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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Without data, you are just another person with an opinion



The Atlantic profiles Andreas Schleicher, the German scientist behind PISA -- the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. Not surprisingly, he was trained in physics before becoming interested in educational assessment.

For previous PISA-related posts, see here, here and here.

Rindermann, in The g‐factor of international cognitive ability comparisons: the homogeneity of results in PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS and IQ‐tests across nations, showed that country IQ estimates of Lynn and Vanhanen were consistent with the educational performance data, and that a country level "G" factor explains most of the variation.

The Atlantic: ... The story of how an introverted German scientist came to judge and counsel schools around the world is an improbable one. As a mediocre student in Hamburg, Schleicher did not particularly care about his classes—to the distress of his father, who was a professor of education. Later, at an alternative high school, teachers encouraged Schleicher’s fascination with science and math, and his grades improved. He finished at the top of his class, even winning a national science prize. At the University of Hamburg, Schleicher studied physics. He had no interest in his father’s field, considering it too soft. Then, out of curiosity, he sat in on a lecture by Thomas Neville Postlethwaite, who called himself an “educational scientist.” Schleicher was captivated. Here was a man who claimed he could analyze a soft subject in a hard way, much the way a physicist might study schools. At the time, 1986, the education establishment was dominated by tradition, theories, and ideology. “You had people dealing with every subject,” Schleicher tells me, “except looking at reality.”

... He likes to end his presentation with a slide that reads, in a continuously scrolling ticker, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion … Without data, you are just another person with an opinion …”

... Today, 70 countries collectively give PISA to representative samples of more than 500,000 15-year-olds every three years. A longitudinal study of 30,000 Canadian students recently found PISA scores to be more accurate than report-card grades in predicting which kids will go to college. The latest results came out in 2010, and for the first time the test included Shanghai—which trounced every single country. Schleicher credits Shanghai’s success in part to a policy of rotating the best teachers into the region’s worst-performing schools (the opposite of what tends to happen in the U.S.). The Shanghai delegation came to the New York summit to share its secrets, much to Schleicher’s satisfaction. “You could see, when the minister from Shanghai was speaking, everybody started to write notes,” he told me afterward. “It was incredible! Ten years ago, you know, everybody would’ve said, ‘We are unique. We have a specific culture.’ And now we understand that culture is created by what we do.”

... Ironically, Schleicher’s own three children currently attend public school in France, a country that houses the OECD’s headquarters but, according to PISA, has solidly mediocre schools. “It was a difficult decision. I don’t think the French school system is great,” Schleicher says, his voice trailing off. “You never really know whether that was the right decision,” he says, sounding suddenly like many American parents—worried about his children’s school but hoping for the best.

27 comments:

David Coughlin said...

“You never really know whether that was the right decision,” he says,
sounding suddenly like many American parents—worried about his
children’s school but hoping for the best"

That made me wince.

Yan Shen said...

"Without data, you are just another person with an opinion..."

Right. I can't stand people who make substantive assertions backed up by nothing more than personal anecdote and conjecture. These individuals are truly detestable and often are nothing more than people who enjoy hearing their own voices. There are too many idiots online who like to throw out every single idea which comes to mind, without ever bothering to check whether or not the empirical literature substantiates anything they say. Like the quote says, without data, you are just another personal with an opinion and one who should be ignored.

Sam H said...

"Rindermann, in The g‐factor of international cognitive ability comparisons: the homogeneity of results in PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS and IQ‐tests across nations, showed that country IQ estimates of Lynn and Vanhanen were consistent with the educational performance data, and that a country level "G" factor explains most of the variation."

And the sociologists gnashed their teeth.... 

Yan Shen said...

Weren't you banned once already for bad behavior? Are you going to revert to mocking the Chinese language again? :)

MtMoru said...

Yours is the bad behavior Yan Shen. You are to the Chinese what Klansmen are to whites.

How could I mock Chinese or any language I don't speak?

Yan Shen said...

"You are to the Chinese what Klansmen are to whites."

Hmm... I don't ever recall donning white robes and going around terrorizing blacks. ;) Perhaps you are confusing me with the readers at the white nationalists blogs you frequent?

NicolasBourbaki said...

One of the hallmarks of the sociopath is habitual lying and denials of responsibility when caught. This fits mtmoru perfectly.

TheGuyFromEarlier said...

http://imgur.com/lpVQR

MtMoru said...

Hey it's Nick the mentally retarded child molester everybody!

MtMoru said...

What's a "white nationalist" grand dragon Shen?

Yan Shen said...

Don't you mean imperial wizard? ;)

botti said...

***The Chinese are a remarkably friendly and well behaved people, harboring no ill-will towards any other groups.***
 
Have you read any of the comments on Asias finest? A quick look at the forum and it's not hard to find bigoted ethnically chauvinistic comments.
 
"They can't win the patent battles so they invent media lies about "exactly like ours". As Japan stagnates, declines, floods and explodes, Japanese are becoming more and more slimballs like westerners."
 
http://www.asiafinest.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=275309
 
"Its true. The most sexist and crude men in the world are whites. In fact, it has competition from Subsaharan Africa. They just hide behind hollywood propaganda so no one sees until its too late."
 
http://www.asiafinest.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=274745

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

"The Chinese are a remarkably friendly and well behaved people, harboring no ill-will towards any other groups."

Waiting for evidence, since evidently, Yan Shen can't stand people who make substantive assertions backed up by nothing more than personal anecdote and conjecture.

Personal opinion (Yan Shen is free to not stand me): Chinese (not ABCs) are remarkably unfriendly to people of lesser races (i.e. swarthy people - S.E. Asians, S.Asians, Blacks) such as myself, are well-behaved insofar as they will do people like me no physical harm (though they might be obnoxious and condescending), and their thinly veiled contempt for people like me doesn't reflect their lack of ill-will towards other groups. May be it's just me and the other people I know who have had such experiences, but I doubt it. It looks like the average non-White, non-East Asian, doesn't quite enjoy being in China. For the record, I've lived with rednecks and never had any problem.

Random quotes from Chinasmack (http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/pictures/chinese-kindergarten-teacher-romance-with-black-foreigner.html) on a BM/AF pair (note: this is mainstream, not a fringe WN-style thing):

"She won’t be so happy if she gets AIDS. Brothers, live clean lives!
Black people are hard to accept… and our cultural differences are so great, nothing will come of this.
I’m not a racist, but I object to black people on purely aesthetic grounds.
However there are people who do not like to contaminate one race with
the other, thare is nothing wrong with that belief as long as they don’t
hurt anyone."
Yan Shen should go to law school (as a low M, high V kind of person) and use his ability to come up with sophistry to make him rich, rich, rich!
 

MtMoru said...

No boom boom soul brother. Soul brother too beaucoup.

But for Yan Shen too beaucoup is just right. Yan Shen has lots of experience with BM/AM. Mostly he pays for it. He's a size queen.

NicolasBourbaki said...

"The Chinese are a remarkably friendly and well behaved people, harboring no ill-will towards any other groups. "

This is in general true. The Chinese are remarkably tolerant of other cultures and peoples. For example, if you look at Pew global survey on cultural attitudes, the Chinese fare quite well in how they view their culture compared to others:

http://www.hindu.com/2007/12/11/stories/2007121155841000.htm

"But to see how off-the-charts our vanity is, let us compare ourselves with the other “ancient civilisations” in our neighbourhood. Compared to our 64 per cent, only 18 per cent of the Japanese and only 20 per cent Chinese had no doubt at all that their culture was the best. Indeed, close to one quarter of Japanese and Chinese — as compared to our meagre 5 per cent — disagreed that their ways were the best."

You can search for other surveys showing that the Chinese don't view themselves as superior to others and viewed getting well and being tolerant of others as important compared to most other countries in the world. 

Reactionary_Konkvistador said...

I know moderation is a giant time sink but I have to ask why not just require all comments to be approved by you before they are shown. I assume you end up reading them anyway? Most of the time commenter's on your blog behave (compliments on the interesting content btw) but as we see this isn't always true.

steve hsu said...

Yes, unfortunately things get out of hand occasionally. I don't like having to pre-approve comments because it slows down discussion and it forces me to actually read all the comments, which I don't always do.

Managing comments is the bane of every blogger :-(

MtMoru said...

Remember this:

"The letter was refused Wednesday by Iraq's Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz when Secretary of State James A. Baker III tried to get him to deliver it. Aziz said it contained language inappropriate for correspondence between two heads of state."

You're missing the point K.

Merely talking about race is bad manners, let alone Steve's transparent chauvinism.

The more civil political discourse of, say, the US senate is a pretense. What the senate does and what it doesn't do are obscene.

The daintiness of dimplomats hasn't prevented the very undaintiness of wars.

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

"The Chinese are remarkably tolerant of other cultures and peoples. For
example, if you look at Pew global survey on cultural attitudes, the
Chinese fare quite well in how they view their culture compared to
others."

Absence of belief in cultural superiority doesn't imply absence of belief in racial superiority. 

I'm guessing they believe in the
superiority of W-civ, but this has nothing to do with whether they are tolerant (loosely, in the Western sense) of non-White, non-East Asians. The US is eventually pretty tolerant  of Mexican peasants, Indian 7/11 owners, Haitian illegals, etc in a way inconceivable in any non-Western society.   

Finally, Indians are delusional (we all knew that already). I'd normally say that pride comes before a fall, but there's nowhere to fall when you've already hit rock bottom.

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

Here's something that indicates my hunch was right.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/44659194/Analysing-Anti-Black-Racism-in-Modern-China-Public

Read section 5.8.

Unsurprisingly, my only experience with racism in the US was from mainland Chinese.

MtMoru said...

Aren't the Chinese doing better in Africa than the Europeans before them?

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

Of course, you shouldn't construe that as anything but the Chinese being remarkably friendly and well behaved people, harboring no ill-will towards any other groups.

NicolasBourbaki said...

What are you a moron? (rhetorical question, the answer is yes). Of course absence of the sentiment of cultural superiority implies absence of sense of racial superiority. Is it possible that there is a group that views themselves as racial superior without viewing their culture as superior? Yes but is it probable? No.  Highly unlikely. 

MtMoru said...

Sounds like Nick is Chinese. Strange considering there is no Chinese philosophy by the lights of analytic "philosophers".

MtMoru said...

Ignore Nick. As he has shown at great length he is himself a moron.

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

Ack, my evidence for my assertion, is, well, the Chinese themselves. Heh.

Proof of sentiment of racial superiority (Nick will say that they're objectively superior, I'm guessing):

http://www.scribd.com/doc/44659194/Analysing-Anti-Black-Racism-in-Modern-China-Public

Proof of absence of sentiment of cultural superiority: well, Nick's own link.

Go bury your head in the sand. Anyway, the foreign devils probably deserve it.

Dawg_from_Hell 2010 said...

How can he be a moron if he is Chinese? China is Lake Wobegon. Heh. 

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