28 September 2010

Very, Very Smart Internet Link Sausages

Some today; some looking forward to next week; some not so much smart for themselves as demonstrating commitment to it.

  • First, the "genius sausages." Congratulations to the 2010 MacArthur Foundation Fellows — the "genius grants." A cool half million over a five year period, no strings attached, for those who've demonstrated "genius." This year, there's an unusually high emphasis on the arts; but that's all to the good.
  • Sometimes small schools are best. Sometimes it's not logistically feasible to break up large schools into smaller ones, even in the same building; that does not necessarily mean failure. In particular, the truly exceptional — at both ends of the achievement spectrum — need a certain critical mass to achieve... except in the absence of others, which may well be worse. It's awfully damned hard to run an AP Chemistry or AP English class with three or four students, and the students simply won't learn as much as in a somewhat larger group.

    The key, though, is how the teacher workload gets managed. Although it's buried in the story, this particular school got turned around not by breaking the union, but by following union work rules... at least on its surface. It would be interesting to see how the workload of grading these longer assignment gets managed; perhaps — just perhaps — teachings assign fewer meaningless repetitive drills...

  • On the stupid side of things, it's Banned Book Week. Again. And even them durned furriners have noticed, and not — quite — busted out laughing at the cognitive dissonance between "banned books" and "First Amendment."
  • Atheists know more about religious doctrine than do the faithful... and if one digs into the data actually presented, that's true even when equalizing for education level, and especially at higher levels of educational attainment.
  • Last for today, next week begins the announcement of the Nobel Prizes. You may be horribly misguided and earn one of these (particularly in Literature, Peace, and the parallel prize in Economics)... but you can't be stupid.