Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for November 2010

Avoid bit.ly and similar services

leave a comment »

I find myself writing yet another comment advising against use of bit.ly and other link-shortening or redirecting services. For easier future reference, I publish the core of the comment here instead:

bit.ly and similar services should be avoided: Many of us wish to have an idea where we are going before we click on a link, these third-party services can (at least in theory) be used to spy on or mess with the surfers, and there is an increased risk of phishing, rick-rolling, lemon-partying, whatnot.

The one good thing that bit.ly does is to shorten URLs in contexts (notably plain-text emails) where the length could be a problem. In WordPress this does not apply, however, seeing that normal “a href” constructs can be used. For that matter, speaking for myself, I would rather take the full URL even in an email.


Written by michaeleriksson

November 29, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Apartment frauds

with 6 comments

I am currently looking for a new apartment (my current being both over-priced and provided by a less than white-vested landlord—he, however, is not the topic of this post). Doing so, I stumbled upon an everything-included 65 m^2 apartment at a mere 300 Euro—not entirely unheard of, even in the middle of Cologne, but certainly a rarity where some catch could be suspected: Possibly, the location was smack on top of a discotheque? Possibly, the ad was a bait-and-switch from a dubious realtor?

No: A first electronic contact resulted in a return email, describing how the apartment’s owner, Laurentiu Marian Ganea, had to relocate to London for a few years and needed to let the apartment.

All-in-all, not entirely implausible, but with an added tale of the sole key being in London with the owner and a discrepancy in the names used, the situation remained suspect. I refrained from an early judgement, however: The great amount of detail included seemed to give the offer some realism.

Now, in a first step, I wrote a pleasing email, wanting to live up to the owner’s stated “perfect person” criterion (I would certainly be highly selective in his shoes). Within 12 minutes of sending, I received a surprisingly lengthy answer that made me very, very suspicious: The problem with the key was solved, UPS would handle this through some sort of escrow and, by all appearances, he had settled on me as his tenant. Really? Would anyone in his right mind give the key to an apartment with electronics and furniture in it to a complete stranger? Why was he not more choosy, considering that he could offer an extremely good deal, which should have had the people lined up to apply? Why did he seem to stress the benefits of quick action? Even with his relocation issues…

(Also, the UPS solution is slightly suspect, in and by it self, UPS being a not uncommon tool for fraudsters.)

Next step: See if his name was known to detective Google. It was. One page declared him the new star on the fraudster skye.

Well, as the saying goes: If it seems too good to be true…

As an aside, in the future, I will likely consult detective Google at an early stage as a matter of course. The time wasted on a failed search is shorter than that wasted on writing emails or hunting someone down on the telephone.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Two measures—both alike in quackery

with 5 comments

When I land in discussions of IQ, it is often manifestly clear that two thirds of the debaters have no clue about the topic. In an attempt to straighten out a few question marks, I will below present an analogy. The topic as a whole is far too wide for a single blog post, but I can recommend IQ Comparison Sitee and some of La Griffe du Lion’s writingse to those who want a basic introduction respectively some discussion of other aspects. (There is plenty of more material on the Internet, including academic papers. Google is your friend.)

Now, one of the most common ways of dismissing IQ is to point out that there are high-IQ people who have failed utterly and that there are low-IQ people who have succeeded—“obviously” IQ is just quackery.

IMO, a very appropriate analogy is height in basket ball. Consider that:

  1. Countless other factors play in, including how hard and well the athlete trains (the two are far from the same…), what his physical characteristics in other areas are, how he fits in the team—and whether he is at all interested in basket ball.

  2. It is possible to be an NBA player without being tall: Muggsy Boguesw played for 14 seasons at a mere 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m). (Numbers here and elsewhere copied from Wikipedia.)

  3. Great height is no guarantee for anything: Robert Wadloww stood a full 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m)—but was hard-pressed to walk. Despite being the tallest man on historic record, theoretically able to dunk while keeping his heels solidly on the floor, he never played an NBA game.

  4. Michael Jordanw, by many considered the greatest player of all times, was far shorter, at 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m).

Obviously, height in basket ball is just quackery…

No: As anyone who thinks the situation through, looks at more statistics about height (e.g. heree), considers the advantages under the basket, whatnot, soon realizes, great height is a major advantage and lack of height is corresponding disadvantage. This in particular when considering the statistics in light of how few men reach 7 feet compared to those who reach 6 feet.

In conclusion, I will look at two side-issues:

  1. I have seen speculated that there is a certain “comfort interval” of roughly 30 IQ points within which people are sufficiently compatible to handle each other well: Someone with an IQ of 130 gets along well with people down to roughly 100, but has problems with those at 90; someone with an IQ of a 160 plays well down to 130, but has problems with someone at 120; etc. (Obviously, there is unlikely to be an abrupt change, but rather a gradual worsening.) This can go a long way to explain why many of the very highly intelligent have problems in life, including mental issues, problems in romance, surprisingly poor career developments, whatnot. (Speaking for myself: Yes, I find that when I am too far ahead of someone else, communication problems, differences in interests and world-view, etc., become disproportionally likely.)

  2. Feynmanw is often taken as an example of an “ordinary” man who became a Nobel-prize winning physicist—his IQ being “only” 125.

    Apart from 125 being more than one-and-a-half standard deviations above the mean, this number is highly likely to be misleading. Consider e.g. that anyone can have a bad day and score low, that he may not have taken the test seriously, or that he may have had his mind elsewhere, causing careless mistakes. Notably, I have spent a lot of time solving puzzles of various kinds (including questions from real IQ tests), and have found it to be important to know what level of difficulty the puzzle has: Different difficulties require different approaches and meta-reasoning—and a world-leading physicist could easily have over-estimated the difficulty of the questions.

    Most notably, many IQ tests have a strong verbal component (the more so in the past) and there is reason to suspect that Feynman’s verbal IQ was far from stellar. At the same time, a physicist needs math ability, spatial thinking, and similar. Going by the books by him that I have read, I would only be mildly surprised to hear him going below 100 in verbal IQ—and shocked if he went above average + one standard deviation (i.e. roughly 115). He may then very well have had mathematical and visio-spatial IQs and a “g” on a genius level while still scoring just 125 overall.

    Certainly, based on his books and accomplishments, Feynman was very, very far from average in raw intelligence—and a claimed IQ of 125 would point to a test that needed refinement or something having gone wrong. (Note that this would hold true even if IQ was a more flawed proxy of intelligence than I consider it to be: A man on his level should have no problem scoring higher on a well-made IQ test, be it in my world or in the world of Stephen Jay Gould.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm

International Men’s Day

with one comment

In March, I wrote about the intense attention the International Women’s Day received in Sweden, also stating

In contrast, I did not even notice when the International Men’s Day (November 19) went by—in fact, I only became aware of it when looking up the Women’s Day in Wikipedia today…

Well, November 19 is at our door again—and I almost missed it, despite having intended to write a post on the issue… In all fairness, I have not really paid attention to media the last few days, but I doubt that I would have missed a media attention of the size the Women’s Day had.

I recommend that those who are interested throw an eye at the Wikipedia articlew. To everyone I give the recommendation to use the 19th to contemplate that there are men in this world who have problems too—indeed, in some countries, e.g. Sweden, a strong case can be made that women have the better deal.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Publishing of censored comment

with 5 comments

I am currently involved in a discussion on a German bloge, where the following comment has been censored without a stated reason:

Ich habe selten so viele Fehlschlüße, Faktenfehler, offensichtlich inkorrekte Argumente, und Weigerungen Argumente anderer zu entgegnen gesehen, wie bei dem Piratenweib. Mit diesem üblen Kreationismuspropaganda, die Evolution ist ein Theorie—und somit, per Implikation, nicht Fakt!—geht es aber langsam zu weit.

Ich weise auf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory hin, wo erläutert wird, was eine Theorie ist. Ich zitiere insbesondere, aus dem Zweiten Hand, eine doppelt relevante Aussage:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than “just a theory.” It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

To do damage control, I re-publish it here. I note that the author would have done very well to pay attention to this comment—but that she utterly fails to do so.

I may or may not write a later blog entry detailing some of the disturbing ideas and errors of reasoning she has presented in her post and the ensuing discussion.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trolling or honest interest?

with 2 comments

Every now and then, I encounter a particular type of commenter who puzzles me:

She (women appear to dominate) asks a vaguely formulated (or otherwise open to interpretation) question, without giving any actual input to the discussion, awaits the resulting answers—and limits her involvement to statements like “Please clarify.” and other means of eliciting further reactions from other readers. Often this is combined with a statement of having an “honest interest” in others opinions.

Now: Is this a subtle form of trolling or really a sign of honest interest?

To give a specific example: I am currently semi-involved in a Swedish discussion on objectification, how women’s looks affect their career chances, and similare. A late-comer to the discussion is the commenter “Tanja”, whose three comments to date (in translation, no attempts to improve the original language) consist of:

I have not had managed [bothered, had the endurance] to read all the comments right now, but I wonder one thing. You men who are annoyed [angered] about good-looking women having advantages – how much time, work, and money do you invested in looking good? [I contend that she has misunderstood what the men actually say, but that is a different matter.]

The thinking with me is that there is obviously an opinion that men are disadvantaged in the area “get advantages for being good looking and sexy”. I wonder how many of the men who complain over not having access to a lot of privileges like good-looking women have themselves tried to look good. I am genuinely curious.

As exalted as over what? Feel free to explain.
Besides this I still would like to have an answer to my question.

This with regard to a long comment thread and three comments (two by me) explicitly addressing her—the shortest of which is longer than her own longest.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Price segmentation

with 3 comments

About six months ago, I encountered a blog on price discrimination at hair-salonse. With one late-comer stating that “This is an aspect I hope to explore in my research on gender-based price discrimination for my microeconomics class at Harvard University.”, it is high time for me to write a long-planned post on price segmentation—which is the true explanation behind this discrimination: Women, as a group, are willing to pay more, and that is the reason for the difference in prices. (See also below and some of my comments in the original discussion.)

To illustrate the principle of price segmentation, assume that a company manufactures a three-geared bicycle and wants to determine the right price: If a higher price is chosen then each bicycle sold will give a higher profit—but fewer people will be willing (or, at all, able) to buy it. Assume that the number of bicycles sold at a certain price in Euro is n(p) = 100,000 – 200p and that the total cost of manufacture, marketing, etc. amounts to 300 Euro/bicycle. (These are unrealistic and simplistic assumptions, but they serve well as an illustration.) We can now write the profit as (100,000 – 200p) (p – 300 ) = 160,000p – 200p^2 – 30,000,000

Starting with a price of 0, we have a pleasing 100,000 bicycles “sold”—but a horrifying loss of 30,000,000 Euro. No wonder: Each bicycle gives a severe minus. Using the realistic minimum price (= the cost) of 300 Euro, we see a profit of 0, at 40,000 units sold. Now, by increasing the price by 1 Euro, we can increase the profit by almost 40,000 Euro—gaining 1 Euro from each of 39,800 bicycles, instead of 0 Euro from 40,000. Another price increase brings almost the same amount (39,400), for a total of 39,600 bicycles at a gain of 2 Euros each and 79,200 Euro in all. Another Euro gives another 39,000 and a total of 118,200. Etc.

Increasing the price further and further gives a growing profit—we have fewer buyers, but a greater profit per buyer. At a price of 400 Euro, a full 2 million Euro from 20,000 items is reached. Here, however, we have a maximum: Increasing the price further leads to a smaller profit, as the loss of customers has a greater effect than the price gain. Indeed, at 500 Euro, the profit is back at zero, because not one single bicycle is sold. (The mathematical function works for even higher prices, with an increasing loss, but is now entirely unrealistic—we cannot sell a negative number of bicycles.)

This makes the manufacturer very sad: He knows that there are people willing to pay more than 400 Euro—but he cannot charge them more without losing other customers and reducing his profits. He also knows that there are people who do not buy at all at 400 Euro who would be willing to do so at a lower price—but he cannot lower the price without lowering his profit on the existing customers.

Or can he? Yes, he can! This is where price segmentation comes in: People with different willingness to pay are charged different prices for varying reasons, some based on actual value added, some on different needs, some on stupidity or gullibility on behalf of the customer, some on border-line (or outright) fraud.

Among the many options available to the manufacturer, he chooses the following: He manufactures an ungeared basic model for 250 Euro to be sold at a price of 300 Euro, the old model at the old cost and price, and a “de luxe” bicycle with twelve gears at cost of 350 and a price of 500 Euro. Now he has his previous profit, plus the additional profit from those willing to pay extra, plus the additional profit from those who can now afford the inferior bicycle. (However, also with a minus from those who would previously have bought the mid-ranged bicycle, but now opt for the low-end one. Minimizing such losses is a question for another discussion, but take note of factors like perceived status, brand recognition, deterrents in form of artificial quality reductions, whatnot.)

To give an indication of how powerful price segmentation can be: What profit would result if every potential customer bought a bicycle at the highest possible price using the original function? We then have to add 200 * 0 at 500 Euro, 199 * 200 at 499, 198 * 200 at 498, …, 1 * 200 at 301, and 0 * 200 at 300—amounting to 4 million Euro, to be compared with the original 2 million. (Where we assume that all prices are integers. Allowing prices like e.g. 300.94 makes no change in the big picture, but would lead to more complicated calculations and, possibly, the need to discuss assumptions about fractional bicycles.)

Examples of price segmentation can be found everywhere: In the cereal aisle in a supermarket, in a computer store, at the hair-dressers, … Some examples can be less obvious, my two favourites being DVDs and books:

DVDs are originally sold at very high prices, often more than 20 Euros at release. Those very eager, irrational, or wealthy buy at that price. The price then drops by and by, with those less eager, irrational, and wealthy eventually buying at a lower price. In the end a DVD may be dumped for 5 Euros or less, before it disappears from the market—or is marked up again, because the decision is made that it is better to refocus on the true fans and late comers willing to pay a higher price than on the masses.

Books, OTOH, are divided into hard-cover and pocket books: They both have their advantages and disadvantages (and I, personally, consider the pocket book to be the superior format in most cases), but the former sells for thrice the price of the latter. Why then does anyone buy hard-cover? Easy: The hard-cover books are released about a year earlier, and the true segmentation (as with DVDs) is one of time: The customer pays for the privilege of reading the book earlier—not any inherit superiority of the hard-cover format.

Even rebates to seniors, children, and students are usually done with an eye at price segmentation (although altruism and PR can be factors): Customers who would otherwise be hard-pressed to pay are given a leg up; others still pay the full price.

Returning to the example with hair-cuts: Why would women be charged more? Because of a patriarchal conspiracy? No. The true reason is simply that men and women, as groups, are willing to pay different amounts of money for a given hair-related service (and that they often want different services). Correspondingly, it makes good business sense to segment the market based on the sex of the customer: Increase the price for men and they will desert to self-service land; do so for women and they will remain as customers—with the occasional complaint about too high or unfair prices. Similarly, women are more likely to go to a fancy “hair architect”, while men tend towards someone who admits to being a cutter of hair; women want extras of various kind; men want it plain and simple; etc.

As an aside, the issues of competition and niches is very important in practice. For instance, in the original example, the presence of a competitor selling an equivalent or superior bike at 390 Euro could give the function n(p) a radically different look when that price was approached, possibly making the original “ideal” price of 400 Euro entirely unrealistic. It would also be possible that the three given market segments would each be dominated by a different manufacturer.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Calvin and Hobbes—the problems with schooling

leave a comment »

I am a regular critic of the traditional school system (cf. e.g. [1]), and the topic has surfaced very often during my blog readings the last few months. Correspondingly, it was on my mind as I re-read some Calvin and Hobbesw comics, and I was struck by how well Calvin illustrates some of the common problems. This is particularly clear when we compare Calvin (exaggerated boy) and Susie (stereotypical girl) with an eye on how the school systems in many countries are systematically to the disadvantage of boys.

Susie does what the teacher says, she wants (or feels compelled by external forces) to excel in school, and she has the ability to sit still and concentrate for the required time (unless disturbed by Calvin…); further, on the balance of probabilities, she appears to enjoy school or, at least, have no major non-school interests that are compromised by school.

Calvin, in contrast, overflows with energy and ideas, has an extraordinary fantasy, countless interests—and is bored to tears by school. Notably, even when he is physically present in class, he tends to be mentally absent—and he does not appear to learn anything near what would be needed to justify the time spent.

School may be adequat, possibly even good, for Susie; however, for Calvin, it is a waste of time and energy, a dreadful dreariness that likely even hinders his development.

Calvin would, at least at the age depicted in the comic, be better of outside of school (and so would school, I suspect). To put him on Ritalin would be a horrifying crime, a chaining of a tiger that should roam free—yet, Ritalin is what many schools would demand by default, in order to “treat” him.

What Calvin needs is not school, but education—and this education can be reached by other means, adapted to his specific characteristics. Notably, he has a very sharp mind when he applies it, and his knowledge of dinosaurs shows that he does not have a learning problem when he is motivated to learn (and that he is capable of learning without a teacher).

Predicting the future success in life and intellectual development of two fictitious 6 year-olds is chancy; however, I very, very strongly suspect that Calvin is the one who will achieve more of the two. This unless poor school grades, lack of conformity, or a preference for his own company give a too poor impression among superficial judges in his surroundings—or school breaks his spirit and hampers his development… Susie, on the very outside, could become a middle manager (and probably a poor and rule-bound one). More likely, she would be a dull teacher or a comparatively entry level office worker or civil servant. Calvin could be so much more, e.g. a successful author, a (good) politician, or a college professor (paradoxical only to those narrow-minded where schooling are concerned)—of course, depending on his exact abilities and interests later in life.

When similar points are made by me or others, a common counter-argument is that school is just a matter of biting the bullet, and that he who does not only has himself to blame. (Disturbingly often by teachers…) This argument is faulty on at least three counts: Firstly, it presumes too much of younger children. Secondly, it need not be a realistic strategy for humans of any age (they are, after all, humans—not robots). Thirdly, school is extremely inefficient even for those who do bite the bullet. Those who do not happen to be in the ideal range of the one-size-fits-all-poorly schooling (or happen to receive special attention, home schooling, acceleration, whatnot) will have a poor return on the invested time—no matter how hard they bite the bullet. Indeed, the possibly gravest mistake of those in favour of traditional schooling is to fail to consider the horrifyingly large opportunity costw of school—be it with regard to other ways of spending time (in general) or of gaining an education (in particular); or to how the tax-payers money are spent.

As odd as it may seem: I strongly recommend that anyone who intends to state an opinion on schools or the educational system first reads up on (and actually gains an understanding of) Calvin, his world-view, his school situation, whatnot.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 11, 2010 at 7:46 am

Lack of consistency between ethics and actions—“You would do the same!”

with one comment

It is far from uncommon to be met with the argument “You would do the same in that situation. [Implicitly: Therefore, there is nothing wrong with doing so.]” (with many variations) when discussing the ethics of a particular behaviour. This post is mostly intended as standard answer to give to those who follow this, in my eyes, highly naive line of argumentation.

I argue the following:

  1. That someone else would also act in a certain manner in a certain situation does not make that action ethical—it can equally point to human fallability. Speaking for myself, I make no pretense of being infallible, and I readily admit that it is easier to preach than to practice.

  2. Such hypothetical situations can be dangerous; in particular, because there is often a great difference between what people say that they would do and what they actually would do. (For a number of reasons, including lying, honest misestimation, inconsistent actions and opinions from event to event, considerable dependency on circumstances, and the possibility that an unthinking “auto-pilot” action takes place.)

    In contrast, the use of well-formulated ethical dilemmas asking for what is right and wrong (not “What would you do?”) can be a valuable guide.

  3. Similar dangers arise from the fact that behaviour in specific situations will vary from person to person. For the same reason, “You would do the same.” is often even an incorrect argument, and certainly not generally convincing.

    Individual opinions on ethics are perfectly legitimate, and unavoidable, but more abstract reasoning can make them smaller and less arbitrary.

  4. There is typically more than one side to any issue and merely focusing on what one party would do cannot generally lead to a conclusion about what is right and wrong.

    A specific example: Picture yourself on an aeroplane with all engines malfunctioning. As one of two passengers, you have the opportunity to grab the one parachute and survive—or you can give the parachute to the other passenger and take a (hypothetically) 10 % chance of surviving the emergency landing. In this situation, the “You would do the same!” argument may seem plausible to you—but now picture yourself in the shoes of the other passenger instead…

    Note in particular the Golden Rulew.

  5. Case specific reasoning can easily create an inconsistent “system” of ethics, with analogous situations being treated very differently based on unimportant circumstances and superficially differences, and where broad and general rules are replaced by a large set of detailed regulations. Compare the following hypothetical rule sets:

    It is wrong to steal, unless considered necessary in order to avert a danger to life and limb or damage which is disproportionally larger than the damage caused by the theft. In the latter cases, due care must be taken to minimize the damage to the owner.

    It is wrong to steal, unless the theft is of a boat to rescue someone drowning, but only if there is no other means to save him; or of a chainsaw to cut someone out from under a fallen tree, but …; or of …, but …; [and so on ad nauseam].

  6. Humans are generally far too driven by instinct and egoism for them to be considered (naturally) ethical, and ethics is therefore best agreed upon in advance, from an abstract and disengaged “ivory tower” POV, and not left to the individual in the moment. (Where “ivory tower”, in this specific use, should not be taken to deny the value of previous practical and personal experiences of various sides and issues—quite the contrary.)

I stress that the above is directed at those who look for ethical justification or try to divert criticism—not those who are willing to admit to ethical fallability or to egoism. (Nor those who can give an ethical justification by other means.)

In a close parallel, I have heard the dangerous variation that ones “true” ethics, what one truly believes to be right and wrong, would only be revealed in a time of need. This, of course, makes a mockery of the concept of ethics—and is often hypocritical: It amounts to saying that the speaker never violates his ethics, never commits a wrongful act, but only adapts his understanding of right and wrong. A more self-insightful approach would be to realize that he is not perfectly moral, that he is human, that he occasionally does things that he should not do.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 8, 2010 at 4:18 am

Blogroll update

leave a comment »

Between my recent encounter with AfroCan et co. and a very interesting linke given by visitor WTPe, I have spent some time both writing and reading about issues relating to political correctness, with my reading heavy on the issues of academic freedom, free speech on US campuses, and similar. (See [1], [2], [3] for the writings.)

As a result, I am giving my temporary blogroll an overhaul with two additions:

  1. http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/e

    deals with the prolonged aftermaths of the false rape-accusations raised by Crystal Mangum against several members of Duke University’s Lacrosse team, including the condemnations and assumptions of guilt directed at the innocently accused by strongly PC faculty members and students—who seemed to be stuck on the idea of privileged, sexist, and racist white men raping and abusing an innocent black woman.

    At first, the topic of the Duke false-rape charges and the ensuing witch-hunt may seem to be a waste of space—years after the events. However, the blog manages to provide a wealth of interesting reading on related topics, including the lack of repenting and repetition of errors on behalf of Duke University, the highly destructive take that the PC crowd has on rapes, the lack of scientific-mindedness among the leftist (pseudo-)intellectuals on US colleges, and the new adventures of the “Group of 88” (88 faculty members at DU who presumed to declare the innocent guilty long before the matter reached the courtroom).

    This blog is particularly revealing to those who naively try to justify feminist ideas on e.g. “gender issues” by referencing academic research and authoritites—indeed, the absurd application of such ideas on the case at hand, aiming to justify the prosecution or saving the honor of the false accuser, Crystal Mangum, is another severe blow to their plausibility: Here cries of “Wolf!” are raised, where there definitely is no wolf present. (While many other applications occur in areas where the presence of a wolf is merely highly unlikely and unproved—not positively disproved.)

    As an aside, the attitude displayed by universities towards their students, both from the writings of durhamwonderland and what I have read and myself experienced elsewhere, is highly disturbing: They fail to realize that they are well-paid service providers with obligations towards the students—not feudal lords to whom the students have obligations. Indeed, outside of matters relating to academic success/failure and intrusive behaviour within the schools walls (in the same manner as a store may act against poorly behaved customers), the students’ behaviour and opinions are no business whatsoever of the school. If something is illegal, it is in the jurisdiction of the authorities (and should be left exclusively to them); if not, the school has no justifiable reason to interfere in the first place.

  2. http://www.thefire.org/e

    is the homepage of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organisation promoting freedom of speech and opinion on US campuses.

    Even taking the large number of universities in the US into consideration, the sheer number of violations of constitutional rights is surprising. Notably, if even students are exposed to restrictions of this kind, it is not surprising that outrages like the crucifixion of Larry Summers for engaging in legitimate scientific discourse (with claims that have great support in scientific results) or the Duke scandal take place. Nor is it surprising that universities increasingly lack critical thinkers on the faculty level.

    The range of problems is large, from a student being excluded from a class for using the F-worde outside (!) of class to forcing students to commit to PC ideologye.

Regrettably, both of these sites (the former more so) occasionally engages in undue rhetoric themselves: Too much rhetoric does not add, but diminishes, the persuasive power in the eyes of a rational reader—and adapting evil methods in order to fight evil is self-defeating. (The PC movement, the gender-feminists, the Spanish Inquisition, even the Nazis, did not actually set out to be evil, but honestly believed that they did were the good guys. Great vigilance is necessary for those with strong idealistic opinions, lest they fall into the same trap.)

The following entries are removed based on the FIFO principle:

  1. Tanja Bergkvist’s bloge first described here.

  2. me-vs-corporate-americae first described here.

The reader will note that I have not added the original link from WTP. This for two reasons: Firstly, the blog contains much content (e.g. art photos) that is simple not relevant for my purposes with this update—no matter how valuable they may be in another context. Secondly, I do not want to give others the impression that I take suggestions for my blogroll. (This could lead to spam.) Still, there is much interesting reading to be found there (including links to other sites), and I do recommend a visit.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 4, 2010 at 10:06 am