Free Markets, Free People

Academia

“Check your premise”

One of the first things you learn when you’re putting an argument forward is to check the premise of your argument to ensure it is valid.  Obviously if it isn’t, then you end up battling a straw man and looking like a bit of a fool.

We have a practical example of not checking your premise (that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt- in fact it may be a case of creating a false premise on purpose) in the New York Times today by a professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University.  Professor Cline writes an op/ed there in which he attempts to prove that climate change doomed the ancients and that the history of that time replicates the danger we face at this time.

Uh, ok.  But, of course, that’s not the real purpose of his history lesson as soon becomes evident.  It is to take a political shot at “climate deniers” by using Senator James Inhofe  as a proxy for AGW skeptics – without ever naming them as such:

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.

The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”

But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.

Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad.

Note how he switches from “global warming” to “climate change” – a term he will use throughout the rest of his article.  He knows “global warming” has become a loaded term.  But it is clear, the premise he is putting forward is that Senator Inhofe is denying the climate is changing and calling it all a hoax.

But, in fact, Senator Inhofe has never denied “climate change”.  Who would?  Our climate changes – constantly.  Instead,  what he has denied is that man is causing it.  He’s been quite clear about that.

Inhofe, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, does not believe that human activities cause climate change.

[...]

“I have to admit—and, you know, confession is good for the soul… I, too, once thought that catastrophic global warming was caused by anthropogenic gases—because everyone said it was.” [emphasis mine]

That’s right – everyone said it was.  And some never bothered to investigate it themselves, but took it on faith that the nonsense being touted was factual and true.  But subsequent study of the actual science, not that which had been manipulated (and now discredited), as well as the history of temperature change in the last 17 years (it hasn’t changed) vs what the models said would happen, have led him and many others to believe the entire basis of AGW was flawed and a “hoax”.

Go figure.

By leaving out the fact that Inhofe thinks that ” man made” climate change is a “hoax”, Cline creates a false premise – that Inhofe doesn’t believe climate change is real.  And by addressing only “climate change”, he then can attempt to make Inhofe look like a science denier who isn’t acting in the best interest of our nation and our military.  By doing that he marginalizes Inhofe.

So why would Senator Inhofe call a report on the impact of climate change on our national security a hoax if we all know the climate always changes and, at some point in the future, could indeed impact our national security?  He probably wouldn’t.  He didn’t call it a hoax for that reason.  He called it a hoax because of a couple of paragraphs in the report’s executive summary that clearly, if not implicitly, put AGW to the fore as the reason for this climate change as well as calling for emissions to be limited:

“Scientists around the globe are increasing their confidence, narrowing their projections, and reaffirming the likely causes of climate change.  As described in Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Assessment: “Heat trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate related impacts over the next few decades.  The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat trapping gasses emitted globally, now and in the future.”

And:

Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are emerging in various places around the world, but the extent of these efforts to mitigate and adapt to the projections are insufficient to avoid significant potential water, food and energy insecurity; political instability; extreme weather events; and other manifestations of climate change.  Coordinated, wide-scale and well-executed actions to limit heat-trapping gasses and increase resilience to help prevent and protect against the worst projected climate change impacts are required – now.

Obviously you can’t stop or limit the “amount of heat trapping gasses” emitted by nature, so what gasses are the authors talking about here? Why what else – those emitted by man.  IOW, they’ve carefully danced around not saying “man-made global warming” but it is precisely what they’re talking about.  And that, given the evidence now available in the present, is what Inhofe is calling a hoax.

Cline lays out his history lesson based on this false premise.  As far as the history goes, meh, it’s okay.  I’m not sure it proves much of anything concerning whether or not this was happening globally, but the regional change obviously had an effect.  A hint that it was a regional phenomenon is found in one of Cline’s paragraphs:

While sea levels may not have been rising then, as they are now, changes in the water temperature may have been to blame for making life virtually unlivable in parts of the region.

Guess the glaciers and such located around the globe must have been pretty stable, even while all this was going on in the area noted, huh?

Anyway, he concludes with this little gem:

We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an “increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture” in which “political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.”

But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own.

And there it is.  While refusing to call it “man-made global warming” through the entire piece,  his last few words give away the game [emphasis mine].  He’s just another pedantic alarmist using a false premise to try to attack someone who disagrees with the obviously flawed “consensus”.  Somehow he thinks relating a cyclical climate event from centuries ago where man obviously couldn’t have influenced it even if he tried to what is happening (or  not happening in reality) today somehow makes a compelling case.  You know, it couldn’t just be the same cause that precipitated the events back then coming to visit us again could it?  Nope, it has to be man.

This guy is teaching your children folks.  And this is the quality of his work.  The irony is he just prostituted his academic credibility to take a political shot at someone – and missed.

~McQ

College professor calls for jailing climate “deniers”

It never fails.  At some point, the mask slips among the “tolerant” members of academia and we are exposed to their real controlling and authoritarian face.  Over the past few weeks there have been two good examples of this.  At Harvard, we had senior Sandra Korn (“a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator”, whatever that might be) declare that academic freedom is an outdated concept and that “academic justice” is a much better concept:

In its oft-cited Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the American Association of University Professors declares that “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.” In principle, this policy seems sound: It would not do for academics to have their research restricted by the political whims of the moment.

Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

Tolerance of ideas you don’t like or agree with?  Forget about it.  Instead, refuse to fund research that doesn’t conform to your agenda and we’ll call that “academic justice”.  Feel a little chill?

Now we have an assistant professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology who would like to see those who disagree with him on climate change put in jail.  Apparently freedom of thought and speech and the right to disagree are outdated concepts as well.  Eric Owens at the Daily Caller brings us up to date:

The professor is Lawrence Torcello. Last week, he published a 900-word-plus essay at an academic website called The Conversation.

His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a “campaign funding misinformation.” Such a campaign, he argues, “ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, explains that there are times when criminal negligence and “science misinformation” must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says, is one of those times.

Throughout the piece, he refers to the bizarre political aftermath of an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, which saw six scientists imprisoned for six years each because they failed to “clearly communicate risks to the public” about living in an earthquake zone.

“Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain,” the assistant professor urges.

“Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone,” Torcello argues, but evil “financiers” of a “denialist campaign” “funded an organised [sic] campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made.”

“I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism,” Torcello asserts.

No mention of the current, well documented funding of global warming alarmism (Al Gore, call your booking agent).  No mention of the science that counters many of the claims of alarmists. No mention of the unexplained 15 year temperature pause.  In fact, no mention of anything that might derail his argument.  But that’s par for the course among alarmists, and Torcello is certainly one of them.  And, as he makes clear, he will not tolerate deniers because they’re not only wrong, they’re criminals:

Torcello says that people are already dying because of global warming. “Nonetheless, climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.”

As such, Torcello wants governments to make “the funding of climate denial” a crime.

“The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.”

Of course the reason he’s so upset is this new fangled thing called the internet has enabled anyone who is curious about the climate debate to actually see both sides of the argument layed out before them.   For the alarmists, that has inconveniently helped a majority of people realize that the science behind the alarmism is weak at best and fraudulent in some cases.  It has also helped them understand that the alarmist science that Torcello wants enshrined as “truth” was gathered from deeply flawed computer models and fudged data.  And, it has also let the voices of dissenting scientists be heard.  Finally, this ability for the public to weigh the arguments has found most of the public viewing climate change as a minor problem at best.

Torcello would like to make all of that a crimnal activity based simply on his belief that the alarmist argument is the accurate argument.  He’d jail the heretics and deny the public the opposing argument.  This is what you’re reduced to when you have no real scientifically based counter-arugment and are just pushing a belief.

The Torcellos of the world once tried to do this to a man named Gallileo.  And we know how that worked out.

It is always easy to wave away those like Torcello and claim they’re an anomoly.  But it seems we see more and more of them popping up each day.  The struggle to gain and maintain freedom is a daily struggle.  It is the Torcellos and the Korns of the world who would – for your own good, of course – be happy to help incrementally rob you of your freedoms.  They must be called out each and every time they do so and exposed for what they are.

~McQ

Elizabeth Warren: Poster woman for progressivism

If ever there was a poster woman for progressivism, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren fills the bill.  Known as “Fauxahontas” for using fake indian credentials to cash in on minority preferences, she has taken the Ted Kennedy Senate seat from the hapless Scott Brown and is now on target to out-liberal the liberal Lion.

One of the more interesting things to do with her is to disect her thinking via reading what she has to say about certain subjects.  It gives  one a good peek behind the curtain and into the “progressive” mind.  For instance, here she is talking about the school loan program the government unilaterally took over:

Right now, in order to finance the United States government, we take in billions of dollars of profits for student loans, but permit billionaires to have enough loopholes that they pay at tax rates that can be lower than those of their secretaries.

This is a straightforward choice: We can take $75 billion and either way we’ll use it to protect tax loopholes for billionaires or $75 billion can be used to help students to refinance their outstanding student loan debt. It’s billionaires or students.

This particular quote is instructive in so many ways.  First, note how she makes the point that government “permits” billionairs to keep their money via loopholes.  Obviously she believes that’s something that shouldn’t be permitted, but more importantly in infers a belief that everything you earn belongs to government.  The student loan program is simply an excuse for taking it if she has her way.  If it weren’t that, it would be something else.  But bottom line she believes government has a right to that money in the name of  … well you call it – fairness?  Equality?  Whatever.

Secondly, what is the problem right now in terms of the cost of schooling?  The price is to high.  How does one get the price down?  Competiton.  That and you don’t subsidize the cost and lay off the cost of that subsizidation on students.  If there is limited competition and vast subsidization, what is the incentive for colleges and universities to cut costs to compete for students?

That’s right, none.  So what the government program that she wants to tax billionaires for is doing is helping to sustain, maintain and grow the higher education bubble.

Heritage’s Brittany Corona, a research assistant in education policy, has criticized the federal government’s involvement in the student-loan business, citing, in particular, the unknown long-term costs to taxpayers.

“Continuing to expand higher education subsidies through subsidized federal student loans and grants does nothing to put pressure on colleges to lower costs,” Corona warned. “In fact, access to easy money does the opposite, enabling universities to raise prices, knowing students can return to the federal trough for more financing.”

Sound familiar at all?  Have we had previous experience with this sort of nonsense in the last 5 or 6 years?

When this bubble pops and collapses, I’m sure the Warren’s of the world will find some “private” boogyman to blame it on.  But in reality, it will again be a government program that fueled the expansion of the bubble and the eventual collapse.

And the students?  Well, they’ll still be on the hook to pay for their overpriced education for the rest of their lives, regardless of the interest rate.

~McQ

That outdated concept called “academic freedom”

“Outdated” because it confilicts with liberalism.  Here’s a senior at Harvard’s view:

In its oft-cited Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the American Association of University Professors declares that “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.” In principle, this policy seems sound: It would not do for academics to have their research restricted by the political whims of the moment.

Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

And what is it called when one promotes the quashing of dissenting views that they find to conflict with their ideas?

Call is “social justice” or whatever you choose, it is plain old, Brand X “oppression”.

That’s right.  Every oppresive regime in the history of our world has been intolerant of dissent and has taken action to quash it.  Here we see the same old tired argument presented by a liberal to further the cause of liberalism.  Don’t want to hear any dissenting voices, oh no.

And yet this newly trained “scholar” presents this as if it is a brand-new, brightly minted and spectacular idea. She’s a senior at Harvard and “is a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator”.

No kidding. What a surprise. There seems to be quite a concentration of potential oppressers in that particular field of study. There certainly seems to be a dearth of critical thinkers however (she probably comes from the school of “it hasn’t worked properly yet because I haven’t been in charge”).  It’s a pity she didn’t take a run-of-the-mill world history course or two to see who else in the past has shared that bright idea with her.  Past hell, there’s are entire countries which have implemented that exist now.

China, Cuba and North Korea come to mind.

~McQ

Why today’s liberalism is a bankrupt fantasy

Make no mistake, Barack Obama is a failed liberal, who, given the chance to advance the liberal agenda, has hopefully, at the very least, crippled it for years to come.

His poll numbers and the polling for ObamaCare tell the tale.

But why has he failed?  Well I think this offers a pretty fair explanation:

The president and the officials around him are the product of the same progressive version of higher education that simultaneously excises politics from the study of government and public policy while politicizing education. This higher education denigrates experience; exalts rational administration; reveres abstract moral reasoning; confidently counts on the mainstream press to play for the progressive political team; accords to words fabulous abilities to remake reality; and believes itself to speak for the people while haughtily despising their way of life.

The education President Obama received at Columbia University and Harvard Law School — and delivered to others as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School — encourages the fantasy of a political world subject to almost limitless manipulation by clever and well-orchestrated images. This explains why the harsh exigencies and intractable forces of politics keep stunning the president, each new time as if it were the very first.

We’ve now had 5 years to study the results of this particular product and they’re not very pretty are they?

We’ve  made these same points off and on for years.  We have a commenter who visits here fairly regularly that also exhibits the very traits outlined above and is a member of academia.  All anyone needs to do is read the nonsense he spouts to understand how pervasive this crippling process is.  His one asset to this blog is he so aptly demonstrates the point of this post.

We’ve also said many times that you still have to face reality when all is said and done (or said and not done).  That’s what Obama and his ilk are finally having to do.

Obama is and always has been a “give a speech and all is well” kind of guy.  He was sure that the force of his speeches combined with his personality was indeed enough to calm the seas and have them recede.  In his world, saying is doing.  He had no need to have actually done anything or run anything.  He was an intellectual who knew how things should run and be done.  All he needed to do was enlighten the masses.  And that’s what he’s attempted to do.

Except reality keeps biting him in the keister.  Pass a law to totally remake the health insurance industry and then discover:

“What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.”

No kidding you incompetent boob.  Ask anyone in the real world who has actually delt with the problem and they’d have been glad to tell you that.  But he “discovers” it after he’s been a party to destroying the health insurance industry as we knew it.  He blithely promised it would be easy and reality spit in his face.

Unfortunately the other part of reality is he’s not the one that’s going to suffer because he’s an ignorant boob.  People facing medical emergencies with no insurance are.

Peter Berkowitz says that isn’t the only “discovery” this gang of incompetents made “on the job”:

In January 2010, in a Time magazine interview in which he was asked about the setbacks to his ambitious attempt to reach a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, he remarked, “I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that.”

The problem, the president acknowledged, was that he and his team had failed to understand the domestic challenges faced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.”

In June 2011, Obama again acknowledged that he had based a defining policy — the $830 billion stimulus package that he sold to the nation in the first month of his presidency as designed to take advantage of “shovel-ready” jobs — on false expectations. With unemployment at 9.1 percent and in the 27th consecutive month in which it had not fallen below 8.9 percent, he told his Jobs and Competitiveness Council meeting in Durham, N.C., that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

On Nov. 4 of this year — five weeks after the calamitous online launch of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, almost five years into his presidency and less than two weeks before he would reveal that the loss of insurance coverage by millions of Americans taught him that buying coverage was complicated — Obama said to the Affordable Care Act Coalition Partners and Supporters in Washington, D.C., “Now, let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t realize that passing the law was the easy part.”

Contrary to the president’s breezy attitude suggesting that these drastic miscalculations were not knowable in advance, we know that all were foreseeable because all were perspicaciously foreseen by critics from the beginning. (The only possible exception is the staggeringly inept rollout of the HealthCare.gov website, the magnitude of which caught even the president’s toughest critics off guard.)

Finally … finally, what many of us have been saying for years is evident to everyone.  And because he’s so badly botched something that is important to everyone, they’re actually paying attention.  Thus the 37% approval rating.

Right now, Barack Obama would love to have George W. Bush’s approval rating.

Ironic, huh?

~McQ

Mangling history leads to mangling culture

Very interesting read today by David Gordon in “Minding the Campus” (via Insty).  In his piece he talks about the subject of history being at present in the best of times and in the worst of times, to mangle Dickens.

What am I talking about?  Well, the blog in which Gordon’s article appears subs its title with “Reforming our Universities”.

Why is that important?  We’ve talked about it in the past.  It is where liberal America has set up shop for decades.  And the effect is never been stronger than now.   In fact, a lot of what you see as the changing attitudes in America can, I think – at least in part – be traced to academia.

Gordon notes its beginning:

This extraordinary bias began in the late 1960s with the anti-Vietnam war protests. Many participants, at least those who subsequently went into academia, have never gotten over it. Their fossilized views have made their own disciplines largely museums of dead ideologies. Another of the remarkable changes within the historical profession has been the growth of women’s history.  With only a negligible representation in 1975, almost 10% of all historians today identify themselves as historians of gender and women’s affairs.

What bias is Gordon talking about?  Well it’s a bias that he sees as “mangling history” to our detriment:

The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration.  It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread.  Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant.  An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American concentration on itself and Europe. New subjects of enquiry — gender, race and ethnicity — have developed.  Never have historians been so influenced by the methodology and contributions of other disciplines, from anthropology to sociology.

At the same time, never has the historical profession been so threatened.  Political correctness has both narrowed and distorted enquiry. Traditional fields demanding intellectual rigor, such as economic and intellectual history, are in decline.  Even worse, education about Western civilization and the Enlightenment, that font of American liberties, and the foundation of modern industrial, scientific and liberal world civilization, has come to be treated with increasing disdain at colleges and universities.

Now call me crazy, but you can see easily the effect of what Gordon is talking about today in the last election.  Increasingly students (and that includes further down the academic chain in high schools) know less and less about our history and traditions and more and more about, well, women’s studies, gender studies, things which have little bearing on economic and intellectual history – for instance:

The problem with this is that it has helped force out many other kinds of historical enquiry.  It is important to emphasize women’s role in society and in history. However, it is difficult to see how a feminist perspective could contribute very much to a purely economic history of the English industrial revolution (as opposed to its social consequences), or to a diplomatic history of Europe between the Napoleonic and the First World War. As a result, these kinds of studies are receiving ever less attention.

We all understand that women and minorities were mistreated.  Got it.  And we all know that was wrong, with 21st Century hindsight.  But what happened back when all that bad stuff was going on, in terms of economic and intellectual history, is still critically important today.

Instead history’s “new focus” has helped bolster both the “victimization” and “entitlement” mentality:

Worst of all, women’s history has contributed to the current holy trinity of race, gender and class that dominates the historical profession. Under normal circumstances, the tight focus on victimization would soon fade.  Since oppression studies explain so little, they soon become boring. But, as a part of a political chorus demanding ever-more extravagant entitlements for key voting groups, an essential part of the identity politics that is so destructive of national unity, the trinity is ensured a long life. Historians can grow tired of an intellectual movement.  Politicians of a useful political tool, never.

There is also something else beyond the fanciful and fraudulent political and academic rhetoric of “equal opportunity – affirmative action.” That is jobs. Key voting groups designated as oppressed have been hired preferentially in the academy, most especially in the social sciences, including history. To justify these preferences, historians of gender and race must keep emphasizing oppression. How otherwise can their privileges be justified?  Hence, the refiguring history to justify their positions in the professoriate.

We used to hear people laugh derisively when someone mentioned “political correctness”.   But what you’re reading here is an example of political correctness run amok.

And it’s effect?  Read James Taranto’s piece in the WSJ today.  It’s an incredible example of political correctness gone nuts. I’m talking about Emily Yoffe’s answer to an obviously absurdly insensitive question addressed to her.  However, her answer, among much of the left, is both appropriate and “correct”.  It’s what they believe.   It’s what they’ve been taught.

Will it get worse?  Well, Gordon seems to think it will:

A remarkable generational change is also coming. Most of the historians in the declining fields, economic, intellectual and diplomatic history, earned their degrees more than 30 years ago. At the same time, more than 50% of the new PhDs are now trained in women and gender history, in cultural history (a watered-down version of social history), in world and African-American history. This is going to make an extraordinary difference in what kind of scholarship will continue to be undertaken, and how the past will be taught. The history profession, seemingly innovative and robust, is in fact intellectually debilitated, and sadly reduced in scope.

If you think it is bad in the history department, you’ve seen what is going on in the science department (global warming climate change “science”).

Many have been hinting for years that the culture battle – the battle between individualism and freedom v. collectivism and entitlement-  is being lost in academia.  Gordon manages to put an exclamation point to the claim.  One of the reasons our population knows less and less about economic and our intellectual history is because it has been waylaid and replaced with “disciplines” which stress entitlement and victimization.

Is it then a surprise when more and more of the population view themselves and this country through those lenses?  And is it then any more surprising when they perceive government  – more and more government – as the answer?  Again, it’s what they’ve been taught.

~McQ

Quote of the Day – Fine Arts and Capitalism edition

Or perhaps it could be called the wages of the liberal cant (Camille Paglia):

Capitalism has its weaknesses. But it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.

[...]

Thus we live in a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible. In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.

Thus young artists have been betrayed and stunted by their elders before their careers have even begun. Is it any wonder that our fine arts have become a wasteland?

I’ve truly never understood how one does what is routinely done by those who denounce Capitalism – live on and enjoy it’s benefits while calling for its destruction.  I don’t see how anyone who would describe themselves as intelligent could live with the contradiction.

Unless, of course, they have a completely twisted and warped understanding of what Capitalism is.  And, frankly, that’s precisely from what most of them suffer.  They’re spoon fed this ignorant pap without opposition.  They get the one side.  They have Capitalism defined and characterized as something it’s not and leave believing that definition to be true.

Obviously that mischaracterization would fall mostly within liberal academic pursuits I’m guessing (because they’re unlikely to be pursuing business or economic courses in those pursuits, and thus would never be exposed to what Capitalism is really).  So Paglia’s point makes sense.  These students are indeed “indoctrinated”.  I don’t know how else you describe “teaching” with no balance, with no valid opposing view presented, as anything but indoctrination.

Of course, she describes the result of such a twisted orthodoxy.  Art which must conform to the orthodoxy and, as a result, is mostly rejected by the vast majority of the real world.  It has gone from being “edgy” and “out there” or a “comment on our culture/society/whatever” to being another example of the same old thing – bashing what others hold sacred or dear.  They can’t imagine why others don’t like it or want it.

Of course, when it doesn’t sell, well, that’s Capitalism’s fault.

And why shouldn’t these enlightened few demand subsidies for their “art?”  After all, we have no taste and certainly don’t have the intelligence to discern what is or isn’t profound.  We owe them such support.

Capitalism?  Well that stands in the way, doesn’t it?  It requires they produce something of value to others, not just of value to themselves, doesn’t it.

Down with Capitalism.

~McQ
Twitter: @McQandO
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Academia: Ivory tower or “The New Plantation”?

A friend of mine sent along a link to a brand new blog written by a former Professor at Georgia Tech.  He only has 6 posts up but I’m already intrigued.  He takes on the Southern Poverty Law Center (which he once supported monetarily) and he also has a pretty biting review of academia, an institution within which he spent 40 years.  His metaphor for academia, as the title states, isn’t that of an ivory tower, but instead that of the plantation:

The proper metaphor for the university is no longer the “ivory tower,” a shining refuge from daily life that promotes creative thought—if it ever was. A better metaphor is something more down-and-dirty. Like any metaphor, it only goes so far, but in its limited way may aid our understanding.

The modern university is a plantation.

I’m defining “plantation” as a large agricultural enterprise that raises and sells livestock and crops for profit. Antebellum Southern plantations were defined by slaveholding; after the War Between the States those that were left shifted to a different but hardly more moral system. This is what characterizes modern public research universities. Consider the parallels between universities and plantations:

Undergraduates are livestock. In an actual plantation, livestock are raised and sold for profit.

How much profit depends on quality, numbers and value. Undergraduates bring money in two ways. First is tuition and fees, and is the lesser contribution. The last estimate I heard, from two separate schools, was that tuition and fees accounted for 15% of the operating budget.* The greater contribution comes from State funding, which pays some number of dollars per student credit hour. This accounts for 35% of the annual budget, according to the same sources.

So the “livestock” are, in reality, a rather minor portion of the money coming in (tuition and fees) but worth a lot because of the government funding tied to the credit hours taken.

How is that a function of govenment again?  And why, if that’s going on, have tuition and fees become so outrageous?  Why are student loans so high?

To answer that question, it is high because it can be.  Low interest loans actually don’t help the process and students, and more problematic, parents, have fallen for the siren song of academia – “we’re vital for you child’s future and success”.

Of course, the government end of it provides another incentive that’s not particularly good.

What’s important here is that moving undergrads through the system is how universities make a great deal of money. The better the students and the more of them, the more funding.

Some schools depend more on quality to attract students (or a reputation for quality, which isn’t the same thing), some more on perceived value for tuition money, whether that includes classes or party time. The principle is the same regardless. Profit (how much is left over from direct expenses for salaries, new buildings, fancy office furniture and so forth) depends on spending as little as possible on livestock production while maintaining a salable product. What’s the outcome? Large classes taught by the cheapest employees. Dependence on online services instead of real (and responsive) human contact. Discarding hands-on laboratories in favor of computer simulations. All of these make undergraduate production easier and cheaper.

Plantations not only have livestock, but they raise crops.  And what are the “crops” of academia?

Research grants and contracts. Not research itself, but research done in order to receive outside money. Most people outside the university don’t know that grants, whether from Federal or State agencies, foundations or industry, cover not only direct costs such as equipment and salaries, but “indirect costs,” expressed as “overhead.” Overhead was originally intended to cover such necessities as building maintenance, lights, water, heat and so forth. Today overhead may add 45% or more to the cost of a grant. If, for example, direct costs amount to $1,000,000, the grant must be written for $1,450,000 or more.  This $450,000, minus actual overhead, is what corresponds to profit, and can be used by administrators for pretty much whatever they want. Overhead from grants and contracts amounts to another 35% of operating budgets.

In the modern research university, obtaining grants is a requisite for employment. Yes, one can do research without external funding, but that doesn’t count, at least not for much. An assistant professor in science or engineering must obtain grant funds to receive tenure, regardless of other contributions. A tenured associate or full professor can’t be fired out of hand (most places) for a lack of funding, but can be punished in other ways. Forgoing raises, for instance. Having one’s teaching load increased and being assigned to basic undergrad classes, for another. Losing office space, lab space, or travel funding for conferences. Having fewer grad students. These may not seem terribly severe penalties to non-academics, but trust me, they’re very effective.

While there is nothing wrong with making a profit, this points to how government has again had a hand in distorting a market.

He goes on to discuss a lot more in the post that deals with academia today (to include recommended solutions).  Worth the read and a new blogger to keep an eye on.  Seems he’s gone through the halls of academia, survived there for quite a while and is now looking back and saying WTF?  A valuable look and some interesting analysis.

~McQ

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College students not being taught critical thinking skills–does that surprise you?

A recently published study has found that many college and university students aren’t taught critical thinking skills while enrolled in their course of study. The study "followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective."

What they found was that about 45% of those students showed no significant improvement in their critical thinking skills during the first two years of enrollment.  After 4 years, 35% showed no significant improvement.

The study is unique in that it is the first time a group of students was followed through their college careers to determine if they learned specific skills.  As might be expected, academia is not at all pleased with the results.

"These findings are extremely valuable for those of us deeply concerned about the state of undergraduate learning and student intellectual engagement," said Brian D. Casey, the president of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. "They will surely shape discussions about curriculum and campus life for years to come."

The students involved in the study were tested using a standard test used to measure critical thinking ability:

The study used data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a 90-minute essay-type test that attempts to measure what liberal arts colleges teach and that more than 400 colleges and universities have used since 2002. The test is voluntary and includes real world problem-solving tasks, such as determining the cause of an airplane crash, that require reading and analyzing documents from newspaper articles to government reports.

As noted a significant number of students were unable to break out fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or "objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event", the study found. In fact those students who fell into this category had a tendency to be swayed by emotion and political spin.

An interesting finding of the study was that students majored in liberal arts courses of study were more likely to develop critical thinking skills than were those that majored in courses of study such as business, education, social work and communications.

Other findings were that students who study alone, rather than in groups, tend to develop critical thinking skills and that courses (such as the liberal arts) which require heavy loads of reading and writing also help develop those skills.

Obviously the answer, if the study is to be believed, is to increase the reading and writing workload of all students. The study found some obvious problems as it is today in many of the universities and colleges included:

The study’s authors also found that large numbers of students didn’t enroll in courses requiring substantial work. In a typical semester, a third of students took no courses with more than 40 pages of reading per week. Half didn’t take a single course in which they wrote more than 20 pages over the semester.

While it would be easy to fob this off on students seeking the easiest path to graduation, it is the school that puts the curriculum together and designs and approves the classes taught. The bottom line is the school is being paid handsomely to turn out graduates that can indeed think critically – a skill in high demand everywhere. Failing in that area at the percentages noted isn’t a student problem – it is a problem of academia.

The findings shot that colleges need to be acutely aware of how instruction relates to the learning of critical-thinking and related skills, said Daniel J. Bradley, the president of Indiana State University and one of 71 college presidents who recently signed a pledge to improve student learning.

"We haven’t spent enough time making sure we are indeed teaching — and students are learning — these skills," Bradley said.

Indeed.  And it appears a "back to basics" approach would be most appropriate to bring the students not being taught those skills up to the level they need to be when they graduate. That means tough courses which test those skills routinely. That also means more work for those teaching the courses.  The question is will colleges and universities take these findings seriously and do the work for which they are being paid? Or will it, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, remain as it is today, with universities and colleges turning out a high percentage of graduates for whom critical thinking is still an unknown skill?

~McQ

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Irony alert – “Mean-spirited” Chancellor of UC Berkeley uses “hateful rhetoric” to attack political opponents

The LA Times brings us yet another example of the apparent immunity to irony most folks on the liberal side of the house tend to exhibit.  This time it is the Chancellor of UC Berkeley –  an institution probably considered the cherry on top of the sundae of liberal academia.

Apparently Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau sent out a campus-wide email in which he blamed the shooting of Rep. Giffords in Tucson on  Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and the failure to pass the DREAM act.  The email was sent out Monday.  Giffords was shot the previous Saturday.

In the email, Birgeneau said, "I believe that it is not a coincidence that this calamity has occurred in a state which has legislated discrimination against undocumented persons."

Well, as a matter of fact, it is a coincidence that it happened in Arizona regardless of anyone’s views on the immigration enforcement law the state passed.  In fact, it appears immigration wasn’t even on Loughner’s rather weirded-out radar screen.

Birgenau also made it clear he believed a "climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated" was also partly responsible for the shooting.  Subsequent revelations seem to pretty much debunk this theory.  0 for 2.

Speaking of demonization and hateful speech, Birgenau went on to say, "this same mean-spirited xenophobia played a major role in the defeat of the DREAM Act by legislators in Washington, leaving many exceptionally talented and deserving young people, including our own undocumented students, painfully in limbo with regard to their futures in this country,"

“Mean-spirited xenophobia”?  It couldn’t be that many who opposed the legislation saw it as giving an unfair advantage to those who had chosen to ignore our laws over those who were playing by the rules could it?  It couldn’t be that those who oppose the law have absolutely no problem with legal immigration and actually agree our system is broken and needs to be fixed, could it?

Nope, they must be “mean-spirited xenophobes” if they opposed the law.  The irony impaired say so.

By the way, this is also a great example of “projection” – another thing the left seems to be unable to spot.  Blame the other side for doing what you’re caught doing, i.e. using overgeneralizations, demonization and hateful speech to attack your opponent  – while in the middle of decrying it.

It just doesn’t get much better than this.

~McQ

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