September 4, 2010

World's Fattest Countries: #1 U.S. #2 ...

Matthew Yglesias has a graph showing percent of the population with a Body-Mass Indices >30% for 30 countries. (And, yes, I know that some NFL running back with 2.5% body fat would often show up as fat on this BMI index, but most people aren't NFL running backs, so it's a good enough measure for my purpose.) 

The fattest country of the 30 is, of course, America. What's interesting is the second fattest country. We are constantly lectured that it is America's moral imperative to take in the hungry masses of Mexico, yet Mexico turns out to be the second fattest country out of the 30! In the U.S., Hispanics have fatter BMIs than whites, according to the federal government's NHANES study, so immigration from Mexico to the U.S. just makes them even fatter on average.

"Guest worker" cryptoslaver finally arrested

Back in 2006, I pointed out that the "guest worker" that Congress was trying to ram through would probably less serve to legalize Mexican illegals than to import Asian cryptoslaves, while encouraging Mexicans to continue to illegally immigrate. I wrote in VDARE, using the example of procurer Mordechai Orian's business:
A reader sent me this revealing article about the H-2A system by Lornet Turnbull in the Seattle Times (2/20/05):
"New state import: Thai farmworkers"

"The 170 Thai workers imported into the Yakima Valley to harvest apples and cherries last season were a curiosity in this part of the state where Latinos, not Asians, have been a familiar presence.

"The men, mostly poor farmers from rural Thailand, were the first foreign workers brought to Washington to pick fruit under a decades-old federal guest-worker program meant to fill labor shortages in agriculture. ...

And here's the bottom line: Thai cryptoslaves, excuse me, "temporary workers" have a "lower runaway rate."
"[Mordechai] Orian [the procurer] says he isn't whipsawing one group against another and in the past has brought workers from Mexico and Central America as well as Asia. He said the Thais have a lower runaway rate than the others and are more productive." [Emphasis mine]

A lower runaway rate. Have we come to this?

From yesterday's NYT:
A federal grand jury in Honolulu has indicted six labor contractors from a Los Angeles manpower company on charges that they imposed forced labor on some 400 Thai farm workers, in what justice officials called the biggest human-trafficking case ever brought by federal authorities.

The charges, prepared by Justice Department civil rights lawyers, were brought against the president, three executives and two Thai labor contractors from Global Horizons Manpower, which recruits foreign farm workers for the federal agricultural guest worker program, known as H-2A.

The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday in Hawaii, accuses Global Horizons executives of working to “obtain cheap, compliant labor” from guest workers who had been forced into debt in Thailand to pay fees to local recruiters. The company, according to the indictment, sought to “to compel the workers’ labor and service through threats to have them arrested, deported or sent back to Thailand, knowing the workers could not pay off their debts if sent home.”

The number of workers who are said to be victims is the largest ever in a human trafficking case, said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

... Since then, Ms. Martorell said, the center has identified 263 Thai guest workers who were brought to the United States on legal temporary visas by Global Horizons, but later fled what they described as oppressive conditions.
The indictment says recruiters in Thailand charged the workers — who earned as little as $1,000 a year farming in their home country — as much as $21,000 to obtain visas for the United States. Global Horizons did not disclose these fees to United States labor officials, the charges state.

Workers who were dispatched to a pineapple farm in Maui and orchards in Washington were paid far less than they had been promised, and were often housed in shoddy conditions, according to the charges; Global Horizons impounded their passports.

In recent weeks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued findings against Global Horizons for civil rights violations, Ms. Martorell said. About 100 Thai workers have been granted residency visas for victims of human trafficking.

Swell. That will encourage Thais to avoid getting sucked into slavery -- you get a free green card out of it!
Among those facing charges are Mordechai Yosef Orian, president of Global Horizons, and Pranee Tubchumpol, director of international relations. Mr. Orian surrendered in Honolulu on Friday and pleaded not guilty, The Associated Press reported.  

The AP's report is a little more colorful:
Orian appeared in Honolulu federal court with his ankles chained and wearing a blue collared shirt with gray pants. He was represented by a court-appointed attorney based on his contention that he couldn't afford one himself.

Orian, an Israeli national, faces a maximum sentence of 70 years imprisonment. He was ordered deported from the United States last year, but he has remained in the country during his appeal. The reason for his pending deportation is unknown.

U.S. Attorney Susan French called Orian's arrest "a major saga" because his public relations agency had told authorities varying stories that he was in Los Angeles, Texas and Albuquerque, N.M.

Authorities intended to arrest Orian when his plane arrived in Honolulu, but they later learned he had tried to "trick" authorities by boarding a separate flight, said French, an attorney with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. They didn't know his whereabouts until he had already caught a taxi from the Honolulu airport.

Ed Rubenstein projects number of anchor births

In, Edwin S. Rubenstein forecasts the number of post-2010 births to illegal immigrants and to the post-2010 children of illegal immigrants. By 2050, it would be 28 million. By 2100, it would 132 million.

I don't know about you, but 132 million strikes me as a big number.

Switzerland has a lot of immigrants, but it rarely lets them or their descendants vote. The Swiss were happy to host, for example, Vladimir Nabokov in a fancy hotel for two decades, but they didn't feel anymore compulsion to extend him the franchise than they felt it wise to extend the vote to his immigrant bellhop.

We Americans like to pat ourselves on the back about what political geniuses we are, but it's easy to look good when you own the best part of a big continent. In contrast, three major historically warring cultures -- Germany, France, and Italy -- meet up in little Switzerland, yet the Swiss have contrived to enjoy peace and prosperity for generations. Maybe the Swiss know a thing or two about organizing their political affairs prudently?

Ann Coulter: "Obama is not a Muslim"

Ann Coulter writes:
The nonsense about President Obama being a Muslim has got to stop. I rise to defend him from this absurd accusation by pointing out that he is obviously an atheist.

Football Outsiders: Lessons Learned

Here are the basic lessons learned by Football Outsiders from statistically studying NFL football for a half-dozen years. This post by Aaron Schatz provides the discussion behind each one-liner:
You run when you win, not win when you run.

A great defense against the run is nothing without a good pass defense.

Running on third-and-short is more likely to convert than passing on third-and-short.

Standard team rankings based on total yardage are inherently flawed.

A team will score more when playing a bad defense, and will give up more points when playing a good offense.

If their overall yards per carry are equal, a running back who consistently gains yardage on every play is more valuable than a boom-and-bust running back who is frequently stuffed at the line but occasionally breaks a long highlight-worthy run.

Rushing is more dependent on the offensive line than people realize, but pass protection is more dependent on the quarterback himself than people realize.

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

A running back with 370 or more carries during the regular season will usually suffer either a major injury or a loss of effectiveness the following year, unless he is named Eric Dickerson.

Wide receivers must be judged on both complete and incomplete passes.

The total quality of an NFL team is three parts offense, three parts defense, and one part special teams.

Teams with more offensive penalties generally lose more games, but there is no correlation between defensive penalties and losses.

Field-goal percentage is almost entirely random from season to season, while kickoff distance is one of the most consistent statistics in football.

Recovery of a fumble, despite being the product of hard work, is almost entirely random.

Field position is fluid.

The red zone is the most important place on the field to play well, but performance in the red zone from year to year is much less consistent than overall performance.

Defenses which are weak on first and second down, but strong on third down, will tend to decline the following year. This trend also applied to offenses through 2005, but may or may not still apply today.

Injuries regress to the mean on the seasonal level, and teams that avoid injuries in a given season tend to win more games.

By and large, a team built on depth is better than a team built on stars and scrubs.

Running backs usually decline after age 28, tight ends after age 29, wide receivers after age 30, and quarterbacks after age 32.

The future NFL success of quarterbacks chosen in the first two rounds of the draft can be projected with a high degree of accuracy by using just two statistics from college: games started and completion percentage.

Highly-drafted wide receivers without many college touchdowns are likely to bust.

Championship teams are generally defined by their ability to dominate inferior opponents, not their ability to win close games.

Read the whole thing there.

September 2, 2010

The Value of Vapidity

From Slate:
Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor. Really. We Mean It.
Economists are making the case politicians are afraid to: Immigration is great for the U.S.
By James Ledbetter

If you pay attention only to politics, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the current debate about immigration in America is limited to how severely it should be restricted—whether we need only to seal the border or actually change the birthright citizenship clause in the Constitution.

But among economic pundits, the discussion is heading in exactly the opposite direction. Pro-immigration arguments are booming, and reached a zenith this week with the publication of a paper by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank [i.e., Giovanni Peri], arguing among other things that immigrants, despite popular misconception, do not displace American workers. This has led a number [Felix Salmon] of economic bloggers [Kevin Drum] to make the very rational argument that one of the best things America could do now to fix our sagging economy is to encourage more people to come here and work.

According to the econo-blogosphere lately, immigration is a cure-all for America's economic ills. We'll get to the question of whether anyone is listening, but here is a guide to the virtues-of-immigration arguments that have been making the rounds in recent weeks.

Immigrants will solve our housing crisis. ...

Immigrants are needed to replenish the American workforce. ...

Immigrants make the economy better. ...

I'm always getting accused of being obsessed with IQ, but it seems an awful lot of people are obsessed with showing off how smart they are. In general, that would be a good thing, except that our culture has got itself into a culdesac whereby a proof of being "thoughtful" is by how little thought you give to crucial topics such as immigration, and by how mindlessly you sneer at those who actually have thought hard on the subject.

The Post-Racial Age of Obama in Action

Washington D.C. is having a mayor's race between incumbent Adrian Fenty and City Councilman Vince Gray. I think it totally fulfills the promise of the Postracial Obama Age that black majority Washington D.C. now has two white guys running for mayor, and nobody has even mentioned it!

On the left is a picture of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose ancestors journeyed to Earth from the same planet as Vin Diesel's people. (By the way, have you ever noticed how Vin Diesel looks like Jerry Seinfeld -- not in pictures, so much, but in terms of facial expressions?)

In the pictures on the right is Fenty's 67-year-old challenger Vince Gray. As you can see, the only thing black about Gray is his hair color.

And then there's the mayor of Cleveland, Frank G. Jackson, who is humorously known as one of the leading African-American politicians in Ohio, although in a previous career, he was the white Maoist intellectual behind a Latin American indigenous peasant uprising, or at least that's what he looks like to me.

September 1, 2010

Heading South

One interesting phenomenon is white American-born guys who are big time Mexican mobsters, such as Timothy McGhee, the boss of the Mexican Mafia in the LA County jail. in LA. 

From the Houston Chronicle, here's the story of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, born in Laredo, TX:
Borderland folk songs immortalize him as smart, ruthless, powerful and rich.
From the Rio Grande to Mexico's Valley of the Beheaded, there is no shortage of stories about "La Barbie," the top-level drug trafficker born in Laredo and arrested Monday in Mexico.
Was Edgar Valdez Villarreal really a star high school football player or just an average guy whose coach nicknamed him La Barbie for his light eyes and fair-haired complexion that set him apart in the Texas border town?
And how did an American who got his start selling dime bags of marijuana have the connections to go on to lead a team of assassins, let alone climb to the summit of Mexico's criminal underworld?
"There is a lot of speculation as to what relationships he had and what relationships led up to where he is now," said Laredo police spokesman Jose Baeza. "He was able to do enough to gain the trust. There is something to be said, that he is an American-born person who reached that rank." ...

But Tuesday, the Texan turned Mexican mobster was paraded before the cameras in Mexico City sporting no less than a green Ralph Lauren Big Pony polo shirt and a slight grin on a slightly bearded face. Government spokesmen said 1,200 officers took part in the culminating moments of a yearlong effort to capture Valdez. ...
Among his drug gangster rivals, he was widely despised, known for viciously ordering the decapitation of his enemies. ...

He says Valdez was first arrested on marijuana charges in Missouri nearly 20 years ago. While he was briefly in custody in Mexico City years later, he met Arturo Beltran Leyva, who became his narco godfather.

It used to be that guys from Mexico who wanted to be big time criminals came to America because Mexico was a poor, low-crime country. Now, guys in American who want to be criminals are going to Mexico for the opportunities.

Adam Clayton Powell IV

Adam Clayton Powell IV, a black New York state Assemblyman from Harlem, who is the son of the famous black Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is challenging Charlie Rangel for his seat in the House of Representatives. In 1970, Rangel defeated Powell Jr. (1908-1972) when Powell ran into corruption charges for paying a federal salary to Adam Clayton Powell IV's mother as one of his staffers even though she lived in Puerto Rico with their son.

But that raises the obvious question: How is Adam Clayton Powell IV the son of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.? Was there ever an Adam Clayton Powell III? How exactly does that work?

Otherwise, I can't think of any other heredity-related questions to ask about Adam Clayton Powell IV. 

Nope, I'm drawing a blank.

Oh, yeah, I wanted to ask: Where did Rep. Rangel get his accent? I know Mike Tyson got his from his trainer, Cus D'Amato, but where did Charlie Rangel's accent come from?

P.S. Here's a Powell family tree. I can't begin to make sense of it, but it's good to know it's out there.

Lincoln Memorial

I went to "Lincoln Memorial" on Google Maps this evening and changed the address to "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." But Google then gave me back a message that my edit had to be submitted for approval. Last I checked, they hadn't yet approved moving the Lincoln Memorial. I just don't understand ... I thought Google Maps' policy was to let anybody drag the Lincoln Memorial wherever they felt like.

Freddie Mac's new Chief Diversity Officer

Freddie Mac has named Subha V. Barry to the position of chief diversity officer (CDO). In this position, Barry will lead the company's newly formed Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with overall responsibility for the combined functions of Diversity and Inclusion and Supplier Diversity. She will be responsible for developing business strategies focused on the needs of a diverse workforce, working closely with other members of Freddie Mac's senior management team to ensure the company is effectively utilizing diverse talent (both within its employee base and its suppliers), enhance the annual diversity planning process and manage performance against the company's diversity plans.
Barry will also design and launch the new Executive Diversity Council. She will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Charles E. "Ed" Haldeman Jr., with whom she will jointly lead the Executive Diversity Council, and will be a member of Freddie Mac's management committee. In addition, Barry will work with Freddie Mac's business units to ensure the maximization of opportunities in diverse market segments.
"Creating the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and having someone of Subha's talent and experience in this new executive position is a critical step in Freddie Mac's forward progress," said Haldeman. "As a company devoted to creating housing opportunities for individuals and families from all backgrounds and walks of life, it's essential that Freddie Mac – through our employee base and network of suppliers—reflect the many varied communities whom we serve and from which we recruit our employees."
Barry joins Freddie Mac from Merrill Lynch & Company Inc., where she most recently served as managing director, global head of Diversity & Inclusion.

Since Freddie Mac, a "government-sponsored enterprise" has received $61 billion in taxpayer bailouts (as of last count), it has lots of money to create crucial positions like this.

By the way, Subha V. Barry? Is "Subha" one of those oddly-spelled names that African American schoolgirls make up when they're pregnant? Or is Subha V. Barry an Indian immigrant riding the Diversity Gravy Train, which most Americans naively think exists to benefit the descendants of American slaves?

The most interesting segment in Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair is when Chris goes to India because African-American women buy vast amounts of human hair every year from temples in India where women shave their heads (for inexplicable Hindu reasons that Chris, personally, wasn't all that interested in understanding).

So, did Subha Barry buy or inherit her Good Hair?

I think Barack Obama should appoint a commission headed by Adam Clayton Powell IV to get to the bottom of this.

By the way, I noticed on that Ms. Barry gave $1,000 to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008. Obviously, that's because Republicans are racists who hate diversity. What Republicans must do to deal with the changing face of America is prove to people like Subha Barry that they are even more in favor of giving out money and prizes to people like Subha Barry than the Democrats are by giving even more than the Democrats give. It's only logical!

August 31, 2010

Change and Taupe

President Obama has redecorated the Oval Office, and it turns out to be just as scintillating and individualistic as we've come to expect from Mr. Excitement:
"The look is angular and modern — it evokes the feel of a den — and tends toward neutral hues of browns and taupe ..."  

August 30, 2010

"How Immigration Boosts Your Pay"

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum quotes economist Giovanni Peri's latest study correlating immigration levels by state and income up through 2007. (Don't worry about what happened in high immigration states like California after 2007. I'm sure all the trends stayed the same.)
Why does immigration increase average income? How does it increase productivity and efficiency? Here's the scoop:
The analysis begins with the well-documented phenomenon that U.S.-born workers and immigrants tend to take different occupations....Because those born in the United States have relatively better English language skills, they tend to specialize in communication tasks. Immigrants tend to specialize in other tasks, such as manual labor. Just as in the standard concept of comparative advantage, this results in specialization and improved production efficiency.
If these patterns are driving the differences across states, then in states where immigration has been heavy, U.S.-born workers with less education should have shifted toward more communication-intensive jobs. Figure 3 shows exactly this....In states with a heavy concentration of less-educated immigrants, U.S.-born workers have migrated toward more communication-intensive occupations. Those jobs pay higher wages than manual jobs, so such a mechanism has stimulated the productivity of workers born in the United States and generated new employment opportunities.

What's really striking about this is that the very mechanism that provides the productivity boost — the fact that immigrants don't speak English well and therefore push native workers out of manual labor and into higher-paying jobs — is precisely the thing that most provokes the immigrant skeptics. They all want immigrants to assimilate faster and speak English better, but if they did then they'd just start competing for the higher paying jobs that natives now monopolize.

Isn't it nice that immigrants "push native workers out of manual labor and into higher-paying jobs" in fields where English skills are crucial. Who hasn't known some American-born construction worker who got pushed out of low paying manual labor when the whole construction site switched to Spanish-speaking so he became a $100,000 per week script doctor for Ridley Scott movies? Or at least as a Human Sign pointing the way to the theatre showing Robin Hood? They're both communications work!

To better understand this mechanism, it is useful to consider the following hypothetical illustration. As young immigrants with low schooling levels take manually intensive construction jobs, the construction companies that employ them have opportunities to expand. This increases the demand for construction supervisors, coordinators, designers, and so on. Those are occupations with greater communication intensity and are typically staffed by U.S.-born workers who have moved away from manual construction jobs.

Right. In, say, California's Inland Empire in 2007, Americans who used to be construction workers but were displaced by immigrants moved into "greater communication intensity" jobs like, say, peddling subprime mortgages for Countrywide or flipping houses using zero downpayment mortgages from Washington Mutual.

What could possibly go wrong?

"The Tillman Story"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine
The Tillman Story is a documentary about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who, following 9/11, turned down a $3.6 million Arizona Cardinals offer to enlist as a private in the U.S. Army, then died in Afghanistan in 2004. The film has elicited critical praise but not much media hype.

How come? As Afghanistan evolves into Mr. Obama’s War, antiwar sentiment is at a low ebb among the press.

In reality, The Tillman Story, directed by Amir Bar-Lev and narrated by Josh Brolin, is a lesser example of the documentarian’s art. Yet, it’s worth sitting through because of the light it shines on what’s becoming America’s forever war. It also affords us a glimpse of that mysterious hero who refused to do interviews about why he chose to fight for his country in an era when so few of the noblesse have been obliging.

The Tillman Story is most striking whenever Pat and his giant jaw are on screen. Like an American hero from the pre-Muhammad Ali era, Tillman wanted fame, but he wanted to earn it, and without boasting, without PR. ...
Viewers can infer much from The Tillman Story about the futility of what Kipling called “the savage wars of peace.” Since the Gulf War of 1991, a sizable fraction of American fatalities have been due to “friendly fire” because the American advantage in firepower is so overwhelming. (U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan fired in anger an average of about a quarter of a million bullets per day.) And U.S. marksmanship is lethally good. (The Army coroner who autopsied Tillman’s bullet-riddled corpse refused to certify that he’d been killed by hostile fire because the Taliban can’t shoot that straight.)

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

E.O. Wilson v. W.D. Hamilton: Round II, 45 Years Later

From the NYT:
Scientists Square Off on Evolutionary Value of Helping Relatives

Why are worker ants sterile? Why do birds sometimes help their parents raise more chicks, instead of having chicks of their own? Why do bacteria explode with toxins to kill rival colonies? In 1964, the British biologist William Hamilton published a landmark paper to answer these kinds of questions. Sometimes, he argued, helping your relatives can spread your genes faster than having children of your own.

For the past 46 years, biologists have used Dr. Hamilton’s theory to make sense of how animal societies evolve. They’ve even applied it to the evolution of our own species. But in the latest issue of the journal Nature, a team of prominent evolutionary biologists at Harvard try to demolish the theory.

The scientists argue that studies on animals since Dr. Hamilton’s day have failed to support it. The scientists write that a close look at the underlying math reveals that Dr. Hamilton’s theory is superfluous. “It’s precisely like an ancient epicycle in the solar system,” said Martin Nowak, a co-author of the paper with Edward O. Wilson and Corina Tarnita. “The world is much simpler without it.”

Other biologists are sharply divided about the paper. Some praise it for challenging a concept that has outlived its usefulness. But others dismiss it as fundamentally wrong.

“Things are just bouncing around right now like a box full of Ping-Pong balls,” said James Hunt, a biologist at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Hamilton, who died in 2000, saw his theory as following logically from what biologists already knew about natural selection. Some individuals have more offspring than others, thanks to the particular versions of genes they carry. But Dr. Hamilton argued that in order to judge the reproductive success of an individual, scientists had to look at the genes it shared with its relatives.

We inherit half of our genetic material from each parent, which means that siblings have, on average, 50 percent [1/2] of the same versions of genes. We share a lower percentage with first cousins [1/8], second cousins [1/32] and so on. If we give enough help to relatives so they can survive and have children, then they can pass on more copies of our own genes. Dr. Hamilton called this new way of tallying reproductive success inclusive fitness.

Each organism faces a trade-off between putting effort into raising its own offspring or helping its relatives. If the benefits of helping a relative outweigh the costs, Dr. Hamilton argued, altruism can evolve.

The idea wasn't exactly wholly new. J.B.S. Haldane liked to joke in the 1950s when he was asked if he'd give up his life for his brother: No, but maybe for 2 brothers or 8 first cousins.
Dr. Hamilton believed that one of the things his theory could explain was the presence of sterile females among ants, wasps, and some other social insects. These species have peculiar genetics that cause females to be more closely related to their sisters than to their brothers, or even to their own offspring. In these situations, a female ant may be able to spread more genes by helping to raise her queen mother’s eggs than trying to lay eggs of her own.

Wilson didn't like Hamilton's theory the first time he heard of it either. In his delightful autobiography Naturalist, Wilson described how he wrestled with Hamilton's epochal papers during an 18-hour train ride in 1965:

"Impossible, I thought, this can't be right. Too simple… By dinnertime, as the train rumbled on into Virginia, I was growing frustrated and angry… And because I modestly thought of myself as the world authority on social insects, I also thought it unlikely that anyone else could explain their origin, certainly not in one clean stroke… By the time we reached Miami, in the early afternoon, I gave up. I was a convert and put myself in Hamilton's hands. I had undergone what historians of science call a paradigm shift."

Zimmer continues:
But as the years passed, Dr. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the theory waned. “It was getting tattered,” he said. Many species with sterile females, for example, do not have the strange genetics of ants and wasps. And many species with the right genetics have not produced sterile females. ...

A number of scientists strongly disagree, though. “This paper, far from showing shortcomings in inclusive fitness theory, shows the shortcomings of the authors,” said Frances Ratnieks of the University of Sussex.

Dr. Ratnieks argues that the Harvard researchers cannot rule out kinship as a driving force in social evolution because their model is flawed. It does not include how closely related animals are.

That would seem to be a big factor. 

Read the rest of the article here

To see some of the more interesting implications of Hamilton's theory, see my 2004 article.


"Bad Students, Not Bad Schools"

From my new column:
The new book by sometime contributor Robert Weissberg, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, has become even timelier following the recent popping of the test score bubble in New York City public schools.

Weissberg, a professor of political science emeritus at the U. of Illinois, wittily surveys in his conversational prose style a half century of educational research. He debunks the fluff that comprises most of this fad-driven field, while highlighting the replicable social science whose lessons go ignored.

Weissberg’s conclusion: the quality of students—intelligence and motivation—is by far the most important factor in whether a school is “bad” or “good”. ...

What makes Bad Students, Not Bad Schools particularly interesting is that in early 21st Century, New York City emerged as the glamor spot of school reform. The rich, the powerful, and the influential teamed up to fight the racial “gap” in school achievement allegedly caused by bad schools. And from 2004 onward, Weissberg was there, watching the idols of the hour up close.

Years before, as it happened, Weissberg himself had grown up in New York City. After a brief (but instructive) spell in 1953 at Booker T. Washington Junior High School on the border of the Upper West Side and Harlem—an expensive new school rapidly deteriorating under the assault from its less scholarly students—Weissberg’s mom yanked him out and headed for the Jersey suburbs.

That bad students can make a school bad is a lesson that tens of millions of Americans besides Weissberg have learned the hard way. Yet, when it comes to thinking about education, we’re not supposed to draw any insights from our own lives. In contrast, you can win fame and, if not fortune, at least a pleasant career by loudly proclaiming that bad schools make good students bad.

Weissberg documents the almost innumerable boondoggles tried out in the public schools in the name of closing the racial gap in achievement.

Over the last decade, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg epitomized the media / governmental / philanthropic complex that has come to dominate discussion of school reform. A Democrat turned Republican turned Independent, Bloomberg struck the press as the perfect non-ideological technocrat to bring “business-like” methods to the public schools to eliminate the gap. 

 Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.