The Comprehension Gap

The logo for the organization Reading Is Fundamental

I feel it is obligatory to write about the whole Google memo thing; it’s all everybody is talking about anyway, so why not chime in?

“Because enough is enough, Alex!”

Ah, but I think you’ll find my take to be slightly different than your average customers’.

(See what I did there? It’s called foreshadowing).

So the memo, what some are calling an “anti-diversity screed” and are characterizing as “arguing that women are not biologically fit for tech roles.”

Which begs the question: did these outlets even read the memo, or are they lying about it?

You see, I am not here to discuss the contents of the memo, or its now-fired author James Damore, or even discuss what this means to the future of the American workplace–if you want to read a good article about all that stuff, check out Lord Adeonistake on the whole controversy.

I’m not even here to talk about the media: I do not expect honesty from them, nor do I expect them to be particularly intelligent enough to grasp what the memo actually said, which can be boiled down thusly:

The gap in representation in STEM fields does not stem from sexism, but from the AVERAGE PREFERENCES women make when choosing an occupation, some of which are driven by biological differences between men and women, and Google’s strategy of using discrimination to promote women, and certain other groups in general, does more harm than good.

That’s it. The author wanted more women to be working in STEM fields generally, and at Google in particular–in fact, he sounds like a fan of diversity (this is where reading comprehension comes in: did people just skip that part, or ignore it?). The memo is not “anti-diversity”; it is more “anti-Google’s current diversity policies, which he claims are not producing the desired effect, and are in fact causing more harm than good.”

A picture of the outside of Google headquarters

That’s a bit more nuanced, right? It’s not as good for clickbait, though. And you’ll notice that I am neither attacking nor defending the contents of the memo . . . I’m just trying to set a baseline of understanding so we know what we are talking about. It’s like in a formal debate or an informal argument: both sides need to be sure that they are talking about the same thing. Remember when that used to be important?

And yet, people want him drawn and quartered. People are frothing-at-the-mouth mad. You may find the contents of the memo offensive or distasteful–and that’s fine–but I certainly hope you at least read and understood what it actually said.

More shocking, to me at least, is this:

So many people seem to lack both a basic understanding of statistics and of basic reading comprehension.

And many of these people went to college.

This is what disturbs me the most. Continue reading “The Comprehension Gap”

Shrink the Schools

Pink Floyd The Wall Kids in Meat Grinder

School is where ambition goes to die.

I know what you’re thinking: Is this guy really saying that education is a threat to our children’s well-being?

The answer, of course, is yes. I argue that education as currently practiced in the United States has a detrimental effect on kids. And I’m speaking as a survivor of the American public education system.

Schools are too big to succeed.

Most of the institutions we send our kids to resemble prisons more than places of learning both physically and procedurally, resembling something out of a Pink Floyd song. This is an undeniable fact. And the psychological effects of this are incredibly damaging.

School is prison

Think about how many kids you knew who were never the same after you got to high school. Maybe your kid was the one. Or maybe it was you: The  child who loved learning, was eager to do math, say, or loved to read, or learn about history or the universe, and in general enjoyed life.

And then they went to school and something happened . . . they fell in with the wrong crowd, or were targeted by bullies, or teachers. Add into the mix the normal difficulties with growing up, and this person came out changed. Sullen, depressed, fearful, addicted to something, and with no interest in getting that important education.

The biggest threat to your kids is other shitty people’s shitty kids. 

Other people’s kids, more so than the teachers, and more so than parents themselves, have more influence on your kids than you like to imagine.

Peer pressure is a powerful force, and kids are far more likely to be influenced by their peers than by their teachers. Combined with the fact that, for the majority of American kids, school is where you spend the bulk of your waking hours, and you have the potential for disaster. Continue reading “Shrink the Schools”