News Of The Bizarre May 24 2017

By Hank Campbell — May 24, 2017
Your education dollars at work
Credit: Shutterstock

Your education dollars at work

There is no question diagnoses of psychological conditions can be abused. Disney World had to stop with special autism passes at the park because so many rich Manhattan elites got "autism spectrum" diagnoses for their special snowflakes in order to get around the lines that we ordinary peasants must endure. And it may be that some teachers know a child better than the parents, who may want to medicalize a child's personality in some kind of Munchausen scenario. Really, in the world of science almost everyone could be considered 'on the spectrum' if dislike for people and impatience were the criteria when they were kids.

But sometimes teachers are just jerks who can't be fired. Two middle school educators in Rockdale County Georgia gave an award to one child diagnosed with ADHD at an assembly: she got a trophy for being “most likely to ask a question that has already been answered” and "most likely to not pay attention".

In this case, even if they can't be fired, they can at least be moved to another school. The education system calls it "passing the trash" and it is why sex offenders can continue to get jobs in schools for 20 years. Peer pressure and teachers calling out bad behavior can be a good thing - my math teacher in middle school was a World War II vet who lost his two middle fingers after a grenade explosion and if you acted up, his three fingers grabbing you by the hair were a special sort of pain - but discipline should not be intentionally humiliating a child in a school auditorium in front of their classmates. 

The Rockdale school district has announced the two teachers won't be "returning." That doesn't mean they won't be somewhere else this September.

Why are journalists biased? It may be the booze and the coffee

Prior to taking over as President of the American Council on Science and Health, I founded a movement called Science 2.0. The reason was simple. The public didn't trust journalists because of political partisanship, and scientists didn't trust journalists because they got a lot wrong. So I set out to make scientists the journalists, with no editorial spin, no ideological litmus test, just scientists talking directly to people.

Maybe I could have saved 9 years of my life, if editors had just spent decades giving journalists less access to booze and coffee. 

 A new study found that journalists had lower levels of executive brain function than other groups, making them less able to suppress bias. While there was fuzzy pop psychology mumbo-jumbo about "mindfulness" the real clincher seems to be high alcohol and coffee consumption. Coffee and booze used to be well-known traits of grizzled veteran journalists, but like Woodward and Bernstein using "anonymous" sources, which led to later journalists fabricating sources when they believed the story was bigger than pesky facts, booze and coffee should not be the reason people go into the trade. 

Like many weak observational claims, this has too many confounders to take seriously: questionnaires, small sample, etc., but their conclusion matches the experience of many in the evidence-based science community when it comes to journalism. “Low scores for executive functioning indicates less of an ability to regulate emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and think flexibly and creatively."

Don't expect this to appear on CNN any time soon.

Antarctic Terrorism Alert

The UK is worried about terrorism in...the Antarctic. But it's not because of ecoterrorists who believe bombing scientists will prevent the 20 foot sea rises they hope are coming real soon, it's regular terrorists who don't like that the UK is stopping other terrorists from bombing people in Syria and Iraq. And might be willing to go to the South pole to show it.

British Antarctic Territory is 660,000 square miles and has around 750 people, mostly scientists. Here's hoping they can see strangers coming a long way off, but I bet no one spends a lot of time looking out for the Islamic State Polar Brigade.

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