Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some links

Increasing taxes a little and funding health reform may do more good (at least in the short run) than cutting spending. Someone remind folks that tax revenues are already at 50 year lows as a percentage of GDP.
A similar (but maybe a bit less firm) conclusion here.
More similar conclusions from Krugman on modern Keynesianism (on VOX not his hackish blog).
A couple of cool statistics links:
Some institutional links:
Gender bias and agricultural technology
Why continuing to be a Royals fan (among other things) is good for me.
Exports are overrated?

Education and Democracy

The Economist (see also HERE) asks why there is no apparent causal (or even correlative) relationship between education and democracy. They claim, "It is possible, however, that education reinforces authority and the power of ruling elites; indeed, it may often be designed to do precisely this." This seems entirely plausible to me.

A working paper by Bang and Mitra shows that, once we control for certain other factors, the impact of education on growth is even ambiguous. What other factors, you ask? Gender equity/bias. One explanation here is that in countries that have high rates of education among men (but not among women) education is doing precisely what the Economist suggests - fortifying the established position of the traditional elites.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it time to rethink the way university lectures are delivered?

Maybe. I'm all for efforts to make the learning environment more interactive. I'm less certain that there's a single way to do it best, or that even doing it at all will be "efficient" for the bigger schools. A few things:
1. Students will benefit from being confronted with (and even struggling through) a multitude of diverse teaching styles. This might sometimes include "boring" lectures. They will face different leadership styles in their jobs and will should be prepared for the fact that the world doesn't revolve around them.
2. GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out). Regardless of teaching style, students will ultimately get out of a class only what they put in.
3. Experiential learning is good for reinforcing theories and principles if used in a complementary fashion, but can't substitute for learning the theories and principles themselves.
4. Disfluency. In some ways making the material more quickly understood does not make the material better understood. Sure, it will be fun, and likely boost a professor's course evaluations, but there is research that shows a little bit of struggle (on the students' part) can go a long way.