November 4, 2013

Has anybody ever measured Classroom Discussion Quotient?

From the NYT:
Which comic strip character does
this U. of Chicago applicant resemble?
Robots or Aliens as Parents? Colleges Gauge Applicants’ Creativity

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA

As legions of high school seniors polish their college applications, plowing through predictable essay topics about their lives and goals, they might also run across something like this: “Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.” 
A small but growing number of select colleges have turned to off-kilter questions like that one, part of this year’s application to the University of Chicago, or like this one, from Brandeis University: “You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?” ... 
And even those are tame compared with some choices from the last few years, like “If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs or aliens, who would you pick?” (Brandeis), or “What does Play-Doh have to do with Plato?” (Chicago). 
For the colleges, such questions set them apart, though the applications invariably give a choice of subjects, including some that are closer to traditional. And at a time when some elite colleges worry that high school students are more likely to be high achievers than independent thinkers, oddball essay questions offer a way to determine which of the A-student, high-test-score, multi-extracurricular applicants can also show a spark of originality. 
A quirky essay subject can seem like a burden to students who, already stressed out by the application process, find that being diligent and brilliant is not enough — that colleges also want them to be whimsical and creative. Teenagers pepper social media with complaints about the questions, though they do not want to be interviewed, for fear of alienating their colleges of choice. 
But others embrace the chance to express themselves, seeing it as a welcome relief from the ordinary applications. 
“Usually, the essay prompts are boring,” said Sam Endicott [pictured], a high school senior from Edmond, Okla., who said he chose the University of Chicago’s topic on explaining a joke. “They don’t inspire a whole lot of creativity. I like the ones that allow more free rein to be a little different.”

One reason for colleges' quirky essay questions is to discriminate against Asians, who are viewed as often not contributing much to classroom discussion beyond "Will this be on the test?"

A college admission issue I've never seen investigated quantitatively is quantity and quality of class participation. How important is class participation and how do you predict it?

I suspect it matters to the morale of professors. But it's hard to quantify on USNWR ratings, so it can't be treated as really important.

The main tools for predicting class participation are likely recommendations and interviews.

I suspect recommendations work best for students who attend plugged in high schools. If you are at Groton, and the counselor writes that you are one of the three best students for class participation in the last decade at Groton, that turns heads at colleges. If you go to some average school, though, how much do effusive recommendations help?

Interviews are similar -- they don't quantify on USNWR rankings, the sample sizes are tiny, and how much can you believe some interviewer's recommendation?

Also, one-on-one conversational ability is somewhat different from group discussion ability. I was always okay at the former, but was, not surprisingly, extremely good at group discussions.

What quantitative measures correlate with strong classroom participation? Off the top of my head, I'd guess: strong verbal logic and a large supply of information.

In 1981, an old teacher of mine who had always been overqualified (e.g., Harvard Ph.D.) for my high school and thus had moved on to L.A.'s top academic high school, now-called Harvard-Westlake, told me that Harvard-Westlake required Asian applicants to have much higher test scores and grades than other applicants because they were so passive in the classroom. He was all in favor of discriminating against Asians.

Perhaps that isn't fair, but has anybody measured this question?

It's important to note that anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard-Westlake wasn't some rudiment of the fading past, it was based on observations of a new flood of affluent Asian students in the 1970s. Harvard-Westlake (my high school's arch-enemy in debate) was just years ahead of the rest of the country.

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's built into the culture. The Chinese word for "question" and "problem" is the same (both the character and tone). I had a Chinese g/f once who was naturally very curious and asked a lot of questions, which her teachers regarded as bad. The Chinese teachers I've had are not comfortable with students asking questions on the spot, because, I think, they are afraid they might not know the answers and lose face.

Anonymous said...

Back of the line, slanty eyes!

Anonymous said...

I doubt undergraduate or high school or any classroom discussion ever taught me anything. Well, they taught me professors are stupid, people in general are not even worth the effort explaining them things.

I googled something the other day, and most relevant hits came from Seneca's Moral Epistles. I'd never read any of it, and of my 20+ years (including some repeating) in education met anyone who actually had read it, let alone would suggest me to read it. Wisdom is unfortunately rare, but its agelessness make up for it somewhat.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone read "Quiet" by Susan Cain? It's pretty weak, and I'm not just saying that as an out and out extravert. (If I'm going to read 300+ pages of masturbation, I'd rather be on the side of people being masturbated.) So much of it could be explained by other factors, and the dog whistling was truly something to behold.

The chapter on education was all about all those introverted students (who just "happened" to be Asian) complaining about all those extraverts (all white, needless to say) who, like, batted ideas around without considering if it would make them look stooooooopid. How dare they?

That got up my nose. No, I don't want class discussions to be graded, but the most useful part for me was getting battered (not always nicely) by smart people. It thickened my skin, it improved my reasoning and it widened my reading because, while it's not the worst thing in the world to realise that a pet thesis needs more support or is outright wrong (*before* you put it in an exam), you still want to prepare to the best of your ability to minimise the possibility of it happening.

Is it really so awful to be able to do that? Is it just ethnic pride on my part (Asian grinds make me want to claw my eyes out)? And it might be partially culturally biased towards talking, but so is life. If Asians think that white people need to just grind it out, then maybe they should adapt as well. If they can.

Anonymous said...

Now that's what I call positive discrimination!

Anonymous said...

Which comic strip character does
this U. of Chicago applicant resemble?

No idea.

guest007 said...

I have always believed that universities have data that Asian alumni do not donate to their old alma mater nor do they hire graduates who are not of the same ethnic group.

Of course, the time gap between introducing these new essay topics and the college admission consultants figuring out how to answer them will be short and then the universities will have to look for the next new admission criteria.

agnostic said...

Educational "work," whether in-class or at home, has become unmoored from substance -- grade inflation -- hence it's all a matter of style and presentation.

So the question becomes: What makes a 20 year-old more concerned about and eager to improve their public image regarding style?

Millennials are pretty Asian already, and aren't inclined to speak up in class.

But when they do, it's mostly a reflection of self-esteem, presumptuousness, narcissism, and fault-finding.

The girls are all, "I feel like, I feel like, I feel like..." Exhibitionistic.

And the guys make these bold claims in confident voices that either mean nothing, are irrelevant, or are contradicted by easily available facts. Preening.

Anonymous said...

Even this trick will not work, unless you believe the stereotype of the robotic Asian only being capable of memorising facts, they will simply learn how to prepare for these quirky questions.

Asians must be the Jewish academic monopolist worst nightmare, they are smart, come in near endless numbers and cannot be kow-towed into guilt since there is no Jewish history of victimhood east of Iran.

Judy K. Warner said...

"What quantitative measures correlate with strong classroom participation? Off the top of my head, I'd guess: strong verbal logic and a large supply of information." I'd guess that weak classroom participation correlates also with shyness, aversion to group activities, and other personality measures that are not undesirable in a scholar.

Matt said...

http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/06/sci-brief.aspx

"Speech is especially important in the Western cultural context as a primary means to express and clarify one’s thoughts, as seen in examples such as the use of Socratic methods in teaching. In contrast, speech is not as valued in the Eastern cultural context. Rather, it is viewed as a distraction to thinking.

...

In the first set of studies (Kim, 2002), Asian American and European American participants were instructed to solve a number of problems from the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (Raven, 1941). They were randomly assigned either to a silence condition or to a verbalization condition in which they were to verbalize their thought processes during the problem solving task. The results of these studies show that verbalization of thought processes impairs cognitive performance among Asian Americans but not among European Americans. In other words, the actual effect of verbalization of thoughts is concordant with commonly shared cultural beliefs.

Another set of follow-up studies (Kim, 2008) showed that these cultural differences in the degree of cognitive load imposed by verbalizing one’s thoughts during a cognitive task could lead to divergent experiences of biological stress. In particular, I conducted one study in which participants provided saliva samples for cortisol analysis along with the problem solving and silence/verbalization task described above. In this study, the task of talking led to significantly higher cortisol levels, a measure of biological stress response to the task, for Asian American participants than for European American participants."

...

Consistent with this approach, a study (Kim, 2002, Study 3) found that the difference in the effect of verbalization on cognitive performance seems to be due to a cultural difference in the degree to which Asian Americans and European Americans rely on language in their thinking. An experimental manipulation to suppress internal articulation (i.e., saying the alphabet aloud repeatedly) interfered with the performance of European Americans, but not of Asian Americans. These results support the idea that European Americans engage in more verbal thinking, compared to Asian Americans. Verbalization of thoughts appears to be a more complicated task for Asian Americans who have to convert their non-verbal thoughts to words than for European Americans who merely need to vocalize the internal articulation.


I suspect this is because the European American group was split between verbal thinkers and the two sorts of image thinkers (spatial thinkers who are good at STEM and object thinkers, who are good at the visual arts), while the Asian American group was mainly composed of the two sorts of image thinkers, with few verbal thinkers.

Verbal thinkers would be helped by discussion while image thinkers could be harmed, giving a net of no effect in the Euro group, while the scarcity of verbal thinkers in the Asian group would lead to verbalization becoming harmful.

Verbally enhanced thinkers (and possibly spatially enhanced, judging by their STEM abilities) like the Ashkenazis might show an overall boost from discussion and verbalization, on average.

This probably contributes to Asian American success in silent exams and isolated study - for European Americans probably roughly half achieve more when talking with other people, and half achieve more in isolation, so exams are a net wash on performance compared to discussion, looking at the group average... but for Asians this isn't the case (and possibly Ashkenazis might slightly underperform their ability in exams).

Anonymous said...

I dunno...Funky Winkerbean's friend Les?

Anonymous said...

It might be anathema to save this on isteve, but something might be going on with the culture here. The Asian students who are of Chinese descent come from a culture where "problem" and "question" are the same word. Food for thought.

LA Law said...

Same problem at two of my old IP law firms--Manhattan and Midwest. There were really bright Chinese/Korean girl PhD/JD biology types who were hell on legal research and brief-writing, but who couldn't do the people stuff: depositions and client hand-holding.

Perhaps they would have done well in a Chinese-style law firm in Peking or Shanghai, (or a Pacific-rim firm in San Francisco or Menlo Park) but dealing with the top white guys at US biotech firms was beyond them.

The cultural styles were too different. Hail Fellow Well Met versus Confucius.

It works both ways, of course. I doubt a Japanese auto manufacturer being sued for a couple billion dollars would be as comfortable as me as with a Japanese attorney.

If Harvard is going to be a World University, however, they need to drop their provincialism. A Confucian obsession with exams and scores (and submissive, receptive students) is the dominant Chinese cultural style.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody ever measured Classroom Discussion Quotient?

Has anybody ever measured whether Classroom Discussion Quotient correlates with any sort of success in later life?

Are the true geniuses more likely to shoot off their mouths at the professors?

Or are they more likely to sit in the back of the classroom and doodle and daydream and start out the window and fanatasize about hooking about with the hot coed in the short skirt a few seats away?

Or is there no correlatable likelihood one way or the other?

Anonymous said...

Model Minorities in the News:

Prosecutors say Malaysian businessman used prostitutes, Lady Gaga tickets to bribe Navy commander
November 04, 2013
foxnews.com

Nicknamed "Fat Leonard," the gregarious Malaysian businessman is well known by U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, where his company has serviced warships for 25 years.

But prosecutors in court papers say Leonard Francis worked his connections to obtain military secrets by lining up hookers, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander, in a scandal reverberating across the Navy.

The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.

Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Francis' Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, according to the court documents.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, according to the criminal complaint. The firm overcharged the Navy millions for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, the prosecution alleges.


***************

Google pictures for the strapping young Mr "Misiewicz".

irishman said...

Getting into college in America sounds like a real pain in the neck. We have a system based on tests that East Asians would love. I liked studying as much as the next teenage boy but god am I glad I didn't have to feign interest in all the extra-curricular crap you Americans have to do.

This is the worst part of multi-racial societies. Everything is so passive aggressive and stressful.

newyorker said...

This is so sad for asians who have it drummed into their heads from day 1 that effort is paramount. But schools quite rightly look for the effortlessly smart, even when they're not impasssioned enuf to generate hours and hours of makework homework. These are probably more likely to bring up topics in class that engage them and might be valuable to the rest of the class. They're more valuable for informal off campus and dorm interactions.

In nyc there has been an experiment for many years on the high school level that would please your reader education realist. Admission is based on one long test that is not totally gamable. 2 of my sons attended bronx science hs with a bunch of bright engaged kids. Both of them found their learning experiences better there than they did in college. They attribute it to the quality of theif classmates, with lively classroom discussion there and in after school clubs.

This was at a time when the asian contingent was less than 40% and there were some blacks ( mostly west incian), and not all the whites were jewish. A good mix that exposed all to different pov's. That was then when my younger boy graduated 10 years ago.

Since then, the 2 better schools using this admissions policy have asian representations of over 75%. I can't help but think that this has put a damper on the quality of classroom discussion and the intellectual curiosity that my sons told me about their experiences there. I doubt those asians are getti g the same education that could be gotten there less than ageneration ago. My 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

On behalf of my fellow introverts everywhere, Asian and non-Asian, I'd like to ask you, will you lay off us with your "class participation" bullshite? No seriously, why don't you stuff it where sun doesn't shine.

rightsaidfred said...

Universities have received word from the world at large that more creativity is needed. Since admissions can't use biology, they must craft some metric to capture creativity in some politically acceptable way. This, of course, requires great creativity. So some of our most creative people need to be assigned to this task.

All Right Forum said...

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/01/hero-camus-geoff-dyer

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/07/camus-and-algeria-moral-question/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ideas-innovations/Why-is-Albert-Camus-Still-a-Stranger-in-His-Native-Algeria-224927592.html?c=y&story=fullstory

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114030/camus-algerian-chronicles-new-english-translation

Why all this Camus fever among Liberals?

Is it because Camus's argument that French Algerians were also Algerians serves to justify the notion that European Jews in the Middle East belong there just as much as the Arab natives do?

It may also serve to rationalize the current Western intervention in North Africa and the Middle East.

TGP said...

Steve-- Introverts are terrible at class participation, but can be good students in all other ways. I have seen "gunner" extroverts de-rail a good lecture. So I am not convinced class participation is a meaningful measure.

Anonymous said...

As a foreign graduate student with attention deficit of listening comprehension of any language, I was basically the dumbest person in the whole class. I just did not understand what people were talking about let alone participation. The most vocal ones were African Americans class mates in graduate school. I had to study hard after class to make up for whatever I was missing.
When the final exam came, I was able to answer all questions on tests with increasing difficulty level from question 1 to 10. Those questions are not simple memorization. They are all problem solving questions with increasing complexity. I got perfect score with high apraisal from my Harvard educated proffessors for ability to takle most difficult question.
But all my African American classmates had to quit graduate school since they could not answer those test question despite of their active class room participation and good grasp of knowlage. Some how they have difficulty to use the very same knowlage to solve the problems.
Arthur Jensen had studied this phenomenon by classifying Level 1 (learning) and level 2 (problem solving) intelligence.

Veracitor said...

Asian passivity is nature as well as nurture. Asian infants are more passive from childbirth through toddlerhood compared to whites, blacks, etc. It's Ruston's cline all over again.

melendwyr said...

Everyone is going to spend their next year in the future. What a stupid question.

Mr. Sailer, your ironic lampshading of how class participation is ignored is worthy. But it's also worth noting that practioner opinion in other fields as to what works and what doesn't is pretty worthless. Medicine is still teaching us that: we know that doctors' judgments as to the usefulness and risks of treatments is junk, and we've slowly implemented controls against that.

I don't see any reason to presume that teachers know what works any more than doctors do.

Anonymous said...

Eh, depends on the "Asian". South Asians are quite loquacious, and if they grew up here, are easily capable of driving classroom discussions, sometimes to an annoying extent.

Hail said...

"Will this be on the test" is less and less relevant, isn't it, in the age of easy information via the Internet and smartphones and so on. That is not, cannot, be the purpose of education in the future.

Luke Lea said...

Interesting. BTW, I had a high classroom discussion quotient but a low conversational one. It is just the reverse now.

OT, but for the few who might be interested here is the blurb to my new book, A Part-time Job in the Country.

Anonymous said...

They ask these kinds of questions in some job interviews, like for investment banking or consulting or for certain tech firms like Google. There's no firm answer to the questions, and the point is to try to see how you answer the questions and talk about them.

PF said...

Oxford and Cambridge admissions interviews are geared almost solely towards this. When tuition is one on one or one on two, academics have an obvious stake in the conversational abilities of the kids they're going to be spending dozens of hours alone with over three years.

Purely personal experience, but this does seem to have 'disparate impact' upon Asians - but also people of all races who are smart but without conversational sparkle.

Anonymous said...

Males would surely have an advantage on some of the kinds of questions listed here if evidence of verbal humor is what they're after.

Sounds to me as if they're looking for essay topics that don't bore the scorers to death.

Otis McWrong said...

My MBA program placed a heavy emphasis on class participation - it was half of your grade in any given class.

One (of many) downside to this is that most students made an effort to say something in class even if they had nothing cogent to say. Many of the comments were little more than a recitation of facts. These were known as "chip shots". Most people would make an effort to make their chip shots somewhat interesting. The theory was that professors would go back to their office and write down who participated but wouldn't remember the quality of it. Truly "check the box".

The Asian students added very little value in these discussions. My "why" is pure speculation but I think that the idea of disagreeing with other students or even the professor is very alien to them.

The worst were the Indian students with their sing-songy accents that sound like morse code. They ALL participated in every class (have to check that box after all) and made zero effort to make their comments interesting. Every class had 5-6 Indians raising their hand so they could say "on page 14 of the case, it says that this firm had $186mm in revenues in 1986".

Bill said...

One of my classmates at a top 5 engineering school found the three essays that school's application required to be excessive. So, for two of them, he included installments of a lovingly illustrated comic strip he had developed in high school, Jeff the Human Syringe.

Evidently, it provoked the admissions people to call him. Mainly, they wanted to know whether he was trying to demonstrate his creativity or trying to demonstrate his contempt for the admissions process. He was clueful enough to pick option 1.

Anonymous said...

“….now-called Harvard-Westlake, told me that Harvard-Westlake required Asian applicants to have much higher test scores and grades than other applicants because they were so passive in the classroom.”

The world is biased against shy people. If you are afraid of giving your opinion because you risk looking stupid if your comment is wrong, then you will not be happy with classroom discussion counting toward the final grade because you will constantly have to fight your fear. Or were those Asians passive for another reason?

Charlesz Martel said...

I have always noticed this and, when I was younger, commented on this with some of my classmates. In general, the consensus seemed to be that:
1. Only a very few students ever speak up in class- (similar to the tiny percentage of people who call in to talk-radio)
2. It is resented by many other students, who see it as either currying favor with the teacher or wasting class time,
3. Asians, essentially, never speak up. It almost takes an act of God to get them to do it. Their fear of looking foolish prevents them from participating. Jews are probably the most likely to speak up.

When I got my MBA overseas, there was a class that was probably 60% French. The American visiting professor had made a a comment that I responded to, whereby I said that I noticed the French students did not seem to agree with his observation (it was a management exercise, IIRC). The Professor asked the class if they felt my observation was valid, and the French students almost exploded with desire to be heard on the subject. The professor was bewildered, asked "What just happened?", and there was a very brief discussion for 2 minutes. The class was just ending, but it almost seemed like they were letting loose pent-up frustrations about the teaching process ( This was not an offensive or controversial issue, BTW- a problem about going over a superior's head.
I think a lot of this effect is cultural- the 68 revolution in France started with students demanding changes in the way courses were taught, after all.
Just my deux centimes worth.

pat said...

I think classroom participation is just another of those classroom factors that is important for teachers but much less so for the students.

I remember a database design class I taught. In the front row were two or three guys who answered every question and made lots of on-topic comments. There was also a quiet girl in the third row who taped every word I said while she herself said nothing.

The gregarious Alpha guys did OK on the tests but the quiet girl was outstanding. I gave very objective tests - meaning every question's answer could be unambiguously verified. There was no question the quiet girl was the cream of that particular crop.

But a whole classroom of brilliant but inward students would have been rather unpleasant for me. I don't really object to rewarding class participation but it should not be confused with education.

The best strategy for any of my students for maximum learning was always - shut up and listen. Too many of these good students however makes for a deadly classroom atmosphere.

Albertosaurus

newrebeluniv said...

More importantly, the schools are posing unique non-sensical questions because the internet has made it impossible for students to have an original thought that can't be traced to someone else's work. The first thing graders so is a word search in a writing database to see if the response is original or cut-and-paste. Every possible combination of meaningful question has already been asked and answered a thousand times over and it is no longer possible for any student to have an original answer. The colleges must ask non-sense goble-de-gook just to see if the student can write.

--Hale

Anonymous said...

"Forward" columnist: "Why American Jews Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Put Israel First."

"Yet it’s also time to stop pretending that the loyalties of some American Jews aren’t divided between Israel and America. Of course they are. There’s just nothing wrong with it ..."

"The truth is that any American Jew who doesn’t care as much about a Jewish state as he or she does about the United States can’t be very identified with the Jewish people. Suppose vital American and Israeli interests were to clash. What would it mean for a Jew to say: ”I don’t give a damn what’s best for Israel. All that matters to me is what’s best for America”? What kind of Jew would that be? How deep could his or her Jewishness be said to go?"

http://mondoweiss.net/2013/11/forward-columnist-american.html

Steve Sailer said...

"I dunno...Funky Winkerbean's friend Les?"

Yup.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to find pictures online from 1970s Funky Winkerbean comic strips. Since then, the artist has had his characters age and suffer countless miseries like cancer and PTSD from a tour in Iraq. The comic strip is now mostly about the depressing lives of the next generation of characters:

http://comicsalliance.com/funkywatch-julys-most-depressing-funky-winkerbean-and-crankshaft-strips-2013/

So, it's only a good reference if you read Funky Winkerbean in 1975 but not since.

All Right Forum said...

Jeffrey Goldberg on Twitter:

"Remarkable statistic: 90% of private sector employees in Saudi Arabia are non-Saudis."

Should US Citizens, like Saudi counterparts, get free living expenses from government while 'immigrants' do all the job?

Difference Maker said...

Those questions sound pretty gay, but I would have aced them

Was once a master of creative writing in my youth, even through sleep deprivation, even praised by the same English teachers that failed me, lol!

I am East Asian, though without facetiousness (or perhaps sobriety) I wager my ancestors came from rather different backgrounds than the archetype

It is too bad that the rise of cheating and test prep not only makes the process more rote, dreary and unsavory but also casts a pall, a stigma, on those of us who can write creatively, who can interview well

In the future, (actually now) a person of Asiatic ancestry with high test scores will be looked at as well, "he's cheating", nothing but prepped to the test, thus removing the saving grace of those of us who happen to not like school

I'm posting a bit too loosely here but I trust the point is worth making.

And actually as far as the interview goes, need plenty of sleep for that. Take it from someone who can speak extemporaneously. These schools that favor early hours for their mediocre ed-school teachers over their better students do harm to the future

Furthermore, the personalities have to gel, and I have no interest in impressing some effeminate mediocrity (assuming I am good enough for the school)

Difference Maker said...

An experimental manipulation to suppress internal articulation (i.e., saying the alphabet aloud repeatedly) interfered with the performance of European Americans, but not of Asian Americans. These results support the idea that European Americans engage in more verbal thinking, compared to Asian Americans. Verbalization of thoughts appears to be a more complicated task for Asian Americans who have to convert their non-verbal thoughts to words than for European Americans who merely need to vocalize the internal articulation.

Interesting

I always found the claim that Einstein thought in pictures remarkable, because it revealed the paucity of the mind that proclaimed it

I have always been able to think in pictures, with the caveat that I am descended from a Physics PhD, and this claim about Einstein must be from one of those airheaded newsmen, with the Jewish tendency of verbal but not visual proficiency

As far as speaking out loud goes, I only find extraneous speaking helpful when drunk. Or sleepy. But that is probably a confounding factor

Anonymous said...

In the Anglosphere countries I am familiar with, there is an expectation that the smartest kids in the class will contribute to class discussions, answer questions and the like. In Japan this is not the case. I am not sure why this is, or whether it's a good or a bad thing.

One thing is for sure though, I've always felt grateful whenever another student (or myself) has asked a question of a teacher where the entire class is lost because the teacher hasn't adequately explained a crucial step.

Anonymous said...

I googled something the other day, and most relevant hits came from Seneca's Moral Epistles. I'd never read any of it, and of my 20+ years (including some repeating) in education met anyone who actually had read it, let alone would suggest me to read it. Wisdom is unfortunately rare, but its agelessness make up for it somewhat.

I listened [in stunned amazement] last night to Giulini's 1996 performance of the Brahms 4th with the Staatskappelle of Berlin, and I got to reading the comments, and somebody mentioned Celibidache.

So I looked up Celibidache's videos at Youtube, and listened to some Bruckner IV.

And I gotta ask you: HOW DID I GET THIS FAR IN MY LIFE WITHOUT EVER EVEN HAVING HEARD THE NAME OF SERGIU CELIBIDACHE?!?

I figure that since Celibidache spent the war in Berlin [and received his PhD in 1944], he must have fallen into the category of "Untouchable" [or "Unmentionable"], at least from the point of view of the, ah, American "media".

It does make you wonder, though - if they're hiding stuff like Celibidache from us, then what else are we missing out on?

Anonymous said...

The long term goal of a collage and a professor is to find and foster real genius. Most of those students have minds that are wired differently. They are “nerdy.” Most genius goes undetected at the age of eighteen. Einstein is a one of many examples.

Looking for glib writing and speaking skills in an eighteen year old, may will eliminate those that they are looking to foster.

Silver said...

On behalf of my fellow introverts everywhere, Asian and non-Asian, I'd like to ask you, will you lay off us with your "class participation" bullshite? No seriously, why don't you stuff it where sun doesn't shine.

I'm not sure I know what is actually meant by "class participation," but if it has to do with teachers nagging you to answer a question before the rest of the class I couldn't agree more.

Charles Murray in "Real Education" used the example of a coach who assures a kid "you can do it!" when the kid well and truly cannot do it as one of the worst experiences in a kid's life. The same thing applies to classroom discussions. How the hell does it help to have your complete cluelessness made clear to one and all?

Personally, as a very insecure teen I particularly loathed being forced to share personal experiences and feelings in English class. Loathed it, loathed it, loathed it. In fact at the time I felt almost certain the teacher was well aware of my discomfort and was doing it on purpose. Scarred me for years.

Anonymous said...

There was no question the quiet girl was the cream of that particular crop.

Beavis: "Albertosaurus just said, 'crop'. Uh huh huh. Uh huh huh."

Butthead: "And 'cream', too. Uh huh huh. Uh huh huh."

Renault said...

Otis McWong said: "My MBA program placed a heavy emphasis on class participation - it was half of your grade in any given class.

One (of many) downside to this is that most students made an effort to say something in class even if they had nothing cogent to say. Many of the comments were little more than a recitation of facts. These were known as "chip shots". Most people would make an effort to make their chip shots somewhat interesting. The theory was that professors would go back to their office and write down who participated but wouldn't remember the quality of it. Truly "check the box"."

So, where'd you go to college?

Oh, I went to a school in Boston.

Anonymous said...

"I was always okay at [one-on-one conversations], but was, not surprisingly, extremely good at group discussions." -Sailer

Why in the hell should it be completely obvious to you audience that you're extremely good at group discussions? Because you blog/write?

Anonymous said...

I am a long-term commenter and Harvard grad who teaches at a mediocre state university.

I have to say that one of the most notable skills of Harvard college students, as a group, is the ability to extemporize in an authoritative-sounding way on something that they may know nothing about. (I.e., in a class discussion for which they haven't done any of the assigned reading.) It prepares them well for future careers as McKinsey consultants and DC politicians.

By contrast, the mediocre state university students barely seem to even have the idea that you are supposed to respond to questions, or that you should attempt to demonstrate some sort of knowledge (however fake), or that speaking up or saying things or convincing people of things is valuable. They really just want to be told the information, and then repeat the information.

College was a long time ago, but I truly can't recall many ethnic patterns, other than having been struck (Kevin MacDonald-style) by the vociferous and ideological relentlessness of East Coast Jewish culture (being from (mostly Gentile) suburban California, like Steve).

No doubt the Asians at Harvard are more fluent at Class Participation than average. I truly haven't noticed many ethnic patterns at the state school.

Silver said...

"or that speaking up or saying things or convincing people of things is valuable."

Or maybe they're aware it's valuable but don't believe the classroom is the best place to cultivate that skill. Maybe their focus is more on acquiring the knowledge they thought their fees were paying for. (I don't claim to know, just putting it out there.)

Anonymous said...

The long term goal of a collage and a professor is to find and foster real genius.

College and professors. Not public school and teachers.

Most of those students have minds that are wired differently. They are “nerdy.” Most genius goes undetected at the age of eighteen.

Except by bullies.

Simon in London said...

Silver said:
>>Charles Murray in "Real Education" used the example of a coach who assures a kid "you can do it!" when the kid well and truly cannot do it as one of the worst experiences in a kid's life. The same thing applies to classroom discussions. How the hell does it help to have your complete cluelessness made clear to one and all? <<

Pour encourager les autres?
I dunno, here in the UK we have tutorials, the students are supposed to prepare answers to ca 4-6 short questions. I think it's legitimate of me to pick on individuals; if they can't say anything, it's because they didn't do any work. Or I might extemporaneously ask something really basic that they could read off the lecture slide, knowledge that they'd have to know before they could prepare the set questions anyway. All my students are supposed to be bright enough to do the work, or they shouldn't be in my classroom. It's not an open-access system (though it feels that way sometimes).

This conversation is interesting, I see here and there stuff that resembles a few of my experiences teaching in the UK; but shy, non-participatory east-Asians isn't really one of them. Maybe because I teach Law, it attracts the more Verbal types in the first place?

Silver said...

Simon, I gather you're talking about university classes. It's entirely reasonable to expect a certain degree of competence, enthusiasm and preparedness from your students - after all, they've chosen to be there.

It's a different story in high school classes, where pupils have little choice but to attend. Forcing some mathematical dimbulb to solve an algebra equation on the blackboard is just cruelty. In this case, I think it's entirely reasonable for little Johnny to resent his teacher pestering ("challenging") him.

jody said...

i doubt these essay questions are there to trip up east asian applicants. more likely they're just part of the continuing enstupidation of american education. universities already have other, effective ways of reducing the number of east asian acceptances.

the essay may have a place in college admissions but my goodness man, we have to get rid of it on the SAT. if ever there wasn't an appropriate place for an essay.

east asians not talking in class is never cited as a negative by students i've talked to. it's the exact opposite - that they often only talk to each other, in their own languages, in cliques. and that they talk too much at the library, again primarily among themselves.

i don't think the other students are all that worried that class participation is mostly absent from the segment of the class that is east asian, and is reduced in proportion to the proportion of the class which is east asian. they don't want to be paired up with them for projects though.

jody said...

"I have always believed that universities have data that Asian alumni do not donate to their old alma mater nor do they hire graduates who are not of the same ethnic group."

my guess as well. in addition, a decline in prestige if the university becomes too east asian, if even modest.

to be clear i don't think it's that no east asians will become useful alums for the university's purposes, just that the rate is way lower, and the people who run the university know it. and they're going to protect themselves from that happening.

grambling recently had a crisis over this exact issue. although it can't be stated out loud in the media, the issue with the football team was that grambling alums provide nothing useful to the university, so they're out of money.

as far as ethnic hiring blocs taking over, i've seen this in the spanish language departments at universities. once a south american comes to control the department, over the next decade the entire department might flip to become primarily south americans. not much different than how a few MLB and MLS teams become after certain, ahem, management takes over.

i have a cousin who is a PHD in spanish and portuguese and am currently watching this process unfold at his university. the americans get fired, layed off, or eliminated one way or the other, and replaced with foreigners. the untouchable ones with long tenure are waited out, then their position is flipped when they retire.

jody said...

blogger had an internal error, so if this is a double post, please delete.

"I have always believed that universities have data that Asian alumni do not donate to their old alma mater nor do they hire graduates who are not of the same ethnic group."

my guess as well. in addition, a decline in prestige if the university becomes too east asian, if even modest.

to be clear i don't think it's that no east asians will become useful alums for the university's purposes, just that the rate is way lower, and the people who run the university know it. and they're going to protect themselves from that happening.

grambling recently had a crisis over this exact issue. although it can't be stated out loud in the media, the issue with the football team was that grambling alums provide nothing useful to the university, so they're out of money.

as far as ethnic hiring blocs taking over, i've seen this in the spanish language departments at universities. once a south american comes to control the department, over the next decade the entire department might flip to become primarily south americans. not much different than how a few MLB and MLS teams become after certain, ahem, management takes over.

i have a cousin who is a PHD in spanish and portuguese and am currently watching this process unfold at his university. the americans get fired, layed off, or eliminated one way or the other, and replaced with foreigners. the untouchable ones with long tenure are waited out, then their position is flipped when they retire.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe they're aware it's valuable but don't believe the classroom is the best place to cultivate that skill. Maybe their focus is more on acquiring the knowledge they thought their fees were paying for. (I don't claim to know, just putting it out there.)

If you think that the value of a college education is only the one-way transfer of information from a source to a student, then you really don't need a classroom or a professor or tuition or anything, just a library and/or an internet connection...

What Harvard students recognize, and mediocre state university students seem not to recognize, is that college is also valuable as a rare opportunity for cultivating the capacities of coherent and persuasive argumentation, critical analysis of the information that is presented in available sources, and giving and responding to feedback from/to other students.

Live two-way conversation in a classroom is in fact a pretty efficient way of cultivating these capacities. It develops the "thinking on your feet" that lots of professions seem to value.

I tell them this, with lots of enthusiastic gesticulation and cheerleading, at the beginning of every class, but it doesn't seem to make much of an impression. I would say that abstract thought per se is not of much interest to the vast majority of them.

Would Steven Pinker, E. O. Wilson, Thomas Sowell, or whoever, would have the bully pulpits they do, if their education had been solely about shutting up and listening to other people talk?

Of course, as my earlier snark indicated, I believe there can be such a thing as too much facility in classroom discussion, when it reaches the point of substituting for actual knowledge acquisition.

Anonymous said...

Celibidache's relative obscurity has nothing to do with his spending a little too much quality time in Berlin during the war. It was entirely self-imposed- he did not think that recordings captured the essence of music or some such mystical BS and did not allow any recordings of his music to be released during his lifetime. There were plenty of musicians who were cozy with the Nazis and yet had prominent post war careers despite the "fact" that the Joos control everything - for example von Karajan.

As an aside, I once visited the home of Greek friend inherited from her late uncle who had earned a masters and a PhD. during the war in Berlin. His diplomas were still on the wall. The master was from maybe 1940 when the Nazis were flying high and the diploma has all sorts of Swastikas and eagles and stuff on it. The PhD was from late in the war and by then the faculty must have been thinking about their future because all the Nazi symbols were gone.

K

hardly said...

Agnostic said
"The girls are all, "I feel like, I feel like, I feel like..." Exhibitionistic.

And the guys make these bold claims in confident voices that either mean nothing, are irrelevant, or are contradicted by easily available facts. Preening."

I agree. I am South Asian and the first thing I noticed about American students and coworkers (mostly whites) is their excessive confidence. It is initially awe-inspiring and humbling to hear all the people around you make confident claims about complicated things. Even ones much younger and less trained than you. It makes you feel like quite the underachiever. Until one by one you notice that none of it holds up under scrutiny.

For a problem X, I might say "Well I think doing Y might be an option. I am not entirely sure though, I am not up to date on the latest data".
A White American in the same position would be like "Let's Y him. I can do it right now".

The noise-to-substance ratio for American White youth is very high, while it is the inverse for East Asians in the US. East Asian men, at least most of them, say little, but when they do, it is usually well reasoned and watertight.

Americans dont seem to be brought up with the knowledge that they too are fallible.

Anonymous said...

to be clear i don't think it's that no east asians will become useful alums for the university's purposes, just that the rate is way lower, and the people who run the university know it. and they're going to protect themselves from that happening.

This may be true, but doesn't seem consistent with the behavior of the people who run elite universities. Why would Asian enrollment be so overrepresented in the first place? Why would white gentile enrollment be so underrepresented? Why would they try to expand black and Hispanic enrollment? Etc.

as said...

I agree. I am South Asian and the first thing I noticed about American students and coworkers (mostly whites) is their excessive confidence...

The noise-to-substance ratio for American White youth is very high, while it is the inverse for East Asians in the US. East Asian men, at least most of them, say little, but when they do, it is usually well reasoned and watertight.

Americans dont seem to be brought up with the knowledge that they too are fallible.


I'm South Asian female. Lots of South Asians are arrogant and easily irritated as well. I think the FOBs are worse.

I spent a lot of time with East Asian girls when growing up, and they're pretty bad. I think the men are a bit better.

Matt said...

the most useful part for me was getting battered (not always nicely) by smart people. It thickened my skin, it improved my reasoning and it widened my reading because, while it's not the worst thing in the world to realise that a pet thesis needs more support or is outright wrong (*before* you put it in an exam), you still want to prepare to the best of your ability to minimise the possibility of it happening.

Asian students like that to happen when they write it down and pass it off as an essay. *Before* they put it in an exam. It's not really so bad an approach. They'll take their battering quietly and preferably textually.

But people who don't have the ability to sit, focus and write, they wouldn't like that very much.

Note, I'm only semi-serious here - I don't think bashing ideas out in real time, with lots of back and forth and other minds checking your workings, is better or worse, necessarily, than focusing, producing something and then sending off into the world for review.

Still, many of the personality traits allied to high achievement in the sciences, and even the arts, include autism and introversion, so....

The noise-to-substance ratio for American White youth is very high, while it is the inverse for East Asians in the US. East Asian men, at least most of them, say little, but when they do, it is usually well reasoned and watertight.

Sure they don't just either make bland and inoffensive, meaningless statements that don't risk being wrong because they have no content (gosh, you wouldn't want to be wrong in public!), or lard their statements with so much inscrutable ambiguity and prevaricating, preventative disclaimers that waste hours of time?

The long term goal of a collage and a professor is to find and foster real genius. Most of those students have minds that are wired differently. They are “nerdy.”

Most genius goes undetected at the age of eighteen. Einstein is a one of many examples.


They also need to foster great teaching. Which includes being able to speak.

I always found the claim that Einstein thought in pictures remarkable, because it revealed the paucity of the mind that proclaimed it

I have always been able to think in pictures, with the caveat that I am descended from a Physics PhD, and this claim about Einstein must be from one of those airheaded newsmen, with the Jewish tendency of verbal but not visual proficiency


Einstein did not likely think in "pictures" at all. That's what the people who are worst at maths and physics do, a concrete visual image style is associated with lower understanding of science than a verbal style. But he may have thought to a greater degree than is normal with highly abstract spatially mobile diagrams (both 2d and 3d, and highly competently).

as said...

Did anyone ever benefit from classroom discussion?

The classes where we were graded on classroom participation were the worst. Everyone would vomit out some thought. In one class it was so bad that we were just asked to submit written commentary every week.

as said...

Most people don't seem to be very interesting. I guess a person would have to have a lot of curiosity and have a thoughtful personality to come up with something interesting to say

Anonymous said...

Einstein did not likely think in "pictures" at all. That's what the people who are worst at maths and physics do, a concrete visual image style is associated with lower understanding of science than a verbal style. But he may have thought to a greater degree than is normal with highly abstract spatially mobile diagrams (both 2d and 3d, and highly competently).

I don't know that this is true. Faraday, Maxwell, Tesla, among others, were known for being very visual thinkers. Faraday did not know math beyond simple algebra and his thinking and writing did not have heavy verbal formalism. He did have very strong visual abilities, which obviously helped him tremendously in thinking about invisible things like electric and magnetic fields.

Difference Maker said...

Matt said...
Einstein did not likely think in "pictures" at all. That's what the people who are worst at maths and physics do, a concrete visual image style is associated with lower understanding of science than a verbal style. But he may have thought to a greater degree than is normal with highly abstract spatially mobile diagrams (both 2d and 3d, and highly competently).

Fortunately for you and me then that I score merely above average in visuospatial IQ. Instead, I have a verbal IQ exceeding that of most Jews. Must be what enabled me to handily trounce my Ivy League bound physics classmates (albeit century old physics) even while much sleepier. And handsomer. And manlier.

Yep I'm pretty great

Anonymous said...

ONE WEE MATTER THAT GRANDMOTHER MIGHT SUGGEST: WHY NOT HAVE THEM RESPOND IN WRITING TO A WRITTEN ARGUMENT, ASSERTION? THERE IS SCANT REASONED DISPUTATION THESE DAYS ON CAMPUS. THIS EVASION IMPLICITLY SEEMS TO CONVEY THAT ALL THAT IS REQUIRED IS TO FIND A POLL OF THE EXPERTS RELEVANT TO ANY QUESTION. MINDLESS SOCIALISM?

Matt said...

Fortunately for you and me then that I score merely above average in visuospatial IQ. Instead, I have a verbal IQ exceeding that of most Jews. Must be what enabled me to handily trounce my Ivy League bound physics classmates (albeit century old physics) even while much sleepier. And handsomer. And manlier.

Yep I'm pretty great


There are other factors contributing to physics success that probably explain what a paragon of the discipline you were (while still being better at English). Pure ability is not the only determinant of success.

Einstein though, was probably a first rate spatial thinker in addition to having all of that going on.