for the average kid and also maintain overall good grades (a huge pressure point), and much of it will be useless in real life. I disagree with it because dumbing it down will not affect middle class kids whose parents can get them more intensive tutoring or other vocational opportunities (coding camp, science camp etc.), but it will constrict the horizon of smart but poor kids who, in theory, should have the same educational opportunities as others in our socialized system. They will max out the opportunities of high school but not have the resources to move forward, especially in the more demanding track. It would be especially a shame since the actual Universities cost very little (and half or more of students do not even pay the small tuition). But you have to get in in the first place. Since we don’t do Advanced classes for the really brilliant kids, the more ambitious high schools, after sorting kids by preference and by grades into “classes” of 30 kids which are the same over the entirety of your education, would start moving the math and physics wizards to a designated class that is the cream of the crop and gets pushed even harder, sometimes at the expense of teaching in other subjects.

              Btw, Romania is even worse off than Poland. Fully a third of our doctors have emigrated, but the situation is worse, because the younger generation is overrepresented among the emigres, so we will have a crisis when the elders start retiring. I have a surgeon friend who, with another two people, are the only ones of 20+ medical school graduates in their study group who are still in the country.

              • Frau Katze says:

                It’s inconceivable that someone who got an MD in Canada would quit to run a Youtube channel. You need first, before you can even apply, a Bachelor’s degree (4 years) in a science field, and you must get honours first class. Then you can apply to med school. If accepted, it’s another four years.

                Then you need a residency before you can practice. These are notorious for low pay and long hours. It’s another 4 or 5 years.

                Then you can practice. No one would go through this and then quit to run a Youtube channel.

    • BenB says:

      In the UK the medical students have, on average, the highest academic achievement at the high school level (A Level performance). They also are among the few ‘majors’ who are selected based on a highly g-loaded test, the UKCAT, which I suspect is much more g-loaded than the SAT/GRE. So I think it’s reasonable to assume medical school is a chemistry PhD equivalent in terms of IQ (I think physicians have an average IQ of 125 if I recall though there aren’t any recent studies).

      Nevertheless, medical school also selects for a certain type of cognitive profile and personality. You get a lot more of the empathizing > systemizing types, and people high in conscientiousness and agreeableness who are drone-like conformists. Those two reasons are why medical students here are female majority and why half of my female classmates had cringy BLM banners on their social media not too long ago.

      Compared to my old engineering undergrad classmates, med students aren’t anywhere near as nerdy (you don’t get semi-autistic hyper-systemizing people here at all), and they’re also much more conformist than engineers, but they definitely aren’t dumb.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Completely agree. I could see the Romanian former doctor doing stand up comedy.

        My daughter is very much the extrovert. She’s also now in an elite bubble. But when had she had time to research the ideas of the elite? (She also has two children, with about a year off after each was born.). She has not much spare time and just picks up the elite zeitgeist.

      • AnonFinn says:

        Well said.
        Depressingly few are intellectually curious free-thinkers with wide range of interests.
        A lot of smart careerists and over-achieving robots.
        Maybe a couple of homo-economicus-girls here and there that are not turned off by smart nerds, but seem to be much more (conspiciously) interested in sperm than intellectual challenge and similar interests.
        Could be worse I suppose.

        • Frau Katze says:

          In some cases it may be lack of time to research topics. I thought of myself as a standard political leftist until 9/11. Granted, I hadn’t followed the current state of affairs.

          (Also, by coincidence my two kids moved out close to 9/11. Single parenting teenagers can leave you too exhausted mentally to even think of much else. Plus I worked full time.).

          But 9/11 jolted me enough to start researching. In a very short time I discovered that many leftists had ridiculous ideas.

  3. Woof says:

    Its seems that ideological conformity is more important than brains in far too many fields. I spoke to a recent poly-sci grad earlier today and he said most of his classmates reminded him of evangelicals. They wanted to be told what to think so that they could go out and proselytize, as most were incapable of independent thought. Passion replaces brains, absolute certainty replaces thought.

  4. teageegeepea says:

    George Green is a common name. Who specifically were you referring to?

  5. Coagulopath says:

    An M.D.? Again, doesn’t mean that you can’t be smart, but, usually, not born puzzle solvers. Significantly overrated by both the general public and holders as an indicator of general omnicompetence.

    There are trans people who perform successful orchiectomies on themselves in their bedrooms using medical textbooks purchased on Amazon.

    A lot of what a doctor does isn’t that complex, it just takes years to learn because there’s a huge amount of material.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I know of a related case: a guy that had already performed a double orchiectomy on himself, but, hearing that the secretions of the adrenal glands had androgenic properties, decided that they too must go. He was using a mirror, got to the point where he had to retract the liver, but IT JUST HURT TOO MUCH and he had to call for medical help.

      I remember thinking that he must have been dating a certain ex of mine.

  6. cameron232 says:

    Your last sentence – one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

    My impression is that MD’s have the ability to absorb an awful lot of information – I have a son like this – walking Encyclopedia.

    Aren’t PhD’s in Electrical Engineering usually pretty bright?

  7. Henry Scrope says:

    “I’m Donald Trump and I’ve got 8 billion dollars in the bank”

    “I’m Dr Jill Biden”

    Depends what type of people you are tryng to impress I suppose, the 8 billions signals a bit more utility to me.

  8. info says:

    IQ is the caliber of the gun. Wisdom is the aim of the gun to the bullseye.

    Credentialed people can be the biggest fools and the most wrong. When their brains are misused to rationalize error.

    • cameron232 says:

      In that case, I’m a .22 short.

    • jb says:

      One of the dangerous things about being smart is that you can win arguments even when you’re wrong.

      • info says:

        Exactly. Without Wisdom or Critical Thinking. Or maybe they are different descriptions of the same thing.

        Fools with Hi-IQ would most likely lead to insanity. Otherwise so many High IQ people wouldn’t end up succumbing to the progressive/egalitarian memeplex.

  9. Cornelius Mugwump says:

    They’re calling her Dr Jill Biden because people will assume she’s an MD during the pandemic. That’s got emotional connotations regardless of how smart MDs are.

  10. AnonFInn says:

    A lot of people north of 120 in med schools, but not many geniuses. Surprisingly many students that are mostly interested in their narrow field and maybe fantasy football or golf. Atleast in Finland the standards must be relatively high because many rejected applicants are warmly welcomed in Sweden and other European countries.
    One of my coursemates is finishing a master’s degree in business and graduating from med school at 24-25. He also has a firm, goes to parties regularly, is in law school part-time and is writing second article for his phd so propably very brainy fellow.
    Not the only one who probably has more than 24 hours in a day.

  11. Texan99 says:

    If you hang around successful professional people all the time, you start to think of that as “average intelligence.” Average intelligence is actually somewhat south of what you encounter in a jury pool, listening to people answer questions about whether they can understand the burden of proof and concept of preconceived bias– and those are just a slice of the population who managed to register to vote.

    So sure, doctors are reasonably bright. I think you probably nailed it with the observation that they’re not necessarily wonderful problem solvers. That’s not what medical school selects for. The brightest people I’ve ever run across were either in business or law (whose practitioners span a wide spectrum) or in physical-scientific research (in this case at Sandia). They were way out on the tail in their ability to grasp whole complex systems very rapidly and manipulate them to yield useful insights. They could see things in a flash that I could learn, if at all, only slowly and with much careful and repetitive explanation. In Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase, they could sort out good ideas from heaps of balderdash.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      Medicine is mostly memory and pattern recognition. I was an engineer before medical school. Quite a few engineers going to medical school now. The school where I taught until 5 years ago offers a PhD-MD in biomedical engineering. Becoming a popular field.

  12. bob sykes says:

    Many years ago I was a grad school representative on the final exam for a PhD candidate in education with a specialty in math education. The candidate couldn’t do a math problem standing up. It was actually a well-known problem in the summation of series, and it frequently shows up on undergrad math exams. No matter how many hints his committee gave him, he couldn’t do it.

    Of course he passed. As grad school rep I was there to judge the fairness and reasonableness of the exam and examiners. I did have a vote, and I went along with the PhD Eds in the room. I had something else to say to the grad school

  13. shadow on the wall says:

    Yea, shitting on egghead “experts” is always popular and always fun.
    Still, something tells me that if the commenters in this thread ever get seriously sick, they will seek soulless, materialistic, corporate capitalist, racist and colonialist western medicine and eschew all the possible alternatives.

    https://quackwatch.org/related/treatmentindex/

    • Texan99 says:

      I cheerfully consult doctors when I’m ill, though I do divide them into two categories: one sort are handy when it’s obvious what’s wrong and I just need legal access to prescription drugs, while the other sort are where you go when you need the high intelligence required for a difficult and unclear diagnosis and course of treatment. Both are bright, but one is noticeably brighter. Neither has to be on the top of the brilliance scale, though that’s nothing against the competent and valuable work they do. I want them to keep practicing medicine, not digging ditches.

      I’m much less likely to turn to an ordinary doctor for advice on public policy. I’ll listen, of course, but they’d need to be completely out of the ordinary run of doctors to seem anything like infallible in this area. It’s not what they were trained for or what they’ve shown any special aptitude for. It’s much better if they supply the strictly medical information to people better qualified to render the tricky political and economic and psychological cost-benefit trade-offs that are needed to mobilize a public response to an emergency.

      • My PCP used to lecture me on a few things outside his field. I eventually had to say “Phil, don’t use your I’m-a-doctor voice on me.”

      • mtkennedy21 says:

        Doctors are changing. For 100 years they were mostly small businessmen and women (few of those). Now, since Obamacare, they are increasingly employees. The politics, and even interest in government, differs a lot between those who get paychecks and those who sign the front of them.

    • You didn’t actually read the comments very closely, did you?

  14. jb says:

    At least in the harder sciences, credentials are useful for helping to judge whether someone has anything useful to contribute to the discussion. If you want me to listen while you dispute established science, you first need to give me some reason to believe you understand that science. This means, for example, that if you are going to tell me Einstein was wrong you’d better at least have a Ph.D. in physics. Otherwise the safest bet is to assume you are a crackpot.

    • Texan99 says:

      True enough, especially if you get approached by a lot of people like this and your time is limited. On the other hand, the acid test is whether the proposed refutation of Einstein makes sense. If it makes sense, the credentials don’t matter.

      • This other guy here says:

        It is true that the acid test is whether the argument is correct.

        The problem with that standard is that practically none of us know enough about any particular subject to determine if an argument is true or not.

    • morris39 says:

      Einstein’s TOG falls short in very high energy fields like galaxies, Newton’ s in fields beyond Mercury and double slit tricks at low energies but at huge disproportion in mass. Do you need a PhD to see that these are gaps or limits on claimed understanding? So is my comment crackpot?

  15. False Profiteer says:

    That reminds me of a time I sat next to a high school teacher on her way to a teaching conference in Chicago. She was very pleasant to chat with, but at some point she was sardonically lamenting that her salary was insufficient and required her to take a summer job every year. My response was, “Well, to be fair, most people work year round.” She was momentarily dumbfounded, I assume because that thought had never occurred to her. Like I said, pleasant woman, but I’m betting she wasn’t teaching anything STEM related.

  16. dearieme says:

    In my experience medical men tend to be capable but to lack inquiring minds. In other fields I’ve known a clever philosopher and two bright historians. The less bright of the pair ended up as Prime Minister. Alas, I fear the poison of thwarted ambition earlier in life had entered his soul: positively Shakespearean. Character matters too.

  17. j says:

    May be she felt that needed the academic degree to signal that she is not just another dumb blonde. Why deny this modest compliment to a dumb blonde?

  18. Frau Katze says:

    Greg, could you start a post on Covid. With the new vaccines I’d be interested in a discussion.

  19. Anonymous says:

    But surely the PHD in education would, on average, score somewhat higher on an IQ test than the BA.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Lower in SAT scores, so, probably not.

      • Anonymous says:

        If I understand correctly, you’re telling me that an average PHD [in education] has a lower SAT score than an average BA [in education]?
        I find that difficult to believe.

        • Why not? The slightly smarter ones, who are still pretty dumb, get out of the racket early.

          I recently had a discussion with a self-proclaimed PhD in education who was dumber than a box of rocks.

        • gcochran9 says:

          If memory serves, yes. I could be wrong.

        • Anonymous says:

          I would love to see some data on this, if anyone has a source.
          Would also be interesting to see what other majors have a negative correlation between credential-advancement and SAT/IQ. If any.
          I know that education majors don’t exactly score at the cream of the crop, but still…

        • False Profiteer says:

          Well, I imagine there’s not a whole lot of funding out there to make education PhDs the way there is funding for STEM programs. I’m basing that on my current experience which has allowed me to get through a PhD program in mechanical engineering fully funded through research. Anyway, the point is that I’m betting Education PhDs get a lot more debt than Education BAs. Maybe the smarter ones do the cost benefit analysis and realize the extra thousands of dollar in debt they’ll rack up isn’t worth it and bail, leaving the a lower IQ group to get the PhDs.

        • anon says:

          There’s a socio-political aspect to it that has been left unstated. Education in particular, and the public sector more generally, just love their credentialed minorities in leadership positions (elementary school principal, for example). See: Dilbert Principle and Window Dressing.

          African Americans completed 3.5% of all doctorates in the humanities in 2015, a markedly smaller share than in the education field (16.6%) but larger than the shares for engineering and the natural sciences. The share of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanics (6.5%) was larger than in all other fields but education and behavioral/social science.

          https://www.amacad.org/humanities-indicators/higher-education/racialethnic-distribution-advanced-degrees-humanities

          • anon says:

            To add, this state of affairs isn’t necessarily bad.

            I’m of the belief that there’s nothing wrong with school districts with overwhelmingly black students to have overwhelmingly black teachers and administrators. Black communities need a black middle class and people like themselves as role models.

            Sure, you could say the teachers/admins wouldn’t be on avg. as smart as candidates from the population as whole. But so what? Are the students really in any position to benefit from the 135 IQ Physics teacher? Have people on their level. For principal– they need somebody with some gravitas (loud/intimidating) who can instill some order (along with a modicum of good judgement). Doesn’t take 130+ IQ. Somebody from w/in the culture would be more effective.

            So the PhD in Ed. works as a sorting mechanism for that type of circumstances– differentiating the 90 IQ teachers from the 105 IQ teachers who aspire to higher pay (management).

        • mtkennedy21 says:

          The discussion concerns the Ed D more than PhD in Education. How many of the latter do you see?

  20. cthulhu says:

    Non-MDs (or DOs) who insist on being called “Doctor” are almost guaranteed to be jerks, whether that doctorate is in physics, aerospace engineering, botany, philosophy, or education.

  21. I worked with doctors my entire career, mostly psychiatrists, but because it was a hospital we had internists and neurologists as well. It’s a limited sample. mostly dartmouth, but the neuropsychiatrists are a pretty impressive bunch. The others are as you said – mixed, only a few that light up the sky. Medical school like many graduate schools, rewards tenacity. That’s a good skill, certainly. I was surprised that those who went on to PhD’s in education were actually worse until I thought it through. Those getting a BA in Education are mostly females who want to teach children. That group would include only a few very high up the scale, though there would be some for love of the career. But most of them would be a little above average, diligent. We have pushed minorities into this for political reasons and I am not sure that’s been a good idea.

    The more ambitious teachers go on for M Ed’s because they get paid better for it, and tenacity is the primary skill needed. But those who want the doctorate are a different group right out of the gate. They want to run things and tell lots of other people what to do and are hyperalert to political training, of what they are supposed to believe works.

    People who actually think about things aren’t sticking around there. It won’t be interesting and they get punished for wrongthink.

    • gcochran9 says:

      When I was a freshman in high school, I and a friend were helping his Mom with one of her Master’s courses. Turns out we both had a natural gift for Abnormal Psych.

    • AnonFinn says:

      Maybe smart under-achievers are drawn to neuropsychiatry. The IQ cut-off for med schools must be a lot higher for someone with undiagnosed ADHD or dyslexia or some other compensated developmental disorder. Then again, might be just smart folks interested in brain development.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      Tenacity is the right word to describe the variable besides intelligence that pushes people to achieve professional success about their measurable mental batting average. IQ is the best predictor we have for professional success. If one could measure tenacity along with intelligence you would have an incredibly powerful predictive tool. But I don’t know how to do that, you might just be measuring good liars who claim tenacity rather than the truly tenacious. But then again a separate very good predictor of future success is being a good liar. My employment test shall independently measure IQ, tenacity, and good lying skills. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      • dearieme says:

        Good health and high energy levels help too.

        • morris39 says:

          Also consider the tendency to apply (aka problem solving) rather than just collect knowledge. I think that the inclination to apply knowledge may be as much innate as acquired. I know who have studied math but are innumerate in everyday life applications. E.g. attributing effects to single causes (always) or failing to see gradations. They also seem to be extremely certain in their views.

      • DRA says:

        I would add time preference. A marshmallow now, rather than two later. Kinda feeds into tenacity, but is perhaps a major reason for tenacity, but perhaps is not the ‘thing’ itself.

      • moors39 says:

        Also consider the tendency to apply (aka problem solving) rather than just collect knowledge. I think that the inclination to apply knowledge may be as much innate as acquired. I know who have studied math but are innumerate in everyday life applications. E.g. attributing effects to single causes (always) or failing to see gradations. They also seem to be extremely certain in their views.

  22. Jeff Hallman says:

    My next door neighbor when I was in grad school was a medical student who had an undergraduate degree in math. He said that unlike math, where the important thing is your analytical ability, what mattered most is med school was the ability to memorize the terminology and various systems, Not everyone can do it.

    • AnonFinn says:

      3 students (that I know of) from my class in med school started a gap year due to a burn-out or failing multiple classes, 1 with masters degree in math, 1 with bachelors in math and 1 ex-engineering major who also went to a high school specializing in math.
      Very different skill sets.
      Oh the grind, I’m so glad it’s almost over.

    • dearieme says:

      Map of the cat.

    • Aidan Kehoe says:

      Yes, absolutely. I programmed and did IT support before medicine and if it hadn’t been for my habit of learning a new foreign language every couple of years to a conversational level, I would have failed out of the first couple of years of medical school.

      There is nothing in medicine as conceptally hard to understand as is programmatic recursion or the idea of continuations, but you can’t just google the rote-memory stuff, the incremental time cost (and more importantly for most people, the disbelief and ridicule of your peers) means you need to have a huge amount of it ready for reference in your own mind.

      Other contrasts; people vary, but to a first approximation, human physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacodynamics are one complex system. It is routine in a software developer’s career to need to learn multiple complex systems, and it is routine for several of those complex systems to be commercially or professionally irrelevant in five years’ time. I expect to be dead by 2080, I expect human anatomy and human physiology to be much the same at that point. I expect Perl5, PHP, Emacs Lisp, Common Lisp all to be dead or dying by then. (Except perhaps PHP, now I think of it, the good die young (and now I say that, Emacs Lisp will still be kicking along too.))

      A huge portion of the job in medicine is explaining what you’re doing to the people you’re doing it on, and selling your assessment and your plans to your patient and to your colleagues (those accepting or declining referrals). This is great for your general verbal skills, and is probably why doctors punch politically above their weight. There isn’t the same demand for verbal skills on software developers (maybe there should be, routine review of commits does subjectively seem to improve software quality), and they punch below their weight politically.

      Much of your early career also in this part of the world (not the US) is competing against other intelligent, motivated trainees (residents) to do well at work, in order to get positive recommendation letters and advancement in one’s career, where doing well at that work does not bring more revenue to the hospital or hospital system. Which translates to terrible working conditions made worse the more seriously you take the competition. That is probably more comparable to call centre work than software development.

  23. 30% of advanced degrees in America are in Education. (The MBA is second.) It pays to keep that in mind when one sees the statistic that people with advanced degrees are more likely to vote Democrat. The Education PhD’s and M Ed’s are all going to be employed by governments or first-derivatives of government and their livelihood is going to depend on that. Not to mention their status. Hence strongly likely to vote for Democrats, even absent any ideological slant. Add in the ability to read social and political cues more than intellectual ones, and it’s got to be north of 90%. If you take them out of the equation, the 55-45 advantage for Democrats among those with advanced degrees vanishes and even goes under the waves a bit (this from 2015 when I last checked). The MBA used to be solidly Republican from my era (1975) until at least 2000. I don’t know if that is still true. Likely less true, anyway.

    I don’t know if this was an oblique reference to Dr. Jill on your part or if current events came to find you, but it is a propos of the current controversy.

  24. John Davis says:

    William Plank brought this mess to my attention. Public education has been going downhill for a number of decades, with no bottom in sight. In general, education degrees have far lower requirements, when the people we entrust to teach should in fact be held to higher standards. Madness.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20080511222153/http://www.msubillings.edu/CASFaculty/Plank/anti.htm

    “# An Educational Testing Service poll of 930,000 seniors found that would-be teachers scored near the bottom on the SAT in 1990, with a combined score of 864. That ranked them below the average for all students, who had a score of 900. General education majors had a score of 1000. On the “recentered” SAT, 1.7 millon students had a combined score of 1,016, compared to the teacher hopefuls with 964. Those intending to be teachers ranked fourth from the bottom of twenty vocations. 8

    The GRE, the graduate record exam, is taken by those with a bachelors degree, by 21-year olds, frequently by teachers who have been working several years. It should be a required test for the Montana Board of Regents. For those wanting graduate degrees (e.g., in business, engineering, health, humanities, life sciences, sociology, physical sciences and education), of the eight specialties–teachers scored at the bottom. Engineers averaged 689, teachers 499 on the quantitative test, right at the bottom. The engineers even beat the teachers in the verbal part by 28 points.

    The GRE has three sections: On the combined average of 1.1 million takers, the combined average was 1577. Teachers got 1477; physical scientists, 1779; engineers, 1762. The high school teacher is less well prepared than the ordinary college graduate.

    The superintendent of schools, the best paid of the administrators, is generally male, about fifty, with a small town or rural background. School teachers, as we have seen, score at the bottom of the GRE. Those who go for a masters of education administration, those who will become principals and superintendents are near the botton. “Not only do they score much lower than high school teachers, but even lower than elementary school teachers by over 50 points. “9 The graduate school curriculum for the Masters or Doctors in Education has not a single required course in literature, science, math, history, philosophy or a foreign language. 10 The Doctor of Education is the basic degree in the field and outnumbers the Ph.D. by five to one. It has lower academic requirements, no foreign language competence. Education administrators are seldom scholarly in background and training and Martin Gross, the author of Conspiracy of Ignorance accuses the Ed.D. of being created because administrative doctoral candidates were not smart enough for the Ph.D. and that the degree should be eliminated by the state legislature. I agree and so do some of my friends who have the Ed.D. Forty-two percent of superintendents have the Ed.D. They should have the same degree, the Ph.D., as university presidents and headmasters of private schools. 11”

    • Gringo says:

      John Davis“
      The high school teacher is less well prepared than the ordinary college graduate.

      Since you prefaced this by referring to the GRE, a standardized test similar to the SAT, I will bring to your attention SAT scores of newly certified high school teachers compared to college graduates. The Educational Testing Service’s report, Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool compares the SAT scores of those who passed the Praxis tests for teacher certification with the average SAT scores of other college graduates.

      We find from Figures 20 and 21 (page 23) that for all college graduates who took the SAT, the average SAT-Math score was 542, and the average SAT-Verbal score was 543. We find that on the SAT part best related to their teaching specialty, those passing certification for high school subjects scored above the average.

      For teaching specialties where math skills are important, Science (570) and Math ( 595) teachers scored above the 542 SAT-Math that college graduates averaged.
      Teachers in the following specialties scored above the average SAT Verbal of 543:Art & Music (550), Mathematics (552), Social Studies (561), Foreign Languages (550), Science(568), and English,(577) in order of increasing scores. (I am estimating from a bar graph).

      Phys Ed and Special Ed are substantially below the average for college grads.

      I share your contempt for grad schools in Education, and for the job they do teaching undergrads.

    • Gringo says:

      The high school teacher is less well prepared than the ordinary college graduate.

      Again, using SAT scores estimated from a bar graph, we find the following average SAT scores for those passing Praxis certification tests (2002-2005). Recall that the average SAT score for college grads was 1085: 542 -V+ 542- M

      Art & Music 1082
      Social Studies 1092
      Foreign Languages 1094
      English 1107
      Science 1135
      Math 1147.

      I am not including Phys Ed or Special Ed, because these certifications also include elementary teachers. Yes, their SAT scores are considerably below those of the average college grad.

      But for the other certifications for high school teachers, SAT scores are average to slightly above average compared to the average SAT scores of college graduates. Less “well-prepared” than the ordinary college graduate? No, about the same or slightly above average.

      Master’s degrees in Education are more of a ticket-punching exercise, where getting the degree guarantees the teacher a raise. Any warm body is going to pass a grad school class in Education. As a result, grad students in Education have a rather different profile compared to other graduate students. Grad students in Education are definitely below the average grad student in ability.

      (Figures 20+21, previous link. Estimates from bar graphs.)

  25. Jacob says:

    Seems to me like the personal and professional interests of education doctorates are diametrically opposed to that of society at large. They don’t do well on the tests, so they spin long-winded nonsense about people’s scores on the tests being more plastic than they really are.

    The really confusing thing is how they’ve managed to keep the scam going for as long as they have. None of them deserve their salaries. Seems like most people are so dumb that they’re easily duped by other dupes.

  26. Julian says:

    These points may hold up in the States, but they don’t in my corner of Europe. Pretty much all of our tertiary institutions are major publicly-funded research universities. Any degree is difficult. There is no profit incentive to make them easy.

    • mtkennedy21 says:

      If “profit” is meant in monetary terms, I agree but status is at least as powerful a driver for higher education degree seeking. Status, of course, is also the key to monetary success in public institutions.

  27. skeptic16 says:

    I had a dentist whose undergraduate degree was in Chemical Engineering. He thought dental school was a piece of cake compared to chemical engineering. He said the hardest thing about dental school was the emphasis on memorization rather than thinking things out.

    • Gringo says:

      I know 2 Chemical Engineers who ended up in med school, One was drop-dead brilliant. Proof? He took Physical and Organic Chemistry at the same time, and got A’s in both.

      When I was an undergrad, a columnist on the student paper wrote an article on how tough his Poly Sci prof was. The Poly Sci prof was so tough that the columnist compared him to a Chem Eng professor.

      • mtkennedy21 says:

        My lab partner in med school had a Phd in Physical Chemistry and was one of the two guys who led development of solid fuel rocket engines. He flunked his first med school, Biochemistry quiz. The professor asked him about it and discovered my lab partner knew more about covalent bonds than he did. He got a pass and did not have to take the course.

  28. Gringo says:

    Ph.D. in education? On average, it predicts that you’re dumber than someone with a B.A in education, already below the general college average.

    I don’t know what documentation you have for claiming that those in Ed grad schools are not as bright as those with a BA in education. Though by GRE scores, there is a definite difference in Ed School people compared to others wanting to go to grad school- a greater difference than the differences between SAT scores for certified teachers versus college grads.

    Yes, graduates in Ed Schools are below the general college average, but not by as much as a lot of people believe. Note that the certification exams weed out a lot of the lower aptitude Ed School grads. The Praxis tests are for teacher certification.

    SAT Verbal Scores for Praxis Test Takers (Figure 13, page 18)
    Those who pass: 531
    Males who pass: 538
    Females who pass: 529
    All Praxis test takers: 515
    All College graduates: 543

    SAT Math Scores for Praxis Test Takers (Figure 15, page 19)
    Those who pass: 521
    Males who pass: 544
    Females who pass: 513
    All Praxis test takers: 506
    All College graduates: 542

    In a previous comment, I pointed out that with the exception of Special Ed and Phys Ed, those passing Praxis tests for certification in high school subjects are around the average or slightly above SAT scores for college graduates.

    Click to access TQ_full_report.pdf

    • Frau Katze says:

      Teachers also require certain human interaction skills not required for the science / engineering jobs.

      It doesn’t hurt to have people skills for any job of course.

      • Gringo says:

        Speaking as someone who taught school for a while, with high scores but less than stellar human interaction skills, I have personal experience of the validity of your point.

  29. Return of Shawn says:

    It is all about GRE/GMAT/LSAT scores. Those intending to pursue Philosophy credentials have higher GRE scores than many math/science majors. Getting a PhD in psch from Harvard means you are likely smarter than someone who gets a PhD in math from Directional School.

  30. megabar says:

    Furthermore, the amount of respect that I grant to a title is related to the value I think the bestowing organization creates. That is, I respect the value created by engineering, physics, etc., and so I respect the degrees. This also applies to the useful trades, such as clinical medicine, plumbing, and policing.

    The relation between mental sharpness and value isn’t perfect: there are loads of extremely smart financial quants and lawyers, but the overall benefit to society is dubious.

    I’d say many academics are harmless, but not worth the money we spend on them. And some, like social sciences, are probably harmful.

    And yes, I find it annoying to be expected to refer to someone by their title when I am neither part of the organization where the title matters, nor impressed by the organization that grants the title.

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