Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Trading along two margins 

I was driving around this PM getting ready for a trip to Claremont tonight -- I'm in the airport just now -- and listened to Dan Patrick interview Paul Hornung to clarify his comments on Notre Dame needing to lower its academic standards to attract "the black athlete". Hornung has apologized for in essence using the adjective "black" to mean "best". But people are still getting on him over the comments, including our own NA colleague Captain Ed.
Notre Dame has always maintained that scholarship and athletics were not mutually incompatible programs, and for decades has fielded the teams that proved it. As recently as 1988, Notre Dame won a national championship with these same standards while benching star athletes for academic and rules violations. Rather than being proud of the integrity of his alma mater, Hornung instead endorsed the notion that a national championship justifies the exploitation of young men, challenging the Catholic university to lower its standards for athletes to those of Florida State and USC.

It's sickening, and Notre Dame should cut all ties with Hornung. We fans of the Irish love this university not because we attended it -- I didn't -- or because of Irish heritage, but because it has stood for integrity and excellence for over a hundred years, and we have few other examples of this in college sports. If Hornung can't be proud of that, then he needs to find somewhere else to work.
I have to disagree with Ed on this one. The increased chase for academically advanced students of color have made it more and more difficult for Notre Dame to get athletes. ND does not allow its athletic director or coaches to decide whether to admit a student, unlike most schools, including places as academically advanced as Duke. (Two words: Christian Laettner.) There is a story about Lou Holtz giving the admissions staff a list of the fifty best high school seniors and being told that only three would be admitted. And competition for them increases as schools chase these students to meet diversity requirements makes it harder. If you continually limit yourself to a subset of football recruits while other schools use the larger set of athletes with less regard for academic ability, you will eventually lose. In short, if you discriminate against lesser-academically gifted athletes but the other schools do not, you will lose. (This is an extension of the argument about baseball discrimination against black players -- a point that cuts close to my Red Sox heart, hello Pumpsie Green!)

Notre Dame can, of course, choose to pursue academic excellence and restrict who it recruits. Down that road lies the Ivy League and the military service academies. NBC isn't offering them exclusive broadcast fees. But ND is finding it increasingly hard to try to have it both ways, and Hornung is being villified for voicing the choice that dares not speaks its name.

Spinning off your own blog 

Douglas has decided to spin his own blog, Belief Seeking Understanding, into three. The one we'll focus the most on from now on is called Academistics. He's run a neat series on the Academic Bill of Rights to start things off with a bang.

Better to feel good than to think well 

Back from their spring break, the campus newspaper at the Claremont Colleges has a spate of articles on the Dunn affair. A great wailing and gnashing of teeth, to be sure, and the usual "even if it's not a hoax, it's great how it brought us together" meme (hello? Reichstag?), but in the middle of it is someone who calls out the real shame of this even if it turned out Dunn really had had her car vandalized. The writer starts,
Regardless of whether she is guilty of vandalizing her own car, CMC Prof. Kerri Dunn has had a disturbing and disappointing impact on the Claremont Colleges. I write this in reference to Prof. Dunn's statements on the night of March 10 at the rally at CMC's Parents Field. In front of 3000 students and faculty members, Dunn unexpectedly took center stage and made an impromptu speech that was plagued by the very pathologies of ignorance and intolerance that the rally at Parents Field-and the other meetings and discussions held earlier in the day across the Claremont Colleges campuses-spoke out against.

Dunn told her audience: "This was a well planned out act of terrorism....I think there's a group here...that perpetuates this in all different kinds of ways." She added that this group is "not looking for open dialogue."

Unfortunately, it seems that neither was Kerri Dunn, for just a few moments later, Dunn urged the crowd to "get together, and say 'Our ideology is more popular than yours.'" Sadly, Dunn's words were met with cheers and applause.
Well, what do you expect? What she's after is a feeling, and the creation of emotion is what's vital, as the writers at No Left Turns noted a while back. I mean, only one kind of bumper sticker is allowed, and it's not this one.

The author comes to this:
The outcome of Prof. Dunn's speech on March 10th was to discredit many of the positive events that took place that day. While I didn't agree with even half of the speakers I heard that day, I respected them, at least until Prof. Dunn spoke. Other speakers were usually careful to note that freedom of speech and expression can be both wonderful and dangerous at the same time, and they must always be respected as essential to individuals' well being. Dunn's remarks swayed the crowd away from these two cornerstones of democracy. Referring to one's opponents as "those idiots" and commenting that "they can just go to hell"-which Dunn did-amounts to rabble rousing. So, too, does celebrating one group's ability to have control over another group because the former has the popular ideology.
It's all a matter of who's sensibilities are offended, as Mike Adams notes in another context.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Confirmation debate 

The PioneerPress has run a pro/con on the nomination confirmation of MN Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke. The con point is written by -- surprise! -- a middle school administrator who doesn't like Yecke's book that critiques the modern middle school movement. Apparently, to this person, she's not entitled to an opinion on this.
The role of the commissioner of education is to promote the good that is occurring in Minnesota schools and to start conversations that result in improved schools for students. The commissioner's job is not to use hyperbole, political zealotry and mystification to confuse, bewilder and obfuscate the truth.
But principals can use them in editorials, eh?

The pro is written by Mitch Pearlstein at the Center for the American Experiment, one of the hated think tanks that doesn't hew to the Education Minne$ota line. He warns of the dangerous precedent the DFL-controlled Senate is creating. Imagining a world in which Yecke had not been confirmed he writes,

Was it because certain groups and individuals disliked how she orchestrated the writing of new academic standards for elementary and secondary schools to replace the dreadful standards of the discredited Profile of Learning? That was a large part of it, though "disliked" doesn't approach describing the visceral and exaggerated contempt certain critics seemed to have both for the new standards themselves and for their main author.

Or might the DFL-controlled Senate have gotten rid of Yecke because they saw an opportunity to slash and draw blood from the popular Republican governor who had appointed her? I make it a point to rarely question motives, but it's hard to believe that something nakedly partisan of this kind wasn't at work in the thumbs down.
It certainly isn't her credentials. Pearlstein concludes with an echo of something Governor Pawlenty said six weeks ago.
Is there a cricket way of getting rid of executive branch officials? Of course � it's called an election, and once every four years it provides an excellent opportunity to clean one house or another.
Winners lead; losers now stonewall and accuse the winners of lack of leadership. Q.v., Daschle's attempt to forestall every last Bush appointment.

M.B.W.B. - Union power at work 

No, not M.B.W.A (Management by Walking About). We're hearing now that our faculty union is endorsing an initiative that involves M.B.W.B. (Management by Wearing Buttons). Check out the message [which is actually quite good] that our union leaders want us to wear in their continuing efforts to sign a contract (that was due last July) with the minions of MnSCU (the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bureaucracy).

The Action Committee met Wednesday following the Board meeting and decided to not endorse any formal action for the Delegate Assembly in that [sic] the Chancellor was an invited guest. Further, they authorized the manufacture of buttons for all faculty. The buttons read �Support Higher Education: Outsource MnSCU� and will be distributed on campuses soon. The �U� in MnSCU will have a slash through it symbolizing MnSCU�s lack of respect and representation of the State Universities.

Distance administration 

How many other universities use web-based surveys as a means of communication between faculty and administration? How about a survey about communication? It seems peculiar to me that a conversation about communication begins with a wholly new means of communication.

Meanwhile, the provost is using a survey to jump-start his pet American Democracy Project. He asks a survey of the faculty that you must begin by agreeing to a definition.
Civic Engagement : includes those activities which promote active participation in our local and global communities. Through such activities individuals and institutions dedicate themselves to meeting social needs and to upholding their rights and duties as citizens. These activities may include service-learning, community based learning, volunteerism and political activism.
Or they "may" not, right? Or have you already made up your minds about this?

What I find odd is the different way in which the administration runs the university. Rather than have a conversation, they have a poll. Rather than seek an understanding, they take a pulse. It keeps the campus at arm's length.

Cosmic justice and diversity of political beliefs 

Today's pop quiz: Count and critically evaluate all the cliched bromides found in these two paragraphs drawn from SCSU's new strategic plan. Then postulate some potential problems the university may face if it retains the words "political beliefs" in this preamble to defining its "quantitative key performance indicators." How about setting a quota for hiring professors who are neither Democrats nor members of any other denomination of liberals? Oof dah!

Social justice and diversity are mutually reinforcing concepts. Diversity relates to the empowerment and inclusion of all peoples and results in the enrichment of the human experience and the continued viability of the planet's ecosystems. Social justice is best exemplified through the ideals and values espoused by a democratic society; it is achieved though systems that enable and support individual empowerment, the fair and equitable distribution of resources, and socially responsible leadership committed to advancing social change. A foundation of diversity and social justice builds and optimizes organizational strength and effectiveness by capitalizing on the value and abilities every individual has to offer; it is founded on management and leadership practices that assume the general goodness of our humanity.

To bring value to an organization, diversity must embrace difference of all sorts, including race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and political beliefs, to name a few. A multitude of divergent and complementary perspectives is necessary for a creative, stimulating and effective atmosphere and is absolutely essential to the growth and vitality of a public university. Only through the expression of many viewpoints can students learn to think critically for themselves and participate fully in a democratic society.

Shot down, back up 

Mitch has had ISP problems that even goofed his domain, so he's changed his URL. We're updated; you should, too.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Peace comes after what war? 

I get a note over the weekend asking for volunteer female peacekeeprs for the next "Take Back the Night" event at the end of April. In this march last year at Minnesota-Duluththe peacekeepers were male. So what's the deal here? Who's keeping the peace, against whom? The author of our notice writes,
The Peace Keepers role is to march outside the marchers to keep them on the one side of the street, be mindful of traffic, de-escalate situations that may arise (this doesn�t happen very often and you never have to deal with it alone), assist with people who may need to get on the van to finish the march, watch for any medical emergencies and alert the police car if needed.
What situations? Is there any documentation of people counterprotesting a TBTN event? Put your "I was abused at a TBTN event" in the comment box, please. It'll be news to me.

Bait and switch standards 

Late last week the Senate Education committee approved an alternative set of standards. Opponents of the citizens' standards are gleeful, which ought to tell you enough to know something wicked this way comes. The MAPSSSters suggest that the battle over the competing standards will wait for Senator Kelley's witch hunt confirmation hearings over Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, scheduled to begin Thursday. I've already discussed the problematic economics standards. There are some other issues as well. At eighty pages, the length of the alternative standards doesn't address one of the opponents major concerns, but consistency isn't a long suit for these people. The Minnesota Council for the Social Studies now supports these standards, whereas last week it appeared they were promulgating a different set. I am waiting for them to show how these alternative standards even meet the position they took on March 4th. I rather think they simply signed on to these as directed by Education Minne$ota.

The MAPSSSters say the citizens' standards in second draft ignored a majority of the comments. Here's what the citizens did to respond, and here are all the comments. If a majority of the comments are idiotic, I hope they are ignored. (What, you say? None of them are idiots? Really?)

The committee's Republican minority, it seems, is wise to what's up here:

But Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, attacked the new requirements as an almost mysterious document, appearing suddenly without giving committee members enough time to carefully consider them.

"Who really is the author of these standards?" he said. "I don't see how we can proceed adopting these on the basis of these circumstances." While he barely had time to go over the new proposed standards, Hann said, he noted that the House version was devised by a citizens committee last year in a public process, and that thousands of people either testified for or against those standards, or sent in comments about them. Plus, Hann noted that the heft of the Senate standards seemed similar to that of the House's version.

"They certainly don't pass the test of being less burdensome," he said.
Nor less ideological. I won't go into detail just yet, but get a gander at page 31 of the secret standards. And recall that while MCSS is saying they are supporting these standards, they did not write them. This was done by professors at the University of Minnesota. Kathy Kersten analyzed these people long ago.
What would our children's history classrooms look like if the "U" professors, and like-minded critics, got their way? One thing's sure: Every day, our kids would walk out of class hanging their heads for shame at being Americans. The professors' letter makes clear that they see America -- first and foremost -- as a nation that has oppressed women, enslaved blacks and exploited the poor. They want our children to see it that way, too. That's why their letter is full of recommendations like this: When Minnesota 8- and 9-year-olds study colonial America, they should focus on "the genocidal impact of European incursions," the extinction of numerous species and the destruction of whole environments." When third-graders study the Pledge of Allegiance, they should learn that its author was "forced by the political climate of Jim Crow and xenophobia" to omit the mention of equality, along with liberty and justice.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you page 27. At least they wait until high school.

What's he doing here? 

Y'know, we forgive in Minnesota rather easily. But someone sent me a note today that reminded me to look at something that happened here last week. A professor from the University of Minnesota helped bring an exhibit on campus to teach about religious "coexistence." My letterwriter reminds me that we've heard before from this person in regards to the anti-Semitism case. Does anyone else wonder why a man who referred to us as the Jewish equivalent of Ku Klux Klan University now brings a rare exhibit to campus?

We're a public university and he's welcome to visit us, but giving him a place of honor, frankly, is a little bit much.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Clients, not customers 

Brian Leiter quotes a philosopher approvingly on the nonsense of calling students "customers".
A somewhat better model than that of commercial customer is that of professional client, in relation, for instance, to a doctor or lawyer. No one with any sense goes to their counselor and says: Prescribe this drug for me in this dosage, or file a lawsuit for me under this section of the Uniform Commercial Code. One goes instead for access to a different kind of judgment and advice, which one wants to take account of a whole range of possibilities and constraints initially visible only to the professional.
I'm not sure where I've argued this before, but a belief of mine stemming from the Microsoft antitrust cases is that service providers have a right to sell their services in the way they wish. You cannot force me to teach principles of economics in a certain way: You may choose not to pay me, and I may choose not to work for you. Hat tip: Cold Spring Shops, who has more about Pittsburgh's salutary intro to philosophy course. Stephen, here we require "critical reasoning", not often taught by full-time faculty.

Long-term academic contracts 

The University of Hawai'i and the state have settled a long labor dispute with a six-year contract, reports Jonathan Dresner at Cliopatria. The contract calls for 1% increases the first year, 3% the second and 2% in the third, but raises 5% in year 4, 9% in year 5 and 11% in year 6. Dresner is unhappy. He notes that senior faculty are now less likely to retire while they wait for the out-year windfalls. But those might not come because the state hasn't committed to paying for those raises in later years. " Turning down the air conditioning and reducing the copying budgets is only going to go so far." But his last point is most intriguing.
And, in the long run, the six-year contract is a recipe for union disintegration. It's hard enough keeping a union running and strong, much less a faculty union, even with regular biennial negotiations (and our negotiators obviously need work) to keep attention focused. What is the union going to do with itself for the next four years? When the next contract rolls around (or the promises fall flat, whichever comes first), will there be any real experience or guts left in the organization?
What animates the union here are the alphabet soup of diversity committees and a belief that the test for tenure involved a mirror and condensation when placed under the candidate's nose. Is that enough to gain broad support for the union? I don't know. I think the bigger question is: Do they care?

"Sue us, not them" 

King has already provided insight on the question whether SCSU and MnSCU are responsible for the Chronicle�s infamous article. I believe they are, at least for now. The University of Minnesota has often been sued for articles published in The Minnesota Daily, its student newspaper. See Nelson v. University of Minnesota, 1993 WL 610729 (Minn.Dist.Ct. 1993); Naylor v. Minnesota Daily, et al. No challenges were brought in these cases to dispute respondeat superior.

The Chronicle�s editorial that the Lewis suit �lacks focus on accountability� leaves me genuinely puzzled. Is the Chronicle protesting because the plaintiff did not name it and its staff as defendants as well? Then maybe, instead of whining, a little bit of gratitude is in order?

Mitch pushes me a bit further 

Mitch Berg jumps in with his "Why I'm not a Libertarian" post. I suppose it all comes down to whether you think you can reform an entire party. Towards that end, I point Mitch to Leonard Read, who suggests that Republicans will be more moved to attract people of integrity if we choose not to vote at all.
For a while we would continue to get what we now have: a high percentage of trimmers and plunderers in public office, men who promise privileges in exchange for ballots�and freedom. In time, however, this silent but eloquent refusal to participate might conceivably improve the situation. Men of integrity and high moral quality�statesmen�might show forth and, if so, we could add their numbers to the few now in evidence.

Would a return to integrity by itself solve our problem? No, for many men of integrity do not understand freedom; or, if they do, are not devoted to it. But it is only among men of integrity that any solution can begin to take shape. Such men, at least, will do the right as they see the right; they tend to be teachable. Trimmers and plunderers, on the other hand, are the enemies of morality and freedom by definition; their motivations are below the level of principles; they cannot see beyond the emoluments of office.
I've probably used Read's essay more than any other in defining why I haven't yet jumped fully into the GOP. But hanging around the NARN is pushing me closer.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

In Search of Mediocrity 

Angry, dismayed, betrayed, frustrated. Pick your favorite adjective to describe today's reaction of dozens of staff and faculty members of SCSU's G.R. Herberger College of Business to an unveiling of the university's current plans to warehouse the college in smaller new quarters with fewer usable classrooms . . . and all in the most remote floor of the old library. Still no answer to WHY the move? Absolutely 100% of the members of the college are 100% against the plans. But will that matter to administrators intent on achieving mediocrity? Stay tuned. Here's a photo.

All things Dunn ... 

Is being covered by Thomas Galvin. Turns out she has a rap sheet. Meanwhile, students are not happy as they return from break to hear their solidarity march was instigated by a hoax.
"She told us that she thought one of her students did it,' said Daniel Curtis, a student in a psychology class taught by Dunn, who is now on leave. "If she did do it, we were lied to straight to our faces. That is insulting and to make us question our classmates and friends is horrible.

"If she did do it, I feel betrayed.'

Claremont McKenna College placed Dunn on temporary paid leave while officials investigate the incident.
Since she has a contract only through June 30, I suspect she won't be disappointing any more students at CMC, and this picture will fade into a poor memory.

Further on the Chronicle 

In an accompanying editorial on its own printing of false claims, our student newspaper digs itself a deeper hole.
We continue to regret the error and any confusion and pain that it caused. We apologized then to Dr. Lewis and the university community. We have tried vigorously to hold ourselves accountable.
No you didn't. As I noted earlier today, at a critical juncture you decided to stop investigating the claims. Yet today you say "we investigated the matter as thoroughly and as expediently as possible." Three weeks, gentlemen. THREE FARGING WEEKS you had to investigate, and you decided
Because the demand for retraction is an intervening factor, University Chronicle attorney Mark Anfinson has advised the editors that it would unwise to continue such an investigation for publication. After consultation, the editors ceased the investigation.
So did you complete the investigation or not? And how did you apologize? On an inside page, in a small column. Not. Page. One.

The editorial also states

Our story contained a factual error, certainly unbeknownst to us at the time of its publication.
What did they say in their retraction?
The Chronicle hereby unconditionally retracts the suggestion contained in the article that Dr. Lewis is anti-Semitic. It also unconditionally retracts the statement attributed to a source for the article that she heard Dr. Lewis use racial slurs and make derogatory comments.
That sure looks to me like more than one teensy-weensy little factual error. "We have suffered minor structural damage," said the engineer to the captain of the Titanic.

Error three:

University Chronicle is an independent student organization that produces the SCSU student newspaper. We are not owned by SCSU, nor are we owned by MnSCU. We are not funded by either; our funding comes from student activity fees, which incidentally we repay through our ad revenue. And we are not, nor do we claim to be, the official newspaper of SCSU.
Well, take a look at their masthead (or at least their e-masthead.) "Newspaper of St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota". Yes, I can read: It doesn't say "official". Is there another one? The UNews is a public relations organ. It's a publication, but to call it a newspaper stretches the definition to the point of vacuity.

Again, it's not my place to decide whether the doctrine of respondeat superior (which makes SCSU and MnSCU responsible for Chronicle's actions) applies here or not as it's outside of my expertise. That defense may be valid. But since Lewis' grievances against the university include a claim of being falsely disciplined for the Hoy affair, the libel action makes some sense. If it is found that the university acted to encourage or assist the original story in any form, they won't have First Amendment defenses.

Smoke-filled back rooms 

Minnesota Education Reform News suggests that perhaps the alternative bill strategy is an attempt to send the measures (along with other Republican education bills) to a conference committee for a quiet death. Scholar the Owl also suggests:
The process used to create Sen. Kelley's alternative social studies standards resembles that used to create the Profile of Learning in that the public was not involved, nor will they be involved. Sen. Kelley would set aside the months of work of the citizen Academic Standards Committee and MDE staff, which was subject to unprecedented public oversight, in favor of the partisan tweaking, in a few conference committee meetings at the Capitol, of proposals submitted by a few elites in the education establishment. Sounds familiar!
Yes indeed.

Denial is a river that runs through the Chronicle editorial office 

The Chronicle's coverage of its own libel suit includes this:
"Why can't people just get along?" said Michael Vadnie, adviser for the University Chronicle.
Let's recall the history, shall we?

October 27th: Article published. Again, this story is still up online, with no official note of the retraction. (I put a note of the retraction in their comments.) So a story they no longer stand behind is still being reported on their site.

October 30: After receiving several letters and my post on this topic, the newspaper states at the bottom of its letters section (not front page) that the story "is being referred to University Chronicle Readers' Advocate Joe Palmersheim for analysis under the guidance of adviser Michael Vadnie. An ombudsman analysis, incorporating the facts and the criticism surrounding the story, will appear in University Chronicle prior to Thanksgiving break." So Vadnie has already decided the story may have merit, and thus isn't necessarily just trying to get along.

November 17th. Chronicle announces it has received a demand for a retraction from Lewis' lawyer. Under advice of legal counsel, editors stop the ombudsman analysis. Only then do they print letters received from readers defending Lewis -- three weeks after the initial article. Just trying to get along.

November 18th. Scholar Marie writes that case law, particularly Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton, probably finds in favor Lewis.

November 20th. The newspaper retracts portions of the story. Marie calls it a "fraction of a retraction". Vadnie tells me by email that it is not a full retraction. You know, just getting along.

Apparently, Lewis agrees, because now he is suing that the retraction failed to meet the requirements in Minnesota Statute 548.06. Whether the newspaper should be sued or the university or MnSCU ... I have to leave that to Marie and other lawyers. I'm just a lowly economist. But to run this kind of "he's picking on me" piece as page one further indicates the deterioration of the campus newspaper here. They need better advising than someone who declined three chances to "get along" and only agreed to a half-hearted retraction under threat of lawsuit that he still hasn't avoided and still can't accept. His student editor is no better today:

"We complied with the statute to the best of our ability," University Chronicle editor-in-chief Eric O'Link said.

"I think it's very telling about motives," O'Link said [in response to the decision to sue the university and MnSCU rather than the paper].

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Alternatively, this sucks 

M keeps peppering my comment boxes urging me to read the alternative social science standards that we discussed earlier. I think these are all simply stall tactics so that teachers can continue to rely on their ability to buffalo local school boards into letting them teach whatever they want. But, let me look only at the economics portions of these, since they are the area I know best.

Alternative 1, coming in at a svelte 78 pages (which I guess isn't too many) contains these three "age-appropriate" standards for grades K-3.
  1. Students will understand the difference between needs and wants.
  2. Students will understand the difference between production and consumption.
  3. Students will be able to identify U.S. currency and understand that markets and prices are related.
The benchmarks for the first indicate your average third grader should be able to tell where their wants and needs come from. If you could get my college freshman to do this, it would be a marked change in his behavior. A benchmark for the second says students will "Identify the goods and services their school provides and the people
who provide them." That's so sensitive to homeschooling, don't you think? Why have a benchmark that glorifies a government school? Perhaps to glorify government? Well, for the third standard there is the weird benchmark, "Describe a good or service provided by the local government and the method of payment." Now, this is for a third-grader. How are they to look at the material taught for this benchmark and not conclude that government is good? Another benchmarks for the third is backwards: price doesn't cause supply and demand -- supply and demand cause price (benchmark 4). And benchmark 7 of that standard is the usual multiculti crap: "Choose a developing country and compare a child's economic experience in that country with their life using the economic knowledge they have learned." What they will have learned is there are lots of needs, governments provide them, and developing countries don't have them so they're going to starve.

What kinds of politics are promoted by these types of standards? Here, try this one from the grade 4-6 standard:
Standard #3 Student will understand the government?s role in producing goods and services.

Benchmarks: (Students will)

1. Know why some goods and services are provided by the government.
2. Be able to explain what local, state and federal governments do in our economy.
3. Use a local example to assess the effectiveness of a governmental action which addresses an economic need.
I have a fifth-grader. As bright as she is -- and I won't brag here -- I have a real hard time imagining her understanding these points. There is broad disagreement over what goods are to be provided by government -- health care is one; education is increasingly another. And my fifth-grader is to assess the effectiveness of government action which addresses an economic need. Well. First, define need. Do we need clean air? How clean? At what cost? All wants and needs are conditioned by alternatives. My fifth-grader tells me she "needs" the new Pokemon game for her GameBoy, but when I tell her I'll share the cost of it with her she doesn't need it any more because she likes having a fat piggy bank. (My kind of girl.) How are teachers going to meet that benchmark? How long will it take? Remember, these are exactly the questions they are asking about the citizen-written standards that have already passed the House. There are 21 benchmarks for grades 4-6 in this alternative versus ten in the House version.

The difficulties continue through the rest, but I have other things to do. Let's just say that this limited example permeates the remainder of the document, and for the Senate to think this is a real alternative is disingenuous. The standards are nice fodder for the DFL in Minnesota because they and the Yecke confirmation fight are a means to keep campaign dollars flowing ($55,000 in soft money to DFL last election cycle from Education Minne$ota). We'll be watching Follow The Money to see how much more money comes in this election cycle.

Invisible Adjunct fades to black 

Invisible Adjunct has decided to throw in the towel on her academic career and thus has decided to give up her blog. Of her career change she writes:
Though I must inevitably feel a sense of loss and sadness, it�s thanks to this blog and its readers that I don�t feel the kind of life-twisting bitterness that I might otherwise have experienced. I�ll take with me, among other things, a knowledge of XHTML (which I never thought I could learn!), an undiminished passion for the Scottish Enlightenment, and a heightened sense of life�s possibilities.
Let me note the following about IA: Hers (along with Critical Mass) was one of the sites that convinced me that a blog about academia would work. And she was very generous in telling me about my layouts and discussing a number of academic issues: Politer disagreements were never had in my academic career.

John Bruce notes "we'll all likely run into each other in the buffet line at the heavenly banquet in any case" regardless of her future travels.

A bientot.

Wandering through politics 

I tend to stay out of this area and tend to my education knitting, but fellow Northern Alliance member Mitch Berg has written a piece that hits me in the gut on his wandering from Republican to Libertarian and back.
The political party that you thought reflected your views, at least in most areas, betrays you in some other areas that also matter a lot to you.

I was there, about 12 years ago. George Bush had raised taxes. The GOP in Washington had abandoned the barricades on taxes, and sold a nice chunk of the Reagan Legacy down the river. Worse - to my politics, anyway - the GOP in Congress went along with wave after wave after wave of gun control legislation (even as they were perfectly happy to accept the money and votes of the millions of American gun owners).

So I left. I joined the Libertarian Party in 1994. I stayed until about 1999, when I realized that my best bet for a better America was to change a party I generally agree with, rather than try to convince Americans to come over to a party that I increasingly thought was wrong on other issues that mattered to me (which is a post for later in the week).
I guess he and I won't argue on NARN about gay marriage because it appears we agree (you'd get a bigger argument between the other Scholars and me over that, and you should hear that argument in my house!) but Mitch has migrated further back to the Republican party than I have probably because his round trip started earlier. I spoke with someone this morning who described himself as a "Durenberger Republican" and it was the Democrats around the table who nodded approvingly. It may say volumes about Durenberger but it also says a lot about the state of Minnesota's Republican party. My own Siddhartha journey began when I announced at a caucus my support for Jack Kemp and the first question asked was "Where does he stand on abortion?" I said I didn't know, and that whatever it was would not change my mind about supporting him. Nobody spoke to me the rest of the night.

I'll wait for Mitch's next segment before saying why I'm drifting back to the Republican party. And it is a slow drift some days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

With enemies like that... 

I've received now three alerts from my union on alternative teacher licensure, which is opposed by them, the U of M, the private colleges, MnSCU, Education Minne$ota, and the Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. With enemies like that, it's worth looking over carefully.

The opponents note that a statute already exists for alternative licensure. That would be 122A.24. But that statute is quite different from the one proposed in SF 2109 (or the House companion HF 1814). In 122A.24, someone must already have been offered a job as a teacher who doesn't have the license and must be approved by the Board of Teaching, which has already created the license process that is to be circumvented. Moreover, "The Board of Teaching must ensure that one of the purposes of this program is to enhance the school desegregation/integration policies adopted by the state." That pretty much rules out its use outside of the Twin Cities. SF2109 puts the decisionmaking process on alternative licensure in the hands of the Commissioner of Education, and doesn't have the requirement on the purpose of using these teachers. SF2109 provides for a mentoring program for such teachers and specifies 200 hours of instruction for them "in classroom management, curriculum, and instruction" while they're on the job, rather than 122A.24's requirement for them to get the training beforehand.

The opponents shoot themselves in the foot with lines like these from my union's lobbyist today:
Overall, Minnesota does not have a teacher shortage. There are 56,142 teachers in the state, but 214, 217 teacher licenses. However, there are shortages is certain fields, such as mathematics, science and special education. Opponents of HF 1814/SF 2109 say the shortages could be addressed by amending the current law to allow alternative licensure in areas where there is an identified shortage of teachers.
Two points here. First, an excess of English teachers and a shortage of science teachers does not an equilibrium make. Second, if the old law was so darn good, why do these shortages persist?

Direct question to the opponents: How many alternative teachers licenses have been granted under 122A.24? And in what fields?

Willie Sutton the hooker 

Over the email transom this morning, in support of Social Justice Week here at SCSU.
Panel discussion on United States Military and prostitution in Asia

Join us when a panel of Women Studies students report on their findings on the popularity of prostitution surrounding U.S. military bases overseas.

Um, because that's where the money is? I wonder how many WS students it takes to test that hypothesis?

Pay for performance 

In Denver, at least. Joanne Jacobs notes that their teachers have tied a tax increase for their schools to student growth. That would mean tests, and tests sometimes don't work, because everyone is decidedly above average.
But similar plans have failed elsewhere, said Dan Goldhaber, research associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

One in Fairfax, Va., ran out of money because "everybody was rated as excellent," he said.
The comments on Joanne's site indicate that 88% of teachers in the Denver pilot program received the raises. Merit pay increases received by 7/8 of the faculty aren't meritorious -- they are automatic escalators in disguise.

Meanwhile the Education Minne$ota gang can't even agree to be tested, because maybe they wouldn't all be excellent. They might be leaving money on the table.

Do as we say, not as you vote 

So a business executive agrees to be on the board of regents of a public university. He rises to the level of board chairman. In reading the law of the state, he believes the university is violating a public referendum regarding admissions, but is unable to get a majority of the board to agree. He then decides to write an article (free registration required) for a business publication in which he states that university's administrators "have been manipulating the admissions system and, I believe, thwarting the law." The result has been a system that works against student success.
The university is saying it is tilting the balance in favor of disadvantaged students as opposed to merely engaging in racial discrimination. Whatever the truth of that assertion, any good that comes from giving disadvantaged kids a leg up is undone if the tilting goes too far. It goes too far when kids who struggled with eighth-grade math have to compete with kids who aced advanced-placement calculus.
And what does he get for his trouble? A public censure by the board he chairs.

Today's Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) editorializes that the problem of declining minority enrollment misses the wider point:
Enrollment of "underrepresented minorities" did fall off at Berkeley after Prop 209 passed, but it rose at other campuses within the UC system, such as Riverside, Irvine, Santa Cruz and elsewhere. By 2002 more of these minorities were attending University of California institutions than before the referendum passed. Moreover, because minority students are now choosing schools suited to their academic abilities, they are better able to compete and less likely to drop out.

Mr. Moores's efforts to expose Berkeley deserve praise, and the attempt by his colleagues to silence him is all too typical of the closed liberal mind. Racial bean counters are using taxpayer dollars to circumvent the law and the will of the voters. And in the name of political correctness, they're also doing a disservice to many college-bound minorities.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Learning about the Superintendent 

'Tis true, the Superintendent of Cold Spring Shops and I did see each other at a session I spoke at in Chicago this weekend. The Superintendent took good economics back to DeKalb and applies them to academia better than most while laying into several whiners over the "logic of the marketplace" in universities.
A service that has such serious quality control problems as a defect rate in excess of 50 percent, a failure rate among entering employees in excess of 50 percent (including economics, although there is no great mismatch between tenure track positions offered and tenure track applicants in the labor pool), and continued denial by senior administrators (if I keep this up, I will end up with 99 theses to nail to a cathedral door, won't I?) is hardly a paradigm of market-driven thinking. (And it is worth remembering that there is an element of market competition -- school choice -- in the academy that is missing from the primary and secondary schools that provide our students, many of whom the administration is not worthy of serving.)
Or you could have your university president fly to Arizona and Florida for a chance to watch hockey and mix with alumni. I suppose it keeps him out of trouble...

Truth or dare you to disagree 

Infinite Monkeys and PowerLine, like me also with affiliations to Claremont, weigh in on the Claremont fake-out. Both articles savage CMC's administration for what Trunk calls "verdict first, trial later." Ben notes that "Perhaps worse than the ideological blindness of Dunn and her ilk is the cynicism of college administrators who will use recent events as a pretext for ridding the colleges of politically correct undesirables."

He's more right than he realizes. This from Claremont Graduate School University president Steadman Upham:
Whatever the ultimate outcome, I remain heartened with the outpouring of support we saw last week on our campus and throughout the Claremont Colleges for the values of inclusiveness, tolerance, and diversity. As a university, we are committed to taking concrete steps to make CGU a place where all people feel welcome and included, regardless of their race, gender, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality. I look forward to reporting to you on our progress.
Laura Skandera Trombley (a.k.a. 8 of Hearts) hopes that we "respect [Dunn's] Constitutional rights to due process." Aw gee, and just when I had gotten the tar to a boil! Pomona College is even more egregious.
President David Oxtoby said the College remains committed to finding ways to improve the racial climate on campus and noted that this development, while shocking, did not lessen that commitment in any way. He added that he was particularly concerned "that some members of our community may feel disillusioned by yesterday's revelations, and perhaps may even feel that their idealism was misplaced."

He concluded that he is proud of the reaction that the College community exhibited in the face of an apparent hate crime. "Wednesday's discussions, marches, and speeches were a wonderful example of the best of education, even though all of our classrooms were closed," he said. "Most fundamentally, I remain committed to the directions of change that we have been discussing over the last several months in order to create a truly diverse and supportive community. I look forward to reporting in the future on some steps that we are taking, and to continuing to explore with all of you new approaches that will lead to real change."
Not a hint, NOT A HINT!!! of any remorse that one leapt to judgment. At Harvey Mudd College the head of student government says "I'm just afraid that all that community spirit is going to be lost and become cynicism and anger." At Scripps, President Nancy Bekavac warns "However painful and confusing this latest development is, we cannot forget the reasons we were outraged in the first place."

Big Trunk likens it to the Reichstag fire. Correct.

Not just the facts, ma'am 

In what you would think would be a dry read, the Sexual Assault report of the campus, we find the desire to weave fact with ideology. Within the report, circulated around campus, is this paragraph, highlighting added.
Nine of the assaults were committed by acquaintances of the victim and two were committed by a stranger. One of the assaults involved two assailants. The acquaintances included friends, a friend of friends, a former student, fellow students, visitors to campus, a roommate�s boyfriend, individuals the victim met at a party, and in one case, a relative. This illustrates that anyone can be a rapist, even someone we know and trust, and is consistent with the national statistic that 85 to 90 percent of all rapes are committed by an acquaintance.
Everything else is a reporting of fact except for this one interpretation. Why include it?

Demonstrations are for liberals only 

That seems to be the attitude of Roger Williams College, where controversy continues over its College Republican organization offering a white-only scholarship. We noted this group's activism last October when they ran some rather indelicate materials on homosexuality. It's clearly a publicity stunt, a bit of street theater, as the head of the group (whose parents are Puerto Rican) notes, and the ACLU has supported the CRs in this case, more than we can say for the Republican Party itself. Jason Mattera, the head of the CRs, responds with the same brusqueness the group has shown all year.
Sadly, the current leadership of the Republican Party is made up of a bunch of cowards who are not willing to fight for principle, a party that worships the [altar] of political expediency.
Hat tip: reader Pat Mattson.

AP stealing my lines 

As I noted Friday. Apparently . Steve Kelley gets Arrow's impossibility theorem.
If we can't arrive at an agreement on standards that have broad support then it would be better to leave the issue of setting standards to the districts than to adopt the ones recommended by the academic standards committee.
Movement will require getting to the committee this week and forcing a vote on the House bill that was passed that endorsed the citizens' committee recommendation.

EdWatch has already begun testifying here and here against the alternative bills cooked up by an unappointed rump group. You want U of M history professors to decide how your child learns economics and geography? Then choose these guys' stolen formatting of the original standards proposal. Or maybe you want to be just like Wisconsin? Steal these. Or maybe we should just let the people who gave us the Profiles try again? Take three.

Stop stalling, Senator Kelley. Stop playing games.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Have a great weekend! 

Off to another conference, this time in Chicago. More as I can.

Now comes the hard part 

The Minnesota House has approved the social science standards and the science standards. The Senate however, has now introduced three alternative sets of standards; rather than be seen as do-nothing, which was the recommendation of the Know-Nothing Party, to build some room to negotiate or stonewall in a conference committee next month. I will need time to read these, and I will get to them next week. But the best course of all is to get the Senate to pass something based on the standards passed by the House, to reduce the scope of disagreement and room for maneuver.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Not losing sleep on local control 

One of the discussions we hear on NCLB and the social science standards (common to both the left and the right) is the loss of local control. Keith Broady, a school board member in suburban Minneapolis, wrings his hands in the local paper today:
If we are serious about closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color, there has to be more local control and flexibility for individual school districts to meet the needs of local communities.

Instead, we are moving even further from the concept of local control.

We were disappointed to see the Star Tribune endorse further statewide mandates in the March 4 editorial "Kids' fitness / State should require PE in school." We are not saying that physical education isn't important for students, but rather that the state and now federal governments have become overly prescriptive in mandating what school districts must do and how they must do it.

Another example is the proposed social studies standards. If these standards are adopted, we will essentially have a statewide curriculum in social studies that leaves no flexibility for local school boards and teachers. A state-imposed curriculum will not allow school boards to respond to local needs and will not allow teachers to exercise their creativity and professional judgment to increase student achievement.

The extensive federal and state mandates have started to conflict with each other. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation requires districts to focus resources on closing the achievement gap in reading, math and science. Now the state is considering requiring physical education, world language and a statewide social studies curriculum.
Local control sounds wonderful; it sounds conservative, reminiscent of New England town meetings, and grassrootsy. But it's not necessarily the right view. William Niskanen, in Bureuacracies and Representative Government (I think it's out of print now), and George Stigler's famous study of the ICC (Rand Journal, 1971) long ago showed how bureaucracies can be captured by those they hire to provide services, when the service providers can control information to protect themselves and their inefficiencies. Niskanen argued separately that if you wanted to prevent this, you needed to separate the policy-making bureaucracy from the production-supervising bureaucracy. The argument for local control of education works to combine those. That combination leads to too high a local property tax to fund education and/or a decrease in the quantity of education provided.

Voters over time may understand this and as a result seek separation of the policy-making bureaucracy to either the state or the federal government. It's not necessarily contrary to conservatism to do so; if we let local militia leaders decide how much national defense we'll have, is there any reason to believe we'd get the right amount?

It also strikes me as disingenuous: the same people caterwauling against NCLB or the standards are remarkably silent on Title IX or the Profiles of Learning.

Gordon Tullock, in his Politics of Bureaucracy, quotes Czar Nicholas I: "I do not rule Russia. Ten thousand clerks do." Who rules your schools, if you decide to contract out for the education of your own child?

The Safeway Chair in Medical Ethics 

Via Crooked Timber, a story that confirms there's a dearth of good philosophers, at least in medical ethics.
A scientist who tried to poison his wife and cover his tracks by spiking products in a local supermarket is lecturing students on ethics, it emerged today.

Paul Agutter - also known as the Safeway poisoner - has been employed on a part-time basis by the University of Manchester.

The 57-year-old, from Athelstaneford, East Lothian, was released from jail in 2002, after serving seven years of a 12-year sentence for attempted murder.

He spiked his wife's gin and tonic drinks with doses of atropine and tried to cover his tracks by placing bottles of tonic injected with the poison on supermarket shelves.

Chronicle mis-step could be costly 

As Marie and I predicted months ago, the retracted story in the SCSU student newspaper concerning Dean Richard Lewis is the subject of a lawsuit. This suit is for $50,000, which may end up being small change compared to the age discrimination suit still before the EEOC.
The student newspaper, ... last October quoted a former student as saying that Lewis mistreated her after she organized a demonstration in favor of a history professor who was threatened with termination.

Among other comments, former student Robbi Hoy said Lewis told her that her grade in his independent study course would be changed from "A" to "incomplete," that she would have to take the class over with him and that he would not allow her to pass or graduate.

The statements were false and reckless, and the Chronicle published an inadequate retraction, Lewis said in the libel suit filed last week in Ramsey County District Court. The suit seeks damages of more than $50,000. Hoy, the Chronicle and its staff members were not named as defendants.
The offending article is still online; you have to go to the last comment on the article, where I note the retraction, to even realize the article is false and reckless. Why not just hang a big "sue me" sign on your door?

My question: Will this make the age discrimination case easier for Lewis to pursue?

Tanking a hate crime 

She took a dive on her own car: That's the finding of the Claremont Police Dept. and the FBI in the case of the hate crime accusation at Claremont McKenna.
�The Claremont Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have completed their investigation into the alleged hate crime on the Claremont McKenna College campus. During the course of the investigation, two eye witnesses came forward who positively identified the victim as vandalizing her own vehicle. Additionally, interviews with the alleged victim revealed inconsistencies in her statements regarding the incident.

Based on this information as well as other information revealed during the investigation, the Claremont Police Department will present its findings to the Los Angeles District Attorney�s Office for review.�
This news report suggests that they may have known as soon as the day after the incident, but the school went ahead with its day of mourning and teach-in. Claremont McKenna College states that Professor Kerri Dunn has a two year contract expiring on June 30.
Claremont McKenna College will be conducting a further investigation into the professor�s employment relationship with the College for the remainder of this academic year. No decision has been made at this time.
SCSU readers will find this story familiar. So too does Class Maledictorian.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

What do faculty senates do? 

William Marina explains it to David Beito that faculty senates normally are rubber stamps, and this might be why ten faculty in the Mississippi State University faculty senate did not vote to support the fired profs at Southern Miss.
In 1973 I was having lunch with the Chair of the Comm. of Committees of the Senate, which selected all of the folk, in consultation with the Adm., who would be on the various and numerous committees, enough to pretty much dilute power throughout the institution. He informed me, he could get anyone on any committee he wished.

�How is that?� I asked. �Simply by suggesting your name,� he replied, �the Adm. will accept anybody but you.�
Boy does THAT sound familiar!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Time out from your brackets 

A friend of mine wondered this morning, how many hours or work America loses today while people fill out their NCAA brackets. I bet it's many millions of dollars of lost output. But a good investment would be this story about a charter school that worked wonders. Imagine: A school that could have a basketball championship and letters of acceptance for 19 of 24 of its seniors in the same display case, at a school where less than ten percent of the students are white.

Yeah, charter schools don't know anything about education. None of them should ever write academic standards.

Another petition to help education in Minnesota 

In case you missed my previous post on a petition to get Commissioner Yecke confirmed by the Minnesota Senate, here's another chance to get involved.

That street goes only in one direction 

Critical Mass questions why the Claremont incident is a hate crime but Cornell's is not.
a white Cornell student ... was viciously beaten in a campus parking lot by six black Ithaca residents after a Ludacris concert last November. While they punched and kicked her in the face, the victim reports, they shouted things like, "Get your white hair out my face,� and declared that "they were gonna [beat] up my pretty white face." She sustained a ruptured eardrum and required thirteen stitches to repair a torn lip. Her wounds will leave scars and doctors estimate that she will not be fully healed for another year. But it's not a hate crime.

Four of the attackers have been identified, and this week they were charged. Those that were underage (14) were charged with assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor. The 19-year-old and 20-year-old who were arrested were charged with harassment in the second degree, a violation. All four were served with notices forbidding them from setting foot on Cornell's campus in future. That's it. According to both the campus police and the Ithaca P.D., there was not enough evidence to support the claim that this was a hate crime (though there was enough evidence to justify filing a "bias-related incident report").
It's worth noting that the incident at Cornell occured after a Ludacris concert, and Mr. Ludacris "brings the dirty south" to our fair campus in April. Suppose the beating was of a black student after a David Horowitz speech. Think Horowitz would be allowed here?

Friday, March 12, 2004

Thinking rationally about deaning and retaining 

I'm at the Public Choice Society meetings in Baltimore and earlier this morning heard two excellent papers on higher education. One paper discussed the activity of deans as supervising agents for the school's governing board. They note that presidents that have too much discretion, wherein the deans do not communicate with the board, have incentives to misrepresent the state of the college. "Our paper sees the Dean as the key communicative agent who signals the Faculty�s activities in a manner that gives substance and detail to complement the President�s reporting." This relates well to the points raised in Larry Roth's discussion that we posted on the Scholars last week. The fact that one of the presenters of that paper was a fifteen year dean helped the presentation greatly.

A second paper dealt with acceptance and retention rates in public universities. Interestingly they hypothesize that, if a school's reputation is harmed by graduating too many students (thus devaluing the degree), giving incentives for retention may not be beneficial. Reputation is helped by graduation to an extent, but not at the cost of letting everyone get through. What it gets at more generally is whether the cost of retaining freshmen is too high. If you admit poor students that need a great deal of remediation, is your school enhanced more by retaining them? Hard call.

But if the personal is political? 

My good friend and reader Ross the Bagelman was the first to send me John Miller's piece in this morning's WSJ on conservatives in the classroom. Other than adding St. Lawrence University to the list of schools where leftist faculty think it's fine to bash conservatives, Miller treads on familiar ground. Steven Horwitz at L&P points out that his own experience with this faculty member has been positive. Steve writes:
In a 200-level class on the sociology of development last fall, he assigned a piece of mine defending free trade and then gave me a full 90 minutes of class to talk about it, with him present. It was a very civil and productive class. Is it possible to be an angry name-calling hater of college republican fascists in your blog, yet be open-minded enough to invite the opposition to class and treat conservative or libertarian students fairly? Good question. Interestingly, in the wake of some faculty email exchange on this incident in which I called attention to the faculty member having invited me to class, I now have two more invitations from leftist faculty to do guest lectures. I think this is a good thing, but I have jokingly suggested to my dean that I need to renegotiate my teaching load!
Steve's experience is similar to mine; just the other night someone wrote to me and said in effect "You're much nicer in person than in email or your blog." Which I think was a compliment but I'm not sure. I get invitations from some people to talk in their classes too, and they in mine when I have a place where a leftist would fit. I did a panel on WTO with two well-known leftists a couple of days ago, and I thought it was very educational for those who attended.

What's telling in Steve's story, though, is that faculty who hear that "there's a reasonable conservative/libertarian on campus" jump at the chance to bring them into the classroom. It reminds me of a good Jewish friend who applied for a job at a Southern school: they insisted that he meet the only other person in town they knew was Jewish. Are reasonable cons/libs being used as tokens, to ward off the accusation of intellectual bigotry? I don't know; I think it's telling that when there's a need on a campus for a con/lib view on things, very few people other than me show up to speak.

Miller writes,

But haven't liberals been telling us for years that the personal is political and ideology is everywhere? My own experience suggests that the liberals may have a point--and that their prejudices can't be checked at the schoolhouse door. To take a single example: About 15 years ago I endured a psychology course at the University of Michigan. One of the lectures focused on racism. My professor announced that it takes several forms, starting with the KKK variety. She said another strain is called "symbolic racism," which involves opposition to government programs meant to improve the status of blacks and Hispanics. So if you think racial-preference policies aren't a great idea, you're a "symbolic racist."

Today this is basically the official position of the American Psychological Association. Students who question it can't win, because speaking up is an admission of guilt.
And I think that extends to faculty as well, which explains to me the "silence of the lambs" we hear on the discussion list at SCSU when the latest teach-in against Xism is held.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Very late and a long flight later, I'll just post a few links to things we've been talking about.

More on social science teaching experiences 

Mitch adds his thoughts on learning from good teachers. I was what kids called a war-head in high school too -- how funny both Mitch and I feel we were competent to teach WWII in HS as high schoolers. But he got to do it, I did not.

Gotta run to the gate. Back tonight if I find a connection.

A quick thought while traveling 

I'm waiting for a plane in the Minneapolis airport right now. Regarding this thread which has created a lot of comments, I think Steve Gigl from Hellooooo Chapter Two has summarized my feelings. As solid as evolutionary theory may be, one must honestly carry some doubts. What bothers me from the critiques of creationism is the ease with which dissenters to evolutionary theory are dismissed as cranks, fools, charlatans, or worse. It rubs me the wrong way, for it is the exact same tone that liberals on PC-infested campuses dismiss conservatives. "If you knew what I knew you'd agree with me" is lazy argumentation. If showing evolution is hard, perhaps time should be spent finding a better pedagogy to reach more people, rather than researching more on spotted moths.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Who taught you high school history? 

Maybe it's not the standards that matter as much as who actually teaches the class, says Michael Tinker:
*7th grade - American History - junior school football coach

*9th grade - "government" - not bad, though the teacher was reputedly a charity hire; he was certainly odd, without being crazy enough to be vivid or fun

*10th grade - European history - the chainsmoking registrar, the only class he taught. Misery. I read the textbook to pass the time, and when I finished that started snaffling books off his shelf. Guess that's why I did well on the AP.

*11th grade - American history from a man who was a historian. Bob Bailey, r.i.p, was a fine teacher and a fine historian. If he did anything outside the classroom for the school (and it was the kind of place where every teacher did something) I don't remember it. We were his priority.
The fellow who taught civics at Manchester Memorial in the early 1970s was a splendid teacher for me, but to really get wound up on history took two great college professors; how I ended up in economics is still a mystery.

Southern Miss(ing) spine 

According to I Know What I Know, President Thames at USM is considering reinstating the professors for the rest of the semester who were fired for their criticism of his administration. Probably hard to round up someone to teach the courses through the end of the semester. Scott also has this photo, which I think needs a wide audience:

Why is this even an issue? 

From this morning's STrib (by our new favorite reporter Kevin Duchschere):
Four of the 13 members of Minnesota's science standards writing committee Tuesday released results of a statewide poll they commissioned that shows most respondents favor teaching scientific evidence both for and against evolution.
Note: the question is whether to teach both sides of the evolution issue, not to teach creationism. But to some, there isn't two sides:
Yvonne Boldt, a doctorate who teaches biology and chemistry at Providence Academy, a college prep school in Plymouth, said the poll supports "a realistic evaluation" of evolution. But Jamie Crannell, a member of the science standards committee who teaches chemistry at Chaska High School, said the standards already call for that.

"The trouble comes in what is proclaimed to be the scientific evidence against evolution," he said. "According to the science community, there really is not any scientific evidence to counter evolution. My problem with this poll is that it preys on a lack of scientific literacy."
Am I reading that correctly? It seems to say that anyone who is not convinced of the evolutionary theory is "scientifically illiterate." That would seem to be PZ's view.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

9 D balls, 1 R ball, 35 trials 

Discriminations points to a symposium held at Duke on the lack of intellectual diversity there, which we've heard much about. While much of it is the usual back-and-fill defense, poli sci chair Michael Munger is really, really good. Even if you assume 90% of historians are Democrats, there's only a 2.5% chance of finding no Republicans in a history department of 35 faculty members chosen at random. Here are some other quotes:
Here's a true statement: ... every conservative faculty member recommended for by the literature department has been tenured. That's also true of every unicorn and every talking dog, so it's a vacuously true statement. ...

Being conservative is by definition not intellectually respectable. Conservatives are simply not qualified. That was not an administrator, that was no person in a position to put that into effect, but I think it's a widely shared view. So the claim that most of the qualified applicants are Democrats or even more liberal than Democrats is probably true. It would explain why most faculty in the social sciences and humanities departments are not conservative. But it would not in itself explain why there are no Republicans. The problem is not too many Democrats, the problems is too few Republicans to be able to say it is an ideology-blind process. There is no other explanation for the overwhelming disparity.


I went to a USM basketball game, and a Washington Capitals owner broke out 

The USM story gets even more bizarre, with a report from I Know What I Know that students holding signs protesting the Thames decision to bounce two tenured professors with big mouths were removed from a USM-East Carolina basketball game last Saturday. Scott has covered this story up one side and down the other. Just read and scroll. Cold Spring Shops has awarded the ten of diamonds in the sheepshead deck to Thames.

Critical Mass offers more comparisons between this and other cases.

I have had several people tell me in recent days on this campus that Faculty Senate debate around the SCSU-Pravda issue frequently brings up my name. But that's different -- at least so far, administrators aren't uncomfortable with what I write. Other faculty are. Qui custodiet custodiens?

Monday, March 08, 2004

Southern Miss(ing) leadership 

Liberty and Power co-blogger David Beito notes that President Thames at the University of Southern Mississippi has received a unanimous no-confidence vote against his administration by USM's faculty senate. The vote was 40-0, approximately the score by which my Giants lose football games. One of the faculty dismissed is the president of that university's AAUP chapter. David notes that the senate vote only refers a letter to the college's board and carries no legal weight.

Cold Spring Shops is investigating the possibility of adding Thames to the sheepshead deck. Steve, there's plenty more where this came from.

UPDATE: There's more to this. There was a suspended no-confidence vote a year ago, after Thames apparently made some moves that the Faculty Senate felt were autocratic. And the local AAUP group helped determine last December that some enrollment numbers sent to the state were inflated, perhaps by human error and perhaps not. Notes an editorial from last May, the Senate instead tried to initiate a conversation with Thames than vote no confidence in the administrative changes he made. It sounds like that olive branch wasn't taken.

See also KC Johnson's attempt to tie several of these stories together.

Are not conservative! Are too! 

Daryl Cobranchi has a copy of a letter from other homeschooling advocates that disputes the notion that most homeschooled children "are evangelical Christians with conservative political agendas they hope to further by entering politics," as they believe the article I quoted earlier today suggests. Cobranchi also points out this article a day earlier, by the same writer at the NYT, that paints Patrick Henry as a very strict religious school. I think the letter writers have a point.

Locking out free speech 

Two professors at the University of Southern Missisippi have been suspended with pay and locked out of their offices for questioning whether an administrator who had been hired had misrepresented her employment history. Critical Mass. provides links to all the details.

More tales of "scary" homeschoolers 

A tiny four-year school in Viriginia which actively seeks "evangelical Christian home-schoolers" has done a great job putting students as interns in the White House. This of course bothers liberals.
"Mike Farris [the school's president] is trying to train young people to get on a very right-wing political agenda," said Nancy Keenan, the education policy director at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, and a former Montana state superintendent of public education. The number of Patrick Henry interns in the White House "scares me to death," she said. "It tells us a little bit more about the White House than it does about the kids."
Mr. Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, which assisted many parents at the outset of the home school movement get control over their children's education. Interestingly, 2/3 of Patrick Henry's students major in government, which is one reason they might do well in getting internships. Another is that their average SAT score is 1320. And maybe that's what scares Ms. Keenan.

What do you entrust to trustees? 

You might think it's money, but not if you're at Harvard, which has students and workers insisting on using their endowment to protect staff jobs.
What would you do with $19 billion? Go on a permanent vacation? Buy an international space station? Cure cancer? Give full-tuition scholarships to the next ten classes of students? Or close two libraries and layoff employees?

If you chose the last option, then your name is probably Harvard.
I know this will be hard for people to understand who are not in academia, but I don't go to the library much any more as a professor. Most of what I need is available electronically and delivered to my desktop. Last night while working on the paper I should be finishing right now I needed a quote from a paper I read a year ago, which of course I could not remember exactly. Ten years ago, I would have driven across town to the library, gotten someone to take the journal off the shelf, copied it, have that person put it back on the shelf, driven home, typed it in. Today: I go to my library's website, open up the search engine to find the article I know I need, and there it is in full-text glory, cut and paste-able. Much quicker, more convenient, and no need for the person to fetch journals off the shelf.

I say this in part to praise our own library, which I think does by and large a great job. And they have a new building, and the building is wonderful too. But. Places where technology have made great inroads mean productivity shoots up, and where demand hasn't shifted out too much, you are going to be able to substitute for some labor. Harvard may be making a very efficient use of its endowment, which you would think is what the donors had in mind when they gave to the alumni fund.

Reviews positive 

We have a couple of positive reviews of the show Saturday from DC at Brainstorming (who reminds me of how I used to listen to Ken Coleman call Sox games while with my folks on vacation in Maine, back when you could wear down the battery) and Todd at the American Thinker. How did DC figure out Mitch's grand scheme so soon? And how long before Lileks makes his move to become grand mufti? Stay tuned to whatever future weeks AM 1280 the Patriot gives us for all these answers and more.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

I didn't stink 

If you're interested in pictures of the first Northern Alliance Radio Network broadcast, follow this to the Captain's Quarters. To those that think we need web simulcast, yes, we get it. Easier said that done, though. And the post party at the Lair of the Hindrocket was great.

Friday, March 05, 2004

A star is born 

I restart my radio career on the Northern Alliance Radio Network tomorrow at noon on AM 1280 the Patriot. They'll give me an hour in the bullpen to be nervous first, sure to improve the pitch of my voice. I'm proud to join the PowerLiners for a discussion of the St. Olaf teach-in; what on earth I will do with JB is beyond my PG-13-restricted brain.

In case you missed it... 

... here's the test that Jim Harrick Jr. gave his students in his coaching basketball summer class at University of Georgia. This was part of the scandal that eventually brought down his father, the head coach at UGA. (Hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy.)

Metaphor alert 

In the morning paper's discussion of the passage of the social science standards, we find out that at least one representative knows who Robespierre was,
In keeping with the historical theme of the morning, Pelowski drew a comparison to Robespierre and his fondness for putting his opponents to the guillotine during the French Revolution in the 1790s.

'Are we going to be cutting off students through testing?' Pelowski said. He likened testing, which has increased dramatically in recent years, to 'a new tool of terror.'

Robespierre is in the new standards; I'll guess there were few papers about him in the projects for the Profiles of Learning.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Analysis of the loss of collegiality 

We are pleased to post Prof. Larry Roth's analysis of issues surrounding collegiality at SCSU. I want to endorse this effort, because I agree with the analysis Larry gives in his post to the campus:
My analysis suggests that SCSU's fundamental dysfunctions stem from three critical taken-for-granted but erroneous cultural beliefs: (1) faculty are workers and administrators are managers, (2) SCSU professors have academic freedom, and (3) labor relations processes can be used for university governance. The central underlying problem is that SCSU faculty lack academic freedom. The central underlying cause is that long ago SCSU stopped evolving from a normal school into a real university. As a result, there are fundamental contradictions between SCSU's culture and practices and the kind of institution SCSU is supposed to be. These contradictions produce many problems and enable the mistreatment and abuse of faculty, and this in turn causes many problems that result in escalating conflict, lawsuits, grievances, and the like. The negative effects can be especially pronounced for nontraditional and diverse faculty.
I encourage you to read the rest of Roth's analysis. I will report on any additional analysis of this issue as warranted.

House committee endorses social studies, science standards 

The House education committee passed the social studies and science standards on a vote local public radio is calling "almost party-line". All 11 DFL'ers voted against the standards along with one Republican. The majority was unpersauded by the vague calls for returning the draft to a new committee, as one DFL representative wanted to do. Said Marty Seifert, Republican representative from Marshall,
If it's too big, what's too big? If it's too small, what's too small? If there's something in here that's wrong, tell me what's wrong? And I think that's the point everyone is missing here. We've had weeks to look at this, if not months to look at the base document. Here we are. Let's fix the problem if there's problem with this.
Remember what I said before: If you want these passed, you have to keep Senator Steve Kelley's feet to the fire. Email him and turn up the heat.

UPDATE (3/5): Minnesota Education Reform News has initiated a petition to support Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke's confirmation, which is currently held up in Kelley's committee.

NCLB causing conservative rifts? 

A somewhat underreported piece of news this week is the resignation of Warren Grantham from the Minnesota Education League, an offshoot of the Taxpayers League. The media reports have portrayed it as having racial overtones, largely because of Grantham using the end of Black History Month as a rhetorical device. The real battle is over No Child Left Behind. The Taxpayer League is pushing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (gee, there seems to be lots of these bills of rights these days) and that is being sponsored by NCLB opponent Sen. Michele Bachmann. Local control, no doubt, is a conservative cause but at some point the inability of local control to wrest schools away from the unions and the multiculti brigands requires the employment of a countervailing force. The best is often the enemy of the good, and this spat that led to Grantham's resignation strikes me as one of the casualties. As one of my good colleagues once said, some conservatives would rather be right than win.

An alternative to ABoR 

The students of the Ithaca College Republicans have posted a four point plan to deal with intellectual diversity that does not include the Academic Bill of Rights.
The proposals include four sections. They first call for the college's long-range institutional plan to include "political ideology" as a type of diversity. Truly diverse coursework is proposed second, after an exploration of the college catalogue that leans to the left. Institution-sponsored speaking events have brought a variety of left-wing ideas to campus recently, and the third proposal asks for a wider spectrum of ideas and debates. Lastly, we propose a Center for the Study of Intellectual Diversity, which would closely parallel an existing center at Ithaca College that studies culture, race and ethnicity.
I'm hoping the report will be online soon -- so far their website is just in shell form.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign 

Regarding the story we've covered on the UNC instructor who sent an email chastising a student's views, there has been a counterprotest at Chapel Hill. According to this local newspaper report, the U.S. representative who asked the administration to deal with this had his own speech at UNC protested by "two dozen students from bisexual, gay and lesbian campus groups."
There were one or two shouts from protesters, but they were mostly quiet, [College Republicans president Tripp] Costas said, adding that the protesters had other ways to draw attention to themselves.
'They had some interesting signs,' Costas said. 'A couple of girls were French-kissing throughout the speech.'
Um, what was I saying? Oh yeah...
[Rep. Walter] Jones spoke for about an hour, touching on a number of issues ranging from the war to freedom of speech.

Protest organizer Chase Foster was not available for comment Tuesday. In an interview with UNC's school newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, Foster said the students targeted the congressman because they felt he mounted his defense of the student in the English class for political gain.

Am I dense? The representative sees something done wrong, seeks to help a constituent seek redress through proper channels. It's called "constituent service" in politics, and it's done all the time. And that makes somehow his motives impure, and that's why you protest? I am willing to bet I could find San Francisco legislators against the gay marriage amendment -- should we protest that this is a political choice?

Applied doctorates at state universities? 

A Minnesota legislative committee has passed a bill that would allow Minnesota state universities to plan for offering applied doctorates. Up to now it was not permitted to even have a meeting about this. Our union has worked on this it seems, and for once I can applaud something they've done. For our more local readers who don't get union news, the bill are HF 2337 and SF 2361.

Wisdom from the Philadelphia Inquirer 

Their newspaper opines:
"Universities frequently find themselves under unfair attack from some lawmakers who try to ban events they consider offensive - think back to the controversy surrounding Pennsylvania State University's Sex Faire. But just as damaging to free speech and expression are university measures to squelch freedoms on their own campuses.
We note that here at SCSU, the proposed campus civility code has died a quiet death. Good.