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Comment: Re:Preparation, not incentives (Score 2) 841

by mackertm (#37969764) Attached to: Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out?

That certainly happens - a college student who has basically sailed through elementary and high school suddenly runs into difficult material for the first time ever and it's hard to cope. That can happen in fields other than science, math, and engineering, of course.

Another side of this might just be that there is a difference between liking a subject academically (in high school) and deciding you want to do it for the rest of your life. I had an amazing high school chemistry teacher who set me on the path to AP chemistry and eventually a BS in chemistry. But right around junior year (first semester of physical chemistry lecture and second semester of organic lab) I realized I didn't want to have a career in chemistry. I still really enjoyed the intellectual challenge of chemistry (otherwise I wouldn't have finished the degree), but at that point it was a path to grad school. I ended up doing my graduate studies in communication, and I've ended up with a career I love. I enjoy teaching and research in communication is just as intellectually challenging (but in a different way).

I guess my point is that we shouldn't underestimate the impact of students realizing the difference between "I like science subject x" and "I want a career in subject x."

Comment: Re:I can't fault them for doing so.. (Score 3, Insightful) 1040

by mackertm (#37021508) Attached to: S&P's $2 Trillion Math Mistake

Yes, because the position of the Democratic party (and all Democrats) is that basic. "SPEND MORE!"

It must be a simpler, more straightforward world in which you live.

Most every Democrat I've heard has talked about the desire to do some spending cuts in combination with some array of revenue increases. Sometimes they differ in what they think should be cut or protected (Medicare, Social Security, defense, whatever), which can then lead to internal disagreements among Democrats that might make it look like the entire party doesn't want to cut anything; the same holds for revenue increases, I'd say. I'd hope that over time they could come up with a plan that at least most Democrats could get behind that would be part spending cuts/reforms and part revenue increases.

On the Republican side, there are certainly some I've heard talk about the need to reform the tax code and (at least) start cutting out tax expenditures. I'd say that those Republicans are in the minority, mainly because of the no increased taxes pledge and the Tea Party pressure from the right of the party.

I wouldn't mind the "cut spending" pressure coming from the Tea Party if the people pushing hardest for that didn't also seem to be entirely incapable of compromise. Compromising isn't something to be frowned upon, it's how both parties could leave with a deal they might like (or at least dislike equally). As I see it, the Tea Party's anti-spending stance is one that we need - it's the execution that is lacking.

Comment: Re:Degree Inflation (Score 1) 330

by mackertm (#36878386) Attached to: Is the Master's Degree the New Bachelor's?

Amen to this. I had a GREAT high school chemistry teacher that inspired me to pursue a BS in chemistry. I was already in my junior year when I realized I didn't want to work in chemistry for the rest of my life. At that point it made more sense to finish the degree and then move in a different direction for graduate school.

Even if I'm not actually using that chemistry degree, it did help me prepare for graduate school (I was more comfortable with advanced math than some others) and I enjoyed the actual chemistry education even if I didn't want to pursue that as a career. So I'd probably do it again, given the choice.

Comment: Nassim Taleb on the World in 2036 (Score 1) 669

by mackertm (#36502210) Attached to: The End of Paper Books

Nassim Taleb talked about this in a podcast with The Economist a while ago (this is a link to the story that went along with it: http://www.economist.com/node/17509373), where his point was that books would likely be around more or less forever - they're technology that has been around for hundreds of years. Compare that to something like the Kindle (and such) which have been around for a much shorter period of time. His point was that betting against very established, proven technologies due to a very short period of success from a new/shiny technology isn't always a great plan.

(Or at least that's how I remember his interview without re-listening to it.)

Time-sharing is the junk-mail part of the computer business. -- H.R.J. Grosch (attributed)