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July 19, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Rick Darby wonders if Sweden wants to commit suicide.

* Tatyana recalls some of what made a recent trip to Portugal so pleasant for her.

* A BBC producer wonders how much longer YouTube is going to be able to get away with it.

* Steve admires a particularly poetic piece of spam.

* The one, the only, OuterLife blogs again.

* In his characteristically damn-the-torpedoes way, Fred Reed looks at boys, girls, and school.

* Microtonal music will give your ears both a tune-up and a shakeup.

* Tell me more. Tell me more.

* Screenwriter John August describes himself as a "digital guy," yet he has witnessed some of the perils of working digitally.

* More tension in the Middle East, eh? Now that's a shock. Steve Sailer offers one of his helpful history/culture lessons, this time on Lebanon. Great passage:

God, how I hate the Middle East. Has anything worthwhile come out of the Middle East in the last 500 years (other than the oil that the Middle Easterners would never have noticed was under their feet)? While I'm sure it's emotionally satisfying to devote all your brainpower to figuring out how to get revenge on the tribe next door, it's not very productive.

And how I hate poor naive America being so heavily involved in the Middle East, getting yanked around by interested parties (have I mentioned Ahmad Chalabi lately?) for reasons we dumb hicks can't begin to fathom.



posted by Michael at July 19, 2006


I agree with a lot of what Fred says about boys in school, but his last paragraph brings up an interesting point:

"You want to end the 'boy crisis'? Easy. Give boys male teachers who understand boys and care about them. Women do neither. Let them compete..."

I couldn't agree more, but how do we "give boys male teachers?" The teaching profession is not closed to men, so why aren't more choosing it? I'm sure you know what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway. Men are still, by and large, the primary breadwinners in families, and they flat out cannot afford to be teachers anymore. I know this first-hand. I taught high school for 3 years. The last year I earned $37,000, including summer school pay. This was in the SF Bay Area. After 25 years, the most I could expect to make was, if I remember correctly, around $60,000. As much as I loved teaching, I left to go back to I.T., where a kid coming out of college can start at around $60,000.

Whenever the subject of teacher pay is broached, many people haul out the old chestnut about teachers only working 9 months a year, etc. They are absolutely correct (unless you teach summer school). But is a teacher's worth based solely on hours put in? People point the finger at teachers for a variety of society's ills, so it must be a rather important job. As important as, say, a firefighter's? My brother is a firefighter. He made in the high 50s his first year on the job, and can expect to top out at over 100K, after which he will retire at 70% of pay for the rest of his life. He (and according to him, the majority of the other men at his station) has enough downtime to also run a side business as an electrician, scheduling jobs WHILE ON THE CLOCK. I'm not even disparaging this practice, but I think it illuminates the absolute inequity in the expectations that people have of teachers. Would anyone say that firefighters are overpaid? Of course not. Is physical danger on the job the sole metric in determining salary? Shouldn't be.

Would it please certain people if school schedules were more in line with corporate schedules? Then would it be OK if teachers made a living wage?

This is a very sore issue for me, so I apologize for the rant.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 19, 2006 3:27 PM

The supposed "boy crisis" in education is a lot of hooey, at least insofar as higher education is concerned. Yes, it's true that more females than males go to college, by some fairly substantial margin. But as Half Sigma has pointed out in some detail, much of this gap is accounted for by two particular groups: (1) students from lower-income backgrounds, and (2) students past traditional college age. Both of these groups are disproportionately female. Yet that should come as no surprise. Young men from poorer backgrounds, facing little family pressure to attend college, often decide - not incorrectly - that the skilled trades or armed forces offer better alternatives than taking out student loans to attend college. Young women from poorer families have fewer alternatives, and many of them decide that college is really their only chance at ever making a decent living. There are a variety of reasons why more women than men decide to attend college despite being past normal college age; two that come to mind are bored housewives looking for something to do, other than watch Oprah, once the ankle-biters are in school, and men who might want to attend college but are too busy working to support their families.
Besides, if there's gender gap in higher education that should be worrisome, it's how females are much more likely to major in fluffy, unmarketable fields.

As for Rick Darby's piece about Sweden's supposed "suicide," the fact that it relies heavily on Gates of Vienna speaks volumes. Gates of Vienna is a scaremongering hate site, basically a European version of Little Green Footballs. Randy McDonald has written extensively on the Islamic demographic "threat" to Europe, basing his conclusions on data rather than emotion. Quick summary: the "threat" is nearly nonexistent.

Posted by: Peter on July 19, 2006 4:08 PM

Patriarch -- You've got me thinking that I should have gone into the firefighting field.

Peter -- Always eager to learn more, but it's going to take more than Randy MacDonald to persuade me that there's no Islam/Muslim challenge in Europe. Some interesting figures:

"Seventy percent of the inmates in French prisons ... are Muslim. Four out of five residents at Oslo's main women's shelter are non-Norwegian women seeking protection from male family members. In Denmark, Muslims make up 5 percent of the population but receive 40 percent of welfare outlays."

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 19, 2006 4:09 PM

Steve Sailer wrote:

"And how I hate poor naive America being so heavily involved in the Middle East, getting yanked around by interested parties (have I mentioned Ahmad Chalabi lately?) for reasons we dumb hicks can't begin to fathom."

It seems, from reading his other articles (which is often tiresome because he loads them up with pointless parenthetical asides), that he thinks the reason for American involvement is the Jews, or at least mostly the Jews.

The "dumb hicks" thing is very Fred Reedish, the oh-shucks self-deprecation, an earnest appeal to the hoi polloi. This works especially well with anti-intellectual intellectuals, like the host of this forum.

Posted by: Jake on July 19, 2006 4:44 PM

Jake -- So you don't enjoy Steve or Fred? That's too bad. I find both of them lively and daring.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 19, 2006 5:20 PM

"So you don't like Steve or Fred?"

Not quite. True, I stopped reading the latter because of the "aw-shucks I'm just a common man with common thoughts, but doggonne if it doesn't take an uncommon man like me to say them out loud." It's schtick. However, if I happened to be killing time with a newspaper and saw his byline, I'd likely check it out.

Sailer is ok, especially when he goes after such authors who write books like Blink and Freakonomics. But he needs an editor.


Posted by: Jake on July 19, 2006 7:23 PM

Michael -
Having a lower-income minority group disproportionately represented among a nation's prison inmates, welfare receipients, etc. is hardly unique to Europe or to Muslims ... in fact, it's quite a tradition here in America.
Regarding the part about 60% of France's prison inmates being Muslim, I would suspect that the majority of them are African rather than Arab, and for the most part fairly secular.

Posted by: Peter on July 19, 2006 7:24 PM

My son was very poorly served by high school, but not because he was the rough-and-tumble kind of guy Fred talks about -- quite the opposite. Quiet, arty , scary smart. He did, however, decide his teachers were idiots (and in a lot of ways, he was right), and tune out. He took an exit exam and was out of high school at the age of 16. I was livid when he was kicked out of the GATE program around 8th grade, because his grades weren't good enough, even though his standardized tests were sky-high. But because he wouldn't fit the program and do well on his homework, he clearly wasn't Gifted and Talented material any more.

I'm happy to say that he has found college much more to his liking. He's gotten straight A's in honors English and Psychology, which he's found he loves. Thank God.

Posted by: missgrundy on July 19, 2006 7:42 PM

missgrundy - You might find some insight by googling "gifted underachiever." That seems to be a known category amongst the professional educators now. One article I found stated that as many as 50% of gifted boys (and 25% of gifted girls) might also be considered underachievers. If that's true, the figures are astonishing because one would think the so-called "gifted" are the very kids who ought to do well in school. (Or so it was thought in my own school days.) At the least, it suggests that one-size-fits-all education leaves some of the brightest kids who should be doing well bored and disinterested, though exactly what should be done to fix the problem, I have no idea.

Posted by: Dwight Decker on July 19, 2006 10:01 PM

Dwight, I work in an academic environment, and I can't tell you how many of my colleagues have sons who have just tuned out and failed in high school -- it's really very startling. I just had a long talk with a colleague the other day -- his daughter did brilliantly and is off to college, his son is bombing out and failing his high school courses left and right. These are all kids from homes with highly educated parents who value literacy and learning, blah blah -- and we're at a loss as to what to do about it. For my son, the sum total of his teenage rebellion had to do with failing everything in school -- he didn't drink or do drugs, drive cars too fast (actually, we wouldn't let him drive because of his grades). We tried everything in the book to get him focused, but what it took was a little maturity and an environment radically different than high school. Of course, you could say that he was just doing the normal teenage thing and rebelling against everything his parents stood for (he failed English and science -- I'm an English prof and his dad works in astronomy . . . duh). But there's more to it than that simple explanation, I think.

I have to say that the work they expected him to do in high school was stupifyingly dull and tedious, and I didn't blame him for not wanting to do it. But we worried that he would never fit the program, and that that's part of life and we all have to do things we don't like to do and yada yada all the crap that parents say. I'm just grateful that at the age of 21, now, he's allowed himself to blossom (with the help of some really terrific college instructors).

Why does high school have to be the way it is?? I'm a teacher educator -- I know how it could/should be different. But my god, it's difficult to get them to budge, and we have "gifted underachievers" all over the place, and that's a crime.

Can you tell that this subject gets me exercised?

Posted by: missgrundy on July 20, 2006 11:33 AM

Most guys who are even considering teaching are probably smarter than average, and smarter people tend to put off raising a family, so I doubt the guy's thinking, "On this salary, I couldn't support a family, which I'm dying to do right now." It's more likely, "On this salary, I couldn't support a family, and all females will quickly notice this (whether they want to have a family now or just have a trophy boyfriend), thereby disqualifying me from the mating competition, which I dearly want to do well in right now."

So basically the two main types of guys who teach or work at tutoring centers are: 1) wimps, and 2) guys like me who are semi-nuts & non-socialized, who thus don't care whether girls will approve of my doing X or not.

A partial solution is to make schools more serious -- that way, it will appear to be more high-status than the glorified day-care center that it is now, and so guys won't feel like working there would be birth control. During my English teacher days in Barcelona, I noticed that education was taken much more seriously there, and being a teacher was considered more prestigious -- not terribly so, but maybe on the level of what an accountant would rank here in the US. Europe is more into the old aristocratic, big-C culture, manners, and so on; so the people who play a key part in making their kids more cultured are viewed more gratefully than here, where again teachers are seen (rightly) as just babysitting their kids.

Posted by: Agnostic on July 20, 2006 12:10 PM

Yeah, There is no Muslim assimilation problem in Europe. Salman Rushdie just imagined that fatwa, Theo Van Gogh died of a heart attack, those Danish editors hiding under police protection are just paranoid, and all those French cars spontaneously combusted last fall...

The media and some bloggers may be overemphasizing some aspects of the situation, but it's simply absurd to deny that there is a problem.

Posted by: tschafer on July 20, 2006 5:50 PM

It seems that the definition of a "hate" site is "a site that presents views I do not agree with".

Posted by: tschafer on July 20, 2006 5:58 PM

The reason why YouTube "gets away with it" is because of the Communications Decency Act (s. 231 I believe) which basically reads, "Websites can't be held responsible for the activity of their users."

Copyright holders might put pressure on websites to take things down, and websites will usually comply, but fundamentally they don't have to. The only recourse copyright holders have is to sue the users and, honestly, is suing a 16 year old girl for doing a sing-along or a guy for posting a clip of a funny skit on TV an infringement? YouTube is just basically a more convenient method of distribution, but people have been showing each other things they enjoy for years*.

*since man became self aware.

Posted by: Rendition on July 21, 2006 7:03 AM

The bit about the Middle East isn't by Sailer (couldn't find it in the linked article). But I knew that. If he had written it, he would've found a way to blame Mexicans for the war in Lebanon!

In any case, whoever wrote the piece is right, to an extent. The only interesting thing to come out of the Middle East in recent decades is Iranian cinema, which is really, really good. Other than that, the idea that the solution to global warming, backdated options and pretty much everything else depends on peace between Israel and Palestine is tiresome beyond belief.

Posted by: Andrew on July 21, 2006 8:19 PM

Holy Smokes! That is a KILLER Shangri-Las video.

Out in the Street is their best song, and in fact, THEY considered it to be their best song.

Their second best song is Train from Kansas City. And the live version by Neko Case is even better than the original, which I know is virtually an impossible thing to do, to beat the Shangri Las at their own game on their own turf, but it happens to be true.

You Tube is the best thing on the Internet ever. Really. Bar none. The best thing yet.

Posted by: Lexington Green on July 22, 2006 1:09 AM

Most under-achievers, once freed from the regimen of high school -- and college, for that matter, -- do quite well. Under-achievers channel their innate intelligence and ambitions into “something”, whether it be a hobby, a social group of other under-achievers (e.g., video game players, skateboarders or computer nerds), or an after-school job. They succeed in our society. With no image to tarnish, they take risks. They’re the innovators, the founders of small businesses, the squeaky wheels calling for a new way of doing something.

Don’t fret about how to reach them or how to get them to conform. Leave them be. Our society would be lost without them.

Posted by: Bob on July 22, 2006 9:54 PM

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