Category Archives: Education

The Bookshelf: The Trivium

I finished the Trivium, part of the Free Man’s Reading List, after a couple of months(with interruptions for other reading), so let’s get to the review.

Now, your first question, valued reader, might be, “why did a book of little more than 250 pages take months to finish?

To which there are two equally correct answers; First, I fall asleep on the bus, my primary reading time, a lot and, second, and far more applicable to this particular book, this is probably the most dense book I have read. There is more information/word in this book than anything I ever read in university or high school.

I learned from the bibliographical notes at the back that it was actually written as a college textbook for a course on the Trivium of logic, grammar, and rhetoric back in the 1930’s for a freshman course that “met five days a week for two semesters.” And this was in the days when a college education actually meant something. So you know there is a lot of information packed in this book.

That this book was a product of a different time shows clearly throughout the book. There is no coddling or hand-holding of the reader/student here; the text is simply ‘this is what is, here’s a couple of examples, you now know the concept’. A concept or word is defined or explained once, then you are expected to know it throughout the rest of the book. There are no gentle reminders: if the word ‘syncategoramic’ was defined in chapter 3, then you damn well better know what it means when used in chapter 6. (There is also no glossary, which would have been amazingly useful in trying to remember what exactly “a distributed term”, for example, refers to; the lack of a glossary would be my biggest criticism on the book).

If this book was written today, I’m sure it would be padded to a good 500 pages (at least) with examples, hand-holding, and explanation and still contain less information. This is not a ‘friendly’ book. Simply following along and understanding the book requires a lot of mental effort. Retaining the terms and concepts requires a lot more more. To get the most out of this book, would require serious study (such as a 5-day, 2-semester course), which I did not do.

I am almost certain I am not going to retain a lot of the information presented, and I will not remember a lot of the terms; I’ve already forgotten what an enthymeme refers to.

That being said, the concepts are far more important than the terms. I might not remember the term that refers to a particular concept, but next time I see the concept being symbolized in words, it will likely get me to think deeper about what I am reading, and I can always look up the term or concept for further clarification.

I found interesting about the book is how it flowed together and built off itself. The book starts with the function of language and moves onto grammar. From there is moves seemlessly into logic, which makes up the bulk of the book. I found it fascinating how the discussion of logic itself is naturally built within and on grammar. The book ends with a small section outlining the basics of rhetoric, composition, and reading.

At the same time I was fascinated, I was also saddened. This book revealed to me just how ruined our education system currently is. I took “English” throughout school, like most did where I learned grammar. I took a logic course in university (although, the isntructor never did teach any formal logic for some idiotic reason). I am highly educated, intelligent, and my writing has always been better than average, yet no one has ever, through my 18 years of education (18? ouch), pointed out the connection between grammar and logic and how the latter is rooted in the former.

This whole book was a walking indictment of our modern education system. These are the very basics of language and thinking, yet little of it is taught in school. I am familiar with most of the concepts in the book, if not the terms and formal laws, yet this I’ve never seen it so systematized and logically presented anywhere throughout the almost two decades I spent being “educated”. Some rules of grammar are drilled into our heads in grade school, and there are logic courses that are offered, but I’ve seen nothing like this.

This book should be foundational to education. They should start teaching this systematically in grade school. Hell, if all six years of grade school focused solely on the Trivium, ignoring everything else to get kids to fundamentally understand it, it would be a vast improvement to our education system. When my future children are homeschooled, this book will be a major component of the curriculum.

As for the writing style, it is clear, analytical, and precise, if rather stark, exactly what you should looking for in a book like this. You are not going to be entertained, but the writing does the job it is intended to do transmit information, even if it gives you absolutely no slack or mercy.

Anyway, to get the most out of the Trivium would require a commitment to comprehensively study it over a decent period of time. Simply reading it through like I did, will help introduce many concepts or solidify concepts you may be familiar with, but you will know that you are missing a lot. You will get out of this book in relation to the time and effort put into it.

Recommendation:

If you want to learn the basics of grammar and formal logic and/or you are looking to better develop clear thinking and clear language, the Trivium will help you understand these concepts directly in relation to how much effort you’re willing to put in.

So, if you are interested in this and willing to put in at least some effort, I recommend the book. Be warned, even if you are not studying it in-depth, it is still a dense read.

If you are planning to homeschool, I would recommend making the Trivium a foundational text of your curriculum.

College Education and Impossible Standards

Here’s another one of those whinefests from a liberated career woman about how she and her “successful, gorgeous, and amazing friends” in their 30’s can’t find a man to save them from themselves.

This stood out for me from the article:

For one, it’s not as if we are holding out for Jake Gyllenhaal, but we do have certain non-negotiable expectations for potential mates that include college degrees and white-collar jobs. Life has always gone according to our plans, so why wouldn’t we land a man with these (reasonable) requirements?

This point has been made before, but I will make it again.

A woman requiring an education from a man is not a reasonable requirement, at least if she actually wants to find a man.

There are 1.3 females graduating for every 1 male who graduates. For every 10 females that may potentially find a man with a college degree, it is an absolute impossibility for 3 of them to.

I repeat: it is a mathematical impossibility for at least 23% of college-educated women to find a college-educated man.

The article, like most of these types, does mention this, but glosses over and understates the severity of it:

But increasingly, there aren’t enough of these men to go around. Women now outnumber men on college campuses, and single, childless women out earn their male counterparts. In fact, as author Liza Mundy writes in her book, The Richer Sex, Millennial women are increasingly finding two options when it comes to romance: marry down or don’t marry.

It’s not that there just “aren’t enough”, it’s that there is a major shortage.

And men know this.

Can a women honestly think that a 30-year-old college-educated man, knowing that he’s in very high demand is going to settle for a 30-year-old career broad, rather than the newly minted 23-year-old college grad or the cute 22-year-old waitress?

Honestly?

Sure, I said absolutely nothing new, but it bears repeating. While some seem to recognize the problem, it is always understated.

It is an absolute impossibility for 1-in-4 college-educated women in the US to find a college-educated man.

If you are a women looking for a college-educated man, look hard and when you find bite hard while young before both you and the college-educated man enters your 30s and he realizes his high value, otherwise you could be in the 25%.

On the bright side, if that happens you could always write freelance articles complaining about how you can’t find a man.

****

For those women who don’t want to be in the 25%, the Captain runs down how to capture your college-educated man. You simply have to be:

A physically attractive woman who is
nice
responsible
reasonably intelligent
and likes sex

That’s it. May probability be with you.

Women, STEM, and D&D

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the topic of women in the math and sciences.

It’s well known that post-secondary education is predominantly female. It is also well known that this is not true of STEM fields, where women are a minority.

Some chock this up to differences in intelligence or that women aren’t gifted at math. It’s not differences in overall intelligence, as the difference in average intelligence between men and women has always been small, and might even have reversed in the last few years. Even so, men have always held generally have held a small advantage in spatial reasoning and mathematical reasoning, but these differences are not great enough to account for the massive disparities in math-based subjects.

Greater male variability may explain some of it. High-level mathematics requires high intelligence, and due to greater variability there are a greater number of high-intelligence males than females (just as there are greater number of low-intelligence males), but as we can see from IQ by intended major, even those intending to enter the hard sciences have an average IQ of only about 110. Even factoring in variability, a requirement for an IQ of 110 should not lead to such large disparities in the STEM field, but fewer women pursue STEM fields at this point.

Feminists will argue that it’s all about discrimination and whatnot, but with the predominance of females throughout the rest of universities and the large number of programs dedicated to attracting women to STEM its hard to see how any can argue this with a straight face.

Not to mention, that females are well-represented in the physical and life sciences. Is there somehow less discrimination in the life and physical sciences than the harder sciences? Unlikely.

Notice instead that the STEM fields women are involved in are the less math oriented sciences. Across the board, women avoid fields that require lots of math.

So the problem is mathematics, but it is unlikely due to differences in intelligence and the explanation of discrimination is ludicrous.

So the answer: in general, women simply don’t like math. Shocking, I know.

Now, this is the point where feminists cry sexism, women do like math  (say the female gender and polisci students).

Now, you know from personal experience women don’t like math; ask most women, and they’ll readily admit they don’t like math. The available data seems to support the assertion women just plain don’t like it, but proving that women generally don’t like math  is difficult. You can’t really see into women’s minds to show they don’t like math and anecdotes that all your female friends don’t like math is no more proof positive of a statistical trend than the one female friend you have who loves math is proof negative.

So, how can we know?

The answer is simple: Dungeons and Dragons.

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See, the thing is, most guys don’t like math either. Only a small minority of men, and an even smaller minority of women, enjoy math. These men are generally referred to as nerds.

(When I say nerd, I don’t mean the recent trend of “LOL, I watched Dr. Who once, I’m such a nerd” hipster teenagers. I mean the actual nerds, the guys who will spend their Saturday nights imagining themselves swinging around +2 Swords of Shining Light or who will actually go outside and throw around lightning bolts.)

These nerds are the ones who dominate the STEM fields.

Why they’re (or more accurately we’re, as I’m a bit of a nerd myself) like that I don’t know, but I kinda like Half-Sigma’s idea that nerds are simply men with a very mild form of Asperger’s, something also kind of touched on by Susan Pinker.

But that’s beside the point, which is that nerds dominate the STEM field, because they are an abnormal sort of people who actually like math.

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So, how does that help us prove that women dislike math?

Simple, look at D&D.

D&D, for the uninitiated, is essentially what happens when you combine Tolkien, tactical wargames, improvisational theatre, and mathematics. Nerds get together and each creates a character, which is essentially a large block of statistics and math made of options from a large, complicated rule book. He then gives this block of math some personality (sometimes the personality comes before the math, but most nerds know which usually comes first). One nerd, the GM, gets the especially complicated job of creating a world out of blocks of statistics and math. The nerds then takes their blocks of math which interact with (and kill) the GM’s blocks of math, so their blocks of math can grow larger numbers to defeat more powerful blocks of math. Along the way there is some roleplaying: which is essentially improvisational theatre concerning the blocks of math.

D&D is essentially what people who enjoy math do for fun. It’s making math a game.

****

It’s a simple fact that few women play D&D, it is largely the domain of males. The game is open for all to play and most players would love to have more females players who share their hobby.

Yet, women don’t play.

You go to any improvisational theatre group, there’s tons of women, women like theatre. Women also like Tolkien, and fantasy in general for that matter. So, why don’t they like D&D?

Math.

Most women, and most men, don’t like math, so making a game of complex math is not something they would consider fun.

If women, on average, liked math as much as men, they would be as involved in D&D as much men. There is no discrimination or institutional barriers preventing them from enjoying D&D, all it requires for entry is $20 for the rulebook. You don’t even really need that as most GM’s would be happy to lend you their copy if you join their game.

They are not though.

****

It doesn’t have to be D&D. In the above D&D can be replaced by complex board games, science fiction, Magic cards, war games, or pretty much any nerdy math-based activity. No matter what the math-oriented hobby, men vastly outnumber women.

Women simply don’t see the enjoyment in spending free time doing math. Most men don’t either, but the minority of men who do is larger than the minority of women who do.

****

That’s why there’s a STEM gap.

The minority of females who are nerds is smaller than the minority of men who are nerds.

So, next time a feminist says that there’s a STEM gap and it’s caused by sexism, ask her if she plays D&D and how many of her female friends do?

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Edit – Post-Script – 3/08 2012:

Seems this got posted at Reddit under the misleading title “Apparently, ladies don’t like D&D because they can’t Math.”, leading to a larger influx of people than my little corner of the internet has had before. It also seems a lot of them are confused by what I have said. I can’t answer every post individually and I do not have a Reddit account, so here’s a little post-script that will count as a reply to everyone.

1: My argument was not women can not do math (and, hence, play D&D). In fact, I specifically ruled out intelligence and mathematical capabilities in the fourth paragraph. My argument was not even that women do not enjoy math at all (and, hence, D&D). My argument was that nobody enjoys math (and, hence, D&D), except a small group of abnormal people (often referred to as nerds) and that more of these abnormal people are male than female. So, before y’all get your knickers in a knot: PLEASE READ WHAT I ACTUALLY WROTE BEFORE WHINING ABOUT WHAT I DID NOT SAY.

2: A number of people are focusing solely on D&D. As I said, you can apply this argument to the nerdy, math-based hobbies from board games to war games to RPG’s to hobby programming to whatever: anything where interaction is largely defined by basic mathematics. D&D was the specific example used, but do not get

3: If you are a women that either plays D&D, board games, video games, or enjoys math, that is wonderful. I wish more women did, I’d like to share my hobbies with others. But because you personally, and a couple of girls you know, enjoy them does not statistics make. I always thought that the preponderance of males in D&D and other such nerdy hobbies was a well-accepted, so I didn’t bother posting any proof. So here’s the proof: males are about 80% of games as per a WotC survey, so yes, more males play D&D. (The data is old, but this does not seem like something that is measured very often and I doubt it’s changed too significantly).

4: I noted the relationship between D&D (and nerdy hobbies) and STEM. This is not an absolute, just a relationship. In particular, I am not STEM myself, so generalizing me to STEM as a whole is silly. I do enjoy the low-level maths of economics and games as a hobby though.

5: Addition, subtraction, and the statistical blocks that make up characters and the (often violent) relationships between them are math. I didn’t say they were complex math, so I’m not sure where the comments about there being no math come from.

6: Yes, I make some typos; I write as a hobby with no editor. If you’re that anally retentive about typos in a blog post, well…

7: I have never had a beard, let alone a neck-beard. I’m not sure what the point of personalizing counter-arguments to a non-personal argument and insulting some random jackass on the internet is, but I hope the venting was stress-relieving.

Tuition Bubble

Here’s the New York Times running only a bit behind in reporting on the tuition bubble. I thought this would be a decent time to weigh in on the issue.

the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000

To be honest, this is not that bad. $23k is a lot, but livable, even 54k is not insurmountable, but for the 3%, $100k is a serious commitment. In some areas equivalent to a mortgage on a starter home.

The problem though, is that these are ok only if there is employment for those taking the loans. The NYT doesn’t cover this in this article, but the real problem is half of these people graduating are not going to have jobs or will be underemployed.

$23k in debt is doable if you make $40k a year, even $120k ($900/month according to the article) is doable if you make $60k a year coming out of university and live frugally for a few years.

But, if you are unemployed or working part-time as a barrista, there is no way to keep payments up on much more than a few thousand dollars worth of debt and still be able to advance in life.

****

The NYT misses that the tuition bubble is not a bubble because tuition costs are high; an expensive degree can be an excellent investment for both the lender and borrower if it increases future earnings.

The whole article is off-base as high tuition costs are irrelevant if the economic benefits of the degree match or exceed the cost of the degree.

The tuition bubble is a bubble because a lot of these degrees are worthless.

So why are they worthless? Part of it is simply the transition to post-scarcity, even highly educated and skilled people may simply be replaced by machines. Some of it is because these degrees teach no useful skills, such as Master of Puppetry, an awesome album but a crappy degree. But there is another, even more fundamental, problem that the NYT ignores almost completely.

****

The main problem is touched upon later on in the piece, but only very obliquely:

the main job of the admissions staff, after all, is to admit students

An off-hand reference in the second half of a sentence at the bottom of a paragraph is all the NYT devotes to the  crux of the tuition bubble.

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Huh? Isn’t admissions staff’s job to admit students?

No, the admissions staff’s job is to screen out students for whom university (or college) is not appropriate.

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Doesn’t admissions already do this?

No. It doesn’t. 68% of high school graduates go to college.

Thank about that for a second.

The average graduate is going to college

Remember back to your high school graduation; think about your average classmate.

The guy who wasn’t particularly bright or particularly stupid.

Do you think he would benefit from spending 4 years learning political theory or reading Rousseau?

Do you think it would benefit anyone else that he “learned” this?

****

The evidence says he doesn’t.

One-third of those entering college drop-out.

They pay the expense of a couple years of college and do not even get the dubious benefits of a degree.

The college system is taking advantage of these people who shouldn’t be in college.

****

One-third of college students are dropping out, at the same time, grade inflation is running rampant.

College is becoming increasingly easy, yet still a third of students still can’t hack it.

The admissions people are failing their job. One-third of people entering university are not capable of completing even the dumbed-down modern university curriculum.

Think about how many more would not be capable of completing college if standards were similar to those 50 years ago.

****

Look at this post from Adacious Epigone on IQ by intended major from a few years ago.

Look at education, public admin, business, psychology, legal professions, health professionals, etc.

The average incoming student for all of these is only around average intelligence. About half of them are of below average intelligence.

This is why there is a tuition bubble.

****

It used to be that a college degree meant you were a cut above the rest; that you were a competent, intelligent individual.

Now all a college degree shows is that you are able to stomach a university’s bullshit for a few years and are not a complete dullard.

That’s why your degree is worthless.

It doesn’t signal you’re a superior intellect with a strong knowledge of your specialty.

All it shows is that you’re not completely incompetent and are able to parrot BS back to the BS’ers. How much is not being completely incompetent worth to an employer?

Even a high GPA doesn’t mean much. With grade inflation everybody’s GPA is fairly high, how can an employer trust that you actually earned yours?

****

As an aside, look at public admin and social services: 96.3.

Do you want to know one reason why your government doesn’t work very well? The people in public admin are being educated to run the government. Do not think that these are not going to be the front-line clerks at the DMV, or even their supervisors; these are actually the people who are going to university to learn how to create public policy. They are the ones who will be creating government policy and regulations that will control your life.

Most of them are of  below average intelligence.

Think about that for a minute. Please don’t weep.

Of course, the average business major is not much better, barely scraping by at 101. 2.

And we wonder why the US economy is stagnating?

Teachers are at 99.3. Half of all teachers are of below average intelligence. Here’s where you can start weeping for the future.

Your kid is likely being taught by someone of average or below average intelligence.

If you’re reading a post about the economics of post-secondary education on a blog for leisure (like say, this post you’re reading right now), it’s highly likely the large majority of these teachers, bureaucrats, and businessmen running things and teaching your children are much more stupid than you.

Aren’t you feeling comforted?

****

Thankfully the drop-out rate is so high. I’d hate to think what the school system and government would be like if a third of these sup-par students didn’t fail to finish their degrees.

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So, after all that, you’re probably understanding why the tuition bubble exists.

It exists because too many people are getting a degree.

Everybody wants to enter the road to the professional, white-collar, middle-class, which is what university is thought of as now.

But not everybody is capable of being a white-collar professional.

Of course, modern liberal dogma can’t admit that some people are just not capable of being white-collar professionals, after all, we are all equal. The Bible (or Stephen Gould, depending on your religious beliefs) and the Constitution (or your sociology professor, depending on your political beliefs)  say so.

So those in charge, those who would read the NYT, can not and will not prevent those who shouldn’t be going to college from going to college.

Instead, they’ll encourage them to go. They’ll give these marginal students huge, government-backed loans they’ll never be able to pay back. They’ll lower academic standards as far as they can go, then lower a them a bit more, destroying any academic, economic, or signalling value of your degree in the process.

Doing otherwise would expose their ideology for the lie it is and their ideology takes precedence over the good of these marginal students, not to mention the other students whose degrees are made worthless.

So, as these marginal students flood colleges, demand for college education increases, so tuition goes up.

The academic value of the degree erodes, as grade inflation and lowered academic standards become necessary to keep these people in college, and maybe (hopefully) let them graduate.

The economic values of these degrees plummets. Your degree no longer signals competence, knowledge, and intelligence to an employer; all it signals is a lack of incompetence. Why should he pay well for that? Why should he hire the marginally competent at all?

Thus a bubble. Paying more and more for less and less.

One thing though, bubbles can’t last forever. Reality always wins in the end.

Eventually, the post-secondary education system will run into reality.

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Economists do not predict a collapse of the student loan system, which would, in essence, mean wholesale default.

NYT’s economists never fail to be amusing. I wonder if this was Krugman or Friedman, maybe both?

Those who are blinded by ideology will run full tilt into the wall of reality. They will then act surprised.

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With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country

$1 trillion, that’s almost 7% of GDP. If a large percentage of these loans default, this will be a major economic catastrophe. It may be possible for the US government to forgive them, but that will be a significant increase in national debt.

Students are likely stuck with this debt.

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So what can we do?

Short answer: nothing.

Long answer: That’s a question for another post.

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One last note:

Leaders of the for-profit industry defended themselves

I’m usually a staunch defender of the free market, but in this case, all I can say is:

Fuck them.

The for-profit college industry is a brood of blood-sucking parasites taking advantage of students who should never set foot near a college for their own benefit, and the student loans programs in a disgusting display of parasitic corporate welfare. May their whole industry rot.

The Bookshelf: Worthless and Freedom 25

Today, I am going to review two books from the manosphere: Worthless by Aaron Cleary and Freedom Twenty-Five by Frost. I read these books a month or two ago, so the reviews will be fairly short and based on what I remember, but these were the first manosphere book I read and I figure I should give some props to them for their influence, as both the Captain (though more his blog than the actual book, as I graduated a few years ago) and Frost really made me reconsider aspects of my life.

Worthless is more or less a guide to choosing a university degree. It’s a fairly short book, but it goes through a lot of the considerations someone entering university should think about. It outlines which degrees are worthwhile; ie. the STEM fields (or at least most of them) and which you should avoid ie. the liberal arts. The book pulls know punches and presents the harsh reality of the current post-secondary education system. It’s an enjoyably written screed that presents the necessary information without having so much data it overwhelms the narrative.

The one criticism is that a lot  fair amount of the data was Minnesota specific. I don’t think national data would have changed the book much, but would have been somewhat more convincing.

If you are thinking about university buy this book; if you have a loved one thinking about university, buy them this book. If neither applies to you, check it out if the subject matter interests you; it’s still a good read, but not essential.

Freedom Twenty-Five is essentially a short guide to red-pill living. If you’ve been around the manosphere for a while, you probably already know most of what is in the book. On the other hand, I’ve never seen anything else that collects and distills red pill thought in such a convenient matter. The information in there, while mostly basic red pill knowledge, covers information that would otherwise require reading hundreds of posts on dozens on blogs to acquire. The book reads well. The only complaint is that he has some braggadocio that can at is at times be tiring.  The book spoke to me because as I’ve mentioned I found a fair number of similarities between his life and mine prior to when he started his blog and quit his job. It prompted me to try the primal diet (I had known and read of it beforehand, but never tried to apply it). It was also a driver in me starting this blog to explore things for myself.

I heartily recommend the book, especially for those who are just starting to learn of the red pill. Even if you’re familiar with the manosphere, it’s a handy summary of knowledge.