Wednesday, July 30, 2008


You would never choose a car the way democracies choose policies. If your goal is the best policy, then don't vote on it. Of course, democracy is our working solution to the problem of how to peacefully transfer power. It's better to have that problem solved, despite all of the wrong ideas of the median voter. Likewise, even if the median voter can't pass the citizenship test, I'd rather let him or her vote than face street protests and much worse from the disenfranchised.

While I'm on the subject of hard problems, let me note that Saudi childrens' textbooks still teach them to hate the unbelievers.

It's always dangerous to compare apples and oranges, but for every time I hear how American health care should be more like it is in Europe, Canada, etc, I'm going to retort that it should really be more like it is in Singapore.

Marriage in the UAE (HT: Brian). The educated tend to delay marriage, and their weddings are very expensive relative to their incomes. Sound familiar?

Friday, July 18, 2008

long division

Every now and again I read that some schools aren't teaching things like long division or long multiplication, and that many parents hate this state of affairs. Most recently, there's this. (Hat tip: Eric.) I won't pretend to be an expert on K-12 pedagogy, but I will state a selfish reason of mine to favor the teaching of long division. I'm a calculus TA, and there are problems in calculus that are solved with the help of polynomial long division (integration of many rational functions; finding oblique asymptotes of many rational functions). There are always students who have no idea how to do polynomial long division. I explain it as long division, but with x in place of ten.