28 August 2013

Full Circle On Testing

From the WSJ [hat tip]:

Next spring, seniors at about 200 U.S. colleges will take a new test that could prove more important to their future than final exams: an SAT-like assessment that aims to cut through grade-point averages and judge students' real value to employers.
The test, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, "provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills," said David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. "The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves."
The test is part of a movement to find new ways to assess the skills of graduates. Employers say grades can be misleading and that they have grown skeptical of college credentials.

It was once the case that employers could generally use IQ tests to screen employees, if said employers so desired.  Now, general testing is pretty much considered discriminatory (read: illegal), and the only testing employers can do is testing geared to assess an applicant’s work-related aptitudes (for example, Sears could potential cashiers a math test, but could not necessarily give the same test to a stock boy, unless Sears first showed that math was a crucial need for working in the stock room).  Of course, employers paid for the tests they administered.

The difference between then and now is that employers no longer pay for IQ tests, the applicants do, and the tests aren’t IQ tests per se. (Oh, and the applicants provide the scores “voluntarily,” since employers would be remiss to ask for an IQ score, I mean SAT-like assessment test.)  Other than that, some employers are looking for highly intelligent workers and have no problem use test assessments to determine a candidate’s worthiness.  I guess the regulatory system just can’t counteract human nature and market forces.

I do wonder, though, how long it takes some enterprising students to figure out a way to skip college and take the CLA.  Then I wonder how long it will take for everyone to realize that the CLA exam is probably a waste of time, and that good old-fashioned SAT scores work just fine.  Then I wonder how much longer it’s going to take for the education bubble to pop once everyone realizes that college is a clusterfuck, and a poor substitute for IQ scores as a means of demonstrating intelligence.  Honestly, I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

26 August 2013

Looks Matter

In a study by Chia-Jung Tsay, who last year earned a Ph.D. in organizational behavior with a secondary Ph.D. field in music, nearly all participants — including highly trained musicians — were better able to identify the winners of competitions by watching silent video clips than by listening to audio recordings. The work was described in a paper published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Normal caveats about one-off sociological experiments aside, this roughly tracks with observable reality.  Attractive people are better-liked than unattractive people, and are presumed to be more talented because everyone likes attractive people.

The bias towards attractive people isn’t really surprising, and probably helps to explain why, say, Katy Perry is able to sell millions of records (hint and hint).  It’s not that Ms. Perry is more talented than most other female singers (though she isn’t completely devoid of vocal talent), but it certainly helps that she has a nice rack and a pleasant enough face.  The same goes for Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, One Direction, and all the other attractive pop stars:  Their good looks help to compensate for their general lack of sheer musical talent.  They aren’t completely devoid of talent, but then no one expects Taylor Swift or Harry Styles to suddenly start rocking out some righteous guitar solos in the middle of concert.

The lesson in all this, though, is that being good-looking will help you a lot more than being talented.  There’s a reason why Radiohead doesn’t have near the popularity of Coldplay, and that reason isn’t a lack of talent. Truthfully, Thom Yorke, though more talented, is less attractive than Chris Martin.  Thus, if you want to be more successful in life, it’s better to look good than be talented (though both in tandem are damn near unstoppable).  Therefore, it is wise to look as good as you possibly can.

Your success, then, is probably more contingent on upgrading your wardrobe and getting in shape than on learning useful skills.  This truth may not be pretty, but then reality doesn’t really care about your feelings.  So, if you want to be successful, it’s better to choose style over substance, though it’s ideal to choose both if at all possible.

Accepting Defeat

Slumlord’s been knocking it out of the park recently, but I think I’ve detected a bit of defeatism in his tone:
Conservatism needs to be framed as a propositional ideology. Principally, it is an ideology which first and foremost believes in the truth and reality. The problem with such a conservatism though is that it is inaccessible to the cognitive miser, who votes with his gut instead of his head. Therefore the only way I can see that meaningful conservatism will reassert itself in the West will be either through;
1) An evangalisation of the democratic nations. In my opinion, unlikley.
2) The collapse of democracy and the reassertion of Conservatism by a cognitive/religious elite.
The way things are going, the second option seems the most probable.
I suppose that the most important take home message from Richwine's post is that engagement with the media is going to be counterproductive, especially to those of the right.  Some blog commentator seem keen for media attention but I think that this desire is unwise.  I think its important for the nascent New Right/ Dark Enlightenment/Neo Reactionaries not to worry about sudden media exposure and the publicity it brings. The movement needs to establish roots which are deep, wide and strong. Just like undergound movements in occupied countries, we need to establish our bona fides by personal contact through person to person spread. Anyone who embraces the media is likely to end up as its lunch.

Sweet ghost of Edmund Burke but this is depressing.  Conservatism can’t win unless goes underground and survives social collapse?  That’s certainly a cause for optimism.

Honestly, though, I don’t really understand this defeatist mindset.  Yes, things sure are shitty right now, and progressivism has certainly continued its long, expansive, self-defeating march for a long time now, but I just don’t get the whole mindset where the only solution is to go dark and pray for collapse.  This may be the most probable outcome, but it is by no means the only possible response to the unfettered march of progressive ideology.

Instead, I would suggest that conservatives* try to win the culture war before they worry about winning the political war.  If it is truly the emotional tail that wags the cognitive dog, then changing the hearts of men must occur before you can change their minds or their behavior.  Thus, the solution to the problem is to make conservatism* cool again.

This is, in turn, accomplished by learning the basic elements of Game and applying them to social settings. Live by your own reality and refuse to deviate from it or concede ground to your opponents.  Reframe them as lunatics, liars, and illogical losers. Always act like your beliefs are perfectly rational and everyone else’s are delusional and retarded.  Be confident. Mock your opponents relentlessly. Don’t be a pussy, and don’t try to win people’s approval.  DO NOT try to win your opponent’s approval. Don’t be a suck up. Don’t ask for a seat at the table; demand it.  Always make sure that all leftists are properly labeled as basement-dwelling virgins who suck so much at living life that of course they need a government handout.  Assume the worst of your opponents, and make sure that they are constantly trying to prove themselves to the public.  Mostly, just have balls.

Regarding gay rights, it’s good to agree and amplify when discussing how bad gays have it:  “Not only can gays not get married in the benighted flyover states, gays who attempt to get married are arrested and sent to reeducation camps where rednecks force them to have sex with people of the opposite sex.  It’s basically the Soviet Union over there.”  Or be absurdly logical:  “You know what else is sad?  That Zoophiles can’t marry animals, that the incestuous can’t marry their parents or siblings, that polygamists can’t marry multiple partners, that pedophiles can’t marry children, necrophiles can’t marry dead people, etc.”  Or just reframe:  “You know how the government sucks at basically everything?  You should definitely let it regulate the most important relationship of your life.”

Each of these reframes basically work because all of them make gay rights into a matter to be mocked instead of something to be discussed seriously, and pinpoint the sheer stupidity of most of the arguments.** The reason why this is fairly easy to do is because gay rights activists are dishonest pieces of shit. If you simply extend their arguments to the logical extremes, the arguments quickly fall apart.  When this happens, you can call them either dishonest, stupid, or insane since only people who are dishonest, stupid, or insane would advance arguments that are illogical and fall apart so easily.  Needless to say, people who are dishonest, stupid, or insane are losers, and this should be rubbed in their face until they agree with you.

Also, it really helps to be cool, so the best thing to do is act like politics is a trivial pursuit, and only pussies get too worked up about it.  Thus, when you dispatch with a progressive loser, you frame all attempts he makes to rebut you as loser’s jealousy.  Basically, when you’re done, everyone should be thinking that you’re a cool guy who’s got the world figured out and that your opponent is a pathetic try-hard loser who will do anything for a seat at the table.

For further examples of how to accomplish this, just watch how the mainstream media has treated conservatives for the last forty years. Then go and do likewise.

* If you’re not a conservative but still hate progressivism feel free to insert a more relevant ideological label that describes you.  Personally, I’m rooting for anarchism, but would happily settle for Jeffersonian Liberalism.

** The whole notion of gays, or even anyone having a “right” to marry is absurd on its own terms.

Crazy Theory #23

The Cathedral has long recognised that intelligent discourse with its enemies is counterproductive. It has recognised that the way to win the debate with the masses is through emotional conditioning. As the Jonathan Haidt has shown, and commercial advertising has demonstrated for decades, it's the emotional tail which wags the rational dog. [Ed:Amongst cognitive misers.] The Cathedral tries to paint causes in a positive light always. All the Gays depicted on television and the media are funny, nice and agreeable, all the Conservatives; nasty, unattractive and ignorant. The whole thrust of Cathedral ops is to conflate agreeableness with Liberal values and disagreeableness with Conservative ones. If you can make people feel good about an issue they will vote for it.

Since democracy is little more than group/mood affiliation, it stands to reason that elections are basically popularity contests, which explains both Obama's and Reagan's massive victories, as both men were massively popular with voters, and both just seemed kind of cool (Reagan wasn’t called the “Teflon president” for nothing). What's even more interesting, though, is how pop culture plays a role molding what beliefs/moods are popular.  My new crazy theory is that elections can be predicted, in part, by what’s considered cool in pop culture.

In keeping with this, a case can be made All in the Family played a decent-sized role in Reagan's first election because Archie Bunker was a subversively popular character who happened to represent blue collar conservatism (and it was blue-collar conservatives who broke strongly for Reagan in the South, IIRC).  In contrast, Mike (played by Rob Reiner) was kind of a pussy loser who happened to be the spitting image of a rational hippie leftist.  Carroll O’Connor’s charisma enabled the character of Archie Bunker to be viewed as a lovable bigot (the general typecast of conservatives for the past several decades), which probably helps to explain why conservatism was viewed more favorably come 1980.

There is plenty to consider when making this case, of course.  Carter was by no means that beloved of a president when 1980 rolled around.  However, Reiner’s character was probably similar to Carter in terms of political symbolism, so if people viewed Reiner as a loser, they probably wouldn’t think much better of the president who represented the same roles.  On the other hand, even if AITF didn’t exist as a show, it’s still difficult to imagine that Carter would have been popular with the people come 1980, so perhaps a Republican victory would have been inevitable.

However, the inevitability of a Republican victory aside, there is still a lot to explain about Reagan winning while a) campaigning as a fairly conservative candidate and b) winning by such a large margin.  It’s hard to imagine, say, George H.W. Bush inspiring a similar margin of victory in 1980.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Reagan tried to get nominated for president in 1968 and 1976, and lost both times.  What’s telling about the first loss is that Reagan lost to Nixon, who was basically a social leftist with strong foreign policy credentials (thanks to Kissinger, of course).  Nixon was responsible for bringing about the EPA and expanding the already sizable welfare state.  He was also the only Republican elected president between 1960 and 1980, and since he was fairly leftist in his administration, it’s reasonable to say that the Nixon/Ford administration was hardly a relief from the massive leftism that had begun to plague American society.

In fact, looking at the presidents of the 20th century, it becomes clear that progressive ideology starts to become popular with Teddy Roosevelt at the dawn of the century (for good reason, as Teddy was very much a man’s man) and remains somewhat popular until Wilson fucks everything up.*  Progressivism’s popularity waned somewhat until the end of Hoover’s administration.  Hoover wasn’t much of a progressive, but he was a technocrat, albeit an inept one, and thus FDR was able to make progressivism popular again by his campaigning and his personableness.  FDR certainly epitomized style over substance, since he seemed nice and agreeable, but never actually managed to fix the economy; instead, he made things much worse.  From FDR onwards, the history of 20th and 21st century presidents evidences a fairly rapid descent into progressive ideological affiliation.  Pretty much all of the Democrat presidents since FDR have been basically progressives, as have most Republicans (Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush postured as moderates, Nixon as a realist, albeit a very progressive one, and Ford as a lame duck).

Thus, there are really only two presidents since FDR who have bucked the progressive trend:  Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.**  Getting back to my crazy theory, it seems to me that the victories of these two conservatives** is due in large part to conservatism being popular in pop culture at a time when progressivism was briefly uncool.  Reagan won in part because Carter was an uncool loser, but probably also in part because Reagan was a movie star (always cool) and probably also in part because there was a lovable bigot on television during Carter’s administration.

With Bush, he benefitted from Clinton turning into self-parody.  While Clinton was certainly a very cool president, and happened to have lots of personal charisma, he was also easy to mock, and even a lenient press couldn’t be tempted to pass up on a sex scandal.  Toss impeachment and easy fat jokes into the mix, and Clinton became fodder for mockery during the tail-end of his term.  The DNC, rather ineptly, decided to choose Clinton’s VP Al Gore to run against Bush, which hurt the DNC’s chances of victory, especially since Gore was nowhere close to being as cool as Clinton, and Clinton’s coolness was fading at the time.  Bush, then, posed as the ideological heir to Reagan, the GOP’s only cool 20th century president, save possibly for Coolidge, and the rest is history.

My theory that All in the Family made the election for Reagan is a little far-fetched to say the least, but perhaps this is a subject worth studying to some degree.  It would certainly be interesting to see if conservatism’s short-lived popularity is really nothing more than conservatism being cool for a brief moment in time.  And if Reagan’s victory can be partially attributed to Archie Bunker, then what does that say about Democracy?

* Harding’s administration is regarded by historians as especially inept, which is impressive given that he didn’t even serve a full term, and was succeeded by Coolidge.  Harding’s landslide victory (60%+ of the popular vote) was predicated on his promise of a return to normalcy and a more isolationist foreign policy.

** By this I refer to their campaign sloganeering more than the practical realities of their administration.  Both Bush and Reagan were championed as true conservatives, though the latter’s popularity has waned considerably since the last half of his second term.  Both were fairly popular presidents during their time, and both were considered indicative of the conservative establishment.