Yesterday – I saw “Hitch” with a friend. Fluffy movie, but funny. Will Smith in a romantic comedy – he’s good when he’s not in a blow ’em up movie. He plays Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, the date doctor, who will help hapless men earn their way toward love with women (hmm – the average men getting the beautiful women, by listening to what the women say and trying to be sincere, as per Hitch’s advice. Um, okay, sure, Hitch.). Hitch though won’t take his own advice in pursuing open, honest love, since he was scarred by the adulterous moves of his college sweetheart. He has to learn to be more open with Eve Mendes’ character, a tabloid gossip columnist, who takes his date consulting work the wrong way (at least in her excessive men-are-pigs viewpoint; but don’t women want men who make sincere efforts to want to get to know them and doing interesting and nice things for them? Didn’t get that about her character, since she seem to think all the moves are just to get into the bed).

Loved all the NYC background scenes – they filmed it right around the waterfront/Esplanade of the World Financial Center in downtown. And, Hitch’s Alma Mater (in a funny little flashback scene) – I laughed – it’s my Alma Mater! I swear, Alma Mater’s getting herself in all kinds of NYC setting movies these days, and it just looks great. (old buildings make nice facades, I guess).

NY Times’ editorial on Sunday – Adam Cohen discusses College Board’s dropping the analogies in the SAT (boo/hiss!):

We are living in the age of the false, and often shameless, analogy. A slick advertising campaign compares the politicians working to dismantle Social Security to Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a new documentary, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” Kenneth Lay compares attacks on his company to the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Intentionally misleading comparisons are becoming the dominant mode of public discourse. The ability to tell true analogies from false ones has never been more important. But to make room for the new essay portion of the SAT that was rolled out this weekend with much fanfare, the College Board has unceremoniously dropped the test’s analogy questions, saying blandly that analogical reasoning will still be assessed “in the short and long reading passages.”

Replacing logic questions with writing is perfectly in keeping with these instant-messaging, 500-cable-channel times, when the emphasis is on communicating for the sake of communicating rather than on having something meaningful to say. Obviously, every American should be able to write, and write well. But if forced to choose between a citizenry that can produce a good 25-minute writing sample or spot a bad analogy, we would be better off with a nation of analogists. [….]

Questions of this sort are the building blocks of arguments by analogy, which are a mainstay of many disciplines. Philosophers like Aristotle relied on analogies to reason about man and nature. Scientists have long analogized from things they know to things they do not, to form hypotheses and plot experiments.

Law is almost entirely dependent on analogies. In my first year of law school, my contracts professor, Gerald Frug, said something brilliant in its simplicity: “All things are alike in some ways and different in other ways.” It was a warning that for the next three years, we would hear endless arguments that a case must be decided a particular way because a previous case or a statute required it. The two cases, or the case and the statute, would always be alike in some ways and different in others – and law school was really about arguing whether the similarities or the differences were more important.

Nowhere are analogies more central than in politics. When Karl Marx wanted to arouse the workers of the world, he compared the proletariat’s condition to slavery and, in “The Communist Manifesto,” urged them to throw off their figurative chains. [….]

The power of an analogy is that it can persuade people to transfer the feeling of certainty they have about one subject to another subject about which they may not have formed an opinion. But analogies are often undependable. Their weakness is that they rely on the dubious principle that, as one logic textbook puts it, “because two things are similar in some respects they are similar in some other respects.” An error-producing “fallacy of weak analogy” results when relevant differences outweigh relevant similarities. [….]

The last election was decided, in significant part, on specious analogies. A man who went to war, and came back to protest that war, was compared – by a group whose name helpfully contained the phrase “for truth” – to men who betray their country. Today, the federal tax system – which through much of the nation’s history kept government income and expenditures in rough balance – is being compared to “theft” and recklessly dismantled.

The College Board’s Web site explanation that analogies are being dropped because they are “less connected to the current high school curriculum” itself shows a stunning lack of logic, since it does not explain what the “less connected” refers to. Less connected than they used to be? Than other parts of the test? But in any case, it is a dangerous concession. Since the SAT no longer contains analogy questions, here is one: A nation whose citizens cannot tell a true analogy from a false one is like – fill in your own image for precipitous decline.

Interesting points; food for thought, I daresay (and the analogies were never my favorite part, either, I might add). Plus, I can say that I do feel bad for high school kids and the new essay portion, but – you know what? – my best advice to high schoolers out there is: Don’t stress it. Do what the test prep people have advised me in my standardized test past – just read the damn question, spend a few minutes thinking and scribble what you’ll say, and then write – intro/middle/end, three sentences for 3 to 4 paragraphs, and move on to the next question. Then pen down and breathe. College Board graders only care if you can write a basic sentence, unless I’m completely wrong on that score. We’ll see how this all comes out after this new SAT grades come out.

So, I get to look forward to making a presentation at work tomorrow, to train others on policy. Umm, okay. We’ll see how that goes. I’m just looking forward to the Law School Alma Mater alumni dinner; mmm, free food…

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