Monday, May 20, 2013

MoAR #20: how to get into college, how you shouldn't get into college, and a little physics.

keeping it simple.

this is probably just my confirmation bias at work. my teaching experience, however, suggests that there's not a big difference between students who have taken Advanced Placement (or AP) courses and exams and students who have not.
"Actually, it’s the College Board that has “pulled the wool over people’s eyes.” About AP, to be sure. But also about the SAT and PSAT, and Accuplacer, the placement test used by more than 60 percent of community colleges. They’re all mostly worthless, more hype than reality.

A 2004 study by Geiser and Santelices found that “the best predictor of both first- and second-year college grades” is unweighted high school grade point average, and a high school grade point average “weighted with a full bonus point for AP…is invariably the worst predictor of college performance.”

~ from "What Is the Value of AP Courses and Tests?"
perhaps it's fair to say that what really counts are how effective teachers are at their jobs and how hard-working students are with their courses.

complaints & mixed signals.

sometimes one cannot help but get confused at the news. for one thing, some people are outraged that not enough of the middle class is heading to university ..
"And here's the key bit: Many colleges, he argues, appear to be playing an "elaborate shell game," relying on federal grants to cover the costs of needy students while using their own resources to furnish aid to richer undergrads.

"With their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue," Burd writes, "the nation's public and private four-year colleges and universities are in danger of shutting down what has long been a pathway to the middle class for low-income and working-class students."

~ from "??" @??
.. and then other people are arguing the opposite, specifically that there might be too many scientists.
"Taken individually, of course, these programmes are all very cuddly and wonderful. They are keenly pursued by governments around the world — particularly in countries that fret about their economic competitiveness, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

But taken together, these schemes — which allocate perhaps $600 to each child passing through the US education system — constitute bad public policy. Government promotion of science careers ultimately damages science and engineering, by inflating supply and depressing demand for scientists and engineers in the employment market.

~ from "Driving students into science is a fool’s errand" @nature
lastly, there are even some billionaires who will tell you to skip college and become a plumber (which, actually, might make some economic sense).

it's a confusing message, isn't it? the main problem is that these aren't actually issues of education but issues of employment, and it happens that the two are irrevocably intertwined. (i blame this on the corporate managers that started the trend of favoring graduates from prestigious universities over others.)

essentially, a call to arms.
"Academic journals developed in the 1660s as an efficient way for the new academies to spread their findings. The first started when Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, published the society’s articles at his own expense. At the time, the market for scientific articles was small and publishing a major expense. Scientists gave away the articles for free because the publisher provided a great value in spreading the findings at very little profit. When the journals market became more formal, almost all publishers were nonprofits, often associated with research institutions. Up until the mid 20th century, profits were low and private publishers rare.
As physicist turned science writer Michael Nielsen notes, this system facilitated “a scientific culture which to this day rewards the sharing of discoveries with jobs and prestige for the discoverer… It has changed surprisingly little in the last 300 years.”

~ from "Why is Science Behind a Paywall?" @priceonomics
"At the risk of stating the obvious, we in the academic community create the ideas in our papers. We write the papers. We typeset the papers. We review the papers. We proofread the papers.1 We accept or reject the papers. We electronically archive and distribute the papers. If commercial publishers once played an essential role in this process, today their role is mostly to own the copyrights and to collect money from the universities."

~ from "Review of The Access Principle by John Willinsky " @scottaaronson

lastly, a dose of physics and interactive data!

first, here's an excerpt from an interview with freeman dyson, a well-known physicist [1]
"I was extremely lucky because I came through the British education system during the war when everything was screwed up. The whole system depended on written examinations and we did not have enough ships to import paper. So there was no paper and no exams. Also there was a high shortage of teachers since all the young people were away fighting the war. As a result, I was in class only seven hours a week. A wonderful time to get an education. We had maximum freedom, and the kids learned more from one another than we would have learned from teachers. "

~ from "Interviews: Freeman Dyson Answers Your Questions" @slashdot
next, susskind is willing to teach you physics:
"Fat advanced textbooks are not suitable to people who have no teacher to ask questions of, and the popular literature does not go deeply enough to satisfy these curious people. So I started a series of courses on modern physics at Stanford University where I am a professor of physics. The courses are specifically aimed at people who know, or once knew, a bit of algebra and calculus, but are more or less beginners."

~ from "the theoretical minimum"
lastly, this is a visual/geographical representation of abstract social networking (that is, through phone calls and sms messages):

[1] embarrassingly enough, every time i hear the name dyson, i think of miles dyson, the inventor of skynet. (i always imagine it pronounced in an austrian accent, too.) (-:

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