High school juniors: Consider a college that will change your life

October 27, 2010

Here’s what I told my U.S. history students on the class blog; a few other people may find my views informative:

Okay, juniors!  You should be thinking hard about what you want to do, what you should do, and what you can do, after you graduate.

College?

Choosing a college can bring on all sorts of angst.

You worry about choosing the right college — the one that will advance you toward your dreams, the one where you’ll fit in (yeah, we all worry about that), the one that you and your family can afford, the one where you can cut it, and the one where you can shine.

I urge you to consider a group of colleges known collectively as Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL).

Several years an education guru, Loren Pope, wrote a book profiling 40 colleges that have reputations of making much better people out of the already good students they take in.  You’ve probably heard of some of these schools:  Reed College, in Portland, Oregon; St. Olaf’s College, especially for choir-minded people who don’t mind Minnesota weather; Austin College, in Sherman, Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; and a lot of others.  The book was titled Colleges That Change Lives.

The colleges had the good sense to see that they were in league with each other, as well as in competition with each other — and so they banded together to create a one-application process (though each has slightly different essay requirements).

Go to their website and take a look.  See especially whether they are having an open-house sort of get-together somewhere in Texas (we had to drive to Austin for our younger son — it was a great trip, and it helped him pick a school he hadn’t thought of before — we urged them to come back to Dallas).  (Oh — I checked.   They held these events in August — plan to be there next August; note that these events were before school started, so you’ll have to keep your own calendar over the summer to get there on time.)

These colleges mostly present just great places to get a good education, regardless the field you want to pursue (our son, James, did end up in one of the nation’s top physics programs, something he had previously thought he’d have to go to a giant university to get; there are happy endings, you know).  Which one is right for you?

I’ll wager that you’d be happy at more than a dozen of these schools. By the time you graduate from one, you’ll be convinced that you could not have made a better choice anywhere.

You’re not too late to start the process of college consideration; but you do need to get going soon.  College application deadlines for early decision come quickly when you’re a senior, and the schools want your apps before December 1 (or November, or October!).  Plus, next summer would be a great time to visit some of these schools.

I did not attend any of these schools, though I was heavily recruited by Lawrence University (then College), in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our younger son is now (they offered me a chance to play football, in a Division II school, which was awfully attractive).  I also would be happy to discuss my undergraduate school, the University of Utah, with you, or my graduate schools and their undergraduate programs, the University of Arizona and George Washington University.

I’ll be happy to tell you what I know about other schools I know a little about, too — the University of Texas-Dallas, where our older son graduated, or Georgetown, or American,  or Howard, in Washington, D.C., or what little I know of the ivies, or California schools like the Claremont Colleges — all excellent places to study, and get a great life from.

Take a look at the CTCL program.

It’s time you started thinking about what’s out there in the world, and how you’re going to prepare to live a great life.


Changing Glenn Beck

October 26, 2010

Who created this?

Glenn Beck, in a Fairey mode

The Fairey-esque Glenn Beck

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kenny and the Great Firewall of China.


Quote of the moment: Lewis Carroll on Republican politics, climate skeptics, DDT advocates and creationism

October 26, 2010

Alice and the Red Queen

Alice and the Red Queen - illustration by Sir John Tenniel

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, writing under the name Lewis Carroll,
Alice in Wonderland, 1866

[Yes, the illustration is from Through the Looking Glass, 1871]


How to tell the textbook approval process is broken: Virginia’s voodoo history

October 25, 2010

4th graders in Virginia could learn from their history texts that thousands of African Americans formed battalions in the Confederate Army and fought to save the South, during the Civil War — entire battalions under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

That’s what the book claims, anyway.  It’s fiction.  The author fell victim to a hoax.

Kevin Sieff exposed the book in The Washington Post last week.  Virginia education officials quickly moved to discourage teachers from teaching the erroneous passages.  Some education authorities pulled the books.  The incident exposes problems in the textbook approval processes popular in southern states.

If you had hoped textbook craziness was confined to Texas, you know better now.

More:


Called this one right: DDT advocates think poison is always the answer

October 25, 2010

This is a story about the persistence of bad information, and about the flow of news and other new information.

At about the same time I was writing about the Lancet study on potential undercounting of malaria deaths in India, Debora McKenzie at New Scientist pored over the same article (maybe the same Bloomberg News piece), and reported it in greater detail than I did here.  McKenzie’s piece is worthy of a read.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit picked up on McKenzie’s piece — but reflecting his pro-poison and anti-humanitarianism bias, he tacked on a gratuitous slap at health workers, scientists and governments who tried to eradicate malaria in the 20th century:

MALARIA KILLING MORE PEOPLE THAN WE THOUGHT?

Malaria has always been one of humanity’s biggest killers, but it may be far bigger than we realised. An unprecedented survey of the disease suggests that it kills between 125,000 and 277,000 people per year in India alone. In contrast, the World Health Organization puts India’s toll at just 16,000.

Other countries using similar accounting methods, such as Indonesia, may also be underestimating deaths from malaria. That means it could be killing many more than the WHO’s official estimate of nearly 1 million people a year worldwide, suggesting more money should be spent to fight it.

It’s too bad the malaria eradication efforts were allowed to fail.

“Allowed” to fail?  Reynolds assumes someone wanted the program to fail?  Reynolds assumes someone could have stopped the failure, other than the pro-DDT forces who overused the stuff and drove mosquitoes to evolve resistance, or other than the governments of Subsaharan Africa who could not mount massive health care campaigns due to the instability of their governments?  It’s too bad the program failed — it was mighty ambitious.  “Allowed to fail” is an undeserved slap at malaria fighters like Fred Soper.

This slip to finger-pointing is what I warned about in my post:  Though India is the world’s greatest manufacturer of DDT, and though more DDT is used in India today than the rest of the world combined, someone will look at the undercount story, blame the imaginary ban on DDT, blame Rachel Carson (who never advocated a ban on DDT), and make some smug political snark.

Reynolds was pulled away from the snark, fortunately.  Reader Kevin O’Brien wrote to Reynolds about  the difficulties of beating any disease, using smallpox as his launching point.  Beating smallpox was a massive effort, made easier by the fact that the pox resided only in humans, as opposed to the malaria parasite’s two-species life cycle.  O’Brien’s missive to Reynolds, a few errors included, is the best commentary Reynolds has had on DDT and disease in some time.

One frequently-obnoxious blogger pulled back from the brink is not enough, though.

Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt jumped the shark at his blog for the Melbourne (Australia) Daily Sun.  The headline for his post is inflammatory and wrong, and warns us that most of what Bolt writes will be wrong:

How many children did Carson’s green lies kill?

Foolish hope that DDT could be a magic bullet against malaria, like Bolt’s,  helps frustrate workable plans to fight the disease.  Policy makers being convinced that some political conspiracy keeps DDT from working to beat malaria, in effect kills children.  Fighting malaria requires long, hard work, to bolster health care systems in entire nations, to accurately and quickly diagnose malaria, and to provide complete treatment to cure human victims.  That work is hampered by policy makers and popular opinion who hold that DDT would be cheaper and quicker, and effective.  Bolt takes any source, no matter how scurrilous, in his unholy condemnation of conservationists and scientists, especially Rachel Carson.  His sole source to condemn Carson is a publication from the far, far-fringe.

How many children will Bolt’s brown lies kill? one could ask.

I warned earlier:

Watch.  Advocates of poisoning Africa and Asia will claim scientists and environmental activists are somehow to blame for any underreporting, and they will call for more DDT use, claiming a ban has made India a refuge for malaria.  Those reports will fail to mention India’s heavy DDT use already, nor will they suggest an ineffectiveness of the nearly-sacred powder.

Andrew Bolt, you’ve made me a prophet — a saddened and disappointed prophet.  It’s good to see Glenn Reynolds step back from the brink of hysteria.  It’s too bad Bolt took the plunge.  Others will probably follow Bolt.

How far will the bad claims spread?


Optical illusions, and “Bloody Mary” images

October 24, 2010

Take a look at this.  Focus on the “+” in the middle, and describe what you see.

Troxler Effect, the purple chaser

Troxler Effect image

No, the purple dots don’t disappear, though that’s probably what you “see.”  Worse, there’s no green dot.  Your brain sees green when the purple disappears — and even when your brain refuses to let you know the purple dots are still there, it will tell you you see a green dot when the purple dots you can’t see, disappear.

So, is it so hard to understand that people might see weird things in the mirror, if they stare at their own faces for a while?

Cortical Hemming and Hawing has the full story, with a history of the Bloody Mary story.  Go see.


Texas State Fair long past

October 24, 2010

Texas State Fair 1912 - LOC panoramic photo - 6a28033r

Texas State Fair, 1908 - Library of Congress panoramic photo

Click on the photo to see a much larger version.

From the astonishingly vast vaults of the Library of Congress, a panoramic photograph of the main entrance of the Texas State Fair, in 1908.  This is almost certainly Dallas, and this is probably the same entrance where today the short-rail mass transit trains pass by — a century later, and Dallas has once again got mass transit.

This photo contrasts starkly with Fair Park in Dallas today, a week after the closing of the 2010 Texas State Fair.

Details from the Library of Congress:

Item Title

Texas State Fair, Main Entrance.
Created/Published  c1908.

Copyright deposit; H. Clogenson; December 8, 1908; DLC/PP-1908:43634.
Copyright claimant’s address: Dallas, Texas
Medium:  1 photographic print : gelatin silver ; 9.5 x 43 in.

Call Number:  PAN SUBJECT – Events no. 31
REPRODUCTION NUMBER:  LC-USZ62-125457 DLC (b&w film copy neg.)

Who was H. Clogenson?  What other treasures did he leave around?


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