Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Standards Matter

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  • Jake Pollock,

    Deborah Hill Cone finds your research-based journalism cold-blooded and oleaginous, Russell.

    Can't we just let our feelings guide us through major policy changes?

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    We live in a topsy-turvy world.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • John Fouhy,

    I want to match her Feynman quote with one of my own:

    But it's no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at [a problem], you don't improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging.

    source

    Feynman was an expert; he was aware of what he knew, what he didn't, and the limits of accuracy of what he knew. He knew what information was and where it comes from.

    I find it interesting also that she cites _Freakonomics_. If I took one lesson from that book (actually, I haven't read it, but I've read _Superfreakonomics_), it would be: if you want to influence people's behaviour, you need to know how people behave, and you can only discover that by collecting data.

    I read something recently about the risk quotient. It might be interesting for the Herald to modify their poll, to include capture of how certain people are...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Chris - Thanks again for that insight into the Minister's mind. It seems they are using the misleading ERO report as their trump card.

    There are some good letters in the latest Listener from educational experts, including one from Ivan Snook deconstructing this report (and another from Gordon D)

    I was on school boards for many years during several ERO reviews. In my experience they varied enormously in approach and attitudes over the years. Also depends on the reviewers you get. Very much a big stick approach in the early 90s when schools had to produce large amounts of compliance paperwork. Later, particularly under Karen Sewell, they were more collegial and helpful, making more effort to build a relationship with boards and staff.

    But their resources are stretched. Some high decile schools have hired 'critical friends' who acted as PR, carefully managing who and what ERO consulted. One year, as part of many years work on making our school more inclusive, we bravely asked for review in that area (as one of the three? areas schools could choose to have reviewed), and not surprisingly (as inclusion is very hard to do) got a more critical review than another school that had all its kids with special needs in a fenced unit, but hadn't asked for that area to be reviewed.

    But ERO are just a bunch of overworked former teachers who undertake the relentless job of reviewing a whole school in 3 or 4 days. What I suspect in this latest ERO report is that the writing was contracted out to someone not familiar with teaching and learning, as the conclusions don't match up with the data.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3218 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Deborah Hill Cone "is proud to say I don't know anything."

    She wants us to accept that no one knows anything, because then no policy is really valid, meaning that the only way forward is a highly deregulated society (and economy) where everyone from the CEO to the factory worker is "free" to behave as they please; basically an ACT stance.

    As usual for NZH opinionists, a short course of Logic 101 wouldn't go amiss.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    She wants us to accept that no one knows anything, because then no policy is really valid, meaning that the only way forward is a highly deregulated society (and economy) where everyone from the CEO to the factory worker is "free" to behave as they please; basically an ACT stance.

    I can see your point, but I think that implies a coherence and consistency of thought not evident in any of her writing.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Here we have a textbook case of bad science and bad reporting causing a lot of suffering and waste. And what does the Herald do? Ask for more "opinion" and "feeling", when what we need is to finally look at the evidence, our best knowledge, so that we can decide what's best for our kids. And what does Hill-Cone do when somebody points out it's insane and damaging? Defend all that, in the name of freedom of feeling or Herald columnist privilege or whatever the fuck. It's enough to make one want to scream.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    That Deborah Hill-Cone column might just be the stupidest I've ever read. Well, that's my feeling; I don't have any data to support it.

    This bit is gold:

    Many executives are geniuses at suppressing their emotions and pride themselves on looking at cold hard facts. This can lead them to become somewhat disordered individuals; the sad case of Herman Rockefeller springs to mind.

    But the bit about autism is offensive rubbish. No, we don't know what causes autism but the "scholars and medical professionals" Hill-Cone sneers at have made the lives of those with autism demonstrably better over the past three or four decades.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    'She'd expected someone vaguely oleaginous, decidedly tight-trousered, blatantly open-shirted, and displaying a gold medallion like a prize to be disentangled from the snare of copious hairs on his chest.' — A Traitor to Memory

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I particularly liked Ms Hill-Cone's dismissal of all the work done by Autism researchers.

    To me she sounds simply lazy. She is ignorant of the knowledge gained in the field thus far and rather than do some work (heaven forfend) she decides to listen to the feelings of the general public.

    That us scientists work to find the facts does not mean we ignore the opinions and feelings of the public - most of us spend the time and effort to listen to our friends and family, unlike Ms Hill-Cone we aren't that lazy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But the bit about autism is offensive rubbish.

    No kidding. And in context, should we mention how hurtful the title of the piece is?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    To determine whether a medicine works, scientists establish a hypothesis, formulate burdens of proof, and subject those burdens to statistical analysis. Over time, a truth emerges. Something is either true or it isn't. And although our instinct is to be open to a wide range of attitudes and beliefs, there comes a time when it becomes clear that certain beliefs just don't hold up. MMR and thimerosal don't cause autism, and secretin, chelation therapy, and Lupron don't cure it.

    Offit, Paul A (2008), Autism's false prophets: bad science, risky medicine and the search for a cure, New York, Columbia University Press, p.207

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3218 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    At the risk of sounding like an emotionless Vulcan, a glaring problem with Hill Cone's example of the economists is that they are studying the influence of feelings on behaviour, not using their feelings to reach valid conclusions. This is a case of feelings being an important object of study, not of them being an important tool. She seems quite confused about this.

    I wonder if she's ever seen seen the Colbert shtick about truthiness? Her whole column is basically a plea for truthiness over thinking.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    And in context, should we mention how hurtful the title of the piece is?

    Indeed. Hadn't occurred to me when I first looked at it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    That column is so stupid, needlessly contemptuous and hugely fucking annoying that I have no coherent response apart from GRAR.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    What utter tosh. I suppose when you value feelings so much, forming a coherent argument does not matter.

    I would carry on this line of thought, but I cannot be bothered. Instead, I want you all to imagine how angry I feel.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    To be deliberately insulting and dismissive...

    I suppose when you value feelings so much

    I doubt it has much to do with valuing feelings, it has more to do with valuing minimum effort and knocking off work early.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This was pretty mad:

    Brown no doubt embraces the maxim "comment is free but facts are sacred" but it is not a binary equation. That's why economics has gone from being solely about crunching numbers to including everyday questions about what makes people tick. Just look at the influence of Freakonomics and the FT's Undercover Economist.

    Er, both of which are all about looking for data in different places, rather than simply theorising. They are about facts.

    Malcolm Gladwell wrote a well-reasoned book called Blink about the value of intuition over facts.

    Late last year Steven Pinker pwned Gladwell in a manner that should be instructive to all journalists, myself included.

    But the best quote came from a neuropsychologist in Sue Halpern's review of Blink for the New York Review of Books:

    But in reality, intuition is the condensation of vast prior analytic experience; it is analysis compressed and crystallized.... It is the product of analytic processes being condensed to such a degree that its internal structure may elude even the person benefiting from it.... The intuitive decision-making of an expert bypasses orderly, logical steps precisely because it is a condensation of extensive use of such orderly logical steps in the past.

    I use what might be called intuition a lot, and I fancy myself a good judge of talent. But I'm under no illusions that I'm performing magic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    The living embodiment of "ignorance is bliss"

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Pinker aside, Hill-Cone hasn't actually read Blink. A lot of the book is actually about how experts use experience and training to develop the ability to make intuitive judgements about their area of expertise. It attempts to understand how experts can make powerful, fast decisions, it's not an argument against expertise or 'the value of intuition over facts'.

    That's like describing War and Peace as a novel about Napoleon's successful invasion of Russia.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    That's like describing War and Peace as a novel about Napoleon's successful invasion of Russia.

    TLDR

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    That's like describing War and Peace as a novel about Napoleon's successful invasion of Russia.

    What, no spoiler alert?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Gordon Dryden,

    Russell: The Sunday Star-Times is advertising for an Editor. Now there's a suggestion for you.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Oh, and this:

    Smart economists know emotions matter, sometimes more than facts. Not all of them, of course. Reserve Bank governor Allan Bollard is austere like Brown. Based on the figures, he says this country is never going to close the wealth gap with Australia and we should content ourselves with the crumbs from their table. That's the spirit, tiger. Whereas Prime Minister John Key says just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to it. Key understands that the goal is not just about policies but also about attitude and feelings. If we didn't think we were such a cotcase of a country we might have more chance of clawing our way up the OECD ranks.

    Actually, feelings have generally been used to trump facts much more in the other direction with respect to these issues.

    Some key tenets of the "New Zealand sucks" meme -- especially that by global standards our taxes, government spending and regulatory burden are high -- can be trivially disproved (indeed, in each case the opposite can be shown) but the actual data have been trumped by people feeling that we suck, because they're angry or something.

    Bollard's comments are more to do with not setting meaningless political goals.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Without even getting into how the concrete reality that follows Key's wonderful feelings, as charted by Brash and his taskforce, involves dismantling social welfare.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

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