OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Student Loans are Loans (Duh.)

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  • Rob Stowell,

    Feyerabend, if I remember, more-or-less equates science with voodoo or astrology, in the rationality stakes.
    Did he make any serious attempt to explain of why science has been rather more successful- assuming he'd agree that it is? I can't remember :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1434 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    if in fact we have an undersupply of scientists, we ought see the wages paid to them rise, until it becomes an attractive career, and then the supply will increase until equilibrium is reached. Is there a reason this process shouldn’t occur?

    The labour market doesn't seem to work that way for fruitpicking or nursing for example, in the real world rather than a Chicago textbook.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16262 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Oh bugger off Sacha, I am not a Chicago economist, & have spent the last few posts making reference to factual evidence so am hardly going to start fretting about lack of real worldliness.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1262 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to BenWilson,

    The problem of making students think about the financial outcomes of their education affects ALL student numbers in the impecunious subjects. I actually care about ALL people, rather than just brilliant people, who I think have considerably less need than most people to be given extra advantages. We already give them far, far more help than other people. This is not tall poppy syndrome, it’s my sense of fairness and social responsibility.

    Well put Ben, the student loan and allowance scheme only holds so much sway in terms of career guidance. With student loans, Governments are investing primarily in aspiration – risky stuff.
    My gripe (in keeping with the current draft bill targeted loan sharks and fringe lenders.) is the lack of guardian consent required by the lender soliciting minors:


    205 Loan contract enforceable against minor
    A loan contract entered into by a borrower (whether before or after the commencement of this section) who is under 18 years of age must be treated, for the purposes of the Minors’ Contracts Act 1969, as if the borrower were aged 18 years.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Nothing personal intended. I was saying the real world doesn't function like 'free' market economic theory suggests. Would be great if supply and demand actually worked.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16262 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Deborah,

    Yeah, I don't have a heartfelt view. It seems quite possible that every different science could have a different method, that there really is no unifying theory. It also probably doesn't matter at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Okay, I've worked out why this thread is getting to me: I'm getting the feeling of a couple of familiar internet arguments, the ones that go "I don't work in your field, but I can tell you all about how it works" and "Because you don't have the blueprints and cost analysis, your solution is invalid". And those being arguments that raise my blood pressure in a way quite unsuitable for my age, I'm done.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2088 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I’m in broad agreement with Lucy here.
    If you accept that Kitcher’s view of science is somewhere near correct, then two things follow:

    (i) people who are able to “think differently” enough to identify previously unrecognised false assumptions are able to act as catalysts, speeding up (unfortunately, to an unpredictable, so before-the-fact-unquantifiable, extent!) the discovery process, and possibly enabling an entirely different, more efficient, route to that discovery than could be obtained through brute-force computation;

    and

    (ii) anyone who does not understand this much about the scientific method should not be allowed anywhere near the decision-making process for how science gets funded. There isn’t, and can’t be, any guaranteed minimum return on investment, at least not in the short term. (Which would exclude most of yer stereotypical bean-counters.) Yet, in the medium-to-long-term, we can be pretty confident that R&D will pay off – somehow – even if not necessarily in the direction that was envisaged when the project was funded.

    Which is not to say that there is no role for management or funding decisions. There are a few questions that could validly be asked of any research proposal, e.g.:
    (i) how important are the questions being asked? (...& yes, that's going to be subjective, and will depend on how much money is made available...)
    (ii) what is the likelihood of the proposed method being able to answer those questions?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I for one fully appreciate the detail you've gone into over the past few days Lucy, I've learnt tons.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    “How good is it? Is it really worth the cost?”

    Both I and Lucy have answered that to the best of our ability. You dismiss our examples as pointless anecdotes and then are offended when I object to you dismissing the examples. What I have described is my personal experience and my understanding of the history of science. I honestly can't do more than that Ben.

    You can’t even measure when you’ve got it, nor what it was worth.

    Yes we can and by we I mean my fellow scientists. Obviously I can't provide a measure that satisfies you but it should have some effect on you that within the science community not only do we honour and reward those brilliant people when we recognise them. We also express profound regret when it becomes apparent we have failed to recognise their brilliance in their lifetime.

    The science community don't have an SI unit for brilliance but that does not mean we don't recognise it and value it. You might stop and ask yourself why we would do that if it had no value.

    More likely, you’d be one of the people writing something back to her from the journal saying her ideas are too whack to publish, because you don’t get them, being a self-confessed B grade.

    I know you're just trying to be insulting here but I'll treat this seriously because it is very serious. One of the hardest parts about attracting and keeping world class talent is our funding system. You are quite right in that it is very hard to review a brilliant proposal. Sometimes it is beyond your understanding. But even average talents can provide useful reviews if they are aware of their limitations. But we actually don't need to rely on folks like me because we can call on international reviewers to help us decide - and we do - for The Marsden grants.

    The real problem comes when you abandon the resource of the international reviewer community. At that point you end up with accountants deciding which grants should get funded and their record of identifying and supporting brilliance is not good.

    But ultimately it is the overall lack of funding that is crippling. But we don't have funding because people argue incessantly that we don't actually need talent so the fact that we can't keep talent is of no great import. That is why I'm grumpy about your position Ben, you argue that mediocrity is enough for NZ, you argue that the brilliant don't offer enough to make it worthwhile chasing after them or don't offer enough in a currency that you find acceptable to measure.

    If you were right the NZ science scene would be performing at international level. There aren't many in NZ who would argue that to be true.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The science community don’t have an SI unit for brilliance

    and lux is not merely the plural of luck .

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    The contribution of brilliant individuals to research quality is something that can be observed – unlike, say, the supposed value added by CEO performance, which is vastly better remunerated!

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to linger,

    and lux is not merely the plural of luck

    Applause

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16262 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    We've been shooting the breeze online about about Nikolai Tesla.

    It strikes me that he's precisely the kind of brilliant individual who achieves what a building full of common-or-garden smart people could not.

    Anyway, it's a great read:

    The Oatmeal on Tesla.

    Oddly enough, it leaves out the breakthrough I learned about recently -- the one that led to the MRI scanner.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18503 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The Oatmeal

    Made my day.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 126 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    about Nikolai Tesla

    The Handsome Family - Tesla's Hotel Room:

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Anyway, it’s a great read:

    The Oatmeal on Tesla.

    Wonderful!

    Particularly liked "douchebuffalo"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Tesla.
    A good example of what happens when too many people stand on your shoulders.
    You get squashed.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    The treatment Tesla got in his lifetime was symptomatic of the anti-intellectualism of his day, which still lingers to a large degree. The current orthodoxy seems to be anti-intellectualism for fun and profit.

    And Tim Hazeldine of the UoA biz school makes the case for quality over quantity at NZ’s universities. My 2c in that article (still in moderation) was basically that when proposals were floated to raise the entry bar for glutted courses like some law and commerce papers, there was a predictable reaction from the bums-on-seats brigade, not least of all a management school professor.

    In Oz those who clear the entry bar pay reduced fees; those who don’t can still get in if they pay 100% of the fees. In NZ, international students have made up the vast majority of the latter, as not many NZers could afford to do so.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4056 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    When we say bums-on-seats brigade, we mean ``people who quote evidence'' right? And Tim Hazeldine talks a lot of self-serving bullshit about national champion status, which plays precisely onto his hands as a lecturer at UoA, and gets a lot of praise.

    Look. the thing is, I don't give a fuck about how important what ever the flavour of the month is. All I know is that there are a lot of people spinning self-serving stories about how their disciple ought get a fuck load more cash. Almost none of those stories ever resort to such show-off stuff as wage figures, or unemployment data. Instead, you get this absurd world where actual subsidy figures are ignored (see above) and the numbers that make people feel good are repeated over and over again.

    Fundamentally, this is nonsense.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1262 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The science community don’t have an SI unit for brilliance

    Now that, surprises me because it is all about measurement, no?
    It reminds me why I found “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance” so annoying. It goes on about the qualities of the word quality without accepting that quality is nothing in itself but a measure against known qualities in order to render them as subjective and quantitative metaphors for acceptable truth as most people cant handle truth in a less than abstract context.
    (W.Coyote, R. Runner, et al)_

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to DeepRed,

    If someone has the pre-requisites to take and pass a course, don't they have a right to take it?

    In UK they have an artificial 'points' system where universities are ranked by the grades of the students they attract, and the higher ranked ones are assumed to be 'better'. (Often, they have been shown not to have better teaching or course content). It's a means to perpetuate social division (given that good grades correlate to being able to afford to go to schools with effective exam-focused teaching).

    I hope we don't go down that track.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    In UK they have an artificial ‘points’ system where universities are ranked by the grades of the students they attract, and the higher ranked ones are assumed to be ‘better’. (Often, they have been shown not to have better teaching or course content). It’s a means to perpetuate social division (given that good grades correlate to being able to afford to go to schools with effective exam-focused teaching).

    Indeed. What I forgot to mention is that raising the minimum entry grade is too scattershot a solution and comes across as elitist – there have been many cases of school duxes dropping out, and very average students making it to Masters level. But an exception could be made if there are shortages and gluts of graduates in certain areas.

    And further on the Aussie system, it’s well-funded but it merely replaces elitist rationing with fiscal discrimination.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4056 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Tim Hazeldine talks a lot of self-serving bullshit about national champion status, which plays precisely onto his hands as a lecturer at UoA

    Maybe it does, but because it's Tim Hazeldine (who I rate highly as a lecturer) saying it I'm not prepared to just dismiss it as more of the same. He's consistently left-wing in his outlook (read other of his contributions in the Herald, or his quoted comments in articles), and if he thinks this is actually what's needed to improve the quality of tertiary education in this country then it's a pretty stark, if veiled, statement that the "the market will provide" philosophy currently in action is not delivering what's required for us to make the transition away from being a bunch of cockies exporting milk and trees.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Tim Hazeldine, Brian Easton, Rod Oram and Ganesh Nana are the kind of people we need at Treasury, the Reserve Bank and MED right now, instead of the IMF/World Bank finishing school currently in place.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4056 posts Report Reply

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