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March 19, 2013

Race Didn't Cost Abigail Fisher Her Spot at the University of Texas

This is yet another anti-Affirmitive Action lawsuit before the Supreme Court challenging the use of race in university admissions. Only in this case the prospective student had no chance of getting in because her grades were not good. Race Didn't Cost Abigail Fisher Her Spot at the University of Texas - Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pro Publica - The Atlantic Wire
"There were people in my class with lower grades who weren't in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin," she says. "I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?" It's a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that's been quoted over and over again. Except there's a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn't really true. . . . In 2008, the year Fisher sent in her application, competition to get into the crown jewel of the Texas university system was stiff. Students entering through the university's Top 10 program — a mechanism that granted automatic admission to any teen who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his or her high school class — claimed 92 percent of the in-state spots. Fisher said in news reports that she hoped for the day universities selected students "solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it." But Fisher failed to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, meaning she had to compete for the limited number of spaces up for grabs. She and other applicants who did not make the cut were evaluated based on two scores. One allotted points for grades and test scores. The other, called a personal achievement index, awarded points for two required essays, leadership, activities, service and "special circumstances." Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student's school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race. Those two scores, combined, determine admission. Even among those students, Fisher did not particularly stand out. Court records show her grade point average (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600) were good but not great for the highly selective flagship university. The school's rejection rate that year for the remaining 841 openings was higher than the turn-down rate for students trying to get into Harvard.

March 16, 2013

Internet assholes want you to focus group your book as you write it

The exact approach that made modern Hollywood such a dull place and which created forgettable and ephemeral pop music is now supposed to make a book popular? Writer, Please. This is all about callous, disruptive start-up brogrammers trying to push their services via a plum article in the New Yorker. Nothing in this article is wisdom. Nothing is true. It's toxic and poisonous to art. A Book Is a Start-up: Lessons from Leanpub, Net Minds, and Other Publishing Hustlers : The New Yorker
Armstrong suggests that a book and a start-up are each “a risky, highly creative endeavor undertaken by a small team, with low probability of success.” In either case, he says, you can go into “stealth mode”—which, he contends, will easily result in creating something that nobody wants. “To say you’re going to go off in a room and write the perfect thing without getting feedback from anybody is—I don’t want to say ‘arrogant’—but I couldn’t do it.” Editors, he adds, “function as a good proxy for readers”—but are not as effective as readers themselves. And so, it follows that the solution is to begin a project—in this case, a book—and let the people have at it. He calls this Lean Publishing, or “the act of publishing an in-progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback, pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do.” There are several other companies experimenting with letting readers in on the writing process: Sourcebooks has tried test-marketing early online editions, and the start-up Coliloquy has devised a choose-your-own-adventure model that allows readers to record their choices as they progress through books, providing authors with feedback. All this data can inform publishers about how to produce books with the most possible appeal—even if that means the writer’s creative authority recedes, allowing popular demand to take control. “We believe a writer is not necessarily a writer,” Sanders, the Net Minds C.E.O., said. “They are content containers.” At the Net Minds website, freelancers can sign up as writers or ghostwriters, as well as editors, copyreaders, designers, and publicists. The writer, then, arrives with a thought, for manufacture. The mechanics of book start-ups suggest an assembly line at times—indeed, the term “Lean” comes from the demand-driven Toyota Production System in Japan, put in place during the second half of the twentieth century. Lean is good commerce—if not necessarily the makings of high art. A start-up book, though, is for mere mortals.
(Thanks? To Ken Lowery for pointing this and so many other things out.)