Links: Misapplications of math, journalism, AIDS, EB White, Pricing, Gifted Students

  • A tremendously sad story about skewed incentives that make certain people try to get AIDS.

  • This is a pretty outrageous misapplication of mathematics to psychology.

  • Journalism teachers on journalism school

  • An interesting profile of several talented students in a magnet program near DC, 20 years ago. The piece focuses on a young woman, Elizabeth Mann, as she confronts the challenges of being one of the only women in this elite world of high school competitions and gifted courses, especially in math and computer science. This is obviously very relevant to issues still facing us today.

    One thought I had: wouldn’t it be far better if there weren’t so many competitions in high school? (I’m talking both about the competitiveness of grades/rankings and the academic competitions like quiz bowl, etc.) I was lucky to go to a top-notch public school where there wasn’t class rank, and where the extracurriculars were about pursuing excellence and following a passion, not beating anyone else. Yes, I’m envious of that Montgomery Blair magnet program for the curricular offerings–I wasn’t challenged in many of my classes, and I had to fight to have any flexibility to pursue my academic interests at the right level. But I developed tremendously as a person by doing sports (a far more appropriate and humbling locus for competition), the student paper, and music, and came into college far more mature—both personally and intellectually—than if I had been a valedictorian1 of high school who’d spent my time doing academic competitions.

  • Felix Salmon on Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post

  • An interview with E.B. White from the Paris Review. A delightful read.

  • A good article by Schumpeter in the Economist, arguing that businesses need to think more about pricing. (More to come soon about pricing and economics!)

  • Yglesias: What everyone is missing about the decline of newspapers and the rise of the internet

  1. Which I wouldn’t have been at PHS if we had class rank, not that it matters one iota. An important point, in addition to all the obvious pedagogical reasons for not having class rank: Anyone with a shred of intellectual sophistication can tell you that in many cases it’s an utterly meaningless ranking even if you did believe that high school grades were important to measure closely at this level. The most obvious problem is that two people taking a different number of weighted courses–as in the Blair Hornstine saga—can’t be fairly compared. More generally, the grading scale isn’t designed to suss out differences at this high level; it’s better for lower grades. The same issue occurs, of course, with the SAT, which among its problems doesn’t do much to distinguish between all the people who score in the 750-800 range. (What would be useful is if there were some sort of mechanism to help elite colleges figure out who should and shouldn’t be accepted, among those with whose tests scores and grades put them in this elite level. But that’s a complicated issue.)