Best Stories from the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition

Welcome to another edition of the occasional post highlighting the best stories of the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The Right Way to Choose a College

Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, a research and advocacy group at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, conducted an extensive review of the academic literature on whether the brand name of the college a student attends actually matters.

The research shows that a school’s selectivity is not a reliable predictor of outcomes, particularly when it comes to learning. As common sense would suggest, the students who study hard at college are the ones that end up learning the most, regardless of whether they attend an Ivy League school or a local community college. Similarly, the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index, a study of over 30,000 graduates, found no correlation between college selectivity and future job satisfaction or well-being.

The students who benefit most from college, including first-generation and traditionally underserved students, are those who are most engaged in academic life and their campus communities, taking full advantage of the college’s opportunities and resources.

Studies conducted by Gallup-Purdue also show a strong connection between certain forms of engagement in college and future job satisfaction and well-being. In particular, they found six key college experiences that correlated with how fulfilled employees feel at work and whether they thrive in life after college:

  • Taking a course with a professor who makes learning exciting
  • Working with professors who care about students personally
  • Finding a mentor who encourages students to pursue personal goals
  • Working on a project across several semesters
  • Participating in an internship that applies classroom learning
  • Being active in extracurricular activities

What AI Is Still Far From Figuring Out

Alison Gopnik notes that after reading “Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI,” that there’s a more profound way in which human intelligence is different from artificial intelligence. The trick behind the recent advances in AI is that a human specifies a particular objective for the machine. But people also can decide to change their objectives. Indeed, the point of each new generation is to create new objectives. And yet, somehow, in a way that we don’t understand at all, we don’t merely slide into relativism. We can decide what is worth doing in a way that AI can’t. So far at least, we are the only creatures who can decide not only what we want but whether we should want it.

The Secret to Winning Votes: Take the Name of a Popular Leader

Reporter James Hookway notes that parliamentary elections in Thailand are being held this weekend. At least 10 candidates have legally changed their names to Thaksin, the name of the exiled ex-prime minister. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was a telecommunications billionaire before becoming what many Thais consider the country’s most popular civilian leader, and he remains the only Thai prime minister ever to be re-elected. It is easy to change a name in Thailand. It costs about 80 cents, and the paperwork and a new identification card can be issued on the same day. Sometimes people change their names for good luck, after consulting fortunetellers and other specialists on the most auspicious combinations.

Who’s the Tallest of Them All? It’s No Longer the Americans

Jo Craven McGinty points out that historically, as a society’s income increases, so does its height. But the U.S., with the highest disposable income per capita of any country, isn’t the world’s tallest nation.

It used to be. For more than 200 years, Americans towered over everyone else, according to John Komlos, an economic historian who studies the effect of income and the economy on stature. But today, Americans, and everyone else, look up to the Dutch.

Based on white and black U.S.-born adults, the average American woman is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and the average American man is 5 feet 10 inches tall. The average Dutch woman is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the average Dutch man is about 6 feet and a half inch.

The Case for Big Business

Rob Atkinson, 64, is a Canadian-American economist, and founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. He challenges the notion that small firms drive the economy and labor market and makes the case that business behemoths are “more efficient, more productive, but also more innovative.” Big business, he says, benefits employees and consumers in ways small companies are unable to match.

Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski Dishes on Baseball and His Brain Trust

Dave Dombrowski, architect of the reigning World Series champion Red Sox, talks with reporter Jared Diamond about some of his most trusted advisers, a personal board of directors if you will, including one of the winningest MLB managers of all time and a Hockey Hall of Famer.

Our Software Is Biased Like We Are. Can New Laws Change That?

Christopher Mims notes that no matter how much we know about the algorithms that control our lives, making them “fair” may be difficult or even impossible. Yet as biased as algorithms can be, at least they can be consistent. With humans, biases can vary widely from one person to the next. Determining what biases an algorithm has is very difficult; measuring the potential harm done by a biased algorithm is even harder.

2 thoughts on “Best Stories from the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition

  1. This is one of my tidbits.

    The Right Way to Choose a College —
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-right-way-to-choose-a-college-11553266896?mod=itp_wsj&ru=yahoo

    Jensen Comment
    Although this article focuses mainly on how to choose a college it also provides the following advice on how to choose a course or major professor:

    Studies conducted by Gallup-Purdue also show a strong connection between certain forms of engagement in college and future job satisfaction and well-being. In particular, they found six key college experiences that correlated with how fulfilled employees feel at work and whether they thrive in life after college:

    Taking a course with a professor who makes learning exciting
    Working with professors who care about students personally
    Finding a mentor who encourages students to pursue personal goals
    Working on a project across several semesters
    Participating in an internship that applies classroom learning
    Being active in extracurricular activities

    Of course that’s motherhood and apple pie advice. But it does not apply in all instances, especially in advanced level (graduate studies). When I was a student at Stanford University decades ago there was a mathematics professor with a legendary teaching reputation — awful. Supposedly he was never prepared for class, rambled a lot, got lost in the solutions being demonstrated, and didn’t really want to be bothered by most of his students. And yet he had a renowned reputation in topology about which he published in top math journals. A very small number of students came to Stanford just to work with him.

    What you don’t see in the above list of recommendations is respect for exceptional experts in a discipline. That exceptional expert may even be a good or lousy teacher who is arrogant, abusive, cranky, and doesn’t care a hoot about you personally. On the job that expert may even be the best for you to work with in terms of being able to teach you things the “nice boss” does not have a clue about. It’s a little like choosing a doctor. Erika and I received advice concerning choosing a local cardiologist — with the advice coming from our (separate) primary care physicians. The particular cardiologist recommended also has a reputation for having the worst bedside manners in New Hampshire.

    The “No Significant Differences Phenomenon”
    The article cited above ignores the way top students perform at the top under alternate pedagogies and teachers. Top students do what it takes (hopefully ethically and morally) to always come out on top. Among educators this is (somewhat frustratingly) known as the “No Significant Differences Phenomenon” —
    http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/assess.htm#AssessmentIssues

    I like to think adaptability is what makes top students tougher — survival of the fittest. It’s a little like immunity to diseases. Those that are exposed to lots of diseases (think doctors) may sometimes develop the best immunity systems. Snake handlers (and dogs) who’ve been bitten lots of times develop better immunities to some (not all) snake poisons.

    I was a good student who in my early years of college, and hated case (Socratic) method courses. A case-method teacher hands out cases for students to discuss in class or write term papers about. Top case-method teachers never reveal answers (often there are no optimal answers due to the complexity of the cases). I was always impatient and wanted the teacher to ultimately reveal answers. However, the top grades in case-method courses most likely go to the same top students who would come out on top in lecture-method courses where teachers brilliantly spoon feed the answers.

    Lastly, it is not necessarily written in stone that top students are also the ones heavy into extracurricular activities. Sure there are top students who sometimes are outstanding quarterbacks or heavy into building shelters for the homeless. But there are also top students who selfishly guard their time and want no distractions from their academics.

    Being rewarded (often with self-satisfaction) for extensive extracurricular activities is a good thing, but it’s entirely possible that you could have been a better scientist because you were extremely selfish with your time.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.