Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lack of Power to Cause to Be

Sometimes I imagine a debate over whether God created the heavens and the earth.

The negative side says, "God could not have create the heavens and the earth, because God doesn't exist
The positive side says, "Yes, we agree that God doesn't exist, but I believe that God still created the heavens and the earth."

This seems quite ridiculous. Things that don't exist don't create the heavens and the earth.

But at least we can debate whether God exists to create the heavens and the earth. We know that non-existence never exists. Non-being is a lack of existence and therefore a lack of existence of power to cause to be. So when the debate becomes over something else, like whether God exists, the possibility that we came from nothing should be excluded, for the same reason the possibility that the non-existent God created the heavens and the earth should be excluded.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Using the Right Tribal Signals

I was very impressed when I read SlateStar's non-fiction writing advice
Figure out who you’re trying to convince, then use the right tribal signals 
For example, when I’m trying to convince conservatives, I veer my signaling way to the right. I started my defense of trigger warnings with “I complain a lot about the social justice movement”. Then I cited Jezebel and various Ethnic Studies professors being against trigger warnings. Then I tried to argue that trigger warnings actually go together well with strong versions of freedom of speech. At this point I haven’t even started arguing in favor of trigger warnings, I’ve just set up an unexpected terrain in which trigger warnings can be seen as a conservative thing supported by people who like free speech and don’t like social justice, and opposition to trigger warnings can be seen as the sort of very liberal thing that people like Jezebel and Ethnic Studies professors support. The important thing isn’t that I convince anyone that trigger warnings are really on the right – that’s a tall order – but that the rightists reading my argument feel like I’m working with them rather than against them. I’m not just another leftist saying “Support trigger warnings because it’s the leftist thing and you should be leftist and everyone on the right is terrible!”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is Education Funded by Property Tax?

I've been given the impression many times that public education is funded mostly by property taxes. Today I took the time to find out if that's true.

Here we find out that 43.7% of K-12 schooling is from local governments. Since local governments are the ones that lay property taxes (state property taxes are negligible), we can already see public education cannot be funded mostly by property taxes.

So how much of this 43.7% of local government funding comes from property tax? Well property tax is one of the important ways local government collects revenue, but we can see here that property tax makes up 47% of local government revenue.

So we find 47% of 43.7% and get... 20% of overall primary/secondary school expenditure comes from property taxes.

Okay. That's important but not huge. And some states have very very high education expenditure relative to local governments (85.7% in Vermont for example), so clearly public education cannot be funded by property taxes in these states.

As I read through arguments on the issue, I identified at least a few ways people are being misled on the issue.

  • Use of terms like "primary funding". It might be correct that education is "primarily" funded by property taxes, if by primary you mean, "more than anything else". But when something is funded by a lot of different sources, as with education, "more than anything else" can still mean not very much. Besides that, "primary" can also mean mostly, and I think that's what most people read.
  • Not realizing that by looking at property taxes, you're looking at a slice of a slice of the pie. Property tax funding of local funding of total funding is making more than one cut, and that's not always clear the way it is talked about.
  • Looking at what proportion of property tax revenue is spend on education rather than how much education consists of property tax revenue.
So all this combined with the common bias people have of sacralizing education alongside common folk criticism of "spending cuts" from a total lack of information, it seems this is not an issue where people have their heads on straight.

Student Achievement may vary more by classroom than school, state, and district

This is a very good post from a new blog I'm reading. The post is very long and a very good argument, but I found this particularly interesting:

One terribly under-appreciated fact here is that there is more real variance within classrooms than between schools, districts, and states.

Politics by Religious Affiliation

Here is research on politics by religious affiliation. No shockers here, but it's interesting.

I have no idea what the difference between the left leaning Presbyterian Church (USA) and the right leaning Presbyterian Church in America is.

Steven Pinker on Feminism

“Feminism as a movement for political and social equity is important, but feminism as an academic clique committed to eccentric doctrines about human nature is not. Eliminating discrimination against women is important, but believing that women and men are born with indistinguishable minds is not. Freedom of choice is important, but ensuring that women make up exactly 50 percent of all professions is not. And eliminating sexual assaults is important, but advancing the theory that rapists are doing their part in a vast male conspiracy is not.” 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Kaiser Mario levels

The maker of this course said that it took him 40+ hours to complete it.

I'd label this under Remembering Self over Experiencing Self