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Kornell on Professor Evaluation

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Good thing that Kornell has tenure! This is not the sort of thinking that his colleagues, like Professor Phoebe Cohen, would find . . . uh . . . congenial.


Daily Quizzes


1) How common are daily quizzes at Williams? Back in the 80s, I can’t recall a single class — perhaps outside of the languages — using them. Has that changed? Is Kornell an outlier? I can’t think of another class that uses them . . .

2) What do people think of daily quizzes? I hate them because they are a symptom of classes that are too large. Tutorials (and small seminars?) don’t use or need daily quizzes because students have no choice (?) but to do the readings. No More Lectures!

3) I think that daily quizzes were common back in the 50s. Can any of our more senior EphBloggers comment? The excellent book, Newhall and Williams College: Selected Papers of a History Teacher at a New England College, 1917-1973, includes some discussion of Newhall’s use of quizzes in his history classes.


Grade Inflation


Imagine that Professor Kornell wants to do something about this. What advice do you have for him?

Start with transparency. What is the distribution of grades at Williams today? How has it changed over time? How does it vary by department? There is no good reason to keep this a secret, other than shame. Here is the data from 2008–2009. Here is recent data for Middlebury.


What Charles Murray Believes

Charles Murray will be speaking at Williams tomorrow. Professor Nate Kornell comments:

The next speaker in the [Uncomfortable Learning] series is Charles Murray. I’m glad he was invited because whether you agree with him or not, he raises important questions that push students and faculty alike to think hard.

“Important questions,” huh? Tell that to the current crop of social justice warriors at Williams, people like Sam Alterman ’18 and Professor Sam Crane. From their point of view, Murray is every bit as bad as Derbyshire because he believes that there are important genetic differences between human races — differences that are much more than skin deep — differences which help to explain, among many other things, why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

Consider Murray’s review of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.

The problem facing us down the road is the increasing rate at which the technical literature reports new links between specific genes and specific traits. Soon there will be dozens, then hundreds, of such links being reported each year. The findings will be tentative and often disputed—a case in point is the so-called warrior gene that encodes monoamine oxidase A and may encourage aggression. But so far it has been the norm, not the exception, that variations in these genes show large differences across races. We don’t yet know what the genetically significant racial differences will turn out to be, but we have to expect that they will be many. It is unhelpful for social scientists and the media to continue to proclaim that “race is a social construct” in the face of this looming rendezvous with reality.

Indeed. From the Record:

Murray, author of The Bell Curve, is scheduled to come to the College this spring. He believes that race and class are linked to intelligence. Falk has no plans to cancel Murray’s visit.

“It’s actually instructive to compare [him] directly with Derbyshire. Charles Murray has never written anything, to my knowledge, like Derbyshire’s ‘The Talk.’ I don’t agree with what he says, I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said for 20 years, but he’s a scholar,” Falk said. He hopes that people start a civil and constructive argument with Murray when he comes.

Good luck! When it comes to race/genetics/{intelligence,criminality,empathy,etc}, Murray and Derbyshire are identical. Genetics has a huge influence on most personal characteristics. Those genetics differ across races. Therefore, . . .

Think this is nothing but right-wing racist nonsense, correctly relegated to the dirtiest sewers on the web? Think again, starting with Sunday’s Boston Globe:

The effects of genetic differences make some people more impulsive and shortsighted than others, some people more healthy or infirm than others, and, despite how uncomfortable it might be to admit, genes also make some folks more likely to break the law than others.

Charles Murray believes that genetics cause criminality (along with the Boston Globe) and genetics differ among races (along with Nicholas Wade). Therefore, he believes, at a minimum, that it is possible that races differ in their genetic predispositions to criminality. In fact, Murray almost certainly goes full Derbyshire and believes that different racial groups have different genetic predispositions to criminality and that this, among other factors, helps to explain why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

This is the person that Falk considers a “scholar” and that Kornell thinks “raises important questions.” What do Sam Alterman and Sam Crane think?


Kornell Recants

Professor Nate Kornell shared his thoughts on the UL/Derbyshire/Falk controversy.

I’ve been criticized for a recent tweet in which I supported the decision to disinvite a speaker in a lecture series here at Williams College, where I teach. In case anyone cares (which I doubt) here’s my thinking.

One thing I’m sure of, though: College campuses are THE place where rational debates should find safe harbor. If colleges want to create safe spaces, they should be places where it is safe to speak one’s mind, not where people are safe from hearing messages they don’t like (having such spaces is fine, but colleges needn’t provide them).

I wouldn’t want to disinvite someone because I don’t like their message — again, I want to hear from people who disagree with me — but only if they don’t make a rational case for it.

Read the whole thing. Comments:

1) We love Nate Kornell! He is exactly the sort of professor that Williams needs more of, engaged with both his students and the wider world. Kudos to Williams for hiring/tenuring him.

2) Glad to see Kornell come to his senses (although that last sentence could have used a good editor).

3) How many professors have supported Falk’s cancellation? Sarah Bolton, Sam Crane . . . Others?


Kornell Backs Speech Cancellation


Does Professor Nate Kornell really believe that banning speakers is a good idea, or is he just hopeful that, if he spouts the usual PC-vanities, the speech police won’t come for him next? I don’t know. But if Williams leftist are looking for another person to attack, Kornell would make for an interesting target.

1) Kornell is, obviously, a rape apologist.

2) Kornell fails to support — which is more or less the same thing as attacking — minority students.

3) Most relevantly, Kornell agrees with John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer and Charles Murray about the nature and importance of IQ. Recall:


Here are some truths that Kornell almost certainly believes.

1) IQ tests like the SAT are some of the most important and reproducible results in all psychology. Doing well on an IQ test is highly correlated with all sorts of outcomes including performance in Williams college classes.

2) IQ is significantly genetic. The population variance that is explained by genes is at least 50% and possibly much more. The best way to ensure that your children are smart is to marry someone smart, and that is just as true even if you intend to give up your children for adoption.

3) Measured IQ (using any intelligence test, including the SAT) varies significantly by race, with African-Americans scoring much lower than, say, Asian-Americans.

4) The 10,000 or so genes that are affect IQ are being identified. This work is the “locomotive” that Charles Murray refers to as heading toward the social sciences. Within ten years, you will be able to make a fairly decent prediction, at birth, of what someone will score on the SAT 16 years later.

And that is just a sample of Professor Nate Kornell’s horrible beliefs! How can Adam Falk put up with such hate speech infecting Williams College classrooms?

UPDATE: Kornell recants.


Yale and Missouri

The two big stories in higher education right now involve Missouri and Yale. But, since this is EphBlog, we need a Williams connection before opining. So, start with this tweet from crypto-conservative Professor Nate Kornell:


The linked article provides a good overview of the controversy at Yale. Judging by his tweets and retweets, I would say that Kornell is a critic of student complaints. Which raises the question: Did he support (publicly or privately) the Taco Six?

I have my doubts. It is easy to criticize students at another school for overreacting to a memo about Halloween costumes. It is much harder (?) to support students at your own school who are being attacked by your own administration for their choices in Halloween costume.

There is an even better Eph connection to the Yale administration that I will leave as a reader puzzle . . .

I can’t find a better Eph connection to events at Missouri than this.

With the U. of Missouri football team firing the president and chairman of the board, it looks like Mizzou will get an administration worthy of its football team, which is 1-5 in conference play and has wracked up quite a record in recent years for sexual assault and domestic violence charges.

A recurrent theme here at iSteve is how conservative millionaires give a lot more to college football than to advancing their ideas. For example, Mizzou is notoriously bad at fundraising compared to powerhouses like the U. of Alabama . . .

On the other other hand, Manhattan-born Paul Singer uses his giving on Presidential candidates (it was front-page news when he endorsed Marco Rubio), fundraiser for the Manhattan Institute, push for gay marriage, Israel, and more immigration (for America, not Israel). You can buy a lot of think tank staffers for the cost of first rate offensive coordinator.

Indeed. Can anyone provide a better link to events at Missouri than an offhand reference to Investment Committee member Paul Singer P ’96 ’00?


Williams Reads One Idea

Professor Nate Kornell tweeted a link to this article:

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Williams College president Adam Falk confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Falk, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

This year, the one idea will center around the benefits of unrestricted illegal immigration, especially by poorly educated, unskilled migrants from backward countries. The College will explore this one idea through a required reading of Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario ’82, via the Williams Reads program.

Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity.

Dean of the College Sarah Bolton noted that “Although we appreciate diversity quite deeply at Williams, we can never appreciated diversity enough. Every day, every month, every year, we must work harder to deepen our appreciation. This is all the more true in the aftermath of last year’s Taco Six incident, in which 6 undergraduates failed to demonstrate sufficient depth to their appreciation of Mexican Culture.”

“Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here,” continued Falk. He also told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

The Williams Reads program kicks off today at 1:30 PM in the ’62 Center. If any EphBlog readers attend, please tell it what the event is like. Is more than one side of the issue presented? Or is the only acknowledged viewpoint pro-Enrique and his family? Will anyone mention Donald Trump’s shocking lead in presidential polls, driven almost entirely by his position against illegal immigration?

Here at EphBlog, we have been praising Enrique’s Journey for more than a decade. Too cheap to buy the book? Nazario won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper articles that form the core of the story. Read them here for free.

Highly recommended.


Virtually No Research

Psychology lecturer Susan Engel is clueless, at least to judge by this Boston Globe op-ed.

I have reviewed more than 300 studies of K–12 academic tests. What I have discovered is startling. Most tests used to evaluate students, teachers, and school districts predict almost nothing except the likelihood of achieving similar scores on subsequent tests. I have found virtually no research demonstrating a relationship between those tests and measures of thinking or life outcomes.

That standardized tests, especially well-designed IQ tests, forecast a wide variety of “life outcomes” is one of the most well-established facts in all of psychology. For a useful overview, see Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction.

But Engel does not need to trust me! She can just ask her colleague down the hall, Williams professor Nate Kornell:


Kornell is recently tenured so, with luck, he will feel more comfortable puncturing the PC beliefs of his colleagues in the future. Here’s hoping!

Suggestion for the Ephs behind Uncomfortable Learning: Organize a debate between Engel and Kornel on the predictive abilities of IQ tests like the SAT.


Kornell, Watson, and Crick

Funniest professor at Williams? There are many candidates. But I laughed out loud when reading Nate Kornell’s CV.

Don’t see the joke? You need to read to the very end . . .



Any other candidates for funniest professor? Or, at least, funniest CV?


Kornell Retweets Pinker

A secret EphBlog vice is to identify faculty members who are on the right of the campus consensus. This tweet makes me think that (recently tenured!) psychology professor Nate Kornell may be a secret member of the not-crazy-left-wing Eph brigade.


As always, a retweet is not an endorsement, but it seems clear to me that Kornell is sympathetic to Pinker’s point: the campaign against campus rape, while laudable in theory, seems in practice to be deeply suspect.

If I were a male Williams student accused of sexual assault, I would seek advice from Kornell. He might be sympathetic to your plight.


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