September 17, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg's latest

A distinguished reader points to this from CNN:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is worried that high U.S. unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots here that have swept through Europe and North Africa.

Fortunately, Bloomberg has long used his massive political, media, and financial influence to increase the supply of marginally employed workers / potential rioters in the U.S.

From UPI in 2006:
Bloomberg: Illegal immigrants help golfers 
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says golf fairways would suffer if illegal immigrants were returned to their native country. 
"You and I are beneficiaries of these jobs," Bloomberg told his WABC-AM radio co-host, John Gambling. "You and I both play golf; who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?" 
However, Robert Heaney, general manager of Deepdale Golf Club -- a Long Island course where Bloomberg often plays -- told The New York Daily News that no illegal immigrants work at the club.

Deepdale is "maybe the most reclusive club in America," and it "hosts maybe ten rounds per day," according to golf course architect Tom Doak in his indispensable Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. Thank God that billionaires like Bloomberg don't have to choose between paying groundskeepers a little more or putting up with fluffy lies in the fairway that might make it harder to draw a 3-iron shot into Deepdale's notoriously unreceptive 15th green. If it weren't for illegal immigrants holding costs down, Deepdale might have to let an extra two or three golfers per day play the course to pay the wages of those greedy American citizens. And then, Mayor Bloomberg might one day see another foursome playing on a different hole, which could ruin for him, perhaps permanently, the entire Deepdale Experience of having what appears to be his own personal golf course. C'mon, people, we have to get our priorities straight. 

September 16, 2011

SPLC: It's your own fault you didn't notice we're evil

I'd never really looked at the logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center's blog before, but ... Is this self-parody?
The Leninist typeface, the giant angry eyeball ... C'mon ... This has got Ministry of Truth written all over it.

Maybe Morris Dees is trying to hedge his bets. Perhaps he figures come Judgment Day, he can always argue that well, sure, maybe he misled all those senile old people into funding his wife's expensive knicknack collecting mania, but he gave everybody plenty of hints that the SPLC is evil.

By the way, Obama's new AttackWatch site looks like it was designed by interns at the design firm that did HateWatch: similar in intention, but more puerile, more easy Nurembergish black-white-red than the SPLC's Leningradish gray-white-red.

Mitch explains SAT trends

Respected commenter Mitch explains what is going on with rising Asian SAT scores:
It's a mix of things. 
First, the 2005 changes made the math subject material easier, but an actual high score became harder because there were fewer hard problems and the impact of "unforced errors" became higher. Kids who were bright but careless could get a high score because the occasional unforced error was wiped out and more with their performance on the high difficulty questions. That last sentence describes whites more than Asians.  
So since 2005, the ability to nail every question and not make unforced errors--something that drill does, indeed, help--has been rewarded, whereas the number of creatively difficult problems is 0 or 1 per test. This hurts white students, on average, more than Asian students just by personality trait, and then the Asian tendency to drill for this test gives even more of an advantage.  
The reading test has been made unequivocally easier. I'm not sure what you mean about some reading questions being moved to the writing section. This is not true. The writing test is a near-exact replica of the old English Composition Achievement test, or the English Writing Subject test. There were no changes to it at all from a content perspective--they just changed the type of essay prompt and reduced the number of questions. 
Certainly, the easier reading test makes it easier for Asians to get high scores. The writing test rewards attention to detail above all 
So the test changes play a part, both in how they reward the traits more likely to be in asians over whites, and then in the Asian prep ritual--which really has to be seen to be believed. I teach in these schools, and the kids are in prep taking tests for 2 years. Even the ones who aren't getting super high scores are getting better scores, and that's bumping the average up. 
Then there's the fact that Koreans, Chinese, and Indians are immigrating here in huge numbers, which is presumably offsetting the once larger percentage of Filipinos and Tongans.  
I'm assuming you were only looking at US students, right? [I don't know -- it's not obvious from the College Board documents.] Koreans in Korea are taking the test as well, and there they study 40-60 hours a week, instead of school. The prep schools there buy copies of the most recent tests from students and use the tests to prep their students (something that's frowned upon here, although not technically illegal). The kids learn how to write essays by rote, and have whole essays memorized (use this essay for "change", this one for "education", and so on).

There's a general lesson here. Our society is constantly changing and bending procedures in hopes of Closing the Gap between the more feckless and the more feckful racial groups. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the more feckful tend to better exploit these changes for their own benefit. 

For example, the changes in federal regulator attitudes toward zero-down and low-doc mortgages that George W. Bush announced in 2002 in the name of fighting racist redlining at his White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership  poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Angelo Mozilo's net worth, most of which the SEC allowed him to keep even after fining him. But the net worth of the median Hispanic and black is now lower after mortgage follies.

The changes in the SAT in the last decade were mostly due to a single man, University of California chancellor Richard C. Atkinson. The UC system is the College Board's biggest client, and the UC was told by California voters in 1996 that racial preferences were now a violation of the state constitution.

Atkinson held an inflated notion of his expertise in the field of psychometrics. "When students asked me about IQ testing, I frequently referred them to Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Mismeasure of Man, published in 1981; it is a remarkable piece of scholarship that documented the widespread misuse of IQ tests," he wrote in an essay explaining part of his motivations, although he disingenuously left out all mention of the 800 pound gorilla in the room for UC, Proposition 209. The state legislature's Latino Caucus had threatened to cut the university system's budget unless they could figure out a way to cheat on Prop. 209 and get more Latinos admitted.

Now, Atkinson wasn't a complete cynic. He was more of a fool. He thought he could kill a whole bunch of birds with one stone. For example, he wanted the SAT to be more of an achievement test than an aptitude test because of his quasi-Gouldian views on IQ testing:
My views are similar to those of Alfred Binet, the French psychologist who, in the early years of the last century, devised the first IQ tests.  Binet was very clear that these tests could be useful in a clinical setting, but rejected the idea that they provided a meaningful measure of mental ability that could be used to rank order individuals.  Unfortunately, his perspective was soon forgotten as the IQ testing industry burst onto the American scene. 

This is like saying:
My views are similar to those of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who, in the middle of the 16th Century, devised the first heliocentric system. Copernicus was very clear that heliocentrism reduced the number of crystalline spheres and epicycles necessary, but rejected the idea that we could explain the motions of the planets without the Music of the Spheres. Unfortunately, his perspective was soon forgotten as Kepler, Newton, and Einstein burst onto the astronomical scene.

Atkinson's goal was to make the SAT less of an aptitude test and more like the SAT II Subject Tests, which are more achievement tests. (UC long demanded applicants take both the SAT and three SAT Subject Tests, a high degree of overkill.) Since we've all know about how blacks and Hispanics are obviously oppressed by the white man's IQ pseudo-test, the thinking went, this would ameliorate UC's little problem with the Latino Caucus by Closing the Gap.

Except, it didn't work out that way because blacks and Latinos tend to not only have less aptitude, but they tend to be lazier about achieving academically. Also, it made the new three-part SAT 3.75 hours long, which may tend to mentally exhaust blacks and Latinos. The winners from these "reforms" turned out to be Asians, who, on average, work hardest. 

Of course, the UC schools already had plenty of Asians. So, a few years ago, UC, having turned the SAT into something like the SAT Subject Tests, announced it wanted to stop requiring the SAT Subject Tests as now being redundant. This sensible reform, however, outraged the Asian-Pacific Islander caucus in the California legislature. The more tests parents have to remember to sign their kids up for and pay for tutoring in how to beat the tests, the better Asians do versus everybody else.

One thing to keep in mind is that elite private colleges don't really seem to want more Asians (at least if they're not going to pay list price. Foreign Asians, who don't qualify for financial assistance, are increasingly fashionable with colleges.). The more Asians score high on the SAT and get inflated GPAs by taking a lot of AP courses, the more the super-prestigious private colleges, which can and do use quotas for admitting blacks and Latinos, appear to discriminate against Asians.

Why they discriminate against Asians has been speculated about, but not, so far as I know, studied in any truly illuminating fashion.

Do they not donate as much money to their alma maters? My vague impression is that Indians, with their ancient tradition of alms-giving, are pretty generous when they have a chance to get their name put on an academic building. (I recently took enthusiastic part in a three minute standing ovation for an Indian gentleman who was the chief donor for the new library at my son's high school. It's a really nice library and it was all paid for and build by the week before my son started school there, so it didn't cost me a penny, so clapping my hands sore was the least I could do.) Chinese benefactors? Maybe not so much ... I don't know. This is the kind of thing that colleges have no doubt studied in intense detail, but their findings are Top Secret.

Or maybe too many Asians is considered uncool by high school students. For example, UC Irvine has long been heavily Asian, but it never seems to climb in coolness with kids. 

Or maybe the elite colleges just don't believe the high SAT scores being recently recorded by Asians. Who knows? Obviously, elite private colleges know what their motivations are for requiring higher paper credential from Asians, but they aren't telling, and nobody seems to be asking.

SAT score trends

The Unsilenced Silence blog has a good graph of Asian v. white SAT scores from 1996 to 2010 in terms of gaps in standard deviations:
So, like most things involving test scores, the gap was stable in the  later 1990s. However, Asians improved through much of the 2000s, especially on the Writing test, a new section of the SAT that strikes me as easier to game because it uses subjective (but very quick) grading. 

One possibility is that globalization of American colleges has led to more Asian-in-Asia elites having their kids take the SAT, which could be increasing the pool of smart Asians taking the test. I'm also concerned about test security, however, when the test is administered in Asia. The Graduate Record Exam has been plagued by instances of cheating in Asia. Also, the new Writing test is rather like the tests that the Chinese Empire conducted for millennia to pick mandarins. 

Another possibility is that the legal immigration system is working in bringing in smart Asians, who are becoming a larger fraction of the Asian-American population over time. But what about regression toward the mean? Amy Chua is very smart, for example, but she's nowhere near as smart as her father, the conceptualizer of the memristor.

The take home lesson for Americans would seem to me to be that Americans shouldn't credulously trust assertions by the College Board / ETS / ACT that their tests can't really be gamed through test prep or other means. The SAT and ACT are, relatively speaking, very good tests, but we live in a highly competitive, globalized world full of people who are smart, hard-working, and less trusting and less believing in Fair Play than naive Americans.

Now, here's his graph of the white-black SAT gap, which has been widening:

The sharp decline on The Gap in  2006 on the Verbal test (renamed Critical Reading) may have something to do with changes in that test, perhaps intended to make it easier on blacks. But, the general trend has been for The Gap to get worse, especially since the early 1990s. Yet, since the early 1990s (the Crack Years) were not a halcyon period for young blacks, the widening of the gap probably reflects concerted efforts since then by the Great and the Good to get more blacks to take the SAT (scraping the bottom of the barrel harder). 

The process might work like this: the University of California, prevented from using racial quotas by Prop. 209) demands changes in the SAT Verbal that it hopes will boost black and Hispanic scores. A small amount of initial success in narrowing The Gap, however, leads elites to then over-confidently subsidize more black test-takers. Scraping the bottom of the barrel harder drives The Gap in Verbal back up, and increases The Gap in the other two sections to new heights. (Or I may be over-interpreting this.)

Also, it's likely that as test prep and gaming of the SAT has increased, that whites have benefited more from this than blacks. My mental model of who is doing more and more effectual test prep is Asians > whites > blacks and/or Mexicans > Other Hispanics (many of whom just arrived from Guatemala and are pretty clueless about the kinds of things that lead to higher scores that seem obvious to, say, a Hong Kong Chinese family in San Marino, CA).

Anyway, the White-Black gap graph shows the stability in gaps that is the overwhelming main lesson of generations of test score studies. Despite intense efforts by society since the mid-1960s, we still see about a one standard deviation gap between whites and blacks on a host of tests of cognitive ability (La Griffe du Lion's Fundamental Constant of American Sociology). But, that makes the recent change in Asian v. white scores even more interesting and more deserving of study.

Unsilenced Science also has informative graphs showing trends by year in SAT scores (i.e., not standard deviations).

September 15, 2011

SAT score changes by race since 1996

The oldest SAT score report on the College Board website is from 1996, right after the "recentering" in 1995 that raised scores about 100 points on a 400 to 1600 scale. Over the last 15 years, the average overall score on the original two-part Verbal + Math SAT (i.e., ignoring the new-fangled Writing section of the test introduced in the last decade) fell a grand total of two points, from 1013 to 1011. (See what I mean about baseball statistics being more volatile?)

1996 v. 2011 College-Bound Seniors Avg SAT Scores

Total (V+M)


1996 2011 Chg 1996 2011 Chg 1996 2011 Chg
ALL 1013 1011 (2) 505 497 (8) 508 514 6
Female 995 995 0 503 495 (8) 492 500 8
Male 1034 1031 (3) 507 500 (7) 527 531 4
Asian 1054 1112 58 496 517 21 558 595 37
White 1049 1063 14 526 528 2 523 535 12
Black 856 855 (1) 434 428 (6) 422 427 5
AmerIndian 960 972 12 483 484 1 477 488 11
Mexican 914 917 3 455 451 (4) 459 466 7
PR 897 904 7 452 452 0 445 452 7
Other Hisp 931 913 (18) 465 451 (14) 466 462 (4)

You'll note that the average white score went up 14 points form 1049 to 1063. Did white people get smarter over that period? I don't know. The SAT changed a lot over those 15 years, with analogies being dropped and some Verbal multiple choice questions being exiled to Writing. Also, kids appear to have cared more about prepping in 2011, although the College Board doesn't like to talk about this.

Asians went up 58 points, which is pretty striking. Everybody else fell farther behind whites, which wasn't supposed to happen.

Now, it could be that scores actually did pretty well over this 15 year stretch, because the College Board scraped the bottom of the barrel harder. In 1996, 1,085,000 college-bound seniors took the SAT. In 2011, there were 1,647,000 senior SAT-takers. Just between 2006 and 2011, the College Board let an incremental 150,000 students take the SAT free or at reduced cost.

On the other hand, my impression is that it became a lot more common for students to take both the SAT and ACT over that 15-year stretch, so some of the increase in the number of test-takers comes from people who would only have taken the ACT in 1996. It used to be that East and West Coasters took the SAT and Midwesterners the ACT, but by 2011, lots of students try both to see which one they'll do better on. These kids who take both tests probably tend to be fairly ambitious ones who are looking to game the system by taking both tests, then submitting only the test score they did better upon. So, double-dippers likely scored reasonably well (although, of course, not so 2400 / 36 outstanding that they wouldn't bother taking any test again).

(Has anybody recently done an authoritative study of the trend in overall SAT scores considering all the factors driving scores up or down?)

Between 1996 and 2011, everybody except Other Hispanics got a little better in Math. (I suspect that Other Hispanics used to be mostly Cubans and random fairly well-to-do South Americans, but now it includes a lot of Central Americans.) But Asians got a lot better: 37 points, from 558 to 595.

Verbal scores stagnated or declined slightly, except for Asians, who went up 21 points from 496 to 517. 

Now, let's look at scores relative to the white scores in 1996 and 2011. A decade and a half ago, the overall score for everybody was 36 points lower than the white score. Today, it's 52 points lower. Most of that 16 points of relative decline is due to the demographic composition of America's SAT-takers changing for the worse.

Difference v. whites

Total (V+M)

1996 2011 Chg
ALL 36 52 (16)
Female 54 68 (14)
Male 15 32 (17)
Asian 5 49 44
White 0 0 0
Black 193 208 (15)
AmerIndian 89 91 (2)
Mexican 135 146 (11)
PR 152 159 (7)
Other Hisp 118 150 (32)

The Gap got worse for most of the minority groups that the press gets worked up over. Blacks fell from 193 points behind whites to 208 points (a 15 point relative decline, or a point per year). Mexicans fell from 135 lower to 146 lower. Other Hispanics fell the most, from 118 behind to 150 behind.

These declines are probably mostly due to society (especially the College Board) scraping the bottom of the barrel harder in 2011. What with the recession and all, everybody is convinced that they must go to college, so they try the SAT. The number of people who scored below 400 on Verbal grew from 179,000 to 302,000 and on Math from 172,000 to 251,000.

The number who scored 700 or higher also shot upwards, but that might be due in part to kids taking the SAT more times or taking both the SAT and ACT to see if they can shoot the moon. The number scoring 700 or higher on Verbal went up from 47,000 to 77,000 and on Math from 58,000 to 112,000. High scorers are presumably the most likely to do a lot of test prep and otherwise try to game the system.

In contrast to all other ethnic groups, who fell farther behind whites over the last 15 years, Asians had a 5 point advantage over whites in 1996, which blossomed to a 49 point lead by 2011, a relative change of 44 points.That's a big change, relative to the near-stasis on everything else.

Character education

A reader writes:
I was thinking, "What character trait/life skill would I make most important to instill, if I ran the educational zoo?" 
My own kids went through school when 'self-esteem' was ridiculously stressed. And we see its effects everywhere. 
But how about this one as a primary guide:  teach them 'How to learn from your mistakes'
Lots of goodness would come from this emphasis, I think. 
It obviates the whole (fragile, they think)  'self-esteem' concern, because it teaches that it is not BAD to make mistakes  
(EVERYONE makes them - don't feel bad about it),   only bad to not learn from them 
It springboards into teaching the Scientific Method, logic, rational thinking, problem solving, Deming Quality Control, etc. 
It teaches humbleness, appreciation for other ways of doing things, etc. 
And, it helps one to make the best of whatever genetic cards one has been dealt. 
It sure seems that it is NOT even on the radar screen these days. BHO the prime example.

Along these lines, I would encourage intellectuals to try to subscribe to a form of vulgar Hegelianism in their personal intellectual behavior that I've found very useful. 

If you hold a thesis for what seem like good reasons, and somebody counters with a well-argued antithesis, you have several options:

- Reject the antithesis (the most common)

- Convert to the antithesis (the most dramatic)

- Look for a synthesis that makes sense of both your thesis and the other guy's antithesis (usually, the hardest but most profitable)

For example:

Thesis: A racial group is a taxonomical subspecies.

Antithesis: A racial group is a biologically nonexistent social construct!

Synthesis: A racial group is a partly inbred extended family.

September 14, 2011

Asians pulling away in SAT scores

From FairTest:

2011 College-Bound Seniors Avg SAT Scores

W/score changes from 2006

ALL 497 (-6) 514 (-4) 489 (-8) 1500 (-18)
Female 495 (-7) 500 (-2) 496 (-6) 1491 (-15)
Male 500 (-5) 531 (-5) 482 (-9) 1513 (-19)
Asian 517 (+7) 595 (+17) 528 (+16) 1640 (+40)
White 528 (+1) 535 (-1) 516 (-3) 1579 (-3)
Black 428 (-6) 427 (-2) 417 (-11) 1272 (-19)
AmerIndian 484 (-3) 488 (-6) 465 (-9) 1437 (-18)
Mexican 451 (-3) 466 (+1) 445 (-7) 1362 (-9)
PR 452 (-7) 452 (-4) 442 (-6) 1346 (-17)
Other Hisp 451 (-7) 462 (-1) 444 (-6) 1357 (-14)

I've been following baseball statistics since 1965 and educational test scores since 1972. Test scores are vastly more important for understanding how the world works, but they aren't as diverting because they seldom change. For example, in the above, whites are just treading water, down 1% of a standard deviation over half a decade. Boring. NAM scores are down, probably mostly because the College Board has been subsidizing more NAMs to take the SAT for free as a publicity move. In other words, it's probably not a real change.

But, wow, as I pointed out last year in writing about PSAT National Merit Semifinalists, Asians have just been pulling away from everybody else in the last few years.

Is the same trend true on low stakes tests, like most school achievement tests that are used to grade schools rather than students?

This is a big story and it deserves more research. Is the innate intelligence of Asians going up? Or does this prove that Tiger Mothering works? Is the SAT being unfairly gamed? There are a lot of questions here.

Generational shame

From the LA Times:
After more than a year's delay, NASA on Wednesday unveiled its plan to build a heavy launch vehicle capable of sending astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit by 2025, but it would be only slightly more powerful than the 1960s-era Saturn V that launched Americans to the moon.

They used slide rules to engineer the Saturn V.

The limits of niceness

Paul Tough writes in the NYT Magazine about visits to a KIPP charter school in the South Bronx and to a $38,000 per year private school, Riverdale, in the North Bronx. Riverdale is exploring changing its character education program from one emphasizing not hurting other people's feelings to being personally resilient:
After a few small adjustments (Levin and Randolph opted to drop love in favor of curiosity), they settled on a final list: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. ... 
... Levin started working to turn it into a specific, concise assessment that he could hand out to students and parents at KIPP’s New York City schools twice a year: the first-ever character report card. 
Back at Riverdale, though, the idea of a character report card made [Principal] Randolph nervous. “I have a philosophical issue with quantifying character,” he explained to me one afternoon. “With my school’s specific population, at least, as soon as you set up something like a report card, you’re going to have a bunch of people doing test prep for it. I don’t want to come up with a metric around character that could then be gamed. I would hate it if that’s where we ended up.”

Gaming the SAT has taken decades because, generally speaking, if you can outsmart an IQ test, you are probably pretty smart anyway. But gaming a character test if you are smart sounds pretty easy. Think about how Dr. Ahmad Chalabi gamed the neocons into thinking he was the new George Washington. (The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory gets around this through mind-melting repetition of questions.)
As I spent time at Riverdale last year, it became apparent to me that the debate over character at the school wasn’t just about how best to evaluate and improve students’ character. It went deeper, to the question of what “character” really meant. When Randolph arrived at Riverdale, the school already had in place a character-education program, of a sort. Called CARE, for Children Aware of Riverdale Ethics, the program was adopted in 1989 in the lower school, which at Riverdale means prekindergarten through fifth grade. It is a blueprint for niceness, mandating that students “Treat everyone with respect” and “Be aware of other people’s feelings and find ways to help those whose feelings have been hurt.” Posters in the hallway remind students of the virtues related to CARE (“Practice Good Manners . . . Avoid Gossiping . . . Help Others”). In the lower school, many teachers describe it as a proud and essential part of what makes Riverdale the school that it is.  ...
In fact, though, the character-strength approach of Seligman and Peterson isn’t an expansion of programs like CARE; if anything, it is a repudiation of them. In 2008, a national organization called the Character Education Partnership published a paper that divided character education into two categories: programs that develop “moral character,” which embodies ethical values like fairness, generosity and integrity; and those that address “performance character,” which includes values like effort, diligence and perseverance. The CARE program falls firmly on the “moral character” side of the divide, while the seven strengths that Randolph and Levin have chosen for their schools lean much more heavily toward performance character: while they do have a moral component, strengths like zest, optimism, social intelligence and curiosity aren’t particularly heroic; they make you think of Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton more than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. 

That Chinese sculptor must not have gotten the memo about Dr. King being the embodiment of niceness, instead sculpting him for the National Mall as a "scowling behemoth," as a commenter noted.
Cohen’s vision of character is much closer to “moral character” than “performance character,” and so far, that vision remains the dominant one at Riverdale. When I spent a day at the school in March, sitting in on a variety of classes and meetings, messages about behavior and values permeated the day, but those messages stayed almost entirely in the moral dimension. It was a hectic day at the middle school — it was pajama day, plus there was a morning assembly, and then on top of that, the kids in French class who were going on the two-week trip to Bordeaux for spring break had to leave early in order to make their overnight flight to Paris. The topic for the assembly was heroes, and a half-dozen students stood up in front of their classmates — about 350 kids, in all — and each made a brief presentation about a particular hero he or she had chosen: Ruby Nell Bridges, the African-American girl who was part of the first group to integrate the schools in New Orleans in 1960; Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose self-immolation helped spark the recent revolt in that country; the actor and activist Paul Robeson. 
In the assembly, in classes and in conversations with different students, I heard a lot of talk about values and ethics, and the values that were emphasized tended to be social values: inclusion, tolerance, diversity. (I heard a lot more about black history at Riverdale than I did at the KIPP schools I visited.) One eighth-grade girl I asked about character said that for her and her friends, the biggest issue was inclusion — who was invited to whose bat mitzvah; who was being shunned on Facebook. Character, as far as I could tell, was being defined at Riverdale mostly in terms of helping other people — or at least not hurting their feelings.

You'll notice how the current educational system tends to indoctrinate innocent young people into a series of equations that are never quite spelled out: moral goodness = niceness = conformity = mindless diversity worship = hatred of heretics.

I am widely considered to be an extremely not nice person because I don't believe that public intellectual discourse should be hamstrung by those virtues appropriate for an eighth grader approaching her bat mitzvah. I'm not in eighth grade anymore. 

Now, in person, as those few of my readers who have met me can attest, I am the perpetual extremely nice eighth grader. But, I don't really meet with people much in person anymore because it seems like a waste of everybody's time. I have a goal -- helping my fellow citizens understand better how the world works -- and I have a talent -- demolishing cant. My personal niceness tends to get in the way of my helping my country.

KIPP, again

Here are some excerpts from the umpty-umpth article in the NY Times Magazine about KIPP charter schools, which have strict rules of conduct and hard work for inner city minority students, What If the Secret to Success Is Failure? by Paul Tough. KIPP is always pretty interesting, and nobody is terribly frank about how they do what they do, so I give that chain a lot of Kremlinological analysis looking for small clues.
Six years earlier, in 1999, the first group of students to enter KIPP Academy middle school, which Levin founded and ran in the South Bronx, triumphed on the eighth-grade citywide achievement test, graduating with the highest scores in the Bronx and the fifth-highest in all of New York City. Every morning of middle school they passed a giant sign in the stairwell reminding them of their mission: “Climb the Mountain to College.” And as they left KIPP for high school, they seemed poised to do just that: not only did they have outstanding academic results, but most of them also won admission to highly selective private and Catholic schools, often with full scholarships. 
But as Levin told me when we spoke last fall, for many students in that first cohort, things didn’t go as planned. “We thought, O.K., our first class was the fifth-highest-performing class in all of New York City,” Levin said. “We got 90 percent into private and parochial schools. It’s all going to be solved. But it wasn’t.” Almost every member of the cohort did make it through high school, and more than 80 percent of them enrolled in college. But then the mountain grew steeper, and every few weeks, it seemed, Levin got word of another student who decided to drop out. According to a report that KIPP issued last spring, only 33 percent of students who graduated from a KIPP middle school 10 or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college. That rate is considerably better than the 8 percent of children from low-income families who currently complete college nationwide, and it even beats the average national rate of college completion for all income groups, which is 31 percent. But it still falls well short of KIPP’s stated goal: that 75 percent of KIPP alumni will graduate from a four-year college, and 100 percent will be prepared for a stable career.

A 33% college graduation rate is quite good. I don't doubt that KIPP is skimming kids from the ghetto who are, on average, smarter and of better character, and kicking out those who don't live up to their expectations. But God bless them for doing that. Good kids should get some breaks in life, like getting to go to school away from the knuckleheads.
As Levin watched the progress of those KIPP alumni, he noticed something curious: the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class. Those skills weren’t enough on their own to earn students a B.A., Levin knew. But for young people without the benefit of a lot of family resources, without the kind of safety net that their wealthier peers enjoyed, they seemed an indispensable part of making it to graduation day. 

I doubt if there is all that much diversity in KIPP grads' IQs. They probably run 85 to 110, say. There aren't a lot of high end IQs in the South Bronx, and what there is has probably been skimmed off into elementary private schools already, just as 90% of those who make it through this KIPP middle school get skimmed into private high schools. I did a bunch of volunteer work for a charity in Chicago 20 years ago that skimmed smarter poor kids into private high schools. We were quite happy to find kids who scored at the 75th percentile in the state tests. So, yes, if you have two kids from the South Bronx, both with 105 IQs, the one with a more resilient character is more likely to make it through college.
What appealed to Levin about the list of character strengths that Seligman and Peterson compiled was that it was presented not as a finger-wagging guilt trip about good values and appropriate behavior but as a recipe for a successful and happy life. He was wary of the idea that KIPP’s aim was to instill in its students “middle-class values,” as though well-off kids had some depth of character that low-income students lacked. “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach,” he told me, “is it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment.”

Obviously, the whole point of KIPP is for middle class white people like Mr. Levin to cram some middle class white values into the heads of lower class blacks and Hispanics. But, the middle class white KIPPsters have to go around insisting that that's not what they are doing. Heaven forfend that anybody should get any such idea!

It must make everything much more complicated that all the devoted teachers engaged in this must tell themselves that their whole approach is "fundamentally devoid of value judgement" as they slave 80 hours per week at KIPP. No wonder it doesn't scale well. 

Woodstock conservatism

From the New York Times:
In Woodstock, Values Collide over Housing 
... a protracted battle over a 53-unit affordable housing project is dividing this still-crunchy town where mellow ’60s vibes and liberal politics coexist uneasily with real estate prices increasingly out of the reach of the humbler classes. 
When workers finally began clearing land for the Woodstock Commons project in July, it looked as if the uncomfortable dispute might finally be ending. Instead, new issues kept popping up: the plight of black bears and endangered Indiana bats threatened by the construction; a botched permitting process; uncertainty about water service. 
In some ways what is playing out in this Ulster County town is a more colorful microcosm of affordable housing controversies elsewhere. Still, the collision of environmental, neighborhood and social justice issues is making people squirm in a place where the only thing more important than making the world better can be keeping Woodstock the same. 
“Nobody would tell you they don’t want these people in our town,” said Jeff Moran, the town supervisor, who has been a conflicted supporter of the rental project. “Instead, they talk about the effect on the quality of life, ramping up the costs of services and those kind of things. But there’s a joke in town that the reason The Woodstock Times costs a dollar is because people don’t want change. People come here and they think they have an investment in the town being a certain way.” 
Opponents, particularly in neighborhoods near the project site, said the issue was not Nimbyism or opposition to public housing but practical objections based on Woodstock’s small size (population about 6,000), charmingly Brigadoonish downtown and creaky infrastructure. Among their complaints: the project is too big, it is at a dangerous bend for traffic and the site should remain green space. They have picked apart particulars, like the nonprofit developer’s claim that residents would be within walking distance of a nearby “grocery store” that is actually a high-priced health food store. 
“It’s politically incorrect to oppose an affordable project, so you can’t even look at it,” said Robin Segal, who has a doctorate in energy policy and who moved to town two years ago in search of a garden and peace and quiet. She has since been consumed with writing a detailed blog about the project that has found errors and problems the planning process missed. “But,” she continued, “it’s the wrong project in the wrong place.” 
Woodstock’s lack of affordable housing has long been a public concern, though a low-level one, in a place where almost any building project — whether a cellphone tower, the expansion of a Buddhist monastery or solar panels at an animal sanctuary — can set off a nasty dispute. 
“This is a town where if someone is sick or someone’s house burns down, people will come out of the woodwork to be generous and to help,” said Susan Goldman, a longtime community volunteer. “But we don’t see people who have a need for housing as part of that community. It’s a town full of social progressives, but we don’t look at our own community the way we look at the rest of the country.”

As a man of conservative disposition, I sympathize with Woodstock's many conservatives, even if they claim to be progressives. 

I don't particularly believe that the 1960s were about "values" or whatever. I think it was more a struggle for dominance and the talk about principles was more a smokescreen. Much of contemporary politics, therefore, consists of the the winners of the 1960s trying to preserve their gains. 

That's only natural.

From Wikipedia:
The racial makeup of the town was 94.25% White, 1.30% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 1.57% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.79% from other races, and 1.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.56% of the population.

That's less diverse than the lineup at Woodstock in 1969, which featured Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Ritchie Havens, Santana, Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar, and two albinos.

SAT reading scores down

From CBS:
SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995. 
The College Board, which released the scores Wednesday, said the results reflect the record size and diversity of the pool of test-takers. ... 
Still, it’s just the second time in the last two decades reading scores have fallen as much in a single year. And reading scores are now notably lower than as recently as 2005, when the average was 508. 

In contrast, scores on state exams mandated by the No Child Left Behind act have gone up, UP, UP! I wonder why? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the College Board and ETS don't have large material incentives to get scores up by hook or by crook. There's this concept called "conflict of interest" that you may have heard of, although evidently George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy hadn't.
Average math scores for the class of 2011 fell one point to 514 and scores on the critical reading section fell two points to 489.

My guess is that math is more amenable to schoolroom instruction, since kids seldom do math for fun on their own. Since 1983, America has invested a lot in math teaching (often at the expense of history, arts, music, etc.), and we've gotten a (quite) modest but positive ROI. Reading in the classroom and homework, however, is merely a fraction of the total reading kids do (or ought to do), so spending less time on other subjects and more on reading has a more marginal effect.
College Board officials pointed to a range of indicators that the test-taking pool has expanded, particularly among Hispanics, which is a good sign that more students are aspiring to college. For instance, roughly 27 percent of the 1.65 million test-takers last year came from a home where English was not the only language, up from 19 percent just a decade ago.

Up through 2007, it was common for Hispanics to drop out of high school to take construction jobs, or the like. Since unemployment went up, Hispanics have been flooding into community colleges to give themselves something to do. Presumably, more marginal students are taking the SAT, depressing scores.

Also, they've been letting more and more students take the SAT for free since 2007, so the number of minority test takers increased from 553,000 to 720,000 from 2007 to 2011. (Here's the College Board's report.)
But the increasingly diverse group of test-takers is clearly having more trouble with reading and writing than with math. Wayne Camara, College Board vice president of research, said recent curriculum reforms that pushed math instruction may be coming at the expense of reading and writing — especially in an era when students are reading less and less at home. 
“We’re looking and wondering if (more) efforts in English and reading and writing would benefit” students, Camara said. ../
Based on research at 100 colleges, the College Board calculated that scoring 1550 (equivalent to about a 930 on the SAT M+V before 1995) or above on the three sections of the test indicated a 65-percent likelihood of attaining at least a B-minus average in the freshman year of college.

I once took a detailed look at what percentage of students in LA County public high schools score 1000 out of 1600 (M+V) on the SAT, which is a little below that 1550 out of 2400 cutoff that the College Board suggests. Among LAUSD seniors, only 14% scored at least 1000/1600.

The CB report says that this score of 517 / 800 is very close to the minimum Proficient score on the fed's NAEP test of 12th graders. 517 is about the 57th percentile, while 500 is exactly the 50th percentile this year.
Overall, 43 percent of test-takers reached that benchmark. The College Board emphasized the tool is for policymakers, and shouldn’t be used by college admissions officers to evaluate individual candidates. 
The main message from the College Board was the importance of a rigorous curriculum, which is a strong and perhaps growing predictor of SAT scores. 
For instance, nearly one in five students takes less than four years of high school English. That’s about the same percentage as a decade ago, but it now makes a much bigger difference on SAT scores: The reading scores of those students have fallen from 500 to 462. Students who took AP and honors classes, meanwhile, score significantly higher across the board.

A decline in average scores isn’t necessarily good news for top students who were applying to competitive colleges. The number of high scores is also increasing. For instance, the number of students with math scores of at least 700 is up 22 percent since 2007.

Some of that may be ACT takers also taking the SAT. But, I think it's pretty clear that the SAT is more and more being successfully gamed by the upper middle class's Tiger Mothers. College Board / ETS don't have strong incentives to lift average scores, but they also don't have strong incentives to crack down on whatever it is that is allowing elite offspring to separate themselves from the masses.

For example, when I went to Rice, the average SAT score was about 1300. Now, it's about 1440, which makes me 140 points awesomer. What incentive do I have to complain?

September 13, 2011


From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
Ever since Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow started her website to let people know about all the expensive stuff she owns, many have wanted to see her portray, say, a corpse who gets the top of her skull sawed off by coroners trying to figure out what brain-rotting disease killed her. And Gwyneth, I’m happy to say, is terrific as Patient Zero in Contagion, which is being marketed as a vast thriller about a global viral epidemic. I definitely got my money’s worth from the Paltrow head-hacking scene. 
The first half, in which several of Contagion’s eight Oscar nominees (Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, and Elliott Gould) drop dead from a new southeast Chinese germ transmitted merely by contact, is almost as creepy as promised. You’ll want to watch Contagion through a couple of eyeholes in a large upside-down plastic garbage bag.

Read the whole thing there.

Anybody who doesn't have cable TV is a loser

In the discussions over the new statistics showing ever more Americans in poverty, I was struck by this line from Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation: "Nearly two-thirds [of the officially poor] have cable or satellite TV" and "One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV." 

Unlike, apparently, the more on-the-ball sort of impoverished person, I haven't had cable or satellite TV for over a decade. I bought an old-fashioned TV about seven years ago. That was fine at the time because we got the major networks on broadcast TV. Then, after a delay, old-fashioned analog broadcasting was halted in June 2009. Various officials made various promises about how this wouldn't be a problem, that with simple fixes everybody would be as well off as before. 

That didn't turn out to be true. Despite trying various work-arounds, we haven't gotten CBS since the switchover, NBC comes and goes. It's a mess. Digital broadcast TV has gifted us with a plethora of new fourth-tier channels. My favorite was the This channel, which broadcast, apparently off old VHS tapes it had bought at a garage sale, 1970s movies that nobody had ever heard of. But then that fizzled out. 

This is no doubt a problem for many millions of Americans who don't have cable. It's an extremely minor problem for me, but for people who don't like the Internet (often old, sick, illiterate, etc.), it's a big problem.

And guess what? Nobody who is anybody cares about them.

A simple rule of thumb is that if you don't have cable or a nice TV in contemporary America, you are a nobody.

Is Obama Depressed?

From the rumor site Gawker:
Is Barack Obama Depressed? 
Wouldn't you be? Barack Obama is at the nadir of his political popularity and effectiveness. He has been maneuvered into an economic corner of 9%-plus unemployment by a relentlessly nihilistic Congress. His achievements—killing bin Laden, saving the auto industry at negligible cost—are written off as flukes. Plus all this 9/11 anniversary stuff! We hear the New York Times is looking into whether it's all starting to get to him—like, clinically. 
We're told by a source inside the Times that the paper is preparing a story arguing that Obama no longer finds joy in the political back-and-forth, has seemed increasingly listless to associates, and is generally exhibiting the litany of signs that late-night cable commercials will tell you add up to depression. Or maybe Low T. 
Either way, the investigation was described to us as taking seriously the notion that Obama may be suffering from a depressive episode. Of course, absent a telltale Wellbutrin prescription or testimony from the man himself, it's really impossible to achieve a reliable diagnosis. And a story like "Obama Appears to Suffer From Depression" can be easily downgraded to "Political Travails Begin to Take Personal Toll on Obama." So the story in question, if it ever comes out, may not end up supporting the depression thesis. But rest assured: There are people at the Times who, based on the paper's reporting, believe Obama is depressed—the kind of depression where, if he weren't the president of the United States, he wouldn't be getting out of bed in the morning.

From his own writings, it seems like he suffered depressive episodes in New York in the 1980s and in Chicago in 2000. But, so little objective empathetic analysis has been applied to what Obama has written that almost nobody has noticed this important aspect of the life of the President of the United States of America. 

On the other hand, he's also gotten over depressive episodes. I would imagine that watching the Republican candidates for his job must be a real cheerer-upper.

September 12, 2011

"1493" by Charles C. Mann

From my new column:
Once or twice per year, my local Costco puts out for sale a big stack of paperback copies of Charles C. Mann’s 2005 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, a detailed combination of history, travelogue, and popular science that has become one of more respected and popular nonfiction books of the last decade. I find it heartening that somebody can still make decent money writing an ambitious, serious, and well-researched book.  Now Mann has published a new bestseller sequel about the historical roots of globalization: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

Read the whole thing there.

UPDATED: Which state has the best blacks?

Audacious Epigone has a table ranking states by the ratio of the percent of blacks on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families versus the entire population's ratio. In one state, blacks are only very slightly more likely to use welfare than the general population. Which is it? Also, in which state are blacks the most likely to be on welfare relative to the whole population? 

The answers won't be too surprising to my long term readers:

45) Texas 2.39
46) Colorado 2.38
47) Mississippi 2.22
48) Rhode Island 2.11
49) New Mexico 1.70
50) Hawaii 1.06

So, the state where blacks are most equal, where there is the least local evidence supporting stereotypes of black fecklessness, turns out to be that hellhole of racial prejudice and bigotry where Barack Obama was forced to grow up in a discriminatory environment where, as he recalled decades later in Dreams from My Father, a white girl at his exclusive prep school wanted to touch his hair

Second best is frequent commenter Truth's New Mexico. I think the common denominator is that blacks in both states mostly got there through the military, or that they just had to be kind of independent-minded and self-starting to move there.

Anyway, some caveats: relative welfare usage is hardly the only measure of interest, but it seems like a pretty good single number measure of the intensity of underclass pathology.

I think the good ranking of Mississippi, the blackest state, is more a statistical artifact of Audacious comparing blacks to the entire population (including blacks) rather than to the non-black population or to whites. Say that blacks make up 40% of Mississippi's population and 100% are on welfare and 0% of everybody else is on welfare. Then, the ratio would still only be 2.50 (instead of the actual 2.22). Something similar is true for other highly black states like South Carolina and Louisiana.

Rhode Island seems to have pretty feckless white people, with RI whites with a lot on the ball moving to Boston or New York. Colorado strikes me as a pretty good all-around state that usually does well on state rankings on just about anything. Perhaps the altitude drives away the sickly and lazy?

The really interesting number here might be giant Texas, which suffers less from Mississippi-style statistical illusion because its black share is relatively modest. As you'll recall, during the orgy of media hate following Hurricane Katrina in which anybody who said anything obviously true was denounced, Barbara Bush got in trouble for saying that black refugees from New Orleans' long dysfunctional Lower Ninth Ward would be better off making new lives for themselves in Houston. There is a lot of evidence that blacks do relatively well in conservative-dominated Texas.

So, which states have the worst blacks relative to the general population? Once again, iSteve readers shouldn't be too surprised:
1) Wisconsin9.04
2) Minnesota8.90
3) Nebraska7.92
4) Idaho7.33
5) Iowa7.23
The peculiar awfulness of Milwaukee's black slums, relative even to, say, Chicago's black slums, has been on the radar for a long time. It's not a coincidence that a number of important innovations in policy aimed at blacks, such as welfare reform and vouchers and charter schools were heavily pioneered in Wisconsin in the early 1990s. 

Also, keep in mind that rural whites in Wisconsin have their act together more than rural whites in a lot of other states. Driving around back roads in Arkansas in the early 1990s, it wasn't uncommon to see thirtyish Winter's Bone white guys sitting on the porches of their shacks at 3pm on a Thursday, glaring at me as if I might be an undercover revenooer. Driving back roads in Wisconsin, in contrast, past all the lovingly maintained family dairy farms, it looked like rural Wisconsin would make a credible stand-in for rural Austria in a remake of The Sound of Music.

The roots of this appear to be Wisconsin's traditional social democratic tendencies. As Alice Cooper points out to Wayne in Wayne's World, Milwaukee three times elected a Socialist Party mayor. If you have a feckful, cooperative population like most of Wisconsin, then it made sense to set liberal welfare rules in the 1960s to make sure that neighbors in need weren't shut out by bureaucratic red tape. The problem with this generous attitude is that it attracted in the most parasitical blacks from the South and from Chicago. 

A long time ago in VDARE I mapped 1997 data on imprisonments by race by state. The three states with the highest ratio of black to white imprisonment were Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which are three of the top five in Audacious's TANF ratio table.

UPDATE: Audacious has recalculated the rankings to get around the statistical problem I pointed out. Now, he's just looking at the black to white ratio in TANF usage rates. Fortunately for all the verbiage I wrote above, you get the same winner (Hawaii) and the same loser (Wisconsin). Different states have different eligibility levels for welfare, so it makes sense to report not the absolute black welfare usage rate, but their rate relative to the rate of whites in that state:

Best blacks relative to local whites (i.e., #50 Hawaii has the most equal blacks and whites):

41. Vermont5.27
42. Rhode Island4.93
43. Washington4.73
44. Alaska4.52
45. New Hampshire4.41
46. New Mexico4.15
47. Kentucky4.01
48. West Virginia3.45
49. Colorado2.75
50. Hawaii1.39
Now, Texas blacks falls out of the better reaches and right into the middle of the pack. Oh, well ... My  explanation above sounded highly persuasive while I wrote it.

Worst blacks relative to local whites (#1 Wisconsin worst):
1. Wisconsin27.75
2. North Dakota23.40
3. Minnesota23.15
4. New Jersey17.97
5. South Dakota16.50
6. Pennsylvania15.81
7. Nebraska15.00
8. Illinois12.55
9. Iowa11.30
10. Michigan11.10
To some extent this is unfair to blacks in the Upper Midwest and New Jersey because the white people there are pretty good about not being a burden on society (Italian-Americans are famous for not wanting to use welfare no matter how much they might need it). But it's still a pretty interesting way to rank states.

September 11, 2011

Tutsi and Hutu

After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, it became common to proclaim in the press that there aren't actually any average differences between the Nilotic Tutsis and the Bantu Hutus, that Tutsis don't actually tend to be taller than Hutus, that these perceptions are just some sort of mass delusion socially constructed by Belgian colonists. 

I can understand why the Tutsi minority that has ruled Rwanda for the last 17 years, and has ruled the Hutu majority in neighboring Burundi for the last half century, wants to propagate a myth intended not only to keep them unchopped up, but also keep them in power undemocratically. But having never felt the urge to chop up a Tutsi, I don't feel much compulsion to believe it, just as I don't feel the compulsion to avoid noticing that most of the people in the news in recent decades in Mexico (e.g., Vicente Fox, Jorge Castaneda, Carlos Slim, or Subcomandante Marcos) don't appear to be terribly Indian by ancestry, even thought the Mexican ruling class made up the La Raza Cosmic ideology/mythology in the 1920s to prevent further race wars.

Razib Khan decided to check out the genetics of this assertion, so he looked for a volunteer for his genetics project. He eventually found somebody who was 3/4th Tutsi and 1/4th Hutu. Sure enough, even with a sample size of N=0.75, he can see that Tutsis show up as different than Bantus.

Still, that raises the question of how in a culture with some degree of intermarriage over the last 500 years, can you still have somewhat distinct Tutsis and Hutus. I think an instructive analog for Rwanda is Mexico. Both were invaded by taller people about 500 years ago. Despite twenty or so generations of intermarriage, taller people still tend to rule there. (E.g., the previous president of Mexico is 6’5″). In my movie review of “Hotel Rwanda,” I explained a likely mechanism for these patterns:
Unfortunately, the screenplay aims at self-absorbed white liberals who think all Africans look alike and that white racism is the root of all evil. The script even claims that it’s merely a white myth that Tutsis tend to be taller than Hutus, asserting that the Belgian imperialists arbitrarily assigned those identities to random Rwandans. Yet, soon the Hutu Power radio station is broadcasting the prearranged code to begin exterminating the Tutsis: “Cut down the tall trees.” 
Rwanda’s true history is more instructive. The medium-height Bantu Hutu farmers arrived 2,000 years ago and drove the pygmoid hunter-gatherer Twa into the forests. Then, about the time of Cortez, the tall, slender Tutsi herdsmen invaded from the north and, according to Gary Brecher, the acerbic “War Nerd” columnist, “claimed all the land, on the legal basis that if you objected they’d kill you.” 
The Tutsi rulers treated the Hutu peasantry with the same contempt the Norman lords display toward the Saxon yeomen in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Commenting on Rwanda’s “indigenous racism,” Congo-born sociologist Pierre L. van den Berghe reported that the Tutsis, like other aristocracies, saw themselves as “astute in political intrigue, born to command, refined, courageous, and cruel.” 
The Tutsi ascendancy resembled the white pre-eminence in Latin America. Intermarriage was frequent, yet physical differences between the classes endured, just as they have in Mexico, where despite five centuries of intermarrying, the elite remains much taller and fairer than the masses. The trick is that Mexico’s most successful short, dark men often wed tall, blonde women and have more European-looking offspring, thus replenishing the caste system. 
Likewise, in “Hotel Rwanda,” Cheadle’s ultra-competent Hutu executive is married to a Tutsi beauty who is taller and fairer than he is. (She’s played by Sophie Okonedo, whose mother is a Jewish Englishwoman.)

 I gotta say, that while I have my weaknesses as a movie reviewer, I don't think too many other critics offer novel explanations for major global conundrums in the course of reviewing the Movie of the Week.

Flight 93

Jonathan Last makes an excellent point:
Despite the national memorial now emerging in Shanksville, I don’t think America has fully begun to appreciate where Flight 93 fits into the pantheon of great moments in American history. I’d argue that–for a host of reasons–it belongs somewhere in the same neighborhood as Little Round Top and Revere’s ride. It’s fitting that we mourn the World Trade Center and Pentagon dead on 9/11, but properly understood our commemorations every year should start there and build toward reverence and appreciation for the men and women of Flight 93. That field in Pennsylvania, not the hole in Manhattan, should be our enduring symbol of the day.

A bunch of yuppie strangers self-organized within minutes and not only saved the Capitol or the White House, but appear, a decade later, to have historically eliminated the strategic threat posed by airline hijacking for kamikaze purposes. For about two hours, the bad guys seemed to have invented an unstoppable new weapon, with who knows what dire long term consequences. But then it proved they were stoppable by unarmed frequent flyers. And, probably consequently, there haven’t been any kamikaze hijackings in America since Flight 93. And two would-be suicide bombers on airplanes have been disarmed by passengers in the years since.

As an old yuppie marketing researcher, I take pride in knowing that one of the heroes who rushed the cabin on Flight 93 was a marketing researcher whose boss on 9/11 had been my boss back in 1982.