“The Obama effect”

 Here’s an interesting bit of data,  cited by a very distinguished psychologist :

… the “Obama effect” on the test performance of African-Americans. Adult subjects in a study (still unpublished) answered comprehension questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Examinations before and just after the presidential election. The black participants who were tested before the vote performed worse than whites; those tested immediately afterward scored almost as well as whites.

This article is about how small measures can have large educational effects, and it is certainly worth reading.  But it also has some relevance  for concerns about women in philosophy, in addition to its important message about standardized testing for “outsider” groups.

What do you think?

A new fallacy? “Limbaugh’s problem”

So you are driving across a sad little island yesterday, which has been devastated by a major hurricane, with a car sick cat. What would you do? Turn on the radio? If you do, and you’d like some distracting talk, then you just might listen to Rush Limbaugh for a very few minutes. And you might learn something, such as the existence of a fallacy you hadn’t known of before.

I couldn’t find a transcript, so this is an inexact version, but the basic problem is the same. And the problem is the fallacy of the specious contradiction. Here are the two (approximately) statements by Obama that Rush was taking to be contradictory:

  1. At the start, only the government can reverse the  failure of the economy.
  2. In the end, only business and the workers can sustain the economy.

Though my versions are inexact, the temporal qualifications were explicit.  And they’re why there is no contradiction.

There’s a familiar and similar problem with identity:  How can the adult you be the same person as the 15 lb infant seen in a picture of you as an infant?  And one can  get some students to argue that you can’t be the person in the picture.  It’s just that  now this sort of poor reasoning has a major role in US politics.

Should it be called “Limbaugh’s problem”?  That is, why doesn’t “P at t” contradict “not-P at t+n.” 

O dear, I hope I haven’t made this look interesting.  It’s really a pathetic bit of poor reasoning Limbaugh, quite possibly motivated by genuine hatred, was trying to pass off.