Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Shove it up your pipeline

I know that I should treat this report on preparing students for non-academic careers as a good thing, because it involves academic physicists and professional societies finally recognizing that we need to get serious about the fact that most physics majors will go into industry, not the PhD pipeline/pyramid.  I should be glad that people are recognizing this, and that the Important And Serious Types get it.

The problem is that I hate the important and serious types because they are always so disconnected from reality, half of them still say all the Acceptable And Serious stuff about PhD production, and it seems like they only figured out 4 minutes ago what the physics community should have figured out 4 decades ago:  That most people don't get PhDs and don't wind up in academia.  How can I take these jokers seriously when they started revising their Party Line yesterday while I've been taking students to industry meetings and teaching computational physics and applied optics since I was a junior professor?  These jokers will no doubt get the world to pat them on the back for "Steering the Conversation to Recognize the Need for Change" while some of us have been in the trenches doing this stuff for a long time, and we figured it out without the Serious And Important People issuing reports and trying to "Change The Conversation" or whatever.

And they dress it up in all of their administrative language instead of plain English, speaking the language of administrivia and bureaucracy.  And I know, I just KNOW, that when the next grant opportunity comes along, if it's for some PhD pipeline bullshit they'll be talking up the importance of that when five minutes earlier they were talking about preparing students for industry.  Because they're a bunch of parasites.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gritty reality

I just came across this article from May arguing that grit research is over-hyped.  Essentially, the claims are that (1) the effect of grit is sometimes exaggerated, (2) a lot of other known variables (e.g. the much-maligned standardized tests) are more predictive, and (3) grit is not nearly as novel as Duckworth claims.  It was mentioned in the comments on this article, where the author worries that if grit is the key to success then advantaged kids are more likely to be in environments that emphasize it.  The problem is that advantaged kids are, by definition, the ones with the greatest access to the secret sauce of success, whatever you think that secret sauce may be.  Also, whether we respond to [insert latest success fad here] by seeking to help the poor get access to it or by blaming the poor for not having it depends not on our theory of success but our theory of the poor.  If we see them as victims through no fault of their own then compassion will move us to help them develop [grit, growth mindset, whatever the latest trendy thing is].  If we see them as people of low character then we will blame them for not possessing our trait.  We don't need a humane theory of success, we need a humane theory of poverty.  I've said this before.

As an aside, Duckworth spent some time at McKinsey early in her career.  Those people are everywhere.