Tag Archives: Failure

New report: Americans rank last in problem solving using technology

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new analysis of problem solving skills.

Excerpt:

A new report finds U.S. workers rank dead last among 18 industrial countries when it comes to “problem solving in technology-rich environments,” or using digital technology to evaluate information and perform practical tasks. The consequences of that emerging competitive disadvantage is energizing the volatile undercurrent of this year’s presidential race, some observers say.

If the problem-solving deficit is bad, the reasons for it may be worse, said Stephen Provasnik, the U.S. technical adviser for the International Assessment for Adult Competency: flagging literacy and numeracy skills, which are the fundamental tools needed to score well on the survey.

[…]The results build off a global survey conducted in 2012 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. To better compare the skills of younger and older adults and the unemployed, researchers did additional surveys in 2014. The countries that scored the highest on the problem-solving with technology criteria were Japan, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Poland scored second to last, just above the U.S.

One stark revelation is that about four-fifths of unemployed Americans cannot figure out a rudimentary problem in which they have to spot an error when data is transferred from a two-column spreadsheet to a bar graph. And Americans are far less adept at dealing with numbers than the average of their global peers.

Why is that a problem? It’s a problem because the best jobs all require proficiency in math.

Consider these starting salaries and mid-career salaries for various majors:

Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)
Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)

(Source)

The common denominator in all these degrees is mathematics, which is out of favor with many Americans. But clearly learning math would enable them to get the highest paying jobs – private sector STEM jobs. So why aren’t they learning math?

People drop math because it’s too hard

People who drop math typically do so because they want to focus on other things that are less difficult. Most of them just want to have fun… sometimes with watching TV all day, sometimes with premarital sex, sometimes with alcohol and drugs. Families break down as women choose hot, irresponsible men and have babies with them out of wedlock. And those kids learn less than their parents knew. There just isn’t any interest in much of America about learning hard things like math, so you can get those private sector STEM jobs that pay well.

Consider this post by Kevin Williamson in National Review magazine:

The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.

Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

Trump vs Hillary head-to-head: No Trumpkin can make sense of this chart
Trump vs Hillary head-to-head: Trumpkins lack the math skills to make sense of this table

David French, who grew up in Kentucky, and then attended Harvard Law School, adds this in National Review:

These are strong words, but they are fundamentally true and important to say. My childhood was different from Kevin’s, but I grew up in Kentucky, live in a rural county in Tennessee, and have seen the challenges of the white working-class first-hand. Simply put, Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it. The economy isn’t putting a bottle in their hand. Immigrants aren’t making them cheat on their wives or snort OxyContin. Obama isn’t walking them into the lawyer’s office to force them to file a bogus disability claim.

For generations, conservatives have rightly railed against deterministic progressive notions that put human choices at the mercy of race, class, history, or economics. Those factors can create additional challenges, but they do not relieve any human being of the moral obligation to do their best.

Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days — or perhaps even as little as a few hours — they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement.

And that’s where disability or other government programs kicked in. They were there, beckoning, giving men and women alternatives to gainful employment. You don’t have to do any work (your disability lawyer does all the heavy lifting), you make money, and you get drugs. At our local regional hospital, it’s become a bitter joke the extent to which the community is hooked on “Xanatab” — the Xanax and Lortab prescriptions that lead to drug dependence.

Of course we should have compassion even as we call on people to do better. I have compassion for kids who often see the worst behavior modeled at home. I have compassion for families facing economic uncertainty. But compassion can’t excuse or enable self-destructive moral failures.

Chart showing Trump vs Clinton: Trumpkins can't read this
Chart showing Trump vs Clinton: Trumpkins can’t read this chart, because it requires math skills

I have compassion for the kids, too. But not for the grown-ups, who seem to think that the world owes them a living even if they avoid learning hard things like math, and behave immorally. But there is no guarantee of success for people who don’t learn math, and who don’t behave morally. And it’s not anyone else’s fault.

Related posts

William Lane Craig lectures on failure in the Christian life

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

I found this audio on Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 web site.

Here is the MP3 file.

And here is my summary.

Intro:

  • the topic of failure is not one that is often discussed by Christians
  • failure #1: failure in the Christian life which is the result of sin
  • failure #2: when a Christian is defeated while trying to serve God
  • the consequences for failure #1 can be worse for the Christian
  • the consequences for failure #2 can be worse for the world as whole
  • how is it possible for a person to fail when they are obeying God? (#2)
  • how can it be that God can call someone to a task then let them fail?
  • failure is not persecution – persecution is normal for Christians
  • failure is not trials – testing is normal for Christians to grow

Bill’s failure:

  • Bill had submitted all the coursework for his second doctoral degree
  • but he had to pass a comprehensive oral examination
  • he failed to pass the comprehensive exam
  • Bill and Jan and his supporters had all prayed for him to pass
  • how could God allow this to happen?

Solution to the problem:

  • God’s will for us may be that we fail at the things we try in life
  • there are things that God may teach us through failure
  • Bill learned that human relationships are more important than careers
  • we need to realize that “success” in life is not worldly success
  • true success is getting to know God well during your life
  • and failure may be the best way to get to know God well
  • it may even be possible to fail to know God while achieving a lot
  • the real measure of a man is loving God and loving your fellow man

Practical:

  • give thanks to God regardless of your circumstances
  • try to learn from your failure
  • never give up

The ending of Bill’s story:

  • Bill spent an entire year preparing for a re-take of his exam
  • Bill was awarded his second doctorate “magna cum laude” (with great distinction)
  • Bill learned that American students are not well prepared for exams
  • the year of studying remedied his inadequate American education
  • in retrospect, he is thankful for the failure – he learned more

If you like this, you should pick up Craig’s book “Hard Questions, Real Answers“, which has a chapter on this problem.

Is Obamacare working? State exchanges losing enrollees in 29 states

He's better at golf than foreign policy
He’s better at golf than health care policy

This article is from the Daily Caller, and was pointed out to me by one of my secular leftist co-workers.

It says:

Obamacare exchanges had a net loss total of 238,119 enrollees in 29 states and the District of Columbia within the three-month period between the end of March and end of June.

According to analysis the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), numbers released from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that enrollment in all 50 states and DC as of June 31 is at 9.9 million. This number is down from 10.2 million on March 31.

Florida lost 101,091 enrollees, Georgia 34,925, North Carolina 32,300, Pennsylvania 29,487, Texas 23,194, New Jersey 14,273, Indiana 13,268, and Arizona 10,905.

“The poor performance of the program is bad news for the long-term sustainability of the federal and state Obamacare exchanges given their reliance on paying enrollees to meet costs,” ATR explained.

“Exchanges typically fund their operations through a fee on premiums: the federal exchange that provides 37 states with coverage charges a 3.5 percent premium, while state exchanges are free to choose their own rate. Fewer enrollees could signal the beginning of a death spiral for the Obamacare exchanges,” according to ATR.

Many state exchanges, however, are also reportedly in disarray. Reason Magazine reports that while the federal government “spent billions on creating Obamacare’s exchanges” it did not track the money appropriately, and many of the state-run exchanges are not working.

According to a Government Accountability Office report, only Vermont completed work on technology to send data to the IRS, while only 10 other states were partially complete. Additionally, Hawaii and Minnesota performed no testing at all on their exchange systems.

Government shouldn’t be running health care, that is something best left to health care specialists in the free market, who have skin in the game and have to compete with other providers in order to produce products and services that people actually want. It’s not working, and it’s costing us too much to move forward with a failed plan.

William Lane Craig lectures on failure in the Christian life

I found this audio on Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 web site.

Here is the MP3 file.

And here is my summary.

Intro:

  • the topic of failure is not one that is often discussed by Christians
  • failure #1: failure in the Christian life which is the result of sin
  • failure #2: when a Christian is defeated while trying to serve God
  • the consequences for failure #1 can be worse for the Christian
  • the consequences for failure #2 can be worse for the world as whole
  • how is it possible for a person to fail when they are obeying God? (#2)
  • how can it be that God can call someone to a task then let them fail?
  • failure is not persecution – persecution is normal for Christians
  • failure is not trials – testing is normal for Christians to grow

Bill’s failure:

  • Bill had submitted all the coursework for his second doctoral degree
  • but he had to pass a comprehensive oral examination
  • he failed to pass the comprehensive exam
  • Bill and Jan and his supporters had all prayed for him to pass
  • how could God allow this to happen?

Solution to the problem:

  • God’s will for us may be that we fail at the things we try in life
  • there are things that God may teach us through failure
  • Bill learned that human relationships are more important than careers
  • we need to realize that “success” in life is not worldly success
  • true success is getting to know God well during your life
  • and failure may be the best way to get to know God well
  • it may even be possible to fail to know God while achieving a lot
  • the real measure of a man is loving God and loving your fellow man

Practical:

  • give thanks to God regardless of your circumstances
  • try to learn from your failure
  • never give up

The ending of Bill’s story:

  • Bill spent an entire year preparing for a re-take of his exam
  • Bill was awarded his second doctorate “magna cum laude” (with great distinction)
  • Bill learned that American students are not well prepared for exams
  • the year of studying remedied his inadequate American education
  • in retrospect, he is thankful for the failure – he learned more

If you like this, you should pick up Craig’s book “Hard Questions, Real Answers“, which has a chapter on this problem. And here is a similar lecture that Dr. Craig gave at his home church in Atlanta on the same topic. I’m not posting this because I’ve had a catastrophic failure or anything. But I think in this economy, I am seeing a lot of my plans dashed and I am being forced to circle the wagons a little and take fewer risks. I am being forced to aim for smaller goals, and plan for future difficulties. It does bother me that I can’t comfortably take risks to achieve the best goals that I want to achieve. But I have to play the hand I’m dealt, and do what looks doable right now. Some of my friends are having the same problem of having to recalculate what is probable and what is possible.

Can a Christian woman divorce her husband if she is really, really unhappy?

So, the topic for this post is whether it’s OK to get divorced.

I noticed a lot of people getting divorced these days in the church, and trying to justify why they are allowed to divorce and why they should be allowed to pursue remarriage. So I’m first going to quote from an article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy.

She writes:

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Now, I had always taken the rule of Dr. Laura for this. She says that you can get divorced for adultery and abandonment (as above), but she allows allows for physical abuse and drug addiction. But it looks like the Bible is more strict than Dr. Laura, even.

Now with that Biblical standard in mind, take a look at this post about a woman who professes to be a Christian who is divorcing her husband for unhappiness, which I found on Sunshine Mary’s blog.

Look:

So how are we to understand women like Jenny Erickson, and the many other Christian women like her, who claim that despite thousands of years of Christian and Jewish tradition, despite the clear commands in Scripture not to separate from one’s husband, despite the commandments against adultery, nevertheless the Lord God Himself has made a special exemption just for her?  Because He wants her to be happy, so if she needs to be a faithless woman who breaks her vows and becomes an adulteress, then hey it’s all good?

[…]After secretly filing for divorce from her husband, Mrs. Erickson’s pastor caught wind of the situation and attempted to discuss it with her.  When she refused, the pastor went to her husband about the situation.  Mrs. Erickson has since railed against her soon-to-be ex-husband and her now ex-Pastor because they actually had the nerve to call what she was doing a sin – which, according to the Bible, is is.  Let’s read through a few quotes from Mrs. Erickson:

Thankfully, my faith in God is stronger than my fear of men, and I feel like I’m finally getting right with Him again after years of wandering in the wilderness.

[…]Here are a few more things that Mrs. Erickson claims:

It’s odd and strangely freeing to not know exactly where I’m going to be a year from now. I’ve always been the girl with The Plan. The Plan has changed every now and then, because hey, life requires adaptation, but right now there is No Plan other than love my girls like crazy, work hard enough to pay the bills, and rely totally and fully on God.  I’m sure His Plan is better than My Plan anyway.

and

I needed a time-out for my marriage — possibly a permanent one. But every person that tells me I’m going against God’s will by separating from my husband drives me further away from wanting to reconcile with him.

Details aren’t needed. Leif is the father of my amazing children, and I want nothing more than to be his friend again someday, regardless of what happens in our marriage. But things have been very broken between us for a very long time, and it took every ounce of courage I had to take the step that went against everything my religious culture told me but somehow I knew God was telling me was right.

and

To be told that this beautiful, wonderful thing I have learned exists in my soul, this thing that gives me the strength to flip my life over when nothing else has worked, this thing that has made me braver than I thought possible, and made me rely on God more than I ever have in my entire life … to be told that this is a perversion of His plan for me?

These points must confuse a lot of women because I have heard these rationalizations used by many Christian women who are leaving or have left their husbands.  Therefore, allow me to clear up the confusion that seems to be rampant (but it really isn’t confusion, it is willful disobedience), lest any of my sisters in Christ are considering following Mrs. Erickson’s example.

God’s plan for you will never include violating anything written in the Bible.

If you hear a voice whispering in your ear, Here’s the plan; what I want you to do is... and the plan includes going against clear commandments in God’s Word, then it is not God who is speaking to you.  God’s plan for your life, sister, never includes you filing for divorce.  Not ever, not under any circumstances, no matter what your husband has or has not done, no matter what you want, no matter what would make you happy.

So, I think we (men) need to be really careful with spousal candidates (women) who claim to be Christian – we need to make sure that they really are comfortable with being led and with the authority of the Bible to overrule their feelings. In fact, you can check to see if a person takes their faith seriously just by trying to lead them to take the Bible seriously. You just have to read the Bible and think about how to live it out in a marriage, and then talk to your spousal candidate about what you’ve discovered. You want to present to them your plans and your reasons for those plans, and explain what you need them to do in order to make the plan work. This is a great way to see if they know what marriage is really about and how they feel about what’s expected of them if they marry YOU.