Open Thread, 08/27/2017

Razib & Dr. Ghulam Sarwar (1896-1996)

I showed my daughter a photo of my maternal grandfather yesterday. He was holding me in his lap. It’s probably about 1981, so he would have been about 85 years old then. I was his first grandchild, as he had a family late in life. He saw a lot of changes in his life. Born into the British Raj during the late Victorian period, he died when I was using the internet regularly to email friends and relatives.

In his home village they called him the “Goony Doctor”, as Ghani was part of his longer surname.

Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750. Seems like an interesting and relevant book. On the other hand, we always have to keep in mind that China’s labor force peaked several years ago. The demographic pressures on China in the 21st century will probably always mean that it won’t exhibit the vigor of a nation like the United States of America during the baby boom.

Hurricane Harvey has been a big deal. In Central Texas we’ve been hunkering down, but it’s Houston that is in real danger. America’s 4th largest city.

Still soliciting sign ups for my newsletter. It’s more of a “hey Twitter has disappeared here is where I am on the web” notification system. Have only sent one mailing so far. Will increase frequency in future, but probably max once a month.

A lot of discussion on “science Twitter” about getting rid of GREs. Scientists are smart, but they don’t know everything. To understand ‘intelligence testing’ I recommend people read Intelligence: All That Matters or The Neuroscience of Intelligence. People throw around ideas like “GRE is culturally biased,” but cultural bias on testing is a whole topic with a specific meaning. That is, are the tests able to predict future performance on tasks to the same extent across groups?

I suspect that the GRE is on its way out though. Many scholars don’t support the shift, but they won’t say much in public lest they be attacked. Of course that will lead to greater emphasis on undergraduate school attended as well as the eminence of those giving recommendations.

(note, if a university uses the GRE appropriately there should be no correlation between outcome and GRE score, as they filter out all the students that need to be filtered out)

9 thoughts on “Open Thread, 08/27/2017

  1. GRE’s always struck me as about a decade behind the developments in a field. I’m thinking they should be better informed by the previous year’s 1st year Phd exams at top universities in most fields – the ones that make sure the Phd has sufficient grounding in the general areas so as to not embarrass the department when they later are awarded their degrees for what is usually specialized work.

  2. I live in Houston, fortunately in an area that’s holding up all right so far, though that could change in the upcoming days due to Harvey coming right for the city. Others have it worse.

    On a separate note, you tweeted this story about a teacher’s observation of racism in China. This passage stood out to me:

    [T]he Party believes itself to be the legitimate government not just of all the Han in China, but everywhere else as well. In 2015, five Hong Kong-based Han booksellers were arrested for allegedly selling seditious works. One man was a British citizen and another a Swede, but their foreign passports did nothing, in the government’s eyes, to counteract their Chinese blood: both men were denied consular support. The Swede announced on state television, probably under duress, that ‘I truly feel that I am still Chinese’.

    Does anyone have any recommendations on books/articles/polls about how China and overseas Chinese (there are > 50 million of them) view ethnicity, citizenship, obligations and race? Or even just general histories and social studies of China. I’d like to get to know more about China as it waxes.

  3. Isn’t it funny that many moves for ‘fairness’ like dropping the GRE mainly increase the power of the elite.

  4. If they get rid of the GRE, then the most important factor in Graduate admissions will be the old boy (or girl, as the case may be) network.

    OTOH, given the dismal state of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, it just doesn’t make any difference. Graduate and undergraduate programs in those fields need to be shut down.

  5. >note, if a university uses the GRE appropriately there should be no correlation between outcome and GRE score, as they filter out all the students that need to be filtered out

    This is not correct. Filtering by GRE results in decreased variance post-selection resulting in lower correlations (but not slopes!), but not in zero variance and zero correlations. One can use the restriction of range correction methods to get back to estimates of the original correlations.

  6. at elite universities the correlation in outcomes being measured (e.g., productive scientist by pub record) is zero. these analyses have been done, and are one reason ppl discount the GRE.

  7. Odoacer: “China’s non-Han residents are members of the country’s indigenous minorities, who are almost always darker-skinned than their Han neighbours.”

    Simply not true; in fact, outrageously and egregiously false. Counting the Han ethnic majority as one ethnic group, China has something like 56 different ethnic groups, depending on how they are counted. Most of them are not noticeably darker skinned than Han. Some are even more fair skinned than Han. Don’t believe me? Check out Kazhaks, or Uygurs, many of whom are more fair skinned than Han. Even for those groups who appear a bit more dark skinned than Han, like Tibetans, a lot of that comes from just being more weather-beaten and exposed to the elements, although there is a fair bit of natural variation. The ethnic minorities include Russians and Koreans, who are surely not darker skinned than Han.

    The only groups remotely regarded as ‘security risks’ are Tibetan and Uygur separatists.

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