Wednesday, December 31, 2003

With allies like these... 

...who needs Latin-illiterates?
Worst Color Scheme in a Blog

WINNER: SCSU Scholars. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but that yellow background color looks like the phlegm a malaria victim might cough up.
What, you think I'm some kind of html metrosexual? I put up a blog, I put on a color. I don't go around giving it the colors of Mussolini-loving surrender monkeys or some such. I had a shirt this color in junior high. First kid who saw it said it was "baby-shit yellow". Scarred me for life, though it did prepare me for changing diapers.

So Mitch, if you're throwing a freebie, Scholars say yo!

How many cut and paste that definition? 

Just wondering, after seeing that plagiarism made #8 on Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year. And how many cited their source?

It's freezing outside, too 

Another article that public universities are losing salary wars for their best faculty. The title of the StarTribune article is "U fears losing its best and brightest over salary freeze" and the fourth graf reads:
University officials say that in most cases, budget cuts were not a central reason in the departures of key faculty members this year. But with wages frozen for a year, they worry for the future.
A dean at the University of Minnesota puts his finger on it:
So far, touch on wood, [one] department has stayed together because of loyalty and because excellent people like to work with excellent people.
Most of the reasons given for the defections listed are not due to money. So why the headline?


I had promised to get back to John Bruce's post on affirmative action in admissions. He adds a valuable new perspective by looking at the admissions policies of post-WW2 Dartmouth, through the eyes of Albert Dickinson, the dean of admissions for the first part of the post-war period. Dickinson valued diversity, though not the kind promulgated in the post-Bakke world. The qualities he sought in admission to Dartmouth were:John goes on to discuss how these goals made admission to selective colleges democratic, meritocratic, individualistic, and "based on stewardship of the institution's scarce resources for the greater good." I'll quibble over the last of those, because the university is mostly interested in its own mission, which may or may not be for the greater good. (John points out that Dartmouth had education of Native Americans as part of its mission.) Private, selective schools may have any number of missions, but those that continuously lose money seldom forward "the greater good" for very long.

I've worked at a couple of selective colleges as well as at SCSU, and I have seen some of the homogeneity of the student body in the selective colleges that John is most concerned about. What I would take issue with is his analysis of the "other 75 percent" who are non-selective. He suggests that affirmative action is not important to those universities:

The problems with affirmative action in admissions have applied almost entirely to disputes over the selective admissions process, from Bakke to the recent Michigan cases. This is simply because if there's no "loser" in the process, someone who feels he or she was rejected when a less-qualified applicant was admitted, there's no dispute. The point has been made that all controversy regarding affirmative action in admissions applies only to the 25 percent of US institutions that are, given current demographics and the available resources, selective. For 75 percent of schools, there are no grounds for dispute; every qualified applicant will be admitted. Even those who have been plaintiffs in landmark cases have been able easily to obtain admission at other institutions.
That would be true only if admission to a state university or other non-selective school is not a scarce good, that additional seats are available that cost the university zero. That's not true on two points. Education may seem like a public good, but it is congestible. Teaching and learning changes with class size; it also changes as you add less-prepared students into a class with better-prepared ones. If admissions occur with prejudice towards any group, you necessarily admit less-prepared students from the favored group, with increasing costs to the university. Now if there is a benefit to the university from the prejudicially treated group, it may be that a few more should be admitted, but only to the point where total marginal benefit equals total marginal cost -- to the student, to other students in the class, to the instructor and to the university. There is no evidence that I can find, however, that this line of thought has been pursued at SCSU or any other school.

A significant part of that cost, and my second point, is that schools no longer just engage in affirmative action in the admissions process. Once admitted, students of the protected group are also protected from failure; a high failure rate for minority students is seen as a curricular problem. This gives rise to changes in the curriculum that "encourages diverse populations to succeed". This affects both the core curriculum and creates new programs designed to attract the target audience. Neither of these, I argue, are healthy developments for the university.

UPDATE:John replies. That guy writes faster than I do, which I thought was one of my better qualities. Is the debate over affirmative action a management issue? Sure it is, in part. But that just passes the question on to: Why do college administrators consistently get this wrong? The answer is, because they live in fear of the discrimination lawsuit. "Everyone knew" that the Civil Rights Act was not to lead to quotas, as Hubert Humphrey famously assured us, but risk aversion led to quotas anyway. If Grutter leads to genuine treatment of individuals as individuals, and courts respect the MB=MC decisions on each one in which university admissions people engage, then John is correct. And that appears to be what Texas A&M is doing ... and behold the heat they are taking. The University of Texas, however, thinks the law lets them use race explicitly.

Democracy, not civics and not civil 

I mentioned in discussing our president's convocation address that SCSU is taking part in the American Democracy Project, which I labeled then as a equating democratic citizenship with civic service rather than liberty. According to KC Johnson, it's worse than we thought:
Then there's my own Brooklyn College, where "The Arts of Democracy" has no courses related to democracy or international relations in political science, history, economics, or philosophy. Students learn, instead, that democracy entails support for a "community of diversity," with courses on such topics as literature and cultural diversity and global cinema.


The provost, Roberta Matthews, termed the idea that colleges should focus on transmitting knowledge "a very outdated notion." That, perhaps, explains why the instructors in Brooklyn's "Arts of Democracy" include the dean of student life--who notes that before the attacks of September 11, few understood the nation could be targeted by "those referred to as 'terrorists' or by other American citizens." The new curriculum will help students answer such questions as, "Was September 11 contrived?" and "What did the United States government know and when did it know it?" and "Whose rights would be violated now?"

All too familiar to us at SCSU. But there's another motive, says our own provost:
American Democracy Project: This initiative is sponsored by AASCU and the NY Times. SCSU is one of 145 AASCU universities who have signed up to participate. The project seeks to develop a sense of civic engagement within communities. Public education is increasingly viewed as a private good � students are seen as pursuing higher education to earn more money, get better jobs, and advance themselves. The current thinking is that if public education is a private good, then individual students should be paying for higher education, and more and more public support is being withdrawn. The American Democracy Project seeks to generate activity through curriculum and co-curricular activities to encourage students to participate in the civic life of the community. This year there will be an attempt to initiate conversations across campus for all faculty and staff and interested parties to generate ideas for incorporating civic engagement into the curriculum. A place to begin is an audit of activities our faculty are already doing in this area.
In other words, let's create alumni supportive of higher education so we can have bigger budgets, and a bigger State, in the future. O brave new world!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Context of social studies standards debate? 

I am going to write a longer piece tomorrow on this, but I spent a good bit of the evening reading Michael Knox Beran tonight. Why does Senator Kelley keep coming to the "context" of the slaveholdings of the Founders? Because it's corrosive to the Founding, says Beran.
The cumulative effect of the new mandate to put slavery "at the center of the story of early America" is likely to be devastating. Imagine if, in the centuries after the fall of Athens, the West had concentrated single-mindedly on the fact � quite undeniable � that the Greeks kept slaves. Imagine if every book that appeared on Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles put at "the center of the story" the sin of Greek slavery. If the mantra "Never Forget: They Kept Lots of Slaves" had been applied to the Greeks as rigorously as it is now to be applied to the American Founders, Saint Augustine would never have happened. Neither would Aquinas have emerged, in any form remotely resembling the one we know. The same goes for Dante, Petrarch, the Renaissance, vast chunks of our inheritance.

Prickly administrators 

In my opinion there are two essential qualities for a new administrator in academia: Find out who are your friends and who are not; and have a thick skin. As Critical Mass tells us today, some administrators are just plain cantankerous.
Timothy Sullivan, president of William & Mary, apparently sees things differently. William & Mary administrators shut down an anti-affirmative action bake sale held by a libertarian student organization, Sons of Liberty, last fall. ... [noting public reports of the incident...] Predictably, the public exposure of William & Mary's indefensible actions drew criticism. Less predictably, and quite disturbingly, the college's president has responded to that criticism not with an apology, or a reasoned defense of the school's actions, or even with a polite canned noncommittal response, but with open contempt for his critics.

FIRE, who are pursuing the case, continues
On Saturday, December 13, Curtis Crawford, a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, wrote President Sullivan an e-mail that, while polite, was critical of W&M's actions (you will find this e-mail exchange attached). President Sullivan responded:
Dear Mr. Crawford, Some fool has sent me an e-mail and signed your name to it. You should do what you can to discover the identity of the person. He or she is doing real harm to your reputation. I will help you if I can. Tim Sullivan

According to Mr. Crawford, he wrote back to President Sullivan asking if he stood by this comment, to which Sullivan responded, "You can quote me." Two days later, Sullivan sent a very similar e-mail to another person who had expressed criticism of W&M's handling of the protest; this time he asserted that, "Some damned fool is sending e-mail messages and signing your name. I will try to help you if I can."
I was googling around for something pithy here, but I found instead Sullivan's own words, from his 2001 convocation address:
The third challenge is the challenge of humility. ... I have spoken truthfully about your great talents. The College to which you come is likewise accustomed to the rewards which attend high achievements and high standards. But the habit of success-just like the habit of command-can breed at first an unthinking arrogance-and later-a self-consciously inflated view of how great we are and how important is the work we do.

It is better to remember that however much we know-what we don't know is probably more important than what we do. It is better to understand that while we have done much, there are millions who have done more. It is important, too, to remember that the life of the mind is not the whole of life-and that intellectual distinction-without character-without heart-is really no great thing. And never forget that the talents with which you are blessed were not a reward for peculiar virtue-but the result of God's grace-if you are religiously inclined-and the accidental blessing of random chance-if you are not. Finally there is practical value to humility. For humility far more than arrogance is likely to inspire genuine greatness. This is so because to be truly humble requires a resilient sense of humor and a durable sense of proportion-without which I do not believe it possible to live a good and happy life. [emphasis added]
So, President Sullivan, you have the answer to whom the damned fool is, inside you.

This looks write 

Joanne Jacobs has a story today on the value of cursive writing. It turns out we're not teaching penmanship (go ahead, I dare you, "penhumanship"!) but how to use symbols.
New brain research shows the value of handwriting, said Charles Trafford, chief executive of Peterson Directed Handwriting, a Pennsylvania-based company that sells handwriting curriculum and that once ran the annual cursive contest.

"They're realizing it's not penmanship that handwriting is teaching, it's symbolic language," Trafford said.
My fifth-grader has to use cursive for assignments and tests; she still asks me for help how to write capital letters in cursive because she sees me do it. The college freshman son does not write cursive and thinks he's forgotten. I remember as a grad student that my advisor would write by use of a pad of paper and a pen, setting up his chair near the ocean or his pool and filling a pad or two. He never typed, hiring someone instead. His penmanship took some getting used to, but it was so much fun to see the crossouts and observe how his mind was working. I think he had me read those manuscripts as part of my education, and I think it helped. The "track changes" function in Word is a poor substitute.

The discussion on Jacobs site, btw, has also taught me about D'Nealian handwriting.

Last football post 

The cartoon in this post is so disorienting! Did you read Gil Thorp?

Also, Doc, this is another good place for the "football sabermetrics" discussion, and by an economist no less. It explains why Tice was right not to kick the FG in the first period.

Monday, December 29, 2003

I love the smell of napalm while I'm blogging 

I didn't like that other test that made me Bill Clinton -- Hindrocket is Hussein??? -- so I took this one instead.

What Classic Movie Are You?

P.S. So's Robb.

They might interview us 

Eugene Volokh is covering the story on an Arizona legislator that wants to restrict faculty use of computers for "abrasive" speech. I wonder if our leftbots in the Faculty Senate will be used for expert testimony?

More sports 

Juan Non-Volokh thinks those of us who were down on Donovan McNabb should eat crow. Feh. Here are two sets of passing numbers for 2003:

Name Yds Att Comp TD INT Rating

Player A 3219 449 266 19 16 80.6

Player B 3216 478 275 16 11 79.6

One of those is McNabb. The other is Jake Delhomme. Did Jake Delhomme lead his team to victory, or was it the Carolina defense? Did Donovan McNabb lead his team to victory, or was it the Eagle defense? He generates 5.8 adjusted yards (adjusted for interceptions) per pass attempt, while Delhomme generated 5.74. The only difference between them is that McNabb runs, but even there he's down to 5 ypc.

McNabb had his worst statistics in three years; he fumbled the ball 9 times and only lost it three times, a bit of luck that may not stand up in the playoffs. McNabb certainly improved from his September awfulness, but I'll stand by what I said before: People love scrambling quarterbacks, perhaps too much so. Fran Tarkenton says hi.

Obligatory Vikings post 

Don't care. The only way I would have cared is if the Arizona win let my Giants crawl up the board for the draft in April. It didn't; it probably cost the Cardinals Eli Manning.

I agree with The Elder: You lost to four 4-12 teams. Go home. Now. And don't talk to me about painful losses -- I'm a Red Sox fan. Only the Worshippers of the Small Bear may speak.

Super Bowl pick? The sleeper will be the Packers. 11-1 right now and the only team I see beating the Eagles in Philly.

How much would you pay to own the Declaration of Independence? 

The Elder reminds us that Norman Lear would pay $8.1 million for a document that Steve Kelley says isn't a founding document.

You might also wish to listen to Kelley discuss the new social science standards with Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke here in November, and here last week. (both in Real Audio) In the latter discussion (go about 30 minutes into the show), Kelley refers to the question on the Declaration as becoming an "urban myth", and then repeats that it's not a legal document. He talks about the signficance of the Continental Congress having slaveholders present. He's also fuzzy on the Articles of Confederation; they do not spawn state constitutions, because the states/colonies had to be pre-existing for the Articles to make sense (as does the Constitution, for that matter.)

The courage of an average Joe, and the insipidness of teachers 

Much is made around the 'net of the story of a "courageous Canadian" HS graduate who was voted valedictorian and then told the graduating class "a lot of you were jerks" at commencement. His election is claimed to have been championed by other students as a joke to embarass him. In defense of Mr. Ironside the valedictorian, let me say that first, I only communicate with one friend with whom I graduated in HS because we grew up across the street from each other ... and none in college. So he's right to say he will "probably never see any of you again;" he probably won't and won't be the worse for it. In comments on Joanne Jacobs' post, Nick from Twilight of the Idols points out that this is much ado about nothing, because HS graduations have become rather meaningless.
Valedictory addresses have been the same smarmy BS about "the future" and "what great times we had" (whether we did or not) and "the real world" since the first one was given.

They should just hire out Successories to write one perfect graduation speech and save thousands upon thousands of high school kids the trouble of having to write a couple pages about "the real world." Or perhaps, better yet, just cut the whole thing out in the first place.

But rather than focus on the "revenge of the nerds" quality of the story, take a moment to consider the reaction of the teachers.
The principal does not believe the teen was the target of bullying or ridicule at the school, but admits his Grade 12 class, part of the province's double cohort, suffered a higher than normal level of teenage stress.

With only four years to gather the grades and resume fodder to get them into university, and with soaring admission standards creating cutthroat competition, the Grade 12s had bigger things on their mind than parties and prom dates.


Since Mr. Ironside's controversial address, members of the school's faculty have approached Mr. Adams [the principal--kb] about changing the system by which valedictorians are selected, perhaps moving to a short-list model chosen by teachers.

But he is comfortable with the results of a popular vote, and said valedictorians must represent the persona of his or her grade, not the preference of their teachers.
You have the children for twelve years, you teach them all your wonderful theories of interdisciplinary, cooperative, multicultural learning, and then you can't even trust them to pick who gives the graduation address? What have you accomplished?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Principal-agent problems in schooling 

I received an email from Douglas alerting me to the case of a Catholic HS student banned from speaking at a "Diversity Week" program on "Homosexuality and Religion" because she wanted to speak about ... her religious understanding of Catholicism. A circuit court judge has made it plain that he disapproved.
�This case presents the ironic, and unfortunate, paradox of a public high school celebrating �diversity� by refusing to permit the presentation to students of an �unwelcomed� viewpoint on the topic of homosexuality and religion, while actively promoting the competing view. This practice of �one-way diversity,� unsettling in itself, was rendered still more troubling�both constitutionally and ethically�by the fact that the approved viewpoint was, in one manifestation, presented to students as religious doctrine by six clerics (some in full garb) quoting from religious scripture. In its other manifestation, it resulted in the censorship by school administrators of a student�s speech about �what diversity means to me,� removing that portion of the speech in which the student described the unapproved viewpoint.�
What's at stake here, however, is the context in which this occurs. Eugene Volokh makes some good points on this:
the government was using students to express views that the government favors. Hansen wasn't speaking just for herself, in an open forum in which any student could speak. The school chose her as one of the three speakers to whom it gave a special opportunity to address a wide audience. It should be entitled to select those speakers who it thought would express those views it liked (e.g., pro-diversity as the government understands diversity) -- or to select speakers and insist that they express the views that it liked. Again, this may be unfair or bad educational policy or even somewhat deceptive. But it's not a constitutional violation.

High schools are places where the government spreads its views to students. The Free Speech Clause does not, I think, prevent the government from using a variety of techniques -- speaking through its employees, speaking through people whom it invites because of their views, or speaking through people whom it tells what to say and what not to say -- to express its views (subject to the Establishment Clause constraint that the government can't take stands on religious questions).
Context also matters in the Gonzaga case that FIRE is now pursuing. Can a student group that calls itself pro-life at a Catholic university be required to accept non-Christians? It depends on what the purpose of Gonzaga is? It does not have to recognize your group if it doesn't serve Gonzaga's goal; but what is that goal?

Likewise, while "intelligent design creationists" (I like that phrase) may argue that they should have equal time in our high schools, Volokh's analysis may apply here as well. If the result of government writing its educational standards is to adopt evolutionary views of the origins of the planet, that view may be enforced. Parents should of course have the right to send their kids elsewhere if they disagree, but they cannot require their own views to be given equal time.

The point? Don't ask the government to make schools the way you want them. Make your own.

Friday, December 26, 2003

That really fries my eggs 

You want to see what we're up against? Joanne Jacobs links to an article by Neil Boortz on how bad some economic education really can be.
The children sit in a circle. Some are wearing mittens; others are waiting expectantly with little plastic shovels. The rules of the game state that a few of the children must do nothing but sit and watch as the action begins. On the leader's "Go!" the children scramble for 100 pennies that have been scattered on the floor in the center of the circle.

The players with mittens are having a rough time picking up any pennies at all. The kids with shovels are scooping up some pretty good numbers, while the kids working with their bare hands experience modest success.


Once the exercise is completed the children with shovels will have more pennies (the rules also allow the use of candy or peanuts), the kids wearing mittens will have less. The participants who were not allowed to scramble for pennies will have nothing. The pennies, of course, represent the world's wealth.

After the scramble is completed, the students with many pennies are told that they may give some pennies to their classmates with less, if they want to. If they do decide to give away some pennies, they will be honored on a list of "donors."

During the second part of this exercise students are asked to devise plans for a fair distribution of the pennies. They are asked to pass judgment on the other students who did or did not give away some pennies to others, and whether or not there should be a redistribution of wealth in America, and how to accomplish this redistribution.
Boortz is not making this up; here's the damned assignment, from another of those enlightened indoctrinators educators at Your Local Government University. The following is suggested for younger children:
1. Younger children may need more concrete items to work for. Instead of using pennies to represent another reward, try using shelled peanuts or small wrapped candies, and tell children that they will be allowed to eat the treats when the activity has been completed. The rewards attached should be designed to be meaningful to the participants playing the game. For example, each penny could signify a certain amount of extra recess or free time in class or a special treat from the teacher. Design the rewards to be valuable enough to make authentic distinctions between the �wealthy and powerful� and the �poor and weak.

2. When debriefing with young children, focus on their views of �fair� and �unfair� and their proposals for making matters more fair. The discussion questions need to be modified for the appropriate developmental level.
The one I use with college freshmen is Stick Up, which encourages production and trade. It's probably not useful below the high school level without some serious modification (though the inspiration of getting candy for your widgets works wonders), but you get the idea. Again, if you haven't yet given all your gifts to kids, they'll learn much more economics from Roller Coaster Tycoon than they will from these government teachers.

Maybe there's something to this 

During the original debate over the repeal of Minnesota's Profiles of Learning and the creation of the new social science standards, much was made of an exchange in the state senate between Senators Michelle Bachmann and Steve Kelley. The latter is the chair of the eduation committee that will hear the new standards next month. According to a non-partisan source, the official organ publication Senate Briefly of May 23, 2003,
Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) raised several questions about the bill. She said the bill current requires that standards must be clear, concise, objective, measurable and grade-level appropriate, not require a specific teaching methodology and be consistent with the constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota. Bachmann said that earlier language sponsored by House members included a requirement that standards be factual and verifiable and a requirement that the standards be consistent with the Declaration of Independence as well as state and federal constitutions. "There is no more seminal, premier document in the United States than the Declaration of Independence. I'm shocked there would be any reason to keep out the Declaration of Independence," Bachmann said. Kelley responded that both the U.S. and the Minnesota Constitutions have legal standing, but the Declaration of Independence does not.
Now folks at EdWatch (the old Maple River Coalition) and others have made a big deal of this statement. One shows the exchange between the two, which makes the comment look worse than portrayed in the Senate Journal.
Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I notice that when the House passed the Profile last February, the parameters for the new standards required that they be based on factual, objective, verifiable knowledge. This bill has removed the words factual and verifiable. Senator Kelly, why would you remove those requirements from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Senator Bachmann, when students are learning to write they are learning a skill. A skill isn't factual or verifiable.

Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I also notice that the House parameters for the standards required that they preserve and promote fundamental American principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. This bill has removed the words 'preserve and promote' and the 'Declaration of Independence.' Senator Kelly, why would you remove the Declaration of Independence from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Sen. Bachmann, the Declaration has no legal status in defining people's rights and privileges."

Bachmann: "Sen. Kelley, what do we celebrate every 4th of July? The Declaration defines our rights and our freedom. I am shocked that you would remove that as a basis of our education standards."

Another quote says that most of the removals were created by compromises in the conference between House and Senate legislators. That's a pretty big compromise, though. And while I thought perhaps Kelley had just been backed into a corner on that day and willing to see if he's going to come around, I'm less certain I should do this after reading this MPR piece on the new standards.
Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, chairman of the Senate Education Policy Committee, says he thinks the civics and government standards reflect a particular ideological viewpoint.

"There's an over emphasis on the Declaration of Independence, and some just factually wrong kind of things contained in there that seems to reflect a viewpoint on the country's founding that I don't know reflects the scholarly consensus or a mainstream viewpoint," Kelley said.

And from a transcript later on, Kelley says
"We're going to be constantly involved in a debate over what the Declaration means. What is the significance of it... I don't think there is any particular orthodoxy about it."

"I'm not sure it's accurate historically or legally to call the Declaration of Independence a founding document. We will be having those kinds of debates."

This said before the new standards were published, but the Declaration is still in there.

Layered fundraising 

The MnSCU system office is now going to fundraise, to help bridge the gap in its own budget. The gap is $191 million, but the expected revenue from fundraising is $3-5 million.
"We are seeing this as an opportunity for colleges and universities to do things we otherwise wouldn't be able to do," said Linda Kohl, MnSCU's associate vice chancellor for public affairs. "It is unusual for systems to have major fundraising efforts. The challenge is to figure out how to do it without competing with individual schools."
It's a big problem; within a university, different parts will compete for a donor looking to give. Our department might have an alum wishing to give to the department, but the university will wish for those dollars to not be earmarked. Now it will happen above the university level.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Who refers to us? 

I got curious about our referrer list, so I ran through with a calculator to see who is sending traffic to us. About one in three page hits come from people who have bookmarked or typed in this site (thanks!), and a bunch more, I'm sure, are people hitting multiple pages on a visit. Most people click one self-referring link back to our site while they visit. But of those that click to us from other sites, here's who shows up:

Instapundit 1,316
Hugh Hewitt 985

Prof. Reynolds has never Instalanched me -- not complaining, mind you, just noting, sniff -- so that's just the increase in traffic that comes from being in his blogroll. Hugh has been very generous referring to us, and any day he does adds usually 30-50 more unique visitors. DenBeste has added 260 already, and he just linked to us last month.

Joanne Jacobs 670
Critical Mass 640

Makes sense; we're trying to be a higher education blog, and the two Supreme Blogresses of the educational blogosphere are referrers. Joanne's linkage has helped us almost as much as Hugh's. Means we're hitting the right notes at least some of the time. Within that sphere also comes Highered Intelligence 334 (who is also a generous linker), Invisible Adjunct 163 and Crooked Timber 169 (the latter two are generous insofar as they probably disagree with us 80% of the time.)

Fraters Libertas 530
Shot in the Dark 493
PowerLine 318

Our friends in the Northern Alliance. Who's missing from that list? You know who you are. Well, if you had a kid this cute, you'd be distracted too.

Cold Spring Shops 223
AtlanticBlog 213

Worth noting because they are both economists, one of whom I met once and the other not at all but feel like I know him more than most in our profession for some reason. I think it has to do with how well they write (particularly for economists.) Sjostrom gets a nod for being one of the first blogs to find and link to us.

Last, I found Pharyngula, a blog that has linked to us over 100 times without me ever mentioning it I think. Just a blogroll add some time ago. I'll have to read there more often.

All of this by way of thanking our many virtual friends for helping us carve out a niche and be an adorable little rodent.


David Wall commented on my piece yesterday that migration into Minnesota was continuing, particularly in the 25-44 age cohort. I checked the US Census data (David was looking at the state demographer's website, which might be different): that age group increased by 3.6% between the 1990 and 2000 Censuses. But for the country overall, the increase was 5.3%. Moreover, according to other Census data, there has been net in-migration since 2000 entirely due to international migrations to Minnesota. US-born population in MN between 2000 and 2003 is estimated to have fallen, not risen.

Last minute charities? 

Along with the Northern Alliance fundraiser, would you also please give a look to the charities suggested at Real Clear Politics? We'd appreciate it, thank you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Resource flows in higher ed -- when wonks attack! 

I missed Sunday's RedStarTribune and this opinion piece by Lori Sturdevant on public money going to higher education. I mentioned last week that a state legislator wants to create a "campus closing commission" to look at whether some of the campuses in the University of Minnesota and MnSCU systems should be closed. There have been some minor changes, but since the merger of the state universities with the community and technical colleges, there have been no big changes in public higher education. Sturdevant thinks state businesses are also interested in this idea.
The business lobby isn't clamoring for campus closings -- not directly, anyway. Too many members of the Chamber of Commerce love having a campus close by. But businesses large and small have thrown in with those who believe that less state money should flow to institutions and more to students, in the form of need-based financial aid. That would create more competition among campuses for students, the thinking goes, which would in turn inspire more efficiency and more responsiveness to market demands.

...Business wants higher education on its side. The current configuration makes the state's colleges and universities perpetual supplicants for tax money, rather than partners with businesses in stimulating and sustaining local economies. Academic enterprises are too beholden to politicians, they say, and not enough to employers and their current and future employees.

Darwin Voltin of the Minneapolis office of accountants McGladrey and Pullen was worth hearing:

"I don't know what our higher education systems' response is to the global economy. There's a lot of Minnesota manufacturing going overseas, and they don't seem concerned. They act like we are still a nation unto ourselves. We have to figure out what we are going to do about that. We need their help."

So it's not like they want government off their backs, these firms. They are instead asking for redirection of state tax dollars to those schools that provide them with stable (and cheap) workers who speak several languages and can work in other countries. Does it trouble them at all that such highly trained workers would probably move out of a state that taxes the shirt off their backs? Or will there be a service requirement that forces those students to stay in-state?

"The social studies standards seem to be moving closer to a consensus" 

Thus spake The Pioneer Press, which has decided to give a guarded "thumbs up" to the social science standards. But they continue to view our children as not capable of learning too much.
The curriculum for fourth-grade world history students is especially burdensome � the kids are expected to know prehistory through 1500 A.D., including archeological types and ancient civilizations of the Chinese, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Medieval Europe, Japan, Africa and the Middle East. For good measure, they're also to know about world religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and indigenous traditions. They are to understand regional trade patterns in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East and analyze contributions of the Aztec and Incan civilizations. In addition, the 9-year-olds must know the significance of the Renaissance; it's suggested that they consider contributions from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Johann Gutenberg.

Recall that the above is one portion of the social studies requirement, followed by geography, economics and government/citizenship. Add to the above the usual fourth-grade math, science, reading and writing classes and you have to wonder if the kids will go blind before they reach fifth grade.
They've made it sound much worse than it really is. They've blended examples which are not required into benchmarks and standards. They fail to recognize that this is all part of a pattern to get fourth graders to start thinking of events in chronological fashion -- how else would you do that if not with history? All they are asked to know about world religions is where they are practiced on a map and that different areas have different religions. (You'd think the diversity police would like that.) And that section they are quoting (see page 9) includes the new standard on finding major African civilizations, but that additional burden isn't discussed by the editorial.

They then dissolve into a clear pattern of showing they don't know what they are talking about. They complain about second grade teachers not being able to teach both Mahatma Gandhi and Florence Nightingale "in a single lesson", without any suggestion in the examples for the standards that this is required. And they cite an economics high school benchmark on the "third agriculatural revolution" that is actually a geography benchmark. If you're going to critique the draft, try to get the story right, please?

Monday, December 22, 2003

I stand corrected 

Highered Intelligence edits my post on skipping. I quite agree and apologize for any misunderstanding.

Keep those contributions coming! 

Please show your support for the Scholars (the mighty, football savvy Scholars, I might add!) and support the Northern Alliance charity campaign. Thankee!

Save for future reading 

Once again, the Scholars bring out the best in blogchild John Bruce. Go forth and read while I go forth to do battle with the shopping orcs and finish belatedly the Christmas PowerPoint. I'll answer John anon.

An odd start to the salvos 

The RedStarTribune is silent today over the new science and social science standards, but the PioneerPress, rather than discuss them, digs up some education researchers unhappy over Commissioner Yecke's book. In The War Against Excellence, Yecke is rather critical of "cooperative learning".
Ability grouping was discouraged as elitist, and in many places was replaced with �cooperative learning,� where a few students did all the work and everyone shared the grade. High ability students were often not allowed to work at their own pace, but instead were held to the pace of the rest of the class and required to tutor others--resulting in a loss to their own intellectual growth. Based on misinterpretations of scientific theories addressing brain development, a number of schools watered-down the middle school curriculum out of fear that pre-adolescent brains could not be expected to handle rigorous learning. And in some cases, academic competition was discouraged. These policies and practices resulted in some middle school environments that actively encouraged a culture that looked down upon high academic achievement.
The authors of a leading book on cooperative learning happen to teach at the University of Minnesota. They argue that Yecke has not read their work and that they are "professors, not activists". But their own work downplays the importance of what they call "technical skills".
The ability of all students to learn to work cooperatively with others is the keystone to building and maintaining stable marriages, families, careers, and friendships. Being able to perform technical skills such as reading, speaking, listening, writing, computing, problem-solving, etc., are valuable but of little use if the person cannot apply those skills in cooperative interaction with other people in career, family, and community settings. The most logical way to emphasize the use of student's knowledge and skills within a cooperative framework, such as they will meet as members of society, is to spend much of the time learning those skills in cooperative relationships with each other.
Yet the research of Marian Matthews suggests that group learning limits the abilities of gifted learners. The problem, it seems to me, is agreement on what should be called "cooperative learning". When it is tied up with the question of "tracking" (which I discussed earlier, as has Michael Lopez), it boils down to the broader question of limiting excellence, which is what Yecke is discussing. Cooperative learning with tracking would give much different results than without tracking -- I suspect it would be better but I'm not going to be able to prove that to anyone's satisfaction who doesn't already agree with me.

The other item that struck me was this misunderstanding of cooperative and competitive behaviors and the heroism of Flight 93.

Yecke said she was struck when she read news stories that repeatedly characterized the heroes of that flight as very competitive.

�Family members didn�t talk about their cooperative nature,� she said. �In Flight 93, you have competitive individuals who knew how to cooperate, but they were driven by a competitive spirit.�

David Johnson wondered if Yecke was giving short shrift to the collaboration of the heroes. �They organized. They talked with each other,� he said. �It�s a testament to the power of cooperation. Each one of those men might not have been able to do it on their own.�

I think that Johnson, one of the UM professors, has a real problem with understanding what competition is. In the article they write that competition "is characterized by negative goal interdependence, where, when one person wins, the others lose." That's true only in a zero-sum game situation. Entrepreneurs compete, and thrill from the competition, without their victories being completely offset by the losses to others. This is the nature of market activity. Only one may win the spelling bee, but high grades are not earned generally at the expense of others (unless you grade based on standard deviations from mean performance in the classroom). The Johnsons divide competitive from "individualistic" learning, where students move independently to meet predetermined learning objectives. That, I hasten to add, is exactly what the new standards are about -- individualistic, not competitive. Cooperative learning could help when structured with appropriate incentives, a point with which I think even Yecke would agree. Why Welsh decided to run this piece now is a question worth answering.

Monomania and higher education 

Two years ago I made a bet with a friend who still was trying to support our president: I promised to buy him the best steak in town when he had evidence of our president showing any consciousness that the university does anything -- anything at all -- besides promote �diversity,� meaning of course diversity of race and culture, not thought or understanding or analysis or judgement or -- most of all -- political, social or religious opinion. So far I haven�t had to pay up, and after the latest end-of-the-semester message from our sad president, the steak will remain safe.

His end-of-the-year message, dated Friday, Dec. 19, is about nothing � nothing � but Affirmative Action. He first thanks everyone who has �contributed so much to St. Cloud State University�s success over the last 12 months.� And then he details that success:

A new Director of Affirmative Action and Social Justice position was approved (though the �process has been slow�); seventy-eight faculty searches will probably go forth, though because the Affirmative Action Office is �currently understaffed� things are a bit slow; an Affirmative Action Office student left for Los Angeles (though there is no mention of what he/she will do in Los Angeles once he/she gets there); the SCSU Diversity Newsletter will probably begin next semester; the Campus Diversity Training Opportunity attracted �hundreds of participants� (who will receive a �certificate of accomplishment� for their tenure and promotion file and who got a pretty clear message of what would happen to their tenures and promotions if there were no appreciate certificates there), and the number of discrimination complaints declined.

That�s it.

I�m not kidding.

There is no indication that students were actually taught anything but diversity, that faculty did research, that they published articles and read papers, that if fact anything happened except involving diversity.

Is there a better way to define monomania?

At some point, somebody else has to get fed up. Maybe students who are actually paying money to come to this place, or parents who are helping those students and actually hope for them to get an education, or legislators and a governor who keep spending State money here. Somebody else has to get fed up.

Scholars Win!! Scholars Win!! 

We win the Webloggers Fantasy Football League, defeating the Crazy Cooters 138-83. The Cooters, run by Sean at The American Mind, had a better team on paper but kept running into droughts at the worst times. Good running backs all season -- Jamal Lewis and LaDainian Tomlinson -- paced the Scholar attack. It's a great day in central Minnesota, with this accompanying the St. John's victory over Mount Union, breaking the latter's 55-game winning streak. And the temps are above freezing, too?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

How to build a larger welfare state 

Make a Masters Degree Program in Advocacy & Political Leadership at your local public university, add do-gooders, and stir. Voila!

UMD�s proposed masters Degree in Advocacy and Political Leadership will be offered in a weekend, cohort model. Each semester approximately 20 students will be accepted into the program. Classes will be Friday evening and all day Saturday, three out of four weekends each month for ten months. Students will be able to complete the degree in two years. Transportation from the Twin Cities to Duluth and overnight accommodations in Duluth will be available. Besides classes, students will be expected to complete internships with advocacy organizations. UMD will arrange for the internships. Besides weekend courses, some electives will be offered in one- and two-credit week-long courses offered during the summer in Duluth.

Taught by lobbyists, no less.

References by request 

Henry Farrell wonders whether it is acceptable for a student to write a letter of reference for a professor to sign. He says "a surprising number of people ... believe that this is acceptable practice." I recall once consulting at a central bank in a developing country for about five weeks, and a researcher there asked if I could write him a letter of recommendation to a U.S. school. "I'd have to tell them you've only worked with me for five weeks, you realize? I don't know that it would have much weight," I answered. "Still, it would mean more than most letters I could get from here," he replied. Since it was someone I had worked closely with in that brief period, I agreed. Two days later, two other researchers came over to request similar letters (I did not know either nearly as well) -- and they had a copy of the letter I wrote for the first fellow! I threw them out on their ears (where does this term come from? I've never actually thrown someone out of my office, and if I did there's little chance of them landing on that particular body part.) Wish I could have that one back.

Be sure to scroll through the comments at Crooked Timber. Now I have to go read applications for positions in our department.

Why cookies? 

In some of the commentary on this post, John Bruce has been asking whether the affirmative action bake sale is good tactically for the free speech cause. Fellow L&P blogger Wendy McElroy provides, I think, an efficient answer.
The sales are intended to spark discussion, not profits. They are in the same genre as guerrilla theater -- an effective counterculture tactic usually associated with the Left -- through which societal assumptions are challenged by acting out scenarios. To the amazed query, "Are you allowed to do this?" one cookie rebel responded, "Admissions officers do it every day." By shifting the context from university policy to baked goods, the assumptions of affirmative action policies are not only challenged as sexist and racist but also revealed as nonsense.

The cookie rebels are doing the one thing political correctness cannot bear: revealing its absurdity and laughing in its face. They are not merely speaking truth to power; they are chuckling at it.
John argues that "complaining about affirmative action programs ... does have a certain connotation of mean-spiritedness," but I think the reductio ad absurdum is clever.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Tracking the debate on skipping 

Highered Intelligence looks at the question I raised on skipping, and finds the alternatives -- tracking or homeschooling -- just as unpalatable. Money quote:
This issue comes up, of course, because we have decided as a nation to meld academic and social development. We have made specific decisions that cause our children to identify with their class. Having a birthday party? Invite all the children in your class. Making cookies for Christmas? Bring them for everyone in your class.

The classroom has become, perhaps by design, become something on par with family in terms of identity formation.

It is precisely because we have joined these two processes that accelerating a child academically presents difficulty for the child socially. We as a society do not have the tools necessary to separate these goals (social and intellectual development) on an institutional level.

New Weblog Vote 

Douglas has his blog in the TLB New Weblog Showcase for an entry discussing financial aid. He should address the question: why do universities covet and actively recruit some students? The economist's answer that all financial aid is price discrimination might not be where Douglas is going.

"Unprecedented Public Comment" 

The new social science standards have been published by the Department of Education. The new standards for science and social science are now available to the public. If you read the whole of the first draft with comments (in red, in Word format) and then the summary of changes, and you can see that the response has been quite substantial. The social science standards benchmarks have been reduced by 36%, and grade bands are used in lieu of grade-by-grade benchmarks.

The biggest change noted in the brief document is the change from specifics in the benchmarks to the use of a separate column for examples. One example provided is this:

One benchmark cited at many public hearings dealt with President Ronald Reagan:
�Students will know the political and economic policies that led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, including the role of Ronald Reagan.�

That benchmark has been changed to:
�Students will know and describe the political and economic policies that led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, from the Truman Doctrine to the administration of Ronald Reagan.�

To accompany this rewritten benchmark, the committee provided the following examples:
Nixon and Khrushchev debates, Cuban missile crisis, Nixon�s trip to China, Carter/Sadat/Begin peace talks, Star Wars initiative, aid to Polish solidarity and Afghan anti-communist movements, and Reagan�s �Tear Down This Wall� speech in Berlin.
Whether this appeases the critics remains to be seen -- I suspect not. And it's noteworthy that these are attack for too much specificity when the critics add non-European world history standards like this:
�Students will locate various African civilizations of the era and compare and contrast the cultures of these various civilizations in terms of the cultural universals of economic, political, social, religious, philosophical, and technological characteristics.� (Examples: Kush, Maroe, use of iron, ocean going trade)
Again, the question is when you teach this, what have you crowded out? This theme will recur on this blog for the next few months as these events are digested, and other members of the Northern Alliance will comment on those items that interest them as well. We will have our own "unprecedented public comment".

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Spreading good cheer -- The Northern Alliance Holiday Fundraiser 

The Elder Frater has initiated, partly at my request, a Northern Alliance fundraiser. This one has a very personal touch, as Elder explains:
The company that I work for has a manufacturing plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. The facility is actually quite nice. In fact it's a newer and better facility than the building I work in right now in the Twin Cities. I travel down there two to three times a year, and have written about my trips to Chihuahua a couple of times in the past.

The depths of the poverty that you witness in parts of the city is striking. People who are considered "poor" in the U.S. live like kings compared to the poor in Chihuahua. It is especially hard on the children.

Last year a coworker and I organized a drive at work to collect toys and winter clothes (Chihuahua is in the Sierra Madres) for an orphanage just outside the city. We were able to collect four very large boxes of goods which were eventually shipped to the orphanage. But it was a logistical nightmare.

This year we contacted the orphanage and asked what their most pressing needs were. Basic medical supplies were among the items high on the list. In order to make the process easier, more efficient, and most importantly get the supplies to the orphanage in the shortest amount of time, we decided to raise money here at our two plants in the Twin Cities. In mid-February my coworker and I will travel to Chihuahua, meet with someone from the orphanage, and then go with them to buy the vital supplies that they need (mostly common over the counter type medications, band aids, etc.). This way the money that is raised goes right to the source of the need. No overhead. No expenses.
Every dollar in goes straight to the orphanage. I've dropped my donation there as well as to the Heifer Project, which is one of my and Lileks' favorite charities. No matter the evils of contract negotiations at SCSU, we're hale and happy and grateful that God has given us so much.

The Scholars ask that you join in the spirit of the season by sharing your increasing Gross Family Product with the Fraters or any others you feel are needing. And if you'd like to list them in our comment box, we're all too glad.

Who knows, you might even get them off double secret probation!

UPDATE: Pipe Captain Ed on board! And the Commish! Join us, won't you?

I vote for Tricky Dick 

Mike Adams, the delightful professor at North Carolina-Wilmington, has reprinted another letter by English professor Dick Veit who doesn't like College Republicans. Here's the letter the other professor wrote:
Editor: Let's hear it for UNCW's Young Republicans [sic], fighting for the right to keep out black people and Jews.

Why should their members be forced to associate with Catholics [sic � the CRs' president is Catholic] or Arab Americans if they don't care to? And how much fun can it be to make fun of gays in a room where gay Republicans are present?

If our campus Republicans are uncomfortable being around blind people or students in wheelchairs, what gives UNCW the right to withhold money from student fees?

Fight on, Young Republicans [sic], to return us to the days when segregation was a proud tradition. How dare UNCW discriminate against a club that discriminates.
Adams notes the difference between Young Republicans and College Republicans. Adams wonders if Veit is simply ditsy in confusing political affiliation with fill-in-the-blank-ism, or being tricky in trying to discredit the CRs. I've seen this before here (witness the divine Miss M), but I've normally just went for ditsy. This time, I think I'll go for the more malevolent explanation.

Let the market deal with cookie sales 

Virginia Postrel links to the way to shut down affirmative action bake sales
without giving the conservatives any good press, by buying up the inventory at those low, low prices: "All you needed was one black guy with $20 to walk up and buy every cookie they had. Bake sale over." Such creativity is apparently beyond the imagination of the sensitive.
But that's a MARKET solution, Ms. P. Surely you understand that they cannot support the market!

Gambling on education 

'Tis the season for different proposals for the next legislative session (even-numbered years are given over to the biennial budget). Now it's a proposal to use a casino to fund Hope scholarships. The first choice for location would be near the Mall of America. The plan faces stiff opposition from the Indian reservation casinos (there are 18 in Minnesota) as well as Governor Pawlenty. The revenue estimates are overstated as well, according to a well-known expert on the economics of casinos. Debate over casinos in Minnesota has been ongoing and this is only one of many proposals of using gambling revenues to fund state projects.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

To skip or not to skip? 

Joanne Jacobs links to the Davidson Institute's research on whether or not to skip grades with talented or gifted children. We have a daughter who has skipped first grade, now in fifth. The concerns over emotional and social development for her are a constant source of debate -- friendly but spirited -- between my wife and me, with her contemplating unskipping. Jacobs suggests that
"Moderately gifted" students already know about half the grade-level material they're taught, says one study. Profoundly gifted students need to skip many grades, not just one, to benefit.
That might well be; there's no question our child reads books adults read. It's also true that her decisions on playmates tends to take her to younger children -- the best argument, my wife says, for unskipping. But children may develop interest in play at different rates than they develop interest in learning; I coach a scholastic chess team with some younger players much better and more interested than the older ones. My games of choice by the time I was ten were the Avalon-Hill strategic war games -- another kid and I had whole weekends devoted to campaigns of Gettysburg, Stalingrad and later Panzer Blitz, as well as chess, while the other kids my age were all playing Monopoly or Life. I'm not sold that the choice of younger playmates is a marker of a child who should be unskipped, anymore than my choice to play war sims at ten years old was a marker that I should have been (I was not.)

I'd be interested in links to other stories on this aspect of the skipping-unskipping question.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Saddam dead pool entry 

Fraters Libertas is taking a pool on the day Saddam will be executed. I'll take March 4, 2005. The irony would be delicious.

The history standards are coming, like it or not 

We expect the new social science standards to come out any day now, and so the newspaper drumbeats are continuing. Over the weekend in the StarTribune, Norman Draper looked at history teachers and compared what they teach now to what the standards might suggest. (They're not done yet, so we don't know what the re-draft will be.)
A high-school U.S. history course syllabus is more likely to pose questions about why America has shortchanged minority members and women and dumped on blue-collar workers, and to highlight women's suffrage, the environmental and civil rights movements and the Vietnam War.

The state proposal doesn't ignore those but is more likely to feature names and events such as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, the Battle of the Bulge and agricultural implement pioneers Cyrus McCormick and John Deere.

Even the language used -- "robber barons" vs. "rise of corporations" -- is a tip-off that this is one of the battlegrounds in America's culture war, which often pits conservatives against liberals, Republicans against Democrats.

The proposed social studies standards -- of which U.S. history is a part -- are being tweaked before a draft is released this week. There are signs that criticism slamming the requirements as being about too many white men and battles, and too "America the Beautiful," are having an impact.

For instance, the latest version of the high-school requirements includes specific references to Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; they were missing from the first draft. And indications are that the hundreds of requirements might be pared by 30 to 40 percent to make them more palatable to teachers.
That's a fair assessment of what is happening. The rest of the story details the level of coverage of some topics in modern high school history courses. We learn thatIt's not a question of whether those are important, but a question of what you choose to do with the most limited resource a teacher has: time. The decision to include Philliss Wheatley may mean students don't learn of Ethan Allen. While one teacher says it's a "political decision" what to include or not, Draper correctly states earlier in the article that it's a cultural issue. In some places, such as the article's description of Anoka-Hennepin's seventh grade history syllabus, military history is important -- that's fine, but is it as important as the history of American musical forms like blues or rock? If you spend 2.5 weeks on civil rights, plus a week and a half on women's sufferage, what did you choose not to teach?

Probably more frightening than this is what students think. Said one student, "You got a thousand pages on white people, you could at least give Somalia a page or two." Um, it's a U.S. history class, son. Worth reading to see the debate over whether it's "a teacher's job to instill patriotism in a student."

More coverage coming when the standards are posted online in the next day or two.

Pick me ... not! 

A state senator in Minnesota is suggesting that some public college closings should be on table, according to a story in the StarTribune. (Link requires registration.) He is proposing a campus closing commission like the ones that have handled closing military bases.
It would have 13 members appointed by House and Senate leaders and the governor and would recommend campus closings based on criteria that include operating costs, instructional costs as related to enrollment, geographic access and demographic projections, among other measures.

Under Michel's proposal, the commission would start work on July 1, 2004, and report to the Legislature and governor by Feb. 1, 2005.
The data for MnSCU that he suggests using can be found here, provided as a public service. Combined with another proposal to allow schools to opt out of MnSCU, should make for a great 2004!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Two notes on other blogs 

We're pleased to note that our blogchild, In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood, has won TLB's New Blog Showcase for best non-political blog. I expect he'll get more before long. Good going, John!

Also, Intergalactic Capitalist has moved to groovy new virtual digs. Check it out and adjust blogrolls.

'Tis the season 

Look, we're busy with finals, and you're probably more interested in Saddam commentary than education issues today. Fine with us. Couple of posts below, but we'll be light on posting until Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by.

I see God in The Wall 

Or, why you can still listen to Christian rock.

I know, a little off my topic, but when Northern Alliance partner Shot In The Dark decided to discuss why he dislikes Christian rock, my first reaction was South Park. (My first reaction to everything is South Park.) But I think there's a good point made by Mitch, and more than the Infinite Monkeys' claim that authentic gospel is equivalent to good Christian. One doesn't just have to listen to the soundtrack from O Brother Where Art Thou? to get the point either (though that's darn good.)

The point is that you're not so interested in what is being played but how it's being played. I've heard Isaac Stern describe playing the violin -- this was my instrument in my youth, though I later switched to bass to play rock and meet girls -- as an expression of how to play the violin. Chess is the same way; a beautiful game of chess feels as if the hands of God have created the story and moved the pieces subject only to His will and not man's rules of the game. It is the Concerto of Deliverance that begins Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged:

She sat listening to the music. It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance.
Like God, music delivers you from the mundane, transcends the earthly. At times it's been Mark Knopfler's guitar, Stern's violin, Bill Evans' piano, Coleman Hawkins' sax, Allison Krauss singing Down the River to Pray, or the spine tingling of watching The Wall torn down on stage. Sometimes it's Christian rock without you knowing it, or like my son, not caring that P.O.D. was decidedly Christian, or Evanescence once was. Just as the fact that Creed -- which I think was the inspiration for South Park -- is Christian but sucks, not because it's Christian but because I can't stand the guy's voice.

And believe me, you hear it more in live music than on a CD, so go out and support your local musician, wherever you are. God might dwell there that night, just as He did when Richard Halley whistled his concerto to Dagny Taggert.* You never know.

*--Yes, I understand Rand's atheism.

Affirmative actions admissions subject to a "blinking yellow light" 

The decision by Texas A&M to not use race as an admissions factor has created a debate in Texas.
The [Michigan] ruling was greeted with deep sighs of relief by admissions officers around the country and particularly in Texas, where advocates of preferences rejoiced that it signaled the death of Hopwood, the 1996 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down a UT law school admissions policy as discriminatory. But as schools studied the Supreme Court ruling, they quickly became aware they were treading through a legal minefield.

"The Supreme Court decision didn't give admissions offices a green light on affirmative action," said Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education. "It gave them a blinking yellow light."

The ruling may have made clear that race can be considered, but it left unclear whether certain programs that target minorities will withstand legal challenges. Already, some schools have altered or done away with minority scholarships, orientation days and recruitment programs because conservative organizations have threatened legal action or, in some cases, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education.
So Texas A&M, unlike UT, has decided it wants to go a different way.
That's not stopping A&M from trying. [A&M President Robert] Gates says he has the same goal as everyone else -- significantly increasing minority enrollment. He just thinks there are different ways of going about it.

Gates is pledging a greater commitment to recruiting minorities. Already having created a Cabinet-level diversity position in the school administration, he said he'll create scholarships for first-generation students who come from lower-income families and he'll beef up outreach efforts to large urban areas such as Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, as well as the Rio Grande Valley. Many faculty senate members last week signed up to be part of the effort.
These are very expensive steps vs. using a numerical ranking. As we noted back in August, maintaining diversity goals in the face of the Michigan decision is practically a full employment plan for admissions counselors. But Gates believes it is worth it.
I realize that this is an unusual position to stake out, that we seem to be alone among selective universities. But my top priority is increasing minority enrollment. I just don't think that means everyone has to use the same methods. And I want our students to believe they're here because of who they are, not what they are."
The article notes the high percentage of classes at UT that have either no or just one member of a minority group. John Rosenberg comments:
Obviously, then, if Michigan was correct in arguing that a liberal education requires racial diversity, Texas students are being woefully deprived. Perhaps sole blacks and Hispanics should not be allowed to enroll in a class unless at least one additional black or Hispanic can be found to enroll, and whites should be required to take a certain number of classes with more than one minority students.
He's not joking.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Judge allows public school to teach about Islam 

"A federal judge has ruled that a California school district didn't violate the Constitution when it taught seventh-graders about Islam."

"Parents who sued the Byron Union School District said students were required to participate in role-playing. It included wearing Muslim clothing, saying Islamic prayers and giving up candy for a day to demonstrate the principle of daytime fasting during Ramadan.

"Critics said the lessons crossed the line between instruction and indoctrination.
School officials said parents were given the option of not having their children participate.

"Federal Judge Phyllis Hamilton found that there was no evidence that students were doing activities with devotional or religious intent.
So what WAS the intent, Your Honor? Promoting healthier teeth? I wonder if the woman knows what Ramadan even is. Dhimmi Watch promises more on this novel interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

Bah, Humbug! 

For local readers, a treat! Dave Christopherson is working on his internet-less Mac and can't post anything, but he sends along a ditty running around his college here at SCSU.
�Twas the night before finals at S-C-S-U;
Few creatures were working � much less at MnSCU.
Our wallets were drained, with no contract in sight.
All hoped St. Mc-Cor-mick would soon set things right.

The IFO leaders all cried in their beer,
Dashed visions of health-care plans brought them no cheer;
And Roy in this season did sit back and chime
�Bout how all professors had so much free time.�

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away in Centenn�yal I sought a window . . .
No, wait, they�re not in yet; I guess I�m just slow.

The sun shone down where our college would be
Warehoused on fourth floor where no one could see.
When, what to my wondering eyes should now show,
But a huge S-U-V, with eight minions in tow.

With a great big old driver, so slow and not quick,
I knew in a moment it was Mc-Cor-mick.
More rapid than eagles his subjects all came,
To settle a lawsuit � I think Dick was his name.

"Now, Saigo! now, Spitzer! now, Ludwig and Bernie!
On, Veeder! on Holder! on, Fisher and Ernie!
For a plan to secede, you must never succeed;
Just dumb down, yes dumb down, you follow my lead.�

Those dry quips that on discuss-list once flew
Lie now banished by threats of sanctions that grew
�Gainst thoughtless remarks.� Now, civility�s the rule:
�Judge not another; why, that�s just too cruel.�

�Tolerate anything . . . except for one thing;
It�s clearly intol�rance that must feel our sting.�
Then I thought to myself, �Wait a minute, hmm, huh?�
Why don�t I get it? Am I just a dense �duh�?

He was dressed all in fur, us to visit in haste,
Just like Liberace . . . the most lavish of taste!
A bundle of cash he had flung on his back,
To take from our campus and fill his own sack.

His red eyes so evil! His presence - how scary!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.
His pursed little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
Made you wonder aloud, �Does he drive like Janklow?�

His eight elves stood �round him, like potted plants all,
Not fighting a lick to stop St. Cloud�s great fall
In ratings to rival one other school�s fate.
That�s right, you just guessed it: we�re a cold Metro State!

He was chubby and plump, a tall heavy old elf,
And I cringed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A glare of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon let me know I had much now to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled his own sack; then turned like a jerk,
And laying two fingers aside his red nose,
Mc-Cor-mick blew hard just before he arose.

He lurched to his truck, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all sped like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Open FIRE on bake sale suppression 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has come out strongly to support "affirmative action bake sales":
"Parody and political satire are not illegal in this country," said Thor Halvorssen, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). "College administrators appear to be under the mistaken impression that protesting affirmative action is not covered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech is a right enjoyed equally and fully by both supporters and opponents of affirmative action."
FIRE has started to fight back on the suppression of bake sales by tackling the shut down of one at the University of Washington. The university claims that it was simply a matter of the College Republicans group not getting the right permit to hold their event. The event led to someone tearing down the sign of prices for the bake sale and a CR having cookies thrown into his face; the University does not deny these claims but still preferred to ask the CRs to stop their sale rather than just remove the assaulting students.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Snark which surpasses all understanding 

You can always rely on the City Pages to demonstrate a local low in local reporting. You can also always rely on the Left to use guilt by association instead of reasoned argumentation. Yet it's a particularly virulent form of snarkiness which informs Britt Robson's smackage (see Eric? "Smackage.") of Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke. Robson claims that Yecke has had a volte-face between her decrying of Clintonian interventions in local education policy and the No Child Left Behind Act, which was introduced during her time in the federal Dept. of Education.
The centerpiece of Bush's education agenda is the No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress two years ago. While it does not exert as much direct federal control over education as Clinton's national tests would have, there is no question of its forceful impact on how Minnesota manages its public schools and measures what students learn.
"There is no question" is lazy. There is a question, Britt. A big one. Do you want to rely on tests that only look at aggregate data, or do you want to be sure that kids from all backgrounds are being tested? And please remind me, Britt, when the Clinton plans allowed kids to opt out via vouchers if their schools failed them?
Once in Minnesota, Yecke helped ram through the new reading and math standards required to get No Child Left Behind funding. This September, almost exactly six years after she decried encroaching federal involvement in education, she praised the act as "a strong law, a morally righteous law."
And if Yecke had not gotten the funding, what do you think Britt would write?
Ironically, the clamoring for more local autonomy in education stems from a nationally coordinated, ideologically driven movement that seeks to deprive public schools of stable funding and force them to compete in the private market. And Yecke is clearly a part of that movement.
So which is it? Is she for more federal funding, or private markets?
This explains why Yecke has frequently stated that the amount of money a school receives does not necessarily affect its performance, and why she readily acquiesced to Pawlenty's budget cuts in education during the last session.
Well, do you have any evidence to the contrary? My look at the question for higher education can be easily applied to K-12 as well.
It is why her 1997 speech was reprinted as the cover story in the February/March 1998 edition of Intellectual Ammunition, a public policy magazine published by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Chicago, whose education philosophy is prominently displayed on its website: "Government schools are islands of socialism in a sea of competition and choice."
Which NCLBA corrects, so why is she being inconsistent? Or are you the one being inconsistent, Britt?
The Heartland Institute, the Fordham Foundation, and other organizations pushing for conservative, free-market oriented education reforms have made progress through the efforts of Bush and Yecke. The process and the people chosen by Yecke's education department to develop Minnesota's standards reflect her conservative bias (see "Cooking the Books," 11/12/03). The federal law advocated and implemented by Bush and Yecke is structured so that any school that departs from those standards will be financially punished.
Britt is back to the old "she's in bed with THESE KIND OF PEOPLE" argumentation. It is not that schools don't need to be reformed, but that it is being done by the wrong kind of people. What would Britt do with any school that departed from Clinton approved standards? Give them more money?

Wait, don't answer that.

I'll handle this one 

David Bernstein wonders if The Volokh Conspiracy is libertarian or not, after Gene Healy says that Liberty and Power (where he is guest-blogging and where I am a regular member -- here's my latest) is "the Volokh Conspiracy, only libertarian". I wonder too. Certainly some of them, particularly Randy Barnett and Bernstein himself -- would be libertarians in most senses of the word. I think I am too. But to many libertarians, any embrace of government, including support for the War on Terror, is grounds for exclusion from the club. I'd be curious of what they'd say of Brink Lindsey, for instance: libertarian or no? Frankly, the question bores me; I never gave anyone permission to decide what my label is, and I have no intention of doing so. When serious people are discussing what label to put on Ayn Rand, it's time to move on.

It's NOT in the mail 

Charles Nuckolls tells us that the Alabama Scholars Association's publication, The Alabama Observer, is not being distributed on their campus.
A case in point is the University of Alabama, which recently banned from on-campus distribution the publications of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Alabama Scholars Association (ASA), and the Federalist Society. Why? The real reason is that administrators do not like the ASA. The AAUP and the Federalist Society are simply collateral damage.

How do you ban things these days? You cite "postal regulations." That's right: the post office and its rules are being used to defeat the first amendment. We are told that the University would be violating "postal regulations" if it allowed distribution of our materials. Faculty who would object to any outright attack on their constitutional rights shut up and tuck their tails between their legs when "regulations" are mentioned. After all, they say, it's "the rules."
The Minnesota Association of Scholars has had no such problem so far, but even if we did, our newsletter is online. Advantage: Blogosphere!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Howdy hey, new NA! 

The Lord High Commissioner and California State Sommelier has initiated two new members to the Northern Alliance. We recognize and rejoice in the addition of The Captain's Quarters and Spitbull. If you're reading, Hugh, please consider one more: Helloooo Chapter Two's Steve Gigl has been a loyal Minnesota blogger and reader for some time. We petition for his admission. Additions to be listed in the index file shortly.

UPDATE: Nice 30 seconds of fame, Elder! My line on Colon? "Better by the pound." Then again, the trade should let the Angels sacrifice Washburn for Garciaparra now. God knows you couldn't do it before.

"They could have worked me harder" 

Courtesy of Number 2 Pencil, the Seattle Times reports that students are increasingly feeling high schools are not preparing them for college.
Leah Belisle just assumed she was prepared. She had, after all, graduated second in her class.

She took the most difficult classes at Meridian High School, a rural school near Bellingham, from which few of her peers went on to four-year colleges. She served as student-body president, played two varsity sports and developed close ties to her teachers.

But in her first semester at the University of Washington, Belisle was stunned. The pace, the intensity, the fact she was expected to read 200 pages of a psychology textbook in one week � all of it felt overwhelming.

"I worked hard in high school, but they could have worked me harder," said Belisle, now a sophomore. "Not only was I adjusting to new people, a new place to live and a new city, but I was adjusting to a new way of learning."
The article goes on to discuss the attrition rate of college freshman (now in excess of 25% of the entering class nationwide and around 30% here at SCSU) and how high school educators are not creating standards that prepare students for college, such as requiring only two years of math when colleges require three for admission. There is definitely a difference in expectations:
A national survey in 2000 showed that although 71 percent of students planned to attend a four-year college, only 52 percent of parents thought their children would make it. And high-school teachers expected only one-third of their students to go to four-year colleges.
Why do high-school teachers have such low expectations? Are they right?
Not every student is "college material," the argument goes, and forcing all students to take a rigorous curriculum will only set up some for failure and humiliation.
And when they come to university and fail here? Oh right, NIMHS -- Not In My High School.
That was the argument last year in Bellevue, when Riley introduced a proposal to require all students to take a college-level course in each of the four "core" disciplines before graduation. More than 300 people packed a forum on the topic, saying the district was moving too far, too fast.

"I've got a heck of a lot of people pushing back and saying, 'Oh, that's unrealistic,' " said Riley, who shelved the proposal. "It reminds me of how the country was a hundred years ago, when people started saying, 'Everybody ought to get a high-school education.' "
When everybody worked harder.

Common sense and the First Amendment 

This interview with David Bernstein and this book forum are worth your time. He says many reasonable things, such as this:
In the normal course of things if there's a conflict between a particular law and the First Amendment, the First Amendment wins out. However there is a narrow exception, when the government has a compelling interest that the statute is trying to fulfill. What the courts started doing in the '70s and '80s was to say that eradicating discrimination is a compelling interest sufficient to overcome the First Amendment in many contexts. This compelling interest standard really needs to be limited to things that are not just important but so crucial to society that society can't really function unless the government can regulate. Remember it's not just discrimination against blacks or women or Jews we're talking about nowadays, but in many jurisdictions discrimination against overweight people, or people who have piercings, or even if they say they are part of a motorcycle gang, discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, disability, and on and on. And if the government has a compelling interest in eradicating every possible type of discrimination you could think of, then there would be very little left of the First Amendment.
UPDATE: He's a first among equals, even if he isn't egalitarian.


I coined this term personally for my own fear that the administrative chores of my job one day consuming me whole. End of semester does that to a guy. But it also could apply to the fear of administrators actually administering a university for fear of conflict, lawsuits, and dirty laundry being applied in public.

Dick Andzenge, a criminal justice professor here, has penned an explanation of several events on this campus to the local newspaper. Th The St. Cloud Times does not archive their news stories very well -- the links change daily -- so I have archived the article here.

Prof. Andzenge starts with discussion of the dismissal of Dean Lewis. Changing administrators is normal, but SCSU is not a normal place.
At St. Cloud State, ordinary action is suspect, resulting in threats of lawsuits that are often settled in ways more problematic than the original problems. Those settlements cost a lot of money to the state and erode our reputation as a university. Even though the university never acknowledges any wrongdoing, the persistence of these incidences continue to tarnish the image of the university.

Lewis threatens to sue and I hope that for once the university will go to court so the complaint can be resolved by an open and objective evaluation of facts.
Indeed. The anti-semitism case settled last year still have not had its findings or settlement released to the university at large, though I've seen people in the union executive committee carrying copies around. We do not know if the settlement has been fulfilled or not. We do not know its findings. But Prof. Andzenge reveals a good bit of the case.
One department in the college became the focus of controversy when junior faculty resisted established scholarship requirements for retention, promotion and tenure. Lewis' insistence that these people knew the requirements at the time of their employment and that they should abide by them became offensive to them.

A visiting professor applied for a full-time position and was denied. He charged he was being discriminated against.

While this was going on, a report that one of the professors in the same department had submitted fraudulent documents (an application for employment) became public. The professor acknowledged she was being investigated for fraud and admitted she had not published some articles or books she claimed to have done. However, she claimed the investigation was motivated not by her wrongdoing, but by the fact that she had supported the other professor.

A careful investigation by the university could have established whether the actions of the faculty search committee, the department chair and the dean were proper or whether both professors were wronged.

The university engaged several external groups to examine perceptions of discrimination and the racial climate on campus. Each of the groups concluded there are perceptions of discrimination.
We spent a good deal of time on those perceptions last year (see our best-of list on the left index for additional information). It is in fact this process that lead to the anti-semitism settlement. Adminisphobia in this case was displayed by Prof. Andzenge then discusses another, new twist on adminisphobia.
Another result of settling claims without establishing facts and holding people accountable is that more people in the system refuse to be held accountable.

In recent years, some faculty members have sought and received the right to not be supervised by their deans. This action makes departments ungovernable.

Some professors use this tactic to intimidate their colleagues, avoid peer review, claim tenure or promotion they have not legitimately earned and to cheat students of proper education.
This is being applied both to deans and to professors in contentious departments evaluating their peers. Where I agree most strongly with Prof. Andzenge is that we are using group judgments like anti-semitism and adminisphobia to avoid individual accountability. Because that case was settled, there is no finding of fact that can ever clear a former dean's good name, or the faculty member accused of academic dishonesty. They are both smeared.

Adminisphobia damages academic departments by not permitting them to enforce academic standards for promotion and tenure. The use of exclusions from dean- or peer-supervision is in fact a breach of academic freedom. Faculty members' productivity is interdependent with the productivity of other members of their department. Influence over that environment is vital to their careers. Deans provide an interested arbiter who, when they act objectively, buttress the departmental standards that have been mutually agreed, as well as enforcing university-wide standards for teaching and research. New faculty (particularly those who are on fixed terms) are made aware of the standards. If they do not agree, they should not sign contracts to join.

It is likely that adminisphobia is leading to the disintegration of departments. It has destroyed one in our college and is in the process of destroying another. As the discussion on the newspaper's website suggests, the responsibility for this begins and ends at the President's Office. (And look what he shows on his site now -- where is he???)

UPDATE: Archived the article, by permission of the author.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Belief Seeking Understanding 

Belief Seeking Understanding notes that the number of people taking Ph.D.s in science and engineering is declining. Is this perhaps because the return to that degree is declining? Why? What encourages people outside academia to earn the doctorate in the sciences?

Motives make the man 

The writer of the email I discussed about Chile and 9/11 is quite upset with me for thinking I know his motives. He says I don't own "the memory of the WTC" and the penis envy line was a new low. We aim for excellence.

But the claim I found most odd was his claim that I think I " know my mind and purposes better than I do". What is the entire debate over speech codes than this, anyway? People use words that offends other groups, even as illustrations. The words we use are always judged by the listener, say the PC police, and those that offend even a small minority should be stricken from, say, hockey sweaters. Well, pal, the overthrow of Allende is not another 9/11, not even "ironically". It's not another Pearl Harbor. It's not another Battle of Little Big Horn, Battle of the Bulge or Waterloo. It's a historical event, and it's sufficiently different that using the date for advertising is at least misleading. To some, conflating WTC with the overthrow of a communist who was leading his country to ruin is more than misleading.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Who best can judge teaching? 

Tyler Cowen thinks having students pay directly to professors is a good idea for his university. Students at William and Mary are now contributing to a fund to help retain their best teachers. Says Prof. Cowen,
I expect that over time, for better or worse, many state universities will in effect become privatized. They will remain under nominal state control, but their finances will rely increasingly on private sources of support.
Madsen Pirie says that at Hillsdale College students were able to add up to 10% to faculty wages, and that the evaluations were not a function of grades. Adam Smith himself once noted,
If in each college the tutor or teacher, who was to instruct each student in all arts and sciences, should not be voluntarily chosen by the student, but appointed by the head of the college; and if, in case of neglect, inability, or bad usage, the student should not be allowed to change him for another, without leave first asked and obtained, such a regulation would not only tend very much to extinguish all emulation among the different tutors of the same college, but to diminish very much in all of them the necessity of diligence and of attention to their respective pupils. Such teachers, though very well paid by their students, might be as much disposed to neglect them as those who are not paid by them at all, or who have no other recompense but their salary.
If watching for effective teaching is subject to high monitoring costs for administrators, why not empower students themselves in this way? Could this work in the modern university? Or could vouchers be an alternative?

Checking in, briefly 

Sorry to be so late today -- utterly brutal day of all administration and no research and no time for blogging. So here's a potpurri of articles to look at while I dig up some other stuff. More as I can.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Texas A&M to admit individuals "on personal merit -- and no other basis" 

Contrary to the debate over bake sales and football, Texas A&M says it is not going to use the Michigan cases to create new rules for affirmative action in admissions. Says President Robert Gates,
"My recommendations ... involve two objectives about which I feel quite strongly. The first objective, as I have stated before, is for Texas A&M to better serve all of the citizens of the state of Texas, and that includes a better record in attracting and enrolling minorities. The second objective is that students at Texas A&M should be admitted as individuals, on personal merit -- and no other basis.

We will establish no numerical quotas or targets as we seek to increase the diversity of students who enroll. We only know that where we are is unacceptable, and that the future of Texas A&M depends on being more successful in attracting more minority students to join the Aggie family.
It will still use the essays that could be used to signal race or ethnicity.
[F]uture applicants will be required to complete two state essay questions which were previously optional. These are: "Describe a significant setback, challenge or opportunity in your life and the impact it has had on you," and, "Describe how you, as a student, are a good match with us as a learning community. How will your individual characteristics lead you to make a contribution to our campus?"

Friday, December 05, 2003

Cutting the deck 

Is it possible that the Sixth Circuit en banc panel that heard the Michigan case was tampered with? The Volokh Conspiracy says "maybe." Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund wrote to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Swimming Pool) to hold off on any new 6th Circuit nominees because
the current 6th circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that judge will be able, under 6th circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it.
There was such a judge awaiting hearing who was "uncontroversial". Conservative groups are outraged. Juan "Non-Volokh" says that outrage is about all we'll get.

America's higher ed advantage 

There was a graph at the top of Thursday's opinion page of Investor's Business Daily that intrigued me. The page is not online, but it used data from the OECD (.xls) on per-person spending on college and university education. The US, at $19,220, is more than double the OECD avreage of $9,210. A blurb next to the graph notes:
Americans are disappointend with their elementary and secondary schools, which use a lot of money but underperform other nations' school systems. Our university system is another matter. Americans spend more than any other nation on university and college education. It's a key part of our productivity edge.
I wanted to be sure this wasn't a function of our higher GDP per capita, and it's not. We spend 2.7% of GDP on higher education, compared to 1.7% over the entire OECD.

Two points worth noting: All of the difference is due to private higher ed spending, not public (private spending is roughly double public; at 0.9% of GDP public higher ed spending in the States is at the OECD mean.) And higher education is 3.5% of US services exports as of 2000, generating over $10 billion in revenue to US schools. (See Table 5 in the link.)

That phrase is not yours 

Courtesy of Classical Values, a story at Tom's Nap Room on how Coming Out Days are owned by the homosexual community. When conservative students at Penn State decided to run a Conservative Coming Out Day event, members of a GLBT/LSMFT group felt slighted.
Sponsored by the Penn State College Republicans, the event was intended to show how marginalized political conservatives feel on campus. One student told the rally how an English teacher introduced herself on the first day of class by saying, "I hate Republicans."

Gay rights groups on campus expressed concern about the language on fliers advertising the event, saying the conservatives� pledge to "come out of the closet" mocked their own struggles for freedom and justice.
From the student newspaper article :
John Litz (sophomore-liberal arts), a member of Allies, said the group was told to show up at the rally as individuals and not to protest.

"I just wanted to see what they have to say," he said. "I support their right to free speech, but at the same time, I don't think they should be putting down other groups to get their views across."
It's hard to find any hostile statements made by the conservatives -- the only jeer quoted was when a gust of wind blew over a balloon archway, to which someone in the audience said, "Take it as a sign, my friend," -- but the fact that some people don't like being called "homophobes" just for being Republican, I guess, is "putting down other groups." Either that or someone needs to show my the trademark registry for "Coming Out Day".

Thursday, December 04, 2003

A friend I didn't know 

Den Beste has listed us as a rising star. That's praise from a very high place. (Oh shush, Hugh -- I give you more fealty than I give the Red Sox.) I'm pleased that we're in the same company as David at Photon Courier, a reader and occasional commenter here who writes great stuff.

There's no way we'll match Den Beste's page load -- we're under 2000 a week, which is still 1500 more than I ever thought we'd get -- but if you're finding us due to his list, welcome! Hope you like what you find.

So open minded, their brains fell out 

Courtesy of OpinionJournal's Best of the Web today, a story of film student Paula Carmincino who decided that her video would be about how people censor their lives between the bedroom and elsewhere. So she wanted to make a film in which the actors actually have sex on film.
She said her video, titled "Animal," was supposed to depict the contrast between public and private behavior: "The whole concept of it was to compare the normal behavior of people in their everyday lives versus the animalistic behavior that comes out when they are having sex."

She planned to intersperse 30-second clips of passionate sex with scenes of the couple engaged in more mundane activities, like watching television and reading a newspaper.

Simulating the sex would have defeated her purpose, she said. "That's censoring the sex part. My thing is how we censor ourselves during the day when we're not having sex."
The New York Civil Liberties Union is supporting her, but the school is promulgating a rule that films must be rated on the MPAA scale and be no lower than an R-rated movie. You can go many ways with this, but the one that I found telling was the quote from her mother.
Ms. Carmicino also has the support of her mother, Theresa Carmicino, a retired social worker in Shelby Township, Mich., near Detroit, who said, "It's not subject matter I probably would like, but I think she had the right to represent herself the way she likes."

Nor was the controversy a surprise. "Paula's always pushed buttons," her mother said, but she has always backed up her contrarian positions with sound reasoning.
Paula decided instead to make a different movie.
It consisted of two characters having a conversation in which every word was bleeped out.

"She did a beautiful piece," Professor de Jesus said. "I said to the class, `You see what you can come up with when you feel real passionately about a subject?' "

Thoughts on plagiarism 

More from John Bruce.
The difficulty is, as the Warshauer article indicates, that, given the actual extent of plagiarism, it's not really possible to enforce the policies. The freshman comp chair and my faculty advisers had me on the carpet many times over variations on the following: "John, you have to understand that there are departments like Cinema or Victim Studies that are trying to get the university to recognize that their introductory courses can qualify for the freshman comp requirement. If a student can take Cinema 101 and get credit for freshman comp, we lose enrollment. That means your job." (It also would mean the jobs of the professors who teach the graduate assistants, of course, who were the ones who were hectoring me.)

So if English 101, freshman comp, gets the reputation of flunking too many students for plagiarism, there will be that much more incentive to establish or take substitute courses where the policing may not be as effective. But beyond that, any university has got a scandal if any percentage of students -- take whatever statistic you find on the web, or whatever you think is right, ten percent, 30 percent, 60 percent -- gets sent up on formal discipline. Think about it. Don't go to Faber College -- there's a 30 percent chance they'll flunk you out for plagiarism. I don't know what they'd do with that in the US News ranking.

Colorado update 

Prof. Jim Weber sends me this article (subscribers only) updating the debate over viewpoint diversity in hiring on Colorado public university campuses.
Worried that students and faculty members with conservative views face "hostile" academic environments at Colorado's public colleges, the president of the state's Senate sent letters this month asking the leaders of all 29 institutions to detail their policies on protecting academic freedom.

In his letters, State Sen. John Andrews, a Republican, asked the presidents to explain their antidiscrimination rules, their processes for handling complaints about bias, and the steps they are taking to promote "intellectual diversity" in classes and in faculty recruiting. Mr. Andrews also asked whether faculty-evaluation forms allow students to report perceived bias against certain ideologies.

Normally I might agree 

A faculty member advertised another film; this time it was a showing of The Emperor of Hemp, put on by our local chapter of NORML. She encouraged faculty to "announce to your classes and consider giving credit where appropriate." Is that a good idea? One faculty member was outraged by the invitation. Another suggested that it was just an invitation and "If enough people are in that "silent minority", I'm sure you could lobby to have this group removed from the list of recognized university organizations."

This doesn't bother me too much, I suppose, because first of all I am opposed to the drug war. And while I suppose most NORML members might be opposed to white Christian males, as the respondent suggested, I doubt that's altogether true. I think NORML may contain more than a few South Park Republicans.

No what bothered me was the willingness of the third person to suggest that enough silent majority persons in the university could be enough to remove the official designation of a student group. As Mike Adams or the Alabama Scholars Association can attest, that's a dangerous place to go.

No, it doesn't 

"Free speech requires responsibility", says the title of a column in the University Chronicle.
As a writer and reader, I generated and witnessed what later turned out to be debatable headlines, amateur or uninformed writing, poor staff decisions and errors of fact and grammar that often sparked controversy. These are unfortunate side-affects of all newspapers.

But over the years the different editors and section editors I have worked with have proved to be the most dependable, dedicated people I have met in college. ...

I never met anyone on the staff with a blatant disregard for the standards and ethics of journalism. I never met anyone malicious or purposefully biased.

Letters to the editor and constructive feedback help the staff grow. But misdirected anger, and name-calling - although proven the least effective forms of reasoning - remain the most frequent means of communication.

I implore readers, whether students, professors, alumni or community members, to help the staff to grow, but not into bitter and defensive journalists. I implore writers and editors to continue the pursuit of those ideals we learned in class, to strive for accuracy, and remember our First Amendment right isn't just a privilege - it's a responsibility. (Emphasis added.)

While I agree with Ms. Kubisiak that we should help student writers grow, I wonder if she understands who has the responsibility. You as a writer have a responsibility to not print false and inflammatory statements like that you had to retract. You have to learn to accept your mistakes and the abuse that people heap when they are pilloried in a public forum without their own forum to respond from. And to accept that there are some who have a forum and will respond.

Universities have a responsibility to be bastions of free and open debate, and public universities, in particular, have a First Amendment obligation to respect freedom of expression.
We do not have to be civil. And we do not have to treat you with kid gloves because you think the Chronicle is a newspaper on training wheels. If a little criticism now will have you grow "into bitter and defensive journalists", I shudder to think what will happen to you when a mayor calls you in after your first investigative piece on city hall politics.

Toughen up, buttercup.

Remedial core courses 

Reader Paul Nelson sends me a note on this post from Kimberly Swygert.
...on average, nearly half of all U[niversity of] C[incinnati] admits have to take a remedial course before they can even get started on tackling college-level material. But instead of admitting that the Board of Regents might have a point in restructuring the system so that college hopefuls will be forced to learn the basics in high school, the UC VP is all about making sure that UC gets that tuition money from those valuable "underprepared" students"
Well yes, of course, because what public universities produce are certificates, not education.

UPDATE: Turns out it's true in Texas too, says Twilight of the Idols.

Blog timing 

I traditionally like to have posts up in the morning, but the last three weeks with busy work as professor and advisor have forced me into late afternoons. Sorry about that. We'll try to switch back in a couple of weeks.

Logic, Cold and Dead 

This weekend while I was looking at the journals I ask my literature students to keep I noticed something worth thinking about a little. In works as disparate as the Iliad, Oresteia, Crime and Punishment, and Paradise Lost, the students who criticized the works consistently said they were �insensitive.� Nobody criticized the works or authors
for being wrong, or superficial, or shallow, or anything else. Just insensitive.

When I talked with a couple of these students, it became pretty clear that they really didn�t have any other categories to use when judging. They called things insensitive because they didn�t have enough of a sense of human depth to judge things as superficial or profound, for instance, or enough of a sense of aesthetics to judge things as beautiful and ugly. Even more telling, they had no real sense of right or wrong, logical or illogical, true to human nature or false. Only sensitive and insensitive.

This this morning on I read an article by Dennis Prager called �How I found God at Columbia.� He talks about wondering as a graduate student why so many of his intelligent professors could believe and teach so many foolish and bizarre things, the sorts of things King has been pointing out with his bulletin descriptions of some of the courses my own sad university is offering even at this moment. Praeger said he finally realized that the flaws, superficiality, confusion and just plain silliness harkened back to a verse he had memorized years before in Jewish religious school and not thought much about since: Psalm 111 � �Wisdom begins with fear of God.� He says, �It could not be a coincidence that the most morally confused of society�s mainstream institutions and the one possessing the least wisdom � the university � was also society�s most secular institutions. The Psalmist was right � no God, no wisdom.�

We have to look at what would have been unthinkable to me twenty years ago: The Enlightenment is dead. It was born 300 years ago to great optimism in the human potential,especially what we could discover through our reason and ability to think logically; it progressed unhindered to form the entirety of our modern secular understanding of things; but then it failed of its own weight and flawed assumptions and died, and all we have left are secular students who can only discover that things are sensitive or not.

But why would students be a surprise. Logic has fared no better in our culture. There�s no better illustration than abortion. Anybody with a faintly disinterested mind, even in Logic 101, could see that there is one central question to the abortion question: When does the fetus become human? There are secondary questions that follow: What makes it human? When does it happen? What are the implications for whatever criteria we choose for determining or accepting the humanity of the fetus for our larger definition of human beings? But as absolutely obvious as these questions are, I�ve never seen or heard them debated, not in universities, not in law, not in any of the organs we presume should give us rational discourse. And if we�ve allowed the deaths of over fifty millions of these creatures without attempting to wrestle at all with the central logical question, why would we expect logic elsewhere?

I hope, of course, that none of this sound insensitive.

It's better to wine out 

Those familiar with the Northern Alliance are surely aware of the gentle ribbing between our Commissioner and the Brothers for Freedom. We fear it may come to an end, because we may be seeing a reallocation of radio and oenological talent. A rising star, Matt Gordon, has been guest co-hosting with Hewitt, and at the same time Gov. Schwarzenegger has visited the Commish to anoint him State Sommelier. We think that, while radio hosts can come or go, a great sommelier comes once in a lifetime. Kicking Hugh upstairs from the radio chair to the wine cellar (downstairs?) seems Pareto optimal. It's simply a matter of when. The Elder offers all bloggers and blog readers a chance to vote on when would be the best time to make that move.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Oh go fly a ... 

Read to the end of this piece on 'racist' speech. Too funny!

He's sooooo mean! 

The Cranky Professor lives under the mistaken notion that students actually read their syllabi.
Cut'n'paste from the Art 101 Syllabus:
Thursday, December 18 � FINAL EXAM - 20% of final grade

8:30 � 11:30 a.m., Houghton House 212

Please notify your parents immediately so that no travel plans are made which interfere with our exam time slot!

(Boldface in the original).

Does telling them this the first day of class work?

Of course not. I have a rule that says no make-up exams, and announce in class that since I have imposed this rule the death rate of my students' grandparents has dropped precipitously. In return, students get to drop their lowest exam in return for a comprehensive final (they can keep all scores and take a non-cumulative last exam if they've not missed and done well.) I still get requests for make-ups; when students are shown the policy they say they already had a bad exam/dead uncle/boyfriend breakup/whatever and it is really unfair. One of my colleagues has the perfect rejoinder: It only takes 2500 extra calories to gain a pound but 3500 fewer calories to burn off a pound. Who said life is fair?

Catching plagiarism is easy 

And very unpleasant. Much has been made of the use of the web for plagiarism and its detection, but the issue is still that people do not know what is and what is not plagiarism. Still, should they get away with it? Matthew Warhshauerargues not. I think he makes good points.

Defining second grade English 

A second-grader has two mothers, and when he describes them as "gay" to another student he is disciplined for "inappropriate discussion." Crescat Sententia has the story.

UPDATE: According to Eugene Volokh, the Louisiana superintendent of schools is denying that the child was disciplined. The evidence is available between Crescat and Volokh for readers to make their own judgment.

Diversity war of words heats up at Texas A&M 

The story on the Texas A&M battle over the affirmative action bake sale has gotten more combative, reports the Houston Chronicle. Commenting on the A&M athletic director's claim that football recruiting has been harmed by the bake sale, the head of the campus Young Conservatives of Texas responds,
Byrne (the AD) is implying that the best football players are minorities. What is the difference between that and what Jimmy the Greek or Al Campanis said?
There is note in the article of an exchange between a Hispanic-American grad student at the bake sale and one of the YCT members.
A female student who is a member of YCT said the Hispanic student started the flap by proclaiming "Texas used to be part of Mexico," and someone replied, "then to go to Mexico if you like it there so much."
If true -- the reporter seems to be relying on overheard conversation, rather than getting a direct quote -- that kind of reply is really not helpful to the cause YCT is advocating, and I have to say in this case that the president has a point. YCT leaders claims the remark was not made and that "there was media coverage all day" so that the reporting of this is questionable.

The president of A&M says the students "are being a little overly sensitive." Gee, where have I heard that before?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Our first blogchild 

I had wondered over the late summer what had happened to our loyal reader and frequent commenter John Bruce, who inspired some excellent blogging. Turns out he's been thinking and finally deciding to create his own blog, In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood, and the Scholars receive full credit. His second post, on the Rev. Robinson election to bishop, is worth reading.

Good luck to you John!

Another source of grade inflation 

Fellow L&P co-blogger Charles Nuckolls points out the widespread use of NC -- "no credit" -- grading in Alabama, which allows students to retake English and Math courses until they receive a grade of at least 'C'. The university's justification is at least interesting, if still unpersuasive:
Several defenses have been put forward to justify NC. Some administrators and faculty have asserted that introductory English and Math are unique subjects because they test �skills� rather than �mastery of a body of knowledge� (as in history classes). Others have justified NC as necessary to removes the �punitive aspects� of grading thus encouraging students to keep trying.

We are not persuaded by the claim that writing is a skill (presumably like typing) and thus fundamentally different than history. Both subjects in our view are equally necessary for a well-round liberal arts education. As in History 100 level courses, it is simply impossible to teach college-level English Composition and entry-level Math in isolation from reading, analysis and criticism.

The NC system is also based on contradiction. Under its rules, a student can take an advanced history (which usually requires considerable writing) but still only receive NC in their entry-level writing course.
When I first came to SCSU, students could retake classes to improve their grades and only the highest grade appeared on the transcript. Now, at least, if a student retakes a course the lower grade remains on the transcript. But like Alabama, it does not count in the student's GPA. Since students need a 2.0 to graduate, it is not altogether unusual to find students with a 1.9x retaking a course in which they already had a 'C' to try to buy up to a better grade to bring their GPA up to the standard. Or is that 'standard'?

I do not know if, like Alabama, a retaken course that erases a student's previous grade also boosts the department's GPA. If any SCSU readers know the answer to this, drop us a comment please.

No comment 

Why? Because it's not allowed. Kimberly Swygert has more.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Feeling good, knowing nothing 

The newest edition of the Minnesota Scholar, the newsletter of the Minnesota Association of Scholars, contains several good stories, including Hugh Mercer Curtler's review of Maureen Stout's The Feel-Good Curriculum. Commenting on the self-esteem movement, Curtler notes:
I would ... paraphrase John Stuart Mill by saying that we do not know what is possible for our students to accomplish until we ask them to do the impossible. Surely, Stout is correct: We have sold our students short and they have delivered as promised. It is not the students� fault: We are at present lying in beds of our own making.

More union taxation without representation 

Our union has created a "Feminist Issues Grant" with awards to about $3000. Selection criteria are:
Member(s) of IFO;
Relevance of the project or activity to women in the IFO or MnSCU at large;
Overall clarity and feasibility of proposal;
Appropriateness of means, timeline, and planned expenses;
Plan for sharing project or activity results with a significant portion of MnSCU/IFO members;
Demonstrated commitment to feminist issues.
So one must be a union member to get this grant. Question: Is this something to be paid dues of only union members, or all members? Or, as Dave suggested in a campus email, should there be a second grant for a "Fair-Share-Assessment-Issues Grant" with a criterion of "Demonstrated commitment to "diversity-of-opinion" issues"? Heh.

Update: Maybe this guy's joke would win money? No, he's not a union member. Damn.

Can't catch this in Texas 

Conservative students at Texas A&M are being blamed for the poor performance of Texas A&M's football team, whose head coach may be fired as early as today. The coach, who was on the committee that hired the diversity VP at A&M, has struggled to a sub-.500 record, and says the Hopwood decision has made it harder for them to recruit ... though it has also done so for UTexas. Maybe Aggies bake better cookies.

Meanwhile, Texas Christian's athletic department has turned down the GMAC Bowl (how many of you know what GMAC stands for??) because it interferes with their final exam schedule. They would like to play a later bowl. Sportscaster Jim Rome was all over TCU for this today, suggesting they are hurt over being invited to a minor bowl which is all they deserve. I could go two ways here. On one hand, to dismiss the claim of academic concerns for student-athletes is simply too cynical, which is of course how Rome makes his money. TCU should be concerned about those exam schedules; I have many hockey players as students and their semesters are heavily disrupted by end of season tournaments (at least they have one.) On the other hand, TCU is part of Conference USA which signs deals with bowls like GMAC to guarantee income for conference members. TCU is shirking its responsibility to the conference with the turn-down.

UPDATE: Best of the Web finds what the Aggie AD said:
The Texas A&M Bake Sale plays right into the hands of those who recruit against us, in both athletics and in the general student population. They will use something like this to suggest that Texas A&M does not have a welcoming environment.

We all know that is not true. Unfortunately, a few individuals represented 45,000 students and an entire community in precisely the wrong light.
Somehow, sir, when I imagine Bob Stoops going into a house to recruit a student-athlete, I imagine that he's more persuasive with his national championship rings than with a clipping of a story about bake sales. Or he could just say "Scoreboard!"