Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sauce for the goose 

The Phi Beta Kappa Society last spring rejected an application for a chapter at George Mason University because GMU rescinded an invitation to Michael Moore to speak on its campus. They expressed concerns over GMU's commitment to academic freedom. FIRE has upped the ante now, inviting Phi Beta Kappa to look at speech codes on the campuses where it does have chapters.
We urge Phi Beta Kappa to stand behind its demonstrated commitment to academic freedom by insisting that its member institutions respect the free speech rights of their students and faculty. To this end, we request that you respond to FIRE detailing how you intend to ensure that academic freedom is protected at all Phi Beta Kappa institutions.
Don't hold your breath, guys.


Teach or get off the pot 

Graduate assistants at NYU, the first to have ever unionized, have been on strike since November 9. They've now been told that they must go back to work or lose their stipends for spring semester. The GAs are resisting. The strike results from NYU's administration choosing not to let a collectively bargained agreement expire when a court case made it unnecessary for them to recognize the GA's union. Given that GAs were only the primary instructors for 165 of the 2700 courses NYU offers, the strike probably hasn't affected most students.

See Inside Higher Ed fmi.


Generalizing early childhood education 

Readers in Minnesota will see some familiar themes in Wendy McElroy's article today on the push in California for universal preschool. (h/t: reader jw)
If successful, California's high-profile campaign may set a standard for other states. [Rob] Reiner's proposal is to fund universal preschool through a 1.7 percent increase in taxes on annual incomes of $400,000+ for individuals, $800,000+ for married couples; this would generate an estimated $2.4 billion per year. Attendance would be voluntary.
As you might guess, some skepticism arises from the use of an income tax on very high incomes. (The fact that it's pitched by Rob Reiner probably doesn't help, either.) But it also comes from a very disputed RAND study that claims the program pays for itself. The research that's out there, however, says the benefits of universal preschool on cognitive or social scales fall to zero as the child continues through the education system, perhaps disappearing as early as second grade.

The familiarity to Minnesota readers should come from the leadership taken by two researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Art Rolnick (who Strom declares makes me only the second-smartest economist in Minnesota) and Rob Grunewald. Their work makes a case for targeted preschool towards disadvantaged children, and not necessarily to improve cognition. As this interview with Nobel laureate James Heckman discusses, the gains may be more towards encouraging behaviors that improve life success, like "motivation, self-control and time preference." I'm often caught telling my classes that the most important thing you teach your children is delayed gratification, and how to do that by increasing a child's incentives to save. It's one of the reasons I support teaching economics to children from quite young ages -- I'm not interested in them knowing supply and demand, but I am interested in getting the concept of constrained optimization across. Kids are naturally maximizers, but they have trouble seeing constraints.

At any rate, the Rolnick-Grunewald work has moved to policy stages, and their proposals are different both in seeking targeted programs rather than Reiner's universal proposal, and by seeking public-private partnerships for provision and funding. The plan includes tuition-plus scholarships for parents to be able to choose between public and private early childhood development programs (approved by a public-private board), with a mentoring program or home visits. I like this program, but it has potential dealbreakers for the education borg because it uses a voucher-type system and for the strong parental control types like McElroy.
This is the great danger: the presumption that government can raise children better than parents. If universal preschool is voluntary, then it may merely create another massive and ultra-expensive bureaucracy that accomplishes little.

If it is compulsory, then universal preschool will extend the government's usurpation of parenthood so that all 3- and 4-year-olds are under state supervision.
I do not think she would be mollified by the public-private board.


GDP growth revised up .5% 

I thought 3.8% was pretty good, but considering the hurricanes a revised 4.3% growth rate reported this morning is quite remarkable. Upward revisions were made to most consumption figures, partially offset by an increase in imports. Along with the news yesterday from the Conference Board that consumer confidence has rebounded sharply in November, we have some reason to believe the rest of 2005 will be cheery.

The Skeptical Optimist, meanwhile, sings the praises of forecaster Brian Wesbury. I've seen Wesbury at economics conferences, and he is a pretty optimistic guy. He's forecasting GDP growth for 2006 at 4%, well above the consensus forecast. I'm not sure I'm going up that high, but the data I see around the St. Cloud area and statewide are also pointing towards accelerating growth.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

MOB road show II thoughts 

While I doubt we do it until spring, when Swiftee can grace us with a two-wheel drive-by, I like the idea of having outstate bloggers compete for the right to host MOB Road Show II. So does Mitch. Road Show I was here in Cloudytown and we had a final count of 27 attendees representing 13 blogs. So let's hear it Duluth, Mankato, Rochester, Moorhead, and places far and wide. Let's find a place for the spring fling to outstate!

Meanwhile, MOB applications are available. Doug may lay claim to mayor, but we have rules, and Saint Paul administers the roll. Ignore these at your peril.

More ways to hate the NCAA 

Crossposted at The Sports Economist.

As noted by Joanne Jacobs, some student-athletes in Florida are using private high schools to skirt eligibility rules for college football. Joanne calls it simply a diploma mill story, but it's much more rich than that. The NCAA has rules on course eligibility -- which courses count as college prep, and how many you must take to become eligible to play as a freshman in an NCAA-sanctioned intercollegiate event -- and rules for GPA and SAT or ACT score minima. However, it has some real peculiarities, one of which is that the higher one's GPA, the lower the SAT score required for eligibility. (See page 7 of this document fmi.) So what students are doing in Florida is shopping not for a degree per se but a place with enough grade inflation to raise their GPAs to match the SAT or ACT scores they've already earned.
For example, after Morley's junior year at Killian (a public high school --kb), a computer program used to project eligibility showed him graduating with about a 2.1 G.P.A., meaning he would need at least a 960 on the SAT. At University (private), he raised his average to 2.75, so his 720 SAT score was exactly what he needed to qualify.

The NCAA has frequently adjusted the schedule of GPA/SAT/ACT to meet whatever complaints are there, but I don't recall other stories where students were shopping for a GPA/SAT match by changing high schools. It certainly makes sense ... and it's the NCAA's own rules and their willingness to blatantly adjust them to be sure they don't miss any really good athletes that has led to this case.

This is only one of several examples. A colleague who's graduated from Cincinnati told me over lunch last week another weird example where an international student took ESL courses at a Miami high school, and his second and third courses counted but the first did not (I presume because it was not deemed preparatory for college.) And in this Ten for Tuesday article from SportsLine we find student-athletes who get suspended for not pulling out of the NBA draft properly, playing in an unsanctioned summer league, or this one which my friend from Cincy didn't mention:
6. Chadd Moore, Cincinnati: ...Moore, a senior guard who has been plagued by a bad back, quit the team for good last year -- or so he thought. After playing in a 2005 summer league, he felt so good that he decided to return this season. Not so fast. While the summer league was sanctioned -- he played alongside several UC teammates -- Moore hadn't sought the proper medical waiver from last year's medical hardship. Or something like that. Moore is missing the first five games,
by which time I hope to understand the rationale behind his suspension.

Me too. This is only possible in a world where the NCAA continues to act as a monopolist that tries to sell a mythical vision of student-athletes.

He throws like a girl 

A story from Critical Mass tells of Pomona College -- where yours truly taught his first principles of macroeconomics course -- tells of intramural inner-tube water polo.

("What? Intramural water polo???" Yes, they have that at Pomona. Is this a great country, or what!?!)

Apparently the games are co-ed, and goals scored by females are worth two points but those scored by males only one. Good thing they aren't up here in the upper Midwest, where six-foot Scandihoovian females dot the plains. Anyway, there is discussion about a possible problem with the scoring rules, according to the minutes of the student Senate reported by Erin O'Connor.
Sports Commissioner Alex Wakeman '06 asked the Senate for advice about an inner-tube water polo scoring system concern. ...One student was concerned about where transgendered students fit in this system. Wakeman understands the concern, but she is reluctant to change the scoring system because she feels it encourages more women to participate. DesRochers pointed out that the Senate needs to learn more about transgender issues because they do not have the vocabulary and background to provide the best solutions for these problems.

Yeah, I suppose "equipment check" is out.

Days I love my job, days I love my blog 

Taking a time out yesterday wasn't a feeling of being harried or hurried. Indeed, when I take days off from this blog it's often because I'm doing things I love doing, and so far this week I have been doing that. First, over the weekend when I often queue up three or four posts to use through the week I was instead spending time with family and friends, and working on the next Quarterly Business Report. By about 1:30 yesterday afternoon I had finished the last of it and sent it off to the Times, who publishes it in its ROI Central Minnesota magazine. It should be out in late December.

The more I write economics here and in QBR the more the two styles merge. My co-author tends to write on a set format; my writing tends to look like two posts here strung together. (There are bits of posts from last September that showed up in other ways in QBR.) I then have a section that needs to be a little more formatted, then we're done. This used to take me three or four days, but skills developed here have reduced that writing time to about six hours, included the first pass at revisions.

All of this is meant to contribute once more to the discussion of the value of blogging: Daily blogging is a discipline that makes one apply butt to chair and write. When non-blogging writing is needed on short notice, it's easy to do it. Do I need to write about economics to have that discipline develop? No, though it helps and it's natural since it's what I normally think about.

It also comes in handy for what I did this morning. My in-laws were often found in their latter years at a local senior center. When well and in town, in fact, they were there daily, and they remembered it in their wills. So when a humanities group at the center called and asked if I would be willing to speak to them, it felt only right to help the place that meant so much to Lloyd and Doris. And again blogging came in handy, as they had asked me to talk about savings and debt, and I could go to many different blogs to read. Some of the slides I created for the talk this morning -- and what a great job I have, that a speaking engagement there can count as part of my work here -- will get used this afternoon in class.

And they better be as engaged as my audience this morning. If you can get a job teaching senior citizens, get it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I needed a day off 

so I took one. I'm not even getting to do my usual research, else I could talk forever about this from Alex Tabarrok. Maybe later, though for now you can see my connection to that literature.

Nothing more here today, run along now.

Friday, November 25, 2005

MOB northern outposts needed 

Andy points out a good blog in Duluth, and from that I find a second. We would love to have MOB members in the Duluth/Iron Range area. Last year we hosted a Central Minnesota road show for MOB bloggers to get fully credentialed as members of MOB. As a reminder, the rules for joining MOB are two, as explained by Saint Paul: You must write to him at the address on their blog to get provisional admission, and then confirm this by coming to a MOB event or a Keegan's Thursday trivia contest.

The goal of having outstate events is to spread MOB from the Cities to the rest of the state. Mankato is already on our radar. Could we have a contest for best blog posts inviting MOB to your city? And not just Mankato or Duluth! Where are you Alex? Moorhead? Or even you, Pelican Rapids!


That's what we call it around my house -- the utterly useless gift you get from your Aunt Matilda who lives half a world away that you send to someone else in lieu of buying it yourself. The Economist ran this story a few years ago on economic research showing how much value is destroyed by Christmas. But markets work best by moving resources from lower to higher-valued uses, and the presence of eBay is helping Aussies recover more of the lost value.
With Australians expected to spend between $600 and $1000 each on Christmas presents for friends and relatives this year, many people are resorting to selling items on auction websites such as eBay to raise money for the festive season.

"By the time you add up gifts for friends, family and the kids and food, Christmas costs a lot of money and selling things on eBay gives me the opportunity to raise more money to cover that," four-year eBay veteran Shauna Wood said.

"With the extra money coming in, I can splurge on nice gifts for my friends and family.

"And the great thing is you can sell off all the crappy gifts from last year."
Chances are Ms. Wood's relatives are scouring eBay trying to see if she's selling their gifts. Given my father and sister are both eBay power sellers, I've adopted a different strategy, as my roommate in grad school said it best.

Cash. Offends. Nobody.

Hat tip: Mark Steckbeck.

Good idea 

I'm enjoying looking at Hugh Hewitt's straw poll, particularly using the tags that people are attaching to their entries. I get the Condi Rice idea, I think, except why does she do so well among those who tag themselves as fiscal conservative or 'economy'?

I'm also surprised how well Newt Gingrich does.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

For what am I thankful today? 

While at church last night for a Thanksgiving Eve service -- and I think it's the first time I've gone to one, this being a busy season at the university -- I started to think of what I am thankful for. Undoubtedly my family came to mind, with Littlest sitting next to me (I usually lead the songs so it's a treat to get to sit with her) and Mrs. S at the piano, surrounded by a very small group of worshippers all of whom I knew by name. In some sense they are my family here now, with Mrs.' parents having left their mortal coils this past year and with my own family living 1400 miles away. So too is the school and its teachers who teach Littlest. I am thankful for #1 Son, who this year has learned to stand for himself and take responsibility for his life. While we live nearby we walk in separate circles, yet he is always a joy to talk to on the phone or see in person. (And he doesn't ask for money!)

I am of course as well thankful for a job that provides for me and my family, and for a group of colleagues that make being a department chair an honor and not a chore. I've had two deans in the last year as well that have taught me things and been good to work with (as in fact were the previous two -- drawing four good ones in a row is pretty remarkable.) That has allowed us to attract more and more majors to our classes, and I get to advise them. They're great kids and a privilege to teach.

I am also thankful to the readers of this blog and the many friends it has created. Thanks to the Northern Alliance brethren -- for the humor of watching Mitch lay an egg at the Fair or the Fraters House of Horrors and the pleasure of getting to talk to smart people each Saturday like them and Ed and John and our callers (including you, Phil of New Brighton), and for swapping cigars with Strommie and Andy the producer, and making new friends like AAA, Marty and Tony and the Race to the Right gang. For notes from others in and outside the MOB this week like Gary, Jeff, Leo and others I may forget. For commenters who make me work harder like Doug and Nathan and Michael and Eva. Yes, I disagree normally with the last two, but it's the ones who disagree with you that strengthen your arguments. I thank them for staying engaged.

As the song goes, praise God from whom all blessings flow. We neglect to thank Him for so many blessings in our lives. As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner today, even if we are alone He is with us and has provided for us. Seek His forgiveness and ask Him to put thankfulness in our hearts. Enjoy your day, and we'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Encouraging the "Marlboro gauntlet" 

The AP wire picks up the story of our campus closing its only indoor smoking facility:
The only indoor smoking facility on campus will close after a final day of smoke breaks Wednesday. A student government poll taken last year found that 57.8 percent of students were in favor of closing the room, known as the Apocalypse Room.

St. Cloud State and Minnesota State University-Mankato are the only four-year state institutions that still offer smoking rooms.
There's a certain ironic humor of calling the smoking lounge the Apocalypse Room, but frankly few nonsmokers even know where the damn thing is, or was. It's in the student union basement near where other students eat. I've sat in the next room numerous times and did not smell anything.

So students are now told to smoke outside here at Frozen Tundra State. They will huddle near the door, and nonsmokers who are bothered by smoke will scamper through doorways snarling at the smokers and complaining about how close they stand to the door. One faculty member referred to it once as running the "Marlboro gauntlet".

Perhaps they'll create free smoking zones. After all, we already have free speech zones.

No! No! We're serious! 

So on Tuesday the Lawrence, KS, Journal-World runs an article describing a course titled �Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies�. The professor for the course is Paul Mirecki, chairman of the religious studies department at the University of Kansas, and he says he's teaching the class because "the KU faculty has had enough."

The course also will cover the origins of creationism, why it�s an American phenomenon, and why Americans have allowed it to pervade politics and education,
Mirecki said. He said several KU faculty have volunteered to be guest lecturers.

�Creationism is mythology,� Mirecki said. �Intelligent design is mythology. It�s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not.�

Now there's nothing wrong in my view of trying to teach a course that seeks to explain the popularity of intelligent design and creationism. And it's certainly topical in Kansas, where the state's Board of Education now requires that students be taught criticisms of the theory of evolution. But what's with the comment that "the KU faculty has had enough"? Should the inspiration of a course be to 'teach those yokels a lesson'? Some state politicians, unsurprisingly, don't like having stick poked in their eyes. And Mirecki is poking.

Mirecki said intelligent design proponents liked to view themselves as the victims, but that�s not the case.

�The educational system of Kansas is under attack,� Mirecki said. �All they are is oppressors. They�re not martyrs and victims ... I�m expecting insecure, threatened people to start being more and more vocal. They don�t want their beliefs to be analyzed rationally. That�s what this class is devised to do.�

So the pols are poking back.

But some conservatives, such as Sen. Kay O�Connor, R-Olathe, were unmoved.

�Why poke a stick in somebody�s eye if you don�t have to?� she said. �If you�re going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it�s a slap in the face to every Judeo-Christian religion that�s out there.�

And John Altevogt, a conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City, said Tuesday that state officials should require the university to change the name of the Department of Religious Studies to the �Department of Religious Intolerance.�

�If we can�t do that,� Altevogt said, �maybe we settle for some cuts in spending.�

The provost of KU is backpedalling a bit and arguing that the word mythology is both misunderstood and unfortunate. Today's story is full of justifications of how this is a serious course with serious content and "objectivity", as if yesterday's quotes of Prof. Mirecki had not happened. It seems like Kansas should take a lesson from Wisconsin and think twice about how it comes across to legislators. But it would also do well to look into the responsibilities of faculties as contemplated by the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
Emphasis mine. I don't think Prof. Mirecki has read that last sentence. He certainly hasn't understood it. And it's not like he recently forgot...


"What we have here is a failure to communicate" 

Excessive charity?
Aid agencies have pledged too many boats to victims of last year�s tsunami disaster in the Indonesian province of Aceh, threatening over-fishing in its waters, the Red Cross warned on Tuesday� The province now [faces] a situation where, if all the pledges were kept, it would have more boats than it had before the tsunami.

Please note that overfishing wouldn't be a problem if the waters were privatized. Didn't I just link to a private sector development blog?


Nuf ced 

'The integration revenue funding formula contains a financial disincentive to fully integrate schools or districts,' states the [legislative] auditor's report. 'If districts successfully integrate, they will no longer receive integration revenue. If a district ... achieves racial balance among its schools, the district would no longer be eligible for integration revenue.'

Here's the universal lesson we should draw from the specific "nonsuccesses" of integration revenue: Government programs reward failure, not success. They discourage eliminating problems in favor of managing problems. Failure is a major reason to keep the money flowing.

From Craig Westover today.

Categories: ,


Via Newmark's Door, I find an article in Slate on online professor ratings. It makes good fun of what students evaluate professors on, and how one becomes a "hot" professor (represented on by a chili pepper next to your name.) Three quotes stand out for me.
Remember�as demonstrated by your fellow marketing professors�people who are compelled to rate things online have usually had a strong emotional response, i.e., they either hated you or loved you. For every student complaining that "this is the most boring class ive ever taken ... she is too much of a hippie and needs to occasionally wear a bra," there is another who will write, "Clone her as the model of a Perfect Prof!"
I have in fact taken to wearing a bra. I don't know that I'm a hippie. But I do notice that the distribution of scores for most faculty on these things is bimodal. I thought when I first looked at mine -- yes, of course I looked, wouldn't you? -- that it was what my friends say about me: "You either love him or hate him." But if you look at student evaluations given to all members of the class, there's a lot of "feh" in my classrooms.
...a casual read through the ratings turns up a lot of suspect data. I doubt, for example, that a professor named "Homer Saxshual" really teaches art history at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. I also doubt that the student who took Joyce Carol Oates' writing seminar at Princeton was being truthful when he or she wrote, "Brooke Shields told me this was a great blow off class."
There isn't a screen that asks you when or where you took the course. Some campuses are linking their registration systems to these online ratings providers to help students decide whose section of a class to take. I don't expect them to screen who rates whom, but I would think a disclaimer discussing data quality to be within reason.
The take-away impression of is that students want you to be organized, fair, accessible, and reasonably interesting. When you think about it, that's kind of hot.
Not if you "give too many C's", though. Oh well. No chilis for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Public universities and tin ears 

A story in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education (the weekly: temporary link, permalink for subscribers only) describes how the University of Wisconsin has gotten itself into hot water with the legislature and the public. It's a series of missteps largely caused by the UW system itself:

You thought the Packers were having a bad year? One administrator complains that the Legislature "get[s] two people to issue press releases when anybody burps." That animosity appears in many ways, the article details, and it has caused Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to become bolder in setting tighter budgets and proposing other restraints on the system. The faculty and administrators quoted would seem to indicate a university that thinks it's owed by the great unwashed. It may take them some time to learn.

(h/t: reader jw)

Teacher out of the box 

A colleague's wife sends this to me, and it makes a great deal of sense. It discusses how we are behind in international comparisons of student achievement. But since I am not a teacher in the usual sense of the word, I suppose I should ask those who are. What do you think of this passage?

Lurking behind these test scores, however, are two profoundly important and closely intertwined topics that the United States has yet to even approach: how teachers are trained and how they teach what they teach. These issues get a great deal of attention in high-performing systems abroad - especially in Japan, which stands light years ahead of us in international comparisons.

...The book has spawned growing interest in the Japanese teacher-development strategy in which teachers work cooperatively and intensively to improve their methods. This process, known as "lesson study," allows teachers to revise and refine lessons that are then shared with others, sometimes through video and sometimes at conventions. In addition to helping novices, this system builds a publicly accessible body of knowledge about what works in the classroom.

The lesson-study groups focus on refining methods that improve student understanding. In doing so, the groups go step by step, laying out successful strategies for teaching specific lessons. This reflects the Japanese view that successful teaching is the product of intensive teacher development and self-scrutiny. In America, by contrast, novice teachers are often presumed competent on Day One. They have few opportunities in their careers to watch successful colleagues in action. We also tend to believe that educational change would happen overnight - if only we could find the right formula. This often leaves us prey to fads that put schools on the wrong track.

There are two other things that set this country apart from its high-performing peers abroad. One is the American sense that teaching is a skill that people come by naturally.

I'm leaving the rest out because it deals more specifically with NCLB, which I'm not as interested in here. (If you want to comment on it, feel free.) The reason I ask is that this may be a place where higher education has an advantage, insofar as we take mentoring of other faculty's teaching more seriously and that the rules to reach tenure are perhaps more stringent (including longer in most cases) than those in K-12 education. Many young professors have spent years as teaching assistants, coached by an advisor at their graduate university. Those faculty tend to be focused on teaching more than research (as I recall, for instance, Paul Heyne was the advisor to all the TAs at the University of Washington for many years.) So mentoring may happen.

Second, we know that some faculty are better off not in the classroom. Those who can sort themselves into research institutions through excellent publication do so; those that can't may find themselves either at lesser institutions or in a non-academic position. My general observation is that the sorting process works more voluntarily: Faculty who find teaching tiring and dull (and receive feedback to that effect from their students) often choose to leave for the business or government worlds.

Also, because textbook and curriculum adoption tend to be more under individual faculty control -- for example, we might not even use the same textbook between the sections of the same course in the same department at the same school -- it may be that these faculty are less prone to fads.

Possible? Likely? Let me know.

Categories: ,

Human capital v. labor 

Chad the Elder notes today's WSJ article (subscriber link) that there is a shortage of skilled labor:
We all know what's been happening to the U.S. manufacturing sector over the last few years, right? The media is full of stories (most completely anecdotal in nature) describing how greedy corporations have been outsourcing all the "good jobs" to places like Mexico, India, and China, closing down the factories and "meels" (as John Edwards would say) that made America a great nation, and leaving the average working class American with a dismal future of low-pay, no-benefits jobs at either McDonald's or Wal-mart.

The problem with this woeful tale of American manufacturing decline is that those spinning the sad stories have rarely bothered to talk with those firms actually doing the manufacturing.

But we have, here in St. Cloud. I co-author the Quarterly Business Report with my colleague Rich MacDonald, and we survey local area businesspeople about current and future conditions of their firms. Except during the recession of 2001-02 (-03 up here, since the closure of Fingerhut in Jan. 2002 set us back relative to the rest of the business cycle), businesses have consistently reported that they have trouble finding additional labor, and particularly that which is skilled. In our August survey we found that 22.2% of area businesses reported they were having more difficulty attracting qualified workers (only 4.4% reported less.) As a result, we asked a special question in the last survey on what firms spend on employee training. Almost one in four said they spend more than 5% of their budget on employee training and development -- the national average is about 2.5%.

Thus stories about GM laying off 30,000 workers focus on an excess supply of labor while deeper data shows a shortage of human capital. Firms are spending more in making investments in their own workforce. This demand for skilled labor will quite possibly also lead to increased demand for older workers, which would soften the blow raising retirement ages or the age at which one qualifies fully for Social Security. Indeed, what sense does it make to give skilled labor an incentive to not work?

UPDATE: Chad notes in an email:

The sad thing is that this story from the WSJ will likely receive little or any attention elsewhere.

"US Manufacturers Looking For Workers" isn't a good lead for network news.



Forecasting uncertainty 

The NABE Outlook, which is a consensus forecast from 45 economists, indicates that GDP will finish the year with an annual growth rate of 3.6% this year and 3.3% next. There will be a short-term uptick in inflation to 3.8% (in the year through the fourth quarter), but 2.3% next year. Core inflation about the same at 2.4% for 2006. Higher oil prices will inflate the trade deficit to $769 billion this year and only subside to $630b next. But the most interesting part of the full report (available only to members) was the range of forecasts for oil prices at end 2006:

<$40 10%
$40-$60 45%
$60-$80 32%
$80-$100 9%
>$100 4%

That indicates that one in four forecasters think there will be a signficant move in oil prices between now and the end of next year, with slightly more thinking we go north of $80 than south of $40. I wonder if there's been another time where we've had that much uncertainty. And with that, I wonder how certain these forecasters are of their estimates. I know at least one weather forecaster who does a good job depicting uncertainty.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Class-action suit pits black parents against school board 

Someone in Pinellas County, Florida, is suing the local school board arguing that its failure rate for black students, at 2.5 times the rate of white students, is unacceptable.
"Public education, to me personally, is specifically set up to dumb us down," said William Crowley, who filed the lawsuit.

Crowley said the white-run school system allowed his son to fall behind. His remedy doesn't call for monetary remuneration. Instead, he said he wants the system fixed.

"The facts are overwhelming and not just in Pinellas County, but nationwide, there is a high failure rate of black students across this country," Crowley said.
The problem that this raises is that the suit may cause the school board to point fingers back at the black community.
"Someone needs to point a finger back at themselves and say 'What part do I have in this?' and maybe this community needs to look at itself and ask what part do we have in this," [School board Superintendent Clayton] Wilcox said.

The lawsuit could compel black students and their parents to discuss in open court how they prepare their children for school, both academically and socially.

One critic argues it's not the school's fault that black students are not learning.

"To suggest that the school district can somehow uniquely single out black kids and give them inferior educations while giving other kids a better education is kind of ludicrous," said Ward Connerly, head of the American Civil Rights Institute.
I'd also suggest they call Bill Cosby as a witness.


What's my number? 

Apparently windfall profits windbag Senator Byron Dorgan is getting mad at us economists. At Cafe Hayek, Russell Roberts quotes the senator:
There are a couple of economists writing in recent days�I won�t name them�who can tell us everything about the future but can�t remember their home phone number. You know the type. They are telling us what will happen here is if people can�t afford to pay the cost of energy, it will force them to conserve more. Easy to say for one of these economists who drive around town in their Volvo or Mercedes cogitating about the future.

As Roberts points out, the utility of a high price is not to encourage conservation but exploration and innovation. Doubters will take you to the peak oil debate -- will we run out of oil exploration? See this talk at AEI by another economist, James Hamilton, and this article from USA Today. But that misses the innovation and alternative energies side: See this from Business Week last May.


Not quite protected class 

The Chronicle of Higher Education (temporary link; permanent link for subscribers) reports that the US Commission on Civil Rights has heard testimony about the increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on college campuses.
"Anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are systemic ideologies in higher education," said Gary A. Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, a San Francisco-based group, at a hearing before the commission. Those ideologies, he said, "find their expression in the classroom and outside the classroom, producing what we consider to be an environment of harassment and intimidation of Jewish students."
And this seems to come from faculty of the left, such as this fellow.
What areas of research or activism are you currently most engaged with?
I am currently researching African and PanAfrican history and theory, especially in East Africa; as well as forced resettlement of Bedouin in Israel; and issues of Jewish whiteness as a variant of whiteness in general. I am actively working on Palestinian solidarity at the moment, ...
But why? From the CHE article,

At a news conference the day before the hearing, Mr. Tobin said that "anti-Israelism is framed in the politics of race."

"Jews and Israel are white, colonial, Western oppressors," he continued. "Palestinians are brown, indigenous, colonized people." So "in this paradigm, Jews are racist," as is anyone who supports Israel. Therefore, "anti-Semitic language is legitimate because you're combating racism," he said. "That's how it plays out."

This might explain our history of attacking people who try to defend Israel's right to self-determination.


Teaching and research: Substitutes or complements? 

I first noted this post from Craig Newmark about a reduction in teaching load in the economics department at the University of Virginia. Margaret Soltan notes that the department is cancelling classes and bringing in adjuncts to teach the rest, and that this is to the detriment of students. Well, their visitors aren't exactly chopped liver, four of five with PhDs from first-rate institutions. (So why are they teaching as adjuncts? --ed. Perhaps they came out in the market late, or doing a post-doc. I don't know.) Stephen Karlson adds some details from the UVa newspaper suggesting the school is responding to competition for these researchers, while remaining concerned over the loss of faculty from the classroom.

One point that misses, however, is the pedagogical return to having faculty who do research. Newmark also posts about Duke hiring faculty in its economics department for the expressed intent of collaborative research with students.

A primary reason for hiring more professors is the University- wide push toward encouraging independent research projects by undergraduate students�a goal that requires one-on-one faculty-student interaction, administrators said.

�George McLendon is very eager to see us offer more research opportunities for the undergraduates, and inevitably that involves more faculty members,� said Emma Rasiel, director of undergraduate studies for economics. �We don�t want to stretch the faculty too thin.�

And with whom would you want those students to have one-on-one interaction if not someone who actually does research?

Virginia, Duke, the University of Minnesota and other top institutions view their mission as turning out PhDs. They will talk a good game about undergraduate education, but they are about creation of knowledge much more than dissemination. High-profile researchers will generate applications for graduate study from better and better students. While you may not get a whole course from that faculty member, those graduate students who are good will have access to the star faculty, and they will generate more and better applications for graduate study. I think there's a case as well that they turn out better PhDs, too.

But what about the SCSUs of the world? Even there, our department has continuously argued that our best teachers are those who also do research. They are better read of the newest and best literature in their fields. They understand the craft of writing good research papers, which we use to teach our senior seminar.* (Here, for example, is my syllabus for that course.) I participate in blogging on The Sports Economist so that I can keep up to teach my once-in-a-while Economics of Sports class. (Sorry, no syllabus -- I'm completely redoing it this spring.) It's not just that academics at Directional State University who don't do research aren't fun in the lunchroom or at the office mixer -- they are also uninteresting in the classroom, as they recite the same tired notes semester after semester.

I'm not sure if I'm saying that teaching and research are complements in production, or that there are scope economies. But I am saying that the view that those that do research are somehow cheating the student body or the taxpayer is simplistic.

*--"But you don't give release time for research, do you?" We try. Faculty can buy themselves out of the classroom for sponsored research, just as they do elsewhere. And we try to control loads to make our current 24 credit hours (roughly, 8 classes) per year assignment a little more manageable. And unlike Virginia, I can't go out and hire adjuncts with PhDs from Chicago and Northwestern to replace faculty who are bought out of the classroom.

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"Anyone who ever said college is merely about getting an education lied" 

So we are told by a student in the morning campus paper who tells us to be realistic:
Students spend more time sleeping on the weekends than they do going to class every week. College is much more than studying and going to class. It encompasses all the other things, like going to parties, hanging with friends, getting into relationships and breaking up, tail gaiting, and going to sporting games. A major part of college is social.
A few points, dear student?
  1. I gave my last midterm last week -- your fellow students kvetched that it was wrong to give a test during deer season.
  2. I don't assign term papers in most classes, because you don't know enough to write one and I'm trying not to waste your and my time pretending you do.
  3. What is 'tail gaiting'? A social activity that men do?
  4. You later write "Many of those who teach at the college level should not be in a classroom." You know, of course, we say the same thing -- "many of those who attend college should not be in a classroom." And, mirabile dictu, most of you aren't ... until after Thanksgiving. Must be that balancing act again.


Friday, November 18, 2005

NFL: Not much here this week 

I split last week 2-2, but the bets on the two winners were larger than the losses on the two losers, so the bankroll is now up to $1,020.50. Whatever made me think the Chiefs would be a good road team??? Ick. Perhaps I'm gunshy, but I don't see much on this week's board. So here are only two games I like, and I'm light on these even.
  1. Oakland at Washington (-6). There's a pretty standard rule that you bet the home team when the visitor travels three time zones. Washington is also in a bad mood after the ripoff they took last week. If the Redskins can score 35 on Tampa Bay, they should be good for a dime more against the Raiders. Take Washington at home, lay the six, for $33. (The over is a good bet here as well at 43.)
  2. Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Baltimore. Yes, it's Tommy Maddox under center, but this is a team that runs and runs and runs. They won't take the Ravens lightly this time, and there's no way that defense plays as well as it did a few Monday nights ago. Bet $22 on the Steelers and give the points.

Churn evidence 

This is always one of my favorite indicators of the economy, even though it's reported with a seven-month lag:
From December 2004 to March 2005, the number of job gains from opening and expanding private sector establishments was 7.6 million and the number of job losses from closing and contracting establishments was 7.3 million, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. Gross job gains exceeded gross job losses in all sectors, except manufacturing and information.
I use this in class as evidence of how healthy an economy we have. It's worth noting in this report that a little more than 7% of the workforce finds a new job each quarter and a little less than 7% lose one. The graph of this series, begun in 1992, shows a couple of interesting things. First, we are not generating as many new jobs each quarter as we did in the late 1990s. So while job losses are down significantly since the recession in 2001, workers aren't being added back at the same rates they were before the recession, which accounts for the slower decline in the unemployment rate. Second, if the finding rate for jobs is lower, we would expect that the natural rate of unemployment has risen. If the job separation rate has also fallen, that might not be true, but the rate looks to be about constant.

My Arnold Kling-ish question: Does this graph indicate a slowing of the churn?

Extra credit for seeing one side of the debate 

Our never-surprising Department of the 3.7 GPA sponsored showings of
WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price this week. A faculty member sends to the announcement list of the campus this praise.
Very good documentary film. SCSU should show it again. I assigned my student to view it for bonus points as part of the Ethical and Social Issues chapter in my course.
No word if they will be getting bonus points for Why WalMart Works or visiting the WalMart video feedroom.
Any chance the makers of this movie will visit the 300-500 workers to be hired in Mankato? Why let diverse viewpoints in when your mind is made up?

More about UWEC 

I have gotten a few notes about the situation at University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire that I wrote about earlier this week. According to an email Tom Burton of the UWEC College Republicans, the Student Senate will take up the issue Monday; for now, the administration is sitting around waiting for someone in the UW system to make a legal ruling on the rule that bans a resident assistant from holding a Bible study in her or his room.

Another email from a UWEC student reminds me that UWEC has also shown an anti-religion attitude in its service learning requirement:

In my opinion, I don't see anything wrong with RA's leading a Bible study in their rooms or in their dorms. They are students, they live there, and they should have those same rights, too. As long as the RA's don't pressure anybody to join or make someone feel uncomfortable about it, they should be able to lead Bible studies. I don't believe that anyone was actually offended by this male RA leading the Bible study. It is more of the university trying to enforce their whole separation of church and state.

Recently, UWEC has been attacking people with religion. Last year, they were trying (I am not sure if they succeeded) to put a ban on religious service learning. At UWEC, we are required to fulfill 30 hours of service learning (community service) in order to graduate. The university doesn't feel that anything religiously affiliated should count (that includes working in soup kitchens), because the person is proselytizing their faith. Yet, volunteering for a political campaign is perfectly acceptable!
She's right, there was such a case, and it passed the university council. Separation of church and state has often been confusing on college campuses, but if one cannot count working in a soup kitchen as part of one's service because the kitchen was organized by a church but can participate in a rally for Planned Parenthood, something is definitely wrong.

I, like, never do these quizzes, dude, but... 

According to the "Which Big Lebowski character are you?" quiz:

But I, like swear I never did that. Hat tip to #1 son, who needs to return my copy of the Big Lebowski.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Someone gets it at the Chronicle 

Namely, Ryan Carstensen, with a student commentary in today's University Chronicle. He analyzes our buddy Professor Davis.
If the trouble is that SCSU doesn't have enough students of color, why try and discount and distance ourselves from international students? Do none of these students exhibit color? Is it only American students of color we should be concerned with? I'm not sure what the Davis agenda entails, but it smells a bit off. It certainly doesn't appear to be truly concerned with diversity, or he'd be shouting about international enrollment from the rooftops.

Whatever his agenda might be, you have to admire his recruitment game plan. "Be honest with the minority students you attempt to recruit, tell them they may be in for a rough time." I'm no marketing wizard, but perhaps scaring the prospective students is a bad plan. Can't imagine why Mr. Davis might be having difficulty getting people to listen to him.
Well done, sir. As a followup question, Mr. Carstensen, perhaps you could ask him why he keeps sending these letters to high school counselors?

Did somebody say "plantation"?

New World Bank report features remittances 

A couple of weeks ago we had a seminar presented by Dilip Ratha, a World Bank economist who you'll see a great deal of over the next few months. Peter Gallagher reviews the new Global Economic Prospects 2006 report from the Bank, which focuses on workers' remittances. Gallagher notes correctly that both developing and industrialized economies have been quick to lower barriers to trade in goods and capital but not for labor. Indeed, USA Today reports this morning that momentum is building for a fence to run the entire length of the US-Mexico border. That ignores the gains that can be made in industrialized countries from having smart, motivated workers join already-skilled labor forces, and the gains to developing countries from wages remitted by workers back to their home countries. Longtime readers of the Scholars will remember I did some work on this in Armenia two summers ago.

Gallagher suggests you buy Western Union stock, because they transfer money. The problem with WU is that they're awfully expensive. If I want to send $50 to my great-uncle in Armenia it will cost me an extra $13 to make the transfer. I can do much better by going into "little Armenia" in the Hollywood/Glendale area and find a window in the back of a store owned by an Armenian. I give him the money, he calls a friend back in Yerevan, and the friend takes money to whomever is to receive it. Rich Armenian parents can support their kids in America this way, for example, by letting the kid pocket the $50 here and handing the $50 over to the relative there; this avoids the banking system entirely. And other banks can do this for less than the WU wire; between Russia and Armenia, the cost was 1%. All of which is to say, don't buy Western Union stock for this reason.

That aside, there's much to learn from this report, particularly for the United States and other countries that attract immigrants:

Destination countries can enjoy significant economic gains from migration. The
increased availability of labor boosts returns to capital and reduces the cost of production. A model-based simulation performed for this study indicates that a rise in migration from developing countries sufficient to raise the labor force of high-income countries by 3 percent could boost incomes of natives in high-income countries by 0.4 percent. In addition, high-income countries may benefit from increased labor-market flexibility, an increased labor force due to lower prices for services such as child care, and perhaps economies of scale and increased diversity.

There are losers to be sure, particularly in the wages of lesser-skilled workers and within that group most particularly among earlier migrants. The net benefits or costs to the countries from whence immigrants originate is much harder to calculate. Sure, they get those large benefits, but they also suffer brain drain. I haven't read all of the report yet, just the intro and first chapter, but between that and talking with Ratha I get the impression he thinks the net might be negative for origin countries, a result that strikes me as surprising. I'll have to ask him about this next time I see him.

Dilip appears in this radio report from MarketPlace.

UPDATE (11/18): And this from the BBC.

Capital-labor substitution 

Ruh-roh. This could be trouble.
There's a simple reason why computers have not taken over teachers' jobs: They're boring, unpersuasive, unattractive and soulless.

That may soon change if Amy Baylor can perfect the virtual professors she's working on.

... In a study funded by the National Science Foundation, Baylor employed non-stereotypical, virtual engineering mentors to challenge young women's stereotypes about the engineering profession.

Baylor had 79 female students rate a series of pedagogical agents on which were most like themselves, most like an engineer, and which they'd prefer to have as a professor.

The agents were identical except for age, gender, attractiveness, and "coolness" (differing clothes and hair styles).

"As anticipated, when the young women in the current study were asked to select the agents who were most like them and who they most wanted to be like, they tended to pick young, female, attractive and cool agents," Baylor writes in a recent report.

"However, they also selected the young, female, cool agents as being least like an engineer," the study found. "When asked to select who they would most like to learn from about engineering, the women in the current study were far more likely to pick male agents who were uncool but attractive. Interestingly, it was also the male, uncool agents that they tended to rate as most like an engineer."
(h/t: reader jw)

Brainwashing 201: Upper division requirement 

The Chronicle of Higher Education temp link good for five days, permanent link for subscribers) reviews Brainwashing 201, the second short film made by Evan Coyne Maloney about classroom politicking. The first and last few grafs give you the start of the movie quite well
In a darkened theater, a married couple appears on the screen. "Laura and Roger Freberg seem like normal people," narrates a pleasant male voice. "She's a professor at Cal Poly, and he owns a local business. They've been married since 1972. They live in a beautiful town. And their daughter was recently awarded a Bronze Star for her service in Iraq. But they also have a horrible secret. And for seven years, it made their lives living hell."

"A lot of bad things happened," Mr. Freberg says. Someone tried to break into their house, a swastika was burned on their lawn, and he says, "some really nasty threats" were made against their children.

"Were they closet Nazis?" the narrator asks, to footage of two Nazi soldiers forcibly escorting a priest down the street.

"Did they have people buried in their backyard?" he asks, as viewers see a scene from Night of the Living Dead.

"No, it was something worse ... much worse," he says, dragging out every word. "They were ... Republicans!"

...When colleagues found out she was Republican, Ms. Freberg says, she was removed as chairman of her psychology department. (She says that she sued the university and reached a settlement, but according to Robert C. Detweiler, interim provost at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, her charges alleging political and gender discrimination were thrown out.)

"I'm talking about neurons," Ms. Freberg continues, but students told her they knew all along that she was Republican. When she asked them how they could tell, she says, they told her, It's "because of what you don't say."

A murmur of sympathy from the audience, but soon the film elicits more laughter. "I'm learning in geography class that gender is socially constructed," one student tells Mr. Maloney.

"I never knew that carbon chains had anything to do with politics, but they do," says another student.

But what really makes the crowd howl are the shots of Mr. Maloney randomly asking students to direct him to the men's-studies department and the men's center on various campuses. They look at Mr. Maloney like he's crazy, telling him, sometimes while laughing, that such things don't exist.

At the University of California at Santa Cruz, when Mr. Maloney asks a female student the purpose of the women's resource center she tells him it "promotes feminism" and tries to get women "involved in politics." At this, the words "Warning: Truth Detected" flash on the screen, as her word "politics" echoes several times.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Community colleges hostile work environments for conservative students? 

Jerry Plagge tells of a student at Normandale Community College who listens to a Shakespeare professor make some point relating George Bush (and we might guess, Iraq) to Henry V. (One of his commenters made the Iraq connection, and I buy it.) Fine, but the student said the classroom got away from the professor.
And whatever reach of a connection he had before completely fizzled away into a full fledged Bush bashing marathon. I was getting a little upset, but I didn't get super angry until my teacher asked some question relating to conservatives and the girl behind me answered:

"Because they're crazy f***ing conservatives."

Hm. What an intelligent answer. These liberals, I tell ya.
I am not critiquing the professor's lecture for content but for style here, and the style is troubling because it licensed the student to use an epithet in reference to conservatives. If I was teaching a course on genocides and got my class to full froth over, say, the Armenian genocide and a student referred to "crazy f***ing Turks" and there was a Turkish student in the room, would that be a hostile environment for that student? Why yes, yes it would be. You would hope that the faculty member would take that very moment to tell the student that she had acted unprofessionally and hold her accountable for that. It's what you do with any student using any curse word in the classroom, and why faculty should check their pottymouths at the door.

Jerry says he's sad to see this behavior at Normandale and surprised it happened there rather than some more elite institution, whereas I think it's more likely to happen at the less-selective institutions. These are not going to be the best-trained, most nuanced professors you can find. They will not be as adept at argumentation, lecturing, and persuasion, and may resort to the same sort of cheap tricks that you hear amateur comics use on open mic nights.

Klobuchar still peddling old wine 

Amy Klobuchar, a candidate for the DFL nomination to replace Mark Dayton in the Senate, is still selling her plan for a "gas gouger tax" and is running a radio ad in northeastern Minnesota. At the request of Gary Miller at Kennedy versus the Machine, I wrote this over there. I transcribed the radio ad from here and offer you the first 30 seconds (the rest covers her background, as you can hear for yourself.)

News announcer: "Today ExxonMobil reported the biggest profits in U.S. history: $10 billion in three months."

Voiceover: The oil companies are raking it in, and you know who's paying. What are the Republican leadership in Congress are doing: Absolutely nothing. Well, Amy Klobuchar thinks there' something we can do. Make the oil companies that are profiteering pay a penalty. The more they gouge, the more they pay. Klobuchar says the money should help people pay for home heating oil. And also invest in the long term in home-grown energy, like ethanol and biomass, wind and solar, a comprehensive energy policy.

The twist here is the directing of the tax money. As David Altig points out here in discussing the Byron Dorgan variation of this, the money gets tied to a home-grown energy policy. If it's such a great idea for governments to engage in this, though, why tie funding of these policies to a windfall profits tax? Given the failed history of these taxes to raise revenues, either those policies go unfunded or they increase demand for higher income tax rates.

David also pointed out a major problem here, which is that it makes energy exploration a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition. If you invest in something that produces a good whose price is rising, you get taxed extra hard. If you invest in something that produced a good whose price is falling, nobody compensates you. See my post here, and in particular the video of the interview between Lee Raymond and Neil Cavuto. Or see MSU Mankato economist Phil Miller at Market Power.
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Last one in, please turn out the lights 

In response to my post on the Justice Department's filing against Southern Illinois' race-based scholarship programs, blogger Jason Hinds adds a quote from SIU history professor Jonathan Bean. Bean wrote Hinds:
Actually, they missed the worst program of all, the so-called "cradle-to-grave" affirmative action program DFI (Diversifying Faculty in Illinois). This program pays members of certain racial groups--including Asians who are triply OVERREPRESENTED as faculty--to go to graduate school (plus $17,000 stipend) and they pay back by taking a tenure-track job at one of 34 institutions, including private colleges in Illinois (e.g., Northwestern). This program is different because, at SIUC's behest (I am told), the state legislature established it in 1985.
...[I]t's not just "anti-white," as the Sun Times implies. No "whites," no people from North Africa, no Middle Easterners, and no people from certain Asian countries need apply. However, if you were born in Latin America to a white businessman who works for a multinational -- bingo! You are "Hispanic." Defining race and distributing benefits on this basis is not only wrong and illegal, it often violates common sense (as the case of the Asians shows). When I challenged, in writing, the inclusion of Asians in the DFI program, I was later told by an administrator that, yes, they are triply overrepresented overall but still underrepresented in areas like English literature! What this means is they will never admit success: once a group is "in," it is in FOREVER.
Or, as someone noted in our piece on Professor Davis on Monday, some people of the same color are non-diverse while others are.

Bernanke's confirmation testimony 

Ben Bernanke is not shying away from an open discussion of inflation targeting. In his testimony yesterday he offered a vision of how IT would augment the gains in disinflation made by Greenspan:
...under Chairman Greenspan, monetary policy has become increasingly transparent to the public and the financial markets, a trend that I strongly support. A more transparent policy process increases democratic accountability, promotes constructive dialogue between policymakers and informed outsiders, reduces uncertainty in financial markets, and helps to anchor the public's expectations of long-run inflation--which, as I have argued already, promotes economic growth and stability.

One possible step toward greater transparency would be for the FOMC to state explicitly the numerical inflation rate or range of inflation rates it considers to be consistent with the goal of long-term price stability, a practice currently employed by many of the world's central banks. I have supported this idea in my academic writings and in speeches as a Board member. Providing quantitative guidance about the meaning of "long-term price stability" could have several advantages, including further reducing public uncertainty about monetary policy and anchoring long-term inflation expectations even more effectively.

I view the explicit statement of a long-run inflation objective as fully consistent with the Federal Reserve's current policy approach, including its appropriate emphasis on the role of judgment and flexibility in policymaking. Most important, this step would in no way reduce the importance of maximum employment as a policy goal. Indeed, a key justification for this action is its potential to contribute to stronger and more stable employment growth by further stabilizing inflation and inflation expectations. In any case, I assure this Committee that, if I am confirmed, I will take no precipitate steps in the direction of quantifying the definition of long-run price stability. This matter requires further study at the Federal Reserve as well as extensive discussion and consultation. I would propose further action only if a consensus can be developed that taking such a step would further enhance the ability of the FOMC to satisfy its dual mandate of achieving both stable prices and maximum sustainable employment.

This is a bigger deal than you may realize. It certainly makes Congress nervous, as noted by Senator Richard Shelby, saying he wants to have the Fed pay attention to both mandates. Bernanke assures him that the Fed would continue to do so. But the purpose of IT is to make price stability the first goal. Now, unlike New Zealand or other countries that put their central bank chiefs on a performance contract -- hit the target or you're fired -- the vision Bernanke doesn't act as binding on the Fed's behavior. He noted in questions later, for instance, that he would not be tied to the actual inflation rate but the path of expected inflation.

Responding to a question about a hypothetical rise in inflation in 2007: "My principal concern at that point would not be that inflation had temporarily risen above its normal range -- for example current inflation is above the range that in the long run would be desirable. But the concern would be that expectations about inflation going a year or two into the future had become unhinged or unanchored."

You could always claim that you are not responding to current inflation because your forecast of expected inflation indicates return to the target rate. And the Fed's independence means that it's the last arbiter of these things. But Bernanke is arguing for this as a way of reducing uncertainty about Fed behavior.

In 2003, there was an episode where there was clearly miscommunication between the Federal Reserve and the bond markets and it caused a significant fluctuation in the bond markets. It was over the issue of whether or not there was some risk of deflation coming forward.

"Clearly there was a misunderstanding about that risk.

"It impressed on me the importance of speaking clearly and communicating clearly and making sure there was understanding on both sides about what the Fed is saying and what the Fed is intending to do."

We had a communications official from the New York Fed here a couple of years ago -- I can't remember if it was late 2003 or early 2004 -- and it was obvious to me that at least there, where the system open market desk is tasked with the daily conduct of monetary policy, communications was being re-thought due to misperceptions in the bond market. (See contemporary stories here and here.) They argued that the Fed had something to do with this behavior:

There seems little doubt, based on the reading, that Bernanke will be confirmed by a large margin. That's why the hearings are not getting news ... well, that and the Senate's behavior. A few years from now, though, this might be the more meaningful change.

UPDATE: New Economist points out this review of the literature on inflation targeting. It's pretty throrough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

P.S. on the UWEC controversy 

Maybe that R.A. could come over here and help this young lady.
I am not a very religious person, but I do believe in a god and I think that is good enough. I sure as hell do not need someone pushing what they believe onto me and telling me that I am in the wrong because I don't believe what they do.
Somehow I think I missed the transition sentence there.

Don't do something, just sit there! 

A few weeks ago FIRE put out a note that the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire had banned resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms. This occurred after an RA had gone into the basement of his dorm with some students to study a verse. Arguing that the students were employees of the university, UWEC said it was simply a work rule.

In a Sept. 22 e-mail to Steiger, Deborah Newman, associate director of housing and residence life, elaborated on the university's position.

"As a state employee, you and I have a responsibility to make sure we are providing an environment that does not put undue pressure on any member of our halls in terms of religion, political parties, etc.," Newman wrote. "As a 'leader' of a Bible study, one of the roles is to gather and encourage people to attend. These two roles have a strong possibility to conflict in your hall."

To have an RA lead Bible studies in his or her room might make that person unapproachable by others who are uncomfortable with the RA's religious nature. Others, such as the chairman of the UWEC College Republicans, Tom Burton, argue that it is a violation of a students freedom to religious expression.
I understand that the RA needs to be available to the students he is paid to support, but as long as he is open to people contacting him during his Bible study and is not turning students away, he should not be stopped from studying the Bible.
Or as this student letter to the editor says, there are lots of things that an RA can do that can make another dorm resident uncomfortable, like drinking. (I take it to be legal there if you're 21 -- SCSU is a dry campus.) FIRE got involved and sent a letter to the school agreeing with this view. The school has responded and said it does not permit RAs to do any organizing of groups or activities. Yet last year, FIRE notes, an RA was praised for organizing a discussion group ... about the Vagina Monologues.

U.S. Representative Mark Green (R-Green Bay) is turning up the pressure, calling for hearings. (h/t: Boots and Sabers) And Owen notes that the Journal-Sentinel in Milwaukee gets it:

The problem is that there is no such place. Students don't just seek advice from R.A.s when they're in the dorm. They talk to R.A.s at lunch, over coffee and at the local bars. If the university's contention is that being an R.A. is a 24/7 kind of job, that applies no matter where the R.A. is when she or he is asked a question by a student.

But the university draws an artificial line at the dormitory door. It's a line that won't hold.



As goes St. Cloud, so goes the nation 

At least if you believe Annette Meeks, arguing today that the Democrats shouldn't take too much heart in the 2005 elections. Reform candidates win:
Here in Minnesota, we also had a challenger who talked about reform, local control and holding the line on taxes. He won, too.

Republican State Sen. Dave Kleis defeated St. Cloud Mayor (and DFLer) John Ellenbecker by garnering 54 percent of the vote. This was the first time in 25 years that St. Cloud has rejected a sitting mayor.

Kleis ran on a campaign theme that stressed fiscal responsibility, government reform and public safety. Ellenbecker spent much of his term criticizing Republicans in control of Minnesota state government.
Way-ell, that's a bit of a stretch. John Ellenbecker had a reputation of being "pugnacious", like the criminal defense attorneys you see on TV (criminal law being his profession.) That behavior has a short shelf life. Even opponents call Kleis "a nice guy". But a nice guy has to have a base of support, and that base creates the partisanship that the local paper decried yesterday. They painted Ellenbecker as a partisan, and he lost.

How do you translate that into national lessons? Marty Andrade thinks it's not about reform and moderation of positions but about voter fatigue and getting out the base:
Voters are fatigued and are skeptical of both parties. Pawlenty has sold out his base in an effort to get swing votes. [Gerry] Daly has warned that the swing votes are not going to get to the polls in '06 due to the fatigue. Pawlenty has already had issues with the base of the GOP during the State Central, where he endorsed Ron Eibenstiener for MNGOP Chair and the base went with Ron Carey. The elections in '06 will be status quo only is both party bases vote. If one base stays home, it will mean victory to the other.

It appears that in Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty has signed the end of his administration by abandoning the values that got him elected. In '06 the graven image of politics is going to be the moderate voters, when push comes to shove they will stay home and declare anathema anyone who pursued them.
Perhaps what Pawlenty would take from the Kleis victory is that sounding partisan sounds bad to the moderates; what he should take from the Miers flapdoodle is that you ignore your base at great peril.

Step up, or step down 

Crossposted at The Sports Economist.

St. Cloud State (SCSU) is a Division II athletic program except in ice hockey, where there is no Division II and the NCAA allows us to play in Division I. There is a good amount of discussion among administrators and boosters of the athletic program about our move to Division I, particularly since other colleges in the North Central Conference have moved to D-I and left us with scheduling problems in both football and basketball. As I talked about in my lecture notes last May, we have a conflict with football in particular, since the move to D-I is most costly there. D-II football programs may offer a maximum of 36 athletic scholarships; the NCC is a highly competitive conference and many reach the maximum. SCSU, on the other hand, budgets for 24-26 scholarships. Yet you continue to hear around SCSU the rumor that we are considering a move to D-I.

I had assumed all this time that the decision was expensive due to scholarships, but school after school which has a D-I basketball program but had no football has moved to non-scholarship I-AA football programs. A person who worked in the football program at a private midwestern school that was a D-II football program but D-I in basketball when the NCAA changed the rule told me of hearing that his team was going up to D-I. He thought great, they were going to go from 36 scholarship players to 63. No, he was told, they were going non-scholarship -- the 36 scholarships were gone, perhaps to pay for the stadium improvements D-I required.

In a recent article John Lombardi does a good job explaining the economic costs of college sports. (The article is based on this study from the University of Florida.) Lombardi suggestst that a school making the move to I-AA football with scholarships must come up with around $775,000. That would involve about an extra $650,000 therefore. How much would the university have to raise, Lombardi asks, to generate an additional $650,000 per year in contributions? If we assume a 4.5% payout from the endowment as he does the answer would be over $14 million.

From where would this come? The endowment revenue we generate now is unlikely to create more than $2 million per year. It therefore seems most likely that if SCSU is to join a league it would have to abandon the scholarships it would either have to create a whole conference of non-scholarship I-AA programs -- the Patriot League would be an example -- or stay right where it is and deal with the scheduling problems of a declining NCC.

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It's a long way to the top if you want to do economics 

Chad the Elder must have a lot of time on his hands in China.
As a rule, economists are not often the subject of heated and passionate debate.
You haven't read what they say about me on the campus discussion list! But of course, I had to read on after that teaser. What he discusses is this article in the China Daily that suggests mainstream economists are causing problems in China. This has been going on for awhile in China, and it stems from an article last Friday also in the China Daily that too many people are practicing economics without a license. They act too much as mouthpieces for the organizations they work for. Says the fellow in this interview,
A real economist should make academic research the first priority, not personal wealth, fame and rank. In western society, some economists become officials in government and big banks, but only after they have made distinguished and independent research achievements. And one day, they expect to return to their original field and resume research. Wealth, fame and rank are not their goals.
Those aren't my goals? Phew! I thought I was a failure. Wait until I tell the Missus! As Chad notes,
...what the hell are they smoking if they think being an economist is the way to pursue fame and wealth?
You have no idea, brother. No. Idea. At. All.

There is a serious question within this, and it's about economists as policy advisors. We play that role both formally and informally, and blogs have been a way for policy advice to be dispensed easily. Are econ blogs written by academic economists better than those written by corporate economists? I find both kinds useful. Those written by government and financial types, like David Altig's Macroblog (he a Federal Reserve economist, with Fedwatcher Tim Duy chipping in), or Arnold Kling, or the Don Luskins and Larry Kudlows in the blogosphere, contribute greatly to the understanding of daily events. They're like getting four pages of a financial paper's opeds every day. Academics can do that too, and some do it well, but the think-pieces of, say, a Nouriel Roubini or the two great minds at Cafe Hayek are the comparative advantage we have. There are hundreds of such blogs, and if you want to find new ones they are mostly aggregated at the Economics Roundtable.

"Mostly" because the owner of ERT still won't use my stuff. But then, this is no way to seek fame and wealth, or so I'm told.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Pot, kettle, part 478 

Some people get to use stereotypes and others don't. Take a look at this story of a community college president called racist after giving a talk to the school's basketball team.
When Steve Maradian gave a talk to the baseball team at Los Angeles City College, he said, the players thanked him and gave him a hat.

So Maradian, president of the college, was shocked when a reporter showed him a letter signed by the members of the men�s basketball team � an all-black squad and one of the strongest of any community college in California � saying that a similar talk Maradian gave last Monday, before the season opener, was racist.

The letter called the talk a �lecture which reeked with the stench of blatant racism.� Maradian �informed us that we had to go to class if we planned on playing for the team, as if we didn�t already know this. [Head] Coach [Michael] Miller lets us know that every day.�

Maradian, who arrived at City College in August, told the players �I was proud of them, and that their academics are of far more interest to me, because they have to transfer on,� he said.

The letter, which Maradian said he had no knowledge of until it was given to the Los Angeles Times, was signed by all 12 players, and Wendell Westbrook, a black assistant coach who was the only coach present when the president spoke. After the talk, but before he learned of the letter, a few of the players thanked him for coming to see them play, Maradian said.

t is unclear who actually penned the letter, which said that Maradian told the team not to �embarrass the school or �we will feel his wrath,� � it read. Said Maradian, � �Wrath?� I don�t even speak that way.� Maradian said he noted in his talk that alcohol is not allowed on campus. The letter read: �We half expected him to warn us not to � sell crack in the library.�

So they felt like they may have been stereotyped as basketball players at a community college that are not good students, and that they should not embarrass the school. Presidents should not say this I guess. A story in LA Times adds detail and shows the letter the student-athletes wrote. I'd leave the story as a group of athletes not enjoying being "addressed like 5th or 6th grade students" except for this from the Inside Higher Ed piece. He quotes Wendell Westbrook, an assistant coach that was the only one in attendance at the president's talk (the head coach having been suspended for violating conference decorum policies for smoking a cigar at a cross-country meet).
Westbrook pointed out that Maradian is of Armenian descent, though he is from Massachusetts. �Armenians are a clannish type of people,� he said. �They don�t do a good job of communicating with the black community.�
Now what is really interesting about this is that LACC sits on Vermont in east Hollywood, which is the middle of little Armenia in LA. That was speculated as part of Maradian's appointment to the presidency. Coach Westbrook has been there for awhile, I assume? How is it he can call Armenians clannish in one breath while presuming speaking to student-athletes about keeping their noses clean is racist?

(And yes, my last name indicates my own Armenian roots but we're not clannish enough for me to have ever met Dr. Maradian.)


ANWR, Congress and Kennedy 

I'm as disappointed as anyone with the ANWR battle among Republicans in Congress, but let's review a couple of facts before we get our undies in a full twist. (Boy, the thought of that is painful!) As much as I wish we could open up exploration, it's a long-range benefit in return for short-term political costs, and in particular the attack on Mark Kennedy for trying to avoid those costs are unfair and ignore his history on the issue.

First, while Hugh fairly shouted that this is a national security issue, it's hardly one that matters in the short run. Even in the best case scenario we could not begin to use oil from ANWR until 2013. Even if we find the best case for oil in the area desired for exploration, this will reduce imports of oil from 70% without drilling to 64% in 2025 (1.2 mbd being the best estimate for the flow from ANWR.) It's very hard to sell that as a net price decline. What we are asking representatives to do is vote for something that has no tangible benefit for eight years versus the wrath of green voters now. The margins these people won with in 2004 matter only a little in an off-year election where the other side may be able to mobilize a great deal of their base against you. Taking Hugh's argument seriously about national security, this is akin to the ABM debates of the 1970s and 1980s -- yes, it's the right thing to do in the long run, but in the long run we're all dead, as Keynes said. Politicians heavily discount long-term benefits. While I disagree, the disagreement is over assessments of benefits and costs. There's wrong and then there's unreasonable and unfathomable. Saying ANWR doesn't provide enough to offset the costs seems wrong on the evidence, but it isn't a priori unreasonable.

Second, the ripping on Mark Kennedy during Hugh's show should have come after a check of the Republican Main Street Partnership's FEC records, which show no connection. Or query his committee contributions. The congressman's people were out in force Saturday at the CD6 forum, and one of their purposes was to quell this unwise assault on a chance to flip a seat. Until someone has better information about a connection between RMSP and Kennedy, erstwhile supporters like Hugh should stand down.

UPDATE: I appreciate the comments of Guy and Psycmeistr, but to them I continue to ask -- didn't we already know this about Kennedy? After all, we know the votes aren't there if ANWR was a simple up-or-down vote, otherwise why stick it in a budget bill that can't be amended from the floor? Have a full discussion of the issue and an evaluation of the costs and benefits and take it to the people. The way to get Kennedy and others to pay attention is through a promise of votes, not the withholding of campaign funds as Hewitt threatened. (I note I heard not a word about this today.)

(Footnote: When the vote on ANWR happened in 2001, Kennedy voted against exploration, but was put under great pressure from an ad campaign against him. He's been here before, done the same thing, and there wasn't a protest then, either.)

Categories: ,

Diversity and citizenship 

The headline of the campus paper today reads "SCSU diversity criticized". How so, when it turns out we have 34% more minority student enrollment now than in 2003? Is it a right-wing complainant that we've gone too far? No, it's our old friend Mike Davis:
"I'm leery of their numbers," said Michael Davis, associate professor of education. "They're manipulating percentages, but in a clever way. I suspect that the international students are being counted as domestic students."

Davis, hired 16 years ago to provide diversity training and multicultural education, said SCSU has been battling a reputation as a racially intolerant institution for years.

In 2002, Davis was part of a letter-writing campaign encouraging minority students in the Twin Cities area not to attend SCSU, calling the university a "hostile environment" for students of color.

"Diversity at this university is a joke," Davis said. "Students aren't aware of how bad it is for a person of color on campus until they're directly affected by it. The irony of the situation is that the administration refuses to listen to the people it brings in to address these issues."

Davis went on to say that the university would be better served by admitting to the public that problems exist and taking steps to fix them, rather than concerning itself with enrollment numbers.

"Be honest with the minority students you attempt to recruit, tell them they may be in for a rough time," Davis said.
There are a few points we need to make here. First, if you are hired "to provide diversity training and multicultural education" and you then send letters telling students of color not to come here, isn't that a confession of failure? You've had 16 years.

Second, all the other students listed in this article seem to disagree with Prof. Davis.
"I decided to attend SCSU because of the educational opportunities the university offers," Hightower said. "There is still an under representation of students of color, but I feel it's a good environment to spend four years."

..."I had heard the worst things about how minorities were treated at SCSU," Ezike said. "I chose to come here to see for myself. There is always room for improvement, but things have definitely gotten better during my time here."
Yet the headline writer only emphasizes Davis' criticism. Why is that?

Third, why does citizenship matter? Is he really proposing that an African student born in Africa counts less for "diversity" than an African-American? What is the basis for this claim? I get the cultural differences, but if you're going to argue for multiculturalism the contributions of an African are as valuable as those of an African-American.

Last, did someone say "Mike Davis"?


6th CD forum, from behind the podium 

Though apparently my sportcoat sucked* -- clothes and I are barely on speaking terms since I don't like shopping for them and they don't like looking good on me -- I thoroughly enjoyed moderating the Sixth CD GOP forum at the Mermaid in Mounds View. Note to vegetarians -- they have a nice veggie burger in there (get the steak fries with it!), and we'll chalk up slow service this time to an aberration.

Everyone has complimented Andy of Residual Forces and KvM for the event. You have no idea how hard it is to pull something like that off. He sweat every detail, and when asked about one he resweated it. (I'm claiming that as a new verb: "resweat, v., to lay awake at night going over again each detail of an event you are putting on that nobody you know has done before.") The only hitch was bad mics, which were the venue's responsibilty and not his. And given that Tony did a great job with a recap of who said what -- go there! -- the mics weren't that bad. Sorry to everyone I saw before the event but not after, as we had all the candidates on NARN and then I recapped the event for the rest of the hour. Strommie's food was gone, and bless Andy if he didn't feed me with the aforementioned veggie burger.

Front row was bloggers row, with the gang from Freedom Dogs and Ben of Hammerswing75 (or, given his note perhaps we should call him hammerschwing!) Lots of cameras around was a little daunting. We economists don't get many cameras to an Midwest Economics Association meeting.

Anyway, how was it you wonder? The links from the bloggers above and from Eva here will give you the who-said-what. I talked with Tony and Marty on Race to the Right for an hour about this today, as well as the instant reaction on NARN yesterday. Just a couple more thoughts, though.

You have to be impressed with Krinkie's presentation and debate skills. Tony and I noted on R2R that he has notecards that clearly indicate a forensics background. He was easily the most prepared person on the stage. Polish requires preparation.

Living in St. Cloud means I've heard Knoblach in a number of places, and one of the impressions people have of him is that he's a rather dry technocrat. He shed one of those images yesterday. I hardly recognized this guy with the forward lean, the more forceful voice, and a purpose to his statements. That said, he still is emphasizing competency over vision. Competence appeals to the moderate voter who is wary of anyone with ideology -- but those people weren't in the room. If you want the candidate who fits well with Governor Pawlenty, I think he's the one.

I was standing closest to Bachmann and Esmay, and the vibes were very different. Esmay had a built-in advantage in the forum because nobody expects him to do well. He's the neophyte, the amateur, hopping in the ring with three seasoned veterans; all he has to do is look like he belongs up there. He did better than that. He was asked the first question first -- will you abide by the convention's endorsement. Hand him the mic. "Yes," and hands it back. That followed up well with his "I'm not a politician, and neither were Kennedy and Kline when they won this job" opener. And as Tony notes, he hit the last question on what values he would never betray -- sleep** -- like David Ortiz hits hanging sliders. He not only showed he belonged up there, but he found a message that has traction. That does not mean he wins the endorsement, but it does mean he has enough to stick around to the convention.

Michele Bachmann is held to a different standard than the other candidates. Some of that is of her own making, for being outspoken and brash elevates both expectations and the desire of your opponents to knock you down. But some of it is others' reaction to things she says that are rather innocuous. A couple of people referred to her using "girly talk", and who can forget the darn "Vote for Pedro" attire? Well, so what? Her sex is a distinction in the race, and what on earth is the problem with her using it? It didn't bother me at all. What did strike me was that she seemed a little defensive and not as brassy as I remember her in studio or elsewhere. It wasn't nerves -- Esmay was more nervous, naturally since he hasn't done this as much -- but just a sense that this wasn't her A game. And that may be the expectations problem even with me, because you do expect her to be charming and charismatic ... and those who really like her gave her great reviews anyway. So she was bound to be the person on whom there would be the greatest divergence of opinion.

It's a four-way race here, and the forum served to show some real distinctions between the candidates. Since all four say they will abide by the endorsement, I won't get to vote a preference that matters. I'm glad for that: It'll be a hard choice for delegates.

* -- this comment because the four candidates went out of their way in closing statements to compliment Andy's suit.
** -- this is also my management style: If a decision I made in the department wakes me up at 4am, it's a pretty good sign that this was abad decision. I've slept well the last three years.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Peter Drucker passes away 

The man who coined "management by objective, Peter Drucker, has died at age 95. He was a giant at Claremont when I studied there and contributed to the academic community into his 90s. Claremont has a page with further biographical information.

Justice Department opens battle on race-based fellowships 

The U.S. Justice Department plans to sue Southern Illinois University over three fellowship programs reserved for minority-group members or women. Among the three programs being challenged is one that is financed by the National Science Foundation and operated according to NSF guidelines, university officials say.

In a November 4 letter to the university, Bradley J. Schlozman, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said his agency would file a lawsuit against the Southern Illinois University system's Board of Trustees and administration by November 18, based on its finding that the system has "engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against whites, nonpreferred minorities, and males."
This is front of today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscriber permlink, here's a temp good for five days). The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the university is seeking a discussion and defends the practice. It also has a description of the fellowships called into question.
FELLOWSHIP: Bridge to the Doctorate
Started: 2004
Award: $30,000 stipend, plus $10,500 for education expenses
Purpose: "For underrepresented minority students to initiate graduate study in science, technology, engineering and math.''
Budget: $985,000
Number of awards since inception: 24 (19 blacks, 5 Latino, 1 Native American)

FELLOWSHIP: Proactive Recruitment and Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow
Started: 2000
Award: Tuition waiver and $1,200 monthly stipend
Purpose: "To increase the number of minorities receiving advanced degrees in disciplines in which they are underrepresented.''
Budget: $158,000
Awards since inception: 78 (61 blacks, 14 Latinos, 1 Asian, 2 Native Americans)

FELLOWSHIP: Graduate Dean's
Started: 2000
Award: Tuition waiver, $1,000 monthly stipend
Purpose: "For women and and traditionally underrepresented students who have overcome social, cultural or economic conditions.''
Budget: $67,000
Awards since inception: 27 (16 whites, 7 blacks, 4 Latinos)
The effect of this would be sweeping, as I believe you could find such programs at most universities in America.


Weekend appearance 

I will be moderating the CD 6 Republican Forum tomorrow at The Mermaid in Mounds View. I think we've got the questions lined up for the four U.S. Congressional candidates, and they look to provide for lively discussion. We should be able to get all the candidates on air for NARN after the event, so if you can't make it listen in after 2pm.

Football -- calling a couple more shots 

I skipped last week because of work and lack of preparation, but this week we're back after a week where I was 2-1, but the loss was my big pick. So we start the bankroll at $1005 after the winnings on the two good picks. We're back with four more, including three road teams. The last two games here are as good bets as I've seen in a month.
  1. Cowboys (-3) at Eagles. I liked this game a lot when it went up, but so has everyone else. At Sportsbook it currently is running Cowboys -3 -125, Eagles +3 +105, which in short is making everyone pay for the half-point the book refuses to move. Even without the T.O. distraction, you have the Cowboys getting Julius Jones back, giving them two good backs to pound Philadelphia like Denver did. I'm unconvinced that the Eagles can stop the run. I'm going to take this game still for the Cowboys, but the price makes me go light. Bet $12.50 to win $10 on the Cowboys, laying three to the Eagles on Monday night.
  2. Packers at Falcons (-9.5). The Packers are quite simply snakebit, both by injuries and by a few close losses. Their last road game was the lighter bet for me two weeks ago against the Bengals. They are getting the same line from a team that hasn't the passing game the Bengals have, and they have the two ends that can box in Vick like the Jets did on Monday night a few weeks ago. The way things have gone for the green and gold, they'll lose on a last-second field goal, but no way is this going to be a blowout. Bet $33 on the Packers, getting nine-and-a-half in Atlanta. (I'm sure there'll be an OPG sighting after that.)
  3. Chiefs at Bills (-2.5). This line makes no sense. Sure, the Chefs are missing their Priest, but he's not been the best RB in KC when healthy this season. The Bills can't defense the run, and while they should be able to score on the Chiefs, they will give up at least 2 TDs to Larry Johnson. Bet $55 on the Chiefs, getting 2.5 at Buffalo.
  4. St. Louis at Seattle (-6.5). I thought Joe Vitt was the Lakers' trainer. What's he doing on the sidelines in St. Louis? If I didn't own LaDainian in fantasy football, I'd join everyone jumping on the Shawn Alexander bandwagon. Think Seattle doesn't remember that the Rams cost them a chance at the NFC title last year? This is a revenge game, and the Rams may or may not have their offensive weapons in place after a long absence -- so even if they're there, they're rusty. The Seahawk defense is underrated, too. Bet $55 on the home Seahawks against the Rams.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ward's jury and voir dire 

Jim Paine's site, PirateBallerina, which has been the site for all things Ward Churchill for almost a year, has been in a running battle with one member of the committee appointed to investigate and report on the allegations of academic fraud and misconduct. His coverage focused on Bruce Johansen, who has emailed Paine increasingly hostile messages, while Jim simply continues to report what he finds.

Game, set, match. Prof. Johansen has left the committee, though not without an unapologetic letter on his way out the door.

Here's Jim's review of all five (now four) members of the committee.

You're going to have to give me a bigger clue 

Because I write sometimes about education in Minnesota the folks at EdWatch email me their press releases. Some of them I agree with, some I don't, and a few make me scratch my head. Enter this in the last category:

...many school districts are now quietly adopting IB because federal grant money is available to offset some of the costs. State legislatures are also passing funding measures to offset the additional IB costs. Taxpayers always pay the extra cost, however, regardless of which pot it is taken from. Please discuss these issues with other parents, your local school boards, and legislators.

Talking points include the fact that IB curriculum is set by an international body. Student tests are forwarded to Geneva, Switzerland for scoring, and a foreign data base collects and stores the personal, values-laden data on individual American students. IB is an outrageous violation of local control. It also teaches the value of global citizenship.

Here's the press release they attached from some other group that gives us the talking points. I'm supposed to be worried that we are sending exams to Geneva? Local control doesn't seem to me to preclude "contracting out" for some services like standardized testing. I am not seeing what the issue is.

I should also note that Minnesota has just passed a law that requires MnSCU to accept IB for college credit. This is a concern for us in that we don't yet know what those courses cover, and whether the credits will apply to particular courses. Can you use this, for example, to substitute for an American Government class that starts the Political Science major?

You'd think they'd make the local connection 

In the college paper's wrap-up of the local school board race, wouldn't you think that the paper would make note that two of the four school board members elected Tuesday night work at SCSU? Or that the mayor-elect is a graduate of the school? (I believe outgoing Mayor Ellenbecker is a Johnnie.) And the loser was not well served by the quote obtained from a College Democrat:
Ellenbecker has admitted before that he is not a good campaigner. Given that he didn't campaign as much as Kleis, I think he did pretty well. It was a close election."
5806 to 4826 is close? Wonder what math course she took?

And in the whoops! department, a transpose error flipped the result of the school board race. The eventual winner is the university's athletic facilities director.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The first rule of being in the hole 

Andy writing at Kennedy v. The Machine says Governor Pawlenty had two messages in his presentation to Minnesota Republicans.
  1. Republicans are on the ropes because we didn't stick together with him this summer
  2. fiscal conservatives are going to blow it for him if they don't shut up.
Governor, if you think you're in the hole, why are you still digging?

Hugh Hewitt is offering advice to Governor Schwarzenegger. Money quote:
As Nixon often remarked: You can't win with just the conservatives, but you cannot win without them.

Read him, Governor Pawlenty. Take his advice, and when you win next year empty the closet and give him all the awards you have. He's writing to Arnold, but he's speaking to you.

First Wednesday is the Times' best day 

Why? Because we get Dick Andzenge's column, which this week lays out the firestorm that occured here last month (as I discussed here.) Read the whole thing, but here's the conclusion:
Some of us have long argued that rather than simply fighting to control the bigotry of a certain few, the university should aspire to teach across-the-board acceptance and appreciation of all people, and seek to eradicate all forms of bigotry, including that which is practiced by those who have been hurt by it.

I have frequently argued that pointing out the racism of others does not mitigate or negate the racist beliefs or attitudes that may be held by the persons doing the pointing. All humans are capable of racism � even those within legislatively protected classes.

It is unfair to assume that there is something sinister about "particular Jewish faculty" having a strong connection with the provost and that such a relationship constitutes an attempt to minimize the dean.

As crude and childish as this assumption sounds, the university can only prevent it by emphasizing universal acceptance and condemning all forms of bigotry.

Yet, a week after McKay resigned and while the university was investigating insensitive racist comments in an anonymous research questionnaire, members of the student group MECHa, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, staged a hate exercise of stringing up and beating an effigy of Christopher Columbus until he was dead amid jeers and cheers of students enjoying the spectacle.
Yes, you remember correctly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A speck of red 

Just got back from the Kleis victory party, which was a victory for Dave Kleis, winning 5,799 to 4,838 for incumbent John Ellenbecker. Kleis gave a rather folksy acceptance speech, thanking supporters and recalling his first run for mayor in 1989 when, as a college student, he got a whopping 96 votes and finished eighth. He still has the bottle of Vouvray he bought for that evening sixteen years ago.

I'd like to note that both representatives of District 15, Jim Knoblauch and Joe Opatz, came to the Kleis gathering. Particularly in Opatz' case, there was no reason other than respect and friendship with Kleis, since Joe is a DFLer and leaving the Legislature. I thought that a great touch of class, but that's unsurprising from him.

Quick out 

Long evening ahead, but first I'd like to alert you to the fact that two other MOBsters of the Cloudy Way have had letters published in the local paper this week.

From Gary of Let Freedom Ring writes today of the Online Freedom of Speech Act.
The truth is that campaign finance reform is best titled as Incumbents� Protection Act because it silences citizen journalists from expressing their opinions while giving the major media a complete pass on expressing their agenda-driven opinions.

From Leo the Psycmeister, asking what's next for the Supreme Court post-Miers and pre-Alito:
The genius of the original wording and intent of the Constitution resides in the fact that the Constitution is in and of itself a moral and just framework for governance. Adherence to the Constitution in making and in interpreting law will in and of itself lead to a moral and just society. Get originalists on the Supreme Court. The rest will take care of itself.
A burgeoning force of citizen journalists in St. Cloud! After St. Paul finishes imposing its bolshevik city income tax, some of our St. Paul-based brethren will consider joining our ranks.

That darn merit pay 

Skip Sauer finds a study that shows merit pay in universities leads to better students, more research funding and research cited more often. Says John Chant of Simon Frasier University, "A university's failure to put in place salary structures that provide incentives for productivity represents a breakdown of governance."

So who's responsible for that governance, administrators or faculty? With a unionized faculty??? A colleague of mine has threatened to do a study of the relationship of faculty research output and union activity. I bet we could get a faculty research grant to do it...from the union!


Update on categories 

I've managed to put the categories on the right margin (you'll need to scroll down to see them) along with the pages they draw from. From the pages you'll see RSS feeds with titles only. The drawback to that I've found is that you can't get it to take text -- it wants to save html links. I've managed to use this RSS-to-Javascript converter to get the feeds you see and just show titles. It accomplishes a couple of things, though: We now have recent posts by category, and a way to syndicate them. I'll be happy for any suggestions for improvement.


Stereotypes were dangerous to her 

I think Liz has picked up on my post on men and women in academia, and has done me one better by linking to this article from the weekend, particularly about the Progressive Insurance commercial.
...caricatures exaggerate a feature to make it stand out more in amusement to others. For example, that Twins commercial where a guy is sitting on his couch watching a Twins game. He pretends to catch a ball, he makes a mess of things and is having a great old time. That is funny because it exaggerates a trait that a lot of men have. The Progressive commercial is meant to show that men need women to get them out of trouble. This is wrong.
The problem in dealing with issues such as the man who believes he was sexual harrassed by the lesbian supervisor (in the STrib story) is that we do not perceive men as possibly being harrassed. Why? Because our fine academic institutions insist that only (white) men can have power and therefore only they can be harrassers. This is a caricature, the use of a stereotype, thinking of a class of individuals rather than separate individuals separately situated. It is the refusal to think of individuals as such.

Liz' personal story also involves stereotypes, insofar as her other friends could not see her harrasser as anything other than some geeky guy in a Christian group. To be taken as an individual means acting as an individual and accepting the responsibility that comes with it. Read her post and understand why it matters.

What is a wage? 

Loyal reader (and #1 post idea contributor) jw notes an interesting column in the STrib yesterday on the wages women charge as contractors or business owners. The point of the story: women charge less for their work than men do, both because they like the job more and want to control better who they work for.
Those new to the small, mom-and-pop business world, including women, don't always have a lot of background on pricing, said Harriet Lessy of Buzz Communications, an executive training program in Philadelphia.

"They may charge less to attract new clients and expand their base and then realize they're too busy to handle all of the business due to undercharging. Pricing comes with experience," Lessy said.

That's something that Lee Wile, 39, owner of TLC Electronics Repair in Minneapolis, struggles with. Even Chris Dlugosz of Minneapolis, a longtime TLC customer, says TLC's prices are very reasonable. Maybe too reasonable. He's concerned that Wile may be too generous. He's amazed at her tenacity and her ability to find solutions to problems in vintage electronics pieces.

"Other repair places wouldn't take the time to dive into circuit diagrams like she does," he said. "More people should discover [TLC] for the kind of quality work they do."
So there are a couple of things going on here. First, word of mouth is the best advertising possible, so building a client base that generates buzz about what you do is important. Attracting majors to an economics department isn't done with big posters with cost curves drawn on them. What helps most is word of mouth from other students, particularly when other departments see advising and recruiting as odious tasks, or as taxing their stretched resources.

Second, what if work environment matters more to one gender than the other? We may expect then that female contractors will be willing to "pay" for a better environment by accepting lower wages in return.
Bryson said too many women shortchange themselves by underestimating and underpricing their skills. She charges $60 an hour for small repair jobs relating to bathroom and kitchen tile, but isn't hurting for clients. Nor does she take every job that comes along. "I won't work for everybody who calls. If I'm going to spend time in someone's home and establish a relationship, it should be with people I enjoy," she said.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Assessments don't always add up 

We're constantly called on in the university to assess student outcomes, but our assessments don't necessarily match those that potential employers of our students offer. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education (temp link; perm link for subscribers) suggests our students are leaving without enough math and unable to communicate.

There is an "emerging consensus" among educators, business leaders, and accreditors on what skills all students should pick up as undergraduates, including good written and oral communication, a capacity for critical thinking, and the ability to work in teams. But the skimpy data available nationwide suggest that many students graduate with serious weaknesses in those areas, according to a report released on Friday.

The report, "Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College," was issued by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a national organization that promotes liberal education.

About one in ten of graduates are proficient at the highest reading levels, and 8% in math. Of course, the numbers have to be taken with caution but they are reinforced by business leaders:
That worry is reinforced by the almost unanimous views of business leaders, said Ross E. Miller, the association's director of programs and an author of the report. They "are reporting a weakness in certain skills, particularly in communications and mathematics," he said.

You could try to measure better, I suppose, as the report suggests. But some areas are difficult to measure and others are plagued by too many measures. As I was discussing last week businesses are already assessing our product -- they may wish we could somehow give them some assurances that graduates from XYZ State are proficient in certain subjects because the school is "accredited". But these individuals overstate what we can actually assess of what our students produce. Economics is exceptional insofar as we have national standardized exams with which we can make some statements. We don't have that in other disciplines, particularly those in the social sciences.

h/t: reader jw, who notes "this is my criticism of the liberal arts background of the students we get in business."

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Grace, use and being used 

I seldom participate in these battles about what appears in the STrib because I don't read it. If a MOB blogger finds it necessary to discuss some piece of tripe on its editorial page, or a non-Monkey column, I'll click through to read it, but I take most of it with the same grain of salt wise sports column readers take Sid Hartman.

But Saturday on NARN, Saint Paul brought up a column that day from Sarah Janacek that takes Katherine Kersten to task for her column that "commemorates" the anniversary of the Wellstone memorial service (Paulapalooza to some.) I thought it weird, and pulled up both articles.

What I saw was a train wreck, on several levels. Before I could finish both pieces, Janacek had already called the show to explain what she'd written and why. And her explanation was even less satisfying than the editorial.

Here are two levels. First, it is no secret that Kersten and Janacek were "finalists" for the slot of "conservative columnist" at the STrib. And, as Craig Westover notes in the link, they aren't from the same side of the conservative bell curve. So it's quite possible that these two would not see eye-to-eye on every issue. If Janacek still thinks of herself as a Republican and conservative, does she not realize that this column would be taken with glee by the Boydulent staff at the STrib, to be used against Kersten? "Look at them, they can't get along, why have these amateurs on our pages?" So message one to Sarah: You're being used. And your act is utterly graceless, appearing to be a sore loser.

Second, the appearance of her confession about appearing in Al Franken's book makes the remainder of her column almost maudlin. It reads as if she were using it as an apology for a comment she'd made (that she'd mistaken closed captioning for a teleprompter). If that was the use of this, it does a lousy job for it only serves to remind of an error I hadn't noticed (having made the decision that other books crowded out the time I would have taken to read Franken.)

And yet had she just stopped there -- "no, the memorial was spontaneous not staged" and her half-apology for confusing the texting of the speeches, that would be enough. But she decides to go further, as if she had a word limit to reach for a full column. To do so, she builds up to a single sentence to finish her piece. The crescendo begins here:

Wellstone curbed his combativeness and learned to argue respectfully with his political adversaries. He became one of the Senate's most elegant and passionate members, admired and respected by friends and foes alike. Paul Wellstone moved on.
That's not the Wellstone I remember. This is Pablo, after all. Elegant he was not. Passionate is fine, but it's not necessarily a virtue. Shouting "Stella!" is passionate, but makes for irate neighbors at 3am. Beria was principled.

To Kersten -- and others from both the right and the left -- who still obsess over what happened that night, do Minnesotans hungry for civility in our politics a favor. Accept what happened. Take that final step in the grieving process. Move on.
Does Janacek take the subway? We'd love to move on, but muttonheads at the Fair still wear their green shirts, and WWWD bumper stickers still appear on rusted Saabs near Mitch's house. Civility? Should we all just "move on" from Jim Boyd? Disarm if you like, but to me that sounds like appeasement. And it all builds so she can get off the one sentence:
As the bumper sticker says, "What would Wellstone do?"
...which is utterly sickening, a combination of treacle and sanctimony. Why Janacek would want to go the Chamberlain route is beyond me.

Conclusion: Turns out the STrib made the right choice of columnist.

Marching orders 

On my way to bed, checked mail, and saw a note from Psycmeister, reminding us to vote in Radioblogger's Crosley radio contest for Peace Like a River.

Noted. You are so instructed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What it takes to be a college president 

... is an ability to raise money.
In a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of nearly 1,400 four-year college presidents that was released this week, 22 percent described their previous job as nonacademic university vice president or a similar post.

A broader American Council on Education survey found 30 percent of college presidents in 2001 had never held a faculty position, up from 25 percent in 1986. About 15 percent came from outside academia, up from under 9 percent in 1998. Those numbers have likely increased since.
Does this really matter, that college presidents don't have academic backgrounds? As I teach my students, the best two words in economics are "it depends". You need someone who is an academic leader to make the difficult decisions on things like, for example, Ward Churchill. But there also has to be someone that has their eyes on the broader aspects of the university. There really is more to it than just being a scholar. Take the story Trevor found about UNC-Chapel Hill buying laptops for their less-well paid employees. That's a great example of someone thinking about something not really academic in nature, but understanding the core business of a university. A president as a leader builds a team that encourages actions like this; that skill doesn't depend on one's knowledge of Chaucer, Darwin or Milton Friedman.

Propagation, Katrina, and the waves of business cycles 

The jobs report came out this morning, and most observers are disappointed. The BLS report states that there are no direct effects from Hurricanes Katrina or Rita in the data anymore (though it's worth noting that BLS had to do a fair amount of revising of the previous numbers), and so people are concerned. What's going on?

Many years ago I thought about writing a book on business cycles and forecasting, since I teach a course by that name at SCSU. There are plenty of books on business forecasting, but ones that tie that to business cycle analysis are very few. The one that was out there was in its eighth edition and the original author getting quite old (now deceased). I never did publish the work I began, because midway through I decided there wasn't enough of a market. But it did get me to read a great deal of old business cycle literature, and today's report reminds me of something I wrote about then. I wrote this in 1990:

A theory of business cycles must contain two elements in order to explain real world phenomenon. The first of these is an impulse mechanism, which describes how an economy at equilibrium can be disturbed from that equilibrium. The second is a propagation mechanism that shows how the impulse imparts cycles on the economy that bring it back to equilibrium, since we do not observe that our economy diverges from equilibrium.[1] Knut Wicksell gives the example of a wooden rocking-horse being struck by a club. The club makes a strong single blow directly downward on the back of the rocking horse. It is the impulse that starts the rocking horse moving. But it is the bent wooden slats that give the horse its rocking motion. That motion is different from the motion of the club. Likewise in an economy, shocks themselves do not create cycles. They do not come in regular waves and do not have a similar influence on the economy at each wave. Some waves are much more pronounced than others, and some last longer than others. It is the impulse that generates the energy by which cycles are created. But it also requires a theory of market interconnections to describe how those shocks are transmitted into the economy.

[1]I have seen this story in many places, including the work of Ragnar Frisch. But my reading of it came from Gottfried Haberler, Prosperity and Depression. Geneva: League of Nations; 1937.

Could this be what we're seeing now with Katrina? Some are arguing that there are "indirect effects", but this quite misses the concept of propagation mechanisms. In short, the disruption of production and employment caused by the shock or impulse of a hurricane causes reactions in the relationships between these areas and those elsewhere in the economy with which they do business. It is imaginable that successive waves occur, though most likely these are smaller as time passes. But I think it unlikely this will be the last one.

Men and women in academia 

It is the wont of campus radicals to send email the announcement list on campus that contains largely political material. Some of our more conservative faculty will rail against this, but it's been my attitude to ignore it: It's cheaper for me to hit the delete key than to respond, and finding out that liberals think we should all think like they do isn't news and doesn't harsh my mellow. So one came today from Ms. magazine (a 2 MB pdf that will choke a few mailboxes and slow down some downloaders who still use phone lines) on the story that female students are now so in the majority on some university campuses that admissions offices are contemplating or actually undertaking affirmative action for males. (We've been there already.) I'll spare you the two megs -- it's subtitle is to the effect of "funny they only complain when they're the minority on campus." Etc. Discussion ensues from another female faculty member. This is her reaction, in full:
It reminded me of the large number of TV commercials a while back which showed men as incompetent or clueless in various situations. (Folding a stroller and putting it in the van...) Although I'm sure it's meant as a humorous stereotype, some of us do actually live with that guy. When I saw those commercials, I thought, "I'm not alone!" However, I also wondered, "Are men becoming less capable in our society in general?" I have achieved much more formal education than he has. Thank goodness I also earn more. If not, what did I go to college for? The article gave me a more balanced perspective on the situations I observed.
I at first thought she meant that Progressive commercial with the guy who didn't get multiple insurance quotes and the TV saying as he looks crestfallen "he dropped the ball". Mitch described it here and like Mitch I hate that commercial. But this email comment annoyed another faculty member who was felt he could not express himself as he is not a senior, tenured faculty member. He notes,
Hmmm, maybe I'm just a dumb male with less formal education and a lower salary,
but I think I was just slimed, discriminated against, and hated against by the above statement. Do I smell a little misandry in the air?

Or, maybe I'm just overly-sensitive.

Or, maybe I feel threatened because my image of male dominance is being questioned.

I know, I just need a little more sensitivity training. Maybe another workshop to tell me how I, as a white heterosexual male, am the root of all that is evil in the world.

Oops, forgot "evangelical Christian" as part of the description of my "evilness"!
Towards that end, I wonder how the two feminist faculty would feel about my former student Liz, who is a throwback to the old days of women going to college in search of a mate.

I chose a different path. I learned the ins and outs of my dorm oven and learned to cook a couple of meals and make several types of baked goods using these ovens. As I was telling my dad earlier today, I didn�t win Josh by my looks, but that I sent him chocolate chip cookies when he was at his two week National Guard training. Good looks only last a season, but the ability to make good chocolate chip cookies lasts a life time.

I say this somewhat in jest. I was looking for a husband in college, and I did use my cooking to attract men. But, I also treated men with respect and I expected respect in return. I was often treated better then their �girlfriends.� Not because I am personally all that good looking or whatever, but because I behaved myself like a lady and served my friends, both male and female, with Christ like love and honor.

Who do you think has a "more balanced perspective"? I wonder what Liz thinks of the Progressive ad? Mitch says,

But what does this tell boys in our society? "This is what you have to look forward to; a life of working away like a good little boy, but having your intelligence and dignity denigrated because of your gender". Combine that with the message boys get in schools - "Boyhood's natural exhuberance and competitiveness and energy are things that, with enough time and medication, we can overcome" - what do you think you'll get?

A situation even worse than the one we have, where boys make up less than half of college students, and where the lag in life expectancy between men and women
continues to grow.

The way popular culture, advertising, the media, the law and academia treat men in our society is a subject I've been wanting to find the time to write in vastly more detail about since the election. Much more advertising like this, and I think I'll find a way to make the time.

Well, Mitch, you wrote that ten months ago. Care to have another go?


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Vouchers not even for hurricane victims 

Remember a few weeks ago when we thought the Congress might make direct payments to parents whose children were displaced by Hurricane Katrina? Unfortunately, the education politburo appears to have worked their ol black magic and so reimbursement accounts were left out of the Education committee request. Three Republicans voted against this in committee because it looked too much like a federal voucher program: Reps. Judy Biggert of Illinois, Todd Platts of Pennsylvania and John (Randy) Kuhl of New York. (A fourth GOP member voted against it because he thought Louisiana should pick up the tab.) Let's hope the Republican leadership remembers how school choice is part of the force for good.

(h/t: Elizabeth.) Categories:

The price of college reflects supply and demand 

I find it interesting to hear congresspeople talk of college costs skyrocketing. Our own Congressman Mark Kennedy recently sent a letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, seeking an investigation into "skyrocketing" tuition costs.
At a time when we must be concerned about the continuing competitiveness of our educational system and the quality of our workforce, especially in math, science, and technology, Congress must examine why such immense tuition increases occur, and what can be done to make college more affordable for all Americans. Simply put, if our families are not able to afford higher education, the rest of the world will move ahead, while our nation will be left behind.

What's interesting to me is that enrollments have risen during the period of skyrocketing tuition, and particularly enrollments of eligible females (18-24, HS graduates, rose from 25% in 1967 to over 45% in 2000; male enrollments over the same period are roughly flat, but some of that may be due to the end of the draft and the desirability of the college deferment.) So if you want to understand why tuition costs (read: prices) have risen so much, there appears to be a simple answer: demand went up. This is compounded by the conclusion of many researchers that the return to the student of investment in higher education has risen.

Moreover, increases in student aid allow universities to raise tuition and revenue for itself while holding still the net cost to the student. Thus funds that have been pushed by Congress as middle-class transfer programs (like the Pell grant) may contribute to tuition increases. Aid does help get more students into school and gain degrees (cf Dynarski), but much of the money is captured by students who would have attended anyway.

Demand thus is rising for many reasons, while in many ways the technology of producing an educated student hasn't changed very much. Walk through a classroom hall on a campus and tell me where the productivity gains are. Sure, we project with PowerPoint, or have students with computers sending us email or engaged in an online experiment, but are we able to educate students cheaper than before? I would say no.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Testing delicious 

I'm trying to test using Technorati and delicious to create categories, since there are two aggregators that want parts of my blog but not all. Let's see what we have:
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StarTribune creates more "service learning" 

Did you know there was to be a nationwide protest against the war? No, probably not, unless you read the StarTribune.
More than 1,000 students, many of them from 40 Twin Cities area high schools, protested today against the war in Iraq and military recruiters on campus.

The crowd rallied at Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus before marching through campus, stopping traffic along Washington Avenue and ending up in front of the Army and Navy recruiting offices on Washington Avenue and Oak Street.

University Police Greg Hestness estimated the crowd at about 1,000 people. Protest organizer Ty Moore put the crowd closer to 1,500. Hundreds of people stood to the side as the students marched past, taking photographs or making cell phone calls to friends. Some applauded. A group of 25 to 30 counter-protesters across the street blared "Stars and Stripes Forever" from a pickup truck.
Why do I think there's been an Inge sighting?
The walkout is part of a nationwide protest organized by Youth Against War and Racism. The Minnesota event includes the rally and march, followed by a teach-in.
No kidding? Let's see, should be in all the papers, right? Why, look, Ma, there's no other coverage. Freedom Dogs pick this up.
There is absolutely no publicity regarding this "national" event in Arizona. It's not on the national news either. It's almost as if the Star Tribune is in charge of marketing for the YAWF. Does the average high school student really care about this and does the average high school student read the Star Tribune? And just who is the YAWF?
It turns out they're from the same people that brought you International A.N.S.W.E.R. -- the Worker's World Party.

I can just see the headline -- Communists Sponsor 1000 Ferris Bueller Days Off.

A jury of his peers 

PirateBallerina does not like the look of the committee that is to investigate Ward Churchill.
Let's see... a feminist (and NPR talking head), a re-writer of American history (critiqued here), an anti-death penalty expert, an "Indian law" professor (and avid Churchill supporter)... Apparently, Russell Means, Glenn Morris, and Mumia Abu-Jamal were unavailable to serve.
Churchill is pleased.

Freedom to blog 

In about ninety minutes the House is taking up the Online Freedom of Speech Act. Redstate has the details. Minnesota's own congressman Mark Kennedy is a co-sponsor of the H.R. 1606 -- a one-sentence bill that is as powerful as it is simple.
To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to exclude communications over the Internet from the definition of public communication.

That's it. Nothing more to it. A bill that is co-sponsored in the Senate by Harry Reid and by Kennedy in the House? From what I'm told, this should take next to no time to pass. Hooray for the good guys.

cf.; Cato

UPDATE: From today's NYPost:

After all, when it comes to the Internet, money hardly translates into influence. Plenty of expensively produced Web sites are flops, while some of the most popular Web sites and blogs cost virtually nothing to run.

The real problem, it seems, is that the speech police don't like any speech that they
don't get to . . . well, police.

h/t: Instapundit.

Let's dispose of accreditation 

The National Association of Scholars has sent a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Education encouraging an investigation into two accrediting bodies. The Chronicle of Higher Education carries the story (five day temp link, permalink for subscribers.)

In a letter dated today, the association asks Sally L. Stroup, the department's
assistant secretary for postsecondary education, to investigate the National
Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council on Social Work
Education. Both accreditors, says the letter, urge universities to rate students
based on their commitment to "social justice."

In the case of teacher education, the letter says, the accreditor suggests that universities assess students' professional "dispositions." The council defines dispositions as "beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." While the accreditor doesn't explicitly
require universities to assess students' commitment to social justice, by listing it as a possibility the accreditor encourages universities to do so, Stephen H. Balch, president of the scholars' association, wrote in the letter.

That is problematic, he says, because social justice is an "ideological" term that encourages teacher-education programs to adopt "what appears to be a political viewpoint test for students."

We've talked about cases at Brooklyn College and Washington State with this. NAS is also pursuing the Council on Social Work Education for requiring programs that seek its accreditation "ensure that students work to 'advance social and economic justice'."

Accreditation is a rent-seeking device. By limiting the number of "accredited" universities these bodies reduce competition and push up the prices received by those universities that have accreditation. Because faculty often cannot get money directly as the gains from this rent-seeking, they take it in other forms. One of these is the use of the accreditation process to pursue ideological goals in teaching. To end rent-seeking, we should end the requirement that teachers and social workers must come with degrees from accredited agencies. It is simply another way for Leviathan government to perpetuate itself.

cf. Richard Vedder, Colleges: Is Government Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's all about process, not output 

So says the principal of Wayzata Central Middle School.
I think that sometimes too much emphasis is put on the final product (grades) and not enough attention is given to the process by which we arrive at that point...
Scholar the Owl provides the story, and notes that student scores from Wayzata high schools score very well in standardized tests. No offense to the principal, but the reason I emphasize grades is that it's more often a measure of effort than talent, and I need to know my children are making the effort. Learning to give effort when it's your time to give it is both process and achievement.

Irrational unexuberance 

At breakfast today were three quite smart people -- a CPA, a restauranteur, and a pastor. One of them asked me if the Fed would raise interest rates today. My answer was "bet the farm". All three reacted with alarm and wondered how Greenspan could not get it, that their portfolios were threatened and ability to raise working capital harmed. They were utterly stunned when I said it was a foregone conclusion.

William Polley says the question isn't the increase, it's the language.
"Measured pace"? Probably. Chalk it up to inertia. The phrase has been there so long that it will take compelling evidence that the rate hikes are about to pause. In the last few weeks, that evidence has dried up. Will there be a change in the risk assessment? That's a tough one. On the strength of the GDP report and given the inflation numbers, I think a stronger case can be made for tipping the risk assessment towards higher inflation. But I'm not sure the Fed really wants to put that out there at this point.
I think the information on commodity prices would do it as well. Look at gold or oil, or the CRB index. The price levels remain high. Yet if oil prices were going to continue to rise in the future you'd expect more investment from oil companies, and James Hamilton is quite persuasive that this is not happening. I wonder if that makes him or me an inflation dove?

Here's the point to my three friends, though: The market already expects these rates to continue to rise, with almost 100% probability of a 4.5% Fed funds rate by March. And thus their portfolios will not suffer further from the announcement that should come in an hour or two. As Polley and Tim Duy note, it's what happens after Bernanke takes over that is up in the air.

UPDATE: Tried to publish this at noon, it finally posted at 1:15. And of course now we know they did go up a quarter-point. Polley calls it right on the "measured" language.
The Committee perceives that, with appropriate monetary policy action, the
upside and downside risks to the attainment of both sustainable growth and price
stability should be kept roughly equal. With underlying inflation expected to be
contained, the Committee believes that policy accommodation can be removed at a
pace that is likely to be measured.
And of course Blogger is still being crappy.

UPDATE 2: Money magazine is saying that "the end of 'measured' is at hand." Maybe after the next move in December to 4.25% (I'm moving my chips in now). Bill Polley says 50-50.

College presidents and politics: more conservative than the faculty 

The results of a survey in The Chronicle of Higher Education (temp link, permalink for subscribers) says university presidents who self-identify as Democrats outnumber those who self-identify as Republicans by two-to-one. And the difference matters in their perceptions of campus issues:
The survey shows that presidents' political identities make a significant difference in where they stand on admissions and several other college policies.

For instance, Democratic college presidents are more likely than Republican presidents to favor the use of gender, race, and socioeconomic status in admissions, according to the survey. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support considering a student's ability to pay full tuition when weighing applicants.

On other issues, the survey reveals that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to favor lifting restrictions on the use of federal funds for research that involves human embryonic stem cells, to believe that institutions should be able to ban military recruiters on campus because of policies on gay and lesbian enlistees, and to want colleges to be able to provide emergency contraception to students who seek it.

Republicans, meanwhile, are more likely than Democrats to say that college campuses have become less open to diverse points of view than in the past. Almost 31 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats say campuses have become less open to various views.

Over all, just over one-quarter of all presidents in the survey say campuses have become less open. Slightly more, about 31 percent, believe they have become more open.
I'd call that last poll result heartening, since this blog began as the result of a perception of less openness on campuses. If presidents are coming around to share that view, great.

As we've seen before, faculty D-to-R ratios run much closer to 5 or 6 to one, so a 2-1 ratio among presidents makes them a more conservative group. It also explains much campus agitation.

Survey details. Hat tip: reader jw.

New course requirements 

An ad for a campus group wanting to put on a garage sale to raise money for Katrina victims -- a very noble endeavor, 11/18-19 at the Fingerhut center on Ridgewood Road here in St. Cloud -- asks this question of students:
Do you need to fulfill academic course volunteer hours?
What does "fulfill academic course volunteer hours" mean? You are required to volunteer? Isn't that a contradiction? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

If what they mean is service learning, they should be clearer. And I would have thought service learning meant a particular project designed to enhance a classroom. Setting up a garage sale takes some skill (take it from someone whose parents are antique dealers), but what is gained by just having students volunteer any ol' place?

How do you categorize Scholars? 

I asked the proprietor of Economics Roundtable -- an excellent aggregator of economics blogs -- whether he would include this site in his aggregation. But alas, he thinks we have too much non-economics to allow us on, and therefore I need categories so he can pull the econ stuff out from the non-econ stuff. I've looked a couple of options for this to use with Blogger, which doesn't have categories naturally built in. They are mostly kludgy hacks with using or echoing blogs. What I'd like is something that would allow me to pull down a category list. Ideas appreciated.

Local campaigns 

I did not mention yesterday that I had published a letter in the local paper in support of Dave Kleis for mayor. It's not my intention to use this blog to campaign for specific individuals (more on this in a related post later today.) Undoubtedly I have not loved the mayor here on this blog or elsewhere; I wrote supporting Dave in part for that and in part because I know him from being one of my students and watching him grow as an adult here. That said, I will . If I write more about Ellenbecker in the next week, you know where I'm coming from.

But this morning's paper has news that the Kleis campaign has raised nearly $30,000 and has $15,000 in the bank. That's three times what Ellenbecker raised, and he's down to about $1000 in cash on hand.

Locally, there's a school board candidate who has yard signs with the slogan "How are the children?" That's weird -- it sounds like the start of a ransom call.