Archive for Education
Got a little busy yesterday and didn’t have time to cross-post this:
I resemble that remark
From Tuesday’s GOP debate, Marco Rubio:
For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.
Uh, that’s fewer philosophers, Marco. He’s wrong about those pay levels, of course, as philosophy major Matt Yglesias observes. But being factual wasn’t Rubio’s point anyway. Reality having a left-wing bias and all.
For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized liberal arts education. Or education in general.
Anyway, the philosophers are speaking out. The New York Times consulted Cheshire Calhoun, chairwoman of the American Philosophical Association and a philosophy professor at Arizona State University:
Ms. Calhoun notes that philosophy is not about toga-wearing thinkers who stroke big beards these days. Rather, she says, the degree denotes skills in critical thinking and writing that are valuable in a variety of fields that can pay extremely well.
While some universities have cut back or eliminated their philosophy departments, and the job prospects for academic philosophers are notoriously bad, Ms. Calhoun argues that students who pursue undergraduate philosophy degrees tend to have a leg up when applying to graduate school. The notion that philosophy means “pre-poverty” is a misnomer, she said.
Rubio might have considered that Carly Fiorina was standing just feet away. She holds a degree in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford.
At Salon, Avery Kolers, philosophy professor at the University of Louisville pushes back at the notion that market price is any measure of social worth:
… What kind of person would assume without justification or explanation that an endeavor (or a person’s) value, derives solely from the amount of money it can make?
A market economy is a tool for securing human welfare and promoting human freedom. It may or may not be effective at those things, but either way, that’s what it is: a tool. Sadly, the contemporary Republican Party has elevated that tool into a religion, bowing before it and disparaging those who don’t.
Ed Kilgore had a little fun with that as well, speaking of religion:
But here’s the thing: Rubio (or my recruiter, for that matter) could have made the exact same point using religious studies or theology as an example of a pointy-headed field of study we should not be subsidizing. Church gigs on average pay even more poorly than philosophy, I’m pretty sure, and why should taxpayers be encouraging private religious training?
I have a philosophy degree myself, as I’ve mentioned before:
I grew up thinking that education was its own reward. In college, I studied, philosophy, art, drama and science. Yeah, I waited tables and traveled for awhile. After college, I was appalled at the attitude of many customers. They’d ask if I was in college. No, I told them, I’d graduated. Next question: What was your major?
When I told them, their eyes went blank. “But what are you going to do with it,” they’d ask. You could see the gears going round in their heads. How did that (a philosophy degree) translate into *that* as they mentally rubbed their finger$$ together.
Then again, there were those two suited, young businessmen dining on their expense accounts one evening at Table 29.
“Tom, where have you been? Haven’t seen you here lately,” one asked as I approached their table.
I told them I had taken the summer off for a solo, cross-country trip. I’d driven out to Los Angeles, then up the coast and as far as Alaska. I had just come back to work.
They looked at each other and you could see it in their eyes: What the hell are we doing?
Life’s not always about size (of your paycheck).
Today I design factories for a living. When I’m finished doing my job, other people get jobs making products in this country.
Funny thing, this little video on our attitudes on cost and worth just came over the transom last night:
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Because as Charlie Pierce observed yesterday, “America is the greatest country ever invented to be completely out of your mind,” we’re suffering a little insanity overload this morning.
Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s emergency appendectomy gave him a chance to experience America’s “best in the world” health care system this week. Raw Story:
The host said he periodically fainted from the pain of a perforated appendix, but the nurse told him he was not allowed to faint in the waiting area and should instead go to triage to lose consciousness.
“You’re telling me where I can and cannot faint?” he said.
Noah was finally taken, trembling with pain, to another room for treatment — where he was followed by the same nurse, who brought still more forms and asked how he would be paying for treatment of his life-threatening condition.
“With my life, clearly,” he said.
She decided because she recognized Noah from the billboards that he could pay whether or not he had insurance.
While some college students are being introduced to Nietzsche, Freud, and organic chemistry, Charles and David Koch want to introduce them to the Kochification Church, bless their hearts. The Koch Brothers (shouldn’t they just stick to cough drops?) are spending more than ever to “evangelize their gospel of economic freedom” on campuses, reports Al Jazeera.
“The [Koch] network is fully integrated,” Kevin Gentry told the annual Koch network meeting last summer. And not only with students, but also in “building state-based capabilities and election capabilities” into a “talent pipeline.” Sounds as if the cult of Ayn Rand has branched out into multi-level marketing. Oh, glory!
We knew their acolytes have been introducing students to the Randian gospel by bribing colleges endowing chairs in economic departments that will agree to teach “Atlas Shrugged” and instill a philosophy of “wealth maximization.” But as Charles ages, he seems to have redoubled his efforts, hoping to see the fruit of his evangelism in his lifetime.
Have you accepted Ayn Rand as your personal savior?
North Carolina legislators were cooking up some particularly noxious potions yesterday here in one of Charlie Pierce’s Laboratories of Democracy. Pay attention. North Carolina has become wingnut DARPA for this stuff.
The NC state legislature adjourned for the year about the time I got up to write this. Twitter and email lit up last night after all the turds they’d kept plugged up in the legislative pipeline until the very last all spewed out into public view at once. Much like the infamous “motorcycle vagina” bill of 2013, some of the worst appeared as surprise revisions to other bills.
Ironically, a colleague yesterday noticed that sometime after September 2012 our local GOP website had quietly removed its “Principles” page from its website. They included “I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.” Well, yesterday the “closest to the people” people in the state capitol attempted to prevent local governments in North Carolina from doing anything remotely progressive:
Their vision reflected a deep belief at the time, among Republicans as well as Democrats, in public services that transcended class. The result was the world’s best public school system at the time, networks of public libraries, public parks and beaches, and later a broad system of public universities and community colleges.
Those are at risk today in a venal culture driven more by bottom lines than common goods. One half expects any day to hear a plan to sell off Yellowstone or Yosemite as “weekend homes for Internet tycoons,” as Kristof suggests. The Midas cult has not yet taken drills and sledgehammers to our heritage the way ISIS has to the cradle of civilization. But while our financial cult’s methods are more subtle, its goals are similar: to erase the very memory of a culture. Here, monuments to collective achievements dim the gleam of personal shrines erected to Self.
Public universities accessible to all are under threat from the cult’s policy drills and sledgehammers. Washington Monthly profiles LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander, whose fight to preserve public higher education puts him at odds with efforts to remove the public from higher education. At a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing this summer chaired by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, LSU’s King Alexander argued for more federal regulation:
The “greatest challenge facing public universities,” King Alexander explains, is that states today spend about half as much on higher education on a per capita income basis as they did in 1981. This is a direct result, he says, of a regulatory failure built into federal law. In other areas of federal policy, such as transportation and health care, federal dollars come with strings attached—states have to pitch in a set amount of money too. That’s not the case for higher education, where money follows the student to private and public colleges alike, and states have no requirements to fund public universities at a certain (or indeed any) level. The result is that when states are under budget pressure, as they have been in the years since the financial crisis, they slash spending on higher ed. The burden of those cuts then gets shifted to students, in the form of higher tuition, and to the federal government, in greater spending on grants, tax credits, and subsidized student loans.
Pouring more money into federal higher education support, argued Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, will do no good so long as states keep disinvesting in it. Freshman Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana reluctantly agreed, “I’m against states being mandated to do something, but it appears unless states are mandated to do something they’re not going to do so.” The hearing did not go in the direction Lamar Alexander had wanted. He hopes to rewrite the Higher Education Act (HEA) to remove “costly and burdensome federal red tape imposed on states and colleges.”
To that end, King Alexander wants federal dollars to come with strings requiring states to live up to their obligation to provide adequate public funding as so many state constitutions (and statehood enabling acts) require. He believes “that as a condition of federal higher education aid, states should be required to provide a minimum amount of their revenues to their public colleges and universities.” King succeeded in getting a “maintenance of effort” provision into a piece of 2008 federal legislation that set a floor for state funding as a qualification for federal support. While many states cut their funding to within 1 percent of the floor, they did not go below it. Not until the law expired.
The disagreement over maintenance of effort is one over the proper role of the federal government. Lamar Alexander reflected the Republican Party’s view on states’ rights when he told me that maintenance of effort “usurp[s] the prerogative of the constitutional authority of governors and legislators to decide how to spend state dollars by, in effect, being coercive.” King, for his part, describes himself as a “federalist” when it comes to education policy and says “states’ rights is George Wallace standing in front of the Alabama admissions office not letting anybody in.” To King, the debate over maintenance of effort is nothing less than a battle over whether Americans of modest birth will have anything like the same opportunities as the affluent to better themselves through higher education. Spend enough time around King, and you get the sense that he became a public university president less because he wants to run a school than because it provides him a parapet from which to fend off the hordes trying to destroy public higher education.
King has been making his arguments for twenty years, but until recently Democrats were more focused on expanding the direct student aid program to help poor and middle-class students by increasing Pell Grants and middle-class tax credits, and creating generous repayment plans for student loans. But as student loan debt has risen and governors like Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker in Wisconsin cut higher education budgets, Democrats are increasingly realizing that their unquestioning advocacy of federal direct aid has allowed states to play Washington for a sucker. That’s why they chose King Alexander as their witness.
There is a cost to maintaining a country and its character. Not just in blood, but in treasure. Too many of our leaders quick to spend the former are more miserly when it comes to the latter.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
I am a glorified temp. White collar Manpower. A contractor. I have worked for national and international corporations for years. I never trusted them. Not the people, necessarily, but the machine. To the machine, I am not a person. I am the hired help. A “human resource.” Consumable. Disposable. If work gets slack and I have to move on, it’s not as if anyone is breaking any promises to me I knew they wouldn’t keep. I never let them make them. Like Chaplin’s tramp, just a cog in the machine.
Ah, but “Modern Times” was 80 years ago. And now? The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy observes that this weekend’s New York Times article about Darwinian workplace conditions for white-collar workers at Amazon under Jeff Bezos has drawn more comments to the Times’ website than any other it has published. Cassidy writes:
Perhaps Times readers, who tend to be well educated and reasonably well off, like reading about bad things happening to people like themselves. But I think it goes deeper than that. As the “New Economy” celebrates its twentieth anniversary—on August 9, 1995, Netscape’s initial public offering took place—it is becoming harder to ignore some of its negative aspects. Behind all the technological advances and product innovation, there is a good deal of old-fashioned labor discipline, wage repression, and exertion of management power.
Even as Jeb! Bush and Hillary Clinton prepare for their close-ups, out in bayou country a GOP presidential wannabe is trying to keep from being the next Sam Brownback.
Republicans’ approach to taxes is not unlike Biblical literalists’ approach to confronting evolution. Christian fundamentalists will construct an elaborate house of cards on the shakiest of foundations and spend enormous time and effort trying to keep a puff of breeze from knocking it over before they will question their crappy theology. (Visit the Creation Museum on Bullittsburg Church Rd.
in Petersburg, Kentucky, and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop.)
Republicans — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for example — will concoct an elaborate edifice of nonsense to create the illusion that they are not raising taxes, you know, to pay for services their constituent public actually wants. Like funding universities and hospitals. Facing a potential $1.6 billion budget shortfall (that’s another story), Jindal has gone to Creation Museum lengths to keep from offending Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Fairness.
Here’s how the local paper explained it last week:
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, and 10 other Louisiana House members sent Norquist a letter (PDF) Sunday night, asking Norquist to rethink his approach to Louisiana’s budget and the “no tax” pledge….
The governor has threatened to veto any budget plan or tax bills that don’t meet Norquist’s “no tax” requirements. Currently, the governor is pushing the Legislature to adopt a controversial higher education tax credit — commonly called SAVE — that Jindal says will make the budget comply with Norquist’s wishes.
These are leaders, mind you, elected by the people of Louisiana, sending a mother-may-I letter to a gadfly in Washington, DC for permission to do their jobs. And their governor wants to be president of the United States and stand up to terr’ists.
Jeff Bryant’s alarming post at Salon details some of the financial services sector’s inventive, new schemes for funding education. Wall Street already saw K-12 schools as “the last honeypot,” a steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars just waiting to be tapped by charter schools. It first had to convince states to increase competition – meaning eliminating teachers and other public employees standing between investors and their money.
One could argue that the right’s small government, low taxes mantra always had as its goal eliminating the “creeping socialism” of government providing education and other public services on a not-for-profit basis. (What, no middle-man markup?) “Starving the beast” was never about the size of government, but about eliminating public-sector competitors and making sure the right people take a percentage of vital services funded at taxpayer expense.
Since the collapse of the housing market, the giant pool of money is looking for other places to invest. So it’s out with the NINA loans and the CDOs and in with the SLABS, CABS, PPPs, and ISAs. Jeff Bryant writes:
It’s not hard to see the allure of SLABS [student loan asset-backed securities]. Student loans seem to be an endless stream of revenue as colleges and universities continue to increase tuition, economic conditions and employment transience feed the unemployed back into continuing education, and political leaders urge everyone to attend college. The income stream is nearly guaranteed to pay off because the loans are next to impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.
A Huffington Post article by Chris Kirkham states, SLABS offer “seemingly unlimited growth potential at virtually zero risk. The burden of college loan repayment falls entirely on students’ backs, shielding corporations from the consequences of default.”
The reason business interests want to undermine public education, I argue, is to get their hands on the largest portion of the annual budget in all 50 states. At Salon this morning, Thom Hartmann argues that conservatives hate public education because “it’s hard to sell the Conservative brand” to people who know their own history:
So now, thanks to the war on education that began with Ronald Raegan, we have come to that remote period in time Jefferson was concerned about. Our leaders, ignorant of or ignoring the history of this nation’s founding, make a parody of liberty and flaunt their challenges even to those rights explicitly defined in the Constitution. And, perhaps worse, they allow monopolistic corporations to do the same.
Our best defense against today’s pervasive ignorance about American history and human rights is education, a task that Jefferson undertook in starting the University of Virginia to provide a comprehensive and free public education to all capable students. A well-informed populace will always preserve liberty better than a powerful government, a philosophy which led the University of California and others to once offer free education to their states’ citizens.
Two postings this weekend involving lynch mobs led me to an interesting bit of history from the Revolutionary War. Reading the L.A. Times op-ed title, “Southern ‘Hanging Bridge: A monument to Judge Lynch,” made me gasp. It had never occurred to me that lynching derived from someone’s name.
Jason Morgan Ward, associate professor of history at Mississippi State University, begins:
On Feb. 10, the Montgomery, Ala.-based organization Equal Justice Initiative released “Lynching in America,” a searing report that documents 3,959 lynchings in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. The researchers note that their count exceeds that of previous studies by at least 700 victims. The news media seized on the numbers and paid less attention to what the group characterized as an “astonishing absence” of lynching memorials in communities that boast monuments to Confederate soldiers and architects of the South’s Jim Crow regime.
As it happens, an abandoned, rusted bridge on a dirt road near Shubuta, Mississippi stands as a makeshift monument to the lynchings that occurred there between 1918 and 1942. When Ward asked locals if the new road bypassing the “hanging bridge” had anything to do with its history, a local told him, “People don’t need to see that.”
But Ward’s op-ed did not explain who Judge Lynch was.
It was news last week when Oklahoma legislators voted to cease funding an Advance Placement history course, echoing a key critic of the curriculum who believes “the concept of American exceptionalism has been deliberately scrubbed out of this document.”
At Crooks and Liars, Dave Neiwert suggests that one motivation for the legislation may be that Oklahomans do not want to see their own unflattering history revisited: the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and the Osage Reign of Terror, also from the 1920s. In the first, white lynch mobs obliterated a prosperous black neighborhood – even dropping fire bombs from airplanes (one might consider that exceptional) – and in the second, white fortune hunters exploited and murdered Osage tribal members to gain control over oil rights. Combined, hundreds died. Neiwert explains: