Free Markets, Free People

Education

Higher Education: Here’s a surprise

OK, I’m being facetious in the title.  Well, at least for those who’ve been paying attention.  For the rest, this may actually come as a surprise:

Political activism has drawn the University of California into an academic death spiral. Too many professors believe their job is to "advance social justice" rather than teach the subject they were hired to teach. Groupthink has replaced lively debate. Institutions that were designed to stir intellectual curiosity aren’t challenging young minds. They’re churning out "ignorance." So argues a new report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," from the conservative California Association of Scholars.

My guess is, and I think this would be easily substantiated, that the U of C system is just an example of the problem, not the sole problem.  (The study is here.)

Of course the left has a ready answer for all of this:

UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn’t teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.

"If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion," then critics have to target "where the discouragement happens."

So, other than “stereotypes are us”, Prof. Brown has no real explanation.  Because, of course, unless all “conservatives” go to business and law and none to political science (which we know isn’t true), the problem isn’t about who does or doesn’t got into grad school, but who gets hired by universities, isn’t it?   And most people with a modicum of common sense know that most people who hire have a tendency to hire people like what?   Like them.

And anyway, it appears its not really about learning or acquiring skills such as critical thinking:

At the same time, grades have risen. "Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe," quoth the report.

Hardly an atmosphere (akin to a “hostile workplace”, no?)in which a “conservative” would feel comfortable and certainly not one in which a critical thinker would be welcome.

Peter Berkowitz took a look at the study and concluded that the result was much worse than imagined:

The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds. It also erodes the nation’s civic cohesion and its ability to preserve the institutions that undergird democracy in America.

[…]

The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.

In other words, they’re indoctrinated and not taught to think critically.  And, per the study, they’re actually ignorant of “the institutions that undergird democracy in America”.  That would, in part, explain their ‘shock’ at the validity of the arguments against ObamaCare (so there’s your example of the point).

Granted, this is but one study, it’s by a conservative group and there may be a bit of confirmation bias concerned on my part, but I’d love to see the left really document an actual challenge to its substantive points instead of doing what they usually do – wave it away.  While it may be one study by a conservative group, it does note that which Berkowitz points out – “numerous studies” of the system demonstrate the facts listed, i.e. an increasing ignorance of history and literature, unfamiliarity with the principles of American constitutional government, lacking skills necessary to comprehend serious writing, marshal evidence and argue their point effectively.  Or, in other words, think critically.  Wait, isn’t that what universities are supposed to teach?

Start there.  Explain.

HT: Instapundit

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

B..b..but won’t poor and minority students be “disadvantaged”?

Apparently cheating on the SAT and ACT is rampant.  Therefore:

The millions of students who take the SAT or ACT each year will have to submit photos of themselves when they sign up for the college entrance exams, under a host of new security measures announced Tuesday in the aftermath of a major cheating scandal on Long Island.

The two companies that administer the tests, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to the precautions under public pressure brought to bear by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is overseeing the investigation. The measures take effect in the fall.

"I believe these reforms, and many others which are happening behind the scenes, will prevent the kind of cheating that our investigation uncovered and give high schools and colleges the tools they need to identify those who try to cheat," Rice said.

Rice has charged 20 current or former students from a cluster of well-to-do, high-achieving suburbs on Long Island with participating in a scheme in which teenagers hired other people for as much as $3,500 each to take the exam for them. The five alleged ringers arrested in the case were accused of flashing phony IDs when they showed up for the tests. All 20 have pleaded not guilty.

Students have long had to produce ID to take the test (another example where ID is required), but the use of a picture is new.  That is, students will now have to submit a head shot with their application for the tests.  The picture will be printed on their ticket presented on the day of the test.  Additionally the test results will be sent to their high school along with the picture of the student for a final check to ensure the student taking the test is the actual high school student.

All of this for what?  To ensure the integrity of the testing system.  Something, apparently, that is too much to ask when applied to the voting system.

And thus far, not a single cry about poor and minority students being disadvantaged.  No one talking about anyone being “disenfranchised”. Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Nanny state: The lunch inspector

Stories like this infuriate me.  They again point to the depth to which government has come to intrude in our lives.  And yes, while this is an anecdote, it points to the wider problem of increasing intrusion and the loss of our freedoms.  Tyranny by a thousand paper cuts.

The incident took place in a North Carolina pre-school of all places.  There, a “lunch inspector” rejected the home packed lunch a 4 year old and required the child eat a school provided lunch instead, claiming the home packed lunch didn’t meet USDA requirements.

The child in question then ate all of 3 chicken nuggets for lunch as provided by the school and threw the rest away.

Now, the fact that the “lunch inspector” was wrong isn’t the story.  The lunch provided by the mother was more than acceptable by the USDA standard which requires 1 serving of meat, 1 serving of grain and one serving of fruit or vegetable.  The mother had packed a turkey sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice.  The “lunch inspector” mistakenly believe that the lack of a vegetable disqualified the lunch.

The story, as far as I’m concerned is that the “lunch inspector” exists at all.

This is the problem:

The state regulation reads:

"Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.

"When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements."

Really?  If ever there was a place the state has no business, its poking its long nose in my child’s lunch box.  None of the Nanny’s freaking business.

Who knows better what their child will eat, the state or the family?  Ever try to feed a 4 year old?  Forget the fact that the lunch packed was better than the meal the child was served and ate at school, or that the home provided lunch met and exceeded the USDA guidelines.  The fact that someone poked their state approved nose where it had on business is the problem.

Oh, and here’s reality of these sorts of misguided programs.

The bottom line: back off, government!  The responsibility for children belong to parents whether you like it or not.  You can’t both demand they take responsibility and then usurp that responsibility at will when the state decides it “knows better” for whatever arbitrary and god-awful reason.

This anecdote highlights a mostly silent and progressive usurpation of parental rights and authority.  It is happening everywhere, because, you see, the “experts” always know best.

 

 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Stunning

I’m stunned every now and then when I see a story like this.  By the way this isn’t an indictment of Germany, necessarily, its not the only country in which you’ll find such knowledge gaps.  Japan has hidden its atrocities during WWII as well.  In fact, most countries would prefer not to discuss such behavior.  

But it sure makes it hard to say “Never again” and have it mean anything if part of the population doesn’t know what it refers too.

One in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, a poll released Wednesday showed, two days ahead of Holocaust memorial day.

Although 90 percent of those asked did know it was a concentration camp, the poll for Thursday’s edition of Stern news magazine revealed that Auschwitz meant nothing to 21 percent of 18-29 year olds.

And nearly a third of the 1,002 people questioned last Thursday and Friday for the poll were unaware that Auschwitz was in today’s Poland.

Maybe it’s not significant that 21% didn’t recognize a name that is so identified with concentration camps that it could be a synonym.  Perhaps it is good enough that 90% of the total knew it was a concentration camp.  Or does it signal that the shame and the knowledge of the shame brought to Germany by the Nazis is beginning to fade (of course my guess is if you asked the question of the same demographic here in the US, the percentage to which the name would mean nothing would probably be higher)? 

Or, does it perhaps point to a demographic in which a portion is so self-absorbed that history like that represented by Auschwitz simply doesn’t register?

I wonder at times, as I watch the WWII era dim as veterans die off, whether things like D-Day and its import or Pearl Harbor will even get a mention in a few years.  

But back to the poll.  If ever there is something every German school kid should know about it is the Nazi era.  If ever there was a subject to which they should be exposed, to include all of the atrocities by that regime, it is the subject of Germany and Nazism. 

I can’t help but believe, and I don’t know it for sure, that the subject gets taught but it isn’t something that is lingered over by schools.  And I wonder how sanitized it has become now days. 

The fact that a fifth of the young demographic said the name “Auschwitz” had no meaning for them has thinking it is both short and sanitized when presented.  

Wonder if they knew the name “Dachau” (10 mines northwest of Munich).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Why college diplomas aren’t worth as much anymore

Or at least one reason they’re not worth as much:

Columbia University is offering a new course on Occupy Wall Street next semester — sending upperclassmen and grad students into the field for full course credit.

The class is taught by Dr. Hannah Appel, who boasts about her nights camped out in Zuccotti Park.

As many as 30 students will be expected to get involved in ongoing OWS projects outside the classroom, the syllabus says.

The class will be in the anthropology department and called “Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement.” It will be divided between seminars at the Morningside Heights campus and fieldwork.

Columbia.  Reduced to pap like this.  And of course the moon pony “teaching” the course is a big fan of OWS:

She said her allegiance won’t keep her from being an objective teacher.

“Inevitably, my experience will color the way I teach, but I feel equipped to teach objectively,” Appel told The Post. “It’s best to be critical of the things we hold most sacred.”

Or at least say we’ll be “critical”.  Because, you know, that at least sounds right.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Higher Education–privatizing profits, socializing loss

Glenn Reynolds has an article in the Washington Examiner about how he believes the higher education bubble is about to burst.  Perhaps not imminently, but fairly soon.  Why?  Because the value of the product doesn’t match its rising cost.

Reynolds talks about the dilution of the worth of a bachelor’s degree even while the price has risen exponentially.  Something’s got to give.

But there’s no real incentive for institutions of higher learning to back off the price.  Why?  Because government has chosen to subsidize those prices by taking over the student loan business. 

Sound at all familiar? 

With no penalty for raising the price, colleges and universities continue to do so knowing full well that whatever they stick the student with that requires a loan they will get upfront.  And if the the student defaults, we, the taxpayers, get stuck with the bill.

One of the big complaints about the Wall Street bailout from both sides of the political isle had to so with “privatizing profits and socializing debt”.  That’s precisely what the current government loan program does as well.

Reynolds makes the argument that colleges and universities should be on the hook for the debt.  After all they’re the institutions providing the product.  Tying the price of the product to the worth of the product is such an old fashioned concept isn’t it?  Instead this new-fangled way of doing business has led to bubble after bubble which the uninformed then try to pin on “market failure”.

In fact it is a government takeover of a market.  There is no competition, no incentive to revisit pricing, no reason to worry about default.  Charge whatever you like, make an outrageous profit and if the loan fails, stick the taxpayers with the cost.

Nice crony capitalist system if you can arrange it, huh?

We all know exactly how it will end up … with a big “pop” and a bunch of surprised politicians asking “how could this have happened?’

And the first words out of most of their mouths?

“Market failure”.

And what does that usually mean?

More government intrusion and control.

Then the cycle repeats.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The “Gimme Generation”

I‘ve mentioned before about the seemingly unbridgeable ideological divide confronting our federal representatives in Washington, DC. This seems to be a generational version of the same thing (my emphasis):

Young folks today appear to have the same dreams and ambitions that my generation had at the same age. We wanted an education, a good career, a home of our own and a happy life. The main difference between today’s youthful opinion is that most of us expected to stay in school, work hard and earn a good life instead of having it given to us at someone else’s expense — a point of view expressed by many young adults today.

Proof of the pudding showed up this fall in a survey conducted by Professor Jack W. Chambless at Valencia College in Florida. He asked his students to write a short essay expressing their view of The American Dream.

Most of the students responded with the familiar notions of youth expressed by my generation with one important and notable exception. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their future, they noted that the government should, “Pay my tuition, provide me with a job, give me money for a house, make sure I get free health care and pay for my retirement.” If necessary, “… raise taxes on rich people so that I can have more money …”

What else would you expect from young Americans, who, after several generations, have grown accustomed to a “Nanny State” in which the Federal Government has taken more and more license with the lives of individual Americans? This entire process has resulted in a citizenry in which one-half of wage earners pay no income tax at all and, indeed, in some cases even get a “refund” even though that refund comes from one of the other half of Americans who have paid income tax. If this is not a prime Marxist example of government, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need,” I don’t know what is.

In fact, according to clip below, 80% of the students opined that health care, tuition, down payments and jobs should all be provided by the government at no cost to themselves. And, while this certainly isn’t a scientific poll or anything even approaching the sort, it should be noted that this was from a class of 200 college kids. So, at least 160 of them thought this way. Which is more than just pathetic and sad. It’s a harbinger of terrible things to come.

I truly pray that Valencia College has cornered the market on freeloaders, thus making this a terribly skewed sample. Or maybe the students surveyed are just a bunch of smart-asses having fun with their professor. Indeed, I’m sure that something far less than 8 in 10 college students believes that government should just provide for their every want and desire, paying for out of the pockets of the “rich” if need be (one wonders where they think all these goodies originate?).

But the number doesn’t really need to be all that high before serious issues arise. If, instead, the number is only 20% (or 1 in 5), that would be better, but still alarming. Consider that if 20% of the electorate feels this way, and that the remaining 80% are diametrically opposed on almost every issue, then pleasing that smaller cohort becomes the key to political victory. In short, giving free stuff to the 20% in exchange for their votes. Which is not at all unlike what we have now.

Of course if that number is higher that 1 in 5, the problem becomes much worse. At least, until they run out of other people’s money.

You can see a video of an interview with the professor who conducted the survey here.

Is “Higher Education” more of a rip-off than a benefit today?

Well you have to ask yourself what you get for the money when you purchase anything don’t you?  I mean isn’t that how you make buying decisions for the most part?  You weigh the advantage the purchase makes in your life and you figure out whether or not parting with your money justifies the supposed benefits.

In the case of higher education in this country, it’s my guess we passed the point of diminishing returns eons ago.  A college degree just isn’t what used to be a few decades ago, but it costs a hell of a lot more.  Jack Kelly fills us in:

Tuition and fees at colleges and universities rose 439 percent between 1982 and 2007. Median family income rose just 147 percent during that period.

Median household income has fallen 6.7 percent since June 2009. The cost of attending the average public university rose 5.4 percent this year.

Student loan debt recently passed $1 trillion. It’s now more than credit card debt. The average graduate of a four-year college owes $27,000.

So you have a cost that has risen far and away faster than inflation and median family income for, well, no good reason that I know of.

Oh wait, I said “good reason”.  There is a reason.   Can you say “subsidy”?  That coupled with the myth that a college degree … any college degree … is worth its weight in future gold.  But it appears that gold may be fool’s gold. 

I love this description of what many institutions of “higher learning” have become:

College students don’t get much for their money. Nearly half learn next to nothing in their first two years; a third learn almost nothing in four, according to a report authored principally by Prof. Richard Arum of New York University.

"Students who say that college has not prepared them for the real world are largely right," said Ann Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. "The fundamental problem here is not debt, but a broken educational system that no longer insists on excellence."

Or even adequacy. "A college degree nowadays doesn’t necessarily signal that its holder has any useful work skills," said Charlotte Allen of the Manhattan Institute.

"For decades our schools have abandoned the teaching of basic facts and foundational thinking skills, and replaced both with leftish received wisdom and stale mythologies, all the while they have anxiously monitored and puffed up students’ self esteem," said classics Prof. Bruce Thornton of California State University Fresno.

I agree totally with Ms. Neal.  There is no insistence on excellence.  That’s not true of every institution out there, obviously.

However a look at the various new degree programs provides a peek into the priorities of the schools.  To broaden and accept as many students as they can to also broaden the revenue stream they’re provided.  The unique offerings are most likely not made to produce anything meaningful in academia and certainly not in the real world, but they do attract a certain type of student to such a degree program that is fully willing to buy into the myth that somehow a degree in gender studies is going to be useful and are willing to pay the big bucks demanded (even if that means borrowing them). 

And, of course, government subsidizes the purchase, so there’s certainly no reason for the school to back off such a useless program or lower it’s price to something roughly equivalent to its utility in the real world.

What happens?  Precisely what you’d think would happen.  Its much like the housing crisis.  Loans are given to people who aren’t really capable of college work.  They leave with nothing or some marginal degree and huge debt. 

Meanwhile:

Others graduate to find there are no jobs for them. Roughly 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates since 1992 work in low-skill jobs, Prof. Richard Vedder of Ohio University discovered. In 2008, 318,000 waiters and waitresses had college degrees, as did 365,000 cashiers and 18,000 parking lot attendants.

Because degrees have been so diluted and their worth so compromised over the years, they’re less and less of a guarantee of a good job and better wages.

But because government subsidizes education and distorts the market, guess what?

And, according to a study by the American Enterprise Institution and the Heritage Foundation, teachers are paid $120 billion over market value.

There is fraud at every level of the education system, thanks mostly to politics, said Herbert London, professor emeritus at New York University. Teachers and professors go along to save their jobs.

"They simply cannot say that college isn’t for everyone … or that rigorous exit requirements at any level do not exist," he said. "Hence, there is the clarion call for more money."

Of course they can’t.  The gravy train is just too rich to quit.

And, you also need to understand what is actually happening in colleges and universities across the nation to appreciate the full impact of this market intrusion by government.  Colleges, as mentioned, no longer demand excellence.  Instead, they spend an enormous amount of time and effort teaching what a college student should have mastered before ever showing up at a university:

We spend about $10,600 per pupil in public schools, 377 percent more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than we spent in 1961. Yet among students who go to college, 75 percent require some remedial work.

If you managed to catch some of the protests in WI that included teachers and caught the spelling on some of their signs, the stats above wouldn’t particularly surprise you.  We spend more on education today and and get even less than in the past.  What you have to remember is that at every level it is either run by or subsidized by government.

Now at every level, we’re seeing the results of that sort of intrusion, aren’t we?  A dismal record of extraordinarily expensive non-achievement.  And nothing is going to change or improve in that regard as long as government stays in charge and subsidizes the growing bubble with your money.

But you’ll never hear that said, will you?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Who is robbing whom here?

We’ve been treated to stories of “greed” and supposed corporate misbehavior by the OWS crowd, but here’s a story that ought to make you furious, especially if you’re an Illinois taxpayer:

Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

Obviously any number of people are culpable.  The lawmakers, of course.  But the two who took advantage of this legal loophole are simply morally reprehensible people who took advantage of the system for personal gain without earning what they will receive.

The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

So seeing an opportunity to cash in without actually having to do any real teaching, they quickly got teaching certificates and substitute taught for one day.   One day.  They were paid $93 for the day.

The result from that day?  Probably over $100,000 a year in pension payments:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Meanwhile, as you might guess, the pension fund is horribly underfunded and teachers who’ve spent a career in the classroom stand to get less than half what these two will get.

The union finds no real problem with what its two paid lobbyists did:

A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made "individual decisions."

Even so, union President Dan Montgomery said the deal Preckwinkle and Piccioli landed "should never be allowed again." But the union, which provides its employees with a private 401(k)-type plan, is standing by the lobbyists’ right to have access to the public pension.

"They entered TRS under the law and are participating members of TRS. As a TRS employer, the IFT is required to make the payments to TRS," the union said in a statement.

Of course we all know that legal and moral are only the same by coincidence.  These two scoundrels knew precisely what they were doing and did what they did with malice aforethought.  This was a bid to cash in while doing nothing.  And of course, cheats like them are more than happy – along with the union – to stand behind the façade of legality.

And oh, by the way, it should never happen again because the law was changed after these two grifters cashed in.

Always looking out for the little guy and making sure he gets a square deal, those union guys.

HT: Duane Lester

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO