Sunday, February 29, 2004

Caucus Resolution - MnSCU 

This Tuesday night is caucus night in Minnesota. While much attention will be focused on the DFL and on its delegates' support for various presidential candidates, expect also to see a wave of higher-education resolutions put forward - especially in Republican caucuses. Here's but one example of a resolution that will be discussed in a precinct in the Twin Cities.

Whereas our party strongly supports Minnesota's tradition of excellence and opportunity in our publicly supported institutions of higher learning, and

Whereas we seek to restrain the rate of growth in tuition increases, while at the same time improving our state's ability to attract, retain, and motivate outstanding professors, and

Whereas philosophically we favor competition over collectivism as an economic model for optimizing quality as well as efficiency, and

Whereas we value decentralized, autonomous decision-making rather than centralized bureaucratic control in our organizational efforts to maximize accountability to Minnesotans for returns on their tax-dollar investments,

Be it resolved, therefore, that our statewide party calls on all of our legislative candidates for Minnesota House and Senate seats (and especially on those who seek to serve on either the House Higher Education Finance Committee or the Higher Education Budget Division of the Senate's Finance Committee) to:

1) Request that Minnesota's Office of the Legislative Auditor conduct a new study designed to compare our state's ratio of direct instructional costs to administrative costs (expended by both the Office of MnSCU's Chancellor and by campus administrations) with comparable ratios calculated in neighboring states including Illinois (which by that state's Senate Bill 241, did in 1995, establish autonomous governing boards for each of its seven state universities);

2) Support the efforts of Senator Dave Kleis of St. Cloud to enact legislation that would allow Minnesota's state universities to withdraw from MnSCU and establish their own local governing boards;

3) Work with the Citizens League to help assess current offerings, develop a new vision for higher education in Minnesota, and support initiatives that will reward those campuses and programs that can document quantitatively their excellence of outcomes and that close those programs and campuses that are either unwilling or unable to demonstrate such excellence; and

4) Enact new legislation that would prohibit anyone covered by the Personnel Plan for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Administrators from receiving any promotional, positional-review, exceptional-performance, salary-review, merit, step-up, or any other kind of compensation increases during all times when any of the bargaining units who negotiate with MnSCU are working without a current contract.

Don't be surprised if similar resolutions are debated within both major parties' caucuses around the state. It's now virtually impossible to overstate the depth of frustration felt by professors at our state universities with the office of the Chancellor of Minnesota's State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

Friday, February 27, 2004

Do we really do research? 

The Irascible Professor writes today about whether or not research is done, or should be done, at state universities that are paid for by the state mainly to teach. IP says yes, because
...most of the really great teachers in the system are faculty members who have had a long and abiding interest in scholarship. The reason, which should be obvious, is that knowledge is not static. Those faculty members who have active research programs are far more likely to keep up both with new discoveries and with new interpretations of old knowledge. Even if their own research impacts only tangentially on the courses that they teach, they are far more likely to attend professional meetings and engage in spirited discussions with colleagues than those who have no program of scholarship. All of this feeds back into the insight with which the faculty member teaches even introductory courses.
Which allows me to tell you that I will be engaging in research at another fine institution Monday and Tuesday, so posting will be light-to-nonexistent for a few days. Meanwhile I encourage you to read the rest of the Irascible Professor's outstanding post and the link below to AEQ. Have a great weekend.

And he's a communications specialist 

Missed this the first time, but Critical Mass has a story from Bates College in my old backyard of Maine, where its media relations office both chose not to publicize an event by the Bates College Republicans, but had one of its staff send a letter to his supervisor that was mistakenly routed to the CRs instead. Here's the letter.
Oli Wolf has drafted a press release for a GOP training institute his bunch of thugs is hosting at Bates next week. It follows. This really seems pretty far afield for an event that we would publicize, but that may just be my socialist tendencies talking.
Mr. Wolf of the CRs, who got this by mistake, turns out to be much better at publicity than Douglas Hubley, the sender of that email. You can find this story on a lot of the academic blogs. So yesterday, Mr. Hubley wrote an apology letter, mostly apologizing for having been caught.
Please know that I do not in any way regard the Bates Republicans as "a bunch of thugs." I am very sorry for having misspoken, and that my words were presented to you in such a hurtful way. Feb. 23 was my return to work after a week's vacation, and it was a very busy and difficult day. As sometimes happens, my anxiety with events led to my flying off the handle in what was intended as a private communication from me to my supervisor.

People who know me well know that my sense of humor tends, sometimes unfortunately, to take the form of sarcasm and irony, impacting all in sight regardless of political affiliation. My comment was intended only in that sense.
Ch'yeahright. It's hard to imagine how referring to someone as a "bunch of thugs" could be taken in any way other than an insult. And covering for it by being stressed out over coming back from vacation to find, surprise!, that you have work to do, is weak. Compared to this apology, though, it's not a bad effort.

Is Minnesota nice? 

The new edition of the American Experiment Quarterly has a symposium of 44 people discussing whether political discourse in Minnesota has become uncivil. The fact that it is published in AEQ might cause those to disagree with libertarians or conservatives to dismiss it, but I urge them to read through for comments by Mark Dayton or Tim Penny. I'll see if I can find time to write something more about this next week.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Another College of Ed story 

A reader with a child in the teacher development program here writes me:
She doesn't fall for all the indoctrination, but I have to keep my eye on her. Her husband is Army National Guard... She sometimes wears an Army sweatshirt to school, and catches flack for that.

Anyway, earlier this week she had an assignment to find the "official" definition of "social justice". Well, dang if I didn't have your post from a week or two ago quoting Sowell on social/cosmic justice. She got a copy of it, but I doubt if she used it. Have to keep that GPA up!

Links are mine. Thanks for this; these are the types of mail that let me think we're hitting the mark, somewhere.

Academic Bill of Rights moves forward in CO 

Do you believe that the Left is its own worst enemy? The Academic Bill of Rights passed the Colorado House's Education committee after a professor threatened a student in front of the panel.
"The very reason why this bill is necessary is what we just witnessed," said Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs. "A professor intimidated a student for his comments in a forceful, harassing manner - exactly the reason for this bill to move forward."

"I am representing students who are ostracized and ridiculed daily by their liberal professors," VanBuskirk, the last of two dozen people to testify, said.

"I also represent students who have been told, 'This is my classroom. I've got my Ph.D., therefore I decide what views are appropriate. I do not want your right-wing views in my class.' Clearly we have seen that the grievance process does not work. Why not send a chilling effect to these teachers so other students aren't told this?"

As he left the podium, Gould, who had just testified himself, got face-to-face with the student and said, "I got my Ph.D at Harvard. I'll see your (expletive) in court. Then we'll see a chilling effect," according to VanBuskirk. VanBuskirk was immediately called back before the committee to recount the exchange. Gould was not allowed to explain.
Prof. Gould appears to have also told off an ROTC student who complained about her professor calling the military "baby killers" while she was in uniform. Again, the state of academia is such that I do not find this outrageous or even surprising. Happens. All. The. Time.

Are higher standards in colleges of education to come? 

Yes, thinks Joanne Jacobs. Reporting on this story by Jill Stewart from the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that student teachers are being graduated who cannot do long division.
. . . One problem is that skills such as arithmetic are rejected by many teachers as "drill." Professor (David) Klein blames UC and CSU teacher colleges who hammered that view into teachers.

At Cal State Northridge, Klein is required to allow the use of calculators during finals. "My students who are going to become middle-school teachers leave Cal State Northridge unable to do long division or to multiply. ... Then they go off to teach math to teenagers -- but can't do it."
Does it make sense to spend an extra $7000-$10000 per student to send them to a state university or land-grant university instead of a community college? Do we need Ph.D.s in math to teach ninth-grade algebra to those that didn't learn it the first time? I agree with Jacobs; it also makes me wonder whether the forced integration of MnSCU is a good idea.

Douglas gets fan mail 

As I noted in the Sunday's St. Olaf discussion, Douglas at Belief Seeking Understanding had taken a more critical view than most of the article about the teach-in written by Kevin Duchschere. Duchschere responded to Douglas about Duchschere's article and Douglas' critique.
You seem to suggest that I should be drawing overt conclusions from what's happening. Reporters who cover a subject over and over again can write with such authority, but in this instance I spent a couple days talking to people I've never met about a situation I've never addressed. For me to draw conclusions in the story itself would have been foolish and wrong-headed. In such cases our job is to lay out the facts as we find them, and assemble them in such a way as to allow you to do the judging.

Much of what you find lacking in the story is what we call 'inside baseball' -- interesting and intriguing to you, of course, but you must remember I'm writing 30 inches for a wide, general audience. Getting into Horowitz would require another story.
I think in part that's correct, assuming Duchschere was new to this. It does make you wonder why they put him on this story -- I don't know what area he normally covers, but he's not the usual person they put on higher education stories. He may have fallen onto a much better story than was believed when he was assigned to it.

I don't know if he's judging what part of the story is "inside baseball" and which is not. If he's really new to this, I don't know why I'd trust that judgment. But I do agree with his judgment on this point. is reporting what St. Olaf officials told me 'uncritically accepting' of it? The story itself is proof that we didn't accept what they were saying -- otherwise, we never would have run it. You don't believe we ought to offer the college's reaction in their defense? Again, this wasn't a commentary based on my analysis, it was a news story.
I agree with that; I can't see any facts pertinent to the story that Duchschere omitted, which is why I said he did a good job. That doesn't mean that I think he grasps the full import of the event. I don't think that's necessary. He went, he saw, he interviewed, and he reported what he saw and interviewed, structured in a way to suggest that there were two sides to the story but not slanted towards either one. For that, we hope he gets more higher ed assignments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A homework assignment for St. Olaf's 

We truly appreciate all the traffic SCSU Scholars has gotten over the St. Olaf story (and a special thanks to someone who will remain nameless for the help getting correspondence!), but we've decided that the Students for Intellectual Diversity at that school need a homework assignment. It comes from one of our frequent links, Prof. Mike Adams: Apparently the dust-up over the College Republicans there came after the CRs documented how much was spent on speakers to campus who were liberals versus that spent on conservatives out of their student activity dollars. (You probably can guess the latter number.) I propose that the students of St. Olaf undertake the same study. Results can be mailed to us, and forwarded to your Board of Regents for further instruction on what is happening on their campus. Grading is strictly 90-80-70-60.

Meanwhile, some fool took the stage at St. Olaf 

And no, not this one.

This one.
"We single out potential adversaries who might disagree with U.S. government policy, and almost the first resort, it seems, is a military response," Carter said. "The completely unwarranted, almost unilateral war that we started in Iraq is a typical example of this, and it's not the only one. We brand people [the] 'axis of evil,' and it alienates them. Sometimes their leaders obviously deserve condemnation. But it arouses within their people -- quite often people who are suffering under a despotic leader -- a sense of fear, intimidation, aggravation and even hatred of the United States."
Acknowledging his own military service, Carter defended the concept of a strong U.S. military but said it should be used to
push people toward peace, not war.
I love that, "Acknowledging his own military service." A page out of the John Kerry playbook.

Shippensburg State to repeal speech code 

Bowing before a preliminary injunction against its speech code, Shippensburg State University has decided to scrap the code altogether.
Shippensburg has agreed to remove the unconstitutional provisions from its Code of Conduct and to replace them with a simple statement requiring students to comply with applicable federal and state antidiscrimination laws. The university has also agreed to pay attorneys' fees and to rewrite its "Racism and Cultural Diversity Policy" in order to make it explicitly clear that the policy is an unenforceable university statement of values and does not bind student conduct or expression in any way. "A public university is free to express the values it holds dear, but it may not require students to adopt those values, and it may not punish students because their opinion and speech dissent from some official university view," said [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education president Alan Charles] Kors. He added, "Shippensburg President Anthony Ceddia made the taxpayers of Pennsylvania pay for his discomfort with the Bill of Rights."
FIRE has more details.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Welcome FrontPage readers! 

Big Trunk's article on PowerLine about the St. Olaf teach-in is reprinted at FrontPage magazine this morning, and includes a link to this article of ours with the letters between the students and St. Olaf administrators. Almost as good as an Instalanche. Thanks, Scott!

Another sheepshead candidate 

I seem to be forever reading Mike Adams, but only because his school could be more dysfunctional than mine. UNC-Wilmington (which he notes stands for the University of Numerous Christians at Wilmington) is considering a quota on the number of Christian student groups on its campus, which had risen since September 11. This comes in addition to the story of decertifying their College Republicans chapter for not admitting Democrats, a story to which Prof. Adams has added some disturbing details.
Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of this controversy was the university's misrepresentation of the reasons for the CRs' de-recognition. One of my readers from Monmouth College asked the chair of the SOC the following: "Is it true that the CRs at UNCW lost accreditation because they would not admit Democrats?" The chair responded by saying that the CRs had violated a policy like the one at Monmouth, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of "race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation or religious affiliation." The chair knew that the CRs did not want to discriminate on the basis of any of those factors. Their sole issue was political affiliation, and she knew it. Internal memoranda indicate that she had known it since October 20th.

Even worse was the decision of another committee member to write an editorial to the local New York Times affiliate accusing the CRs of fighting for "the right to discriminate." Yet another professor accusing the CRs of trying to exclude "blacks" and "Jews" from their organization topped all this off. This accusation was also published in the local paper. Put simply, the university conducted a smear campaign against its own students, all in the name of tolerance and diversity. ...

Even after wading through all of the stupidity and malice proffered by these forked tongues of academic idiocy, there is still no direct answer to the fundamental question: Do the diversity policies of UNCW trump the United States Constitution?
I do not have names yet of these administrators, but I believe The Superintendent should be put on the case. Notification has been sent.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Called out 

Cold Spring Shops taunts us for a hockey win by his Badgers Saturday. I confess to paying next to no attention to hockey. Not that it's a bad sport, but after rotisserie baseball and fantasy football, I have to re-introduce myself to the family every January. By March they're ready to have me go back to my Baseball Prospectus.

Mission accomplished 

Big Trunk of PowerLine has recorded his thoughts on his lecture at St. Olaf, and Hindrocket adds some thoughts and photos of the event. Notes the Trunk:
I was struck after the talk by how many of the students, mostly guys, stayed around to express appreciation. Appreciation for what? My impression was that they appreciated hearing someone articulate a point of view that expressed their own instinctive respect for the guardians of freedom.
Also noteworthy is our friend Douglas at Belief Seeking Understanding, who has paid admission to a round of "Whack the Star-Tribune pinata, and feast on the tasty treats inside." (His words, not mine.) The opinion of most of the others was that the S-T piece was pretty good, but he makes some good points. Worth a read.


Someone noted in the comments on the North Carolina story last week that the instructor was a fixed-term faculty member. You wonder if the administration woulc come down like the ton of bricks that have buried this instructor?
Crystall [the instructor] apologized to the class Monday, and university officials said they're monitoring the class to ensure students' free speech.

...On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, a Farmville Republican, called for state Attorney General Roy Cooper to look into whether the professor broke any state laws. Jones also is asking the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to investigate.

"Had Ms. Crystall substituted the word 'black' for 'white,' 'homosexual' for 'heterosexual' or 'Muslim' for 'Christian,' she would have been suspended or fired immediately," Jones wrote in a letter to UNC-CH Chancellor James Moeser. "Instead, the student in question was forced to go to an online message board to defend himself to his classmates, his academic future left in the hands of the likes of Ms. Crystall."

...On Monday, Crystall sent an e-mail apology to her students. "I regret that my e-mail to you last week crossed a line and inhibited free discussion," she wrote. "And I am sorry if anyone was offended by my e-mail; my intention was to promote respectful conversation among us, not to censor anyone. We should not make specific examples of anyone, and I should not have named anyone."
Via Best of the Web.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Nothing gets past St. Paul. Nothing. 

Frater St. Paul has exposed a writer at MPR who labeled only conservatives in the story on the third draft of the standards that we covered before. He questioned why Parents United for Public Education (Tax Dollars) was not labeled as a liberal group, and he got answers: The reporter knew of EdWatch but not PUPE so reported the first as conservative and didn't report the latter as liberal. St. Paul responds,
If I may offer you some unsolicited advice, next time you decide to call a group "conservative" based on your preconceptions, take a look at your story and see if there are any other groups referenced. If so, how should they be politically characterized? If you've never heard of them before and don't know, do a quick Internet search. It took approximately 1 minute on Google to find everything on Parents United for Public Education.

Furthermore, if you're in the business of reporting education news, I would think it would be important to know a little something about the types of groups that are testifying before an education committee. Especially ones you choose to quote as having something important to say on the matter. Instead, it seems you consciously realized you didn't know anything about them, so you just took them at face value. Is that the standard you apply to all your sources?

More on the St. Olaf Nobel conference 

Thanks to a reader, we have received a series of letters between the St. Olaf Student Committee for Intellectual Diversity and its administration regarding the Nobel Conference. The students have tried as best they can to get a speaker on the conference schedule that would discuss whether appeasement is always preferable to confrontation in prolonging peace. They first tried to persuade the program committee to change its decision.
In fact, the American electorate has consistently reaffirmed the position of preserving peace through military strength and preparedness throughout the 20th century. Consider our involvement in the Second World War and the Cold War. Every president from FDR to the end of the Cold War has adopted this position, as has our current President and Congress in the war on terror. In sum, it is completely inappropriate to have a conference on peace that includes 40 speakers and yet completely ignores the position that has dominated American foreign policy thinking over the last 60 years. Such a conference cannot really be relevant to student decision-making, because it totally omits a vital - indeed the dominant - perspective.
But the committee was not persuaded.
It would be inappropriate for me to discuss specifically the reasons for accepting or rejecting any particular seminar. But I can tell you more about the review process our selection committee used, and the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize perspective that guided us.

...we sought seminars that focus on contemporary grassroots peacemaking and the underlying social conditions that give rise to conflict in the world today. Each year the Peace Prize Forum also gives preference to proposals from the students, staff and faculty of the five sponsoring colleges, other things being equal...

They then proceed to list Nobel Peace Prize winners. Yasser Arafat was a notable omission. The committee concluded that they had no obligation to invite people from the other side. In a sense that is true: It's their conference, and they can invite who they want. But among people who often call for diversity, we yet again have a case where the very diversity that would invigorate debate is stifled.

Undaunted, the students took their case to the president. The Nobel conference, they argue, is part of a continuing pattern:

In the span of a year, St. Olaf has hosted conferences such as the Globalization and Social Responsibility Conference (February 2003), portions of which many professors required students to attend, and the Knutson Conference on Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Church (April 2003). Both of these conferences like the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, were highly one-sided in nature. As students frustrated with the lack of intellectual dialogue permitted on this campus, we ask the college to cease its sponsorship of such biased forums. We also call upon the college regents to sponsor a special forum to address the critical need for a renewed commitment to intellectual diversity at St. Olaf.
I don't know that they meant to stop sponsorship; I hope not. I would not oppose the statements made by those I disagree with as long as the viewpoints I wish to offer are given equal opportunity to be heard. But I think they are frustrated with the lack of concern for balance in the viewpoints of their speakers. President Thomforde responded with a rather pompous tone (though I envy his ability to work in the word "undergird" twice in the same letter.) He quotes from a speech he gave thus:
St. Olaf College can serve the Church, and through the Church the world, by issuing an invitation to men and women of faith and to men and women who long to believe to come to the campus in order to reflect upon the questions of the day, to speak forthrightly with one another, to listen attentively to each other, and to seek the way of the Spirit together. The point in gathering together will be to reflect, to speak, to listen, and to seek but not to pronounce, to attack, and to discredit.
But, the students may rightly ask, has not the Nobel conference committee pronounced on the content of the views offered by Mr. Johnson? So the question is: Should a campus-wide conference on peace be content-neutral? Not if it can -- we all agree that it violates no law -- but should it? If you think the president of your school has made a mistake answering that question, where else do you go but the Board of Regents? So they did.
We were puzzled that Pres. Thomforde praised the forum on grounds that St. Olaf should be a place for �debate of those subjects that are of greatest concern to our nation and the world.� (The college, Dr. Thomforde said, should offer �a public place� for �informed and purposeful conversation,� where students and faculty can �reflect upon the questions of the day.�) In fact, our letter made clear that we object to the forum precisely because it is not a debate or dialogue...
I don't find myself shocked and outraged by this behavior any more, because it is happening at universities around the country. Again, I respect the right of St. Olaf's administration and faculty to create the programs that best fit its mission. Preaching peace is certainly a mission befitting a Lutheran college. You can even argue that preaching pacifism fits if you wish -- I disagree as a fellow Lutheran, but I can see how one can arrive at that position. What is disturbing is the rather callous manner in which the Committee for Intellectual Diversity has been treated. If one wished to educate why pacifism works, even if you think putting them on the Nobel program diminishes that program's educational mission, then I would think you would create a separate forum for these other views. Instead, alternative views are shoved into a dorm lounge.

UPDATE: I'm told there was a meeting between the students and the Board of Regents. Details to come next week. Drudge-developing...

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Borking Yecke 

Governor Pawlenty has responded to the fight over Education Commissioner Yecke's confirmation thus:
Not liking somebody's policy direction isn't a good reason to tube a confirmation. If they don't like the policy direction, they should maybe win an election. That might be a new idea for them.
Sounds right to me. He should start by getting fully behind the social science standards; the battle over No Child Left Behind was fought in the U.S. Congress, not Minnesota, and those against NCLB lost. Taking it out on Yecke is sheer spite; Borking is the last refuge of an ideology that has spent its raison d'etre. I've covered this issue plenty, and if you read this and are in agreement you need to do something. Sen. Steve Kelley (DFL-Declaration of Independence) is the chairman of the education committee that will hear her confirmation.
[H]e described her confirmation as "problematic" because many other senators, as well as members of the public, have expressed opposition. "I get e-mails and phone calls every day saying: 'Don't confirm her,' " Kelley said. "Her supporters have not contacted me."
Time to let him know that we will not have her held hostage by misEducation Minne$ota. Be brief, polite and pointed in saying to him you want her confirmed.

Call: 651-297-8065 or send email. If you would rather use paper,
Senator Steve Kelley
321 State Capitol Building
75 Constitution Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55155
Fax: 651-296-6511

Other members of the committee can be reached through this page.

A long drive to right field 

The first home run of the season has been hit by Mike Adams, professor at UNC-Wilmington and contributor at On Monday he displayed a letter by an instructor of English at UNC-Chapel Hill to her students that took extreme offense to a Christian's expressing "disgust" (the student's word) about homosexuality. She labeled this "hate speech", though it was apparently expressed in the context of classroom discussion (i.e., homosexuality was the topic offered by the instructor.) Prof. Adams wondered if the student had First Amendment privileges in the classroom or not? Today Adams writes that the chair of the English Dept. at UNC-Chapel Hill has repudiated the email from the instructor and that this will be monitored. Adams hits a laser over the wall with this observation:
I also hope that Professor Crystall will continue to discuss controversial topics in the courses she teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill. The topics she appears to cover should not be neglected altogether. However, if the discussion of such topics becomes excessive in the opinion of some participants, or if the discussion of the topics becomes one-sided, people are bound to be offended.

... Make no mistake about it; if we bring people together who have different ideas and perspectives, some will be offended. There is simply no constitutional right to ?freedom from offense.? And there is certainly no compatibility between the real provisions of the First Amendment and the ?speech codes? that universities such as UNC-Chapel Hill are beginning to employ, presumably to thwart the inevitable tension between the two incompatible goals of the diversity movement.

Our speech code at UNC-Wilmington prohibits ?offensive speech or behavior of a biased or prejudiced nature related to one?s personal characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, sex, religion, handicap, age or sexual orientation.?

To take seriously such an absurd code would place even mild expressions on either side of debates involving sexual orientation in jeopardy. It is far better that such debates take place where people are offended than that they never take place at all.
At SCSU, there is at least "due consideration" given to speech rights (see third paragraph) but the betting here is that due consideration is something done just before blasting ahead to the harassment charges.

Peace without reason 

On February 21st, there will be a teach-in at St. Olaf College to discuss "appeasement". St. Olaf is having a Nobel Peace Prize Forum on the 20th and 21st, but apparently not all are invited.
The forum -- entitled �Striving for Peace, Roots of Change� -- will feature former president Jimmy Carter, along with 50 seminars and �peace skills workshops.� The forum (sponsored by five Lutheran colleges) will draw hundreds of students from across the Midwest. The Nobel forum presents views from the far left of the political spectrum, excludes dissenting perspectives, and then issues repeated �calls to action� to students, many of whom will know little about international affairs but what they�ve heard at the conference.

Forum organizers have refused to allow any speaker to raise the vital question of whether pacifism actually promotes peace. Scott Johnson, a Twin Cities lawyer and adjunct professor, proposed a seminar entitled �Facts Are Better than Dreams: The Statesmanship of Winston Churchill in the 1930�s.� The program committee rejected his proposal, on grounds that it did not fit the forum�s �guiding spirit.�

Instead, the forum will feature seminars like the following:

  • �Being Peace,� a dance seminar: �Understanding peacefulness requires, in part, having experienced it oneself. This session will explore a variety of body-mind activities geared toward generating an inner state of peace. We will work with the movement principle of �yield,�� which propel adults toward physical, mental emotional and spiritual change.�
  • �Making Music, Making Peace: Common Purposes and Shared Skills�, a choral workshop: �Many of the skills essential to peace-making are also essential to music-making: listening, envisioning, mutual trust, repair, cooperation, collaboration. People who build their capacities as music-makers are also building their capacities for grassroots peace-making.�
  • �Peace and Change through Public Art�: This project �imagines a fictitious and yet believable National Historic Site sparking both controversy and healing. Amid a massacre site it tells the 500-year story from the perspective of native peoples and culminates with an apology�.�
The list goes on: �Peace-Making and Eco-Justice,� Fair trade Coffee and You,� ... During the conference, the St. Olaf food service will provide an �all-vegetarian menu.� (How meatless dining will stop Osama bin Laden is not explained.)
The teach-in is sponsored by the Students of St. Olaf Committee for Intellectual Diversity, a group that appears dearly needed on the campus in Northfield to work on its "guiding spirit". Reporters, photographers and those interested in viewpoint diversity on our college campuses in the area are encouraged to attend. There will be at least one member of the Northern Alliance in attendance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Appeasement seldom works 

The Pioneer Press runs a story today on the latest draft of the social science standards. Both sides are unhappy: EdWatch is upset about passing some of these changes off as technical when they appear to be more than that, while Parents United for Public Tax Dollars Schools seems to think still that only teachers can write the standards.

Some of the standards removed that upset EdWatch, I think, would not be missed greatly. I note the first one, however, as being part of this long bugaboo between Sen. Kelley and his critics over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The following standard was removed:

"Students will explain that Lincoln's understanding of the founders' principles includes that the principles of the Declaration of Independence are universal and applicable to all people at all times."
In isolation, given the other places the Declaration is mentioned, you wouldn't make a big deal about losing that standard in return for getting it passed. But that issue is not going to go away -- all you've done here is embolden Kelley to get other mentions of the Declaration out of the standards. Scholar the Owl has this to say,
This is a big deal because the Declaration of Independence says that certain rights are inalienable, meaning that the government can't ever take them away. Why would anyone object to this benchmark, unless perhaps they believe that the rights to life, national sovereignty, and property rights are not so inalienable after all?
Good question, though one can answer that those concepts are covered elsewhere in the document, which they are. My concern is more over tactics than substance. Between the first and second drafts there was a closing of the area of disagreement. Some benchmarks were added and others deleted, in return for which the MDE received much more favorable reviews from a range of people, including some critics. The biggest remaining criticism has been length rather than whether these are the right standards, MinnWORST and the Dozens notwithstanding. So why write a third draft unless you are going to again narrow the range of disagreement? Whatever the merits of the changes or whether they are technical or substantive, if the new draft does not get you more votes for passage, it goes backwards because it emboldens your enemies to wait for even more changes. Perhaps we will have to wait for the evidence that it does get more votes, but I don't see it yet.

The Owl wonders if and when Governor Pawlenty will come to the defense of the standards. It may come to that.

Sound advice for conservative students and faculty 

The blogosphere has had a series of posts on whether academia has a left-wing bias that actively stops conservative faculty from speaking, advancing or even deciding to be academics. Even Brit Hume is reading stories about the dust-up at Duke. My co-blogger at Liberty and Power Steven Horwitz has been raising some very interesting points, of which I want to give three clips. First,
I have no doubt that there is classroom bias that is real, but I also believe that conservative students too often adopt the very victim mentality that they complain about in other venues. If the CRs came to me for advice, I'd tell them to forget about bringing guest speakers and to spend their time in some reading groups that can help them learn what they need to know to at least try to level the intellectual playing field with leftist students and faculty. I know I'd much rather teach a room full of smart, well-read lefty students than one full of anti-intellectual country club conservatives.
Thinking back to my days at Michigan, if I wanted to prove some faculty member wrong, it would have required some serious research at the library. Today, a student can just Google up a bunch of material in 30 seconds. Part of me would like to think that left-leaning faculty are more frequently being challenged in substantive ways by well-informed conservative students. I'm not sure though. If not, there's no excuse for conservative students not trying. The information is out there for the taking.
These are both true, and if one visits you will see both students who have decided that the teacher used the wrong books -- whose arguments are susceptible to Steven's critique that they should read other authors and challenge -- and those who claim to have suffered lower grades for not parroting the professor's viewpoint. If you said half the complaints on NoIndoctination are things students should handle themselves, I'd guess that's about right.

Steven also points to Tim Burke's post on how collegiality tempers intemperate outbursts from the left or right:

On the other hand, collegiality is a powerful cultural force in many colleges and universities, and its stultifying or comforting effects (take your pick) often have nothing to do with politics in any sense. A conservative or libertarian who is a mensch about his or her views and research may well be admired, even beloved, by liberal or left colleagues, and fondly regarded as valuable because of their views. On the other hand, someone like Daniel Pipes who is running around picking broad-brush fights with everyone whom he perceives as a bad academic, usually based on a paper-thin reading of their syllabi or even just the titles of their research, is going to be loathed, but as much for his behavior as his political views. A liberal or leftist who plays Stalinist Truth Squad in the same way is going to be equally loathed and avoided. I?ve seen departments where everyone treats a particular person as a ?politicized? pariah even though the political views of that person are exactly the same as the general distribution in the department, and it?s entirely about strident, personally confrontational, abrasive, self-aggrandizing behavior. Now it may be that conservatives, having been sneered at, are more inclined, almost out of necessity, to go on the offensive, and create a feedback loop in the process. But the mode of action is more important than the views.
But where does collegiality become self-censorship? Andrew Sullivan received a very interesting mail in return for his request for stories of overt exclusion of the right in academia.
Most of my criticisms of Democrats or veiled praise of Republicans are couched in terms that suggest personal distance from conservative points of view. Last year, I came up for tenure, and I realized then how thoroughly I self-censor. I was in the car with a close long-time friend and fellow academic (at another institution), and I told her how difficult it was for me to overcome this compulsion not to speak. I then spent half an hour telling her what I'd bottled up for thirteen years - that I voted for Bush, that I watch Fox News, etc. At the end of it, she said, "I knew your husband was a conservative, but I never realized you are, too." In fact, I'm fairly confident that this self-censorship is not necessary; my department has a live-and-let-live attitude on many things. But I continue to self-censor, largely out of habit, but partly because there are a few people in the department who could never get over it.
The advice one reads from all this: Be smart, be judicious, and be firm.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Inclusion by Exclusion? 

How can I rationalize the irrational? How can I justify indiscriminate discrimination? Is my advocacy of inclusion by exclusion no different from addition by subtraction? What does that mean? Help me, please! My head hurts.

You see, this evening I�m imagining that I serve as an elected Faculty Association (FA) senator at St. Cloud State University; and today I�ve been challenged by a colleague in our Herberger College of Business to consider the merits of a long-standing policy. That policy specifically excludes �fair-share� members of the Inter-Faculty Association from serving on university-wide (or even intra-collegiate) committees that deal with a wide range of governance issues - from curriculum development, to pedagogical improvement, to research grants, to deans� searches.

But today I read a posting to the SCSU-discuss list that was written by a PhD-ed professor of Management who has a wealth of business experience and academic expertise in the field of Labor Relations. That scholar writes:

The current SCSU FA (faculty association) policy is seriously mistaken and should be replaced with an appropriate policy such as:

�Full IFO membership is required for election or appointment to any FA position involving the representation of the faculty bargaining unit for the terms and conditions of employment. Union membership is not required for any other elected or appointed faculty governance, service, or professional position. Full IFO membership is required only to vote in any election for a position that must be filled by a full IFO member.�

1) The FA is not a union. It is basically a standing committee of the IFO. Every university has its equivalent of an FA and senate whether unionized or not. Such bodies are necessary for university governance. Faculty rights in university governance were well established long before university faculty ever unionized.

2) The IFO was right to fight for faculty control of governance processes that properly belong to faculty because of their professional qualifications. It is doubtful that the IFO could have won had it fought to limit participation in university governance and professional issues to [�full-share�] union members.

3) Instead of advocating for and supporting university faculty rights and prerogatives, the FA has chosen to support the interests of [�full-share�] union members at the expense of non-union [�fair-share�] members and the institution and faculty as a whole.

4) Few university governance processes concern union issues (i.e., the terms and conditions of employment). Rather, governance processes concern professional issues, academic issues, management issues, and a host of other issues which university faculty are uniquely qualified to administer because of their professional qualifications.

5) Under the FA policy, [�full-share�] union members who lack appropriate professional qualifications would be permitted to participate in governance whereas non-union [�fair-share�] members with appropriate qualification would not. The FA has no policy or process for ensuring that union members have appropriate professional qualifications before they are appointed or elected to positions in which they engage in university governance. Hence, the FA policy has simply replaced professional qualifications with another qualification, namely [�full-share�] union membership.

6) It is interesting that the FA policy of excluding non-union [�fair-share�] members from governance involvement was adopted using a process that did not include participation from non-union [�fair-share�] members. Indeed, it is still being discussed as though it is a labor relations issue rather than a university governance issue. This reveals that the FA policy represents little more than a power grab by [�full-share�] union members seeking to concentrate their influence by eliminating the influence of non-union [�fair-share�] members. If SCSU had real university governance, then the issue would be decided by qualified faculty, not by unionists.

7) This substitution of [�full�] union membership for professional qualifications undermines the status of university faculty and may explain why many professional faculty will not join the union. They wish to maintain their professional status. Their objection [may be] to the subordination of professionalism to labor relations. The union is supposed to fight for faculty rights to engage university governance issues, not to take over university governance issues and attempt to turn them into labor relations issues.

8) The FA policy simply reduces the resources available for university governance work and thereby shifts work from non-union members to union members. Under the policy all that one must do to reduce his or her workload is to refuse to join the union. Then one is not permitted to engage in one of the most important of the service components of faculty jobs regardless of one's qualifications, and as a bonus one saves money. It is difficult to see how this advances the interests of faculty or the institution.

9) The ironic element is that such a strategy cannot work. Non-union [�fair-share�] members still have the right to advise the administration and, under the current system, and [�full-share�] union members may never even know about this advice. In a university, administrators must consider qualified professional input. Hence, all that the FA policy has done is create an underground processes by which non-union [�fair-share�] members participate in university governance, but do so without the workload burdens of [�full-share�] union members.

Yikes, how can I respond to such logic? Can I find rational rationale for continuing to defend our current union policy; and if not, how can I rationalize my stance? I could say things like, �we and other campuses in Minnesota have always been inclusively exclusive�. . . or is the phrase I meant to say, �exclusively inclusive�? Hmm. Either way, that�s not a very strong argument, is it?

Well, I could argue that there�s not a great difference in the annual dues between those paid by a �full-share� member and those assessed against a �fair-share� member: $652.50 vs.$554.50. That $98 difference isn�t much of a hardship, really, for those who seek to serve on our committees. Or is it? I know that there�s a small bunch among those so-called �SCSU-Scholars� who say that they refuse �on principle� to become �full-share� members because our IFO union negotiators will not negotiate in favor of the concept of merit or excellence of performance being included in our contracts. But forget them. Since some of their political positions are apparently more philosophically aligned with individualistic exclusivity, they must not be collectively inclusive enough to join our exclusively inclusive committees. Oh, but is it really "fair" to exclude "fair-share" members because their viewpoints might be different? I thought we were supposed to value and embrace all kinds of diversity on our campus. Hmm.

Well, let me try another line of thinking. If we senators on the FA allowed �fair-share� members to serve on our committees, then some might argue that the $98 difference would amount to an illegal poll tax levied against those who choose to vote in our elections. No, wait, that wouldn�t make sense as an argument, since only about a third of our faculty voted for our current president, even though almost 80% were eligible to vote as �full-share� members.

Aha, now I�ve got the argument. Let�s rely on the phrase, �terms and conditions of employment� to retain our policy of exclusive inclusivity. After all, almost every committee touches on some facet of our �conditions� of employment, doesn�t it? Oh, damn, I�m wrong again. Another SCSU-scholar just pointed out on our discuss-list that Minnesota Statutes 179A. 03, Subd. 19 defines �terms and conditions of employment� as �the hours of employment, the compensation therefore including fringe benefits except retirement contributions or benefits other than employer payment of, or contributions to, premiums for group insurance coverage of retired employees or severance pay, and the employer's personnel policies affecting the working conditions of the employees.� And only a couple of our more than 30 university committees on campus deal with compensation and employee benefits. Oh, heck with it, I still feel like excluding that annoying �fair-share-scholar� Dave, even his primary area of expertise is employee benefits. He�s just not inclusive enough for my tastes, so I feel like excluding him.

Let's face it, we senators just haven't been challenged to find in either our state's statutes or in judicial rulings precisely where "full-share" members are allowed to exclude "fair-share" members from committees. We've only just interpreted the law to meet our own needs for power and control.

Well then, maybe I should propose my own new policy. To determine if �fair-share� members are inclusive enough to join any of our exclusive committees, let them first serve a year of penance on one of our most prestigious and exclusively inclusive committees. :


There, now how�s that for being exclusively inclusive? Or was it inclusively exclusive? Or am I still indiscriminately discriminating? Oh, but my head still hurts. Please help by offering your comments.

No apology 

The teacher who answered questions before now has a full rebuttal up. She continues her Balkanization of standards committees, claiming that there are only 7000 students in Catholic schools. This seems quite unlikely. Nationally, about 55% of students in private schools are in Catholic schools, and there are about 85,000 students in private schools in Minnesota (along with 14,000 homeschoolers, as Ms. Skrentner acknowledges.) So she's badly undercounted those students, and hasn't reserved a place for other religious schools, such as our many Lutheran schools up here in Minnesota. But I'm not an expert in education like she is, so what do I know?

Should campus political organizations be funded with campus dollars 

The Minnesota Daily opines 'yes', as it relates to the debate at the University of Minnesota over funding its Campus Republicans group. The student fees commitee declared their CRs a "partisan group" and rejected funding for them. The question is whether this violates the "viewpoint-neutral funding" requirements of Southworth. As Eugene Volokh points out, though, they are not REQUIRED to fund speech. And since the student fees committee doesn't fund the University DFL either, one can hardly say they are censoring. Angry Clam agrees with this.

But the larger question is whether they SHOULD, not whether they are required. The MN Daily editorial concludes that the CRs are beneficial to the University's mission.
the fees committee does fund the Minnesota Student Association as well as various religious groups. Because part of the University�s mission is to foster a free exchange of ideas, it should not matter whether a group is partisan or political.

How viewpoint bias arises 

Often unconsciously, says Cold Spring Shops:
Consider, for example, the treatment of the Welfare Economics Paradigm in economics. It is easy enough to introduce market "failures" that "warrant" government corrective action. It is easy enough to design the optimal corrective action on a whiteboard. A student might easily leave a basic economics course with an understanding of economic policy that looks exactly like the Democratic Party talking points. The bias arises in the introduction of the "failure" and in the incomplete specification of "warrant." But to treat these topics properly takes time, more time than many basic courses permit, which often means these topics go only to upper-division economics students. A substantial proportion of the student body gets a vulgar and incomplete presentation of the Welfare Economics Paradigm.

Why they cheat 

An article reprinted in our campus newspaper proclaims that universities push academic integrity, but perhaps it's a losing battle. This is an excellent article in my view, and I want to clip about five paragraphs here. If you're not interested, scroll on down. A couple of comments below:
...about three-fourths of all college students cheat, either on tests or on written assignments, according to his 1999 survey of 2,100 students on 21 campuses. The greatest offenders, he has found, are business majors, fraternity and sorority members, male students, younger students and those with low grades.

But bright students cheat too, said Vincent Jacabazi, a senior and academic integrity panelist at [Saint Louis University]. "They want the grade," he said. "That's what they're primarily concerned about. ... They need to get into medical school, law school."

[Rutgers Prof. Donald] McCabe agrees that many students are in college "just to get their credentials." On top of that, with many employers insisting that graduates have practice in working with others, professors are assigning more group work these days. The more students grow accustomed to it, the more they may conveniently lose sight of where permissible collaboration ends and cahoots begin. "I think technically (students) know where to draw the line, but they think they shouldn't have to," McCabe said.

Experts say academic integrity requires the commitment of teachers as well as students.

Consider, for example, the case of a professor who sits reading a magazine during a test, ignoring students who whisper to one another and oblivious to one in particular who copies answers from another student. Who is more at fault here, the inattentive professor or the cheating student? This is one of several hypothetical cases posted on the Web site of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University.
I think one is expected to behave with integrity even when people aren't looking at you. When I was a graduate student, most of the students in my class were foreign-born, many from the Middle East. A professor's absence from the room there was taken as an invitation to cheat, but this was not accepted. One wonders whatever happened to honor codes that bound students to report on cheating they observe among others (upon penalty of the same punishment as the cheater)?

Monday, February 16, 2004

Crackback block on the left tackle 

Margaret Soltan sends a Valentine's day greeting to the fellow who thinks faculty should naturally come from the Left. I'm not going to clip it -- you need to read it all to get the flavor of her humor. Cracking good. The fellow is naturally miffed and says so. Erin O'Connor responds, and the beat goes on. Others are covering this better than me, and I need meanwhile to write some papers...

And the teacher says 'hi' 

I received an email answer from Lonni Skrentner to the questions I posted in relation to the Chalberg letter. I am posting the answer in full, but I will make a few editorial comments.
I'm not sure you deserve a response, and yes I'm busy - I work full time! "Shouted"? Give me a break - and I said Catholic once! And remember, I am one! By the way, thanks for correcting the spelling of my name!
I think exclamation points are over-represented in your letter. This punctuational apartheid is an insult to semi-colons everywhere.

The word "shouted" was to paraphrase the metaphor "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater". More of my deadpan humor, I guess. Sorry. I know you didn't shout.

And you're welcome for the name spelling. You should see my mail; I'm still getting Bananas Gorilla's fan mail.
1. "At the DFL forum at NCC, did you identify Dr. Flanders as Catholic? If so, why?" After 12 years of Catholic education, it was actually out of respect! Or, it's simply a label.
Respect? OK, I'll try that. "Hiya, Muslim! How's it going, Lutheran?" Umm, you know what, Lonni? I don't think that works. "It's simply a label" doesn't work either, because we use labels to identify, and you've only begged the question, why did you want a label?
"2. How many members of the academic standards committee were there? Of that, how many were classroom teachers, and how many were K-12 administrators?" I think there were 32. To the best of my knowledge there were 0 K-12 administrators. The number of teachers is moot, because it depends who is counting. The commissioner was willing to label just about anyone as a teacher. I would only count licensed people, active or retired - not people who taught two years twenty years ago. Sorry, but teaching has changed enormously in the 36 years I've been in the profession and someone without recent experience - pretty worthless!
Ms. Skrentner revised that in an email a little later to 44 members of the committee, which is correct. Interestingly, the list of members is public, and from that list I see 18 K-12 teachers. There's only one that I can see that has spent most of his/her time out of K-12 education. There are a couple of K-12 administrators -- more of the school administration people were school board types.
3. "What proportion of the classroom teachers on the committee signed the minority report?" Again I'm not sure - but the six who signed are well respected in their local communities, and statewide for both their content knowledge and their teaching.
The answer would be 6 of 18. That is, not even a majority of your teaching peers supported the minority report. I suppose you should start looking to strike down the credentials of seven.
4. "In your view, what would be the correct proportions? Should someone whose
children are grown and out of school be denied a seat on the committee? Should someone with only preschoolers? By the logic you seem to use, would a childless gay couple ever get to help write the standards?"
This is a stupid question - I've already answered it. If the gay couple has experience and position, they can get appointed. I hope no one would let me write standards for the medical or law professions. Why should we let every Tom, Dick and Susie write school standards? Just because someone has attended school does not make them an expert!
If it's a stupid question, why did you answer it?

We wouldn't let you write the standards alone, Ms. Skrentner, because that really would be silly. But if you were a nurse, I might invite you to help with the medical exam, yes? If you were a paralegal of high quality, wouldn't we benefit with having you on a committee helping to write the bar exam? Maybe.

You are in charge of children, "Tom, Dick and Susie's" children. They may not be experts on constructivism, but they are experts on their children and they should be treated as such. Parents are on that committee because they are the principals in a principal-agent problem that is in no small part of your own making. Because enough parents are concerned that their children are not prepared for life in America because they don't know enough facts for all those critical thinking skills to operate on, they elect people to office who are charged with re-doing the standards which is why the bill to repeal the Profiles was HF 2.

Your answer shows an elitism of breathtaking scope, unfortunately on a par with fellow teacher Mr. Seeba's letter from a week ago. Such statements make calls for accountability all the more urgent. I won't generalize from this to an attitude about teachers, because there were 12 of 18 who supported these standards, to whom your answer is the back of your hand.

Standards making slow progress 

A roundup of articles about the standards:

I could be wrong 

Last week I thought that Kerry's Vietnam record wasn't much of an issue. Mark Steyn might change my mind:
In 2002, the Dems had no ideas and they ran on biography: [list of Dem losers edited] ... Yet here we are two years later, and they're running on biography all over again. But this time their chosen biography is Vietnam, and for many Americans, and especially boomer Democrats, that's far more psychologically complicated. Look at Kerry's stump speech: ''We band of brothers,'' he says, indicating his fellow veterans. ''We're a little older, we're a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for this country.'' Thirty years ago, he came back from Vietnam and denounced his ''band of brothers'' as a gang of drug-fueled torturers, rapists and murderers.

These versions are not reconcilable. When he was palling around with Jane Fonda in the '70s, he hated the military. It wasn't just that he opposed the war but that he accused his ''band of brothers'' of a level of participation in war crimes and civilian atrocities unmatched by the Japanese, the Nazis and the Soviets. ...

So one John Kerry is a fake. Which is it?

And she STILL doesn't like the calendar 

You remember the letter to the Chronicle that said the Hometown Proud calendar objectified women? This student seems to have made it a crusade, given her letter in the local city newspaper.
...rape and other abuses toward women in the military is an ongoing crisis. There are many American women, as well as men, who are serving in Iraq. By sending out this calendar, we are putting the women serving in Iraq at even greater risk of abuse.
This is a common statement I've heard, but I'm not sure it's borne out by the facts. Conclusive Evidence has reported on rape statistics from the scandal at the Air Force Academy, for instance, and found that the rate was less than at other colleges and universities.
...I still fail to understand how a calendar of barely clothed women boosts morale.
The short answer is, it depends on the women.

The long answer is that the calendar competes with Playboy and tons of other things sold in the military stores at any rate, so why is it a big deal. And as one woman wrote in the posts commenting on the letter, " The women in MN really do love and miss you (soldiers). We are all here waiting for your return - Moms, sisters, girlfriends, friends..." Just as it ever was.

How I did NOT spend Valentine's Day 

Frpm Scott McLemee, who has earned blogroll love for this:
Workers and Oppressed People, Unite to Make Comrade Valentine's Day a Joyous Holiday of Proletarian Class Love and Militant Struggle! Decisively Defeat the Sinister Schemes of the Bush/Cheney Gangster Clique to Thwart the Romantic Aspirations of the L/G/B/T/Q masses! Eternal Glory to Comrade Valentine!

Official slogans for Valentine's Day 2004, courtesy of
the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
That's FRSO (Red Star), not to be confused with
the dogmatist-sectarian renegade clique
over at FRSO (Fight Back!), who probably see romantic love as
false consciousness propagated by Hallmark, or something.
Hilarious! Hat tip: Ralph Luker, who also offers some interesting notes on people who write their own Amazon reviews. Worth a look around.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Captain sets sail for MT 

The Secretary of the NA Navy, Captain's Quarters, has new digs. Change your links and blogrolls and give him a look. Aye aye!

Friday, February 13, 2004

Lights! Camera! No action! 

The negotiations over faculty contracts in the MnSCU system are still at a standstill, and the union is calling for action, which in his view is letter-writing. So our Scholar Dave wrote a letter, though not perhaps what was expected. Here it is:
I share with you my dismay at the stance taken by (and even the existence of) MnSCU. Since its inception I have noted:
  • a serious "dumbing down" of academic standards toward mediocrity at what used to be our flagship state university here in St. Cloud,
  • a growing siphoning of taxpayers' dollars away from our students to fund a largely redundant and ever burgeoning administrative bureaucracy in St. Paul,
  • evidence of finger-pointing between the Chancellor's office and SCSU's Administration with respect to accountability for the settlement of lawsuits,
  • a failure to establish quantitative goals against which progress can be assessed,
  • an alarming and growing collectivist bias toward micro-managing our local affairs (down even to the level of seeking to design our university's transcripts),
  • an apparent lack of respect for the unique talents and efforts that university professors bring to our profession, and
  • an apparent unwillingness to bargain in good faith.

Over the past two weeks I have expressed these feelings in two separate e-mails that I sent to the IFO ( My hope was that they would be added to you website's list of comments ...

My first question, Mr. Brown, is why have my comments not yet been posted? In my first e-mail to the IFO I identified myself as a "fair-share" member of the IFO. Is it possible that your office is choosing not to post opinions from those of us who, for various reasons, decline to become "full-share" members of your union? I note on the IFO's audited financials for FY 2003 that of the roughly $1.55 million in dues collected last year, almost 18% represented "fair-share" collections and that fair-share dues are 85% of those for "full-share" members. That means that there must be a "fair" percentage (> 20%?) of your members who are being assessed a "fair share." Will all "fair-share" members be allowed to post their opinions on your site? I would assume so . . . and yet I had naively also assumed that those of us who choose to be "fair-share" members of the IFO would not be estopped from serving on university committees whose work is not even tangentially related to potential issues of contract negotiation.

My second question deals with the IFO's net assets of more than $1.1 million as of June 30, 2003. Do you have plans for the more than $300,000 of that total that is designated as a "crisis fund?" Should a new 2003-05 contract not be finalized by this June 30, would the IFO consider waiving its collection of dues from us at least until a settlement is reached?

Lastly I would ask whether or not the IFO might ever entertain the radical notion of attempting to negotiate a contract that included the concept of "merit." Until and unless efforts are made to measure, recognize, and reward individual excellence, I must decline on principle to become a "full-share" member of the IFO, choosing instead to be taxed at 85% of your $652.50 annual assessment.

Thank you in advance for responding to these questions...

Graph du jour 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why doesn't more education money help people read this? (WSJ subscribers only)

After viewing, please read Joanne Jacobs' note that the costs of meeting NCLB are not that large.

Reading the 1964 CRA 

We reported yesterday that the resumption of affirmative action bake sales at Colorado University trumpeted as a success for FIRE has led to a resumption of protests at CU. The university took an interesting tack:
CU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Ronald Stump told the Colorado Daily Tuesday the bake sale was in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights act and mandated it be stopped.

"According to federal law, state statute, and University policy, we believe it is illegal to sell goods or services with differentiated prices based on race or ethnicity," said Stump. "It's not a free speech issue. They need to find another means which is legal to make their point."
The CRs changed the wording to "donation" and made payment optional.

Now this is rather hypocritical of any university. A financial aid package changes the price for college faced by different students. Use of minority scholarships, then, would be a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Wouldn't CU be obligated first to throw out those programs before pursuing the discriminatory cookie sellers?

What the hell does this mean? 

From one site of the opponents of the standards:

What is a "corporate patriot", and why should s/he not be educated?

Worth noting that that site also has a picture of the teacher who was reported to have shouted "Catholic" in a crowded DFL forum, who visited this site but hasn't answered my questions. Must be busy.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Overslept the quiz 

Hugh Hewitt gave a question for the NA on whether Kerry's behavior in his 1971 testimony, which just about everybody and his mother-in-law has read by now. I dunno; in my view the way Kerry should handle this is pretty simple. A one-sentence answer:

"When I was young and foolish I was young and foolish."
Bam! He disavows the position -- something he seems quite willing to do whenever his previous position is inconvenient -- and at the same time he recalls Bush's less than perfect past in a way that doesn't sully him as it did this Ohio congresscritter. This won't appease Vietnam Vets that are furious with him, but that's unlikely to be a bridge he can build anyway, so why worry?

A key in any long campaign it seems to me is to turn your weakness into a strength. There is no doubt this is a weakness for Kerry, but not one that is going to cost him that many votes. I don't disagree that he should be held accountable, as both PowerLine and JB Doubtless contend, but it requires people to care about that. To make them care Bush has to make it an issue, and this puts one extra barb that Bush would have to grab to do so. It would be better for Bush to focus on Kerry's weaknesses on Iraq and al-Qaeda, where he has both an advantage and issue saliency. On that, I think the Captain agrees.

Competing bake sales dissolves into chaos 

Again, at Colorado.
After the packed UMC gathering, at least 50 students supporting affirmative action marched from the rally through the snow, carrying protest signs with colorful slogans. Many taped their mouths shut to promote what they called their "silent voices" on the issue.

The pro-affirmative action students announced that they wanted to keep the protest march "100 percent respectful" and then marched to and surrounded the GOP and EOA bake sale table, which was stationed at a kiosk outside the Hellems building.

"We didn't want to make conflict," said freshman Shantel Campos, an affirmative action supporter who marched through the snow with her mouth taped. "This is a publicity stunt [for the College Republicans and EOA]. It's not the right place for a dialogue."

College Republican Chair Brad Jones disagreed with the students' description of their intentions.

"[They call it] open dialogue if it's sponsored by their group," he said, arguing that campus liberals only want free speech when they condone it.

Pro-affirmative action students arrived at the bake sale at about 12:45, with some removing the tape from their mouths to join the verbal conflict.

A shouting match ensued amid TV cameras, reporters, bystanders and members of each group who had gathered in a cluster near the EOA table.

"This is mob activity..." said Jones. "Why is [UCSU diversity director] Kerry Kite ripping down a sign for a sanctioned event?"
For some reason this leads me to recall a P.J. O'Rourke quote:
"How come," I asked Andy, "whenever something upsets the Left, you see immediate marches and parades and rallies with signs already printed and rhyming slogans already composed, whereas whenever something upsets the Right, you see two members of the Young Americans for Freedom waving a six-inch American flag?"

"We have jobs," said Andy.

Calendar girls get praise from servicemen 

I'll bet this doesn't generate nearly so many hits as before (over 700 visitors yesterday alone, a record!) but two servicemen respond to the University Chronicle on the calendar from here that PowerLine covered a couple of days ago.
1. Those of you who have never served in the United States military could not possibly understand what it means to get news from home or pictures from home. When I received the calendar it made my week and probably my cruise. It's nice to see the smiling faces of some of my old high school and college friends.

2. I am a soldier who is deployed overseas, and I would like to thank the people who have put so much time and effort into the Hometown Proud calender. I can safely speak on behalf of my fellow soldiers when I say that it is quite appreciated.
We thank Chad and Dan for their service to our country. We'll also toss a link to the calendar's homepage if you'd like to order one and help another serviceman.

Making a virtue out of necessity 

I'm not going to be the only edublogger in the NA for much longer, at the rate Mitch is going. He continues his latest trend to day with a look at where schools are closing in Minneapolis. A school system built for 50,000 students expects to have only 38,000 next year, so some have to be shuttered. According to the school district's own report, the district would save $2.8 million in the short run and $9.7mm in the long run. But that's not all, Mitch notes:
notice the number of closing or merged schools in areas where real estate values are booming - downtown, around Northeast, along the Hiawatha Corridor, in the gentrifying parts of the North Side. This is prime real estate that's earning the city, and the school district, nothing right now.

So here's what you have:

  1. Minneapolis has 12,000 seats more than it needs. It has to consolidate.
  2. All of that prime underutilized real estate is a potential cash cow for the district.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, publicising the pain of the school closings as a response to state budget cuts is a great way for the DFL-controlled Minneapolis school board to shift the blame to the Republican-dominated legislature (with the full connivance of professional guilt-mongers like Nick Coleman),even as the closings perfectly fit their need to consolidate.
  4. It's a political attack on both the charter school systems - which are becoming vastly more popular as the MPS's academic record atrophies - and "white flight". Don't underestimate the connection the DFL will make using these two issues during the upcoming legislative session.
What, public schools attack charter schools? I don't believe it! [ /deadpan>

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

An echo-Instalanche 

I've never gotten a real one, but it appears that we're getting many hits from Powerline which got today got a link from Instapundit. While Powerline didn't link our coverage of the calendar for the troops story, here's our coverage. How did Hugh miss this one?

Thanks for the traffic, Hindrocket!

He passes Stats 101 

Nick Coleman knows what we need to do for public education; keep all existing, failing schools open, no matter what!

I'm going to start with a bit at the end of today's column:
Many thousands of children -- including three of mine -- have been served well by the Minneapolis public schools.

Every morning in the Southwest, shamans of the Zuni tribe rise before the sun, and begin to pray. The Zuni believe that if they don't pray for the sun to rise in the morning, it won't. Since the sun rises in the morning, the prayers obviously work.

Correlation isn't necessarily causation.
This is from Mitch, who joins in a Northern Alliance ritual called "Smack the STrib Columnist Pinata". If journalists would take even one statistics course and pass it, the quality of reporting and opining would go up greatly.

Here's what I want 

I want some enterprising students to start looking at political affiliation of faculty here at SCSU. Critical Mass has been covering stories where these investigations are occuring at Bowdoin and Duke. Minnesota is an open caucus state and I don't know if there is a record of who attended which caucuses. I know at least one good political scientist locally reads this blog -- can you help us out on where to get the data?

One wise owl 

Scholar the Owl has a little more coverage of the letter from the teacher at Minnesota Education Reform News (permalinks bloggered, see entry 2/9). Money quote:
It's true: the personal backgrounds and ideologies of the Academic Standards committee members would not have reflected those found at an Education Minnesota convention. The committee was much more diverse than that. The "public" is back in "public education" like never before.

They didn't get all of the story 

There was a debate on the social science standards a week ago last Friday at Normandale Community College, reported by suburban newspapers as heated. But it appears they did not give the entire story of this DFL-sponsored event. One of the participants was Dr. Chuck Chalberg, a history teacher at NCC, who sent a letter about it to the head of the district DFL.
. Ms. Lonnie Skrentner�s attack directed at Todd Flanders was both uncalled for and unprofessional. Ask yourself this question. Had Dr. Flanders been the head of a private black academy or a private Muslim academy would she have dared to take the shot that she did. I seriously doubt it. No, make that, I feel certain that she wouldn�t have so dared. In fact, I doubt that so much as the thought of launching such an attack would have crossed her mind. But what did cross her mind�and what then came out of her mouth�cannot be ignored.

...Ms. Skrentner chose her words carefully. Speaking from a prepared text, she made it quite clear that she apparently believes that there are, in fact, some real to her understanding of diversity. She might have simply questioned whether the head of a private academy period ought to have had a role in this process. That would have been bad enough. But she wasn�t content with that. Instead she felt it necessary to add�and with obvious inflection, I might add��Catholic,� as though such a person could not and should not have had a role in this process. Is Mr. Flanders a citizen or is he not? Why should it not be concluded that she was trying to read citizen Flanders, and by implication, any Catholic, out of this process?

If I were a Republican party operative ... I would want that tape to be viewed by every Catholic voter within reach.

... I wonder what Ms. Skrentner meant by her reference to the Providence website and its claim that their students study the best that has been written. (I don�t recall the exact line.) Was this somehow a stab at what she presumes to be their arrogance? Not that it strikes me as arrogant at all. They study the classics among, I presume, many other things. What�s wrong with that? Nothing. In fact, that was once the basis for all education and for any number of good reasons. A study of the classics helps do what the DFL was trying to do last Friday evening. Such study helps make better citizens. It also helps make better students. Providence has made an attempt to determine what it thinks is the best that is worth studying. What�s wrong with that?

I've uploaded the entire letter with Dr. Chalberg's permission, because it bears careful reading. Dr. Flanders, the headmaster excoriated by Ms. Skrentner and by Mr. Seeba earlier, is being deprived of the same speech rights that others wish to deny those who exercise political free speech through contributions to candidates. This exchange went right over the head of the reporter. According to those present with whom I spoke, Dr. Flanders chose to ignore the slap, which might explain why the reporter let it go as well. But we should not.

The newspaper blandly reported on Ms. Skretner, a teacher at Edina High, with a rather innocent quote and the usual complaint that the standards "are not age-appropriate". At what age is it appropriate to decide which religious beliefs get to sit on the standards drafting committee?

Jeff Foxworthy on Minnesota 

Minnesota ain't redneck, but
If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Minnesota.
It's just something to do while you sit in an icehouse drinking schnapps.
If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Minnesota.
Get this: It is 10 degrees outside right now, and on Thursday the closest DQ to my house will be interviewing for summer help. All of the local DQs -- three within a fifteen minute drive -- will open Feb. 27. I can't hardly wait.
If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Minnesota.
Very common around gyms.
If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Minnesota.
Does that count 3.2 bars or not? We have 33 bars in this city of about 60,000 that serve "strong beer" (don't get me started.) We probably have more than that in churches, but not by much.

Hat tip: "Burt's dad".

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Radio Trepidation 

It's true: We will be joining Mitch, Captain Ed, and the rest of the Northern Alliance (all those cool people in that box on the left) in bringing you the Northern Alliance Radio Network, 12-3pm Saturdays on AM 1280 The Patriot in the Twin Cities. Yours truly will be on with some regularity, focusing on higher education and the wars within academe, with an occasional discussion of economics (since supposedly this was what I was trained to do.) Our first show is currently scheduled for March 6.

We owe a big thanks, of course, to Hugh Hewitt and the management of AM 1280 the Patriot. We appreciate as well the "link love" (Captain's phraseology) from Helloooo Chapter Two and Brainstorming. I also think it's fair to say this is the first alliance blog radio show ever.

On such slender reeds are marks of distinction made.

Spike Lee goes from A&M to Colorado 

Instapundit reports on this quote, which turns out to come from Spike Lee, regarding affirmative action bake sales:
I'm in favor of affirmative action. It's not like going to the nearest street corner, finding some black person and putting them in that [admissions or employment] slot," Lee contended.

"Would these students [College Republicans and EOA] be happy if there were no black students here at all?" said Lee. He added with sarcasm, "You'd never win a basketball or football game then."

That's a riff of the Texas A&M story.

Liberty and Wilder 

Laura Ingalls Wilder, that is. Douglas has a great post making this connection. Rose Wilder Lane was the only Ingalls grandchild, and she of course developed a great love of liberty by her experiences.
Politically, I cast my first vote -- on a sample ballot -- for Cleveland, at the age of three. I was an ardent if uncomprehending Populist; I saw America ruined forever when the soulless corporations in 1896, defeated Bryan and Free Silver. I was a Christian Socialist with Debs, and distributed untold numbers of the Appeal to Reason. From 1914 to 1920 -- when I first went to Europe -- I was a pacifist; innocently, if criminally, I thought war stupid, cruel, wasteful and unnecessary. I voted for Wilson because he kept us out of it.

In 1917 I became convinced, though not practicing communist. In Russia, for some reason, I wasn't and I said so, but my understanding of Bolshevism made everything pleasant when the Cheka arrested me a few times.

I am now a fundamentalist American; give me time and I will tell you why individualism, laissez faire and the slightly restrained anarchy of capitalism offer the best opportunities for the development of the human spirit. Also I will tell you why the relative freedom of human spirit is better -- and more productive, even in material ways -- than the communist, Fascist, or any other rigidity organized for material ends.

Who goes to college (of education)? 

I'm not sure what to make of this story from ReformK12 on future teachers and their SAT scores. This only says that those who intend to go into education scored lower on SATs, not those who actually get education degrees. (That's Praxis, and that's a different story.) And it's worth noting that those who intend to go into business and commerce don't score much higher. Nevertheless, it says that the teaching profession doesn't attract students who do well on the SAT. So I wonder: What kinds of students are attracted to colleges of education right out of high school?

Alternative teachers 

A bill has been entered in the Minnesota House to allow for alternative teacher licensure. This would allow someone with a bachelor's degree in a subject area in which s/he wanted to teach to take 200 hours of intensive training and get a license, rather than return to get a degree in education. It includes a mentoring program with a teacher and additional seminars during the first year of teaching. The faculty union sent this out to us encouraging us to write to legislators about the bill. They insist that they are not taking a position on the bill ... yet.

This will be an interesting test. Education colleges, including ours, will no doubt oppose this; in fields like mine however, it creates another employment opportunity. It appears that Education Minne$ota will lobby against this; given their deep pockets -- $740,000 to state politicians the last two biennia, $637,900 to DFLers, the largest PAC in the state -- they will probably be persuasive.

'Calendar girls,' or, The Patriotic Monologues 

29 local young women decided to create a calendar to help benefit Minnesota troops stationed overseas. They posed in cropped t-shirts, some swimsuits, and,the StarTribune reports, one shot of two women in "green-and-red holiday wrapping paper." For every one that is sold, another goes to a Minnesota-based soldier overseas.

So, of course, local feminist students complained. These letters from the student newspaper gets the gist of it:
I do not see the connection between this and pictures of barely clothed women. These pictures simply objectify women. Is this the appropriate thing to do when rape and other abuse toward women in the military is an ongoing crisis? And what about all the women in the military who are risking their lives in Iraq? Is there a similar calendar of mostly naked men that is going to be sent to them to "boost morale?"
Turns out the answer to that is "yes, next year." If anyone asks, I'm willing. Another letter:
This calender forgoes female soldiers, as well as soldiers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered. Wouldn't there be better ways to support the troops, such as contacting political officials and voicing your opinion in relation to war efforts?

As a male who is in the Social Work field, I am offended and insulted by this sexist calender.
As a male who is a professor, I'm offended by your inability to spell "calendar". I can also guess that you've already "voiced your opinion in relation to war efforts." Not an option available to Iraqis around this time last year, mind you. Then again, neither was the calendar.

One of the 29 answers:

if you believe you have a better way to show your support, I hope that you act on that idea. We did. I promise not to judge your expression of support. I encourage each person to do whatever they can to show support in their own way.

...there are very few projects in this world (if any) that can, on their own, create world peace and make everyone happy. This isn't one of them. The calendar is an expression of support for our deployed military, nothing more.

As Lileks noted yesterday, we raise 'em well up here, we really do.

Here's the Chronicle's original article with the picture for November.

UPDATE: Should have known Hindrocket would find this one.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Gosh that's fun 

The lovely Eloise at NA Interior Ministry Spitbull has hooked me up with a greatly needed link to rock 'n' roll news and gossip. And what's this? A link to DreamPop Links? Old, but still good. My night is complete.

Channelling Billy Joel 

I throw Lileks a link? That'll spike his sitemeter! The Elder has been practice-tequila-shooting, I see ... "in his Ma's cellar."

This guy obviously doesn't know the meaning of ad hominem 

Remember the teacher whose House testimony on the social science standards consisted of a recitation of who placed where in a debate meet? (Scroll down to the 1/27 report and read testimony for the minority report.) He's at it again:
"As a member of this committee, I found it strange that the users of the public system (i.e. public school parents, teachers and administrators) were grossly underrepresented, while the non-users of traditional public schools (i.e. private and charter personnel, home-schoolers and ideologues who have little contact with public school children) were grossly overrepresented, given the tiny percent of the population they represent.

"Minnesotans ought to know that not one public school administrator served on the final committee, yet a private school headmaster was given a starring role. This is especially strange as private schools are not held to these standards."

It's a shame this guy is out writing and speaking, as he makes it hard to take the co-signers of the minority report seriously. But to these people, it's all personal: supporters of the proposed standards can't just be wrong, but must be seen as benighted. And their choice of exiting the public school system is prima facie evidence of their benightedness. It is this vision of the anointed, as Thomas Sowell wrote almost a decade ago, that impels this teacher to speak in this way. I have another example, but that will wait for tomorrow.

Awarding activism 

An advert on our announce list asks,
Do you have students who have done work that is outstanding, creative, and contributes to Women Studies activism and knowledge? If so, please nominate them for the Women's Studies Awards for Outstanding Student Work. The annual awards are given to student work that demonstrates innovative and thoughtful scholarship, creative multi-media and/or artistic pieces, or other innovative projects that deal with issues relevant to the field of Women's Studies.

We are also looking for nominations for Leadership and Activism that shows motivation and commitment to feminist causes/issues.

Our students rarely get the recognition they deserve for excelling, and these awards are one way to recognize their talent. (Emphases added)
Question: Is this the proper function of an academic department in a state university? To promote activism? The last sentence in the first paragraph could have survived just fine as Women Studies knowledge; one couldn't disagree with an award or scholarship that rewarded good scholarship or creativity. But "motivation and commitment to feminist causes/issues" merits an academic award? What am I missing here?

How race is taught 

Many years ago at SCSU, there was an annual event in which the student union was used to stage a demonstration on race. This was at the height of the anti-apartheid movement against the white South African regime. Students of color would be allowed into the building without question, but white students would be asked for their student IDs, and could be refused entry without it. White students ('students of pallor') were supposed to feel the stigma of being identified by race. There was some gossip of "power-tripping" by the guards of the building, and I always wanted to interview them to hear what they thought of the experience, but in general things went peacefully.

Best of the Web carried today a story of a school librarian in Nevada who separated her class by race.

"All the African-American children were given board games to play, and everyone else had to put their heads at the table, and they weren't to look up or speak," said Stacey Gough, whose daughter Amber is a third-grader at Manch. "She told them that she believes in everything that Martin Luther King (Jr.) had to say and she wanted the white children to know what it was like to be black back then."

Mazzulla [the librarian --kb] then allowed the black children to taunt their white classmates, Gough said her daughter told her.

"The black children were making fun of the white children, and saying things like, 'You deserve this for what your ancestors did to us,' and the teacher was letting them," Gough said.

School District officials could not confirm that Mazzulla allowed taunting, but generally acknowledged the rest of Gough's account.
The librarian is a licensed teacher and is reported to be white. The article interviews an expert who says that's not done that way normally -- "Usually, they take the blue-eyed kids and treat them differently from the brown-eyed kids." Oh, that's better. So she blew her shot at becoming the next Jane Elliott.

Joanne Jacobs notes that the school is located near Nellis Air Force base,

...which means the children of men and women serving their country are being taught to resent each other and revel in their status as victims. But they're not being taught enough about history to understand why the librarian ... thinks they should be treated differently on the basis of skin color.
Third grade. This is more than negligence.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Spreading good works 

We note with pleasure that the Elderis taking the fundraising dollars to Mexico next week. The NA fundraiser plus Elder's generous workplace kicked in $1200 for medical supplies to an orphanage in Chihuahua (every time I type that I think "Les Nessman".) Godspeed, dear Frater, and try to bring back a little warmth from Chihuahua.

Alarms sound over review 

In his State of the State address yesterday, Governor Pawlenty announced that there would be an assessment of higher education by the Citizens League. Pawlenty said:
It's also high time to strategically re-think the future of Higher Education in Minnesota. We need to make sure the system is structured, managed and governed in an optimal way to meet future needs. We've asked the Citizens League to lead a state-wide effort addressing the alignment and capabilities of our higher education programs.
The IFO, our statewide faculty union, has already sent up alarms. According to its director of government relations, Russ Staton,
The Citizen's League is a metropolitan based private non-profit group that is dominated by corporate types. They have issued reports in the past advocating the high-tuition/high aid funding model, which would cut state financial support for public higher education institutions and direct the money into student financial aid programs that disproportionately benefit private college students. Do not be surprised if the Citizen's League advocates closing rural institutions to redirect resources to the metropolitan area.
Might be something to it -- the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press speak approvingly of Pawlenty's move. And there is evidence that they have supported high-tuition/high-aid models (see their 2001 report on higher education), though I've had thoughts about this a long time ago and am not sure they're wrong. But what we'd like to see here at the Scholars is a review of MnSCU's structure. Does it make sense to have one board of trustees for so many different schools? That might not necessitate a full break-up of MnSCU. As I have mentioned, the Claremont Colleges operate with six presidents and six boards of trustees, but one business office and a centralized physical plant and maintenance. If the League could address that issue, maybe they would have something useful for us at SCSU.

Worthy reading 

As I mentioned before, I am fond of Mark Steyn's essays. A few weeks ago at a Scholars meeting, one of the assembled handed around his latest in New Criterion, Expensive Illiterates. It's not online that I can find, but it's awfully good. An article that uses the line "The true cure of darkness of darkness is the introduction of light," in reference to our schools, is bound to attract the Scholars. As we contemplate whether to let our teachers continue to use their expertise, it's worth considering Steyn's suggestion.
After September 11, George W. Bush had his own opportunity to reverse the most malign tide in the civilized world -- the multiculti gloop in which all cultures are accorded equal "respect" and "tolerance", even the intolerant ones trying to kill us. The President could have state the obvious -- that western self-loathing is a psychosis we can no longer afford; that it's fraudulent and damaging, especially when it's presented to American children as a religious faith whose orthodoxies all have to sign on to, and which in the name of "inclusivity" excludes everything, from Paul Revere to "Frosty the Snowman."
Or Christopher Columbus, or Betsy Ross.
When Cromwell instructed his portraitist to paint him "warts and all," he meant both halves of the equation: unless you see "all," you cannot honestly evaluate the "warts"; to understand the blemishes on the record, you first have to understand the record. To teach the warts alone is a morbid fetish. Mr. Bush should take the lead in a campaign against the debilitating equivalence of multiculturalism, but parents must play their part, too: every little first-grade Thanksgiving that gets hijacked by the grievance culture is an act of violence against truth and history. In the Nineties, urban police departments came to realize that if you failed to deal with small, trivial crimes they led to more and bigger ones. We need a cultural equivalent of that "broken window" policy. If you let a craven principal take the Pilgrims and Algonquins out of Thanksgiving, you kick away one of the small steps on which a child climbs to informed adulthood.

...From Russian Communism to Japanese militarism, many of the most murderous ideologies in a murderous century arose in societies which were aware of their material inferiority ... but convinced of their cultural superiority. By inverting the formula, the perverse philosophy of Western education -- that our society is materially superior but culturally inferior -- seems almost to invite the obvious response: The radical madrasahs merely answered the call. If all you teach is that everyone else is the victim of the "intellectual and educational oppression that has characterized the culture of the United States and the European-American world for centuries," people will eventually take you at your word. If you trumpet how much you despise yourself, it would be churlish for everyone else not to despise you also.

So the next time you read someone giving a lefthanded compliment that the social science standards are " less racist, less xenophobic and less unbalanced than the first draft", ask why that is the yardstick used, and who is using it?

What you get when you don't pass the standards 

From the Onion:
10th-Grade Class Watches Ben-Hur For Two Weeks
SALEM, VA�For the eighth straight world-history period, sophomores at Riverside High School watched the 1959 classic Ben-Hur Tuesday. "The chariot races were pretty cool," Michael Bower said of the 211-minute film he and classmates have been watching in 25-minute segments, between roll call and free-reading. "And when Mr. Franks got back from the teachers' lounge, he told us Jesus is in tomorrow's part." Bower said he dreads next week, when the class will break into Ben-Hur discussion groups and share their ancient-history unit journals.
Notes Joanne Jacobs, "Students wouldn't be keeping journals. That requires writing. They'd share their posters."

Whining will get you everywhere 

Douglas keeps asking about the RSS feed. Look at the archive and you'll now find it. I've tried an RSS aggregator but it seemed too verbose, too much noise-to-signal. Suggestions?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Religion in philosophy 

Should a professor of, say, economics, openly profess his Catholicism in the classroom? Most of us probably would say no. But what about a philosophy professor? Does it depend on which class he's teaching?FIRE is advocating for a professor at Lakeland Community College, a public school near Cleveland, who has had his courses reduced, has had another faculty member monitor his teaching, and been told by his dean that he "would be happier in a sectarian classroom." Putting a disclaimer about his religious beliefs on his syllabus did not help -- in fact, it made matters worse. Here's a copy of the letter FIRE sent to the school; so far there has been no response.

I know I have some local readers with experience in this and I do not. I recall my wife taking a course on the New Testament here from a Lutheran pastor, who took great pains to keep the discussion away from doctrine. Instead, at Lakeland the professor was open about his religion not in a class on the Bible but an intro to philosophy course. FIRE is citing Rosenberger as the law here.

But please, not Ben Stiller 

Douglas get some props from Critical Mass for casting a screenplay of Pictures from an Institution. There's a new episode today. I had the drunken Peter O'Toole from My Favorite Year* in the Sackville role myself, and agree with Erin about Matt Damon for Caleb. But please, not Ben Stiller. I'm just sick of him. I'm more thinking Colin Quinn -- there can not be anything as pathetically clueless as his lines on his own show. (This just bugs me -- everyone else on the show is funnier than him. Not just one of them: All of them. How do you do that?)

*--you know I have to love a movie with a character named King Kaiser.

The Superintendent approves the nomination, and raises you 

The suggested nomination to the sheepshead deck has been seconded at Cold Spring Shops, where another nomination is offered as well,
officials at the University of Michigan have been taking a page out of the Arab League playbook (would that Bo Schembechler had that for the Rose Bowl) by organizing a secondary boycott of firms that support a Michigan referendum that would change affirmative action as practiced at the universities.

Debating the debate coach 

The MinnWORST people continue to carry on in one of my comment boxes (at least she finds the right one, unlike M) that the signers of the letter did not understand the social science standards. Our tovarisch* cites a bill introduced to the Legislature that would remove the requirement that a full year of geography be taught in grades 9-12. But when was the bill introduced? February 2, last week, weeks after the letters were circulated and signed. Based on the law that exists now, a full year is required. There is nothing in the proposed law that requires geography to receive less than a full year; it would be my personal preference that it not be reduced. But we are bombarded by the MinnWORSTers that the standards are too prescriptive and disrespectful of teacher prerogatives and expertise. So it appears a compromise was made separate from the standards, dropped into this document. Readers can decide if the signers of this letter made a mistake or not. As we noted,
No set of Standards can be letter-perfect, and signers of this letter reserve the right to comment individually on specific points. Subject to such adjustment, the Standards are in our judgment a reasonable approximation of what K-12 students ought to be learning in these areas, and we recommend their approval by the Legislature.
I actually already have sent some of these to the committee.

Meanwhile, here's the teacher's web page. Using the MAPSSS tactic one could say someone who links to Tom Tomorrow is a blatant left-wing ideologue. But rather, I'd ask her what she means by "You don't fatten a pig by weighing it", in relation to the standards (written in August, before they even came out)? And how about this?

My student teacher (who just got her license in January) confirms that the standard distribution requirements are still there

1 geography (Carleton essentially allowed their students ... to skip this requirement for some reason)

1 economics

1 sociology (you'll get this in your licensure classes anyways)

1 psychology (you'll get this in your licensure classes anyways)

1 US history

1 world history

1 political science/government

... at Carleton at least 2 or 3 of the classes need to be upper-level, not intro. I don't remember that part at Macalester. Nobody seemed to care at all about the actual topics studied.

Also there is now this silly praxis content-area test.

Ah yes, Praxis. A test passed in 1985 but only given to teachers first in 2001. Luckily, anyone with a license before 9/1/01 doesn't have to pass it, since new teachers in 2001-02 answered only 68% of the geography questions correctly nationwide. Later Teacher says
Quite honestly, I don't really see why a person needs a major in chemistry in order to teach high school chemistry, or why a person teaching 8th grade math needs to have a math major. I think there's more potential damage when the teacher doesn't have a good set of teaching skills than when she/he doesn't fully grasp college-level subject matter.

*--Because we're not yet drug y podruga.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Academic Bill of Rights update 

Porphyrogenitus supports the idea, but Instapundit thinks it "just takes the "hostile environment" stuff that the Left uses to silence its critics and turns it around." Porphyrogenitus responds that he thinks this will at least "cause us to look for the best solution" -- but I doubt it. You start down this road once, and they will never let you forget that you once agreed to the "hostile environment" charge. Don't give them that; it shows weakness.

Can you write well without reading? 

I doubt it, and so does this report from the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. I remember someone telling me long ago that to write well I had to read good writers. I often wonder who the writers I like on the web -- Lileks or Steyn, for instance -- like to read? I like the blogs that list what books their authors are currently reading. Apparently this is NOT how our students are taught writing, however.
Across the country, thousands of English faculty teach composition. But the typical instructor is a graduate student or part-time instructor who meets with twenty or more students two or three times a week for a quarter or semester. The students write short papers, sometimes to be revised and resubmitted. On occasion, usually toward the end of the course, they compose longer essays. They are usually expected to consult a grammar handbook and a rhetoric that combines brief readings and assignments. Ordinarily, they must also buy a novel or anthology of essays to supply ideas about which to write. There is almost no pattern in these selections. In our surveys, the most popular whole works were Woman Warrior and Frankenstein, but these titles appeared in only 3% of the sample.

Readings that serve as models for writing are usually brief illustrations of rhetorical strategies. Class time is typically devoted to discussions of self-expression, structure, style, audience, and purpose as they relate to student papers, or to debates about contemporary issues. The grade is based on immediate measures of how well the student writes. Skill in writing, and the techniques to train and exercise that skill, are the subject matter that determines the content of the course. Reading takes on a subordinate, often incidental role. Students are ?writers.? They are almost never referred to as readers.

...Accomplished writings ? those that have been most worth saving and rereading ? are neglected. Approaches that combine literature and composition, which for generations have presented composition students with practical, inspiring, and challenging literary models, have fallen into disuse.


UPDATE: John Bruce did, and finds the report poorly written.

Sunlight on college admissions 

If we exposed all of the preferences given in college admissions -- both legacy and racial preferences -- who would be more embarassed by the revelation? Kimberly Swygert has a link-rich post on this. As noted before here, our retention rates for both high-achieving students and for students of color have been below our middling students.

Denying free speech 

Apparently, according to some opponents of the social science standards, people who exercise their (badly limited) free speech rights by paying for political speech are not allowed on the social science drafting committee.
On November 1st Commissioner Yecke �appointed and empowered� 14 members of the large committee to create the final draft standards based on their �leadership and consensus building.� However, concerned citizens who don�t want education politicized should be aware that 97% of all reportable contributions made by Commissioner-selected committee members over the past six years were made to Republican candidates or conservative causes. Even more disturbing is that a majority of these contributions, nearly $25,000, were made by one person who became the chair of the Civics strand and is the Chairman of the Board of an ultra-conservative think tank called the Claremont Institute.
If you remove that one person, the remaining money given out is under $3,000 plus whatever the hidden contributions of the minority members are. The attack on that person is pretty low. Because he gives money, he shouldn't be allowed to speak on civics education? And it's worth noting that in their adding up of who gave money to whom, they simply removed all the people who signed the minority report, and ignored the fact that Education Minnesota has a $22 million budget, endorsed only DFL candidates for MN constitutional offices (150 DFL legislators vs. 20 Republican) and has a PAC that gave away $2.5 million between 1995 and 2001. Should teachers who have $10 taken from their checks for their PAC be recused from the standards committee, or will we deny free speech only to those who gave voluntarily to candidates?

How the left wants to teach your child's history 

The leftist history professors at the University of Minnesota have issued a second letter with further objections to the social science standards. This was presented by Prof. Lisa Norling, whose testimony was posted by someone who airbrushes history. This is picked up as well by the rally of the "dozens" in a demonstration of how the standards are Eurocentric. Combining these documents leads me to believe they are making following recommendations:
  1. Betsy Ross shouldn't be taught to our kids, but Cesar Chavez should be. Christopher Columbus is a no-no; Nelson Mandela is a yes-yes.
  2. Steve Kelley is getting his instructions on the Declaration of Independence from these professors
    The Declaration of Independence (Grade 2) did not ?set forth the guiding principles for the government of our nation? (it announced the break from Great Britain and provided political and philosophical justification for this act of revolution).
    So there's no Virginia Declaration of Rights in the preamble of the Declaration? And that document wasn't also the basis of the Bill of Rights? Have these people even heard of George Mason?
  3. The authors stray into economics and declare that "the effects of increased worker productivity have not always resulted in increased standards of living. In fact, these effects have varied widely across time and place." Name one, please. Output per person, which is our measure of standards of living, is a function of the amount of capital each worker has and the productivity of each of these inputs.
  4. Eurocentrism means ignoring Egypt and praising Greece. Well sure, we have to test to be sure people know the significance of the Luxor's architecture. But seriously, if you taught Julius Caesar in high school, wouldn't you have to cover Cleopatra and the pharoahs?
These people take the standards and scan them for words like "racism", "discrimination", "segregation". They are looking for 'hits'. Not enough hits, the document is racist.

I believe the word for that is 'quota'. And quotas don't belong in standards.

Honestly dishonest 

Professor Larry Roth, a reader of this blog, sends along this note from the discuss list.
Recently I got what may be the best student excuse I ever heard for not completing an assignment.

Students were making reports or presentations about issues, policies, and practices of local companies.

The excuse basically was �we couldn�t complete this part of the assignment because our friend, an employee of the firm, promised he would but then didn�t steal a copy of the firm�s ethics policies for us.�

I think they were telling the truth.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Winnowing, or, who promised you tenure? 

I tend to stay out of the "tenure-bad, adjunct-bad, grad school-mean" debates, but blogchild John Bruce is posting now on whether Ph.D. programs are like an MLM. Daniel Drezner is in the "toughen up, buttercup" camp, which is in part what I think too. But let me elaborate (of course! why else would you blog? --ed.)

I get confused when John continues to say "the numbers don't work", because the numbers never work if you assume all that apply, or all those admitted to grad school, are assured jobs. It's the Hoop Dreams story applied to lit majors. While certainly the pay for economics profs seldom even reaches the minimum salaries in professional sports, tenure provides a security that few can appreciate. Those inclined to lives of quiet reflection, unhurried and unfettered by the requirement to constantly sell something or produce something, compete in a tournament to receive the prize. Some will make it, many others do not. Think of baseball. Last year 1,480 players were drafted, approximately 50 per team. How many will get a taste of the bigs? Maybe three percent of them?

This tournament is obvious in sports, but there are other examples, like gaining partnerships in accountancies or law firms. My wife is a wonderful pianist, but I know a couple who are better -- and none of them is earning any real income from performance.

The question, I think, is whether tenure is a winner-take-all market. If so, you could get into the argument of whether we spend too much time and resources trying to get tenure? But that's a very different problem than a multi-level marketing scheme; the tournament can be quite honest and upfront and still inefficient.

Censorship news and views 

The New York Post (link via FIRE) has spoken up for campus free speech. This is a courtesy denied for years to Professor David Deming, who is now facing further retaliation at Oklahoma University. Dean John Snow is hereby marked as a candidate for Cold Spring Shops' sheepshead deck. A note has been sent to the Superintendent.

I've seen your face before 

Mitch puts in a second claim for my look-alike, rather than Hugh's offering. I'm thinking more John Doumayan of System of a Down (my son thinks so when I go for my summer haircut), while the Scholarette votes for Michael Nouri (thinking of Flashdance, no doubt, hopefully not Count Dracula).

Can you fisk a whole blog? 

Well yes, if it's this one. It contains several posts by people attacking the social science standards. No word on whether or not they were out in the cold. They lead with this contemptuous post from Michael Boucher.
A Star Tribune poll shows that 45% of Minnesotans support the idea of the social studies standards. They have not read them, have no idea what they are about, but assume they are a good idea.
Not a stitch of evidence of this statement, just "if you disagree with me you must be an idiot." And get this wonderful logic:
We are 21st in teacher salaries and 21st in per pupil spending and we ?top the charts on national math and reading tests.? The reason: teachers are subsidizing education to tune of millions per year.
This man is a teacher.

Next comes the testimony of Edina teacher Eileen Johnson, who comes up with this curriculum for your children.

The social studies curriculum in our district, across the state and the nation follow a similar progression of skill development. The common strand or progression is as follows: the study of home and communities in grades 1and 2, Native Americans in grade 3, state studies and US regions in grade 4, explorers and American history in grade 5 and ancient studies and world geography in grade 6.
Native Americans in grade 3? Before any American history? Her basic problem is she doesn't have a textbook to do teach social studies like the standards suggest. As Paul Samuelson once said, "Let those who will write the nation's laws if I can write its textbooks." She also thinks my nine-year-old can't learn at the level these standards prescribe. Thanks for holding her to high ideals, Eileen.

We'll come back for Prof. Norling -- she earns a whole post of her own. But what I love is this post, with the letter I and others signed, with the title "These people have obviously have not read the standards". This type of arrogance, from people paid for by your tax dollars in most cases, is galling. It's never clear who is writing this blog -- I suspect Boucher, but all posts are simply signed 'M' -- but I note MinnBEST doesn't have a sitemeter. Little wonder. I probably generated more traffic for them today than they have ever had before.

UPDATE: 'M' posted a comment on the wrong post, and indicates he's changed the title of the post mentioned in the previous paragraph. No note of his "airbrushing history". How poignant!

Checker deck 

Cold Spring Shops has been building a deck of cards to note silly administrators. Stephen has long had William and Mary's president in his sights, and now some fool has turned tail. Seeking a more interesting target, Stephen now turns on Checker. Chester Finn's memo on whether the private sector using a business model could turn out better results in higher ed is interesting, but Stephen sees problems. It largely turns on the old problem, is basic academic research a pure public good that will be underprovided by the market? Particularly research in the fine arts? That's an old saw, but he makes another, better point:
Has [Finn] considered the possibility that independent and creative research (with perhaps some revised incentives to produce stuff that others will read) has its value? A student at a university where nobody does any research is in the position of a wallflower at a party, watching others engaging in the intelligent conversation.
We have long argued in my wing of SCSU that someone who does not do research is a lousy teacher, for they don't know what is new in the field. Particularly in relatively young fields like several of the social sciences, there's still rapid growth of knowledge. How do we compensate someone to keep gathering that information and bringing it to students?

Monday, February 02, 2004

What if we had a protest and nobody came? 

Maybe the cold got to these people:
On Saturday, January 31st dozens of Minnesotans ignored the cold and went to the Capitol rotunda for a Rally Against the Proposed Standards and For Better Standards. Participants included Republicans, Democrats, Parents, Teachers, Professors and Students. The rally was covered by KSTP Ch 5 and FOX 9 News. Those who attended left energized and informed.
And then they give you this picture. Dozens, you say! How many protestors does it take to hold a camera? Even our Alliance is larger than that group.

Time for independent trustees? 

John Bruce and Erin O'Connor have discussed the public platform of a potential trustee at Dartmouth. SCSU readers should view this in light of the post on our own discussion list about whether or not we need an independent set of trustees here. For those reading from outside, SCSU has no trustees; we are currently "served" by a board of trustees from MnSCU. A management professor here argues that's a bad idea:
... a board would represent and legitimize the institution. A university needs a board of directors or trustees to connect it with the rest of the world. The board would become intimately familiar with the SCSU yet remain independent. It would act as a booster club and ensure that the public had faith in the university despite what it read in the newspaper or heard from politicians. A board could stand up to anyone who threatened the institution, either from within or without. Maybe that's why we don't have one--it would reduce the power and prerogatives of politicians and bureaucrats.

Return on investment 

Photon Courier links to an interesting misrepresentation of relative spending on education and defense. As I've mentioned before, unlike most countries, we spend a good deal of private as well as public money, and as a share of GDP we are pretty much on a par with other countries. David thinks many "have more or less bought into this idea that education is chronically impoverished". I think not; I do think Americans are frustrated with the quality of the output from the elementary and secondary school systems (and the universities, if you agree with John Bruce), and what they want are choices.

Beyond cool 

In case you missed it, the Alliance held a meeting on Saturday (reported by Mitch, Hugh, the Fraters and Captain Ed). It was one of those moments in my life where I realize what a lucky man I really am. I'm not even sure how I got into this -- though I clearly have PowerLine's Big Trunk and Hindrocket to thank for that -- but I was amazed to sit in a room of people I barely knew and feel so at home. And Hugh's gracefulness in discussing local issues with us and the presidential pick 'em poll -- I'll have more on this later this week -- was beyond cool.

I am now working on getting Hugh on local talk radio here. Just look at the lineup we have and you can see why. And they should listen to me now, for I am now Santana.

And for the record, to reassure the Elder, I only go commando when blogging at home.