July 12, 2007

Here's to you, Mr. Absurd Cause-and-effect Connector

If you haven't yet seen this, you should, if only to enjoy the feeling of your hand involuntarily smacking into your forehead at its ridiculousness.

The story refers to this research, which I don't really have an issue with. It's objective, measured data taken by researchers. Left alone, it seems reasonable, and kind of obvious. It's the inane interpretation that I can't stand.

This is a professor of finance (and we'll leave aside for a second the fact that he's a professor of finance, not social studies or psychology or sociology or any area of academia that would make him, I don't know, credible in this discussion), who should if nothing else be a fairly competent analyst, in general. And what he does is look at people who are at a minimum 18 years old, and deduce the cause of their behavior to be an experience that is roughly 12 years old by then, ignoring the host of influences that might have been present along the way. Whiny? Clearly, it's because of a single program they watched as a 6-year-old. That by itself should get him fired, for intellectual laziness unbecoming a college professor, and for piss-poor analytical skills which, if applied to his finances, would have him living in a Maytag box under a bridge somewhere, unable even to afford the coffee cup to collect donations with. Or, in a highly-placed position with the Bush administration. But I digress.

We're living in a time where
- kids can divorce (or sue) their parents
- the act of parental discipline has been reduced to softly-spoken comments and standing in a corner
- the 'tweener' age group has among the highest buying power of any demographic, and therefore marketing panders to them like nobody's business
- getting (and staying) in college is so competitive, and the pressure so high, that parents have increased the pressure on students to "succeed"
- the cultural role models are predominantly hypersexed, undertalented, spoiled brats who have done very little outwardly worthwhile to achieve their success
- everything is negotiable, from traffic tickets to hotel reservations to, well, everything.

But the reason they're self-centered is because some kind old man in a cardigan said they were special. Uh-huh. Right.

Actually, what I find really amusing is the clip from the FOX News program Fox & Friends, where their crack staff of investigative journalists takes on the issue. Watch it here. What's great about it is that the anchor guy basically gets most of his facts wrong. The "research" he attributes to the LSU professor is actually the study at SDSU; the quote about having room for improvement is actually not from the professor at all, it's from some commenter in a chat forum. The LSU professor didn't actually research anything, he just ran his mouth, and ignorantly at that. Clearly, he could do a stand-in on Fox & Friends if this whole teaching thing doesn't pan out (heck, it might keep him out of the Maytag box, you never know), considering the high standards of journalistic and intellectual rigor they have in place there.

I don't even want to get into his comments about Asian students; I really don't have that kind of time. But obviously, if you want to evaluate the influence of a television program on our youth, your best control group is one taken from a completely different social structure and culture. Yes, I think that is the Nobel committee on Line 1, sir; I'm pretty sure you should take it. Moron.


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