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should stata just give up and die?

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I love Stata. I use Stata. I make my students use Stata. But I’ve got a problem and it’s called R. The problem is that R is also amazing. My friends use it. My students use it and a lot of social science/data science is now R or Python.

Why is Stata cool? Simple – it is built for stats. Regression is simply reg y x. Weights, clustering, and using subsamples is easy. The manuals and tutorials are cool. It is also way, way stable and there are great libraries that archive algorithms and commands. There is a Stata journal showing you you how to implement the latest models.

But while Stata is amazing, it lacks two major advantages over R: Stata is not free and Stata is not consistent with the broader computer science world (i.e., once you know how to program in general, it is easy to get R and Python, while Stata has it’s own logic).

What should I do? The answer is pretty simple. Learn some R. But the deeper question is what should we do with Stata? Should we continue to use Stata in teaching? Why not dump Stata entirely and make all social science students learn R? What reason do social scientists have in continuing to use Stata, or SAS, or SPSS? Why not just make statistical education and computer science education come together? Why not just say, “look if you want to get a degree in economics, or sociology, or political science, or any field where statistics is common, you will just have to suck it up and learn a little about computer code?” It would be cheaper and prepare students better for a world were statistical programming is now subsumed into basic computer programming. The world of SAS specialists, or COBOL or FORTRAN specialists, is coming to an end. Maybe we should admit it and move on.

As every Marine is a rifleman, every social scientist is an R coder.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome

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Written by fabiorojas

September 8, 2017 at 4:01 am

who took my affirmative action program?

Sociological Science just published “The Partial Deinstitutionalization of Affirmative Action in U.S. Higher Education, 1988 to 2014” by Dan Hirschman and Ellen Berrey. The abstract:

Since the 1990s, affirmative action opponents have targeted colleges’ and universities’ race-conscious admissions policies and secured bans on the practice in eight states. Although scholarly and media attention has focused on these dynamics at a handful of elite institutions, little is known about race-conscious admissions across the broader field of higher education. We provide a descriptive, quantitative account of how different types of colleges and universities responded to this political context. Through analysis of almost 1,000 selective colleges and universities, we find a dramatic shift in stated organizational policy starting in the mid-1990s. In 1994, 60 percent of selective institutions publicly declared that they considered race in undergraduate admissions; by 2014, just 35 percent did. This decline varied depending on status (competitiveness) and sector (public or private). Race-conscious admissions remain the stated policy of almost all of the most elite public and private institutions. The retreat from race-conscious admissions occurs largely among schools lower in the status hierarchy: very competitive public institutions and competitive public and private institutions. These patterns are not explained by implementation of state-level bans. We suggest that the anti–affirmative action movement had a diffuse impact whose effects varied across different strata of American higher education.

The interesting thing will be to connect this data to the racial composition of campuses. One hypothesis is that this is myth and ceremony. You remove public statements about affirmative action but find other ways to work it into admissions office practice.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

August 30, 2017 at 12:01 am

racism at harvard and student protest

Jamile Lartey of the Guardian wrote an article addressing campus protest at Harvard and what students of social movements have to say current activists (see my post earlier this week):

For 80 years the family crest of the brutal slaveholder Isaac Royall Jr served as the official seal of the prestigious Harvard Law School.

Royall, whose endowment founded HLS in 1817, once instructed that 77 enslaved Africans be burned alive at the stake for an insurrection on his family’s Antigua sugar plantation.

In March, student protesters at Harvard notched a decisive victory in their fight to “decolonize” their campus, when administrators announced they would retire the Royall family seal, citing “the prospect that its imagery might evoke associations with slavery”.

Two months later, many of the students who pushed for the change say the decision is bittersweet. The removal of the seal sends a message, they say, but it doesn’t do enough to address the currents of racism on campus.

The article has a nice overview of current protest. Lartey also discusses From Black Power to Black Studies in some detail:

In his book From Black Power to Black Studies he chronicles how black activism and demands in the late 1960s led to the creation of new academic departments and disciplines like black studies, and later Chicano and women’s studies that exist to this day.

“Students are so into the adrenaline of protests and screaming at people but then you have to know when there’s an opening, when do we have a moment to actually get something reasonable in. You have to be prepared with something that will really work in the context of that institution,” Rojas said. “Social movements do not win by merely being expressive, they have to have a plan.” This, Rojas said, is different from simply having demands.

Rojas cited the protests at San Francisco State College in 1968 as an example of the tenacity and organization required to effect meaningful change. A coalition of students of color demanded the school open a black studies department along with more ambitions demands like free tuition for all students of color. Students forced the issue with a “guerrilla campaign”, which included mass rallies spawning hundreds of arrests, physical intimidation and even small-scale bombings. They also threatened a strike. Ultimately administrators and students arrived at a compromise.

These demands were considered radical in 1968, but compared with the standard of some of last autumn’s student protests, they are comparatively mild. Students at the University of North Carolina, for example, demanded the “elimination of tuition and fees for all students” and the defunding and disarming of campus police.

Will today’s student protesters marshal the same leverage, patience and intensity to force these kinds of concessions? “Students can make change to these institutions,” Clayborne said. “It comes from small groups of committed people coming together and building it.”

Interesting.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

April 15, 2016 at 12:01 am

advice for black student movements today

I recently had a long discussion with a journalist about the current state of black student activism and we spent a lot of time thinking about what can be learned from the past. I started with two major points:

  • Have specific and achievable demands. One of the big lessons of movement research is that you need to present ideas that make sense within the institutional context of the protest. Hire more minority faculty? Achievable. End all micro-aggression? Not achievable.
  • Clearly link protest tactics to outcomes. A lot of protest is highly expressive and it is not clear how it is linked to some concrete social change. One of the brilliant tactics employed by the students at Missouri was having football players boycott an NCAA game. The penalty was $1 million per game. The protest mattered.

Then, we got into more subtle issues:

  • When possible, student activists should be deeply involved in activism off campus. In my study of the Third World Strike, I was deeply impressed with how much help campus activists got not only from “protest groups” (like the Oakland based Black Panthers) but also from religious leaders, attorneys, and politicians.
  • Learn to cultivate alliances with institutional insiders. In my book on Black student protest and Black studies, I discuss numerous instances where students relied on deans, consultants, and lawyers to help push their case.
  • Know when to fight and when to compromise. Assuming that one has a well planned protest, there may be a point when you can get something. Social change is not about eternal fighting, it’s also about knowing when to claim a victory and get something.

Feel free to use the comments to discuss more lessons from research for activists.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

race and schools, a talk by leslie hinkson

Guest blogger emeritus Leslie Hinkson has a TEDx talk on race and schools. Check it out!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 3, 2015 at 12:01 am

the one with the trigger warning

I was recently asked about trigger warnings. Honestly, it is not something I worry about. In fact, it is something that I think so little about that I had to actually look up the definition to make sure I understood the term properly. The wiki definition is that you warn the audience about unsettling content. Doesn’t seem that bad to me. I later learned that there is a healthy debate about whether it is appropriate to have trigger warnings. Shouldn’t college classrooms sponsor debate? Is it really the responsibility of an instructor to make sure that every single student feels perfectly comfortable with every single topic?

College classrooms are interesting speech situations. People buy a college education, but they don’t directly control the content. The service providers even expect people to be uncomfortable. The question then is when is discomfort allowed. If it is allowed, how do we handle it?

A simple standard is: “what would be allowed between strangers interested broadly interested in ideas?” By that standard, we’d almost certainly exclude speech that is bullying, but allow scholarly discussions of all sorts of topics (e.g., we don’t call the other person an X, but we can discuss X as a term). Long as it has a clearly defined intellectual goal, it should be fine. Also, for strangers, we’d probably almost always tell them when we’re about to discuss something that average person might find genuinely shocking, or proceed very slowly when doing so. But being in a world of “ideas and debate,” there is actually a presumption of discomfort. Colleges are also pedagogical, so there is value in letting people learn how to discuss uncomfortable things. Bottom line: Warning people of graphic content is fair enough, but it shouldn’t prevent discussion of things, even those that are offensive.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

October 27, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in edcucation, fabio