jobs and toxic conservatism, science is tough, not another brick in the wall

Everyone probably knows what a toxic relationship is. The worse are the ones where someone who is family or a friend feigns good intentions as they sabotage you. They may even acknowledge as much, as in the case of alcoholics or shopaholics that admit they are not good for you. An underhanded way of once again pulling you in. Conservatives have a similar approach to governing. Constant appeals to god and country. Wrapping up repeatedly failed policies in the flag and sprinkling a little Christianist babble on top. Gov’mint as a cupcake filled with rhetorical arsenic. War Against Government Workers Is Prolonging the Recession

Just last month, Republicans in Congress blocked a section of Obama’s jobs plan that would have prevented 400,000 teachers, firefighters and cops from losing their jobs through aid to state and local governments, which is among the most effective forms of stimulus. “Federal aid to strapped state and local governments also is providing significant economic benefits, lessening their need to slash programs and jobs or to hike taxes and fees,” wrote Mark Zandi of Moody’s in July 2010. Had it not been for austerity policies, wrote David Leonhardt of the New York Times, state and local governments would have added half a million jobs, rather than cutting them. “In other words, the state and local austerity of the last two years has cost the economy about one million jobs,” Leonhardt writes.

Saving a million jobs isn’t enough to lift the economy out of the recession, but it would certainly improve the bleak economic situation. And any politician who professes to care about creating jobs but argues that government jobs aren’t “real,” and don’t count, is a heartless hypocrite.


In normal times, during non-recessionary periods it is best to keep public employee payrolls lean. Not below what is needed to provide an adequate amount of essential services, but no bloat either. I’m not sure why conservatives think the money teachers, firefighters, water plant workers, street sweepers and so forth does not count when it comes to creating demands for goods. Which in turn creates private sector jobs. What is evident is the efforts by conservatives to make sure that as few Americans are working as possible as the election season starts. The public usually blames whoever is in power regardless of whose fault it is.

stop ahead train crossing

Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)

Studies have found that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. That increases to as much as 60 percent when pre-medical students, who typically have the strongest SAT scores and high school science preparation, are included, according to new data from the University of California at Los Angeles. That is twice the combined attrition rate of all other majors.

For educators, the big question is how to keep the momentum being built in the lower grades from dissipating once the students get to college.

“We’re losing an alarming proportion of our nation’s science talent once the students get to college,” says Mitchell J. Chang, an education professor at U.C.L.A. who has studied the matter. “It’s not just a K-12 preparation issue.”

Professor Chang says that rather than losing mainly students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with lackluster records, the attrition rate can be higher at the most selective schools, where he believes the competition overwhelms even well-qualified students.

“You’d like to think that since these institutions are getting the best students, the students who go there would have the best chances to succeed,” he says. “But if you take two students who have the same high school grade-point average and SAT scores, and you put one in a highly selective school like Berkeley and the other in a school with lower average scores like Cal State, that Berkeley student is at least 13 percent less likely than the one at Cal State to finish a STEM degree.”


This article does bring up a lot of issues in how to get the number of STEM(science, technology, engineering and math) students up. Sure if you’re not doing well in your science major the switch to business or social sciences made sense for the student. That is where what might be a little grade inflation in non-science curriculum comes in. On the other hand math and science professors have been known to live by the sacred bell curve – thus grade deflation. There are teachers who have taught for a while and they create their tests so that they have maybe three or four A’s at the top and the majority of the class clustered around Bs and Cs on the Bell curve. Are they teaching or are they focusing too much on their appointed role as filter. I know this happens from science professors who have told me and TAs who have said that certain professors get upset when they see ten or so students get an A on a test.

Another factor that the statistics do not factor in is that most students today work. professors are perhaps right to say that is not their problem, but it is a problem that haunts the system. If you have to work and the study load from school is such that you have to choose between work and putting in what you know is an extra eight hours a week to get through Physical Chemistry, work and being able to eat are going to come first.Find a way to make it easier for middle and low income students to afford college and more science majors are likely to stay the course.

The Rolling Stones 19th Nervous Breakdown

Scientists must stop emphasizing autistics’ shortcomings

Mottron’s research team has strongly established and replicated the abilities and sometimes superiorities of autistics in multiple cognitive operations such as perception and reasoning, as have others. His group includes several autistics, and one of them, Michelle Dawson, is a particular success. Dawson makes major contributions to our understanding of the condition through her work and her judgment. “Michelle challenged my scientific perception of autism,” Mottron explained.  Dawson’s insight is the interpretation of autistic strengths as the manifestation of authentic intelligence rather than a kind of trick of the brain that allows them to mindlessly perform intelligent tasks. “It’s amazing to me that for decades scientists have estimated the magnitude of mental retardation based on the administration of inappropriate tests, and on the misinterpretation of autistic strengths,” Mottron added.

I think Parenthood does a pretty good job of presenting the problems with the character Max. He is exceptionally intelligent in some ways, but his social skills are a little eccentric. As they mainstreamed him into a new school it seemed  to me like it was more his intelligence and mastery of the study material that put his classmates off the most.

Trying to relate this to the STEM article by the NYT might be tenuous. Obviously most scientists and engineers are not autistic, but many of them are eccentric. Some to the point of pushing the envelope. If they thought like the average person they’d never discover anything.There was a nugget of truth in that old Pink Floyd song “Another Brick in the Wall”. Our institutions of higher learning, certainly our elementary schools, are education factories. If you don’t fit in you’re headed for a rough time. I’m not talking about behavioral issues where a student needs some socializing, but students who think outside the box.

a few fall leaves wallpaper – this is a little small at 1100×734

Creep by The Pretenders