Monday, February 6, 2012

These Analogies Are Worthless!!

Reposted with permission from a FB entry by Seth Ambruso

   My brother-in-law Seth Ambruso (youngest brother of my sister's husband) posted a link today that detailed a classroom experiment by an economics professor who claimed that he "never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class." While the post he reported and responded to turns out to be a persistent urban myth, the gist of the myth and the article is well subscribed to by millions of like-minded people who simply see communism and socialism as one and the same, and more importantly to them inherently evil and anti-American.

  Here, Seth makes a strong and well-articulated attempt to dispel the myth for those uninitiated with both the myth itself and social economics in general. I felt that in my ongoing quest to develop my financial education, it's important to be clear about what the definitions really are and what's really at stake. (Again, this post is reprinted with his permission...)

I've seen this analogy several times, in several forms (buying beer, grades, ect) and it is overly simplistic and extremely flawed. Seeing it as a valid model of economics is the definition of willful ignorance.... I see it as further proof of the "socialism scare" propaganda that we are being distracted with.

Here are the most basic flaws of this 'analogy':

1. It assumes that there is a ceiling to the the inherent wealth of the "grades", i.e. that one could only earn between 0-100 "dollars". The real income disparity in our country is by a factor of about 0-1800+ with no limit.

2. It assumes that each "student" is being given the same "test" (job), which is then "graded" (paid) in an equal capacity (study hard, good grades, get ahead). While this might be 'true' in the real classroom, it is not true for our economy.

3. Many many important jobs have ceilings (think cops, firefighters, teachers, postal workers, ect.) These students will never "score" "100%" no matter how much harder they work, but they are essential jobs, no? Nor should they make 100%, but they should make a decent living right? How about a school where any student who wants to can opt out of test all together to go sweep the floors, empty the garbage, ect instead of taking a test and they just take a 30 in every subject (I think Newt suggested something like this ;) )
Here is what a more accurate portrayal of what a capitalism classroom looks like, where everyone has equal opportunity to work hard and get ahead:

Anyone who scored below 20 keeps the grade they have, and must repeat the lesson over and over again until they pass, but without any help or further instruction. They are, after all, losers who clearly don't work hard and don't deserve our attention. You're lucky we even let you go to school! Go sit in detention and try the test again tomorrow. There are some crappy 10 year old textbooks in the corner, get it together!
Anyone who scores 20-30 may move onto the next lesson, but they will not be taught anything new for the next test. Don't ask questions, work harder and pay attention.

Anyone 30-60, GOODJOB! You are the middle of the class. You keep your grade, but donate 30% of your grade to maintain the classroom and pay for the instruction. (Yes, this does mean you need at LEAST a 45 to stay in this classroom) You can move onto the next lesson, but will be given minimal instruction, barely enough to maintain your average. Keep up! You CAN borrow points to keep up, but they WILL be docked from your future tests --with interest.ore on that later.

If you are smart enough to score above 60, Congrats! The opportunities from your hard work just keep coming! While you still donate 30% of your earnings to maintain the classroom, you are allowed to apply an extra 10% of any points above a score of 60 to the next test. You may ask questions if you don't understand the lesson.

70-99 on the test and you pay 35% of your grade toward the classroom, but anything above your seventy gets compounded at 10% and applied to the next test. There is a minimal 15% classroom tax on the INTEREST (points carried from the last test) ONLY. Another perk is that for every point above 70 you gross, you get 1 additional minute of personal instruction per hour. The classroom depends on smart people like you to keep the classroom running so we can all benefit!!!

Above 90, YOU are the head of the class! You not only get all of the other perks, but for every point above 90 you get access to the teacher to debate some of the test questions you got wrong... The teacher is VERY open to you're ideas about why you answered the way you did and can be persuaded because clearly you've worked hard and are smart enough, and can probably justify some of the answers you did get wrong. Thanks to people like you, we're lucky we even have a classroom, so instead of playing on the rusty playground outside (that you paid mostly for anyways), for recess YOU'RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!!! You also get a nicer desk and some really nice snack packs. And, if your parents scored this well in school you are virtually guaranteed to start with this score... Don't f*ck it up!! While you do pay 35% of your real test score toward toward the classroom, remember every point carried over is only taxed 15% and There is a big perk: there are LOTS of write offs for a lot of your extra curricular activities, (make sure you have a good coach).
Also, You may lend any of your points out to those who score less than you... They pay you back with interest (but this interest you make is only taxed at 15% remember). Soon they will be as smart as you if they work hard enough!

If you are smart enough to score 99, you've worked very very hard. You are the in the top percentile of your class. While you get all of the perks mentioned, you're smart enough to get VERY special privileges. You pay 30% toward the classroom, but REMEMBER, it is only 30% of your EARNED test score. There is no limit to the score you are allowed to have ( students have been known to score as high as 1800 and above) You are so smart, you don't even take tests ever again if your score is high enough, just let you're last best test grades compound over and over again... Yes, you do have to continue contributing 15% of the INTEREST toward the classroom. For every point above 99 you actually get to WRITE a test question for the rest of the class on the next test!
There are some other, special rules out there that only apply to you: Suppose you want to lend 10 points out to a student who scores less than you. You only need to lend them 1 point of your own money-I mean score, and the classroom will guarantee the rest of the loaned points for you (you can still collect all the interest from the repayments). So, if the majority of the class continues to fail, it doesn't really affect you all that much... Just make sure that the middle class keeps passing their tests and we'll all be pretty secure. You have access to the best of everything, books, instructors, whatever you need just ask. You also get to sit in a much nicer classroom than the not-so-smarts. You've earned it.
You can also take the massive amounts of points you've accumulated from being so smart and then "shelter" them in an offshore classroom. No need to keep paying a tax into a classroom that YOU hardly study in, right??

If you have enough extra points and give them out wisely, you may even be elected Teacher or to one of the 535 Assistant Teacher positions who write the tests....

Oh, by the way, ...historically people of certain colors and lifestyles were traditionally barred from receiving a lot of the test instructions, but those laws have been done away with... It's too bad a lot of them can hardly understand the test at all! Good luck studying, it's the same rules for everybody! Work hard! If you entertain the rest of the class enough, or bring them their milk, they might let you look at their textbooks. And speak ENGLISH! This IS AMERICA and we speak American. Or English.

Now, this analogy has several flaws in it too-- but do you SEE how IGNORANT it is to compare test grades to the economy??

Color commentary, as usual, added by Chyll Will for effect... >;)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don Cornelius

I wrote a response to my friend's posting at Bronx Banter and decided to reprint my response here...

The TV side of me owes a tremendous amount of respect to this brotha. It's such a shame he had to go out this way, but there is much love from the people he came from and helped raise in his way.

My sister Andrea said that Dick Clark tried to bite off of Soul Train in their second season and that there was such an uproar about it that Clark agreed to back off. The show was shown in the west for a few episodes, but never made it east. Also did not know that Rosie Perez was a featured Soul Train dancer back in the day. That's just like younger cats finding out Jennifer Lopez got her break as a dancer in Rosie's troupe on In Living Color.

We were watching a recast of a VH1 doc about Soul Train last night and as my teenage nephew Isaiah was watching the dancers, he said "So this is where the dances that are out now originated from!" I looked at him and said, "You're just figuring that out now?" and he nodded his head. His Mom pointed out that it went back even further to the early Jazz era with all the juking and jiving dances, and beyond.
It was interesting that Jeffrey Daniels, another featured dancer, virtually took credit for creating "The Robot", "Pop Locking" and "The Moonwalk", all of which Michael Jackson later revolutionized on the show when he appeared and later in concerts and television specials. I bet he was implying that the whole break-dance revolution originated from Soul Train, but while I'm not so certain about that, I'm sure not going to believe rapping and dee-jaying was a Soul Train specialty before it ever hit the Bronx (Thank you VH1 for inventing music videos, ha!)

Don Cornelius was not a fan of rap and hip-hop in any regard, but tolerated it as good business for his show and he was right to a certain extent. The problem for me, which led me to stop watching altogether in the eighties, was that his distaste was so obvious and condescending that it was insulting to me as a fan. Why put up with that when you had video shows (New York Hot Tracks and later Yo! MTV Raps) that treated their guests with far more respect? On the other hand, Cornelius embodied the thinking of the older generation that did not grasp that era of hip-hop and was even frightened by its imagery. I kind of think that it was that attitude that brought the show down after a while, and though it continued for quite some time after he left, it lost too much ground to both MTV and the emerging BET (which later became the embodiment of all of Don Cornelius' fears and has gone far below what early and middle age rap and hip-hop fans desired of our culture).

But I don't blame him for being out of touch in that respect; he was a savvy businessman and helped elevate the profile of much of black music through each generation from the early 70's on. His death makes me wonder the same way that Guru's passing made me think; someone that you knew well, but hadn't seen and thought about in a while until something major happens and now he's gone. I'd like to think something could have prevented this from happening to him, but that's neither here nor there. I'm celebrating the man's life and his impact on my cultural upbringing.

 For those of you who have only a notion or less than a clue of what I'm talking about, check out the wiki on Soul Train and a bio of its founder, Don Cornelius.

Editor's Note: I ran across this on Youtube a year ago; a fitting tribute...