Scariest thought ever: Come to MIT in January for our class

Happy Halloween!

Dr. Tina (a real doctor of aeronautical engineering) and I are teaching an FAA ground school at MIT in January once again. The course is free and open to anyone, though only MIT students get credit.

What could be scarier than (a) coming to Boston in mid-January, (b) suffering through one of my lectures?

(If you can’t make it, all of the materials can be downloaded from the course web site, which also links to YouTube videos that were captured by MIT Video Productions during the 2019 class.)


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LGBTQIA is out at Brown University…

…. because TGQN is in.

I visited a group house in which the students attending this Ivy League university vow “We reject systems that create and reinforce inequality” as a “guiding principle”.

I visited the FBO at the nearby airport, whose ramp was groaning with private jets that had arrived for Parents’ Weekend. Sometimes it is only by spinning three turbojet engines that one can reject inequality…

I had a sandwich at U Melt, which welcomes everyone except those without money:

(The sign plus the absence of any kind of program to provide meals for the poor is more evidence for my theory that social justice causes that don’t cost more than the price of a sign are the most popular.)

Fun on the main student drag:

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Harvard freshman experience

A friend’s daughter recently started her non-Asian odyssey through Harvard College ($70,000/year).

While identifying as a cisgender heterosexual female, she elected “gender-inclusive” housing and was matched up with a roommate. She’ll undress and go to bed every night right next to a person who identifies as a heterosexual cisgender male.

What’s she studying that wouldn’t be much the same at State U? “HIST-LIT 90DW: Queering the South: Race, Gender, & Sexuality in the American South”. From the class site:

The course examines the intertwined histories of race, gender, and sexuality in the American South from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 through the present. We will consider how struggles for gender and sexual freedom are linked to race in the modern South. The course proceeds along two tracks: first, we gain knowledge about the lives of women, trans people, and gay people in the South. Second, we consider how African Americans, women, and LGBTQ individuals struggled for freedom and how these efforts changed over time in response to opposition, developments elsewhere in the world, and victories. We will explore the circumstances under which people from different backgrounds come together in pursuit of a common goal and the times when conflicts arise. We will read poetry and novels, manifestos and diaries, and secondary literature written by historians. In addition, we’ll watch videos and listen to music to understand the different ways people queered the South during the last century. The course recognizes that Southerners do not fit neatly into racial, gender, or sexual boxes and so investigates the intersections of identities to lend complexity and verve to the histories of people often forgotten.

Who’s the expert on intersectionality of black, gay, and southern? Andrew Pope, whose biography says that he studied at University of Rochester (NY) and Harvard.

I tried to show off my mastery of English v5.0 by asking the freshman’s younger brother, “How’s zir candy bar?” She admonished, “You aren’t using pronouns correctly. ‘Your’ isn’t gendered.”

[Old Version = v1.0; Middle English = v2.0; Early Modern English = v3.0; English with two gender IDs = v4.0]


  • Interview with Andrew Pope that talks about the class and that he “read, and excitedly re-read, Jennifer Nash’s Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality.”
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Asians all look same to Harvard and the Federal judge

In yesterday’s post on Judge Allison Burroughs ruling that it is legal for Harvard to engage in race discrimination, I wrote

why is it okay for the judge to imply that a group of Asians is lacking in diversity? “In her decision, Judge Burroughs defended the benefits of diversity … ‘The rich diversity at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the benefits that flow from that diversity,’ she added, ‘will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete.’” Isn’t the implication that if we assemble white and black Americans we have “rich diversity,” but if we assemble a group of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, and Indian students we have a boring monoculture?

A reader pointed out that there is already a web site for the Ivy League admissions officers and their Obama-appointed friends on the Federal bench:

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Silver Lining of the Ivy League Admissions Circus

A friend who is a passionate fencer, and a former Ivy League fencing team member, said “Twenty years ago, you could just send a kid to a few fencing lessons and he or she might get into Harvard. Now it is much more difficult and the kid actually has to be great for it to boost his or her chances.”

What’s the silver lining? “So many of these parents, most of whom are middle class, are pouring all of their time and money into fencing lessons for middle school and high school kids that the U.S. is beginning to win international competitions.”

[Separately, one of his friends is a fencing coach at a university. The most recent semester started with “going through the roster and he was being told which pronoun to address two transsexuals and one gender-fluid student on the team.” One of the students who was to be referred to with male pronouns asked to compete with the men’s team, but lost every practice match. He then switched to the women’s team, but continues to insist on being referred to with male pronouns.]

If the U.S. sweeps up medals at future Olympic games, can we thank the elite universities that have made it almost impossible for white/Asian kids to get in? (since being sued, however, Harvard has found that Asian applicants have more merit)

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Harvard not worried about accepting a student who scored 1270 on the SAT

Harvard starts the fall semester today.

From “Racist Comments Cost Conservative Parkland Student a Place at Harvard” (NYT, back in June):

Two other prominent Parkland student activists, Jaclyn Corin and David Hogg, both of them vocal proponents of tighter gun restrictions, are headed to Harvard this fall. Mr. Hogg, who is completing a gap year, garnered attention when he announced his acceptance last year after being rejected from other schools, including from California State University at Long Beach. On Monday, Mr. Kashuv’s defenders noted that Mr. Hogg had a 4.2 grade point average and scored 1270 on the SAT test, while Mr. Kashuv said in the interview that he had a 5.4 G.P.A., and a 1550 SAT score.

Leaving aside the rest of the story, it is interesting that Harvard isn’t concerned that someone with a mediocre SAT score of 1270 will have trouble with the academics.

[Separately, I wonder if the NYT can legitimately say that this teenager’s hyperbolic throwing around of some words for shock value is “racist”. It is the NYT itself that is constantly running stories on academic underachievement by Americans of one particular race.]


  • my review of Academically Adrift: colleges are, for the most part, indifferent to whether or not professors are effective teachers. To the extent that colleges work teaching quality into decisions about promotion and pay they do so by considering student evaluations. Which professors do students evaluate highest? Those who assign the least reading and give the highest grades (researched by Valen Johnson is cited). So every professor has a big incentive to make his or her class easy and to give every student an A.
  • my review of Higher Education?: Harvard undergrads give their professors C- on “classroom performance” and D on “outside-of-class availability”. Upset by the evidence that it was delivering a poor quality product, Harvard appointed a committee: “All but one of its members held endowed chairs … No junior faculty, no teaching assistants, and notably no students were invited to serve.”
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Artificial Intelligence and commercial sex purportedly intersect

For anyone who knew Marvin, “AI pioneer accused of having sex with trafficking victim on Jeffrey Epstein’s island” is a surprise.

Apparently Jeffrey Epstein was using some of the money that he stole to run Templeton Foundation-style scientific gatherings in the Caribbean (funded with money that John Templeton earned and then skipped paying taxes on by renouncing his U.S. citizenship and relocating to the Bahamas). A woman now says that, as a 17-year-old, she was paid to have sex with the then-73-year-old Marvin Minsky at one of these gatherings. (There does not seem to be any evidence the Marvin ever left the mainland U.S. to hang out with Epstein, though.)

In the 40+ years that I saw Marvin, at his office, at his home, and at conferences, he never once took notice of a young woman or commented on the appearance of a woman. He was simply not very interested in matters of the flesh.

On a more practical level, if Marvin had wanted to have sex with 17-year-olds, he could have done so legally in Massachusetts, in which the age of consent is 16. (Prostitution per se is illegal in Massachusetts, but it wouldn’t be illegal for an older person to supply a young sex partner with gifts of jewelry, housing, transportation, vacation trips, etc. (though the real money would be in a pregnancy followed by harvesting the unlimited child support cash available under Massachusetts law)) There were also quite a few graduate students who had sexual relationships with successful academics and, lo and behold, found that the path to a tenure-track professorship was wide open. There was never any hint or rumor around Marvin of a sex-for-career-advancement exchange (or any other kind of affair).

Ever since Stormy Daniels dominated the mainstream media, I guess it isn’t surprising that people whose job is having sex in exchange for money are newsworthy. But if they’re claiming that they were paid to have sex with those who are deceased, and there is no evidence to support these claims, should reporters be broadcasting these tales? This is the first one about someone that I know personally and it rings false.


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Harvard Economics professor beats the sexual harassment rap

“Star Economist at Harvard Faces Sexual Harassment Complaints” (NYT, Dec 14, 2018):

Before he turned 40, Roland G. Fryer Jr. had earned tenure at Harvard, received a MacArthur “genius” grant and won the most prestigious award for young American economists. He stoked a national debate by concluding that police officers show no bias in the shootings of black men.

But his rapid ascent has taken a troubling turn as Harvard officials review a university investigator’s conclusion that Dr. Fryer fostered a work environment hostile to women, one filled with sexual talk and bullying.

The findings, reviewed by The New York Times, found that Dr. Fryer had engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward four women who worked in the Harvard-affiliated research lab he created. In one case, his “persistent and pervasive” conduct contributed to stress that resulted in the accuser’s taking disability leave, the investigator found.

I.e., things were so bad that someone had to be paid for not working.

Cash and sex go together in economics research…

Now 41, he is one of Harvard’s best-paid faculty members, earning more than $600,000, the university’s 2016 tax filing shows. He has brought at least $33.6 million in grants to the university, according to a résumé on his Harvard web page.

Dr. Fryer told a Harvard investigator that any sexual banter in his office was related to his research and “in the spirit of academic freedom.”

Seven months have gone by. Has the guy disappeared? The Harvard web site suggests he is still on the payroll. How is that possible? Nobel Prize winners have been disappeared for far less (e.g., Tim Hunt).

“Complainant Withdrew Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Complaint Against Harvard Prof. Roland Fryer” (Harvard Crimson, April 23, 2019):

A Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination investigation into whether Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. sexually harassed and retaliated against a former female employee concluded in February by agreement of the parties, according to documents obtained by The Crimson. … The MCAD closed its investigation after the complainant’s lawyer, Monica R. Shah, signed the withdrawal form on Feb. 4. On the form, Shah indicated that the complainant had reached a “satisfactory settlement” with Harvard, Fryer, and Allan.

I.e., cash was the magic solution for the professor in a discipline that says most problems can be fixed with cash…


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Should state taxpayers subsidize state-run universities?

Federal taxpayers provide massive subsidies to all universities via the guaranteed student loan scam.

In addition to this river of cash, state taxpayers have traditionally paid to subsidize state-run universities via free land, tax exemptions, and direct cash from the general budget.

Alaska is trying to cut off the second stream of subsidy: “University Of Alaska Readies For Budget Slash: ‘We May Likely Never Recover'” (NPR).

A Facebook friend who gets a guaranteed (tenured) paycheck from a private university posted the following:

This is mind-boggling, almost inconceivable: the Alaska state government is essentially trying to shutter the state’s premier university by defunding it. Please sign the petition! It seems to be putting the pressure on! If this goes forward, 2,500 faculty and staff will be laid off, over 20,000 students will have their educational paths derailed, public libraries will be closed, ESL teachers let go, etc. etc. etc. And all this carnage to help a rightwing ideologue fulfill his campaign pledge to his base to raise the annual dividend by $1200.

She was seeking people to visit and sign a petition (always safe for someone who lives in Manhattan or Boston to demand that folks in Alaska pay higher taxes!):

Shouldn’t folks who are against income inequality also be against taxpayer-subsidized university education (and therefore support this governor’s initiative)? A university graduate will earn more than the median taxpayer. From the perspective of someone passionate about equality, why does it make sense to tax median earners to subsidize people who are primarily above-median earners (either because they work for the university or will be getting a degree and getting the higher wages that college graduates earn)?

She responded with the kind of winning argument that keeps American academics at the forefront of worldwide intellectual debate:

You’re a troll Philip. It’s never worth engaging with you.

But now I am curious. If people are against inequality, how can they be in favor of this traditional welfare program for high earners? Since college students tend to be disproportionately children of college graduates, isn’t a university a means of perpetuating privilege?

Of course they could simply say “We have PhDs and want market-clearing salaries for PhD employees to be higher. We’d like to see above-median earners trimmed back, but not above-median earners who have PhDs.” But that is not typically the argument.

[Separately, folks who work for universities often say that they are “underpaid”. If so, why the hysteria over being potentially laid off? Why would it be bad to get a new job at a market-clearing wage if the university has been paying below market considering all of the pluses and minuses of the job?]

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11-year-olds in college

Every now and then someone is impressed that I graduated college on the younger side. I would respond by pointing out that Sho Yano got his Ph.D. at age 18 and an M.D. at 21.

Cal State Los Angeles, it seems, has set up a factory for producing kids like Sho Yano: “A sixth-grader was sick of coloring. So she skipped six grades to attend Cal State L.A.” (LA Times):

With that, Mia left Crescent Elementary in Anaheim. She studied at home for the rest of the year — and then, at age 12, jumped six grade levels to enter Cal State Los Angeles as a freshman last fall.

While the admissions scandal has transfixed the nation’s attention on elite universities such as UCLA and USC, the school of choice for many whiz kids like Mia is Cal State L.A.

For nearly four decades, the campus has provided a haven where children who are academically gifted and socially mature can bypass years of boring classwork and surge ahead. Cal State L.A. is the only university in California — and one of only a handful across the country — with a program to admit students as young as 11.

The article notes that California has limited options for gifted and talented programs within its K-12 public schools. But Massachusetts doesn’t have anything at all!

Maybe you don’t want to be a father:

The family lives in Camarillo, but Shanti and Sathya stay with their father, Ramesh Raminani, at a hotel near campus during the week. He drops them off at school, drives two hours to his pharmacy business and two hours back to pick them up. … All told, Raminani drives 200 miles a day and spends $20,000 a year on hotels on top of the roughly $12,000 in annual tuition for both children.

Why is this guy being hit with tuition bills? His children would be eligible for a free education at the local state-funded public school. Until they turn 18, why can’t they take at least whatever the state would have spent on them in K-12 and use that to offset the tuition charges? Shouldn’t a family be entitled to 13 years of taxpayer-funded schooling per child? (Maybe Elizabeth Warren will fix this!)

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