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April

Sub-archives

Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 12, 2024 11:04 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Harvard requiring test scores, the death of OJ Simpson, Lauren Sanchez at the White House, and not being allowed to contact an old boyfriend become best friend.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Harvard will require Test Scores starting next year", and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. As the title says, Harvard University announced yesterday that it will require students who are applying for the Fall of 2025 to provide standardized test scores. Harvard follows a number of other selective universities in reversing course regarding tests. I have discussed several similar threads on the topic of standardized tests and I don't see much in this thread that is different from previous discussions. For years there was opposition to standardized testing because opponents believed that testing favored the privileged who could afford test preparation classes and multiple retakes. Then the COVID pandemic caused test centers to close and universities resorted to test optional policies. In the midst of all this the US Supreme Court, partially due to evidence that applicants with higher test scores were being refused admission in favor of minority students with lower scores, prohibited the use of race as a factor in admissions. Joyful test supporters celebrated a return to a time in which the best and the brightest — as evidenced by test scores — would be selected for college. But standing in the way of that vision were test optional admissions policies which critics viewed as a way to continue admitting less qualified minority students. Now that selective colleges are again requiring test scores, this group believes their goal is being achieved. But, not so fast, at least if you believe university officials. As a string of prestigious colleges have reinstated test scores requirements, they have all consistently broadcast the same message. School administrators have argued that test scores, far from disadvantaging underrepresented minority students, can actually help them and, they argue, test optional policies have harmed rather then benefitted URM applicants. So standardized tests, previously viewed as a hurdle to the disadvantaged, are being reintroduced not in the manner that test supporters have hoped — as a clear cut means of distinguishing academic capability — but rather as a tool for increasing diversity. As the Washington Post article cited by the original poster quotes Harvard Professor Raj Chetty as saying, "Considering standardized test scores is likely to make the admissions process at Harvard more meritocratic while increasing socioeconomic diversity." The argument about tests has flipped 180 degrees. The argument being made by the universities is that a student from a disadvantaged background who has fairly decent test score may be seen as a better candidate than a more advantaged applicant with a higher score. By not submitting those less than top scores, these applicants have been hurting their chances. Now their chances will improve as the test scores are viewed in the wider context of a student's background. This raises two questions for me. One, are these school officials to be believed? Are they really going to select disadvantaged students with lower test scores than advantaged students they reject? Or, is this just a nice argument that makes the policy change more appetizing? Second, if schools actually do follow through and do this, won't they end up back in court?

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 11, 2024 06:37 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the "Big 15" private and independent schools, intelligence and political alignment, choosing between a tenured professorship and a husband's advancement, and the Arizona Supreme Court abortion ruling.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "Big 15??" and posted in the "Private & Independent Schools" forum. The original poster provided a list of 15 private and independent schools and suggested that posters rank them using various criteria that the original poster provided. The original poster also said that others could not add or subtract from the list. Almost from the beginning of this forum's creation there has been an obsession among some posters with the rank of schools. There have been bitter battles waged over which schools should be considered the "Big 3". The "Big 3" or "Big 5" or even the "Big 10" has been so contentious that the forum even has a "sticky" post on the topic. Expanding the list to the "Big 15" may be taking things a bit too far and the stipulation that schools cannot be added or removed seems a kind of controlling if I am honest. But, as you would expect from DCUM in general, and this forum in particular, posters are not too concerned about following rules. Before the first page was complete posters had already started adding and removing schools. The position of various schools in the original poster's list is disputed with boosters of particular schools arguing that they should be higher on the list and detractors arguing they should be lower. These disputes are sometimes accompanied by derogatory comments such as those accusing both Holton and Georgetown Day School supporters of being "delusional". The thing about a thread like this is that the original poster knows it will turn into a train wreck and everyone replying knows that it will be a train wreck. Yet, they can't help themselves. I probably received a half dozen reports about this thread from posters complaining that it is a train wreck. Of course it is, why would anyone expect anything else? I finally locked the thread this morning mostly so I could write this post without being interpreted by additional reports about it. The original poster had warned against adding BASIS Independent McLean, a member of the BASIS independent school network that has become quite controversial. The school, normally referred to as "BIM" on DCUM, has a group of extreme boosters who I've repeatedly caught sock puppetting supportive posts. The boosters tend to stake their claim for the school's superiority on ratings by Niche, a website that collects data and reviews about schools. I really know nothing about Niche and can't comment on the accuracy or validity of it ratings. BIM supporters and detractors obviously hold contrary opinions of the website. Despite the original poster's prohibition on adding BIM to the list, a BIM booster was not to be stopped and promptly put BIM at number 1 in her list. Then, true to form, the poster immediately sock puppetted a response quoting her own post and describing the list as "Very accurate". Other posters attempted to add public schools to the list, creating their own controversy. Just to be clear, I think any thread of this nature is pretty stupid and a waste of time. If your ego is so fragile that it hinges on whether your kids' school is number 1 or number 5 on a list, you would probably be better off spending money on therapy than private school. The only redeeming value of such threads is that the vast majority of posters don't take them seriously.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 11, 2024 09:22 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the name "Saoirse", estranged parents and college graduation, colleges for kids with 1400 and below SAT scores, and buying condoms for teens.

The most active thread yesterday was a bit of a surprise. Titled, "Is Saoirse cruel?" and posted in the "Expectant and Postpartum Moms" forum, I honestly had no clue what this thread was about based on its title. My first thought was that it was referring to a new fangled birthing method or the latest fad child-rearing philosophy. But, it turns out that "Saoirse" in an Irish name that the original poster is considering using for her daughter. The original poster is Irish-American and has loved this name for many years. She would like to give her daughter an Irish name as way of connecting the child to herself and her family. But she wonders if a lifetime of mispronunciations and poor guessing is a cruel burden to put on the child. To make things even more confusing for readers, the original poster added that they would also use the nickname "Sari (said like hair, just like how we'd say sair-shuh)". The immediate reaction from those responding was that not only did they not have any idea how to pronounce "Saoirse", they could not comprehend how "Sari" could be said like "hair". Therefore, as you might expect, there was a wave of responses advising the original poster not to choose this name. The orignal poster has also mentioned that there might be more awareness of the name because of Saoirse Ronan. I had to Google "Saoirse Ronan" in order to learn that she is an actress, but one whose performances I've never seen. So, she was, in fact, no help in my case. I seemed to not be alone in this regard. Amidst the warnings that nobody would be able to either pronounce or spell the name, a few posters were supportive of using it. They think the name is beautiful and argue that the original poster should not worry about the concerns expressed by others. Some posters suggest that "Saoirse" might, in fact, be getting more well known in the US and that many children have unusual names these days. There was an entire side debate about the appropriateness of Irish-Americans using Irish names, especially ones that are not even that common in Ireland and, as in this case, have political significance. Multiple posters, including one who herself has an Irish name that is difficult for Americans to pronounce, believe that parents who choose such names are being pretentious and "try-hard". They think such parents enjoy correcting others and either showing that they are worldly or stressing their Irishness. However, every objection to the name was met with a response brushing off the criticism. There were also suggestions for alternatives such as using "Saoirse" as a middle name or spelling it phonetically. For her part, when the original poster finally returned to the thread, her reaction was "Woah I didn't expect people to have this much to say!" Welcome to DCUM. Or should I say, fáilte.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 09, 2024 07:28 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included telling someone about their spouse's affair, Dr. Anthony Fauci, how posters met their spouses, and Biden's lates student loan forgiveness plan.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "Would you tell DH’s AP’s husband?" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster says that she has just confirmed that her husband has been having an affair. Her husband says that he has now ended the affair but the original poster has considerable anger towards her husband's affair partner. Feeling that the affair partner deserves to have her marriage blown up in the same manner that the original poster has been, the original poster is considering informing the affair partner's husband about the affair. This is a topic that comes up with some regularity in the relationship forum. Generally, as in this thread, posters tend to lean toward disclosure. Not only are several of those who respond interested in vengeance, but they argue that an unsuspecting spouse has the right to know about the affair in order to make informed decisions. The risk of a cheating spouse spreading a venereal disease is repeatedly cited as a justification. On the other hand, some posters argue that this could simply be making a bad situation worse. It could make recovering from the affair more difficult and create an enemy who might complicate things. These posters urge the original poster to focus on saving her marriage if that is what she wants or preparing for divorce if that is her desire. They argue that informing the affair partner's spouse would only be a distraction that would do no good. A number of posters who have been in this situation described their experiences. Those that informed the affair partner's spouse generally seem pleased with their decision. Some found it satisfying for the revenge factor and others encountered cheated-upon spouses eager to learn details that their spouse had hidden from them. There were some bad experiences, however. One poster said that the women with whom her husband had an affair convinced her spouse that the poster was crazy and the affair partner's husband even contacted the poster's husband to discuss her mental health. In another case a poster informed the husband of her husband's affair partner and he showed up at their house with a gun. He threatened the poster's husband, scared their children, and made a huge scene in front of all the neighbors. One of the most common justifications for not telling was the impact it might have on the other couple's children. However, many posters felt that any negative impact on the children was the fault of the cheaters. Eventually this thread transitioned to simple back and forth between the "tells" and the "don't tells" with nobody really adding anything new.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 08, 2024 12:45 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, AAP decisions in FCPS, violent students in MCPS, and the solar eclipse.

The most active thread over the weekend was the Fairfax murder thread which is contining to see lots of interest including posts from first-hand observers of court proceedings. The most active thread after that one was titled, "EVERY Six Months Jolie reiterates accusations against Pitt" and posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. The original poster appears to be upset that in court documents Angelina Jolie accused Brad Pitt of abusing her and their children. Claiming that Jolie purposely brings up these allegations "every six months" in order to hurt Pitt, the original poster suggests that the effort is failing and wonders when Jolie will realize this. As dumbfounded as I am about the interest in the British Royal Family among DCUM posters, I am even more astonished how obsessed some posters are with actors and actresses. This thread managed to rack up 25 pages since Friday. I don't have time to read the entire thing, but based on what I did read, most poster, like the original poster, see Jolie as the victimizer in this relationship. Posters criticize her from all angles, claiming the abuse allegations were not relevant to the legal case in which they were brought up, saying that she has a bizarre behavior, and in one case calling her a "psychopath". One poster went so far as to develop a lengthy imagined history of Jolie and Pitt's relationship to demonstrate how Jolie is to blame for their problems. Pitt does have his critics as well. One poster described him as a "druggie womanizing adulterous wife and child abuser" and lamented that he is still popular. But, generally posters were either willing to overlook Pitt's faults or blame them on Jolie. What amazes me about threads like this is the amount of detail posters know — or at least claim to know — about the celebrities involved. Those responding seem to have instant recall of minute facts, not only about Jolie and Pitt, but their children as well. The original poster, in a follow-up post, even recounted gossip involving a conversation between Jennifer Aniston and Aniston's decorator. Much of the thread seems to be devoted to the former couple's kids and their relationship with Pitt. Post after post accused Jolie of either turning the kids against Pitt or at least being the type of person who would do that. Most posters didn't seem to be prepared to consider that Jolie's accusations of abuse, not only towards her but the children as well, might be true and the cause of some of the friction between Pitt and the children. Only Jolie was held responsible. The anti-Jolie sentiment was so strong that it provoked a few posters to take a closer look at things themselves and they generally became Jolie-defenders as a result.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 09, 2024 07:31 PM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included President Joe Biden's poll numbers, JK Rowling, California's fast food restaurant minimum wage, and dating someone with different political beliefs.

The three most active threads yesterday were all ones that I've previously discussed and will skip today. Those were the Gaza war thread, the Fairfax County murders thread, and the thread about not allowing children to attend a wedding. Yesterday's fourth most active thread, but the first that I will discuss today, was titled, "Biden’s latest Poll numbers" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. This thread was started back in January and has been more or less active since then. Apparently it was particularly active yesterday though I am not exactly sure why. As with the last several elections, polls are a source of great controversy these days. Conservatives, in particular, have long argued that polls are biased against them and a popular theory during the last two elections was that former President and current cult leader Donald Trump's poll numbers were lower than his real support because Trump supporters refused to talk to pollsters. More recently, suspicion of polls has shifted towards the left due to the belief that younger voters — who are more likely to vote for Democrats — would more likely voluntarily undergo a root canal operation than answer an unidentified caller. It is true that since the US Supreme Court ruling overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision, Democrats have out-performed the polls. The result is an almost total flip of positions regarding polls. As poll after poll shows Trump leading President Joe Biden, Republicans tout poll results as infallible and clear indications of a certain Trump victory in November. Democrats, on the other hand, warn that the polls shouldn't be taken seriously and that they don't reflect the eventual outcome. If there is one thing that does seem to be consistent with polling of the Presidential race, at least at the national level, it is that they show the election to be close at this point. One day Trump may be slightly ahead and the next day Biden is ahead by a hair. But, the Presidential election is a state-by-state election rather than a nationwide vote. In the critical battleground states, Trump has been consistently leading most of the polls. But, not to fear say Democrats. Biden still has time to build support and Trump will be hanged on his own petard due to his opposition to mail-in voting. This thread demonstrates that there are two battles going on. One to publicize favorable poll results and the other over the interpretation of those results. This creates a pattern in which partisans rush to post results of polls that support their side while simultaneously criticizing and expressing disbelief about poll results that are not favorable to them. I believe that there is a rule of thumb that you should not pay attention to opinion polls before Labor Day. If this is true, we still have several months of what is likely to be meaningless chatter in this thread.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 04, 2024 11:03 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the University of Texas laying off its DEI staff, Actress Angie Harmon's dog, university choices by DCUM college forum participants, and majors in which the prestige of the university matters.

The most active thread yesterday was the Gaza war thread which is back on top after interest in the war was renewed due to Israel's repeated drone strikes on a convoy of World Central Kitchen aid workers, killing seven. Since I have already discussed that thread, I will move on to the next which was titled "UT Austin lays off DEI employees" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. The original poster linked to an article in "The Hill" saying that in order to comply with a Texas law that bans Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives at public universities, the University of Texas at Austin has laid off 60 employees that were involved with DEI. The original poster, who is a proponent of DEI programs, asks if anyone is removing the university from their list of colleges to pursue. DEI is the lastest in a series of right-wing bugaboos following affirmative action and critical race theory (CRT) that have been hijacked by right-wingers to promote the idea that White people are the true victims of racism. There is a well-funded political infrastructure devoted to "exposing" DEI and generating opposition to it. That effort seems to have had considerable success in convincing White people, and to an extent Asians, that they are being discriminated against in favor of less qualified minorities. As such, a number of those responding express happiness that the DEI program is being eliminated and claim that they will move UT higher on their lists. To be sure, many DEI efforts are deserving of criticism. In many cases, especially in the corporate world, such programs are little more than window dressing that have no real impact other than to create frustration. Such programs are seen as a waste of money, which is one of the primary criticisms voiced in this thread. Similarly, many DEI programs are so poorly implemented that they have little positive impact. However, proponents argue that the response to poor DEI programs should be better DEI programs rather than the elimination of them. Moreover, because of the constant politically-motivated attacks on such programs, they are often misunderstood. As the original poster of the thread writes in a follow-up post, "Funny how the people so against DEI don’t seem to have an elementary understanding of the concepts." One of the most common complaints about DEI is about the large budgets often devoted to it. In addition, despite the often lucrative funding, the programs are not seen as contributing to the schools' academic mission. As a poster who is a college professor writes, "They hire consultants, have their own staff, host expensive events, and get paid probably twice what I get paid as a tenured professor." Ironically, even the successes of DEI programs are often used to disparage them. For instance, if a DEI program succeeds in increasing the percentage of minority students at a university, many will claim that these students are unqualified and that they took places from more deserving White students, regardless of whether that is true or not.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 03, 2024 11:14 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included changing how a paycheck is direct deposited, paying for college, Florida's abortion restrictions, and anger about a boyfriend dating during a break.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "I disconnected my direct deposit" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster, who appears to be highly stressed at the moment, doesn't do the best job of explaining her circumstances which, I think, leads to a somewhat negative tone for this thread. Essentially, the original poster works in a high-pressure job that pays well while her husband works as a professor, earning less than half that she does. They have a three-year-old child and the original poster is currently 32 weeks pregnant. She appears to have had a somewhat long-running resentment due to what she sees as her subsidizing her husband's lifestyle while also trying to be a mother. With a second child on the way, these feelings have come to a boil. The original poster's husband is about to start a year-long sabbatical and they have enough liquid savings to cover two years of their living expenses. Therefore, the original poster has chosen this time to take steps to force the issue of his refusal to increase his earnings. She says that she will "quiet quit" her job with the expectation that she will eventually be pushed out. In addition, she has switched the direct deposit of her paycheck from their joint bank account to her personal account. The bottom line is that she wants financial support of their family to be more evenly divided, something that can be achieved either through her husband increasing his earnings or by downsizing their lifestyle. Since her husband has not been willing to do either, the original poster essentially wants to create a financial crunch for him. I think that it is fair to say that the most common response to the original poster was one of confusion. Posters didn't understand what she meant by "disconnecting" her direct deposit and they were not sure if her problem was with her job or with her husband. Several question why in these circumstances the original poster would choose to have another child. They also are doubtful that changing her direct deposit arrangement will have any real effect. Many posters are concerned that this strategy might simply lead to financial insecurity or divorce. The original poster is willing to accept divorce if her husband continues to refuse to find a higher paying job and doesn't seem very worried about their financial situation. Many of those responding suggest that the original poster switch to job that has less pressure rather than risking getting fired at her current job, but the original poster insists that her skills are only suited for her current job. The most amazing part of this thread is that someone managed to dig up two threads that appear to have been created by the same original poster four years ago. I am simply dumbfounded that someone could remember the two threads sufficiently to connect them to this poster and was able to find the threads now. For what it is worth, despite the many allegations in the thread that the poster is a troll, the two old threads actually support the latest thread being authentic.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 02, 2024 12:04 PM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a service for snowflake college students promoted by a sock puppet, a professor who dislikes Elon Musk, comparing today's new hires to those of 25 years ago, and homosexuality and the Bible.

The most active thread yesterday was one that I already discussed. That thread was the one about the double murder in Fairfax County. There was a court hearing yesterday which not one, but at least two, DCUM posters attended and posted first-hand accounts. The most active thread after that one was titled, "College ‘Moms’ Service Provider" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. Let me start off by saying that I hate everything about this thread. Most of all, I hate that nobody reported it within the first few posts so that I could have deleted it before it really got started (some posters did report subsequent posts but I'll get to that later). The original poster posted a link to a site that provides "moms" to provide comfort and care to kids away at college and asked how she could find such a service at Cornell University. The original post looks very much like an ad. Removing any doubt of that suspicion was the second post in the thread which was sock puppeted by the original poster. The original poster would go on to post throughout the thread promoting the service. As most people would expect, there is a huge outcry from posters who think that such a service is a terrible idea created to coddle "snowflakes". There are repeated posts urging the original poster and others like her to cut the cord and allow their children to learn independence. The original poster simply sock puppeted replies defending and justifying the service. The original poster ultimately posted at least 12 times, not once mentioning that she was the original poster and occasionally responding directly to her own posts. There was a suggestion that this was an April Fool's joke, but the service is real. Moreover, adding to the things I hate about this thread, it took a decidedly unfunny turn when a poster made a snide reply about the demographics of two universities at which the original poster — sock puppeting — claimed the service was popular. This was interpreted by other posters as an allusion to the large number of Jewish students at those schools and, hence, as anti-Semitic. This led to discussion about anti-Semitism. I did receive a report of the first post and I removed it. But, unbeknownst to me, the post had already been quoted and provoked its own discussion that I didn't notice until this morning. While readers of this blog are probably aware, I want to reiterate a few things about how the site is moderated. I can't possibly read all of the posts. As such, I probably won't know about an inappropriate post unless it is reported. I try to respond to reports quickly, but sometimes a response may be delayed. Reporting a post, but then also replying to it, will only make things more difficult for me and make the thread harder to clean up. It also risks, as in this case, that I won't notice the replies. Because I removed the inappropriate post after it was reported, it continues to exist on the site only because it was repeatedly quoted.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 01, 2024 12:22 PM

The topics with the most engagement over the weekend included picking colleges, Project 2025, childless weddings, and GDS college acceptances.

The most active thread since my last blog post on Friday was titled, "Let us pick for you…list acceptances" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. For months I've joked about a group of users in the college forum who approach college admissions with the obsessiveness of dedicated sports fans, analyzing the most minute of statistics and debating various rankings and top college lists. I refer to this group as the Fantasy College Admissions League. This thread is the culmination of this phenomenon, the college admissions playoffs if you will. The original poster invites the parents of undecided college applicants to list their options as well as factors influencing their decision and allow others to weigh in. Just in case you doubt the enthusiasm of the College Admissions Fantasy League participants, consider that this thread reach nearly 40 pages in just three days. To be sure, there are some very knowledgeable posters in this forum whose advice is worth considering. But, there are others who appear to be primarily motivated by personal biases rather than the strength of their analysis. The problem is telling which is which. In some cases this is made easier by the amount of effort posters put into their responses. At least in my opinion, the replies that consisted of nothing but the name of the school were not particularly helpful because they didn't explain the reasoning behind the opinion. In contrast, posters who supported their response with substantive reasons for their choice tended to be more persuasive. On the other hand, those posters often opened themselves up to challenges from others who disagreed with their reasoning. Even so, debate between posters was discouraged in the thread with a Northeastern University booster being shutdown when she went a bit far in her advocacy. It is clear that the thread was meant to be lighthearted and mostly for entertainment. That is not meant to disparage the seriousness with which many of the thread's participants approached the topic, but I don't think many final college decisions were made as a result of a DCUM post. I think the highlight of the thread for me had nothing to do with the substance of the topic but rather with a poster who chose to respond with snark to the original poster, "thanking" the original poster for providing instructions because the responder would otherwise not know what to do. This response was on page 34, so clearly a number of posters had found the thread engaging by that point and the snark was not necessary. But the icing on the cake was that the poster messed up the formatting of their post and ended up including their response within the quoted content. The inability of this poster to quote properly suggests that they actually do require instruction. Snark kind of falls flat when it provides evidence of the author's incompetence.

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