It will not come as a surprise, but American children are
still lagging the world in academic performance. When it comes to competing
with their peers in foreign countries, they are not even close to the top. In
most areas of academic achievement American children were average. In science we're number 25 in the world!
A recent test, called the 2015 Program for International
Student Assessment was administered by Organization for Economic Cooperation
the globe, American students were outperformed by their counterparts in 36
countries in math; 18 countries in science and 14 countries in reading.
The tests were given to children in Massachusetts, North
Carolina and Puerto Rico. The results varied from state to state to territory:
North Carolina, and Puerto Rico participated as international benchmarking
systems and received separate scores from the United States. Massachusetts's
average scores were higher than the U.S. and the international average scores
in science, math and reading. North Carolina's average scores were not
statistically different from the U.S. average scores for all three subjects.
And Puerto Rico's average scores were lower than both the average U.S. scores
and the international average scores for all three subjects.
How do America’s best, from Massachusetts, compare to the
best in the world. Singapore students’ science score led the world at: 556.
Massachusetts students had 529, which would have tied them for sixth place.
Singapore students math score was first at 540. Massachusetts students came in
Even America’s best, on a state level, do not do well in
science and math. But, we really want to know what conclusions we should draw
Naturally, the head of the American Federation of Teachers,
Randi Weingarten, believes that the problem can be solved by giving more money
to teachers. One would like to know the difference between children who go to
charter schools and children who attend schools where the teachers are
unionized. One suspects that in many cases, in New York City at least, children
in charter schools do better.
Strangely enough, none of those who have offered
commentaries on the problem are suggesting that Common Core has helped things.
As many have noted the Common Core curriculum, the brainchild of billionaires
who have nothing better to do with their money, has not improved academic
Common Core was concocted by so-called experts in the field
of education. Evidently, the most recent election showed that a lot of
Americans are seriously tired of having their lives run by so-called experts.
Here is one suggestion, from the OECD, via Newsmax:
fact that students in most East Asian countries consistently believe that
achievement is mainly a product of hard work, rather than inherited
intelligence, suggests that education and its social context can make a
difference in instilling values that foster success in education," said
Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's director of education.
Ah, yes. Values? Hard work, discipline, focus and
concentration. Doesn’t it sound a bit like the regimen favored by the Tiger
Mom, and wildly rejected by American parents, educators and developmental
psychologists? Or else, we can call it the Protestant Work Ethic. Which is not
quite the same thing as an ethic that values fun and play. Or an ethic that
seeks to stimulate creativity. Or an ethic that gives everyone a trophy.
Evidently, the American fun ethic does not do as well as the
old Protestant Work Ethic. And, dare we say, an ethic that values competition
and that rewards success would be most likely to produce high student
As for social context, one is obliged to note that stable
families and stable home lives must count for something. A child who lives in
chaotic family conditions will suffer from the instability and will be more
likely to underachieve.
We also note that inherited intelligence cannot lead to
excellence without hard work. This is a version of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000
rule. Many people have dismissed this rule, but if its purpose, as I see it, is to promote the value of hard work, focus, perseverance and concentration it
is surely a step in the right direction.
Wendi Kopp, founder of Teach for America and president of
Teach for All offers another suggestion. She is too polite to suggest that
Common Core, education by experts, has failed to improve students’
competitiveness, but she does recommend that we should learn from what other
nations are doing well. Rather than turn to experts we can look at the way children
are being educated in Singapore and Estonia and Japan.
though PISA shines a light on policies and practices driving high performance
and meaningful progress, only sporadic, ad hoc and generally bilateral
opportunities exist to carry knowledge of what’s proving successful in one
country to other parts of the world. Most countries write off the opportunity
to learn from the highest-performing countries, since they are far away and
seem very different.
urgent need exists for structured channels and funding for sharing knowledge
and innovation across borders—in other words, for a dynamic network of global
organizations that makes it easier for countries to learn from each other.
To be fair, these teaching methods are anything but state secrets.
Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Like a good bureaucrat,
Kopp seems to believe that we just need more funding for a bigger bureaucracy.
Then all will be well.
The reasons for American mediocrity lie elsewhere. We know
what other countries are doing. We know what they are doing in Singapore and
South Korea. But we do not want to adopt their methods. Our developmental
psychologists and other assorted experts have told us not to do so. They have told us that these methods will turn children into neurotic automatons. We have
We do not believe in competition. We do not believe in hard
work. We do not teach perseverance. We want our children to be well-rounded. We
want them to be popular. If they are teenagers we want them to have fulfilling
sex lives and to be well informed about STDs and rape culture.
We do not believe in stable homes where people live in
harmony. We believe in individual self-actualization where parents believe that
their first priority is to themselves. In many cases they believe that this
must take precedence over their duties and obligations to their children.
It’s the values, or absence of same. If we want to make
America great we would do well to reconsider the way we are bringing up and
educating our children. And we might start out by revising our value system, by
rejecting the values that have been imparted by the therapy culture. [Addendum: See also Alice Lloyd, on the PISA tests and Common Core.]
My, oh my—American women are suffering a major mental health
crisis. At least, a significant number of female Washingtonians are taking
Hillary’s election loss badly. Very badly, indeed.
The great feminist heroine, the woman whose election would
vindicate the political and ideological commitments of so many women, had been
defeated by a misogynist boor. If they could not beat Donald Trump, what were
they fighting for? They had gone all-in on Hillary, even though her successes,
such as they were, derived more from her husband than from anything she had
Strangely, not one of the women who is flocking to the hair
salon to make herself look less than her best has considered the possibility
that Hillary lost the election by being less than a competent candidate and by
being less than a successful public official.
We will not say anything about Hillary’s looks, or about her
constantly changing hair styles, but she was not the most feminine woman around.
For many women she stood as the woman who had overcome the feminine mystique.
Was that the reason why so many women did not like
Hillary? One would like to see an explanation for that.
Perhaps these women were living in a bubble where everyone
has been cowed and bullied into believing one thing. They are convinced that
they are right; they are persuaded that they are leading the world toward a
brave new world; they know in their viscera that everyone in the country is on
the same page.
And then they are like the leader whose troops have deserted
him, and who finds himself out exposed, and on his own. It's not a good feeling.
Are they more horrified at what happened or more horrified
at having so completely misread the mood of the American people?
One hates to sound sexist here, but for many women it’s all about
New York Magazine reports that hair salons in the D. C. area
are seeing more and more women asking to have their hair cut off. These women
are disowning their tresses, and lowering their pheromones because they have
no other way to protest and to rebel against the horror that has just befallen
them. (For the record, most of a woman’s sexual attraction hormones, her
pheromones are in her hair. Take that as you wish.)
Allow me to mention the obvious point: women in Washington
are more likely to be working for the government or for a not-for-profit. They
are less likely to be working in commerce, industry or manufacturing. One might
say that the Obama years were golden years for them. And that, sexism
notwithstanding, the Trump years might see government workers lose respect and
The women who are cutting their hair off are doing it for
Hillary. Already, we have reason to question their judgment. And they are doing
it to strike back against Trump. Yet, I don’t quite understand why harming your
appearance is a blow against the patriarchy,. Then again, I did not take
any classes in Women’s Studies.
Heidi Mitchell has the story:
sense of malaise is spreading across D.C. As women stare up at that glass
ceiling still hanging over them and contend with a pussy-grabbing kleptocrat
moving into the nearby White House, they are collectively — however
subconsciously — making their own statements of rebellion by challenging
traditional notions of beauty.
Is it all be about shedding the trappings of femininity? Because
that will teach those misogynist pigs a lesson. Then again, it might tell them
to avoid your company:
you see that much blonde hair on the floor, you know something is going on,”
says Nicole Butler, creative director and master colorist at Daniel’s Salon in
Dupont Circle. During the notoriously slow month of November, her salon
received a startling number of bookings, with at least three women a day
sitting in her chair and asking for a drastic change, like cutting off six
inches, going black, or going platinum.
Were these women declaring their independence? If so,
independence from what: from curlers and blow dryers?
stuff like this is planned for weeks and put on the books after several
consultations, but this was very spontaneous,” Butler says. “It was like a mass
declaration of independence.”
Naturally, Mitchell has found an expert to explain it all.
Marion Jacobs thinks it has something to do with control. In case you did not
know, today’s therapists think that everything is a control issue. It’s their
mental fetish du jour. I am sure you
feel enlightened already.
Jacobs, a former professor of psychology at UCLA and the author of Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role
in Life … One Scene at a Time, believes the phenomenon is a way for
women in D.C. to feel powerful in a moment where a stranger has seized the
steering wheel. “When people experience a change that is so opposite from their
value system, that’s very unnerving,” says Dr. Jacobs, who has a private
practice in Laguna Beach, California. “People will use all kinds of coping
mechanisms, and cutting their hair and changing their look is one way to show
or feel that they are doing something over which they have control.”
Surely, these women are sympathizing with Hillary Clinton,
the candidate whose slogan was: Stronger Together. Was it all a bluff? Did
certain segments of the American populace, including no small number of women,
call the feminist bluff? Then again, are these newly shorn women trying to tell
us that being strong does not coincide with being feminine?
But, wasn’t that the most obvious point about the Hillary
In Mitchell’s words:
my clients said, ‘Think of Melania Trump and go in the opposite direction,’”
she says. “She said, ‘I don’t want to be that person people see as sexual, I
want to be seen as strong.’” Another professional woman cut her hair into a
flattop. One client got rid of the blonde highlights she maintained forever,
“because she said she never wants to be seen as cheap. I don’t know where that
idea came from, but maybe that’s what she’s hearing.”
Some women thought that by cutting off their hair they were
showing that they no longer wanted to fit in to society. As mentioned above,
biology has it that long hair contains more pheromones, so it’s not all about conforming to societal norms:
Washington University teaching instructor Dr. Kristian Henderson had been
battling with her hair for years, but after the election, she finally took off
her weave and cut it all off. “The election results felt like an attack on
minorities, women, and marginalized people in general. Having long hair was my
attempt to fit into society, so after the election, I felt a need to exert my
‘uniqueness’ and not tie my femininity to the length of my hair,” she says.
To keep it fair and balanced, Mitchell notes that some women
are keeping the look they had before the election. For Julianna Evans it was
Goth. By her analysis, losing the election provoked the feeling a
woman gets when her boyfriend dumps her and then moves in next door.
So, these women felt rejected, as though by a boyfriend. And
they wanted to punish these men by clipping off their own tresses? Huh?
Evans is continuing to fight the good fight to defeat
misogyny. Besides, she loves her narrative and even if the world rejects it,
she refuses to give it up. In it she’s a commanding general… so it doesn’t
matter that she has no troops behind her:
Evans likes the narrative she’s commanding, and says she’s keeping her goth
look, though her stylist has added some more natural lowlights. “You have to
live here to understand that we are immersed in politics every day,” the mother
of two explains. “For many of us, with this election, it’s like your boyfriend
dumped you in a really shocking way with no explanation and then moved in next
door.” She is resigned to fighting against what she sees as a mandate for
sexism through her own style choices. “Now, I feel like my hair says you can’t
bring me down. This misogyny will not persevere. The bumper sticker for me is,
‘I am woman, hear me roar.’”
This is more than passing strange. It becomes even stranger
when you try to put it all into something of a historical context. We know that
some nuns do have their hair cut short. Presumably, their vocation and their
membership in the sisterhood are not consonant with seeking to attract male
And then there is this. In France during and after the Nazi
occupation women who were accused of collaborating with Nazis, of having sex
with their captors, were humiliated by having their hair cut off, that is, by having their heads shaved.
women who befriended the Nazis, through coerced, forced, or voluntary
relationships, were singled out for shameful retribution following the
liberation of France. The woman photographed here, believed to have been a
prostitute who serviced German occupiers, is having her head shaved by French
civilians to publicly mark her. This picture was taken in Montelimar, France,
August 29, 1944.
end of World War II, many French people accused of collaboration with Germany
endured a particularly humiliating act of revenge: their heads were shaved in
public. Nearly all those punished were women. Most historians have stressed the
sexual anxiety created by the Nazi Occupation and how women’s sexual activity
was judged as part of a public “cleansing” after liberation. Similar to the
vigilante gangs that punished men who collaborated with the occupiers, groups
would band together to judge women by parading them in the public square. This
episode in French history continues to provoke shame and unease and as a result
has never been subject of a thorough examination.
What went wrong? As Western nations are rejecting what seem
to be liberal democratic institutions in favor of populism, more than a few
people are asking what went wrong?
Of course, the analysis assumes that the peasants with
pitchforks are rebelling against democracies. It might well be, as Bret Stephens suggests this morning, that they are rebelling against the elites who
have been running the international banking systems. That is, against those who
supposedly saved us from disaster after 2008.
According to Stephens, the system did not work. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis
institutions of “economic global governance” took over from the markets. They
narcotized the problem… disguising, but not solving it. It’s like maxing out
your credit card and then taking out a few more credit cards to pay off the
first one. Ad infinitum.
Would the market have done better? We do not know. Many
serious thinkers—James Grant comes to mind—suggested that we would have done
better to let the market deal with the problem. It would have produced some
considerable short term pain, but it would have set the world banking system on
Populism, by Stephens’ reading, is a reaction to rule by
certain elites, by a guardian class that believes it knows better than the
markets. The economic recovery engineered by the guardians looks good on paper
but does not feel so good for those who have been left behind. One understands
that the profligate Obama administration could not have borrowed all the money
it did if the Federal Reserve and other banking institutions did not conspire
to keep interest rates artificially low.
In Stephens’ words:
happened? In 2014, Daniel Drezner, a professor at Tufts, published a
book extolling the International Monetary Fund and other institutions of
“economic global governance” for putting out the fires of the 2008 financial
crisis. The global economy had been teetering on the brink of another Great
Depression, but it didn’t fall in. Ergo, success.
book was called “The System Worked.” Except it didn’t. The system did
more to mask problems than it did to solve them.
statistics can show a drop in the unemployment rate, but they give scant
indication of whether the jobs available now have the status or pay of the jobs
available previously. Giving unlimited credit to a panicked patient will always
have a narcotic effect; it can also have an addictive one. Near-zero (or
sub-zero) interest rates will goose stock markets to the delight of
sophisticated investors—and the dismay of savers. Bank bailouts may make
“systemic” sense. But they divorce behavior from consequence. Pushing economic
management from elected officials into the hands of unelected central bankers
and regulators flatters the vanity of the intelligentsia while offending the
normal person’s sense that his vote should count toward his own livelihood.
What does Stephens mean when he suggests that the bankers
helped divorce behavior from consequence? I understand him to be saying that
when you borrow too much you ought to suffer the consequences. Profligacy
should not be rewarded. Yet, the guardian class printed so much money that people got the sense that they could spend what they
wanted and that the day of reckoning could be put off forever. In their hearts they know that something was wrong. But they do not know what and do not know how to fix it.
You would expect that a Harvard Law School professor would
be the voice of reason and sanity. But, we live in difficult times, and, in a
recent Washington Post op-ed Prof. Lawrence Lessig showed himself to be so
totally overwrought about the election outcome that he recommended that
electors defy their oath in the electoral college and vote how they pleased.
He counts among those who want to change the rules after the
game is over. It’s a genuinely bad idea.
In brief, Lessig suggested that designated electors vote
their conscience and not their commitments. By his idealized version of
democracy—and it is not just his—the will of the majority of the people should
prevail over the American constitution.
He is not alone in offering this viewpoint. And yet, if he
takes it as seriously as he says, then he should be demanding that we scrap
that other decidedly undemocratic institution: the United States Senate.
In any event, Lessig has just been schooled by The Economist,
in its Democracy in America column. It is rare that a magazine takes on and
brings down a Harvard professor, but the magazine did just that. As happens
with most articles in that magazine, it is not signed.
The magazine accuses Lessig of “motivated reasoning.” By
that theory people are often inclined to select out data that confirms their
beliefs, ignoring facts that would tend to disprove them. Amusingly, for me at
least, the notion of motivated reason, coupled with confirmation bias gives the
lie to Freud’s claims that his patients provided material that proved the
correctness of his interpretations. Suffering from motivated reason his patients
were, in fact, conjuring up material that would prove him to be right. At
times, of course, they did not believe it themselves.
Anyway, the Economist summarizes Lessig’s argument.
he says, there is no rule in the constitution compelling electors to vote for
the candidate who received the most votes in their respective states. In fact,
nothing in the document suggests “that electors’ freedom should be constrained
in any way”. True enough.
Lessig summons Alexander Hamilton’s argument in Federalist #68 that electors should vote based on “a
judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to
govern their choice”. Electors are, to Mr Lessig’s mind, a “safety valve” in
case Americans screw things up a bit too royally: “Like a judge reviewing a
jury verdict where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to
confirm—or not—the people’s choice”.
The Economist says that Lessig has indulged a bit of
sophistry, via a specious analogy:
do not appear out of nowhere to put the brakes on jurors’ democratic sentiment:
they are carefully chosen, or they are supposed to be, for their intellect,
expertise and fair-mindedness. Electors are tapped on the basis of their
loyalty to a political party—not because they are wiser or more reflective than
Lessig has misunderstood the electoral college. It is not a
deliberative body populated by solons. It is populated by “faceless hacks.”
The Economist continues:
college isn’t a deliberative body at all: there is no discussion, just a
secret-ballot vote. And each state’s electors vote in separate locations, never
seeing each other or exchanging a word before doing their one-off
the 538 electors were somehow men and women of profound virtue and valour,
blessed with a deep understanding of what America needs in a president, it
would still be antithetical to democratic principles to untether their vote
from the results of the actual vote on election day. But at least that looks like an enlightened
aristocracy. How much more dangerous would it be to entrust the choice of the
person to run the country to a few handfuls of ordinary people who have no
Lessig believes that electors know better than the voters of
their states. The Economist calls him out on yet another piece of sophistry:
what theory would a smattering of several hundred unvetted party loyalists have
a better radar for brainwashed or criminal candidates than upwards of a hundred
anything, entrusting the choice of the president to a group that’s 0.0005% the
size of the voting population would make it more likely, not less, that a nightmare
candidate would win the keys to the White House. Mr Lessig would like the
electoral college to be “reflective” and “conservative”, and assert itself only
for “a very good reason”, but it's hard to square this charming image of an
obedient collection of right-thinking adults with Mr Lessig's point that no
constitutional constraint binds them. Without an overlord telling them when to
rebel and when to go with the flow—or, perhaps, an Ivy League professor
whispering in their ears—the electors seem singularly incapable of saving the
nation from a loon, a fascist or an inveterate Twitter abuser.
Of course, Lessig trots out the argument that electors
should vote for Hillary Clinton because she won the most popular votes. And
yet, electors are not bound by the national vote tally. They are obliged only
to vote for the candidate who won the majority of votes in their respective
Then, Lessig adds the patent absurdity that Hillary was “the
most qualified candidate for president in more than a generation.” In fact, she
lost the election because the American public saw her to be an incompetent
Besides, the Economist continues, the democracy cannot
function unless people play by the rules. The system, Justice Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr. once opined, is about playing by the rules, not necessarily
Those who refuse to accept the outcomes are acting like
pre-schoolers. The Economist explains:
by the rules should result in the spoils that rule-following doles out to all
involved parties. To tweak an admonition often directed to pre-schoolers, you
get what you get, and whether or not you get what you want, you don’t get to
upset the structure under which everyone was operating in the first place.
Mary attempts to thwart a Trump presidency—whether it’s throwing good money
after bad in expensive recounts that have no real chance of changing the
outcome or reimagining the nature of an old and weird institution with roots in
the protection of slave states—are understandable. But they are desperate, and
the latter is dangerous. Electors are better off doing what they were
haphazardly appointed to do under America’s unique and all-too-flawed electoral
set-up: represent the vote totals of their home states.
Desperate people say desperate things. When serious law
professors let themselves be carried away on a wave of emotion, what hope is
there for the rest of us?
Get ready for an orgy of double standards. The media and
many on the left have declared war on Donald Trump. It isn’t as though Trump
did not bait them. He did. It isn’t as though Trump did not behave indecorously
during the presidential campaign. He did.
Yet now, as president elect he has not been indulging in
some of the rhetorical excesses he used during the campaign. Besides, in a nod
to decorum he always wears a suit and tie. In a time of increasingly casual and
slovenly male dress, Trump has returned to the uniform. One understands why
some people would be horrified.
While the mainstream media was willing to excuse Barack
Obama for everything he did, it is in full attack mode with Trump. To be more
precise, the press declared everything Obama did to be genius. It seems to
believe that everything Trump does signals incompetence and an absence of
Have you noticed that no one questioned the absurdly
thin resume of Barack Obama? Some of us have questioned the Trump
qualifications, but how many people pointed out that Obama had no qualifications
to speak of? He had a few years as a backbench U. S. senator who accomplished
nothing. Trump has no experience in government but he has worked as an
executive and has dealt with foreign countries for decades.
Trump’s antics managed to make Obama look presidential, but
Obama’s resume makes Trump look qualified.
While some media voices confessed after the election that
they had missed the story and had left their readers in ignorance, they did not
take the lesson to heart. They are back to trashing Trump, and thus, in my
view, misleading and misinforming their readers. Moreover, they are
compromising he mental health and emotional stability of their readers by
feeding them scare stories and undermining their ability to think rationally
about what is going on.
So, Donald Trump just took a congratulatory telephone call from
the president of Taiwan. The powers-that-be in Beijing did not look too kindly
on the gesture, because they had reached an agreement with previous
administrations that Taiwan was a rogue province of China and not an
The press was aghast. They should not be so quick to judge. Trump may have been flying blind. He
may have been making a shrewd move in the game of three dimensional chess that
is called foreign relations. I do not know. The press does not know, either. We
will not know until we see how the relationship develops.
Media geniuses declared that they knew and that they
understood. They saw Trump as a bumbler on the world stage. They were terrified
to the depths of their being and managed to make their readers terrified
To place it all in context Katie Pavlich recalls, for our
edification, some of the telephone calls that Barack Obama made. For example, when
Obama caved in to the leading state sponsor of terrorism the media was agog
over his “brilliance.”
in 2013 President Obama made direct contact with Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani with, you guessed it, a phone call. The call was initiated by
President Obama, not Rouhani. Iran is listed as the world's largest state
sponsor of terror by the State Department and before 9/11, its terrorism
offshoot Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other
terrorist organization in the world.
in the Iranian government have repeatedly violated international sanctions,
classified the United States as Satan, called for the complete annihilation of
Israel and is responsible for countless murders of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Reaching out to your enemy bespeaks an attitude of
submission and surrender. Obama consistently adopted a respectful tone toward
the ayatollahs. With his nuclear deal he basically gave them everything they
wanted and got next to nothing in return. Upon signing the treaty he decided
that it was not a treaty and did not need senate approval. He contravened
the constitution and did as he pleased. The media declared it to be “historic.”
But, the Obama policy of kowtowing to America’s enemies did
not stop with Iran. He did the same with Cuba.
this year, Obama went to a baseball game in Cuba and did the wave with Dictator
Raul Castro, brother of murderous tyrant Fidel Castro. Members of the Colombian
terror group FARC were also in attendance.
If you were wondering why Trump supporters were angry, the
reason must lie in the fact that for eight years America has been led by a man
who ran around the world looking to surrender to people who hate America.
And the press cheered him on. Since the great Obama could do
no wrong, Trump can do no right. Now you know why no one trusts the mainstream
media any more.