Go Ahead Without Me

This is the final weekly installment of Adjunctular Noodling. I will be reading for my enjoyment, painting, walking by the river and maybe writing a little poetry to fill the weeks. I value the friends I made while writing the blog. You know who you are. The website will continue to exist until August. I’ll maintain a presence on Facebook as Eddie Noodle and on Twitter as long as I can stand it. Contact me if I can be of service. You are a special lot in a world that insists on the mundane. Very best regards. ~Don

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

On Wednesday at 10:45AM while navigating into a parking space,  a young man of sixteen or seventeen stepped into the space I was entering. He crossed the white line diagonally to the most distant point on the perimeter, moving slowly, lids hooding his eyes. His expectation was that 3500 pounds of steel and plastic would respect his primogeniture over that space and time.

Forty-five minutes later, five hundred miles away, vigilantes calling themselves HedgeClippers denied EnTrust Capital’s right to legal assembly. The mob shut down a private meeting of investors for complaints including the failure of billionaires to pay taxes and the bankruptcy of Puerto Rico’s finances. Romney was pilloried for stating correctly that 47% of the public doesn’t pay taxes. Among these we might find the HedgeClippers rather than the investors inside.

“Too-Big-To” banks. would have failed in a market economy. Rioters should condemn the politicians of both parties who bailed them out including Dodd and Frank. They could also shower insults on borrowers who applied for Liar’s Mortgages. How many self-righteous thugs know what a hedge fund is or how many billionaires live in America?

At that same moment, Phillip Knight, founder of Nike, announced a $400M endowment to Stanford University, a fund larger than the Rhodes Scholarship. How galling for the philanthropist to give voluntarily what society’s least deserving wanted to take! We hate voluntary generosity even more than economic success.

On Thursday, Cal State University of LA “hosted” a lecture by conservative Ben Shapiro on the subject of intellectual diversity. His ideas propose on the free exchange of all ideas, traditional as well as progressive or socialist, on university campuses. Black Lives Matter activated fire alarms, threatened speakers and administration. The university cancelled Shapiro’s speech under the pall of violence .

Diversity resolves the failure of Affirmative Action. The early 1960s promised all Americans opportunities as part of one common, exceptional culture and economy. By the late 1960s urban race riots encouraged Black Separatism and White Flight. Creeping dependency replaced the promise of full participation in the American dream. This is the  welfare state. Diversity promoted subcultures replacing the inclusive Culture of American Exceptionalism. Today the crescendo echos from the symphony of separatism. The cacophony’s recurring theme is the unfairness of the capitalistic meritocracy and a countervailing  reactionary response against the Giveaway State. Reconciliation seems impossible.

Health care costs doubled every year since the introduction of a Federally compromised market. My introduction to Medicare limits choices of physicians so severely that I drive two hours each way to be treated by an appropriate physician. The greatest and most effective health system in the world is dismantled.

Disinterest evident through underfunding undermines American military greatness. The VA abuses and dishonors our heroes. Politically motivated rules of engagement handcuff our children’s protectors, and failed political-military leadership abroad jeopardizes homeland security. The meritless, envious and insane enlist with our international enemies.

Domestically, politicians handcuff law enforcement. Civil unrest in Baltimore and Missouri for reasons false and felonious spread to campuses where the public funds and public servants fan the flames. With intellectual leadership, young people on an off campus find order and rule intolerable, and the officer on the beat risks her or his pension for enforcing the law.

An entitlement educational system promises diplomas without regard for rigor or the prospect of employment. Only a third of accepted students are able to complete degree programs. Effete and idle faculty embittered by the failure of their own economic realities fan flames of student radicalism. Only one of four graduates works in a job requiring a degree.

Our economy, health care system, military, political system, educational prowess, rule of law, and work ethic are compromised. We surrender to the rioters convinced that they are forever victims, unable or unwilling to assume the responsibilities of opportunity.

It may not be possible to withdraw from society. Off the grid may be out of the question, but personal self-defense, resistance to every expansion of government, refusal to be implicated in a corrupt and futile political process, these are all options to reserve and exercise. I’ll preserve capital rather than producing new wealth. I will be silent in the midst of the rattling din of pseudo-liberalism. I’ll wait for the reemergence of John Galt.

 

 

 

Academic Acrimony, Penuriously Private and Pecuniously Public

Next week’s post will be the last weekly post for Adjunctular Noodling.~Don

Be cautious when negotiating with college professors. They envy our income. They begrudge us our prestige.

Joseph Gorini, District Manager AT&T, circa 1984

 

Have you played the online game where you invent your online professor moniker?  You won’t need your pet’s name or the street you grew up on. There are an infinite number of adjectives, a sufficiency of nouns and even a few verbs used by college faculty to describe the misery of higher education. Pick any two.

Here are nouns, adjectives and verbs found in a two-minute perusal of professorial pseudonyms on Twitter.

Nouns:

  • Drama
  • Madjunct
  • Sarcasm
  • Vendetta

Adjectives:

  • Angry
  • Bad
  • Bitter
  • Buggy
  • Despicable
  • Downwardlymobile
  • Failed
  • Pissed
  • Snarky

Verbs

  • Adjuncted (you might use this as an adjective, receiving the full benefit but paying only a fraction of the cost of a tenured verb)
  • Berate
  • Stewing (also discountable by adjuncting an adjective for a participle of the actual cost)

Academics are an unhappy lot. The most vocal academics remonstrate their misery in a dialog of despair on social media. Their tweets, posts and comments, simultaneously supercilious and helpless. These are the faceless adjuncts, non-tenure track instructors and even tortured tenured types. They claim that students love them. They teach for the love of teaching. It’s just not enough to fill the void of unfulfilled career satisfaction.

Some professors do rise from anonymity. You may remember an actual name rather than a nom de guerre.

Steven Salaita became a celebrity when Illinois’ public university withdrew a job offer dismayed by Salaita’s tasteless and vulgar rants against Israel. He had suggested that Netanyahu would wear the bones of Palestinian children. He also tweeted “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f**king West Bank settlers would go missing” (“Professor fired over anti-Israel tweets sues University of Illinois,” RT Question. 30 JAN 2015). Salaita dismissed his own behavior, sued the university and was rewarded with $875,000 (Cohen, Jodi S. “University of Illinois OKs $875,000 settlement to end Steven Salaita dispute,”Chicago Tribune. 12NOV2015). That amounts to more than a decade’s salary. The academic prescription approves support for the Palestinians cause; support for Israel is not permitted.

Melissa Click was again in the news last week. Mizzou police released film showing her vulgarity in response to requests to move to safety and out of the street. She previously earned recognition and reputation through assault and battery on a student journalist in 2015. Click was dismissed  after a protracted delay. Click, like the anonymous online cadre,  attests devotion to students above all. The difference is that Click is interviewed and cashes on her incivility. If obscenity can be perfected and well-timed fame and fortune can follow. That’s a lesson for the online nameless.

Tenured professor Victoria McCard of The University of North Georgia was fired in March of 2015. She had a long history of verbal abuse of students but wasn’t disciplined until she unleashed abuse on a visiting lecturer. Her case proves that the treatment of students is not relevant. What is important is the cultivation of approved academic causes. Palestinian lives matter, Black lives matter, Salvadoran lives (the topic of McCard’s rant) don’t matter. And students whether Jewish, journalists or Spanish majors at The University of North Georgia don’t matter either. Courtesy toward tenured faculty is of great import. It doesn’t matter what you. We only care who your misbehavior is directed toward.

Masked online academics are miserable because they were cheated of their dreams. Mary Grace Gainer has an alter ego as an adjunct spokesperson. She laments, “You do everything right and you think you are going to make it, and you don’t” (Gerard, Leo W. “Good People Don’t Get Good Jobs,” Huffington Post. 06 DEC 2014). So they attempt to turn the “profession” into a blue-collar mill, but the tenured-honored faculty are miserable too except for those few who edit journals or conduct research rather than teach. Celebrity college vulgarians achieve happiness after leveraging obscenity into fame or fortune, but I doubt it.

Academics generally lack the income, the recognition and the cult following they were promised. Blame the previous generation of college professors who although equally disillusioned sold the mirage to their own students for a moment of undergraduate hero-worship.

The Radicalization of Campus Thinking

This is the third to the final post for Adjunctular Noodling. This week I write about mandatory campus liberalism, next week the disillusioned career academic and in the final edition I’ll discuss what comes next for me. ~Don

Choice stumbles along the corridors of education where liberalism is compulsory. Early in the new millennium The Washington Post reported 72% of college faculty considered themselves liberal, only 15% conservative. At elite schools 87% report themselves liberal (Kurtz, Howard. “College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot Study, Finds” Washington Post, 29 Mar 2005). In the population overall, less than one-third of voters describe themselves as liberal. Roughly the same number are conservative (Edwards-Levy, Ariel. “A Record Number of Americans Now Say They Are Social Liberals,” Huffington Post. 25 May 2015).

Intellectuals set the tone for national dialog just as in the days before the French and Russian Revolutions. A preponderance of faculty call themselves liberal, but only a fraction have credentials in the workings of government. Between 2004 and 2012, for example, faculty positions grew most significantly in Fine Arts (http://www.humanitiesindicators.org). While there are intelligent people in every department on campus, there are equally intelligent people in health, professional and religious careers. Faculty however exercise inordinate influence over their charges. I know not a single parent, for example, who can compel a teenaged minor to sit and listen for fifty minutes. The Stockholm Syndrome is at play in the university.

The common ground for faculty minds is liberal politics. It’s not surprising that the foremost “trade papers,” Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education seldom report about education. They mostly write about liberal politics. Here editors choose topics about campus protests, for-profit prosecutions, support for tenure and free tuition. There is nary a word about teaching.

Even The Washington Post which normally sides with the angels against conservative positions finds it appalling that 43% of college freshman would banish politically indelicate language and topics from campus (Rampell, Catherine. “Liberal intolerance is on the rise on America’s college campuses.” 11 Feb 2016). But this is logical when colleges don’t honor debate. Students will give us parameters for political correctness if they are able to find words vague enough to avoid self-censorship.

Inside Higher Ed reported that after witnessing campus disruptions at Missouri, Yale, Princeton, Ithaca, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other institutions, one of every ten prospective freshmen intends to protest against some cause yet to be identified. Campus protests like the one at Missouri featured liberal faculty members. Maybe I take protest too seriously. Recently, one popular educational message board included the following…

On the positive this can be channeled. At my undergraduate university, there were weekly protest marches for this or that. It became a campus tradition and a nice afternoon entertainment break between classes. No one took it too seriously.

Faculty opposes profit especially when businesses like Pearson Learning support public online education or when marketers help brand a university to raise funds. Message board comments roundly abuse for-profits even when they are the vehicles for tuition aid (like The University of Arizona providing Starbuck’s free tuition program). Profit flies in the face of educational values, so Phoenix, ITT, DeVry, The Jack Welsh School of Business are condemned as a class without distinction.

The outrage over Wisconsin’s tempered tenure went viral. Tenured and tenure-tracked professors chanted liberally over the threat to academic freedom. It is curious to note that with a few exceptions, faculties don’t chant with adjunct professors asking for a living wage. Faculty recognizes the inherent competition for salary dollars. Last month’s Jobs Report from the Department of Labor noted the elimination of 31,000 positions from for-profit educators. Faculty political dogmas excuse some human collateral damage.

Education celebrates free tuition despite the declining readiness of high school seniors, so colleges accommodate the unprepared student with less academic courses for the sake of egalitarianism. Inside Higher Ed comments recently included a defense of The University of Kentucky’s course designed to satisfy “Community, Culture and Citizenship in the USA” requirements. The course title: TACO LITERACY.

One result of the Great Missouri Campus Tantrum was a demand for demographic representation of minorities on the faculty. This is an acceptable idea assuming that an equally fair representation of 31% is afforded to conservative thinkers. Then let the debate begin.

Encouraging Underachievement

Adjunctular Noodling set sail as an educational gadfly with the astrolabe set on an arbitrary course of 25,000 page reads. We reached that port last month. The blog will celebrate its second anniversary on March 2. With that date in mind, The final weekly post will appear on February 28. More will follow about future plans over the next three weeks.

Thanks, as always, for your interest.

~Don

The numbers of self-employed baccalaureate  graduates  has risen steadily since 2006-2007 (3.3%). By 2011 4.8% of graduates were self-employed within six months of doffing the mortar board. For all graduates ages 24-29 the number of self-employed rose to 5.1%.

Many self-employed graduates are artists (64.6% of all graduates with undergraduate fine arts degrees only), musicians (85.3%) and textile designers (34.6%). One year after leaving college 40% of 2011-2012 graduates did not work fulltime (http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/graduates-self-employment/).

One catalyst for self-employment is a job market with fewer degree-requisite jobs than in the past. Graduates who can’t get jobs invent their own. Do they produce value enough to sustain themselves? To repay the student debt they created? Bloomberg Business reports that 50% of all new businesses fail. The Manhattan Institute reports that 44% of college graduates are underemployed and that one-third of those employed work in jobs that don’t really require college degrees.

The degrees our college students select don’t help find gainful employment. The popularity of majors follows:

  1. Business Administration, Starting Salary: $41.2K, Unemployment Rate: NA
  2. Psychology, Starting Salary: $34.7K, Unemployment Rate: 7.3%
  3. Nursing, Starting Salary: $53.3K, Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (Health Overall)
  4. Biology, Starting Salary: $37.5K, Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (Science, Life/Physical)
  5. Education, Starting Salary:$33.8K, Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
  6. Criminal Justice: Starting Salary:$35.3K, Unemployment Rate: NA
  7. Accounting: Starting Salary:$44.5K, Unemployment Rate: NA
  8. Liberal Arts & Humanities, Starting Salary:$36.5K, Unemployment Rate: 9.4%
  9. English & Literature, Starting Salary:$36.2K, Unemployment Rate: NA
  10. History, Starting Salary:$36.9K, Unemployment Rate: NA

Salary data: Stockwell. “Salary Data Same As It Ever Was,” USA Today, 26 Oct 2014.

Unemployment Data: Carneval, Cheah, Strohl. “Not All College Degrees Are Equal” Hard Times, Jan 2012.

There are also majors that promise bright futures. There are starting salaries that repay the investment of blood and treasure that students, parents and society pour into education. Unfortunately, these are not the majors our students favor. Even nursing programs after the early promise of Affordable Care are tacking under unfavorable winds as health exchanges fail and fewer young people including the unemployed and underemployed graduates themselves elect to pay Federal fines rather than insurance premiums. Last week three Maryland community colleges shut down a centralized nursing program due to plummeting enrollment (Smith, Ashley A. ” When Collaboration Gets Expensive,” Inside Higher Ed. 04 Feb 2016).

What of the majors and careers that do allow for the repayment of debt and the amassing of creature comforts aplenty? Twelve of the thirteen best majors for repaying student loans are various engineering curricula. Salaries in early career range from a low of $61.1K to a high of $101K.

Is it unfair that these jobs afford better opportunity than others? It might be that the supply of individuals with these skills is small while society’s need for these skills are great. Remuneration follows that need.

Societies invest to encourage the greater (not the individual’s) wellbeing. Society’s wellbeing is bettered by education for those for scarce and necessary skills in the numbers needed. We should encourage these educations by funding all costs. It is prudent. It is the very purpose of society.

On the other hand, it is a waste of limited resources to fund educations in fields which are redundant in the job market. It is wasteful to encourage degrees for the two-thirds of graduates who don’t need degrees to perform the jobs they find, jobs that can’t recover the cost of the unnecessary educations or careers that cannot offer enough positions to suck up the supply of candidates already degreed. That would be irresponsible. No, that would be stupid. It takes resources away from projects that society needs– a cure for Diabetes, the replacement of crumbling infrastructure.

Our politicians want to give away free college degrees to all comers. Of course they do; they are pandering pols. But a prudent society would richly reward students who pursue and succeed in filling society’s critical needs.  All degree don’t fill critical needs of society. Some degrees are unproductive and fill no needs at all. Society should not fund degrees that are unproductive. Society should not fund degrees for those who have not been given the foundational skills to succeed in college.

Some Universities Excel and That’s Not Fair

“Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way.”
Blaise Pascal

 

There is an uprising brewing on the world-wide inter-web. The barricades are manned over unfair gift giving by the oligopoly. Yes, the sinister 1% are playing favorites by making huge donations to privileged universities. The online posting society of academia will not stand for this oppression of the masses.

Largesse to higher education sounds like good news but only if you happen to attend an elite institution or if you may  benefit from the research produced. Half of all the windfall fell on just 2% of the institutions (Lederman, Doug. “In Giving to Colleges, the One Percenters Gain, “ Inside Higher Ed. 27JAN2016). Nearly 30% of all 2015 contributions went to just twenty institutions (Koenig, Rebecca. “US Colleges Raise $40B: Stanford Tops List at $1.6B, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 27JAN2016). That’s just not fair.

Institutions receiving ostentatiously large gifts are typically renowned private research universities. The top ten recipients farmed over $7.2B in new funding.  Of these, eight are private institutions with only USC and the University of California, San Francisco receiving gifts among the very largest. Public institutions are better represented in the second decade of recipients, receiving four places. California public institutions receiving two more slots.  This seems to show that California sold out to the military-industrial complex. The only other possible explanation is that the thinking public believes California’s public universities are superior to those of other states.

UCSF is a good example of success through willful self-promotion. While the university has used fundraising since the 1950s and crowdfunding in more recent years, it used branding and targeted marketing. The receipts totaled  $608.5M from donors last year.

Warnings continue from adjunct professors about the “commoditization” of higher education.  Others bemoan gifts endowed on the few and not spread around to ordinary institutions. The perspective from inside higher education (the institution not the publication) is typically at odds with the thinking of those outside of academia. Exceptionalism is an affront to college collegiality.

When our egalitarian friends object to education as a commodity they err. A commodity is a product indistinguishable from any other item of its type. Every kernel of corn is, for all practical purposes, exactly the same as every other kernel of the same corn species. The arguments against commoditization really object to marketing educational services. UCSF has distinguished itself as Orville Redenbacher popped corn among universities conducting geriatric and neurological research. UCSF research unlike those other nibblets might be thought of as a differentiated product. Some universities perform more effective work than others. UCSF is one of these. Charles Feeney thought so. He wrote a check to the university for nearly $125M from the Feeney fortune garnered by selling Duty Free goods in airports. That’s a lot of Rochet BonBons.

Why then did Feeney fund Frisco rather than cheque-ing Chico State? Apparently, in a violation of the egalitarian ideal, UCSF branded itself unfairly as a superior institute.  That is widely disapproved of by the anti-branding lobby. The dominant school of thought among professors would abandon academic superiority for the highest common denominator. This philosophy salted the nation at great expense with 1123 community colleges, serving low-cost, low-quality educations. Salt is a commodity.

Some institutions are excellent while others have been unfairly deprived of excellence. A further injustice is that excellent institutions may advertise their competencies gaining even greater advantage over those who do not excel. Finally excellence attracts other researchers and instructors who are also excellent creating vortexes of competencies. Also unfair.

What would it take to be fair to all higher education? The single sourcing of every course through an identical syllabus and scripted lessons read by homogenized lecturers. That answer might come to us through the benefices of federal ownership of every undifferentiated nook of the educational network. But to completely stamp out exceptionalism we must turn our attention against other areas of inequality.

We seek ways to emulate our political system in recognizing mediocrity. The James Beard Award for culinary excellence should be passed in alphabetical succession to every Falafel stand. Every member of ASCAP must receive an Oscar in turn. Every mortgage applicant should be granted a loan– wait….

 

Branding: Finding the Right College, Finding the Right Prof

All that glossy marketing crap has taught students to value the physical plant over what the faculty offer them.

“Branding Education” at MAjority Rule

 

Every week a new reason swirls through the halls of academie, a new reason why faculty should hate industry. This week’s cause celebre is university branding.

Branding differentiates a product or service, commercial or academic, from the products or services of other vendors. That’s innocuous except when a university pays a marketing firm to better focus attention. Then faculty outrage roils. Kellie Woodhouse of Inside Higher Ed reported that faculty at the University of Oregon balked when the institution, given a gift of $5M for branding, planned to spend $20M on re-branding (“Scaling Back on Branding,” 20 Jan 2016). The $2M would be spent advancing a mammoth $2B fund-raising and development project. That sounds like a lot of money until you do the math. UofO planned to spend .1% including a $5M gift to encourage contributions for academic improvements. This sounds particularly inoffensive since the focus of the project was to consolidate many uncoordinated, sometimes conflicting and inefficient marketing efforts of the university’s many campuses and departments.

Some Oregon faculty were outraged that they had not been given greater input to the plan. Music Professor Robert Kyr said: “…instead of actually changing the truth, they wanted to change the [optics].” Kyr wants any money spent to support instruction, but isn’t that what the rest of the $2B would do? The university now admits that spending $20M on branding was too ambitious. This presumes that the $2B in development that would support Kyr’s wishes was also overly ambitious.

There are seventy-two hundred degree granting institutions wrangled by the Department of Education. They don’t all offer the same degrees. They don’t all teach the same programs. Some may deliver particular programs especially well. They serve different constituencies. Sometimes they change academic strategies. To be successful, they reach out to a subset of all students that will best benefit from the institution’s unique combination of skills and facilities. That is branding. The University of Oregon is now branded as a football factory. That’s what it was hoping to change.

All protests against branding are not equally effective. Some less effective ones attack all branding not a particular approach to branding, Oregon’s faculty argued with its branding saying: it cost too much; it didn’t leverage internal resources; it was disingenuous; it ignored the real problems. All assaults on branding are not so well constructed. “Branding Education” published under the adjunct faculty MAjority Rule masthead is excessive in condemning any and every branding of educational services.

This argument refers to branding as “Drinking the Corporate Koolaid” and claims that education is not a service but an ethereal, transcendent and vague relationship more elemental than healthcare. That’s all too zen for widespread consumption. This argument makes the assumption that all branding now deals with something other than academics. It says…

More and more, that infrastructure is coming to include luxury dorms, Olympic quality gyms, semi-professional sports teams, recreational climbing walls, and starchitect  buildings, as well as an administration that outnumbers the faculty.

It bloats administration and takes money from faculty salaries. The money spent on glossy brochures and logo design is far better spent on hiring and supporting excellent teachers.

With or without marketing consultants, fund-raising projects, or centralized recruitment and advertising, every college creates a brand. For better or worse, the institution will be known as a low-cost, marginally effective provider of educations, a research juggernaut or, like Oregon, an NCAA football powerhouse. Each branding attracts some students while repelling others (like that rock wall). A college or university that fails to manage its outward-facing brand risks failure and ultimately extinction. Despite protestations to the contrary we do compete against each other.

Harvey Mudd College is a branded institution. It is rather famous for the financial success of its graduates. Students like that brand. They compete and pay premiums to share in Mudd’s particular brand of success.

Personal branding  distinguishes tenure track faculty from adjunct staff. All tenure track faculty are known quantities, so are the most astute adjunct professors. They distinguish themselves by showcasing particularly valuable skills, knowledge, style and experiences just as institutions of learning do. It couldn’t hurt.

No Status, No Promise; Comparing SOTUs 2015 and 2016

I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
Adam Smith

 

Last year’s State of the Union Message was a portfolio of promise, this year’s? Not so much. Last year’s SOTU promised free community college, the possibility of speedy repayment of student debt, public retribution against for-profit education, the elimination of on-campus rape through federal intervention and the extinction of “unfair” 529 Education Savings Accounts.

This year in the swirl of election pandering there may be free community college for all, but the prospect interests fewer students. In 2011 the community college building frenzy peaked. That coincided with a decline in demand. Fewer college-ready students wanted community college and the demand for occupational training continues to erode. As the economy began to offer more part-time, low paying jobs, fewer students needed the social safety net that Pell Grants had become. Apparently that was the impetus for the community college boom in the first place. Today schools like Green River College outside of Seattle are found over-developed, underutilized and in need of staff reduction.

The Great Satan that was Corinthian College was hissing its last gasps when the State of the Union promised changes  last year. Since then the Department of Education has done its best to undermine all for-profit education with fist shaking in the direction of ITT, Everest and The Art Institute of Colorado. They were not the worst offenders. In April, the DofEd leaked a list of 550 financially irresponsible colleges. A quarter of that number were small, often minority-owned, non-degree schools of cosmetology, barber colleges and the like; another thirty-eight were public community colleges in Minnesota. By this SOTU, for-profits had ceased to be a major concern. It wasn’t because the feds had interceded, it was because those consumers weren’t naïve at all. Many students attended college for the support payments not the degree. For-profits and community colleges enroll students who are unprepared for college. As at Green River, the student who needed an open admission college because he was not ready for higher education no longer needed to attend college as part-time, low-paying jobs became available.

Last year the Department of Education was touting a powerful tool. That tool would “nanny” higher education into federal compliance. It was to be the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.  The scorecard, however, lost its teeth when the schools most closely tied to federal heartstrings (community colleges and traditionally minority colleges) couldn’t stand the scrutiny of a meaningful report. Graduation rates were abysmal and post graduation incomes wouldn’t support debt repayment. Today the report includes fewer than 1500 colleges report showing cost, graduation rates and average income after graduation. Many schools provide incomplete data. Department of Education statistics through 2012 show about 7200 degree granting institutions in the United States.

This year’s SOTU suggested “affordable” college and tuition loan repayments of no more than 10% of post graduation income.” These promises don’t reduce the cost of college. Instead they move the bill to the public budget.

The Department of Education has not had a good year. Rape and race continue to plague our campuses. Race relations are worse than at any time since the 1960s. Despite admonitions to the contrary, the national economy continues to founder, promising fewer good jobs for graduates. During the three days after the SOTU address, the stock market plummeted. On Friday (01/15) alone the value of your pension holdings shed 2.4%. It’s the economy and not federal policy that shape the future of higher education. That future is not bright. The president touts a 5% unemployment rate but ignores that part-time employment and the creation of low-wage jobs corrupt that number.  Only 62% of eligible workers have or are even looking for jobs. Nearly two of every five workers have given up.

We hear that education shapes the economy. The opposite is true. The demand for education is the result of a healthy economy not the catalyst for it.  Don’t rely on the value of your pension to track the health of the economy. You might better trust the demand for seats at community colleges as long as education remains primarily an element of the social welfare net because, short-term or long-term, what we want from education is income not education.

 

Renaming Dorms Doesn’t Repay the Debt

I call for a march from exploitation to education, from poverty to shared prosperity, a march from slavery to liberty, and a march from violence to peace.

Kailash Satyarthi

 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Parr Center for Ethics sent invitations this week for a panel discussion. The title for the discussion is “What’s in a Name? Moral and Historical Considerations of Naming University Facilities.” Participants will come from the university’s History and Law faculties, the Center for Civil Rights and the Director of the UNC American Indian Center.

UNC has plenty to discuss. Campus construction, the first phase completed in 1793, used slave labor. Saunders Hall was recently renamed under pressure to rescind the honor given to an alleged Klan leader. Aycock Dormitory was named for a governor who campaigned on a white supremacy platform. Silent Sam, the monument to those who died while serving in the Confederate military, still stands guard on campus.

Educational disgraces are not restricted to the Old North State. The stigma of slavery remains at Mizzou and in border states as well as the institutions that sprung up with tax money in the states of the old Confederacy. Woodrow Wilson, son of Virginia, Democrat governor of New Jersey and Father of the Progressive Movement was also President of Princeton. Just before Thanksgiving, Princeton students seized the president’s office at the university to oppose Wilson’s “racist legacy.” If public education is a basic human right, slaves were not only denied that right but forced to build institutions that then denied them entry. In this modern time, students are still dissatisfied with the inability to control public campuses, policies and administrations. The protests are widespread.

Slavery was national, not just regional piracy. The textile looms of the North also benefited from cotton prices artificially low due to slave labor. In recognition of this, racial protests also sprung up last year at Harvard, Yale, Ithaca, Brown and Amherst. Even tiny Claremont-McKenna College of California changed presidents after a protest by thirty minority students.

Jettisoning higher education’s administrators during the recent Thanksgiving break may be ironic, but it hardly satisfies the lust for recognition. It might be difficult to reconcile the wrongs that benefitted elite private colleges and universities during slavery, but there is a compensation that would balance the accounts of public universities that sprung up under the slave economy. Immediately and without cost, turn over all public higher education to minority agencies that would then operate them as private, for-profit and self-sustaining institutions.

Descendants of former slaves might be entitled to ownership based on the percentage of DNA that suggests African-American heritage, but that will be decided by Black Lives Matter. Negotiations would be necessary to allocate resources between Native American groups and this group. More recent Hispanic immigrants may be disgruntled by this settlement and may suggest an arrangement that accommodates them too. All negotiations should take place through the controlling agency which would be given stewardship of all public campuses, faculties and endowments. At that point, the debt from higher education will be paid in full and public responsibility for the failures of higher education fully satisfied. Protests will presumably become irrelevant, and Ivy League students wishing more ethical educations can happily transfer to the large once-State now minority institutions.

Almost everyone wins, everyone except the descendants of the wage-slave mill workers of the North.

My family arrived in time to fight the American Civil War but after the slave economy. My people, however, were subjected to land slavery for seven hundred and fifty years after Strongbow invaded Ireland. We were educated in hedge row schools if at all, starved during the famines, exported in coffin ships. I’m expecting a check from the Windsors any day now for our unwilling service. Similarly reparations might be expected by…

  • Armenians from the Turks
  • Indonesians from the Dutch
  • The Jin Dynasty from the Mongols
  • Italians from the Huns
  • Western Latin Americans from the Spaniards
  • Spaniards in turn from the Moors
  • Nubians from the Egyptians
  • Jets from the Sharks
  • Alsatians from the French
  • Alsatians from the Germans
  • Citizens of Hong Kong from the Disney Corporation
  • Neanderthals from Homo Sapiens

A Library Is No Place for a Veteran

Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.

–R. David Lankes

 

What is an unsupervised shelter in the morning, a coffee shop for teens in the afternoon, a meeting place for social clubs in the evening, and an internet café whenever its doors are open? It’s not a place where you are likely to borrow a book but a place where you might learn how to use Facebook. It’s the public library.

If you are old, female, affluent and educated, you are more likely to recognize the qualities of the new-age public library than if you are not. That demographic has a fifty percent chance of having been at a library in the past year. Others are even less likely to appreciate the transformation. The transformation is primarily one of use not function. Libraries aren’t what they used to be.

Across the demographic spectrum, Americans say it would be harmful to communities if libraries shut down, but only one-third believe that they personally would be hurt by closings. They say, “It doesn’t help me, but it must help someone.”

A recent study by the Pew Foundation (Horrigan, John B. “Libraries at the Crossroads,” Pew Institute Online, 15 September 2015.) shows continued decline in the use of libraries and a further fragmentation of use. This decline accelerates due to wasted resources maintaining paper media that few library users want or use.

The public sector recognized that the cost of maintaining paper is prohibitive shortly after the millennium, but word has not yet been shelved at public libraries. Alameda California Social Services, for example, acknowledges that purchasing hardcopy is only 11% of the total cost of storing, filing, copying and recovering its paper media (Sarantis, Heather. “BUSINESS GUIDE TO PAPER REDUCTION.” September, 2002). Fifty-six percent of the cost is for labor. The conclusion is that nobody wants paper books or magazines, yet this is what we spend most of our library tax dollars to support.

There are some specific populations the Pew study says library-goers would like better supported. These include:

  • local educators
  • veterans and active-duty military
  • immigrants;
  • job seekers
  • students of emerging technologies
  • entrepreneurs

Fortunately or unfortunately the federal government has claimed responsibility for serving the largest of these groups. The Office of Veteran Affairs serves veterans a huge portion of somewhat useable data, but local public libraries have no expertise to teach the navigation of the complex VA maze. If research librarians with particular expertise about veteran benefits, post discharge health issues and opportunities guided vets through the information our returning heroes could use the information as library patrons recommended in the Pew report. Plans are presently underway to develop and centralize VA expertise under National Guard.

You may have been to a State Employment office or Office of Employment Security. They are crowded with carrels accessing outdated job ads and misinformation about job search tools and technologies. The technology fails to link the tools provided by the Federal Department of Labor. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) does even less to satisfy the needs suggested by Pew, failing to provide even basic information to legal immigrants except for access to visa and citizenship information (http://www.uscis.gov). Recent arrivals use libraries most frequently for information on English as a Second Language education, driver’s license requirements and email communication with their countries of origin. For improved services to immigrants and to improve national security it would be better to provide these facilities through the offices of the INS where language expertise could be provided.

Constituencies that now use public libraries need centers that target these groups. Online platforms can provide links but expertise and training is also needed at the centers. Some of the same personal might be equipped to deliver support but should be managed by federal or state centers of excellence. Libraries should be about people not paper.

Transformed local public libraries should become online centers eliminating the expense of paper books and magazines. Local budgets would then be slashed by reusing space and personnel while federal and state agencies more effectively perform the functions they are budgeted for. More importantly, services can be improved by moving the resources to centers where specialized expertise lives in support of vets, immigrants and job seekers.

 

What Are You Doing on SuperDupe?: The Transformation of American Holidays (reprised)

In the spirit of re-gifting, this week we reprise a piece first published in December,2014.I wish you each the happiest of holidays.~Don

Celebrate what you want to see more of.
Tom Peters

About thirty years ago I began to think there were three great American holidays. Twenty-five years ago I recognized that one of these, Superbowl Sunday had supplanted New Year’s Eve.

Since that time, others commented that festival of advertising and wardrobe malfunctions was a holiday. If a holiday is an event that brings people together in celebration of a ritual then what was once called Roman Numeral Sunday became a holiday, national in scope, international in humiliation. Note: Roman numerals are now abandoned. It’s not that the new gladiatorial games aren’t worthy of the blood and pomp. The Latin numeration just became too complicated for us to cognate.

Each of the three great holidays celebrated a principal American new age virtue and was represented by a symbol. The turkey celebrated the new-age gluttony of Thanksgiving. The gaudy evergreen marks the commercialism of neo-Christmas. Drunken debauchery reveled in the dropping of the New Year’s Crystal Globe (or the acorn or even a possum in my home state).

an-New Year’s

Certainly New Year’s was the weakest of the three traditions. The religious element had fallen away from the holiday long since. It suggested a bit of violence in bowl games during the afternoon that followed the night before. In the new millennium the violence takes place before the bowl games during the Bowl Committee Selection process. Perhaps it was the inability to conjoin the violence with the drunkenness that was the holiday’s weakness.

In the days of the Viet Nam War, violence came to our dinner table. It was served up by video accompanied by the soothing voices of Huntley, Brinkley, Chancellor and, of course, Cronkite. They made the horror as digestible as TV dinners. Like Mithridates, we became inured to violence through small daily doses. Our capacity grew into the 70s when Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America traded sex for unlimited doses of screen violence. Our sports, evolved more violently too. So Valenti’s compromise suited us well enough. There was violence at the dinner table but never sex. It all seemed quite natural.

Groups gather around turkey and tannenbaum. What corresponding symbol did SuperDupe Sunday offer? On this holy day, we huddle in groups, eat a communion of chicken wings and worship the high def image of the television. The American ecclesiastity conjoined a festival of electronics, commercialism and vicarious violence. It is possibly the perfect festival.

Great American festivals are not mere holidays but seasons. SuperDupe serves this need. In this case, the anticipation is not personal. There is less shopping, preliminary gatherings and travel. The Super Season is limited to the two weeks before the holiday, characterized by endless insipid interviews with athletes. This is one of the grand abuses of the season. Whether characterized by bad-mannered chest humping or vapid obsequiousness, the interviews are as utterly predictable as the New Year’s ball’s drop.

An unsubstantiated urban myth claims that the big game is also an event that encourages domestic violence. Snopes.com refutes this myth and reports that in NFL cities, on occasion, there has been a marginal increase in domestic violence after the game. In fact the greatest calendar catalyst for violence occurs on and immediately after other holidays—like Christmas.

With television advertising losing its financial mojo, the pecuniary importance of the holiday is dropping into punt formation. Soon we will be sending in another holiday substitution.

© Don Ward, 2014.