Monday, June 1, 2009

Epic soft science: Kindergarten edition


In this Saturday's edition of Dagbladet, there was a feature on how the different political parties viewed the government's role in child care, including kindergarten. This has become a much higher priority for me as of late, so I scoped it out. Beside the usual "If the Progress Party becomes part of a government coalition we will all have to live in cardboard boxes under bridges and highway overpasses while our children sew Persian carpets and soccer balls" partisan hyperbole*, the results and main conclusions of a recent Norwegian study on children in day care were presented. The study concluded that children who went to kindergarten were better socially adapted than children who didn't. According to the study, this could be attributed to the adaptive learning environment the kindergartens have to offer. On the same page, there was a small fact box stating among other things that 97% of Norwegian children presently attend kindergarten.

Now I'm not an expert in social sciences, but from the two pieces of information listed above I could tell you that they can't possibly draw this conclusion with any kind of certainty whatsoever. And by the way - I'm not deriding kindergartens when I say that; they're pretty much the only realistic alternative today. What I am saying, however, is that this is very much akin to concluding that almost all registered purchases of wine and liquor in Norway by private citizens happen at Vinmonopolet (the ABC store) because of the knowledgeable and service-minded staff.

Of course children get more social training in kindergarten when that's where 97% of children are. If your kid ain't in kindergarten, there are no other children around to play with and thus hard to socialize.

While I am not on a crusade against soft sciences, this is pretty damn descriptive of how soft science studies - at least the ones that make it to mainstream media - deal with analyzing statistical data. Perhaps not surprising, considering that those who embark on humanities studies avoid math and hard sciences like the plague - both from personal choice and because the high school system hardly facilitates overlap between the two.

*Note that this in no way, shape or form should be taken to mean that the Progress Party is likely to get my vote this upcoming Fall.

5 comments:

Anders said...

Of course children get more social training in kindergarten when that's where 97% of children are. If your kid ain't in kindergarten, there are no other children around to play with and thus hard to socialize.

That's what I've been saying for years now. Don't need no survey to tell me that. My duaghter had to stay home for some months, and there are no kids in the neigbourhood from 8-16. Because they are in kindergarten or school. It's a no-brainer.

...avoid math and hard sciences like the plague - both from personal choice and because the high school system hardly facilitates overlap between the two

What surprises me most is that when we where young and promising, and opted for the "math and hard science*" route in high school, the math curriculum did not include statistics. That was reserved for the soft science/ economy math. Personally I use statistics more then any other kind of math in my daily work, and I can't think of any other disciplin of math that has a more wide-spread use through-out the hard sciences.

*Note that this in no way, shape or form should be taken to mean that the Progress Party is likely to get my vote this upcoming Fall

You left wing liberal...


*..and biology, at least for me. :-D

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Wilhelm said...

That's what I've been saying for years now. Don't need no survey to tell me that. My duaghter had to stay home for some months, and there are no kids in the neigbourhood from 8-16. Because they are in kindergarten or school. It's a no-brainer.

If you've got more foregone conclusions of that nature and write an application on a Mac with some weird fonts, odds are you could get funding.

What surprises me most is that when we where young and promising, and opted for the "math and hard science*" route in high school, the math curriculum did not include statistics. That was reserved for the soft science/ economy math.

...and yet they constantly make bad calls through use of statistics.

Personally I use statistics more then any other kind of math in my daily work, and I can't think of any other disciplin of math that has a more wide-spread use through-out the hard sciences.

While statistics comprise a large part of the data treatment I do, I've found immense use for all branches of math I've ever encountered, particularly linear algebra, differential equations and statistics. Math is your friend, but cannot be trusted to keep you with lunch money :-)

You left wing liberal...

Well well well...how's it hangin', Rush Limbaugh? :-)

Torbjørn said...

Saw this article in today's BT:

http://www.bt.no/okonomi/article858004.ece

It says that women that went to kindergarten in the 70's make more money than women at the same age which didn't. There can of course be several reasons for this, but at least the comparison between kindergarten vs not kindergarten seems more fair.

Wilhelm said...

Sure, but this study only looked at the regions where kindergartens were being built at a sufficient rate. How does this compare to the national rates as a whole? Also, is there a correlation between overall economic growth (and institution of universities and university colleges) in the sampled regions compared to the national average?