Archive

Monthly Archives: June 2016

I am quite neutral on the questions whether or not there is a Brexit and / or the UK breaks up. It is all up to the people in the UK what they wish to do.

My view is only that what we see isn’t democracy but political abuse. The data of the June 23 outcome are generally known, and summarised in the Appendix below. These data still leave unclear what UK voters really think. It is utterly false when politicians and their lawyers claim that the outcome represents the “views by the voters”.

This weblog entry on the Brexit referendum outcome has two aspects:

  • First there is an advice for young UK on safeguarding their future.
  • Secondly, there is the scientific outrage that voting theory has been neglected. Let me suggest to my fellow scientists to protest en masse to the political world that this Brexit referendum was & is political abuse, with deliberate neglect of scientific results on voting theory. Civilisation should not let such developments be determined by such political savagery.

Let us start by observing that the Brexit referendum question neglected the possible break-up of the UK. This isn’t hindsight but people warned for this early on, e.g. William Hague in December 23 2015 just when the referendum question was published. One might argue that people thus were warned, and if they still voted for Leave then they must have included the risk of a break-up. Thus we would live in the best-possible-world (Candide), and it is up to Scotland and Northern Ireland to decide now. However, science has shown that one cannot really interprete referenda in such manner. For example, foreign secretary of Sweden Margot Wallstrom warned on June 12 that the UK Leave might mean the end of the EU. Perhaps she intended to stimulate the turnout of Remain, but, if she was heard at all, she likely encouraged the turnout of Leave who wanted to destroy the EU too, and helped them forget about the break-up of the UK. Thus, it is too rosy to hold that people in the ballot box are fully informed and can deal well with misleading referendum questions.

For young UK (age < 50 years)

An advice for young UK who face Brexit is to study the basic theory of elections and then organise a new decision, done properly.

Four texts to study are:

  • the former weblog text on Brexit
  • my online book Voting Theory for Democracy
  • a paper that compares district representation (DR) as in the UK with proportional representation (PR) as in Holland. A), with a summary that appeared in Mathematics Teaching 222 in the context of the 2011 UK referendum on “Alternative Vote”.
  • a warning (in Dutch) to be careful with the mathematics of voting schemes.

Let us consider, for the sake of argumentation, a potential new referendum that might combine the options of Remain / Leave with UK / EU, so that voters can express better whether or not they want to leave the EU at the possible cost of a break-up of the UK. The votes on remaining or leaving the UK must be aggregated for the four areas separately, with perhaps the creation of England as a political entity too.

2016-06-29-Brexit-true-optionsWould this scheme work ? The scheme doesn’t quite deal with conditionals, like (England’s ?) “Leave the EU provided that others don’t leave the UK” or (Scotland’s ?) “Remain in the UK provided that the UK remains in the EU”. (1) Opinion polls “help” people to get an idea what others will vote, but such polls can be quite misleading. (2) A scheme is to let voters rank their preferences. For example, a youngster might rank A > C > B > D and an elderly person might rank B > D > A > C, but this ranking doesn’t quite resolve conditionals, e.g. that might cause strategic voting. And what about other issues, like on immigration ?

This hypothetical case fits the general scientific finding that referenda are predominantly no good way for collective decision making. It is remarkable that this isn’t general knowledge or even part of common sense.

Best seems that people vote for parties and that parties have negotiations in Parliament. However, this also depends upon whether Parliament has been chosen by DR or PR.

  • The political tensions in the UK rose likely because the UK has DR instead of PR. The political system in the UK excludes minorities and reduces political competition, whence non-represented minorities grow ever more extreme.
  • The Dutch system with PR includes minorities and enhances competition for votes. PR forces parties to compromise, and bearing responsibility reduces extremes.
  • Referenda are normally PR and used to correct errors of DR, but that doesn’t make referenda true corrections.

Therefor, the best solution would be to have a decision by Parliament selected in PR manner, or, paradoxically, given that this Brexit referendum has been allowed, have a nullifying referendum. One would put four issues on ballot:

  • “The Brexit referendum question was too simple, and the outcome is annulled.”
  • “Adopt for Parliament a system of Proportional Representation (PR) like in Holland, with a Prime Minister and cabinet appointed by Parliament.”
  • “Adopt a constitutional Economic Supreme Court (ESC).” The ESC provides necessary checks on the quality of information for policy making. For this, see DRGTPE, and this memo in the RES Newsletter.
  • “If there is an ESC, then also have annual elections.” When the ESC is in place, then one can have annual elections to enhance voting power on preferences, with less risk of political chaos.

These latter two conditions for a modern democracy are still lacking in Holland. Dutch readers are referred to “Democratie & Staathuishoudkunde” (2012).

The political abuse

The New York Times reminded us on June 21 2016 that David Cameron used the referendum to resolve a political fight in his own party.

“In 2013, besieged by the increasingly assertive anti-European Union wing of his own Conservative Party, Mr. Cameron made a promise intended to keep a short-term peace among the Tories before the 2015 general election: If re-elected, he would hold an in-or-out referendum on continued British membership in the bloc. But what seemed then like a relatively low-risk ploy to deal with a short-term political problem has metastasized into an issue that could badly damage Britain’s economy, influence the country’s direction for generations — and determine Mr. Cameron’s political fate.”

This use is not necessarily an abuse, since, for example, 52% of the vote legitimise the idea, and these were not party members only. Instead, the abuse is the neglect of voting theory: the misrepresentation of a multidimensional issue by a binary choice. It is like asking “Do you still beat your wife ?” and allowing only a Yes or No, so that when the answer is No then the subsequent conclusion is: “Ah, so you admit that you did beat her before !”

Surprisingly, both David Cameron and Nigel Farage got away with the misrepresentation in the question in this plebiscite. (1) There was not enough discussion on this irresponsible simplification of the issues. At least the possibility of the break-up should have been included, see the early warning by William Hague. (2) Whatever the question up for vote, a referendum can be hijacked for another populist cause, as happened in this case with immigration. Angry voters send a vote-of-no-confidence to the government whatever the consequences.

For scientists

The case for scientific outrage is obvious. It is remarkable that we haven’t heard much from UK scientists on this. Stephen Hawking warned about Brexit but didn’t say that the referendum question is silly and dangerous.

There is this open letter of June 14 by a long list of scientists who protest:

“A referendum result is democratically legitimate only if voters can make an informed decision. Yet the level of misinformation in the current campaign is so great that democratic legitimacy is called into question.”

Curiously, however, this letter doesn’t make the point that the referendum neglects voting theory, since the very question is misleading w.r.t. the complexity of the issue under decision. Would these scientists be willing to admit this ex post ?

There is a critical article in the New Scientist of June 1 for example, but the issue of misrepresentation isn’t quite mentioned. The reporters adopt the frame that the question is sound and the voters are irrational, while the truth is rather that the referendum question is a misrepresentation and that voters are upset (albeit unconsciously) by being boxed into a corner, and by being given responsibility but no means of control (the recipe for stress).

“THE EU referendum could be the most irrational yet. Uncertainty over consequences, and contradictory economic and political information, mean that voters will be swung even more than usual by feelings and biases that have nothing to do with the issues at stake.” (Michael Bond, Jacob AronHal Hodson)

It is well-accepted by students of voting theory that referenda can by abused by politicians for their own agenda. Thus the scientific outrage should be felt by many more scientists.

Insert: The Queen: “Why did nobody notice it?”- in 2008 at the financial crisis

After the financial crisis in 2008, the UK Queen is reported to have asked: “Why did nobody notice it?” (Telegraph 2008, Guardian 2012). There is the plain answer that some people warned but were not listened to, and this is the ancient issue of Cassandra or perhaps The Boy Who Cried “Wolf”. See e.g. this discussion. The same question can be asked now w.r.t. the referendum: why did not more people warn that the referendum and / or its question wasn’t sound.

Potentially, organising a new referendum would better show how the people in the UK think about a break-up. There is one catch: it may be impossible to restore the status quo ex ante. Now that Scotland has discovered that it might be dragged along by England into undesirable waters, perhaps Scotland still wishes a new referendum on independence, even when the June 23 referendum is annulled and when a new referendum confirms that the UK would remain in the EU. This is something that someone in the Policy Simulation Room should have seen coming.

Many observers already mentioned that if there would be general elections before a government dares to invoke article 50, then these elections would turn into a repeat referendum too. In that case DR doesn’t quite square with the PR of a referendum, and thus one would rather first have PR and perhaps secondly also split parties in Remain and Leave subparties.

Insert: How the UK Electoral Commission advised on the question

A kind reader informed me that the UK Electoral Commission advised on the referendum question. Looking into this is another mer à boire.

  • The Commission has the task to check that even a misleading question is “intelligible”.
  • There is a useful discussion about the difference between “remain” and “be”, and whether yes / no creates a bias for people who hate to say no. My impression is that the Electoral Commission deserves a compliment w.r.t. the clarity about the question, so that everyone can see that it was a misleading question.
  • However, the Commission entirely overlooks the possibility of including a “None Of The Above” (NOTA), while this inclusion might have tickled people into wondering about the misleading question itself.
  • There is no mention that the UK might break up after a Leave outcome. Is it really so that no-one in the UK was aware of this and that the Electoral Commission could neglect this ?
  • There were general warnings, like in the section on “Contextual understanding of the European Union” points 3.23-3.27 on page 16:

“3.25 Whilst overall awareness of the UK’s membership of the EU was found to be relatively high, many reported that more contextual information would be required regarding the voting outcomes. Particular queries included what a vote to remain a member would mean in terms of membership status: continuation of current terms of membership or something different? A small number of participants thought that a majority vote to stay would result in the UK becoming a member of the Eurozone.  
3.26 There were similar queries about what a vote to leave would mean in terms of membership status: completely leaving the EU or some other form of membership?
3.27 Those who were undecided about how to vote were particularly likely to report a lack of contextual information enabling them to make an informed vote. They reported a lack of clarity regarding what each voting outcome would mean in practice. This is considered in more detail later in this chapter.”

I didn’t find the required details in this chapter. My advice to the Electoral Commission is to refuse to participate in the creation of misleading questions. It is okay to clarify questions, but one should also be aware of voting theory that referenda can be silly and dangerous. At the minimum discuss the inclusion of NOTA.  The reason of the referendum is to recover the views of the electorate, and what happens with the view is not only “context” but key information for developing these views.

Insert: Partial agreement with Martin Wolf in the FT

Martin Wolf stated in his “What a Prime Minister Boris Johnson should do next” (FT June 28 2016), that I only saw after basically completing this text:

“Might it be possible to abort the entire process? Legally, yes. As Brexiters rightly say, the UK is a parliamentary, not a plebiscitary, democracy. The step that must be taken, if the UK is to leave the EU, is for it to issue a declaration under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, to trigger the process. In law, a referendum is solely advisory. Only parliament can do this, because only it makes valid law.”

It is a subtle point that many will not have been aware of. The Dutch advisory referendum on the Ukraine had always been communicated as “advisory referendum”, and in the future such clarity would be advisable.

Now, both David Cameron and Jean-Claude Juncker assume that the UK will automatically invoke article 50, and the debate is only about delay (supposedly to the advantage of the UK) or speed (for the EU wishing to have it over with). There are rising tensions. Juncker’s attitude would have been different when Cameron had treated the referendum outcome only as an advice. Today, David Cameron is not present at the informal meeting of the HOSGs, and EU Council website has a statement by the 28 – 1 = 27:

“In their joint statement following the meeting, the 27 leaders announced: “We, the Heads of State or Government of 27 Member States, as well as the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, deeply regret the outcome of the referendum in the UK but we respect the will expressed by a majority of the British people. Until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations.””

Nigel Farage was jeered and booed at with Juncker’s unkind question “Why are you here ?” when he presented himself in the EU Parliament. It is unkind not to allow Farage his moment of victory and for exporting his message to a wider EU area, and to imply that he was only there for the attendance fee. One should respect that it remains a political view whether one wants more integration or a return to a trade area. With this unkind and non-sportive treatment, one may better understand how Europe got into wars so often in the past. But also Farage did not treat the referendum outcome as an advice only.

Still, I agree with Wolf that the UK still has the option to backtrack. The real question is what would be the convincing argument. The argument must be made convincingly, otherwise tensions in the EU will rise, and businesses will reduce the risk of trading with the UK. For me, the convincing reason lies in the observation that the referendum question is an abuse and neglect of voting theory.  For me, it doesn’t matter whether the UK leaves or breaks up, if only the voters have been offered the true options.

Wolf is more worried about the economy, and subsequently considers some options, including re-negotiating on immigration, and starting with:

“After selection of a new leader by the Conservative party, and perhaps even a general election, Prime Minister Johnson might, to paraphrase Emperor Hirohito’s remarks at the end of the second world war, declare that, given the “unexpected” economic damage and the risk of a break up of the UK, the situation “had developed not necessarily to the UK’s advantage”. He might forget the whole thing or, alternatively, call another referendum, merely to make sure the people remained as determined.”

The argument on the Brexit is rather thin, given that the Brexit had been presented as an issue of sovereignty and the monster of the superstate. It belongs to the possibilities that Johnson doesn’t really care much whether the UK is in or out of the EU, and that the Brexit campaign was only a last resort to get Cameron and Osborne out of the way. It is also possible that Johnson might become Prime Minister now and is appalled by the chaos that he has created, and thus becomes willing to change his position. However, it is less likely that the EU will agree with re-negotiating on immigration to try prevent the UK from invoking article 50. Politics might be blackmail but the UK cannot claim a special position w.r.t. the problems in Syria or Africa.

Thus I regard this line of reasoning as not so convincing. Little stops us from combining the principles on voting with the practice of economics. However, why would we complicate a clear issue of scientific clarity on principles of voting with a messy assessment on economics ? For the experts, as Wolf indicates, the economic assessment is not messy, but we lack an Economic Supreme Court, and thus non-economists are lost in the game of guessing who the experts really are, and experience shows that this process actually is quite messy.

David Cameron might have selected his time window till October for mere party politics, but it would provide time indeed to let these arguments percolate. I would not wait for Boris Johnson but rather look to young UK and the world of science.

Insert: Gideon Rachman’s non-belief in a Brexit

Gideon Rachman doesn’t quite believe the Brexit, given some precedents (FT June 27 2016), that I also only saw after basically completing this text.

“In 1992 the Danes voted to reject the Maastricht treaty. The Irish voted to reject both the Nice treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon treaty in 2008. And what happened in each case? The EU rolled ever onwards. The Danes and the Irish were granted some concessions by their EU partners. They staged a second referendum. And the second time around they voted to accept the treaty.”

“Boris Johnson (…) hinted at his real thinking back in February, when he said: “There is only one way to get the change we need — and that is to vote to go; because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No.”

“And what kind of new concession should be offered? That is easy. What Mr Johnson would need to win a second referendum is an emergency brake on free movement of people, allowing the UK to limit the number of EU nationals moving to Britain if it has surged beyond a certain level.”

With the EU refugee crisis (an emergency for Syria and a structural problem for Africa), it is not likely that the UK will get such exception, for the other 27 members will not be able to explain this to their constituencies. There doesn’t have to be a concession from the EU. It suffices for the UK to come to terms with voting theory, apologise to the EU for the confusion, and redo the decision making process to find out what it really wants.

A cocktail of uncertainties and possible sources for confusion

The Brexit referendum has the advantage of illuminating various uncertainties and possible sources for confusion.

  • My correspondent in The Hague argues that the Brexit outcome injects new energy into society, namely the idea of “getting a life”, and being freed from the suffocating bias by the collective hive. I am reminded of 1914, when people were energised to go to war. Sebastian Haffner‘s book of 1964 still needs an English translation: Die sieben Todsünden des deutschen Reiches im Ersten Weltkrieg.
  • One might argue that Scotland voted to remain in the UK in 2014, and thus now has to suffer the cost. The EU might welcome Scotland but might still have greater fear for break-ups like with Catalunya. Overall, my impression is that the nation states of Vienna 1815 still have an important role to play in the immediate future. Eventually a perspective of a “Europe of the Regions” (Heineken map) makes more sense. One could make a plan for the next 25 years for gradual change with both integration and distribution.
  • The 2011 UK referendum on “Alternative Vote” was crooked because the proposed system was too complex, likely by wrong advice from mathematicians. There is the curious Dutch D66, liberal democrats who neglect science and prefer DR.
  • The demographic breakdown shows that younger people turned out less and were more likely to vote for Remain, while the elderly turned out more and for Leave. Issues are: (1) When people don’t turn out, we don’t know their vote. (2) Are non-voters really indifferent to the outcome or merely confused ? (3) Don’t young people know that elections are important for their future ? (4) Was it relevant that younger people are used to a digital world while the referendum is old technology that the elderly are used to ? (5) When they have regrets, should they sit on the blisters ? (6) Will they be able to understand that this referendum was an outrage and neglect of science, and would they be able to explain this to others ?
  • An interesting point is that this Brexit outcome challenges the “one man one vote” principle. In Public Health we oppose “lives saved” to “life years saved”. It matters whether one saves a baby or a 95-year old. See my essay on the Value of Life. In economics we have intergenerational accounting. Potentially one might argue that young people are more affected by a decision like a Brexit than the elderly. The elderly might argue that they know better what is good for their grandchildren. A 95-year old might also argue that the world has a lot of babies but few 95-year olds, and that he or she represents a huge investment in human capital.
  • Remarkably, the City of London had a great interest in remaining in the EU, but was caught in the problem that others might (obviously) think that they put their interests before those of the UK. Somehow Finance lost from the Tabloids. A mediating role might have been played by Education, but Education apparently didn’t explain about the political abuse.
Dutch EU Presidency disaster, with Dutch PM Mark Rutte

The Brexit outcome means that the Dutch EU Presidency 2016 is a disaster, under the leadership of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Indeed, even Dutch PR has its problems. The Dutch general elections 2012 might have allowed a coalition under the leadership of Diederik Samsom, with parties PvdA & SP & CDA & D66 & CU & GL & PvdD = 38 + 15 + 13 + 12 + 5 + 4 + 2 = 89 seats in a house with 150 seats, but Samsom preferred a quick deal with Rutte (VVD, 41 seats). Samsom forgot that VVD and PvdA had made rather conflicting campaign promises, so that a coalition was strange, and both are much lower in the polls now (VVD 24, down from 41, PvdA 8, down from 38). In 2017 there are Dutch elections. VVD and PvdA had been hoping that the Dutch economy would be doing well by then, but the Brexit makes this less likely again. However, my advice is that all (decent) parties are represented in the executive of the government too, since being in government helps realism. The selection of the Prime Minister can be done by the Borda Fixed Point method.

Potentially the EU regarded the UK referendum as an internal affair of the sovereign UK. European heads of state or government (HOSG) have been advising the UK voters, but always at some “respectful distance”, and not in town hall meetings as Barack Obama toured the USA. It is part of European folklore to have a European project but while maintaining the outward rituals of sovereignty. This emphasizes the distance rather than the togetherness like in the European Song Festival. The Dutch Presidency should have been more alert on this. People in the UK might argue that there are ample people from other EU nations in the UK, so that there are ample opportunities for discussion, and that the purpose of the referendum is to let the British make up their minds themselves. But why not have town hall meetings with EU HOSGs at various locations in Nigel Farage’s backyard ?

Another comment (lost the reference) was that it was Margaret Thatcher who pushed for the neoliberal agenda, as opposed to the Continent, with the Christian or Social Democratic agendas. This caused the austerity programs and the financial crisis of 2007+ and the call for more austerity. Thus the UK exported the policies to Brussels, about which the Brexiteers complain that those came from Brussels. To this, we might add that Tony Blair proceeded along Thatcher’s path, and assisted in the false pretentions for the invasion into Iraq that eventually caused ISIL and the Syrian refugees to Europe. How blind can you be about your own crookedness ? Also, Mark Rutte has hero worship for Thatcher, and thus was the last person to explain this boomerang to the UK. See what Rutte neglects: my paper on the Cause and Cure of the Crisis.

(PM. Perhaps, however, Rutte has other objectives. Now that the House of Hanover leaves the EU, perhaps the House of Orange has better cards to get adopted as the Imperial House for the EU empire, later to be united with Russia. My correspondent in Moscow informs me that president Putin is already looking at pictures of young Dutch princess Amalia. As Putin intends to rule for a thousand years, the age difference doesn’t bother him. But the Moscow correspondent  also states: “Then he swears violently, for he realises that he must also find a diplomatic solution for the MH17 problem.”)

A problem in science

There is a related issue that must be mentioned usefully. For the above, science has a positive role. However, we should not paint a picture that is too rosy. Science can also contribute to political confusion. A problem in science is that here is a common and fundamental misunderstanding w.r.t. the Impossibility Theorem of 1951 by Kenneth Arrow, a mathematician who got the Nobel Prize in 1972 for this theorem and other work. The impossibility theorem might seem complex but is rather simple, for: assume some properties and give a counterexample. The impossibility arises by a simple mechanism, namely by assuming that collective decisions can be built up from voting on pairs of issues. Obviously the world is more complex and one cannot neglect the context. However, mathematicians are very fond of the misconceptions that Arrow created, and political scientists are very fond of acting like they understand the mathematics. Thus there is a serious problem of malpractice in science itself. Cases of this malpractice in Holland are here 1, here 2, here 3. A problematic situation exists in the USA w.r.t. Donald Saari, last year the chairman of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), the union of all mathematical associations. See also the relation of CBMS to the US Common Core in mathematics education.

In 1990, one of my papers at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) showed that Arrow confused voting and deciding. The mathematics of his theorem is okay but his interpretation is wrong. One can use pairwise voting results but one should not regard these as decisions. The final decision can only be made when all pairwise results are in and related to each other. A cycle in voting scores translates into collective indifference. When there is a tie, then there must be tie-breaking rules. Thus, democracy is not impossible, but a bit more complex than Arrow suggested. Unfortunately, this paper of mine of 1990 got hit by censorship of science, as also my other papers, including the new approach to resolving unemployment and stagflation. The paper on Arrow’s impossibility theorem has been transformed (partially) into the book Voting Theory for Democracy, but the results on unemployment and stagflation are still importantly much under censorship that should be lifted.

Conclusion

Young UK and scientists all over the world are advised to protest against the political abuse of this Brexit referendum, and it would also help when they start boycotting Holland till the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB is resolved.

Appendix. The Brexit referendum outcome

The following data can be found at YouGov (exit poll on ca. 5000 people) and there is a nice graphic at wikipedia (a portal and no source). John Burn-Murdoch at the FT presents a graph that turnout rises with age, from a low 65% for age 30 to a high 80% at age 50 (not copied here).

wikipedia brexit

YouGov Brexit

 

Advertisements

The former weblog entry discussed how a school can “improve” its success rate by ditching weak students. I used a small theoretical model to show this. It is more advantageous for a weak student to try for graduation twice, and by using a corrected success rate the school is not punished for that. Let us now look at some real data from a real school.

A disclaimer is that I am not at home in this field of study. My interest has been in the didactics of mathematics and overall economics of education, and while I have looked at issues of testing, this present application is a new topic for me. The Dutch Inspectorate of Education reports on this since 1817, and I am merely feeling the water and asking questions for my understanding.

Jan Jimkes has been critical of the government policy on arithmetic tests in highschool, see here and here. So let us see – tongue in cheek – how his own school is doing. Jimkes got his mathematics degree in 1966 and has been a math teacher for 36 years and former conrector of St. Bonifatiuscollege in Utrecht. Arithmetic indicates that he must have retired around 2002. Our data are from 2013-2014 and thus have not been affected by Jimkes directly. This discussion might not be impartial because I disagree with Jimkes on some points (see here), and because this is also my own highschool where I graduated in gymnasium in 1972. We might have arrived at Boni around the same time, but perhaps at the different buildings for I have no recollection of him back then, and my math teachers were Van Gils and Andringa.

The following discussion is not about mathematics education but about equality of opportunities in general. In Holland VWO = 6 years preparation for university, HAVO = 5 years preparation for college, VMBO = preparation for trade school. Within these curricula, there again is the distinction between the humanities (A, qualitative and likely not quantitative) and science (B, quantitative and likely also qualitative).

In elementary school at the end of grade 6 for pupils of age 12, teachers advised whether they might do VMBO, HAVO or VWO. At Boni grade 9, students have been allocated to HAVO and VWO, and we can see how the prediction worked out. Boni might get good graduation scores on VWO by sending weaker VWO students to HAVO.

The history of Boni is that it originated in the emancipation of Catholics in a Calvinist country. Originally Boni wanted to make sure that students capable of university got a real good VWO education (HBS, atheneum or gymnasium). The addition of HAVO is an outgrowth and originally no core business. The option of HAVO is agreeable for students who don’t fit VWO but who can remain in the same school. A student may feel better with high grades in HAVO than with low grades in VWO. Having graduated at HAVO at Boni, 17% continues in VWO again.

The data basically come from the school itself. Boni reports to DUO, and there is a visit by the Inspectorate of Education. The results are reported on by the Inspectorate and on the website “Scholen op de kaart” (SodK) where schools compare with each other. For Boni the link is here. I assume that these data will be updated to a new school-year, and thus I copy a graph below.

Report by the Inspectorate of Education

The Inspectorate of Education gives us the Boni report of 2015 about school-year 2013-2014. On page 9 of the pdf we find the following text. This text refers to the “scorecard 2014” while we will look at the scorecard 2015 with data on 2013-2014:

“The success rate for grades 7-9 is satisfactory for the scorecard of 2014 [sic]. However it is unsatisfactory for the years before. Relatively many students with an advice for VWO transfer to HAVO. The success rate for grades 10-12 is good.” (My emphasis and translation (English teacher Boerlage) of: “Het onderbouwrendement is volgens de opbrengstenkaart 2014 [sic] voldoende maar in de jaren daarvoor onvoldoende. Relatief veel leerlingen met een vwo-advies stromen af naar de havo. Het bovenbouwrendement is goed.”)

In the scorecard 2015, Boni had 1459 students in 2013-2014, 33% in the first two formative years (grades 7-8), 20% in HAVO (grades 9-11), 47% in VWO (grades 9-12).

We indeed find that an initially surprising percentage of potential VWO students are actually at HAVO. See also the graphs below.

  • In grade 9 at VWO: 71% had an original VWO advice from elementary school, 27% had HAVO advice and 2% mixed.
  • In grade 9 at HAVO: 52% had HAVO advice, 47% VWO advice and 2% had a mixed advice.
Report by SodK, schools comparing with each other

SodK gives graphs of above data. HAVO is on the left, and VWO is on the right.

  • The red bar gives students with an original advice for VWO. Many are at HAVO indeed. However, HAVO is a smaller fraction of the school, so there is also the effect of the denominator. The “comparison” is awkward.
  • The purple bar gives students with an original advice for HAVO. Surprising for me, still about a quarter of VWO classes are filled with these students. Apparently, prediction at the end of elementary school is difficult.

Original advice for students in grade 9 at HAVO (left) or VWO (right) (Source: SodK)

Comparison and translating the graphs into numbers

The grey bar is a “comparable group”, not necessarily the national average. This “comparison” however is distorted by the mixed HAVO / VWO advice, that is important for the “comparable group” but not relevant for Boni.

For VWO, the 2% mixed advice for Boni can be allocated equally to 27+1 = 28% HAVO advice and 71+1 = 72% VWO advice.

For VWO, the mixed advice in the “comparable group” is about 18%. Allocating this equally, we find a HAVO advice of about 16+9 = 27% and a VWO advice of about 64+9 = 73%.

Thus Boni is not exceptional.

VWO Boni “Comparable”
VWO Advice 72 73
HAVO Advice 28 27

For HAVO, the 2% mixed advice for Boni creates a choice, and let us assume that the Boni split is 53% versus 47%.

For HAVO, the “comparable group” is about 22%. Let 55+11 = 66% have had HAVO advice, and 14+11 = 25% have had VWO advice. Then we still lack 9%. Probably this is VMBO advice, not shown here. The graph is crooked, and creates some uncertainty.

Boni may seem exceptional but when a normal outflow from its large VWO intake enters a smaller HAVO department, then this share must be higher. My suggestion is that the Inspectorate develops a better comparison for the effect of the denominator (I don’t feel like trying).

HAVO Boni “Comparable”
VWO Advice 47 25
HAVO Advice 53 66 + missing 9 = 75
More data from the Inspectorate

The three year data show for the central exam (and not the school exam nor the joint result) for 2013-2014:

  • At HAVO grade 9-11, 73% didn’t retake a class, and the graduation grade point average (GPA) on a scale of 10 was 6.3 (slightly below average). At SodK we find the final success rate: 89.6% or roughly 90% graduated in 2014.
  • At VWO grade 9-12, 79% didn’t retake a class, and the graduation GPA was 6.5 (above average). At SodK we find the final success rate: 95.1% or roughly 95% graduated in 2014.
Is Boni cooking the books ?

Boni’s profile for VWO hardly differs from the comparison group. If someone is cooking the books then everyone is. We have no data for the final selection point at grade 11 that we discussed earlier.

Boni’s profile for HAVO is partly explained by the denominator effect. It is unclear how a correction would look like, and thus we must postpone judgement. We still would expect a graduation GPA that is higher than the national average. However, it is a bit less. Thus it is more likely that VWO students are transferred to HAVO for the mere reason that HAVO actually fits them. Perhaps these students are disappointed and not motivated to work hard for HAVO ? However, 17% of the HAVO graduates continue to VWO (see here). It is not clear to me whether these are only original HAVO students or whether there may also be former VWO students who get a second chance.

Overall, a possible explanation is that (some) elementary schools give their pupils an advice of VWO to try to get them into well respected Boni, after which the true selection happens at Boni.

Apparently, forecasting a career is difficult. Testing on mathematics skills at elementary school is not necessarily difficult but rather deliberately crooked in Holland. There are two approaches: “realistic mathematics education” (RME) and “traditional mathematics education” (TME). The tests created by CITO still allow that both methods score equally, looking only at the outcome of sums. However, only TME prepares for later algebra in highschool. Thus, CITO better develops tests that also attach value to the intermediate steps that are used to find the outcome of sums. There is also my proposal for better “neoclassical mathematics education” (NME), see here. See my letter to KNAW and CPB.

Boni seems to have a useful school model. By selecting pupils who are closely related (core and related non-core), it can concentrate on the core, while still providing well for the non-core. This model benefits from the fact that there is no education higher than VWO. Schools with a core on HAVO must provide for surrounding non-core VWO and VMBO.

A similar question arises when one can create two classes of the same denomination: mix the students, or create a faster and a slower class ? A criterion should rather be on learning styles, to allow teachers to economise their methods.

What is this discussion about ?

This discussion is actually rather on determination. The distinction between VWO and HAVO is close to the distinction between university and college (professional school). Some people argue that medicine at university is actually a professional education and not an education in science. This indeed also has to do with the learning styles, like Kolb’s contested theory of abstract / concrete and active / passive styles. Potentially VWO and HAVO differ in characteristics as in the diagram below, and the determination test would allocate students, depending upon school capacity or prospect for graduation. It is more likely that there are more dimensions however.

Determination of VWO vs HAVO ???

Determination of VWO vs HAVO ?

The Inspectorate of Education now uses a time horizon of three years. Within this time frame, they can already link graduates to an advice three years earlier. Thus for HAVO they can compare graduation at grade 11 to the start in grade 9.

  • With one year extra, they can link graduation at VWO to grade 9, and allow for resits of HAVO. This look at HAVO and VWO would test the performance of the school itself.
  • With a time horizon of seven years they can link graduates (with resits and return from HAVO to VWO) to the advice at elementary school. This comparison looks into the quality of this advice (with teachers differing from official CITO) rather than performance at Boni.

This model uses graduation as the golden standard (always on top), and uses the common nomenclature for the prospective tests (always on the side). Unfortunately, wikipedia (a portal and no source) presents this table in transposed form. Indeed, better look at wikipedia’s “worked example” that has (inconsistently) the proper orientation.

  • When we spoke about the success rate above, we took VWO as the success. The success rate translates here as the positive predictive value, PPV = TP / (TP + FP).
  • For determination, the discussion was too simple, since there is also the success for HAVO students, with the negative predictive value, NPV = TN / (FN + TN).
  • There is a whole machinery on this kind of test analysis, and it would lead too far discussing this.
Golden standard vs test
Graduated at VWO Graduated at HAVO
VWO Advice True Positive (TP) False Positive (FP)
HAVO Advice False Negative (FN) True Negative (TN)
Returning to the original problem w.r.t. the success rate

Let us return to our detective job that we started out with in the earlier discussion. In this case, graduation is not the golden standard but actually only an imperfect test. We now also take account of students who graduated but shouldn’t have and only were lucky. Thus we assume that there is some golden standard that can determine whether a student is a true VWO student or not. The Inspectorate of Education should study on such a golden standard. For example, when a student is not admitted or fails at Boni but succeeds later, perhaps elsewhere, then this would be a true VWO student. This gives the table below.

The statistical success rate at SodK, say the 95.1% success of the VWO graduation at Boni in 2013-2014, only compares the two rows of students who participated, and then passed or failed. Our problem were the students who were excluded from participation who were true VWO students, while Boni erroneously thought that those were false VWO students (who would either fail deservedly or not be lucky enough to pass anyway). This information is not presented by the Inspectorate.

Golden standard vs test
True VWO False VWO
Participated and graduated True Positive (TP) False Positive (FP)
Participated and failed False Negative (FN-Part) True Negative (TN-Part)
Did not participate False Negative (FN-Nonpart) True Negative (TN-Nonpart)

Perhaps the Inspectorate should first clarify how big the problem is for the whole country before we look at schools. Obviously, a student who is not admitted to the senior (graduation) year, is ill prepared, and after a while it makes excruciating sense not to allow this student to participate in the exams. However, why was this student not admitted to the senior year in the first place ? The issue can thus be paraphrased in the familiar discussion about the risk factors for retaking a class. Still, the earlier point that the success rate better be corrected so that schools are not punished for allowing students to resit graduation, remains, and this would percolate down too to lower grades.

Conclusion

Boni is innocent till proven guilty. These data don’t prove that Boni doesn’t cook the books. With these data, the issue is elusive, rather more on determination than on graduation. We would need more intel based upon the individual capabilities. Potentially we need only information about students in the critical range (whose grades cause discussion in the teacher meeting), but with all the selection going on (e.g. also on A and B flows), we would include all students (also for comparison and denominator). The report by the Inspectorate is still oriented at statistics in the style of 1900 looking at the unit of the school, rather than at statistics in the style of 2000 looking at the unit of the student. It reflects the correct sentiment that schools matter, but still. Management requires measurement. When you don’t measure something, then management runs risks which otherwise might be avoided. Apparently it is not clear to the Inspectorate yet what they really want to know about students. Are you able, now, to formulate your suggestions to them ? A disclaimer is that I didn’t read up on their research agenda, but now I know better what to look for.

There is a trade-off between the success rates of students and those of schools. A school can enhance its image by evicting less performing students, so that only good students contribute to the success rate. Less performing students are directed to schools with lower requirements. Nicely said: there can be schools with different levels that better fit their target populations. Is the latter too good to be true ?

De Maatschappij” (“The society”) is an independent network for people active in business and public service. On June 14 they organised a discussion about education (in-) equality. This obviously relates to success rates.

(PM. The location was the beautiful Hodshon House in Haarlem, seat of the “Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen” (KHMW) (“Royal Society of the Province of Holland for the Sciences”) founded in 1752. In this case “Holland” stands for the province and not the whole country.)

Arnold Jonk of “Onderwijsinspectie” (Inspectorate of Education) presented results of the annual survey “De staat van het onderwijs” (a series of reports since 1817). He observed that inequality increases, notably by the statistical phenomenon that children of parents with lower education have increasingly less enjoyment of higher education themselves. Jonk argued that the data showed no single cause. He also observed that inequality between schools is rising.

The discussion caused me to think that the success rate for schools should be corrected for the opportunities that are granted to weaker students. Giving an opportunity should not be punished, in the event when the student still fails.

Other people have already thought about this, see this recent discussion about including CITO scores, e.g. on the website of schools comparing each other. Yet, I find it helpful to organise my thoughts on this, so that I know better what to look for in the future. The discussion at KHMW was open, and then I don’t mind mentioning an idea that isn’t fully developed yet, even though other people may not understand what you are getting at, or think that you are reinventing the wheel. Science is open. The following exposition should be helpful, and is still preliminary.

Item Response Theory clarifies that tests say something about students, but also conversely that students say something about the test. Something must be said about the school too. At the Dutch Inspectorate of Education there are measures on the output of schools, e.g. the “Opbrengstenkaart” formerly known as “kwaliteitskaart” for secondary education. Google showed this book “Het oog der natie, scholen op rapport” (2001). An informative discussion in Dutch is by Janssens & Visscher (undated). The PISA methodology aggregates results for countries, and a similar method might be used for schools. In Belgium, Frank Roels (emeritus) has a popular and partly entertaining discussion (in Dutch) about success rates and ways to manipulate those. Yet, I haven’t looked at these methods in detail.

For this weblog entry I only want to get some preliminary clarity about the problem, by using a simple example, so that it should be clear what the problem is.

Must John retake the junior year or will he be admitted to the senior year ?

Consider a highschool with grades 9-12: freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Each class consists of approximately 25 normal students. The school accepts that 1 student normally fails at graduation. This failure rate of 4% translates into a success rate of 96%.

Consider John at the end of the junior year (grade 11). He wants to enter the senior year (grade 12) and graduate next year. John is a weak student and differs a bit from the 25 normal students that are admitted without problem (including the one who failed last year). The school wonders about what to do with John. If John would be admitted but fails graduation next year, then this will affect the school success rate unfavourably, for this means a failure of (1 + 1) / (25 + 1) = 2 / 26 ≈ 7.69% or a success of 24 / 26 ≈ 92.31%. Perhaps it is better for John to retake the junior year, and be better prepared for the senior year ? The school has a policy that students may only retake one year. If John would fail twice in the junior year, he is removed from the school. Then it is favourable for the school that he no longer shows up in the school graduation success rate. For John it might be better to go to the senior year directly, for then he has the option to try for graduation twice.

In sum: for John it is better that he is admitted to the senior year (path A), for the school it is better to let him retake the junior year (path B). Assuming some transition probabilities, the following table summarizes the cumulated rates of success for John versus the school for the two paths. The Appendix below shows how this table was constructed.

When a school district has a rule that schools should have a two year average success rate of at least 95%, then the school will be inclined to steer towards path B. In this case the school is small and fluctuations can be explained, but still.

Path

John’s success rate

School weighted average success rate

A. Admit

85%

94.9%

B. Retake

48%

95.4%

Considerations

W.r.t. rising inequality, it is unclear to me whether above perverse selection effect occurs. Having different levels of education already mitigates the effect. Schools with low education levels might already have high success rates, because they collect the dropouts of the higher levels. Still the overall effect might be a reduction of the level.

Schools with high levels may also have high success because of the selection, and not be in need for additional money. The better schools might have the market power to select the better students. Higher educated parents may provide for extra stimulus. For lower educated parents this stimulus would have to be provided by the schools, but those may not have the resources. In that case, the government might give more money to the lower level schools. In the middle, the schools with more aspiration who give students more opportunity are punished because their success rates drop, and they are less likely to get government money.

This discussion tends to interprete the school success rate as applying to the school, but it is a student average. Our real focus is on the overall success rate for all students. This includes the probability that the weaker student John also graduates. Thus the school success rate should better be corrected for giving John this opportunity.

In Item Response Theory (IRT), only students with their competences and the tests with their challenges occur, and there is no school indeed. The individual transition probabilities however are affected by the quality of the teachers, whence IRT must be corrected for the school effect. Indeed, it is a general notion that the quality of teachers is one of the main instruments, as argued by Cornet et al. (2006) at CPB. Jochems (2007) however argued that we know relatively little about education of teachers.

A quick fix

Above weighted average punishes John for requiring one more year to graduate. A quick fix is to eliminate John from the calculation when he fails in the first senior year, conditional on that we know that he will succeed the second time. When the school success rate is based upon the remaining normal students, then this suffices for the school image. In the table below we replace the low success rate of .9231 (in red) by the normal .96, as if John didn’t participate. As a result, the weighted average rises from 94.9 to 95.5. The school is rewarded by a higher success score than along path B.

Now, however, the average duration at school enters the discussion. This quick fix is neutral for the delay that already occurs for John. It however assumes that schools and students do not manipulate by turning a failing normal student into a weak student. Allowing students an additional year is a luxury for the school. Potentially though students want to graduate as fast as possible. This quick fix introduces for policy makers a delay in the outcome (with first an estimate only). I have only looked at this numerical example and not looked at the conditions on the parameters. This is just an example case, and we would have to look how it works out, say in IRT. A label for this kind of research might be “opportunity neutral or rewarding success rates”, but perhaps a known or better label already exists. Perhaps this small model then is helpful for discussion.

Why is this important ?

Better control of the transition probabilities and good measures of success are important for the management of the educational system in general. There is also this important question of design: we have differentiation in Secondary Education, so why not in Primary Education ? This gives more application for success rates. Would it not be better to replace the rather uniform system of Primary Education by a differentiated system that is more sensitive to the capabilities of the pupils ? This proposal comes from Henk Boonstra, and I tend to agree, see here, though be warned that I am not qualified for PE.

When you are sick, you go to a hospital, get monitored, and when cured return to society. For prevention, there should be constant monitoring and regular checks. For schools, we would look not only at the dropouts and low achievers but also at students functioning below their capacity in general. If John in the model above fails, he should get another diploma fitting to his results, and the true question is whether  he has reached his capacity (or good basis for a career of choice). We are going to a society that keeps a digital image of your body and mind. The science of testing is with us since phrenology started, but now we need ever better systems to check upon both science and how it is applied.

Appendix on model and numerical example

There are two main paths A and B with each three endpoints, see the diagram. Let us use the following numerical example of John’s individual chances.

  • the probability that John graduates next year: α = 50%
  • the probability that John graduates after retaking the senior year: β = 70%
  • the probability that John becomes a senior after retaking the junior year: γ = 80%
  • the probability that John graduates after retaking the junior year: δ = 60%

2016-06-16-SuccessRate

 

Path John’s success rate School success rate, years 1 and 2
(A1) Senior-Graduate α = .5 25 / 26 ≈ .9615,    24 / 25 = .96
(A2) Senior-Senior-Graduate (1 – α) β = .5 × .7 = .35 24 / 26 ≈ .9231,   25 / 26 ≈ .9615
(A3) Senior-Senior-Fail (1 – α) (1 – β) = .5 × .3 = .15 24 / 26 ≈ .9231,   24 / 26 ≈ .9231
(B1) Junior-Senior-Graduate γ δ = .8 × .6 = .48 24 / 25 = .96,   25 / 26 ≈ .9615
(B2) Junior-Senior-Fail γ (1 – δ) = .8 × .4 = .32 24 / 25 = .96,   24 / 26 ≈ .9231
(B3) Junior-Fail (1 – γ) = .2 24 / 25 = .96,   24 / 25 = .96
2016-06-14-Haarlem

View on Haarlem, June 14 2016

The Dutch research subsidy allocator NWO had its annual Spinoza Prize event, in which science meets journalism. About this annual event I reported critically in 2012.

The event this year carried the theme of “The scientist as activist”. NWO had invited Alice Dreger as keynote speaker to explain about the advantages and pitfalls of mixing research in the morning with social activism in the afternoon.

Thus, all of a sudden we have sex change on the table. Also, when there is controversy, then one is obliged to look into details. Thus I spent Friday morning listening to Dreger and the discussion, and was forced on Saturday “the morning after” to fact-check it all.

NWO Bessensap in Amsterdam

The invitation at the NWO website was:

“On Friday 10 June 2016 the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) will organise the sixteenth edition of Bessensap together with the Dutch Association of Science Journalists (VWN). The event will take place at the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. Bessensap has been revamped this year to be even more in keeping with current developments, both in science and scientific communication.

The goal of Bessensap is and remains to encourage interaction between researchers, science and mainstream journalists, and other communication professionals. The former title ‘science meets the press’ is being replaced by an annual current theme, however. This year it is ‘the scientist as activist’: professors protesting against cut-price meat and climate scientists warning of the present and future disastrous effects of climate change. What role should scientists play in the public debate? And how should science journalism approach activist researchers?

Keynote speaker this year is the American activist researcher Alice Dreger [http://alicedreger.com]. As a historian, she studies the history of science and medicine. At Bessensap, Dreger will discuss what happens when science (the search for truth) and activism (the search for justice) collide. After her keynote address, Dreger will continue her discussion with visitors during a debate on this theme.” (NWO website)

Dreger informed us about her personal experience. She had participated in a social controversy, defending a fellow scientist J. Michael Bailey against harrassment, and had become a target of harrassment herself too. Her own university also hit her work with censorship, after which she eventually resigned as professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern. She relates her experiences in the bookGalileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science“.

Dutch journalist Asha ten Broeke was in the audience and praised Dreger’s book, as a thriller that should become a movie. Google shows a twitter exchange between Ten Broeke and Dreger, and an earlier report in a newspaper, Volkskrant June 4, that opens with the issue of prenatal dexamethasone.

Alice Dreger, 2016-06-10, NWO, "The scientist as an activist"

Alice Dreger about “The scientist as activist”

Developing a hypothesis on the controversy

I only want to develop a hypothesis about what is happening. I have spent a major part of the mornings of Friday and Saturday on this issue, with the only objective to have a fair grasp of the situation. It will not be possible to look into all details, which would require e.g. buying and reading Dreger’s book and all commentary. Dreger observes that books are often not read and still rejected, but I don’t intend to read a full book nor to reject or accept it. Once I have my hypothesis, then it is a later option to test it, but I doubt whether I will ever have time to do so.

The situation is complicated by that Dreger may be right on many aspects, like on the matter of prenatal dexamethasone. Dreger seems also to be right in the protest against censorship at Northwestern, but one can doubt whether resignation was the proper response.

Eliminating noise, it appears that the core issue is relatively simple. This is whether Michael Bailey has a sound scientific approach or only a journalistic report on the “Clarke Institute theory of gender crossing”.

Let me invite you to read these two texts, and for readers of Dutch also a third:

Bailey apparently states that there are only two types of crossing and when McCloskey states that her personal experience doesn’t fit those two categories, then Bailey must either call her a liar or revise his theory. Why not respect personal testimony ? There is no need to concentrate on McCloskey, for there are more people for empirical testing. Thus there is no need for controversy but need for more research, and the research question is already clear too.

We find light in the tunnel by the following approach: (1) Common sense. (2) McCloskey is a brilliant economist, and I am an economist who appreciates her work very much. Her statement is to the point. For example, McCloskey is a world authority on ethical theory, and when she observes that Dreger is shallow on ethics, while Dreger’s chair is on bioethics, then this is very relevant observation. McCloskey agrees with Dreger that Andrea James is an activist and no scientist, and this is actually easy to check.

The Huffington Post article has a curious treatment of McCloskey’s position. Using your thumb to invent that two critics of Dreger “talked many times” and still disagree, and implying that both then are wrong, is bad logic.

“Well, which is it? “Proven wrong” by “almost everyone” (McCloskey) or “unfalsifiable” and without “predictive capabilities” and “untestable” (Conway)? McCloskey and Conway must have talked many times. This discrepancy in how they attacked Blanchard’s theory shows how little they cared about its truth — or that they knew it was true.” (Seth Robert)

Robert also argues: “Deidre McCloskey and Lynn Conway are both powerful persons.” This is a misrepresentation. McCloskey has no power and can only use words. People who read her work tend not to take things for granted. I have no information about Conway.

As a scientist, McCloskey is Dreger’s best ally, and it is curious when these two minds don’t meet. When McCloskey invited Dreger to send a draft text so that she could comment to prevent later confusion, then this was proper science.

A background check on potential sources of bias

Bailey’s website informs us that he originally had a BA in mathematics, and after teaching secondary school for a couple of years went to graduate school in clinical psychology. Mathematicians are trained for abstraction, and it is not impossible that Bailey’s attitude still is rather abstract and theoretical rather than focused on empirical observation, even though he has been an intern in psychiatry. An empirical scientist would be much interested in the evidence that causes a rejection of a theory.

Dreger earned her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science. The topic of the PhD study apparently was on the history of “Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex“. This background suggests that she has read about methods of science, but has no training by actually doing so. Dreger’s historical research apparently has alerted her to misconceptions by so-called scientists in the past, but dealing with current science today is a different issue. My impression is that Dreger has misread McCloskey’s accurate criticism of Bailey’s approach, and did not properly distinguish this criticism from social activists.

Adding to confusion and reducing it again

You should read the two or three texts above but let me mention that there are more sources, that contribute to information overload. For example there is Julia Serano, who has this criticism. Or there are withdrawn nominations for lammies. Etcetera, etcetera.

The bottom line is: it would be up to professor Bailey to answer to his critics.

It has been kind of Dreger to want to protect a fellow scientist from abuse by social activists. It is better to avoid the risk of becoming the next target. Best is to provide for a climate in the scientific world itself, so that Bailey indeed provides such answers. For example, Dreger might have translated McCloskey’s criticism into words such that Bailey would have understood better that this is criticism that needs a reply. One should not think that management of controversy is simple.

Insert of Tuesday June 14 2016

Though I really didn’t want to spend more time on this, I now located Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008, in which she clarifies that Bailey’s book, published at a scientific publisher, was not purely science but also intended to express personal opinions and speculations.

“From the start, Bailey intended this book to be very different from anything he had published before. Whereas most of his previous work consisted of peer-reviewed articles for scientific journals, this book would be a popularization—based on certain sexological findings of his lab and others, but replete with vivid stories of people the author had met, stories provided to put a human face on those findings. Along with accessible, abbreviated accounts of key scientific studies, the book would also feature the author’s hunches, speculations, and personal opinions. It would include suggestions for further reading, but no other documentation (Bailey, 2006b). Thus, TMWWBQ was never envisioned as a work of science in any traditional sense; instead, Bailey viewed the book as his chance to expose to the masses what he saw as the often politically incorrect truth about “feminine males”: boys diagnosable with “gender identity disorder” (GID); surgically feminized, genetic male children; male homosexuals; drag queens; heterosexual male crossdressers; and MTF transsexuals. Bailey also saw the book as an opportunity to make some money; when he was ready to sell the book, he engaged an agent, Skip Barker, who negotiated in November 2000 a contract and an advance from Joseph Henry Press (p.e.c., Bailey to Dreger, October 2, 2006). Joseph Henry Press is “an imprint of the National Academies Press […] created with the goal of making books on science, technology, and health more widely available to professionals and the public” (Bailey, 2003, copyright page).” (Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008)

Thus, Bailey was an activist himself, and it looks like Dreger may have defended not a fellow scientist but an activist.

Obviously, there is no objection to personal opinions and speculations, and these actually are an important source of information, as these for example might guide future research. However, the issue is to clearly distinguish those from corroborated findings. For example, I use a science name Colignatus. Apparently Bailey nor Dreger nor the editors of the Joseph Henry Press nor the editors of the journal that published Dreger’s article have been careful enough. Both Bailey’s book and Dreger’s article better be retracted. The abstract of Dreger’s article states:

“Dissatisfied with the option of merely criticizing the book, a small number of transwomen (particularly Lynn Conway, Andrea James, and Deirdre McCloskey) worked to try to ruin Bailey.” (In the abstract of Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008)

This fails as a description of what actually happened. Reading McCloskey’s statement on Dreger, referred to above, shows her position on content. This shouldn’t be misrepresented as being targeted deliberately at ruin. Perhaps others have stated such explicitly but McCloskey (p7-8) even explicitly denies this. Thus retract.

Dreger is right that the case causes some questions. When Bailey’s book is published at a science publisher, then McCloskey is right that research may be needed to have been submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). If the book is “science journalism”, then this IRB is not needed, but then it shouldn’t be at that publisher. One cannot use one argument for the other issue. Dreger may also be right that “oral history” is excluded from IRB rules, but if Bailey uses such reports to put a face on statistical results, then he himself creates a mix that still falls under IRB (because one aspect is). Again you cannot use one argument for the other issue. Also Dreger should ask Bailey to retract and restate his views in a manner that avoids confusion.

Conclusions

Given this hypothesis, some tentative conclusions are:

  • The organisers at NWO should have had the same problem as I had, in needing to understand the situation. They should have been able to reason as above. They didn’t do so. They gave Dreger the floor, as if there all of this was entirely new and nobody had time to look into this. This is misleading to the audience, and generates a wider circle of confusion. It is costly to the audience, like I lost time in recovering what they should have done. The better alternative would have been to present the hypothesis as above, and allow both Dreger and others to comment, so that there would have been an informed discussion, leading to more information and reduced confusion.
  • The organisers at NWO left it there, and after Dreger had reported on the censorship, there was no statement by the board of NWO that they were appalled, and would investigate and potentially write a letter of protest to Northwestern. NWO has a department of science communication and they found it useful to give Dreger the floor for their own reasons of selling NWO, but, apparently, there was no commitment to really defend science against censorship.
  • This framing doesn’t help Dreger much. The newsmedia reported on the Spinoza Prize winners but not on the censorship of science at Northwestern.
  • Journalist Asha ten Broeke already reported on Dreger but should look into above hypothesis, in order to prevent misleading people.

After this discussion on controversy and censorship in the NWO lecture hall, various people in the audience went out onto the street, not to protest with banners, but to enjoy the good weather and the view of Amsterdam’s canals. Dutch people aren’t easily shocked about censorship of science.

2016-06-10-NWO-outside

It is awkward to state the obvious, but let me do it anyway.

  • This weblog advises to boycott Holland till the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) has been lifted (see the About page)
  • the censored analysis concerns unemployment and poverty
  • resolution of unemployment and poverty is crucial for resolution of world hunger (unless you want to distribute food for free, which isn’t likely to happen)
  • when I was a highschool student in 1972 and wanted to resolve world hunger, I decided that I better study econometrics rather than archeology
  • when I studied econometrics I decided that unemployment was the key topic, since this affects the basic needs. At that time I also wrote an article (in Dutch) that the New International Economic Order (NIEO) was no basic needs programme. Jan Tinbergen read the article and responded on the phone that I very likely was right on this. There is some rumour in Holland that Tinbergen was an impractical dreamer who tragically pursued unattainables, but see my In Memoriam (in Dutch) for praise of his wisdom and common sense.

Jan_Tinbergen_1982-smallThus this weblog is of key importance for world hunger too. It is almost impossible to make a dent into world hunger when you don’t get the economies up and running, with systems of social welfare that are supportive of full employment.

Jean Ziegler has called attention to the issue in clear words, though he lacks the economic theory that has been hit by censorship by the Dutch CPB directorate. See this article “We let them starve” in The Guardian. I haven’t read his 2013 book but I am convinced that it is depressing reading, especially when you know that the solution is at hand, and blocked by censorship. It is depressing too, to read this report on Ziegler’s flirt with Gadaffi (and then check out the pictures of Gadaffi’s visit to Paris and president Sarkozy in 2007).

zieglerMartin Caparros also takes issue at world hunger. See this article in the New York Times. See this interview at the University of Barcelona. Remarkably, there appears to be no English edition of his book yet, and the German edition of his book costs close to $100. Readers of German may also check out this article in Die Zeit.

51w9CDRhaZL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_

There are various organisations worldwide that try to deal with world hunger. However, their approach is bottom up in the Third World, and not targetted at protecting science in the Western World and debunking fallacies by Western governments. They are fighting symptoms and not tackling the causes. Admittedly, someone who is hungry is helped immediately with food, and thus it is difficult to be critical of micro management. However, the leaderships of such organisations should be aware where the real solution would come from.

It is the same in Holland. The Dutch chapter of The Hunger Project interviewed Martin Caparros (in English). Let me quote two questions and answers:

You argue that hunger is the consequence of a system. Capitalism is the culprit. At the same time you say that of all the major problems, hunger is easily fixed. It seems too simplistic: changing the system is not simple, is it?
“That’s a problem. Because what would it mean to solve hunger? Make sure people take in more calories each day? That is easily done. It requires some technical changes, but you can realize those if you invest enough money on for instance roads or agricultural innovations. But the point I am making is that hunger is a metaphor for poverty. You cannot solve hunger if you do not first solve the problem of poverty. And that requires an overhaul of our system.”

How do we do that?
“Well, who knows? Until the 80s and 90s people thought equal welfare and justice could be reached with socialism or communism. By now we know better. I think politics should help us change to a moral economy.”

(Quoted from an interview of Martin Caparros by Leontine Aarnoudse, OneWorld, 2016-02-19)

Morality would help but, but the track record of morality shows its limits. People will be willing to help out, but the economic process must support this. Thus, there is my economic analysis, that however has been censored since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB.

Obviously, when these Dutch organisations like The Hunger Project do not question the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB, then they convey an image as if there would be freedom of thought in Holland, and that the problem indeed cannot be solved except by micro management and global morality. What can one do, to make these blind and deaf Dutch people grow aware of their blindness and deafness ?

I collaborated on a book in Dutch that discussed unemployment and poverty. When Holland has such difficulty to manage its own unemployment and poverty (with its level of education and technology and natural gas resources) then one should be modest about claims for the Third World, unless more can be said along the lines of this censored economic analysis. Not all is in this booklet yet, since there is this censorship. Economic scientists should look at DRGTPE. I did not yet collaborate on a book on world hunger. Is that the reason why the coin does not drop ?

905170447X

Addendum

The Hunger Project Nederland apparently was founded in 1980, and they “celebrated” the 35th anniversary in 2015. I find this difficult to square, for how can you celebrate continuation of something that should have ended in 1981 ? The official text reads that they celebrate the progress towards elimination of world hunger, with a new target for “in the next generation”, but this reads as an official excuse. The subject is a minefield, with this “celebration”, Ziegler & Gadaffi, and other such issues. I suppose that it is quite acceptable to have parties, for man is not only an animal but also a party animal, but please avoid the cognitive dissonance created here.

2015-THP-35-years