Archive for August 30th, 2010

Standardized tests are biased against unmotivated students

| August 30, 2010 | Reply
Standardized tests are biased against unmotivated students

The Onion continues to be on top of breaking news. This time, the story concerns the fact that standardized tests discriminate against students who don’t care about schoolwork:


In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don’t Give A Shit?

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The Onion: “Man already knows everything he needs to know about Muslims.”

| August 30, 2010 | 8 Replies
The Onion:  “Man already knows everything he needs to know about Muslims.”

The Onion has issued a new report from Salina, Kansas:

Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world. . . “I know all I’m going to let myself know.”

Here’s the rest of the story.

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It’s STILL the economy, stupid!

| August 30, 2010 | 4 Replies
It’s STILL the economy, stupid!

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich has it right.

Democrats should propose eliminating payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income, and making up the revenue loss by applying payroll taxes to incomes above $250,000. This would give the economy an immediate boost by adding to the paychecks of just about every working American. 80 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. And because lower-income people would get most of the benefit, it’s likely to be spent.

It would also give employers an extra incentive to hire because they’d save on their share of the payroll tax. And most of the incentive would be directed toward hiring lower-income workers – who have taken the biggest hit on jobs and pay during the recession.

It wouldn’t add to the deficit. Lost revenues would be made up by applying payroll taxes to income exceeding $250,000. This is certainly fair. As it is now, the Social Security payroll tax doesn’t apply to any income over $106,000. Having the tax kick in again at $250,000 would draw on the top 3 percent of earners, who (as noted) now rake in a larger portion of total income than they have in more than 80 years.

Call it the People’s Tax Cut, and let Republicans explain why they’re against it.”

The other ways that we could improve the economy are simple, may be targeted and could lead to long term employment by many of the some 15 million Americans currently out of work. I recommend the following proposals:

- Expansion of the federal bi-partisan HIRE program which has led to many new job hires by a cross-section of businesses in America.

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A new site for Biblical scholarship?

| August 30, 2010 | Reply
A new site for Biblical scholarship?

I have to admit, I enjoy reading about the gaming scene (I live my geek vicariously).

I was therefore delighted/amazed/surprised/dumbfounded to read about a new MMO game called The Bible Online
warning – extremely slow server
The site describes the game as follows

<The Bible Online: Ch1. The Heroes> is based on the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Players can meet and play the real heroes of Genesis, Abraham and his descendants. The game is designed for users to actually experience the Book of Genesis by fulfilling quests of Abraham, which is based on the true stories of the Genesis.
As a MMORTS, players are to lead their tribe, build buildings, maintain resources and engage in warfare with other tribes. However, players do not stay in one place, but will go on a quest to go to the Promised Land. Players will lead Abraham’s tribe from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan.

Most game sites are very excited, but confidently expect the game to be ‘adult only’ due to the graphic nature of the sex, violence, and general debauchery inherent in the source material.

[H/T - Destructoid and Penny Arcade]

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People really do play by the rules!

| August 30, 2010 | Reply
People really do play by the rules!

Studies recently completed at Washington State University suggest that we really, really don’t like non-conformists, people who don’t play by the rules, regardless of whether the outcome is positive or negative.

The studies gave participants—introductory psychology students—pools of points that they could keep or give up for an immediate reward of meal service vouchers. Participants were also told that giving up points would improve the group’s chance of receiving a monetary reward.

In reality, the participants were playing in fake groups of five. Most of the fictitious four would make seemingly fair swaps of one point for each voucher, but one of the four would often make lopsided exchanges—greedily giving up no points and taking a lot of vouchers, or unselfishly giving up a lot of points and taking few vouchers.

As expected, participants didn’t want to work with the greedy players who took more than they shared. Unexpectedly, they were also eager to get rid of the unselfish players – who consistently gave more than they received.

The researchers found that

unselfish colleagues come to be resented because they “raise the bar” for what is expected of everyone. As a result, workers feel the new standard will make everyone else look bad.

They frequently said, “the person is making me look bad” or is breaking the rules. Occasionally, they would suspect the person had ulterior motives.

It didn’t seem to matter that the overall welfare of the group or the task at hand is better served by someone’s unselfish behavior.

The do-gooders are seen as deviant rule breakers. It’s as if they’re giving away Monopoly money so someone can stay in the game, irking other players to no end.

I think that this merely demonstrates that the majority of people are generally (small c) conservative, and want to stay within well defined boundaries.

In my opinion, this respect for the rules is one of the major foundations upon which religion builds, and which is (also) appropriated by authoritarians for their personal gain. Hooking into our sense of fair-play and our inherent tribalism seems to be a winning strategy for those who would define the rules for their personal gain.

Define the rules, and the people will enforce them for you. No secret police needed!

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