The Daily View 6/19/2023: Juneteenth, vaccines, education

1. Today is Juneteenth, which almost everyone can agree was conceived and shoehorned because of George Floyd’s death (but to call it ‘George Floyd day’ would have been too obvious). This is the second holiday in just 3 weeks, the last being Memorial Day. The creation of new, contrived holidays is part of the trend towards the 4-day workweek.

2. The financial toll of right-wing backlash: At least $28B in market value. This is exactly what I observed a couple weeks ago. Just more evidence of this blog always being ahead a few steps.

3. Pro-vaccine is the correct position?

How is it the correct position when Trump is booed every time he praises the vaccine? Trump wants to take credit for the vaccine, but it’s not politically popular, so he cannot. Oh well. As it’s said, kill your darlings. You cannot include everything. The smart move for Trump politically is to keep laying the blame on China.

Likewise for DeSantis, the smart move would be to blame Trump for the lockdowns. Another route could be to accuse Trump of being pro-vaccine, which would force Trump to either go on the defensive or defend the vaccines, neither of which would help him.

George W. Bush in 2004 successfully campaigned for reelection on the (at the time) successes of the ‘war on terror’ and ‘shock and awe’, because unlike Covid, the vast majority of his voters perceived Islamic terrorism as a major threat, whereas to Trump or DeSantis voters Covid is either fake, politically motivated by the left, or overblown.

4. From Arnold Kling: Index Investing is Misunderstood. Sorry man, but this has to be the worst, most convoluted explanation of index funds ever. The whole justification for investing in index funds is to minimize idiosyncratic, firm-level risk. Index funds are just an extreme form of diversification. That is all.

5. Excellent article by Freddie deBoer: At the Other End of Your Educational Technology There’s a Student’s Brain.

Calls for “more education spending”, “educational technology”, and “better schools and teachers” does not change relative differences between students. Technology that benefits laggards will also benefit super-achievers, assuming the technology even helps, which the evidence is lacking.

There is no “educational crisis” in the United States. Our median student does pretty well. Our top-performing students are among the best in the world. Our averages are dragged down by a relatively small number of students who perform truly terribly, who are largely concentrated in very poor high-minority urban school districts (think Detroit) and in largely-white rural school districts (think he Ozarks).

America’s averages are weighed-down by large populations of low-achieving groups that are impervious to any efforts at reversing this underperformance despite billions of dollars over the decades being thrown at the problem. The better comparison is to see how high-achieving groups in the US compare to their native lands, and indeed, they do better here. How else does the US keep winning math Olympiads?

This stability in relative performance despite vast educational interventions and environmental changes strongly suggests that there is some sort of stable and endogenous property that we might call “academic potential.”

That would be IQ…but he sorta contradicts himself here:

This property we call academic ability is thus almost certainly the product of gene-environment interactions, like most human behavioral outcomes.

Which is it? After controlling for environment, what else is left? Even in top schools, relative group-wide and individual performance differences exist and persist, as he says. The only explanation has to be genetic. I think he wants to just come out and say “it’s IQ” (no mention of IQ in his post) but cannot.

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