Monday, May 31, 2004

Distraction studies 

Charles Nuckolls is utterly brilliant with this new term, which he thinks university administrators already study.
Want to distract a professor from examining health care fraud or financial wrongdoing in the Administration? Just start talking about affirmative action, diversity training, or multiculturalism. Left and right will oblige by dropping everything as they fill the trenches for another repeat-performance of their carefully scripted battle scenario.

Administrators love it when faculty do that. It keeps them from sniffing around the accounting books.
Often local journalists assist them, David Beito suggests:
Distraction studies can only flourish, however, when reporters covering the campus beat also fail to examine the hard questions. Instead of investigative journalism, their main sources seem to be press releases from campus public relations offices and/or friendly interviews with administrators. Such reporters appear to be more interested in "feel good" puff pieces than exploring the possible underside of campus administration including grade inflation, allegations of administrative mismanagement and waste, and officially sanctioned censorship of dissenting points of view. When given possible leads on such stories, they respond with silence.
I've spent time talking to local reporters here about this problem, and at least those I talk to get it. They realize that the administration is selling them stories. My suggestion is always to get hold of the higher-ed reporter at your local newspaper and offer to meet him or her with members of your own organization (like David and Charles would with ASA.) Give them contact numbers for the Palm Pilots or Rolodexes. It helps to befriend an editor. And make sure you get out regular press releases to address major issues. You can't expect the reporter to sniff the real story out for him or herself. You need to take them there. We've had little success with the editorial page people here, but the ed reporter at the Times has been willing to listen and give us some space in her columns. So when the administration wanted its own distraction story, the story got a different writer.

Graduate education as a labor supply decision 

My blogchild John Bruce hits the nail on the head with this post on why people go to graduate school when the odds of a tenured professorship are low.
Economic decisions aren't necessarily conscious to the actors at the time they make them, but it seems to me that there's a rational basis for deciding to go to graduate school even in the face of poor academic career prospects. First, the time factor: if you're right out of college, this time is "cheap" insofar as you've got a lot of time left in your life, and you won't be sacrificing major earnings. Others, as some bloggers report they've done, find themselves out of work in bad times and may also see a period spent in graduate school re-tooling as "cheap" time if the alternative is unemployment or underemployment.

The other factor is risk. Measured against the chance of a tenure-track offer at a top-5 research school, the risk of graduate school is extremely high. But the Burkean "intensely bourgeois" tradeoff doesn't necessarily apply. Many bright and creative people go to graduate school and find, being creative, non-conformist, and non-bourgeois types themselves, that this economic goal doesn't suit them. That doesn't devalue the use of the training, especially the course work and other experience that lead to an ABD. Taking the purely anecdotal sample of my schoolmates who decided to take up writing careers at one or another time, it looks like the probability they could use their skills was fairly high -- and I believe they were making rational decisions in their choice to stay in grad school as long as they did, and to leave when they did.

Reflecting on my own history -- I blasted straight through from college (1979) to grad school, leaving in 1984 when the Reagan expansion was in full swing and academic jobs were easier to come by -- I note one consistent pattern. Those that left grad school for a non-academic post never came back. Those that came to grad school from the non-academic stayed, along with a few like me who came straight through. There is certainly an opportunity cost story at play within all this. Anyone who leaves a non-academic job for grad school probably has high demand for a graduate education. Since salaries in academia are not a secret (Oh they are? Pssssst! They're low!), those coming later in life reveal a preference for the academic life and its values -- whether they're bourgeois or not.

In my case 1979 was not a particularly good year to look for jobs, and having decided in my last semester not to go to law school it was the most attractive alternative. I did not think as a college senior that I would ever be an academic. I just wanted additional training in forecasting to go work at at a bank doing something other than sales. After bank deregulation in the early '80s, those research shops in banks closed up in order to reduce costs, and the rest is history...

The point being, none of those decisions were inspired by more than a cost-benefit analysis. If academia is a noble pursuit -- and if you read this site, you know the heap of doubt I have about this -- its nobility isn't what got me here.

How we teach teachers how to teach 

Joanne Jacobs links to a very interesting article in the New York Sun on some research at Harvard about what education schools teach on pedagogy:
There is a deep division among those who engage in and write about teacher preparation.One school of thought,represented by such figures as Eric Donald Hirsch Jr. and Diane Ravitch, argues that teachers should focus on the basics.

Like piano teachers who stress the discipline of scales and finger technique before encouraging deeper interpretive performance of demanding music, Mr. Hirsch and Ms. Ravitch argue that the best education � especially for the least advantaged � requires direct teaching of the three R�s and the other elements of cultural literacy (to borrow Mr. Hirsch�s term).The attainment of such knowledge and skills should then be assessed through state tests.

By contrast, another school of thought stresses what is called �constructivism�and �progressivism.� Broadly speaking, constructivism is the view (drawn from the work of John Dewey and Jean Piaget) that the teacher should not be a �sage on the stage�but a �guide on the side�encouraging children to discover and create according to their natural impulses.Progressivism is the idea that teachers should focus on the particular voices and experiences of repressed minorities, tailoring instruction accordingly.

In educational theory today, these two ideas are often fused into one view � constructivistprogressive � that is opposed to high-stakes testing and state-mandated, standardized school curricula.

Given the divide between �back to basics� and the �constructivist-progressive� models, one would expect education schools to expose students to both points of view. Our research (which covered 165 syllabi of required courses in the foundations of education, the teaching of reading,and teaching methodology) strongly suggested, however, that at many of our highest ranked schools of education, the constructivist-progressivist arguments are being taught to the almost complete exclusion of the other, direct instruction model.

We found that texts by Mr.Hirsch and Ms. Ravitch and other likeminded authors were required readings in only one or two compulsory courses in all of those we examined. Yet in the majority of programs that required any philosophy of education, education policy, or educational psychology, readings from John Dewey, Henry Giroux, or Howard Gardner were prominently featured.
They also find in their study -- which they admit is a first study and subject to additional research that could refute their points -- that few student-teachers are ever taped and critiqued, and a heavy use of adjuncts to evaluate student teaching.

SCSU was at one time St. Cloud Normal School, and is still considered a major producer of teachers in Minnesota. I doubt the Harvard study looked at us, but a view of this website would probably support their hypotheses.

Our Statement of Philosophy commits us to principles which guide a democratic community and emphasizes critical thinking, problem solving, and the importance of students becoming active participants in their own professional development.

A certain noblesse oblige? 

...which is often considered condescending, is nevertheless uplifting children in poverty in NYC:
ESMERALDA BETANCES' favorite book is Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham," and she is proud that she can read it. Being able to read "Green Eggs and Ham" might not seem like a big accomplishment for a second grader, but it is if you consider that last fall, Esmeralda could hardly read at all.

She is a second grader at Public School 30 in Mott Haven in the South Bronx, a school that was the subject of Jonathan Kozol's book, "Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope," published four years ago.

She got her copy of "Green Eggs and Ham" from Richard Podolsky, whose twins are first graders at Trevor Day School, a private school whose lower grades are on the Upper East Side, which is a 20-minutes ride on the No. 6 subway line from Esmeralda's school.

"She needs help desperately," said Mr. Podolsky, who began traveling to P.S. 30 last fall to work with Esmeralda and two other second-graders. "It about makes me cry when I leave here and she can't remember the same word that she's seen 12 times in a chapter."
Parents from Trevor Day are volunteering at P.S. 30, where only a quarter of students read at grade level.

Of course, P.S. 30 is a pretty good school as NYC public schools go, albeit quite underfunded relative to Trevor Day. Having parents discover the place from Kozol's book is not a great deal and its success before the private-school parents showed up made it a likely place for success. The question really is whether P.S. 30 is an exception. One wonders, for example, whether the students at Byrd Community Academy in the Cabrini-Green project in Chicago that we wrote about before would be better served by a volunteer effort rather than lobbying for a new school?

Friday, May 28, 2004

But what about South Park? 

Only in academia can someone write something like this and be taken serioiusly.
The freakshow mentality of 'Sex and the City' ends up being neither a post-feminist nor post-gay interrogation of privileged white male heterosexuality--despite the depiction of members of this group as freaks--but a reification of the very privileged status of the category. It is the women themselves, shakily stuck in their haunted liminal position between representing both 'real' women and gay men, who are ultimately revealed as the chief freaks.
The rest of James Bowman's essay on what has happened to cultural criticism is worth your time this weekend.

Even a stopped clock... 

Via John Ray, Adam Smith Blog has an interesting snippet of Michael Moore supporting school choice. Says Alan Singleton,
Too many on the Left are willing to send their children to private or selective state schools, but oppose the idea that this choice should be extended to everyone else. Education is just too important to be controlled by meddling bureaucrats and teacher unions. Increasing parental choice is essential if we want to improve our schools.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

DFL busted for LWI 

That is, Legislating While Intoxicated. The Democrats (Democrat-Farm-Labor, or DFL for those of you from out of state) of the Minnesota Legislature were exposed by a local television station drinking during the waning days of the last legislative session. The Northern Alliance is having a blast with this one. Says the Elder:
If the DFL is looking for a new theme song for this year's election I might suggest a BTO classic. They're taking what they're given, 'cause they're Drinking For a Livin'.
and Saint Paul
[State Rep. Steve] Wasiluk issued a statement to the station saying: "I sincerely apologize for my recent behavior. If the public feels additional laws should be passed to improve public confidence in the work of legislators, I would vote for it."

Please pass a state law, prevent me from drinking on the job again!

Actually it might not be such a bad idea to outlaw legislating while drunk. It seems only fair since the government has already outlawed the citizens from voting while drunk. Seems to me if we can't ease the pain of Minnesota government by drinking ourselves numb, they shouldn't be able to either.
and Captain Ed
Now the DFL wants Governor Tim Pawlenty to call a special session in order to pass a bonding bill, which would allow them to add pork to the booze. Pawlenty should instead close down Animal House/Senate and consider some way to put Otter, Bluto, and the rest of the Senate boozehounds on double-secret probation. While he's at it, he should check into a special prosecutor to look into all that free booze -- and anything else -- supplied by the lobbyists to the DFL.
. I was going to check PowerLine's reportage, but I can't seem to get past Miss Sweden.

It's not at all uncommon to find bottles of vodka in government offices in the former Soviet Union, and I can tell you of a wild International Woman's Day passing out champagne and chocolates at the National Bank of Ukraine. (It ended with a broken wrist; long story.) But the all-night party-till-you-puke bash at the Senate ended with a Borking, a far worse way to spend good booze than we did handing out flowers to all the women in the Monetary Control department.

Perhaps we should not be too critical however. The Senate did nothing but drink and bork. Not nearly as much damage as they might have done.

Power drain 

No electricity in my office today; I'm having to teach in a different building and have no access to web. The posts below should hold you until I return home this PM. See you then.

Double coincidence of research wants? 

This is an interesting idea.
why can't someone pay for an academic collaborator? In other walks of life, we often pay for crucial knowledge in a field we don't have expertise in. In the consulting world, research reports are routinely written with individuals who have been paid for their services. It seems that pay for collaboration should be prohibited only when it threatens the integrity of the work. For example, it should be prohibited when the work has already been produced and wealthy individuals are seeking only to attach their name to scientific work in an attempt to buy prestige. This seems to have been the case for the calculus theorem known as L'Hopital's rule, which some believe to have been discovered by Johann Bernoulli, who might have been paid by the wealthy aristocrat Guillaume de L'Hopital ...

But if there is no conflict of interest, or damage to the integrity of the work, then it might be worth considering. It is often common for a researcher to realize they have no knowledge in an area which is crucial to completing their research. One option is to completely master a new field. Another is to hope that a specialist in that area will collaborate out of the goodness of their heart. While these are desirable and preferable outcomes, they are also difficult to obtain. It might also be useful to simply hire someone to help solve a particular problem. As long as the payment is acknowledged at the beginning of a scientific paper ("Professor X has been compensated for his assistance in this work..."), collaboration for pay might be a form of scientific cooperation worth considering.
From Fabio Rojas, regarding the Tozier story that Erin O'Connor also covers. Tozier responds in Erin's comments section.

Education's input-output table 

A new report on retention rates and graduation rates in college from the Education Trust indicates that while we're putting more students in the top of the higher ed machine, we're not getting that much more out.
The good news is that more students in the United States are entering two- and four-year institutions than ever before; enrollment has increased from less than half in 1975 to almost two thirds in 2001. The biggest gains among entering freshmen are coming from groups that have been traditionally left behind, female and low-income students. When we extend the time-frame to look at college enrollment to the first eight years out of high school, we find that by the 1990s, four out of five on-time high school graduates had enrolled in some form of higher education.

Unfortunately, while enrollment has increased, graduation rates have not increased at the same rate. In fact, many institutions lose one out of every four students they enroll in the freshman year alone. When looking at six-year graduation rates for four-year colleges and universities, the data shows that barely six out of ten (63%) first-time full-time degree-seeking college freshmen graduate within six years. While the overall graduation rates are low for all students, they are particularly low for minority and low-income students: only 46% of African American, 47% of Latino, and 54% of low-income first-time full-time freshmen are graduating within six years.

Among other institutions, the University of Northern Iowa comes in for praise, with a six-year graduation rate of 67% compared to 48% for peer institutions.

Four-year rates at SCSU are in the low teens, and the last six-year graduation data I saw for here was a bit under 40%. We emphasize retention, but retention for its own sake is pointless. Rather than folks wondering if we're spending too much money, shouldn't they ask why we don't meet UNI's performance? And are we even aspiring to this? Looking at our KPIs, it doesn't appear so.

But not mandatory 

James Taranto has been invited to a little diversity training of his own at Oregon State University.
5/27 Interrogate the Whiteness, Dammit! 6:00pm, Milam 213

One of racism's key tricks is keeping people of color in the center of the conversation while keeping white people in the center of power. Interrogating whiteness means putting (normative) whiteness at the center of the discussion. It means uncovering the history of the term and the way it has been used. It means foregrounding the way 'whiteness' as a category has historically been dependent on an understanding that white is the opposite of non-white; it is not and has never been an innocent term. it is a term shaped and used by (white) power. It's a suspect term, and we mean to interrogate it, dammit!

This comes after Taranto commented last month on the dismissal of a student reporter who wrote about blacks who defend actions of sports figures who are caught cheating or otherwise acting irresponsibily. (Hint to reporter, who lost his job: You're not Cosby.)

No hint needed for Taranto. Since attendance wasn't mandatory, he's declining the opportunity to visit Corvallis this week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

If all it takes is a little Armenian brandy... 

...I'll have to start spreading it around for more link love! Summertime, and the drinking is easy, says the Elder. Here it's Three Olives Vodka. In the icebox, neat or 'tini depending on mood (and yeah, tabasco!). Rum? No. Rum is a close second to Southern Comfort in the Nastiest Hangover On a Bright Summer Day category. Vodka leaves nary a trace, though surely a couple years in the FSU helped with the training.

And that vacuum cleaner comes with attachments! 

Mitch, fresh off a successful stint as our anchor guest-hosting the Hugh Hewitt show, brings guns ablaze on a stupid PioneerPress editorial on how mad people are that Dick Day suggested that the Minneapolis and St. Paul schools, um, Hoovered.
The schools do suck - despite the best efforts of some excellent teachers and principals.

They suck because the Teachers Union has spent a couple generations turning teaching into an assembly-line job.

They suck because the educational Academy has used the public school system as its laboratory, and generations of kids as their guinea pigs, for decades of experiments in empirically-dubious but politically correct dogma.

They suck in the inner city because generations of Democrat/Liberal politicians have used welfare to create dependence among minorities - and used the inner cities as a place to warehouse those dependents. And the schools, de facto, are where the children of the product in the warehouse get watched every day.

Improve that silence, OK?

Your daily Emily Litella moment 

So in 1999 California passes a law requiring Algebra I concepts to appear on the California High School Exit Exam. The next year the California legislature, a bunch of right-wing nut jobs if I ever saw one, go ahead and make Algebra I a graduation requirement. Schools are given four years to phase in the requirement. It does not require algebra to recognize that this would be the first year it is enforced.

But it's not.

This past January, the Santa Cruz City School District asked the board for a waiver because the district had failed to inform students and teachers of the Algebra I requirement. Santa Cruz officials say they assumed that when the board delayed the graduation exit exam until 2006, they had also put off instituting the algebra requirement. One would think administrators, paid handsomely for their nonteaching jobs, would have clarified the matter with state officials. Not so.

Once the board granted Santa Cruz its waiver, the floodgates opened. Everyone who felt the requirement was onerous came forward to request waivers for regular students, special-education pupils, adult learners and kids in continuation schools. Nearly 5 percent of the state's high school seniors have not successfully completed Algebra I, yet they expect to march down the aisle and receive their diploma this spring.
The article, authored by Jennifer Nelson, has some pistols for quotes from teachers and curriculum directors who don't like the standard, such as "The law says every student must take and pass an algebra course. That isn't going to happen." (Nelson asks "Why not? It's the law!") and this humdinger:
The downside is for the bottom percentage of students. They're just not there conceptually, and the [graduation requirement] is like pounding them over the head with a hammer. They were frustrated with algebra before, and now we're just ratcheting up the pressure some more.
What's all this fuss I hear about academic standards? Oh, nevermind. (Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs, whose comments section should be read for more insight.)

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports on the Maryland teacher's union trying to evade testing that includes algebra.

At a public hearing yesterday in Baltimore, state teachers union President Patricia A. Foerster urged the board to do away with that idea. Representatives of several groups that advocate for special education students also reiterated concerns that high-stakes testing puts those with disabilities at a disadvantage.

"There is so much more to learning that cannot be assessed by a paper-and-pencil test," Foerster said.
In algebra?

Kerry abandons pay-for-performance 

I posted a couple weeks ago about a John Kerry speech where he actually came out for pay-for-performance for teachers in return for a new wheelbarrowfull of cash for the teachers' unions. Joanne Jacobs, who had the first piece, now has the inevitable flip-flop. Relying on a post from the Educational Intelligence Agency,
In a memo dated May 21 and disseminated widely to high-ranking NEA officials nationwide, Weaver described what he called �a very positive meeting in which the Senator expressed strong interest in working closely with NEA and outlined his support for a number of NEA priorities.�

On the issue of performance pay, Weaver reported, �We raised our concerns that the Kerry campaign used the language �pay-for-performance� in his press release, although the Senator himself did not use those words in his remarks and the formal policy document did not use it. The Senator clarified that the campaign did not intend to use that language and would not do so in the future. He asked that I convey this point to NEA leaders.�

Weaver went on to note Kerry�s commitment to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act, to advance early childhood education programs and to �roll back the Bush tax cuts� to pay for education and health care. Weaver�s memo did not mention Kerry�s proposals for differential pay, teacher testing, or expedited teacher dismissal procedures.

In a May 7 speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, Kerry said, �Yesterday, I proposed the most far-reaching reforms in teacher pay in our nation�s history.� Whether or not Kerry uses the words �pay for performance� in the future is irrelevant to the central question: Will those reforms survive the resistance of education�s most powerful special interest group?
As I said before, the NEA and its Minnesota affiliate have had a better political year than the Democrats.

Public education, front and center 

I can't add much to this collection of educational crimes listed by John Ray. Here's just one:
Is anyone happy with the public schools? It seems not. Those with no financial stake in the schools have translated their unhappiness into various reform proposals, such as charter schools or voucher plans. Those who do have a stake in the current system -- the teachers' union, for example -- point to the schools' bad condition as a reason for the government to appropriate more money. Whichever way they lean, people generally believe that the schools are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Read the others as we enter the teacher contract negotiation season.

Mechanized writing? 

(Crossposted last night on Liberty and Power.)

An essay on how silly our teaching of writing has become.
In Indiana this year, the junior-year English essay will be graded by computer, and similar experiments have been tried in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Oregon. The SAT and the ACT are planning to test the new computer-grading software as well. That is a reductio ad absurdum of the entire idea of learning. If this is knowledge, then truth and beauty reside only in ignorance.

Vantage Learning, which makes the writing-assessment software called Intellimetric, claims that it "shows more reliable and more consistent results across samples than human expert scorers." Of course "reliable" entails "accurate," and I daresay there is no way to establish that without begging all possible questions.

More to the point, perhaps, machines are cheaper: It costs perhaps $5 for a human being to evaluate an essay, $1 for a machine. And while it takes five to 10 minutes for a human to score an essay, the computer can apparently do it in two seconds.

The actual procedures that the software employs are presumably proprietary. But the dimensions that Intellimetric evaluates are these: (1) focus and unity; (2) development and elaboration; (3) organization and structure; (4) sentence structure; (5) mechanics and conventions.


The only real argument for the quality of the software is that it is "more reliable and accurate" than human evaluators. But the human evaluators have already transformed themselves into Intellimetric software: These are the military sheep � their minds both rigid and woolly � who invented and enforce the mind-numbing five-paragraph essay form.

Every child in the United States, more or less, is being taught to write and to think in this way. I teach these kids when they reach college. I try to tell them that the idea that there is some specifiable way to write an essay is just hoo-ha made up by some bureaucrat in 1987. This makes them nervous.

I am not particularly concerned about the youth of today; if the world goes to hell I don't really care. But I do care about coming to the middle of a semester and being forced, in order to make a living, to read 35 five-page papers written by thoroughly fried lamb chops whose writing style has been nurtured over the years by a computer.
The storyline includes a shot at NCLB as inducing computer grading of writing. And that certainly is a danger. But frankly writing at our university has fallen into such abuse that simple sentence structure has been lost. Creativity would be nourished by reading creative literature, great works handed down through the ages. As I've argued several times, good writing for me has four ingredients: learn how a sentence works (by which I mean, you should be able to diagram them -- after all, isn't that what the Intellimetric data is checking?); read great books; practice; and rewrite what you wrote.

Stephen says "We just started offering a capstone paper course to our students, and discovered that we have to do a lot more to develop basic expository and research skills." We do the same thing here. Sartwell would probably call us formulaic as well, but we're trying to teach how to write research, and just as we don't have young violinists imitate Jean-Luc Ponty or Isaac Stern, neither do we believe young economists will start out writing like, say, Russell Roberts. Making economics simple is the hardest part.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Somebody's lying 

From today's St. Cloud Times, an interview with Dean Johnson:
Shortly before adjournment, the Senate voted along party lines not to confirm Pawlenty's education commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke. While some criticized the move as purely political, Johnson said Democrats wrestled with the decision for months. No one was told how to vote, he said.

"We took our job very seriously � not a rubber stamp, but a constitutional ... advise and consent," Johnson said. Early on, Yecke had the support of four DFLers, he said. But as the session "went sour," that support dissipated.
Yesterday, Dick Day discussing Sheila Kiscaden's ouster from the Republican caucus:
Last Sunday, in the final hours of this session, we saw just how independent Sen. Kiscaden really is. She had promised Gov. Tim Pawlenty that she would support his education commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke.

She also had received a letter from the superintendent of Rochester Schools, asking her to confirm this qualified and resourceful commissioner.

Yet in the wee hours of the morning, Kiscaden went along with what has been reported as intense DFL pressure to vote in lock step with her new caucus -- against the confirmation of Commissioner Yecke.
Add this to yesterday's note on pressures from within the state and national party leadership. Pastor Dean isn't looking too good here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Programming notes 

Some readers may have noticed I've shifted posting times to late afternoons. This is because of class conflicts that keep me out of the office all morning. Also, this week our building is changing over its electrical system to a higher-load system so there are disruptions. So we're a little slow this week and will stay on the PM posting schedule through early June.

Also, please note that the Northern Alliance Radio Network is filling in for Hugh Hewitt tomorrow, 5-8pm Central Time. Check the station listings for a listening post near you, or grab a stream. Mitch, the PowerLiners, Captain Ed and the Fraters will all be there. The booth isn't big enough for all of us, and I have other obligations in St. Cloud.

Students unclear on the meaning of academic freedom 

And where do you think they go to school?

Yup, Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school. What a surprise. At least the Daily Californian gets the story right.

'Tis the season for intemperate graduation speakers 

Seems to happen every year. Last year it was Chris Hedges and Rockford. This year it's E. L. Doctorow who's told to pipe down by booing students and other attendees after giving a full-throated lambasting of the President. The president of the university told the crowd that they "value open discussion and debate" and that they should let Doctorow finish. All fine and good, but what is the purpose of inviting a graduation speaker? To give them a free speech zone to pontificate as they wish, or to give a speech that honors and motivates the graduates? (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

UPDATE (5/25): Peggy Noonan:
I want to explain to Ed Doctorow why he was booed. It was not, as he no doubt creamily recounted in a storytelling session over drinks that night in Sag Harbor, that those barbarians in Long Island's lesser ZIP codes don't want to hear the truth. It is not that they oppose free speech. It is not that the poor boobs of Long Island have an unaccountable affection for George W. Bush.

It is that they have class.

I am a conservative. I have spoken at three college commencements. Each time I spoke I talked about the students, and the life ahead of them, and the nature of their achievement. I spoke to them about them. I didn't tell them Jimmy Carter is a retard or Bill Clinton is a pig. It would have been wrong to do that. It would have been boorish. It would have deserved boos.

I'm glad that's what Eddy Doctorow got this Sunday from what appear to be his intellectual and moral superiors on Long Island. Go Hofstra.


Under orders? 

While driving down to the Northern Alliance radio show Saturday, I heard David Strom interview Cheri Pierson Yecke, recently Borked education commissioner. In the discussion of her Borking, both referred to a meeting between Yecke and Senate DFL leader Dean Johnson, in which Johnson said he had assured her that the confirmation vote would not be taken unless he was sure of passage. John Jordan comments on this as well. According to this report filed by an AP stringer last week (could only find it with the Google cache):
Although she knew some Democrats opposed her positions, Yecke was surprised by her ouster, in part because she said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson had promised not to bring her confirmation to a floor vote unless it would pass.

"I felt ... cautiously optimistic going into it because we had received commitments from some Democrats that they would vote for me," she said. "We were shocked, shocked. Again, it's an issue of integrity. There were people who gave their word."

Johnson, in response, said he had met with Yecke about three weeks ago and indicated to her that it didn't seem reasonable to take her confirmation to the floor if it would be rejected, anyway. "It was almost an invitation for her to go out and talk to senators and round up the votes," The Willmar DFLer said.

Yecke said Democratic Sens. Jim Vickerman of Tracy and Tom Bakk of Cook and Independent Sen. Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester, a former Republican who now caucuses with Democrats, pledged their support and then backed her. Sen. Tom Saxhaug, a Democrat from Grand Rapids, also had committed to support Yecke but was in the hospital and didn't vote, she said.
So what happened? One story is that Johnson was offered a "logroll" -- allow the six votes for Yecke's confirmation and he would return Republican votes on the bonding bill. When the bonding bill died, that offer was no longer valid. Even if, as Senator Divisive suggested after the vote that "Some members wanted to send a message that we were sticking together," that seems a pretty high price to pay.

The StarTribune suggests another explanation.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson said after the session ended last week that DFLers had deprived Republicans of two things sought by the White House or by national GOP leaders.

One GOP setback came with the rejection of Yecke. Johnson said DFLers have reason to believe that she was a rising conservative star in Virginia and the Republican National Committee had a hand in her being appointed.


"We've said all along that the Yecke appointment was a link to the White House," he said.
(The other was the gay marriage referendum.) If so, making her a martyr is likely to backfire.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I might as well learn how to do this 

How interesting that Nick Coleman uses the pinata metaphor in the first paragraph of his rearguard action on the Yecke borking, since that's how he's been clubbed by other members of the NARN. For the most part I don't do Coleman bashings, because I'd have to quit my day job to do it well. But a few whacks might loosen up my shoulder for some golf later this weekend.
What happened to Minnesota Nice, [Yecke] is asking, which is like Lizzie Borden asking what happened to Mommy and Daddy while holding a dripping ax.
Isn't that a lovely metaphor? What's got Nicky and the DFL ("ah, but you repeat yourself." True, true.) is that the Republicans have pushed back, as Ron Eibensteiner pointed out in the American Experiment Quarterly's issue on Minnesota Nice.
Yecke, the most political education commissioner the state has ever had...
How so? Do you care to back up this claim?
...came from Virginia on a mission to remake the state's educational system in her image...
Did you catch the subtle religious allusion here? Nick, the woman was part of the Dept. of Education which had just passed a major education reform bill. States were supposed to follow it. What should we have done, passed an insolent "we don't like it" resolution as the cornerstone of Minnesota education policy?
and if she didn't entirely succeed at that, she did manage to ratchet up the rhetorical wars.
Not that you had anything to do with it.
Yecke had been on probation for a very long time ...
And why was that, little Nicky? To take a hostage, perhaps, to get their bonding bill passed? Or to collect more money from teacher unions?
...and she got expelled for very familiar reasons: She didn't listen, she called people names, she didn't play nicely with others and she couldn't count -- not to 34, anyway.
It's not "familiar," you fool. It's only the second time a commissioner has been denied confirmation. And up to the last minute, she was in fact expecting confirmation. She had the votes at 11pm on Saturday, she thought. They disappeared as the DFL Senate caucus stabbed her in the back after she had handed them the only bill they could say they helped write, the new academic standards. Try reading the paper: "The vote against Yecke came as a surprise.". Name-calling? We've been over this. Little Nicky, meet Britt Robson.
Her rejection in the Senate shows that the fight over education can only be resolved by consensus and bridge-building, not by polemics, partisan rhetoric and arrogance.
Try telling that to this polemicist from Swanson-Choi's website, or "M stands for me", or Skrentner, or this boomer who managed to put down the bong long enough to hold a sign.

Consensus, as Margaret Thatcher once wrote, is the negation of leadership.

To me consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner "I stand for consensus"?
Consensus is what the weak hide behind when they cannot win on the issues. It's an insistence on unanimity in order to give the wrongheaded power over the right.

The most influential sentence ever spoken to me was by Milton Friedman at a Western Economics Association meeting many years ago: "There is no midpoint between right and wrong."

Nick Coleman: Wrong again.

Crawl back under your ivory tower 

Stanley Fish is at it again with his apologeia of the academy as he heads into retirement. Captain Ed notes that Fish has " missed a golden opportunity on his way to retirement to tell his friends exactly how badly they're damaging the institutions they serve." I don't agree: The quote below is as good a damnation as you will find.
A few years ago, the presidents of nearly 500 universities issued a declaration on the "Civic Responsibility of Higher Education." It called for colleges and universities to take responsibility for helping students "realize the values and skills of our democratic society."

Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard and one of the forces behind the declaration, has urged his colleagues to "consider civic responsibility as an explicit and important aim of college education." In January, some 1,300 administrators met in Washington under the auspices of the Association of American Colleges and Universities to take up this topic: "What practices provide students with the knowledge and commitments to be socially responsible citizens?" That's not a bad question, but the answers to it should not be the content of a college or university course.

No doubt, the practices of responsible citizenship and moral behavior should be encouraged in our young adults � but it's not the business of the university to do so, except when the morality in question is the morality that penalizes cheating, plagiarizing and shoddy teaching, and the desired citizenship is defined not by the demands of democracy, but by the demands of the academy.

This is so not because these practices are political, but because they are the political tasks that belong properly to other institutions. Universities could engage in moral and civic education only by deciding in advance which of the competing views of morality and citizenship is the right one, and then devoting academic resources and energy to the task of realizing it. But that task would deform (by replacing) the true task of academic work: the search for truth and the dissemination of it through teaching.
The emphasis is mine (as well as the links), mostly out of shock that it comes from the pen of Fish, whose own career has done as much to question the validity of a search for truth as to illuminate the path to it (see for example blogchild John Bruce's reflections or Erin's beatdown from a few years back). And regrettably, ours is one of the 144 colleges involved in a similar endeavor and there's no telling where this stupidity will end.

Erin refers to Fish as "academe's own Machiavelli", so one can only wonder what a retiring dean will gain from these Times essays. Stay tuned.

A day in the life 

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a day's log of a department chair. (Subscribers only.) As I start my second tour of duty in the position, I look at this as not news, but it might be to others:
My administrative day was calendar-driven. I'd barely get started on one thing when my computer would beep to tell me to change activities. If I ignored the beep, my secretary would come in and gently tell me where to go. I bought a Palm Pilot to direct me when I was away from the office. I never seemed to finish anything. I mentally stamped each file, "To be continued." I signed sheaves of papers I didn't have time to read just because the little flag said, "Sign here." My mantra for ending conversations became, "I gotta go."

Then it came to me: This was what the working world was like, the world where people went to meetings, played phone tag, moved paper from the in box to the out box. What made the university tick was exactly what drove the gray-flannel rat race that I thought I had escaped.

I quickly learned that this was not a bad thing. Universities can't do what they need to do without some paper getting pushed. And office routine turns out to be a lot like the arc of research: high points, low points, with lots of space in between where nothing seems to change.
Now SCSU is a lot different in that department chairs are still considered faculty: My contract is a faculty contract; the rules governing my behavior are negotiated in the collective bargaining between the faculty union and the administration. And I'm a lucky guy insofar as I inherited a department that works well, where delegation of authority is accepted and everyone understands we work from the same mission.

The author notes as well that "leading a department involves ingesting a lot of empty calories". It's added two inches to my waistline. My wife has started sending me to school with Atkins breakfast bars. Ick.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Found in the school bag of a fifth grader! 

In his take on the Yecke borking, Mitch has one of those moments that Joe Soucheray needs to read.
But I remember a time when those politics stayed out of the classroom. No more. My son's ex-teacher delivered DFL propaganda directly to the class (I paid my son a dollar for every example he brought home, and he kept himself handsomely outfitted in Yu-Gi-Oh cards for a while there - until I yanked him the hell out of that class and school), and his ex-school declared itself a "peace site", with all the multi-culti bloviation that involves.

But a new wrinkle this year - while sitting in conferences about my son's academics, the school staff -teachers, administrators and school workers - would launch into tirades about No Child Left Behind; they'd snarl about Cheri Pierson Yecke and her plans; they'd tell rancid George W. Bush jokes, apparenly assuming any parent in their school would share their views. The staff, at least at that school (and I know it's far from unique - my daughter's school last year felt the same) was no less politicized than a DFL district caucus.

In other words, the DFL drew from a deep well of anger to carry out its hatchet job on Yecke.
Mitch claims the second-most powerful political party in Minnesota is Education Minne$ota. They got more of their agenda passed than the DFL did, you betcha!

Receiving thanks 

One of the nicest things that happens to me is when someone notices this blog and speaks to me in public. It happened today in the oddest place; I was giving a talk on the local economy to a professional luncheon group and was approached afterwards. "I appreciate you coming in here and breaking down all these numbers, but I appreciate even more, as an SCSU almunus, you writing to the paper and on your website about how silly this diversity training is."

You're welcome, sir. That's why I don't need a tip jar.

Understanding opportunity costs: The academic standards edition 

Within this primal scream by Gene Pelowski against the new standards (though I have to say, "the Stepford curriculum" is a nice turn of a phrase), we get a little lesson in curriculum development. Opponents kept complaining about the cost of the revisions they will now have to adopt. And yet,
Susan Roehrich, curriculum director for Winona Area Public Schools, says the cost to implement new social studies and science standards for K-12 in Winona could reach $500,000.

In the fall, groups will be formed to look at the new standards and compare them to what is being taught, Roehrich said.

"Find out where the gaps and the holes are, the overlaps," she said.

At that point, the district will discuss whether to buy all new textbooks or just supplement the current curriculum with CD-ROMs and other materials, Roehrich said.

Winona updates and replaces its curriculum on a cycle, she said. The district's reading program was replaced a few years ago, and math is almost done.

So it's just about time to consider what to do with social studies and science anyhow, she said.

"Actually, the timing is really good," Roehrich said.
In other words, they we going to do it anyway, and they had already budgeted for curriculum development. Like most folks in accounting, the auditor's report does not take into account whether or not curriculum would be reviewed and updated even if no new standards were passed.

If you see yourself in the story, perhaps the problem isn't the story 

The Yecke borking has made it to DC. Most of this is rehash but interestingly some people just can't let go.
Rep. Jim Davnie, Buffalo Democrat and an eighth-grade world history teacher, said the standards crafted by Mrs. Yecke "were very politically biased, represented a dramatic change in the structure of social studies curriculum in Minnesota, burdensome in their breadth, but shallow in their depth."

He accused Mrs. Yecke "of mischaracterizing opposition as coming from people with 'a hate-America agenda.' "

Mrs. Yecke said the accusation was a distortion. "I said, 'The majority of parents and the public want to see history standards that reflect the greatness of the country. I don't believe in the hate-America agenda, and it would be inappropriate to have that agenda in our standards."

Sen. Gen Olson, Minnetrista Republican, said all the issues raised by Mr. Davnie "have been addressed in the draft that was presented to the Senate ..."

"It seems that some people want to cling to the status quo and not allow any change to occur," he said.

I think that last is an error, for I believe Gen Olson is a she, not a he. But Yecke's memory of what she said appears accurate. If you disagree with Yecke you may think she was trying to paint you into that hate-America corner, but she did not say that. She said such an agenda doesn't belong in the standards. You could have simply said "Neither do we, we just want accuracy." Instead Davnie once again appears to have his knickers in a bunch. Let's not forget this oxygen thief's attempt to insert race into the debate.
Rep. Davnie led the witness by recalling the night of the public hearing at Saint Paul Central High School, during which a racial census was taken of the Academic Standards Committee in attendance. Rep. Davnie asked Copeland what she thought of the statement by a committee member who identified himself as a person of color: �pink with brown spots.�
Ms. Copeland, a high school student of color, was used by Davnie to make insinuations about the citizens committee, but he didn't really call them racist, right? So what am I complaining about, right? Right?

People in glass houses...


Since when is a motion for summary dismissal of a lawsuit news worthy of front-page coverage? When it's about SCSU and a discrimination suit, I guess.
St. Cloud State University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system have asked a Ramsey County judge to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by a former dean at St. Cloud State against the school's student newspaper.

The motion to dismiss the lawsuit, filed by an attorney from the state Attorney General's Office, said the university and MnSCU can't be sued because they have no editorial control over the paper. The paper is produced by students and funded by student activity fees.

This is of course the story we've already run here several times. The Times used a new reporter on this case, who obviously has not read enough to know the facts of the case, such as the retraction. But more importantly, motions for summary dismissal are SOP in law. As one lawyer pointed out to me today, the motion is mostly an annoyance requiring Lewis to spend money on the brief to deny the motion. Few of these motions ever succeed. So why is it news? And why the new writer on this article?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The types that would write Senate academic standards 

Remember the story we shared last week from Best of the Web, wherein the NY Times Learning Network had written a lesson plan that would have students write letters of protest about Abu Ghraib? James Taranto notes today:
The plan has been sanitized and jargoned up; whereas before it promised to teach kids about "writing letters to protest American abuse of Iraqi prisoners," here's the new description:

In this lesson, students process the news of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in American custody and explore international laws that dictate the treatment of prisoners of war and detainees. To synthesize their understanding of these laws and their own views of the situation, students compose Letters to the Editor.

Forget dull old reading and writing; thanks to the New York Times, kids are learning to "process" and "synthesize." The new lesson plan also no longer urges kids to read the Al-Jazeera Web site, but it does ask them to consider if the Arab network would have been a "better choice" for President Bush's interview than the U.S.-backed Al Hurra.
Hmm, where have I heard this "process and synthesize" language before?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Probability question of the day 

Suppose a local newspaper has 160 employees, 20 of whom are non-white. The community in which the newspaper publishes is 95.4% white. (Area population around 80,000.) What is the probability that the employees were drawn in a colorblind fashion? (Hat tip: M. Kramm)

The relevant numbers for SCSU are 14% of about 1,350 employees, up from 10% in 2000.

Plan B still gets loads of faculty cash 

A big media outlet covers (at last) / News / Politics / Presidential candidates / john kerry / Professors back Kerry with campaign giving a story we covered long ago: The professoriate is overwhelmingly leftist.
Through the end of March, Kerry had received $1.32 million from employees of four-year colleges, compared with Bush's $512,000, according to data compiled for The Boston Globe by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Virginia-based consulting firm. Their combined total was nearly triple the $667,000 that Bush and Gore collected over a longer period before the last presidential election.

Strong antiwar sentiment on campuses appears to account for at least some of the shift in contributions away from Bush and also for the overall increase in contributions from those who work in higher education, which still represents a modest sum for a presidential campaign.

Kerry collected the bulk of his college contributions, $822,000, in March, after he virtually wrapped up the nomination and antiwar candidate Howard Dean had dropped out of the Democratic primary race. Before his departure in mid-February, the former Vermont governor had been his party's principal beneficiary of donations from professors.
Certainly Dean was still receiving funds in early 2004. Professors like this, some of whom bring their biases into the classroom, are often 100% of a department. No bias? Guess again.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Marshalling reinforcements 

Cold Spring Shops notes in response to my economic analysis last week that students and parents will pay a premium for school name regardless of who teaches. Stephen suggests as well that if you could more reasonably assure tenure "at defense of dissertation", you'd get lower salaries by eliminating the risk premium new Ph.D.'s require to take the chance that they won't get it. I suspect that premium is very small. And again, is faculty salary marginal or inframarginal when it comes to deciding tuition?

What is core? 

A recent study by Association Council of Trustees and Alumni, the core of college education -- its general education curriculum, has been turned to mush at elite colleges and universities.
Formerly, most institutions insisted on a rigorous, sequential curriculum that ensured students a broad, general education in addition to the specialization provided by their major. These courses covered the most important events, ideas or works known to mankind�material considered essential for an educated person. Students could make some choices�e.g., which foreign language to take�but for the most part, their studies were dictated by the core curriculum, a learning pathway created to guarantee that all students would partake of subjects regarded as vital to a well-rounded education.

...In reality, however, few contemporary colleges and universities structure their general education curriculums to achieve these worthy ends. They may give the appearance of providing a core curriculum because they require students to take courses in several subjects other than their major�the socalled �distribution requirements.� Colleges typically require from one to three courses in each of five or six distribution areas: physical and biological sciences, humanities, social sciences, writing skills, math skills, and multicultural studies.

But a distribution is not a true core curriculum. It is not uncommon to have
dozens of courses to choose from within each distribution requirement.
...This cafeteria-style approach is a poor substitute for a true, carefully
designed core curriculum. Because the 18-year-old judgment is apt to be
untutored, and the college guidance system is not especially concerned with promoting a core, there is nothing to induce students to take the time-honored, but perhaps difficult, core courses instead of their narrow, popular and frequently less substantial competitors.

The whole article deserves reading. While our university offers four required classes of each student, most courses are distributional.

State DFL shoots their hostage 

Most times, when a party is entrusted with public power they will leave office having some victories, something to deliver to their constituency. There will be a press conference in which accomplishments are ticked off; lately it seems they all have to come with customized background signage which slogans of triumphal inanity.

So what victories have the Minnesota DFL dragged home this term in return for their control of the state Senate? Not much, it appears. It couldn't pass a bonding bill. It couldn't get any leverage on budget issues, and it allowed itself backed into a corner on gay marriage so that the Republicans have a great issue to go into the 2004 House elections. The agreement to reduce the DUI limit to 0.08 was inspired to collect the $100 million federal bribe rather than anything to do with public safety. The best that could be said was said by David Strom of the Minnesota Taxpayers League:
...contrary to the pretensions of most of us who live and breathe politics, the state will carry on just fine without legislative intervention. The budget deficit was small, the bonding bill has some important initiatives in it, but they will be passed next year, and the state already has the will and the tools to deal harshly with the worst sex offenders. And honestly, a number of truly stupid initiatives died this legislative session�including massive tax increases on businesses and some pretty awful boondoggles.
The DFL had one power exclusively, which was the power to confirm commissioners. And at 3:40 in the morning a few hours before they adjourned, the Senate on a straight party-line vote rejected Cheri Pierson Yecke.
The vote against Yecke came as a surprise. In recent days, Republicans were voicing confidence that she would survive this political storm, which included a contentious committee hearing and a negative recommendation by the Senate Education Committee. Even early Sunday as the Senate took up the confirmation debate, agency spokesman Bill Walsh and Republican senators thought several DFL members would end up voting for Yecke. The commissioner, who had been keeping a relatively low profile in recent months, was not at the Capitol during the debate but heard of it by phone from Walsh as it took place.

Yecke said she was shocked when she heard the vote tally. She said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, told her in a private meeting earlier this month that he would not call up her confirmation for a vote unless she had the votes necessary to prevail. But Johnson said he phrased it more as a challenge to Yecke to go out and gather the needed votes as opposed to a pledge that her job was safe.
Who is helped by this? Does it really do the DFL any good to show that they have no conception of leadership? Is this going to get them to a special Well, behold one person happy the hostage got shot.
There are no words that will do to congratulate the coalition members on our victory. Despite the laughable attacks that called us a "well funded" effort, your patriotic fervor, days and months of hard work, and smart leadership paid off.
The teacher taliban congratulate themselves on passing a compromise social sciences bill that they cannot possibly have read yet (they weren't finalized until 9:45pm Saturday night and voted on less than twelve hours later) and as best anyone can tell uses the science standards that come from December 2003. (See the Senate Journal, page 5217.) That is to say, they do not know what they are rooting for except the taking of a hide.

These are the faces of the hostage takers.

And this is the face of their gunner.

Remember them when you vote for your local school board and for Senate.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters puts it nicely:

They used her as a straw-man for Pawlenty's policies, a corruption of the advise-and-consent role envisaged for the Senate. Whether you like Yecke or Pawlenty has become a secondary consideration now. The Senate has established a precedent for usurpation of the executive's privilege of nominating people that intend on implementing his policies, a precedent that they will live to rue, I'm sure, as soon as the situation is reversed.

Besides, what happens now is that Pawlenty will nominate a new Education Commissioner, but still one who will implement Pawlenty's policies. The Senate's action is, in the final analysis, an empty and bitter gesture.
And Penraker wonders if we'll see those "Columbus was no hero" placemats at a PTA bake sale sometime soon?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Private school shuns free advertising 

As reported yesterday on Best of the Web, DeSales High School has fired a teacher who wrote a letter to the editors saying that public schools overspend on capital equipment and not enough on educational materials. Kathy Peters was sacked and the district has apologized for her letter. Comments James Taranto, "If the folks who run Catholic schools don't think they do a better job of education than the government, why do they stay in business at all?"

I'll see your sawbuck and see you later 

I'm joining James and throwing $10 to The Command Post's opportunity to help out a family in need in response to what we've all watched on TV and the internet this week. Offline for the rest of the day today and light posting tomorrow as well as I drag #1 home from college and take a short vacation up north. Thanks for stopping by.


The Boston Globe has helped lionize Invisible Adjunct, and Erin O'Connor asks:
I've got mixed feelings about the way IA has become, in the wake of her departure, a sort of faceless poster girl for the degradation of academic work. On the one hand, the human interest that surrounds her story has made it possible to publicize a problem that needs all the publicity it can get. On the other hand, the hand-wringing has a bitterly ironic quality to it: What IA wanted was a job teaching college history; instead, she has become facelessly famous as the woman who was wrongly denied that opportunity. Meanwhile, I have to wonder whether any of the gainfully employed academic historians who have publicly mourned the fate of IA have tried to find a place for her--a real, lasting place for her--in their profession.
I hate to be a wet blanket -- I too have corresponded with IA and she's a very good historian -- but I don't know why we believe people are entitled to a job just because they are smart. And I don't know how Erin, of all people, could call IA "wrongly denied". How do we know that? It strikes me as presumptuous that outsiders can determine who should and who should not have a job, just as it strikes me as naive to think we can simply reallocate money from adjuncts to tenure-track faculty without changing many other incentives in the university system that make it work? The commenters to Erin's post offer some additional good analysis.

Cheating with the race card 

What happens when you confront students who have cheated on an exam? Most of the time, as James McWilliams notes in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only), they are quite embarassed and apologetic. You read them out and give them a zero and hope you've made an impression. Not this time for Prof. McWilliams, though:
But here was Mr. J7, heels dug into my floor, arms crossed tightly, studiously avoiding eye contact, and disarmingly armed for what he must have known was coming. I took a deep breath and began my well-rehearsed question, but before two words left my mouth he aggressively interrupted, "Here we go again. It's the same thing everywhere I go. I know what you're going to say, so don't even bother. It's so predictable."

He caught me completely off guard, but I still managed to respond, "Fine, then am I right?"

The next few seconds were a blur. Mr. J7 took two sharp steps forward and began yelling wildly. For an instant I seriously thought he was going to hit me, if not toss me out the window. I remember noticing that my hands were shaking. The situation was unraveling beyond my control. A couple of colleagues gathered in the hallway. But at least I was holding the damning evidence in front of me like two small shields. And at least through his sustained outburst (I recall hearing "sick and tired" over and over again) I managed to yell, "Just look at these, will you?" Then, without really intending to, I gasped a rather commonplace but evidently effective expletive.

He stopped, grabbed the papers out of my hands, slammed them on my desk, and studied the evidence. I stood behind him, now next to my door, and watched him shake his head repeatedly. My heart was slamming into my chest. And then, for a brief moment, I was relieved. He looked as if he was going to confess. God, I wanted this incident to be done with. ...

Turns out, however, that Mr. J7 was shaking his head not in regret but rather as if to say, "What a moron you are." And then he sat down. His tone changed dramatically as he explained, quite calmly now, how he hadn't studied for the quiz. He just guessed, at random, without even reading the questions and, well, I talked about Andrew Jackson in lectures all the time so, well, it seemed like as decent a random guess as any other. Soon he was smiling. Sure, it was quite an amazing coincidence but, as he so eloquently put it, "Shit happens, sir." And then, just when I thought things couldn't get any more confusing, he went for the jugular.

"As far as I see it," he concluded, "you owe me a huge apology."

Mr. J7 is black. In addition to being green, I'm also white. I know that he cheated. He knew that he cheated. But, after his performance -- a brilliant but subtle flash of the race card conveyed through body language and facial expressions more than words -- the once-crystal-clear context that had me in charge evaporated into the stale air of my office. We both knew he'd won this game. I ripped up the quizzes and tossed them into the trash. He left my office without a word. I felt horrible.

After telling my department chairman about the incident, I asked myself a series of difficult questions: Did I think J7 was going to hit me because he's a big, black guy? Should a black kid have any reason to tell the truth to a white figure of authority? Am I gutless? Should I have been truly race-blind and treated J7 as I would have treated a wealthy white frat boy? On some level, do all white people owe all black people an apology? Did this kid just play me like a fiddle?

Of course he did. He's completely bought into the "white privilege" lesson that Dick Andzenge discussed yesterday. Professor McWilliams could call him out only because Prof. McWilliams was white and student J7 was black. And it's not inexperience. Even when we've found that applicants for faculty positions here at SCSU have included false listings in their curricula vitae, we end up paying these people off because the right to point out dishonesty is part of our white privilege.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Quantity demanded greater than quantity supplied 

Via Joanne Jacobs, a wonderful article by Jay Greene and Marcus Wintersin National Review describes the problem John Kerry or any other candidate faces in trying to buy votes from college students and their parents.
Using data provided by the U.S. Department of Education, a recent study by the Manhattan Institute estimated the number of students in the nation who were college ready. The study found that nationally only 32 percent of students leave high school prepared to apply to college. The picture is particularly bleak for minorities: Just 20 percent of African-American students and 16 percent of Hispanic students are even eligible to apply to a four-year college at the end of high school.

For the high-school class of 2000, that translates to an estimated 1,298,920 who were college-ready, a figure very close to the 1,341,000 students who actually enrolled in college for the first time in that year. The same is true for minority groups: Hispanic students make up about 9 percent of the college-ready population and about 7 percent of students entering college; African Americans make up about 9 percent of all college-ready students and about 11 percent of incoming freshmen. The pattern is similar for white and Asian students as well.

This indicates that there is not a large pool of students who are academically qualified to apply to college but who are prevented from doing so by a lack of funds � or by anything else, for that matter. Just about all students who are academically able to go to college do go to college.
And I think I just finished grading the exams for ALL of those extra 42,000 students who didn't belong in college.

It's not who you are, it's what you bring 

Professor Dick Andzenge continues to write compelling monthly columns for the local newspaper. This month's covered both mandatory diversity training and a community meeting organized by a local group called Great River Interfaith Partnership. Along with racial profiling and living wages, the group carried out a discussion of "white privilege". Dick writes:
The doctrine of white privilege is the belief that white people have special advantages by the mere fact that they are white, and that nonwhites, by the mere fact that they are nonwhite, suffer from disadvantages.

This doctrine bothers me because it has the tendency to create the same racism it is supposed to help prevent. By telling struggling white people that their race gives them special advantages they must renounce to relate to nonwhite people, it is sure to cause resentment.

I was at a meeting where the white administrator was told she would only hold the audience if she admitted being a beneficiary of white privilege. When she surrendered, she lost the ability to demand accountability from the audience. Some minorities in her audience claimed the accountability demands she was attempting to impose did not apply to them.

Most white people I know grew up in homes where they were taught that they had to work hard to succeed. All successful minorities I know grew up with the same type of upbringing.

It's this unwillingness to understand the meaning of culture, of what you bring from your ancestry, that maddens Dick and me. As Thomas Sowell explains in this interview from PBS in 1996, it's nobody's fault.
DAVID GERGEN: Right. And what you're saying is, is they shouldn't either blame society or, you know, they shouldn't consider themselves victims.

THOMAS SOWELL: That's right. The whole notion of blaming the victim, and I think is one of the great distracting phrases, because there's not a question of blame. People can't--people were not responsible for where their ancestors developed--geographically, historically, or whatever. But neither is the society responsible. I mean, in the United States, virtually every and perhaps every major beer company in this country was created by people of German ancestry. ... You know, the Germans created the--they were the biggest brewers of beer in Buenos Aires. I've been to a German brewery in Australia. You know, so it's not--it's not the society. It's what the people brought with them. But they brought more than skills because the Chinese and the Japanese often left with no particular skills. They started off as plantation laborers in many parts of the world, including the Western Hemisphere, but they had this tenacity, they also had the saving tendencies, and so, therefore, even when they were on the plantation, they had these what are called starvation wages, they saved out of them. There was a saying in the Philippines that the average Chinese makes $16 a month out of which he saves $18.

Prof. Andzenge continues:
Learning to be accountable for our successes and failures defines our character and guarantees our success. I feel insulted to continue to be told that my race denies me the privileges of success. The doctrine of white privilege is a very damaging doctrine to white and to minority young people.

The delusion that being white is a special privilege creates young people who own to that belief and develop a sense of superiority and bigotry. If they do not develop the sense of superiority, then they might find themselves boxed into a sense of guilt that might damage their self-worth.

Rather than aspiring for success through hard work and the application of values that have produced success and progress in all human societies, the doctrine of white privilege perpetuates a sense of inferiority and a rejection of values that continue to be considered belonging to the despised privileged class.

The best way to address social inequalities and bigotry is to emphasize how much we have in common and the fact that success is not a product of what or who we are but rather of what we do. We must work harder to extend opportunities to each other and the culture of acceptance of those opportunities.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

She'll make it a race 

Local talk is swirling about the entry of Patty Wetterling into the Congressional race against Rep. Mark Kennedy. Wetterling lost her son to a gunpoint abduction in 1989 and has since worked hard on enacting sex offender registration laws. Not surprising,
Children will be a major focus of her campaign, and Wetterling says she would not be a candidate were it not for Jacob...
... her lost son. Kennedy is viewed by many around here as a likely opponent to Mark Me Loony Dayton, the senior senator about whom the Northern Alliance has said so much. Wetterling was wooed into the race by a letter from Nancy Pelosi (who could better use C.J.'s makeover advice than Wetterling), and the field that had three other possible candidates has been cleared out for Wetterling to go one-on-one with Kennedy.

There is a sympathy vote to be sure; you still see Jacob's Hope signs around St. Cloud and nobody needs to be told what they mean even fifteen years later. But there will be a number who want to know if she can broaden her appeal. Already she put off the announcement of her candidacy after a story broke concerning Jacob, and she held the news conference to start her campaign at his old junior high (which is pretty much out my back door.) Some will want to say she's another Carolyn McCarthy, but McCarthy ran only three years after a double homicide and her issue had not been settled to the satisfaction of her liberal Long Island constitutency. The very success of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation will in that sense work against Wetterling's electoral base.

No doubt Wetterling make it a race because the media here has no other race worth watching, and Dayton's money will help take a few bullets out of Kennedy's 2006 holster. But I doubt she wins.

UPDATE (May 12): Powerline makes some observations as well.

Rentseeking teaching 

Erin O'Connor starts last night's post with "Here's a question for economically-minded readers:" Now how am I supposed to turn down a question like that? Her question is simply whether tuitions would rise if universities required all courses to be taught by tenured or t-track professors rather than adjuncts? I'm stealing her question for my summer introductory course starting next week, because it's a good question to teach from.

The answer, surprisingly, is "Not a bit." It requires an assumption that I think is justifiable to arrive at that conclusion, but of course others will wish to argue. That's the joy of blogging with a comment box!

The conditions Erin lays out are these:
This question assumes that the (bloated) bureaucratic structure of today's higher ed instituitions would remain constant, and that tenured faculty members' teaching loads and salaries would, too. It also accepts the current estimate that between 40 and 60% of college and university teaching is done by graduate students and adjunct lecturers.
The assumption is that universities are price-searchers rather than price-takers. We can assume Erin means to use this assumption because by referring to a constant "bloated bureaucratic structure" she implies that competitive forces are not reducing prices. Price searchers will price their goods based on the rule of "marginal cost=marginal revenue". The question is answered by asking the following question -- will there be an increase in marginal cost by changing who teaches a class?

Now remember that marginal cost means future cost. Since a tenured professor is already guaranteed income as long as she remains at the university, she is not a marginal cost. She's in fact a sunk cost. Pulling her from research to teaching changes nothing for the university except any grant income she might generate. If she's in the humanities, that's not likely to be a major concern for most administrations. Engineering and physical sciences are, of course, another matter but that's not where the "adjunctification crisis" is.

The same is probably true for t-track faculty: When you hire someone to whom you promise the opportunity for tenure, you will be very unlikely to let them go in response to fluctuations in course demand. They're a sunk cost too up to the time of the tenure decision. And given that tenure depends only tangentially on teaching in a research institution, it is again inframarginal.

The only way it would matter to universities is if students (and their parents) are willing to pay more for schools that only use tenured and probationary faculty to teach. Take a baseball game: Do we adjust ticket prices for the quality of the starting pitcher? No. There's been debate over some teams charging premium prices for traditional opponents or the New York Yankees' one visit to your stadium, but that's again a demand side question. We don't pay more to see the Yankees play because they're paid so much: We pay more because they are an exciting team to watch (as painful as it is for this Red Sox fan to say so) and probably because transplanted Yankee fans have high and inelastic demand for their games relative to, say, the Devil Rays. Will students pay premium tuition for a course taught by a Nobel Laureate or an instructor with a NYT bestseller?

Given a negative answer to that, we see that the debate over who teaches is one of rentseeking between faculty and administrators. Students will pay what they pay due to their own demand for courses and are not likely too sensitive between who is used. Faculty support using adjuncts to reduce teaching loads; administrators like it to reduce cost and allow themselves to hire more administrators. What is left is to decide how the economic rents generated by colleges is to be divided.

Admissions sheeple 

One of our admissions staff writes a letter to the local paper (link dead tomorrow) that suggests that Jack is right about the submissive nature of our fellow mandatory diversity trainees. one I work with was angry about the training or unwilling to participate -- and I work with many people. I know that some were not happy about the decision to do the training during final exam week, and some were unsure of the potential for real impact in 75 minutes, but I encountered no adolescent rebellion among colleagues.

As a matter of fact, many looked forward to an opportunity to discuss issues openly and to meet new people. Considering the number of employees here, one should not be surprised to learn that faculty and staff members do not all know each other, and are certainly not of one mind.
It's kind of hard to see adolescent rebellion in a room where you're trained like circus seals. But it's also hard to see it when you're in the Admissions office, which pimps for diversity like few other places on a campus anywhere. Take for example this story of a young student going to Admit Week activities at Stanford.
It was 9 p.m., and most other admitted students were attending ethnic-themed parties. Asian Americans and Pacific-Islanders had "Chill Night" at Okada, the Asian dorm; African Americans, Chicano/Latino/Hispanics and Native Americans, respectively, were invited to do the same at other "theme" dorms. Lesbian/gay/straight/questioning/transgender students were invited to a separate social event at something called Caf� Q. Each group planned to discuss the issues facing minorities on the Stanford campus. I didn't fit into any of those groups, so I found myself at loose ends.

It's almost eerie, the way a racially diverse campus life is automatically equated with a happy, functional campus life. A diverse undergraduate population is undoubtedly one of Stanford's many attractions -- especially if you ask the admissions staff. But it seems to me that lauding diversity is futile if the various ethnic groups are encouraged to stick to their own. Potential friends I had made between icebreakers were now gone, having sushi at Chill Night. The point, I'd thought, was to coalesce and learn from each other.

So I sat letting my sunburned, fountain-dampened self drip-dry in a dorm lounge that was nearly empty save for a few of us socially awkward white kids . One sat at the lounge piano, banging out Chopin's "Raindrop Prelude" without pausing between repeats. He hadn't moved from the piano since before dinner, and mysteriously didn't respond when I cheerily tried to talk about composers. Another guy, sitting next to me on the couch, rose to go to the bathroom and asked in nasal monotone that I "make sure no one steals my hot chocolate." No one else said a word.
She went to a different school. (Hat tip: Discriminations. We should note that there's no singing of Kumbaya at SCSU, since it refers to a particular deity. Insufficiently inclusive, donchaknow.)

Monday, May 10, 2004

Why I won't be back 

My wife and I enjoyed three idyllic years in Claremont in the early 1990s while I taught at Pitzer College. I've discussed before how its president has managed to make the sheepshead deck. But it's worse than this, according to Edward Cline.
Retired news anchor Walter Cronkite will speak in May at commencement ceremonies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, together with Bernardine Dohrn, "Clinical Associate Professor of Law" at Northwestern University. Dohrn is a former terrorist and member of the "Weather Underground," which fomented violence at the 1968 Chicago Democratic national convention, bombed the Capitol and the Pentagon, and performed numerous crimes such as armed robbery and property destruction.

In 1969 the future professor of law also hailed the murders of Sharon Tate and seven others by the Charles Manson gang with a victory sign and verbal approval. Her planning role in the Weather Underground's crimes, which she has never regretted or repudiated, should have earned her at least a life sentence; she did seven months on a technicality. But, she is an "associate professor" and will speak to college graduates, and doubtless Pitzer College will not need to spend money on special security arrangements to ensure her safety and right to speak.

Meanwhile, let a career Mideast scholar such as Daniel Pipes try to speak on invitation in Canada or at Berkeley about the war on terror -- provided he is even invited -- and special security must be hired and his potential audience searched for weapons.
Ami Naramor at the Claremont Institute also notes Dohrn's invitation. Thankfully there are many campuses in the Claremont Colleges; other campuses have invited Walter Cronkite, Gloria Steinem and Bill Bradley for their commencements. Not a conservative in the bunch, but at least the others do not glorify murder like Dohrn.

He'll take Whiskey with his grog 

Captain's Quarters, home of Captain Ed, a co-host of the NARN, has decided to add an author.
I'd like to introduce my new partner, Whiskey, who will start posting tonight. She's an American attorney, a graduate of Cornell Law School, living in East Asia, who has had military experience and so can speak to those issues from a more personal perspective when she desires. Whiskey undoubtedly will tell you more about herself as she adds posts, which will most likely appear while we're asleep, here in the States. We're going to be a 24x7 operation here at Captain's Quarters. In fact, to borrow a phrase from the British Empire, the sun will never set on this blog!
Her first post addresses concerns over the Patriot Act.

Miller gets tenure 

I just received a note from Prof. James Miller at Smith College that his tenure denial by his department has been turned over by the university, and that he has now been awarded tenure. Details if and when I get them.

Friday, May 07, 2004

We Can't Draw 

Our Northern Alliance Radio Network logo is pretty ugly. (At least the colors are nice.) Long ago I had proposed this logo, which Mitch worked on ...

...but this was not well received. Said Elder at the time, "Just because we have the name Northern Alliance in no way requires us to be linked with the scraggly bunch of warriors who helped oust the Taliban. Besides I don't look particularly good wearing head dress and Lord knows I can't grow a decent Afghani beard." Well, speak for yourself.

The Elder says it's time to try again. There's a prize-to-be-announced available for the best entry. It'll be a good prize, and yes, perhaps Armenian brandy. And it will have to be better than the Northstar riff that the Fraters tried last year.

Pay No Attention to the Authors Behind the Curtain 

To the surprise of no one, the Minnesota Senate passed the secret social science standards. I think the Chutzpah Award for May has already been won. Senator David Hann tried to get the House version passed, and said
These standards were developed in secret, with no feedback from anybody," Hann said. "I don't even know that anybody has looked at them to check if they're factually accurate. They certainly haven't had the scrutiny of the standards that the citizens committee developed. which Senator Steve Kelley replied,
"We ought to pay more attention to the product, to the outcome than to the concerns about the process."
Your supporters, Senator, have bloviated mightily over the composition of the citizens' committee that openly wrote and debated the standards, whereas your standards were written in a faculty lounge at the U of M (probably under Lenin's watchful and loving gaze while they removed "truth" and "free market"). You, Senator Kelley, having lost the battle over the Profiles, support your secret standards as "not requiring much change in how teachers currently teach," when the Legislature and the public have spoken that they wanted changes from the Profiles. (We haven't forgotten your bait-and-switch SF 639.) And you dare say "hey, process schmocess! Look what we got!"???

Given all the other bills languishing in the ashes of failed leadership, the safe bet is that no standards will come out. That will leave it to school boards and your local teachers' union and parents.

Hey kids! Here's a great assignment! 

I know, I know, I've been bad today doing real work. I'll post more later tonight. Meanwhile, consider this: Best of the Web Today notes (fifth item) that
the New York Times Learning Network features a "lesson plan" on "writing letters to protest American abuse of Iraqi prisoners." As supplemental material, the Times urges teachers to have their students peruse the English-language Web site of Al-Jazeera as well as a Times article on Abu Ghraib.
And yet if you go to the lesson plan, it seems to have disappeared.
This lesson has been temporarily removed. It will be back on the site the week of May 17, 2004. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Another airbrusher. Did Google cache it? Anyone?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Cal Poly Settles Suit  

The case against Steve Hinkle at Cal Poly-SLO has been settled. His legal bill for $40k is paid off and his record cleared. This has taken almost a year since we first reported his being found guilty of "disrupting a meeting" in a mutlicultural center by putting up flyers for a talk to be given by Mason Weaver. According to a press release from FIRE, who represented Hinkle, the university
repudiates its overbroad definition of �disruption� and agrees that �disruption� actually must be willful and must �materially and substantially disrupt a University activity or the orderly operation of the University.�

Correcting the Times, once again 

King has an opinion piece in today's Times that he may not post, so I will. The ability of the paper to get things wrong is impressive; his corrections help.

King adds: Thank you, Jack. The letter works from what I said here; that link has the full Times editorial to which I responded.

Commissionership for sale? 

You may recall in this recent post about the Yecke confirmation that some wondered if the Senate would trade Yecke's confirmation for something else. Well guess what? Logs are rolling.
Day said there was no truth to Majority Leader Dean Johnson's suggestion Monday that Republican senators planned to demand Senate confirmation for Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke in return for their votes for the bonding bill.

Johnson later said that it was Pawlenty who told him that confirmation of Yecke might produce some Republican votes for the borrowing. Dan McElroy, Pawlenty's chief of staff, replied: "We have been very careful not to make any linkages."
Well, Dan, somebody did. And since the Senate will need at least six Republican votes to pass the bonding bill, it's certainly a logical place for some quid pro quo. So how would it feel to run the Anybody But Cheri campaign and find out your own party's senators sold you out for a new road through his or her town?

I mean, it's just politics, right?

Note to SCSU intercollegiate athletic scheduling people 

Dave sends along a copy of an article on why Iowa won't play Bradley.
The University of Iowa baseball team canceled a game scheduled yesterday with Bradley University because of the Illinois school's "Braves" nickname, but Iowa's moniker also has Indian origins.

University of Iowa sports teams are known as the Hawkeyes, the popular nickname for the state. The origin of the name is traced back to a 19th century newspaper publisher who wanted to honor Chief Black Hawk, and to a white scout named Hawkeye who lived among the Delaware Indians in James Fenimore Cooper's novel "The Last of the Mohicans."

Iowa decided in February to cancel its matchup with Bradley because "Braves" violates the university's policy to schedule nonconference games with teams that have Indian mascots, the campus paper, the Daily Iowan reported.
Given our own president's outspokenness on this issue, I wonder why we still even play games against the University of North Dakota? Note to Stephen: this policy apparently also applies to the University of Wisconsin, according to the article.

Enforced sensitivity, part 2 

King was a bit uncharacteristically gentle about our enforced sensitivity training this week. It was simplistic and insulting well beyond his kind description, which made the fact that we were being forced to take time from the busiest week of the semester to do this is all the more galling.

The symbol that summed it up best was the t-shirt he mentioned that said "When's Recess?" Perhaps for people still concerned about recess, which would be -- what?-- junior high students?, this might have had some value.

But the most awful part for me as the session ground on was that most of our faculty seemed to be actually trying to participate in the degrading nonsense. I decided that this wasn't even their limit: if, for instance, the leader had told everyone to jump on their left leg, flap their arms, and cluck like chickens the vast majority of the people in the room would have done it.

Then I began to wonder what they WOULDN'T do in the name of political correctness. The people who carried out Stalin's horrors started as pretty decent folks who wanted to be politically correct. Read Dostoyevsky. Then see what they became. I really don't know if the majority of my chicken-clucking colleagues would stop short if they had to be politiclaly incorrect to do it.

I doubt the current generation in the university can be saved. The most we can do is make sure people on the outside world aren't confused about what happens here. If students come to campus, or legislators vote money, or alumni respond to appeals knowing what goes on here, they can take appropriate protective action. People who still expect universities to be what they were a generation or two ago, or, worse, if anyone still harbors Newman's ideals, they could be vulnerable to the sad reality universities have become.

That's what I learned in sensitivity training.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

And taxis, too! 

I find this story from our local paper amusing. (Note, I'm trying out to see if I can cache the local newspaper since their links go dead in a day. Let me know if it doesn't work.) In a discussion about barriers faced by our growing Somali culture we get these issues:
- Collective blame assigned to Muslims for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

- Resentment from some in the majority community that area schools have provided prayer rooms for students who need to pray during the school day.

- Taunts and insults directed at Muslim women who wear traditional headscarves.

- St. Cloud's taxi licensing rules, which prohibit noncitizens from being employed as taxi drivers in the area.
Now this last one is what delights me. Here we have a city that is supposed to be making great strides in becoming more inclusive, and it has rules that prohibits noncitizens from driving cabs. Have none of these people ever gone to a major city? Silly.

Maintaining ownership of your child's education 

Robert Murphy points out that even our language in describing education today has come to view children as owned by society, not by parents.
Who decided to end social promotion of students? Why, according to the article, Chicago did. And which students does this change affect? Well, according to the article, "Chicago" ended the social promotion of its students. Thus, the entire city apparently made a decision, concerning all of the children it apparently possesses.

Many people would probably wonder at my commentary so far. Don't news writers talk like this all the time? After all, the "United States" invaded Iraq, and "Israel" and "Palestine" have peace talks. So why can't "Chicago" make a decision about "its" students?

But that's my point: This type of language is so pervasive that we don't even think about it. Nonetheless, it's still perverse, and perpetuates collectivist attitudes that have wrought so much misery in the last century.
Regardless of whether parents would buy enough education for their children (and who is to define "enough"?), either parents are to own their children's educational rights or the government. So choose, and demand to have the choice.

"...not with pain or fear, only with penitence." 

In his comments on our diversity training story, Penraker invokes a part of Orwell's 1984 that I used long ago in an email to Jack commenting on something else in this university. Here is the whole piece.
'You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was "Thou shalt not". The command of the totalitarians was "Thou shalt". Our command is "Thou art". No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean. Even those three miserable traitors in whose innocence you once believed -- Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford -- in the end we broke them down. I took part in their interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down, whimpering, grovelling, weeping -- and in the end it was not with pain or fear, only with penitence. By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother. It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean.'

Training them to deal with feeling bad 

Egene Volokh makes a very good point on speech codes for teachers, using a possible code forthcoming at the Berkeley law school:
On the other hand, read literally "racist, sexist or homophobic expressions" [which they are told are things that "will not be tolerated" --kb] seems to cover any expressions of opinion that convey a racist, sexist or homophobic message, potentially including, for instance:
  1. Asking whether some or all of the underrepresentation of men or women in certain fields might be caused not by sex discrimination, but rather by biological differences between the sexes that make men's and women's temperaments, intellectual capacities, and performance different.
  2. Discussing in class on the book The Bell Curve, and suggesting that the authors might have been right in their conclusion that there are race-based differences in intelligence.
  3. Suggesting in class (whether on constitutional law, family law, or sexual orientation and the law) that one possible argument against allowing same-sex marriage is that opposite-sex couples are better parents than same-sex couples.

If the policy would include such statements, that seems to be quite troubling: The statements may be right or wrong, or good or bad, but it seems to me that they are eminently legitimate issues to raise in class ... Any prohibition on such speech would be a severe blow to free and open discussions of ideas in class. UC Berkeley should be trying to foster free and open discussion, and to train students to deal with it even when the discussion makes them "feel" bad, rather than trying to suppress it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Why I see red while grading exams 

Courtesy AtlanticBlog:
Poor punctuation is not limited to those who lack education or language ability. People with master's degrees in English still sometimes confuse 'its' and 'it's,' which should remind us that the rules of punctuation can be as hard to remember as the Pythagorean theorem.
From New York Times, with hat tip to Cold Spring Shops.

Lazy Asians? 

I don't know. How am I supposed to take these ignorant comments in the Daily Bruin, wherein the lack of student activism is blamed on having too many Asian-American students?
"Without generalizing, I would say that Asian Americans have not had a traditional role of activism in the United States," [Berky] Nelson said. "They believe the way to success is through education, so they might study hard at the expense of things others may deem relevant."
I wish it was isolated, but it's not.
The link between the decrease in diversity and the gradual disappearance of visible demonstrations on campus has not gone unnoticed.

According to Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, the vice chancellor for the graduate department, the change in campus demographics has had a permanent impact on campus culture.

"The change does have something to do with the decline in the numbers of some groups � especially African Americans, who were quite often at the forefront of such demonstrations," she said.
I wonder when their mandatory training will begin? Discriminations also sees the blatant stereotypes.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Scholars do mandatory training 

For some reason the wireless connection in the meeting room for diversity training failed to work properly and I could not post from there. I took copious notes, however, and will reconstruct the scene for you.

3:45pm We've recently redesigned our student union and have a new meeting room there able to hold over 100. It was this room where we met. The room is wide. One signs in and receives a tag where we place only first names. (Not much help for anonymity in my case.) I sit in the back. Most of the people who come sit with me are friends and Friends of the Flashlight (a rhetorical device I use on the campus listserv to refer to looking for truth.) Handwritten presentation sheets are tacked up on walls with these messages:No explanation is offered to any of these throughout the period except for the "no guilt" sign, which we're told is meant to tell us nobody is being called guilty of anything. But it's still mandatory. She acknowledges this later. (Who's she, you ask? This is she.)

3:55 pm -- There are many things on two long tables in the front. It looks like some prizes. A t-shirt is displayed that says "when is recess?" Ah, I see we're going for the high-intellect clients here.

4:05pm She opens with a question. When she receives an answer she hands out candy. I feel like barking like a seal asking for a fish. Again, she's used to working with a different audience than this, it appears. Maybe with seals.

4:08pm -- tells us to groan. We comply. More seals dance in my head.

4:09pm -- tells us not to groan for the rest of the session. No more seals -- I now imagine Norwegians with clubs.

4:10pm Connection is not going to work. Dammit. Now she tells us to get up and greet as many people as we can in 90 seconds. This is called "sharing the peace" in my church. Everyone complies except for one campus radical who makes sure I know I ain't feeling any love from him today. Can't tell if he is shaking anyone else's hand -- maybe he's got a germ phobia.

4:12pm -- for a bunch of central Minnesotans, we sure do touch and greet a lot. OK not to touch too, we're told. Oh, good. She asks if we do this elsewhere: Many say church, and she says, "Besides church." Why "besides"?

4:15pm -- We're going to break up into groups. Of course. It's always small group/large group with these types of things. Never individuals. Groups. Remember community.

4:30pm -- I chose to turn off the laptop for fifteen minutes. I know none of the guys in my group, though one apparently knows me. (Thanks for the distinctive name, Mom and Dad!) But they seem good people. Groups are assigned one of three tasks -- "What strengthens communities?" "What destroys communities?" "What are the strengths of SCSU?" Among strengths is listed "affirming the other." I'd be happy to do that if I only knew what the hell that means. "Destroyers" (I was in one of these groups) included ,
failure to communicate, docileness (I like that one), and economic inequity. I tried for "good fences make good neighbors", but it doesn't make the list. Among SCSU strengths is "Hope we change lives in a positve manner." "Work and visibility of social change programs," and :Willingness to talk about diversity." Creating more intelligent students doesn't come up. "Concern for student success" does, without any discussion of what that success looks like. Well, we only have 75 minutes.

4:40pm -- She says she's proud to have us as clients. For $7000 for three days of training, I'll be proud too, dear. She says we're already doing much for diversity. Well, is it ever enough? Nope.

4:45pm -- Another damn group. This time I end up with two acquaintances, a new professor and an administrator who has to speak for the president some days. I thought MY job was bad. We're getting a case study! Yeah.

5:00pm -- The case is of a guy who has a colleague who refers to getting a deal on a purchase by "jewing him down". It's more nuanced than this, and at first a guy picks up some nuances. But now come the usual diversity hustlers -- seems like we get a number of them.

5:05pm -- Oh, I see Tabakin is here. Sorry I missed him during the handshaking; this has to be a different experience for him. He's asking why we all assume that in this situation it is the Jewish department member that has to speak up. OK, that's a fair question. I'm pretty sure my two other group members are not Jewish and we're all saying we'd have to say something about it.

5:07pm -- Mr. No-Shake speaks. Can't figure out why anyone wouldn't know that the phrase "to jew someone down" is offensive. It's our responsibility, he says. Doesn't this imply that if we do not say something, we're guilty? And isn't that collective guilt?

5:10pm -- other diversity hustlers look at clock and be sure they get off their shots before they go. At this point I can barely listen any more. Woman from HR handing out forms now for one minute evaluation. Actually, until No-Shake I was willing to leave this as just another colossal waste of time, and goodness knows we've got plenty of those here, but now I'm pissed. I'm responsible for the discomfort of others who are not like me, but not responsible for those who are like me? Huh? Where does this end? Maybe here.

5:20pm -- Done. While packing up I watch a young female faculty member cleaning up the trash many leave behind. I ask her why. "Because otherwise some poor person who makes less than I do will have to do it." Yes, and get paid, which he won't get if you keep doing his job for him. I decide to join in, and throw away several copies of the handouts that we're given by HR to "learn more" that other faculty discard on the floor.

UPDATE (5/4): Thanks for linkage to 599 to 1, L&P and Cold Spring Shops.

Editorial staff should talk to their reporter 

Our local newspaper thinks we're "thin-skinned" for being opposed to mandatory diversity training. (Warning: that link will go dead at the end of the day, so the following is the entire editorial, reprinted without permission.)
Today through Wednesday about 900 faculty, administrators and staff at St. Cloud State University will attend a 75-minute training session on diversity.

Based on a Times news report last week, few, if any, people at the university are happy about it. Some object to it being mandatory, others balk at it occurring during finals week, and still others question if it is really what was intended when the university settled a recent $1.25 million discrimination suit.

So much anger seems an over-reaction to one session lasting not even two hours. Yet the divisive reaction also shows just how big a challenge university leaders face in addressing this issue.

True, nobody likes being told what to do. But that's also a reality of the working world, of which the university is a part.

In this case, St. Cloud State -- the employer -- has settled some discrimination claims in recent years and still faces others. It only makes sense to require all employees to attend sessions aimed at educating them about diversity issues.

Frankly, those who feel such a logical solution implies everyone is guilty have awfully thin skin.

For example, say the university had recently paid big bucks for work-related injuries. As a way to prevent more injuries, it mandated all employees to attend training sessions on proper lifting techniques or correct posture at work stations.

Does that mean the university is implying all healthy workers are ignorant of such techniques? No. It simply means the university is doing what it thinks is best at the time to prevent further harm and improve its work force.

This diversity training should be viewed in much the same light.

And as any experienced worker can attest to, such training sessions are never scheduled at a convenient time for everyone.

As for concerns about the training and how it fits into the $1.25 million settlement, those details will need to be decided in court. Perhaps this time, though, all the details and findings will be made public so people have a clear understanding of what led to the training in the first place.
Sigh. How many ways is this wrong? Let me count.
  1. "Divisive reaction"? Ah, this must be the same logic that makes Cheri Yecke's refusal to kowtow to Education Minne$ota "divisive". Apparently the Times' thesaurus has 'divisive' and 'disagreement' as synonyms. I didn't get that memo.
  2. The comparison to the working world assumes that the mission of a university is just like the mission of a ball-bearing plant or McDonalds. Universities are unique; they are places where truth is to be pursued above all else. They have this thing called academic freedom. They have tenure.
  3. There is no finding of guilt. I'll keep saying it until others join me.
  4. " only makes sense to educate" us on diversity issues? You mean, this is the first time it's ever happened? I guess the polite way to say this is "get your head out of, um, the sand."
  5. The letter commanding us to training from President Saigo in no way implies that the training will tell us how to avoid lawsuits. I'll check that during live-blogging of the event later.
  6. While the timing may or may not be convenient, what worries us much more is that the training is hastily conceived. The previous training had more than six months to be conceived, planned and executed, while this was done in less than a month. How good could it be? We'll find out.
The sad part is, if the editors had even taken ten minutes to talk to their own reporter, half of these mistakes could have been avoided.

Hush money paid, but the boss doesn't hush up 

Fellow Liberty and Power blogger Robert Campbell has the details here and here on the University of Southern Mississippi case, which has not ended up very well at all. The fired professors got two years pay in return for effectively leaving the school. While President Thames was supposed to keep his mouth shut, apparently he has not. Someone needs to remind him how to play weak trumps.

UPDATE (5/4): Charles Nuckolls and Campbell (twice) update and elaborate. Has anyone else ever heard of a university administration with a "Director of Risk Management"?

Bum rush the exits 

The exodus of academic bloggers is growing. Along with Critical Mass (who might or might not close her blog) and Invisible Adjunct (who is still reading blogs, just not writing), we also read about exits at Frogs and Ravens, Academic Girl (at least there will be a Post-Game Show), and Mister B.S. and delays and holding actions at Household Opera. Lilith wonders if these decisions are irreversible or whether they are useful, lengthier sabbaticals. Perhaps. It's not uncommon in macroeconomics to take a year or so off to do policy work somewhere, and in older days a little stint at a forecasting shop like DRI or Wharton did wonders for the resume and the academic career.

Blogchild John Bruce makes the point that most of our blogs are missing the point.
When I started reading Critical Mass a little over a year ago, I was concerned (and my comments there reflected it) that there was an assumption that if this or that particular problem -- especially loony left-wing or radical feminist bias -- could be eliminated from academic life, then everything would be fine. A year ago I had the same concern for what I saw on Invisible Adjunct -- that if all of us non-tenure-track part-timers could get tenure-track jobs, everything would be fine. I think over a period of about a year, both blogs came to reflect a view that things weren't so simple -- there are problems much closer to the core of academic life.
SCSUScholars points to an ABC PrimeTime segment on cheating at an Ivy League institution. I've mentioned this issue several times here, with the confidence that it's as pervasive at the Ivy League as it was in a second-string place like USC when I taught there. Let's forget affirmative action, speech codes, and the like: if some very large proportion of any school's students are getting through by cheating, you have a problem of institutional corruption on an enormous scale. The political disputes covered by FIRE and blogs like Critical Mass and SCSUScholars are simply a sideshow in comparison.
I will dissent from John on this point even though I think it's a good one. It's good because it is simply very hard to imagine how academic cheating on this scale -- and I think John is right that it's fairly widespread -- can be countenanced. But it is. And it is because, in my view, the causes of it may turn out to be exactly the political disputes that Erin and FIRE and we cover. (And I cannot tell you how honored I am to be put in the sentence with those two excellent sites.) What lies at the base of the political dispute is a visioin of how the world is, whether we are able to ignore constraints and objective truth to construct our own vision of reality or whether education lies in showing students where the constraints are, how truth is pursued, and how others have pushed out the frontiers. It is as if, as Sowell suggests, only one side wants to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules and the other will bite your ear to win.
Having committed themselves to a vision and demonized all who oppose it, how are they to turn around and subject that vision to searching empirical scrutiny, much less repudiate it as evidence of its counterproductive results mount up?
If you cannot subject that vision to scrutiny, then you deny that scrutiny is real or valid. You deny facts, and once you do that it is easy to cheat, and to condone cheating.

I'm not sure that relates to why Erin and the others are leaving academia, but I suspect it does. And in case you're wondering, I'm not going anywhere any time soon.

It's only a matter of time... 

Let's see. Six months ago the University of Chicago had a dust-up over "gender non-specific bathrooms" to accommodate transgendered and "gender-variant students". Now, says Captain's Quarters, Harvard is having its own. Anyone want to bet when it happens here?

(I've just accelerated the time it takes for that meme to reach SCSU.)

To keep this a family-friendly blog, let me say this delicately: Following James Joyner, I say use the men's room if a urinal works for you. Even if you're a dog.