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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Matthew Yglesias and Sara Mead Vlog

I comment.

Uh oh. I think I got a major form vs function problem here because I want to comment on the content of the post. She was great, but I am unconvinced by your feral child argument. We have basically no information on the life histories of those unfortunates and, so, can't tell whether their uhm lack of social skills is due to deprivation of human contact or vice versa. That is, there is a hypothesis that they are autistic children who were recently abandoned.

In contrast an excellent (if appalling) natural expreiment was conducted by indigenous Costa Ricans who raise(d) kids by keeping them in dark tents until they were about 2 or 3. The infants suffer almost total sensory deprivation. They end up normal. This case was studied by Jerome Kagan who is not a neoconservative and was once a psych prof at Harvard (I would guess still around when you were there).

Different cultures are very different. People are not as different as they would have to be if this baby Einstein stuff were true.


Anonymous said...

Jerome Kagan, who I decided to meet for some reason or other, struck me as scary and I decided so much for that sort of psychology. I wonder why though. Hmmm.


Anonymous said...

April 1, 2007

For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too

NEWTON, Mass. — To anyone who knows 17-year-old Esther Mobley, one of the best students at one of the best public high schools in the country, it is absurd to think she doesn't measure up. But Esther herself is quick to set the record straight.

"First of all, I'm a terrible athlete," she said over lunch one day.

"I run, I do, but not very quickly, and always exhaustedly," she continued. "This is one of the things I'm most insecure about. You meet someone, especially on a college tour, adults ask you what you do. They say, 'What sports do you play?' I don't play any sports. It's awkward."

Esther, a willowy, effervescent senior, turned to her friend Colby Kennedy. Colby, 17, is also a great student, a classical pianist, fluent in Spanish, and a three-season varsity runner and track captain. Did Colby worry, Esther asked, that she fell short in some way?

"Or," said Esther, and now her tone was a touch sarcastic, "do you just have it all already?"

They both burst out laughing.

Esther and Colby are two of the amazing girls at Newton North High School here in this affluent suburb just outside Boston. "Amazing girls" translation: Girls by the dozen who are high achieving, ambitious and confident (if not immune to the usual adolescent insecurities and meltdowns.) Girls who do everything: Varsity sports. Student government. Theater. Community service. Girls who have grown up learning they can do anything a boy can do, which is anything they want to do.

But being an amazing girl often doesn't feel like enough these days when you're competing with all the other amazing girls around the country who are applying to the same elite colleges that you have been encouraged to aspire to practically all your life....


Anonymous said...

What then makes these girls amazing, which they happen to be? Also, I am increasingly concerned over costs and competition of American colleges-universities and would like to see a move to almost tuition free public colleges-universities.

As for me, I was never amazing but that is another story entirely.


Anonymous said...

Also, I met Herrnstein for some reason and that was even scarier.

Anonymous said...

Ah; by the way, I have to look to the extreme research by Kagan but I cannot believe there was verbal deprivation with resulting reasonable infant development. No; not verbal deprivation. Actually I remember hearing about something of the sort but not nearly so extreme. I am highly doubtful.


Anonymous said...

Also, I really cannot imagine "studying" what we would perceive as infant sensory deprivation. How could we stduy any such experience in decent conscience? I will think, but I am extremely uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

I know how important "infancy" or "baby-hood" is for my little conures, so though they are only conures I am more doubtful the more I think of this subject and need to look more carefully.

When I watch a parent wheel a baby about the park and point out and describe the birds to the baby, I know there will be an awfully healthy child from there on. Heck, the experience is making the parent healthier and that is enough.

Suddenly, I do not like the thought of this at all. Not a bit.


Robert said...

Ae can't ethically study sensory deprivation in babies (although Frederick II was accused of doing so by clerical slanderers). This makes natural experiments such as those performed by people in Costa Rica who have opinions about what is good for babies which are very different from ours are so useful.

By the way, I take Kagan's work seriously, but no way I was about to slack off at pointing out birds to my daughters when they were under three.
My daughter Kathy nailed me for claiming that all lymphocyts make antibodies before she turned 4. She asked what about "nasty" T lymphocytes which kill cells with "the signal" (she was right and yes OK we might have overdone it a bit).

Anonymous said...


"My daughter Kathy nailed me for claiming that all lymphocyts make antibodies before she turned 4. She asked what about "nasty" T lymphocytes which kill cells with "the signal" (she was right and yes OK we might have overdone it a bit)."

Wow; there now is an amazing girl.


Anonymous said...

And, for all their accomplishments and ambitions, the amazing girls, as their teachers and classmates call them, are not immune to the third message: While it is now cool to be smart, it is not enough to be smart.

You still have to be pretty, thin and, as one of Esther's classmates, Kat Jiang, a go-to stage manager for student theater who has a perfect 2400 score on her SATs, wrote in an e-mail message, "It's out of style to admit it, but it is more important to be hot than smart."

"Effortlessly hot," Kat added.

If you are free to be everything, you are also expected to be everything....