29.4.04

MAYBE THOSE PIGS WILL FLY. More on New York's Second Avenue Subway, from the New York Times.
[Transit Authority chairman Peter] Kalikow predicts that construction on the first leg of the fabled Second Avenue subway could begin in December. Maybe it really will, given its political utility.
POSITIONAL ARMS RACES. More fretting from the New York Times:
"When most people think of a typical college student, they're thinking about eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and having massive debts," said Scott E. Mendy, a junior from Tigard, Ore., who receives financial aid. At Michigan, he said, "people live very well."

Summer jobs? Many undergraduates do not think twice about accepting an internship that barely covers their expenses. Many can afford to take spring break trips to Mexican resorts or Europe. Extracurricular activities often seem to be run by students who can devote dozens of hours to them each week without trying to hold down a campus job, said Angela Galardi, a senior who recently completed a term as president of the student government.

The forces behind the rising wealth on many campuses seem to be both economic and psychological, university officials say. As the income of college graduates has risen much faster than that of less educated workers, getting into the right college has become an obsession in many upper-income high schools.

With the help of summer programs, preparation classes for college entrance examinations and sometimes their own private admissions counselors, students in these schools assemble more impressive applications than they once did. They also apply to more top colleges.

The advantages of campuses with increasingly wealthy student bodies are obvious, educators say: the colleges have more resources for research and student activities, more professors doing cutting-edge work and more students who received solid high school educations.

But they also have much steeper tuition bills than in the past, and this seems to have turned off many middle- and low-income families. Some students are not willing to take on the tens of thousands of dollars of debt that is often necessary. Others, studies show, underestimate the available amount of financial aid.

"We were founded on the principle of allowing larger numbers of students to go to college in an affordable way," Mr. Spencer, Michigan's admission director, said. "But having said that, the price of college has gone up, and many of the truly needy will not bother to apply."

That concerns people here and on other campuses because of what it could mean for the variety of campus life and for the broader economy.

"We're very worried," said William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's director of undergraduate admissions. "There are some very, very talented kids in the bottom quartile who aren't even going to college. It's a huge waste of talent."
It is within the control of the administrators who gets a price break and who doesn't. The administrators at the name colleges would like to control the knowledge that twenty years out, it doesn't matter where your degree came from, simply that you earned one. I'm still looking to raise the ratio of strivers to slackers here.

The Times also reports on the startup of a new university with an up-front administration. University Named for Reagan Is Planned.
About 200 acres near Denver has been donated for what could be an $850 million campus, said Terry Walker, the founding president of the university.

The university hopes to have 10,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff members by 2010, Mr. Walker said on Monday. It is to be a general university with a medical school, a law school and a graduate school of public and international policy, among other disciplines.

Officials plan to admit only students with SAT scores of at least 1,400. A perfect score is 1,600. "We're going for the crème de la crème," Mr. Walker said.

The university will be financed through private donations. Mr. Walker said the project has the support of the Reagan family.
THOSE TRAIN-SPOTTERS ARE DANGEROUS. Particularly the ones you can deport. (Hat tip: Live from the Third Rail.)
INCENTIVES MATTER. Nailed to Newmark's Door:
An article that describes the tough life of humanities Ph.D.s. A wonderful article to use in an introductory economics course to make two points.

1. You ignore market signals at your peril.

2. What are compensating differentials? Let a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Yale who's read a little economics tell you: "He refers to the 2001 book The Invisible Heart by feminist economist Nancy Folbre, which describes how the work that is most important to a society tends to be the most undervalued. 'Teachers, nurses, people who do things they really care about, get shafted.'"
The article argues as if the parlous state of the humanities just sort of happened.
Welcome to the world of the humanities Ph.D. student, 2004, where promises mean little and revolt is in the air. In the past week, Columbia's graduate teaching assistants went on strike and temporary, or adjunct, faculty at New York University narrowly avoided one. Columbia's Graduate Student Employees United seeks recognition, over the administration's appeals, of a two-year-old vote that would make it the second officially recognized union at a private university. NYU's adjuncts, who won their union in 2002, reached an eleventh-hour agreement for health care and office space, among other amenities.

Grad students have always resigned themselves to relative poverty in anticipation of a cushy, tenured payoff. But in the past decade, the rules of the game have changed. Budget pressures have spurred universities' increasing dependence on so-called "casual labor," which damages both the working conditions of graduate students and their job prospects. Over half of the classroom time at major universities is now logged by non-tenure-track teachers, both graduate teaching assistants?known as TAs?and adjuncts. At community colleges, part-timers make up 60 percent of the faculties.
Those that do not remember the past ... James Michener's Kent State points to the reliance of the universities on what he characterizes as the "sweated labor" of graduate students, and an article published in The Progressive in the middle 1970s made reference to Ph.D.s as "the new migrant." (It's one thing for lefty academics to write about migrant workers, quite another to be one.)

The next paragraph reinforces a point I made recently:
Average teaching loads for grad students have increased, while benefits are often cut off after five years. Humanities TAs are paid stipends ranging from less than $10,000 at a public school like SUNY-Buffalo to $18,000 at unionized NYU. Adjuncts, more and more likely to be recent post-docs who couldn't find a better position, earn less than $3,000 a course?usually without benefits, and far less than the $60,000 yearly national average for full-time professors.
There are several phenomena at work here. The safety of graduate school looks relatively more attractive if the job market is as grim as it looks. The degree-granting departments, however, have to show some production (and, in an ideal world, placement -- that's a rant for another day) of Ph.D.s and have to make some offers to promising new applicants. In the service, it's called up or out. The teaching loads go up because administrators have misguided ideas about "productivity." The selling point for many universities, mine included, is the attention students will get from professors. Northern Illinois is relatively good at this, with few large lecture halls, and a tradition of senior professors teaching freshmen and sophomores. That's been gutted in recent years, as "productivity" has been redefined as professors offering more classes, which hurts the recruiting efforts of departments whose disciplines balance Ph.D. production with hiring better, or as professors teaching larger classes, which is great for the student credit hours per facult member, but a student might as well go to Illinois or State for the cattle-call classes.

Critical Mass has taken the Village Voice article as occasion to nail her own theses to the door. They're a bit longer, symbolic of the difference between the discourse practices of Economics and Literature, but go read the whole thing. Some teases:
There is something a bit, ummm, noisome in the spectacle of established, tenured academics clucking their virtual tongues and beating their virtual breasts about the terrible lot that has befallen the Invisible Adjunct and all those other adjuncts for whom she has so invisibly stood. What besides clucking are these folks doing to reform the abusive system that chewed IA up and spat her out? How many of them know the names--or even faces--of the adjuncts presently at work in their own departments? How many of them have taken a moment to calculate how that labor eases their own professional lives? How many have done something--anything--to ensure that they themselves are not the smug beneficiaries of underemployed academics' professional exploitation? How many of those have, in turn, risked alienating their colleagues by insisting that their department or school acknowledge the ethical problem of adjunct labor and take steps to address it responsibly? How many have taken any personal risks at all in the name of redressing the flagrant wrongs from which they cumulatively profit? Color me cynical, but my guess is "not many."
No surprise that many of the tenured will keep a low profile. There is a separating equilibrium in which risk-averse people are more likely to seek contracts with a promise of tenure in the first place. So much for cutting-edge, when cutting-edge research is often the most conformist stance to take.
Some disconnected and partial thoughts about this. It is agreed that there is a massive overproduction of Ph.D.'s, and that departments that are contributing to this massive overproduction of Ph.D.'s are grossly irresponsible toward grad students even as they serve their own needs very well (they get the cheap labor they need to get freshman comp taught, and they get a pool of smart, interesting students to whom faculty can administer narcissistically gratifying graduate courses). Usually, the solutions offered to this problem run along the lines of suggesting that fewer Ph.D.'s should be produced, that those that are produced should be better supported, and that "The Profession," as comprised of hundreds of discrete departments, should renew its commitment to the tenure track by, well, being very committed to it (this commitment in turn is organized around an ideal of hiring as many TT faculty as possible, cutting back on adjunct labor as much as possible, and placing as many newly minted Ph.D.'s as possible in TT jobs). It doesn't work, and it can't.

But one reason is that the problem of what to do with all these Ph.D.'s is too narrowly defined. It's true that a Ph.D. in English or history is not a terribly magnetic job qualification outside academe. Such degrees can, in fact, be positively detrimental to one's extra-academic job hunting, in large part because there exists beyond the academy a not entirely unwarranted belief that humanities Ph.D.-types are the prospective employees from hell--incapable of meeting deadlines, incapable of communicating clearly, contemptuous of taskwork and pragmatic problem-solving, incapable of working well with others. It's a stereotype, and an often unfair one. But it doesn't come out of nowhere, either.

Indeed.

In related news, the two day teaching assistants' strike has ended in Madison, although Charlie Sykes wants to riff on the subject some more this morning, but Mike McKenzie's holdout is more important to the morning listeners, although he claims they are related topics.

The New Yorker covers the continuing teaching assistant strike at Columbia. The ending paragraph pretty well sums up why the humanities don't get much respect:
As the queries returned to the subject of grades, [art historian Robert] Harrist [a supervisor filling in for a striker] began to look flustered. "Believe it or not," he said, "I've got a group of graduate students upstairs right now waiting to give their final reports." With that, he hurried out, and [summer session instructor Lynn] Catterson took command. After a while, she lowered the lights and began to click through the slides. She lectured on the spectator and the female nude. Stopping on a Goya, she said, "This is a prelude to Playboy, basically."
No mention on whether the women of the fevered brow called her for creating a hostile environment. One wonders, though, how long a discipline can claim to represent anything important if it continues to pander to the vulgar. Columbia and the other name universities claim to be selling something special and charge prices accordingly.

28.4.04

BRING 'EM ON. Daniel Drezner likes market segmentation in higher education.
I for one, welcome our new online overlords competitors. While these schools provide a similar service, as this point they're expanding the market rather than cutting into a stagnant one. If offshore outsourcing means anything, it means that a lot more people are going to have to get a lot more education. As far as I'm concerned, the more schools, the better.

The New York Times article he links to is today's recommended reading. Some excerpts, with observations.
Today, 1 in 12 college students attends a for-profit institution, and the business has grown to $23 billion in annual revenue for 2002, the latest year analyzed by Eduventures, an education market research company in Boston. The University of Phoenix alone has about 201,000 full-time adult students at 142 campuses and learning centers. Enrollment in for-profit institutions is growing at three times the rate of nonprofit colleges and universities, says Sean Gallagher, an analyst with Eduventures.

So don't get excited, and don't even panic,
Instead of going to Harvard, they all went to Phoenix?

Why?
The education market didn't always look so rosy. Not that long ago, traditional colleges came to envision nontraditional education as a potential cash cow. Prominent universities like New York University and Temple rushed in with the creation of for-profit subsidiaries that promised to blend ivory-tower class and dot-com nimbleness. But by 2001, most of those highly touted experiments had failed. Columbia's for-profit program, Fathom, which offered online courses in partnership with institutions like the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, folded early last year. Less grand online programs continue.

What went wrong? For one, new courses proved far more expensive to develop and run than anticipated. And the if-you-build-it-they-will-come sensibility of the dot-com years was as ill suited for higher education as it was for most businesses. Jared Bleak, who has studied the for-profit education market as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard, says that the earlier failures came from a fatal disconnect between the educational mission of the traditional universities and the entrepreneurial notion of ginning up a quick for-profit business that could provide an entirely new endowment.
Ya gotta know the territory ... Doing something just because somebody else does it well, or because it's a fad, well, doesn't make a lot of sense.
In fact, online programs at traditional universities like UMass and the University of Maryland University College, which had built organically on existing distance-learning programs, were quietly booming as nonprofit ventures.

ONE of the classic mistakes that a company makes as it feels its way into a new business is a failure to fundamentally rethink content and process -- in this case, course material being put online. Adult learners want their education quick and to the point. Successful programs offer a kind of education that might strike some as downmarket.
On the other hand, not everybody is cut out for connecting Summa to customer service, or sorting through the classical allusions in landmark regulatory cases. Talking shop and calling it education might suffice, although not everybody agrees.
Fitting perfectly is what continuing education strives for. A big part of the business plan is to strip away the elements of a traditional college that cost so much: fancy campuses, dormitories, athletic complexes, tenured faculty and the pond that shows up in every brochure. At the same time, the institutions strip away things that can be frustrating to students -- the commute, parking woes, long lines at registration, inconvenient class times. They focus on what in the business world is called customer service, often nonexistent at traditional colleges. ''They tend to be better at student services than traditional institutions are,'' Dr. Twigg says. ''Adult students are more demanding. You can still push kids around.''
Hmm, so much for Jacuzzi U?
''Do they serve a niche? Sure. Are they legitimate institutions of higher education? We remain unconvinced,'' says Stephen Wollmer, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers in the state's community colleges. The group fought to keep the University of Phoenix from opening a campus in the state. It was a six-year, off-and-on battle. Things got nasty: at one point, Phoenix lawyers sent a threatening letter to the teachers' union demanding they stop using the phrase ''diploma mill'' when describing Phoenix. For one, the group opposes the university's policy of not granting faculty tenure or the academic freedom to choose course content.
Sounds like a classic regulatory case: the existing service is adequate, the existing carriers are capable of providing additional service should it be required; the applicant is not competent to provide the proposed service. What is the reality, with free entry?
Traditionalists may be most rattled by the for-profits' stated purpose of providing an education that leads to employment. ''Students are looking for a job outcome,'' says Mr. Gallagher, the education analyst, ''and that's what the for-profit institutions are focused on.'' They do so by building direct relationships with employers and employment agencies. ''The for-profit institutions are very savvy at aligning their offering to employer needs,'' he says, especially since many companies pay for their employees' continuing education. More than half of University of Phoenix students get some reimbursement from their employers.
Plus ca change. Didn't the Advertising Council once put up car cards advising "To get a good job, get a good education?" The point was to encourage people to stay in high school and get on the college track. Why does it come as a surprise that somebody would unbundle the job training from the football team?
But the analogy to customer service goes only so far, Dr. Noone says. ''Customer service doesn't mean always saying yes,'' she says. ''If people come in and say, 'I want an A,' the answer is not necessarily going to be yes.'' The university tries to strike a balance between rigor and helping students succeed, she says.

Students do not have to meet the tough entrance standards of many universities, but Dr. Noone says that is by design.

''We'd like to think that somebody who might not have been successful in school 15 years ago might be successful now,'' she says. About 35 percent fail to complete the program. ''A lot of students who end up not completing the program say that it is because it was too rigorous,'' she says. For others, ''life just gets in the way.'' Children are born or jobs lost, and education goals recede.
Hmm, those market incentives lead to a defect rate much lower than that of the traditional colleges and universities taken together? Makes one think ...
MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE MODEL. Henry at Crooked Timber attempts to link Calvinist theology and defense of markets for allocating resources in academic disciplines.
This is Max Weber’s thesis on the origins of capitalism replayed as farce. Weber argued that Calvinist theology provided capitalism’s tutelary spirit. Calvinist beliefs in predestination led believers to distinguish between the elect and the preterite - those who were destined to go to heaven, and those who were destined to go to hell. Because it was impossible to be sure whether they were going to ascend to paradise or to burn, Calvinists sought evidence that they were favoured by God through accumulating goods without consuming them. If you did well in worldly affairs, you could take this as a sign of God’s favour.
I've always preferred the Puritan formulation: God helps Thofe who Help Themfelves.

This may or may not be a good historical explanation. Still, it captures a set of attitudes expounded by some (although certainly not all) exponents of free markets. In many important respects, markets are political creations - they reflect differences in the bargaining power of different social groups. If you’re a freshly minted humanities Ph.D., even if you’re a wonderful humanities Ph.D., you’re going to have real trouble in finding a tenure track job because there are many, many others just like you. It’s easy for employers to exploit you - and you have relatively little recourse when they do. Some few get good jobs, but they’re lucky as well as talented. [1] It is almost certain that there are other, equally qualified individuals who don’t get jobs, simply because they didn’t get the lucky break (and lucky breaks are rare when you’re in a group with a systematically weak bargaining position).
The footnote [1] reads, "The centrality of luck to academic success - connecting with the right person at interview, getting friendly reviewers for an article in a good journal at the right stage of your career - is grossly underestimated," and there is truth in it. There is insufficient truth in it, however, to make a Calvinist theory of academic job markets that would withstand scrutiny.

As two competing theories, let me first propose a Stiglerian theory. Key bias: the persistence of an anomaly is evidence of an efficiency we haven't thought about carefully enough. Let us suppose that there is common knowledge on the part of aspiring Ph.D. students in some disciplines that they face a great risk of never landing a tenure-track job, let alone tenure, and those who do so succeed will still be paid much less than otherwise comparable people in other disciplines or in industry. Why, then, do so many people participate in that market? What other constraints are they operating under, or what objectives are they pursuing, that we don't fully understand?

Second, there is a Stiglitzian theory. Key bias: conditions conducive to allocative efficiency almost never hold in practice. Here, it might suffice to say that the relevant information is not quickly enough obtained and acted upon. The Chronicle of Higher Education visit with Invisible Adjunct introduces a different Stiglitzian theory, misleading signalling.
Her advice in a nutshell: Think long and hard before going to grad school in the humanities. Then think some more.

She believes that academe's cheerleaders should stop pretending that the Ph.D. is good preparation for other types of careers. It's not, she says. Being smart and stubborn enough to get through a Ph.D. program may mean you're smart and stubborn enough for lots of other things, but the actual Ph.D. is peculiar to an academic career. (She would, however, support redesigning master's programs to create practical graduate education for nonacademics.)

Speaking of programs, the Invisible Adjunct says there are simply way too many of them. Many graduate programs in many fields -- even beyond the humanities -- should be curtailed, and some should be eliminated entirely. "There's certainly a supply component to the problem," she says. "It's doing incredible damage to the profession. ... An undersupply of English literature Ph.D.'s would be the best thing to give them leverage."

She speaks passionately about the issues facing the academic profession, a profession she believes has allowed itself to fall into decline. Can't professors see that a system producing so many people who can't get jobs is not an indictment of the aspiring faculty members, but of the system itself? Or if you really think that these adjuncts aren't of high enough caliber to hire, then the graduate schools are failures, not the students.
What we are reading is standard supply-and-demand, something that Stiglerians and Stiglitzians probably generally agree upon. The solution to a market that generates inefficient results is a more efficient market, or perhaps a market that takes into account constraints not currently priced. And that would put a Brayden King post in a different perspective.
Being in the position of a graduate student about to embark into the waters of the job market, I’m not sure that I like Henry’s take on the randomness of acquiring job security. It’s easy to believe, and is perhaps benevolent to do so, that one’s success is really a matter of luck when you are one of the successful. However, for those of us seeking some sort of stability and navigability in that turbulent market, merit is an anchor. If the market really does produce random results (and hopefully this isn’t Henry’s true outlook), then we are all in a great deal of trouble. We’ve wasted all those years of training, hard work, and attempts at clever thinking. I might have been basking in the sun by my pool instead of running countless statistical models in the shadowy confines of my bedroom-office. Of course, I realize that Henry means that merit must be combined with some luck, but as a prospective job candidate, I’m never sure how much luck I have on my side and therefore I tend to begrudge the idea that much of my success will be due to pure chance.

I suppose one’s perspective has a lot to do with your current position in the social structure we call the market. If you are successful, you are likely to defend the market as an efficient tool for segregating the qualified from the rest. If you are a kind successful person, you are likely to emphasize the amount of luck that goes into getting a good job. And if you’re like me - a hopeful job candidate-to-be - you’re covering all your bases, hoping that folk wisdom about getting a job facilitates a smooth sailing voyage and a prosperous arrival at job security.

Markets exist to value risks, and there is likely a balance of luck and merit in a market outcome. Efficiency, on the other hand, depends on agents having the incentives to do efficient things. In the academy, nobody has spelled out what those efficient things are.
ARISE, YE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH. Milwaukee's Jeff Wagner is proposing that the Governor fire the striking teaching assistants, a stance that some of the legislators are also taking. He has erred, however, in using the salaries and signing bonuses of MBAs, few of whom work as graduate assistants while getting their yuppie tickets degrees as evidence that the strike, motivated by economic issues that appear to be minor, is more special pleading by people who will join the upper classes upon graduation.

The reality is somewhat different. Many of the graduate assistants have not yet discovered that they are holding their best jobs right now. This will be particularly true for students in several of the humanities fields. The university is in a tough position. If it fires all the strikers and kicks them out of the university, as some of the hardliners calling the radio show are advocating, that will point out how dependent some disciplines are on contingent labor for doing the grunt work in the classroom. On the other hand, graduates of other universities, will benefit, slightly, from a smaller influx of new Ph.D.s from Wisconsin.
IT'S NOT THE SIXTIES ANY MORE. Madison city officials want to limit the kegs at each house party on Mifflin Street. The Mifflin Street block party used to be a political statement, with offficialdom looking the other way when people passed joints. Now ... just another kegger?
WILL PIGS FLY FIRST? Live from the Third Rail reports that the New York transit authority solicits proposals for work on the Second Avenue subway, which was supposed to replace the sacred Third Avenue Elevated. The Elevated came down before I was born, and that was some time ago.
TAKE THIS QUIZ:
A wealthy benefactor decides to hand out tuition loans willy-nilly to millions of students that aren’t necessarily up to par for a period of 40 years. Relative to the price of tuition had the benefactor NOT acted, the price of tuition will:

a) increase
b) decrease
c) stay the same
d) none of the above
What's the context for the quiz? It's a reaction by Bill at Catallarchy to a New York Times editorial lamenting rising tuitions and dwindling federal government financial aid facing college students. The lament strikes me as patently misleading. Here is the opening paragraph:
Faced with soaring tuition and dwindling aid, record numbers of students who would excel at college are no longer applying. If the trend persists, this country could easily return to the time when the poor were locked out of higher education and college was hardly a given for middle-class families
What is the Times's sample? Application dossiers at Harvard, Yale, Reed, and Swarthmore? I'd like a few more of those strivers to continue crowding out the slackers at Northern Illinois, as would the admission committees at the local community colleges.

27.4.04

RALLY AT NOON, LIBRARY MALL. The weather is not the greatest for protesting, and it's the last week of classes. That didn't stop some of the local students and a few faculty advisors from advocating a worthy cause. To quote their flyer:
Did You Know That...

* NIU limits free speech to part of MLK Commons

* NIU is one of the few remaining campuses to have free speech zones.

* Join us in our demand that NIU remove its free speech zone policy.


Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois Universities persist in this archaic policy. The editorial board of the Northern Star have joined in the call. Perhaps it is time for me to exercise my benefits as a member of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and report the facts to the national organization.

SECOND SECTION: F.I.R.E. Department called. Particulars as warranted.
THE SOFT BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS
Students in the schools we visit are not turned on. Black, brown, speaking broken or accented English, with cultural values clashing with those of the white middle class, they are seen as needing elementary instruction in secondary school; as capable only of drawing and coloring; as in need of discipline rather than encouragement. They are asked to make acrostics in middle school social studies; to write eight sentences in high school English class; and to fill out endless worksheets in math class.

Teachers say they have to teach the students where they are, which means at sixth-grade level in high school if they can't read well. Their attitude may be compassionate, but it is misguided. There's ample evidence that accelerating instruction works better than retarding it in the name of remediation.
That's from the aptly headlined Dumbing Down Our Schools (via Betsy's Page.)
ON STRIKE, SHUT IT DOWN! Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin have begun a two day strike.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT.
Bush thinks the national news organizations don't have the influence Richard Nixon and other angry presidents saw in them. Here the Bush Thesis is like a mafia read, a Sopranos script: "You don't have that kind of muscle any more, so shut the f... up." He basically said that. I don't read you or watch your news. NPR? Sorry, I don't listen. Am I out of touch with the American people? Nah, not worried about it. Playing Gotcha when America's at war-- now that's out of touch! Fifth data point: at the top of the government, the press is seen as a declining power.
That's from a lengthy Jay Rosen post on the hollowness of the main press. It's extensively cross-referenced and has lots of comments.
KNOWLEDGE OF AMERICAN MORSE AND THE CONSOLIDATED CODE NOT REQUIRED. The job of police dispatcher brings its own stresses with it. Joanne Jacobs has received a depressing e-mail from a supervisor seeking to fill some dispatching positions.
During the last round of applicant testing, all of the 52 applicants had the required high school diploma or equivalent, and some had current desk-type jobs for which the above skills are necessary (or so I thought). Six out of 52 people passed the spelling test. And the results of the other tests were not much better. So, I had six people to move into the next round of testing, which is geared more toward the specific required skills and abilities of a communications officer. In the end, four people were qualified to interview.
Hmm, the basis of the standard university curve is that maybe ten per cent. of the class are the A students. Here, a smaller percentage than that makes the cut for further screening.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
The truly lucky people are the ones who manage to become long-time friends before they realize they are attracted to each other. They get to know each other’s laughs, passions, sadness, and fears. They see each other at their worst and at their best. They share time together before they get swept up into the entangling intimacy of their sexuality.
Read and understand.
AVOIDING OAK STREET BEACH? Lynne at Knowledge Problem comments on the "cult of the body" culture of Los Angeles. Just imagine Oak Street Beach, without September-May to provide reality checks, and you could clone the cult in Chicago.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS calls at Venturpreneur.
OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Welcome, visitors from Apartment 11-D, who provided another roundup of posts on the time crunch. The Brayden King post is worth a look. He notes, "All professions have the potential of invading family time. This is not an idiosyncrasy of academic work. It is a common feature of any kind of paid labor (and you might say of unpaid labor too, depending on your definition of family time)." Imagine. Scarce resources. Competing uses. Who'da thunk it?
And this is where the real war begins and ends, I think. If all work takes away time that might be spent with children and partners/spouses, and we agree that people who choose to have children should dedicate quality time to improving those relations and taking care of basic needs, then all workplaces need to do a better job of making room for the family. This is one of the basic themes found in the research of Arlie Hochschild. But once you start looking for solutions that would ease the time constraints of parents, you run the risk of invoking hostility among the single people in your place of occupation. Once special exceptions are made for workers with children, single workers may be tempted to compare a parent’s relationship to a child with a child-less worker’s relationship to a puppy (see Laura’s post for context).
The good news is, there's something called a backward bending supply curve of labor. There are gains from trade between employers and employed that can involve contracts a bit more clever than the standard "on duty for 40 or 50" and there's no reason for employers to limit that to the parents on the payroll. On the other hand there are gains from trade between the ambitious and the clients that people who are willing to be on duty all the time can exploit.

There might be some insights from sociology here as well. Methinks Professor King is closing the door to a research opportunity by noting,
I have no solutions. I just have the annoying urge to suppress the entire debate. Wars are not good for the careers of young academics entering the job market.
He has no solutions, because there are no solutions, only tradeoffs. The debate is worth joining, as it is not simply the academy that is confronting the tradeoffs.

Exam week is coming. Perhaps for mind-training I will have to do some more riffs on Creative Class as a break from administering some reality checks.

SECOND SECTION: Institutions evolve to reduce transaction costs. Rhosgobel (not to be confused with Boscobel) notes,
Until faculty are demoted to less demanding positions when they have children, then we're all doing the same job and should all have the same requirements on our work schedules, regardless of what time the kids get out of school or Buffy starts.
Actually, faculty (or any other workers) are not all doing the same job. Thus rank, recognition, and tenure. To quote from an old railway rulebook, "To advance in the service, employes must demonstrate responsibility." Time on task is an imperfect proxy for responsibility, but people who are willing to spend more time on task might be demonstrating responsibility. His concluding point, however, is spot on.
I agree wholeheartedly that we should give parents more time to raise their children, but I'd add one thing to Mr. King's statement. If solutions are found to ease the time constraints of parents, then those same solutions, or equivalent ones, should be made available to ease the time constraints of non-parents.
I think that's called a shorter work week, which is something that we've been realizing over time, gripes about overworked Americans notwithstanding.

Another post worth viewing is Tim Burke's:
To talk of single people as an underrepresented minority in academia, as Alice Bach of Case Western Reserve University does in the article, makes no sense. Underrepresented in the sense that academia sociologically is not a perfect mirror of American society as a whole? Well, yes, of course. But Bach seems, like some of her aggreived single compatriots, to be saying that this lack of mimetic resemblance places a moral burden on the faculty of each particular academic institution to fix the problem, that the mere fact of a difference constitutes a moral failure. By that standard, every academic institution needs to designate a proper proportion of faculty to be paid below the poverty line, to be left-handed, to suffer the proper proportion of death and injury at the proper ages, to be polyamorous, to be Goths, to be Mennonites, to be hired with only a high school diploma and so on. If someone can demonstrate that at the time of training or hiring, single faculty are specifically identified and discriminated against and therefore that their underrepresentation is the consequence of discriminatory behavior, then that person has a legitimate point.

Otherwise, in the absence of that evidence (and I think such evidence will never be forthcoming), the aggrieved singles in the article are talking about the culture of academia, which simply is, in the same way that academia is intensely bourgeois. To argue that academia ought not to be bourgeois or dominated by married folk is something that one can legitimately do—but not from a social justice standpoint, only from an argument about aesthetics and cultural preference, or from the standpoint that bourgeois society per se or marriage per se are corrupted social institutions that we collectively need to destroy or reject.
The academy, bourgeois??

25.4.04

READ AND UNDERSTAND. It's been Instalanched. All the same, go read and understand John Kekes on the virtues of liberty.
I now ask you to consider the stifling of opinions on our campuses. When did you last hear of anyone defending fundamentalist Christianity or the superiority of Western civilization? Who has been allowed to express the opinion on our campuses that homosexuality is a perversion, that there exist racial differences in intelligence, that women's place is in the home, that the Holocaust is a fiction, or that America is a force for the good in a corrupt world?

You may say that such opinions are justly stifled because their expression harms others. But if you thought that, you would be well-advised to think again. For if by harm you mean, narrowly, serious injury, such as murder, torture, or battery, then neither the opinions nor their expression harms others. And if by harm you mean, broadly, injury to the interest of the people affected, then you would have to be opposed to all laws and regulations which prohibit people from doing what they want or place burden on them that they do not wish to bear. You would, then, be committed to the absurdity of having to oppose laws about taxation, social security, immigration, and health care, since they injure the interests of those who are forced to pay for them. The truth of the matter is that the opinions stifled on our campuses run counter to a prevailing orthodoxy that abuses its power and prevents the expression of opinions it opposes.

This coercive stifling of opinion permeates daily life, not just our campuses. It is very hard to think of an area of life that is free of the exhortation of intrusive moralizing. We are told what food is right or wrong to eat; how we should treat our pets; what clothing to wear; how we should spend our after-tax income; how precisely we should phrase invitations for sex; what kind of bags we should carry our groceries in; when and where we are permitted to pray or smoke; what jokes we are allowed to tell; who should pick the fruit we buy at the supermarket; how we should invest our money; what chemicals we should use in our gardens; by what method of transportation we should go to work; how we should sort our garbage; what we ought to think about cross dressing, sex change operations, teenage sex, and pot smoking; we are forbidden to inquire after the age, marital status, drug use, or alcoholism of job applicants; we are liable to be accused of sexual abuse if we spank our children or hug our neighbor's; our 19 and 20-year olds are permitted to fight our wars, but they are not permitted to buy a beer; we are not supposed to say that people are crippled, stupid, mentally defective, fat, or ignorant; and we must not use words like "mankind," "statesman," or "He" when referring to God.

What makes this coercive moralizing even worse is the hypocritical double-talk by which it is presented. For the stifling of opinions is said to be required by toleration. Its defenders advocate toleration of discrimination in favor of minorities and women (but not against them); of obscenity that offends religious believers and patriots (but not African-Americans and Jews); of unions' spending large sums in support of political causes (but not corporations' doing the same); of pot smoking (but not cigarette smoking); of abortion (but not capital punishment); of the public lies of Clinton (but not of Nixon); of hate speech against fundamentalists (but not homosexuals); of sex education in elementary schools (but not prayer); of jobs open only to union members (but not private clubs open only to males); of lies about American imperialism (but not the Holocaust); of sacrilegious of language (but not of language that uses "he" to refer to all human beings); of scientific research into just about anything (except racial differences in intelligence); and so on and on. We are awash in this ocean of hypocrisy, lies, and falsifications. And that is the background against which I have written the lecture about the professoriate and the truth that you are about to hear.
Go read the whole thing.
The justification for the funding universities and colleges receive is that they make an indispensable contribution to the well-being of their society. For coping with the multitude of problems that beset society requires policies, policies are likely to succeed if they are based on the truth, and universities and colleges are supposed to be guardians of the beliefs that a society has most reason to recognize as true. If institutions of higher education do through teaching and research what they are meant to do, they deserve support and respect; if they do not, they deserve the opposite. North American higher education is in danger of losing that support and respect because many professors have abandoned their obligation and use universities and colleges as tools for the political transformation of our society.
Many years ago, I wrote an essay that started, "Universities are failing at their mission." It did not make me very popular around campus. Perhaps I should find it, post it, and post any corrections or retractions. My sense is that I would not withdraw a single word of it. Professor Kekes makes me look even-tempered.
Consider, to begin with, the way new professors are recruited. The current procedure is to establish a search committee, advertise the available position, evaluate the credentials of the applicants, interview the more promising ones, rank them, and then offer the position to the highest ranked one. The crux of the matter is the ranking. It would be natural to expect the committee to have arrived at a teaching-to-research ratio that represents their institution's desideratum and then rank the candidates on the basis of how closely they are thought to approximate it. This, however, is not what happens.

It has become mandatory that in ranking the candidates search committees assign heavy weight to their race, ethnic origin, and gender. This practice is referred to by the obfuscating euphemism of "affirmative action," but it is more forthright to call it preferential treatment, since that is what it is. Its justification is controversial, and this is not the place for a detailed evaluation of the arguments. But it is the place to draw attention to an unavoidable consequence of preferential treatment that significantly contributes to the subordination of truth to a political ideal: less qualified teachers and researchers are favored over better qualified ones.

There can be no doubt that this is an unavoidable consequence of preferential treatment because if it were not, if members of the preferred groups would tend to receive high ranking without preferential treatment, there would be no need to treat them preferentially. The policy is designed precisely to help some candidates get positions they would not get without preferential treatment because they are not as well qualified as other candidates. It is crucial to bear in mind that the intent of the policy is not to guarantee the impartial evaluation of the candidates' qualifications, or to protect candidates from the possible prejudices of the search committee. The intent is to discriminate in favor of some candidates on the basis of race, ethnic origin, or gender. It is a sign of the times that it needs to be added that there is no reason to suppose that race, ethnic origin, and gender have any bearing on how well candidates may do as researchers or teachers. The result of preferential treatment is a sustained and systematic lowering of the level of teaching and research and thereby undermining the fundamental value of higher education: the pursuit and communication of truth. Preferential treatment is not an aberration to which some few universities and colleges have succumbed. It is the standard practice of the vast majority of them. Through it institutions of higher education have made the violation of their basic obligation official policy. This, of course, calls into question the justification for the funding they receive.
Perhaps in the disciplines with a large reserve army of the unemployed, such a strategy does little damage to the morale of the departments second-guessed in that way. It is another matter when a department that is limited to three on-campus interviews is subject to the ditherings of the Diversity Boondoggle while the candidates are reviewing their competing offers.

Professor Kekes touches on a number of other topics. Perhaps there will be more for me to comment on, but first to check some references I have on the subject of student evaluations.
AND YET ANOTHER CANDIDATE FOR THE DECK OF CARDS. This gets so old, but there is not as of yet an administrator recognized for this particular sequence, so perhaps we ought to have one. Student cartoonist draws a cartoon. Somebody who the administration recognizes as having special standing to be offended claims to be offended. University cracks down on cartoonist, and for good measure, goes after the student paper's faculty advisor. Critical Mass calls for "the blogosphere and the major media working together to embarrass the living daylights out of SMSU's self-appointed thought police." The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is handling the legalities, although their report indicates that other cases of progressive intolerance are ongoing. Cold Spring Shops hereby nominates Southwest Missouri general counsel John Black for the deck of cards. It would be desirable for some senior administrators at the University of Scranton to be given mandatory smokebox cleaning duty, preferably just after the locomotive has come into the roundhouse, but no administrator there will be recognized on the deck of cards. Nebraska-Omaha's Nancy Belck is also under consideration for the deck of cards.
PRICING THOSE COOKIES. The feminist bake sale, with its 70 cent cookies for women and dollar cookies for men, somehow manages to get by the Sensitivity Police, despite creating a hostile climate for labor economists who have labored mightily to tease out any evidence of workplace discrimination. How misleading are those price differences? A graduate student summarizes:
So what kind of women's rights am I exactly campaigning for?....well, there is that whole wage discrimination thing....they say that women only make .70 for every dollar a man makes...but when all is said and done after considering the different industries men and women find themselves employed in, occupational categories, and the depreciation of human capital and thus lower wage, when the women leave the workforce to have children, differences in labor force experience, educational attainment,...etc., etc...the straight up discrimination factor can be boiled down to about $.06 or $.07 last time I checked...(according to whatever study I read like 5 years ago)
Alex at Marginal Revolution offers some new research that might be proposing a positive theory of that residual difference.
KUDOS. Go share in the victory at Betsy's Page. This graduate of a big city high school is happy to see excellence, no matter where it comes from. (In my neighborhood, the rivalry was with Don Bosco, now closed, and Milwaukee Pulaski.)
EARN D GRADES, LEAD A D STUDENT LIFE. That's based on a comment attributed to Dr. Phil, who was speaking with an indulged rich kid who had lots of designer stuff and was a C student in high school. It transpires that some Silicon Valley schools (via Joanne Jacobs) are eliminating the D grade.
Some of those teachers lower the C-minus cut-off to 67 percent. Others hold the line at 70 percent, making anything below that an F. In most cases, teachers have devised ways to help students who are heading toward failing.
That sounds like a step in the right direction, although it would be better to put the cut-off at 75 percent. Not everybody agrees.
The demise of the D makes it harder to pass a class, but educators say it's improving marks in their grade books. Still, some wonder whether the new grading scheme demands too much from students who aren't shooting for spots at Stanford or even Cal State-Stanislaus.

"I'd rather go to a junior college,'' said Alex Johnson, a junior at Mountain View High who is eyeing Foothill or De Anza community colleges. He says it's unfair that some teachers at his school are widening the range for an F. His dad isn't thrilled either.

"D's are the only thing keeping him from getting F's,'' Alex's dad, Doug Johnson, said. "He's an incredibly bright kid, but he couldn't care less about school.''
Let's rephrase that: "He's an incredibly fast sailor, but he couldn't care less about trim and heel." Or, "He's an incredibly strong smithy, but he couldn't care less about ductility and temper." Want fries with that?

It gets better.
Doing away with D's has motivated senior Atif Kamran, who got his academic act together at Irvington.

"My view of school before was an obstacle I had to go through every day so I could go home and play video games,'' said Atif, 17, who "cruised through'' middle school with B's, C's and D's. The threat of flunking, though, prompted him to do just enough.

Midway through freshman year, Atif started failing Spanish. "I worked harder,'' he said, and scored a C.

Now Atif said he cares about all of his courses. He pays more attention in class and talks to his teachers. The result is report cards full of A's and B's, even in his two college-level Advanced Placement classes.
Let's see, where did we read this?
Bad habits acquired in middle and high school persist as bad habits in college.
It doesn't help that some of the people who teach the teachers don't get this point.
Stanford education Professor John Krumboltz, whose expertise includes grading policies, said the idea could run rampant until teachers demand perfection.

"If you're going to eliminate the D, you could say `Why not eliminate the C?' and make everyone work for an A or B,'' he said. "The next step after that is make everyone work for an A.''
Herrn. Schneider und Schwarz are checking Professor Krumboltz's credentials to see if he has any administrative experience. He certainly is a candidate for the deck of cards (which is due for an updating, thanks, readers, for your suggestions) for that remark. Has Professor Krumboltz ever used a variant of that argument in a tenure debate in his department? Is there that much difference between making all the students work for an A and making all the engineers that bid the passenger train run it on time? For that matter, one of the local bun 'n run places advertises, "In Sight, it must be Right." Wouldn't it be easier for the bun 'n run places to get it right if even the D students were already socialized in such habits?

No doubt, there will be much more tut-tutting about too many business values getting into the common schools.
SIGN THESE KIDS UP. Some students at Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois, wanted to have some fun with the school's temporary ID policy, which calls for a $1 fine for any student who does not have the proper identification to show a hall monitor. (Conditions in the schools seem to have changed in the last 35 years, the hall pass used to be a ritual for going to the loo or taking a message to another classroom, but in many schools the students have their badges on display with either clip-on or loop of string holders -- this is great preparation for government labs or the Board of Trade, but I suspect that is not what the school administration had in mind. It appears as though each student must show the badge to enter the building each day, which provides a bit of context for the story that follows.) Michael at Highered Intelligence points to Arizona Republic (?!) coverage of the student prank gone wrong. These kids chose to leave their badges at home, and each brought 100 pennies to pay the fine. What was their fate? An in-school suspension, because Vice Principal Roger Buswell (shouldn't he be the manager of transportation?) felt the prank disrupted the "efficient opening in the morning," likely as other students not in on the joke had to wait while the hall monitors counted the money.

In an era of athletic extracurriculars gone bad in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, these high jinks are a great relief. I'd be happy to have these kids at Northern Illinois. A commenter at Homeschool and Other Education Stuff had the idea about right:
But it is a funny joke, considering the ages of the kids. I would have told them sternly, "don't do that again", and then smiled about it the rest of the day. Gosh, if this is all the school has to worry about, they're in great shape.
Quite.

22.4.04

MARKING OFF. An economics conference and a train show call. Thanks for looking in. More Monday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
The administration with the worst economic record since Hoover is projected to grow the nation's economy at the fastest rate since Reagan.
The quote is from proposes an alternative lede to this Associated Press story, picked up by Ace of Spades HQ, referred by Spoons.

AUDITOR'S REPORT: Thanks to the Ace of Spades HQ for correcting the attribution.
SUCCESSOR TO THE TGV? Alex at Marginal Revolution is unimpressed with the Shanghai Maglev test train. Hasn't a French TGV gone nearly 300 mph on a test? And all that is, is a glorified Electroliner running on two rails, just as Frank J. Sprague and Henry Cordell intended.
INCENTIVES MATTER.
The state under Gov. Blagojevich has levied about $1 billion of new taxes on businesses. Mays estimates that with additional fees, an increase in the minimum wage, family leave requirements and related regulations, the cost to business has increased more than $2 billion.
That's the Illinois Leader's take on fiscal policy in Illinois. Illini Girl adds,
That'll make the jobs stick around! Top this off with some of the worst malpratice-happy counties in the nation, an over-reliance on manufacturing jobs, and high insurance costs for businesses, and is it any wonder that jobs aren't flocking to this region? Something has to be done. As Illinois residents concerned about future opportunities in our state, we need to be alarmed about these developments and expressing this to our lawmakers,
and links to some policy analysis that seems to be on point.
GET INVOLVED. The Spirit of America fund-raiser for the troops is up and running, until April 29.
NEW SOURCE OF COMPANY MAIL. From Knowledge Problem (who is soon to be among the select few energy economists with working knowledge of wiring codes) comes news of a new economics weblog, Cafe Hayek, with all sorts of good stuff, including a reminder to people who get into the outsourcing fad that comparative advantages matter, and a comment on the job losses from improved public health that The American Mind characterizes as "Bastiat-like."
MORE SKIRMISHING OVER PROMOTION OPPORTUNITIES.
The Chronicle recently had two contradictory articles dealing with the pressures in academia on those with kids and those without,
notes Laura at Apartment 11-D, who goes on to observe,
This war reveals some real problems. Lonliness, alienation, hyper-individualism, and work exhaustion to name a few. These issues might be bubbling up in the pages of the academic paper, but they must be certainly affecting everyone. Solutions anyone?
In a later post she points to others who have weighed in. Moment, Linger On reminds readers that retirees ultimately depend on the productivity of younger people; this is as true if the pensions are confiscated from current workers in the form of social security taxes as if the pensions are dividends and interest, where the productivity of people currently working with current assets provides the income stream. I believe there's something called an overlapping generations model at work here.

Behind the productivity, however, is another phenomenon at work. I have recently finished reading Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class (details or compare prices) and intend to offer more comments on that book, time permitting, over the next two weeks. For now let me restrict my observations to the phenomenon of front-loading one's career, which Professor Florida characterizes as laying the foundation for future prosperity early in one's working life (no start as telegrapher and work up to president on this track). Such front-loading is typical of the tenure track; the most effective among us will have commenced sufficient work to make professor in the first five or six years out of graduate school, and the person who is willing to put social pursuits aside will have an advantage in such a competition. (Something similar is likely at work for some entrepreneurs.) Whether that advantage is socially desirable is another matter: a few years ago the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine did a feature on the Economics Department at the University of Chicago (motto: we build bombs beneath our bleachers) that included a telling anecdote ... a faculty meeting was running long, and a new faculty member wondered if his colleagues could wrap it up as his wife was waiting in their car and he didn't want her to divorce him. An old head is supposed to have noted, "You would fit in better here if she did." On the other hand (this is part of the Economics B.C.S. after all) as long as people are free to choose to work harder, whether at their research, their businesses, or their webzines (No, nobody would do THAT), those that choose not to take on the responsibilities of family or to stay out of the swamp called contemporary mating are able to outshine their competitors who do. No easy way to make the people who want to apply themselves NOT apply themselves. Similarly, no easy way to make the people who want to apply themselves accomodate co-workers who would like a different mix of burdens.

My sense, reading many of the posts, is that the greater tension is between less driven workers with family responsibilities, who seek some easing of their workplace burdens, and less driven workers without family responsibilities, who perceive their burdens as being augmented by the workplace accommodations (some now mandated) for people with family responsibilities.

I would note also that it is difficult to do any careful analysis of the balance between work and play (which is being blurred to some extent anyway if Creative Class is accurate) on the basis of anecdotal evidence. Chris at Signifying Nothing dissents in part, and Chutry Experiment suggests some additional confounding factors any systematic researcher would have to consider.

21.4.04

SWIFT OF FOOT WAS HIAWATHA
And he left that happy party.
Neither did he leave them slowly,
With the calm deliberation,
The intense deliberation
Which photographers aspire to:
But he left them in a hurry,
Left them in a mighty hurry
Vowing that he would not stand it.
Hurriedly he packed his boxes;
Hurriedly the porter trundled
On a barrow all his boxes;
Hurriedly he took his ticket;
Hurriedly the train received him;
Thus departed Hiawatha.
I was under the impression that Hiawatha was the train. The above, however, is from a Lewis Carroll send-up of Song of Hiawatha that Milt's File pointed to, as part of a generally whimsical collection of posts.

Something there is about those tom-tom rhythm epics that inspires parody, I've seen another one that begins

Once I read the Kalevala
Read the ancient Finnish epic
And a mighty wasted time that all was ...
JUST SUCK IT UP. The latest flight of fancy from Duke University is the end of the 8 am class. The first class of the morning will start at 8.30 am.

Pikers. Once upon a time, the first class of the morning at Wisconsin started at 7.45 am.
Duke University is eliminating 8 a.m. classes and trying to come up with other ways help its sleep-deprived students, who too often are struggling to survive on a mix of caffeine, adrenaline and ambition.
Number 2 Pencil is made of sterner stuff.
I have an idea - stop admitting students who don't know that sleep is essential for regular functioning. Oh, you say Duke's students are smart? Then why is Duke assuming that incoming freshmen just don't know that they're supposed to, you know, sleep every once in a while?
She has also provided a link to a Fark forum that includes today's Quote of the Day:
Learn to drink coffee, it's what college is for.
Joanne Jacobs is somewhat more accepting, with some advice for night owls.

The editorial staff at The Northern Star weigh in, and once again get it right.
To make college that much easier for students, Duke University has decided to cut its 8 a.m. classes.

But wait, college isn’t supposed to be easy, is it? If it were, there would be low tuition rates and low academic standards, right? Well, all college students know that definitely isn’t the case.

People decide to go to college to further their education — that’s right, they decide to go — and students should go to classes no matter when they are offered.

Duke’s rationale for cutting the university’s early-bird classes was backed up by surveys that state college students are getting less sleep — an average of six to seven hours a night, which is down from 7.5 hours a night in the 1980s. Officials say sleep deprivation causes lower academic performance and an increase in stress levels.

Well, before an entire university decides to cut its 8 a.m. classes, which probably have been around since the school’s inception, it should do a study on student life.

If the majority of students are staying up late with friends, partying or drinking, then there’s no reason the school should cater to those students. School should be a student’s top priority.

Maybe, just maybe, if the majority of students are staying up late doing homework (and they started their homework early in the evening), then there might be reason to consider cutting the early classes.

However, 8 a.m. classes actually do have benefits that students might not consider. An average worker works 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and most people are required to be up before 8 a.m. to get ready for and travel to work.
The editorial writers were kind enough not to suggest that the clustering of classes in the 10 am to 3 pm time blocks, which contributes to a space crunch at many universities, reflects in part a revelation of preferences on the part of the faculty. Northern Illinois University wants at least one third of each department's class offerings outside prime time. That, too, is not as big a problem for a night owl, or for a morning person. One colleague, now retired, would choose the 8 am classes, be in by 5 or 6 in the morning, and gone by 2 or 3 pm.

Crowe Bar is showing promise as an economist, considering the further as well as the immediate consequence of the policy change.
8AM classes provide the service of weeding out the kids that are too lazy to drag their hungover asses to class...

but this is really a superb idea....the real world is sure to be equally flexible to the slackers... I'm positive of it.

But what's the point? I feel as though an 8AM class following your after hours party builds character...

blah blah blah..."I can't get the classes I need to graduate...they're never offered...well I guess they're offered, but they've always met at 8AM...so I've just been waiting semester after semester for them to meet at noon....I guess I ran outta time."

Truth be told...I've postponed taking a class or two because of the meeting time...but when it comes down to it...you just gotta suck it up...spending 15 hours a week in class? Yeah, I can see how that would be physically taxing.

So instead, let's provide caffeine pills to the students...drugs fix everything...wicked.

C'mon people...next you'll be nixing 830AM classes 'cause you've got the same problemos....and there you have it...I suppose its been made abundantly clear who should be in charge....damn classes...they always get in the way of my REAL schedule.

20.4.04

QUOTE OF THE DAY.
You'd think tenure would make it possible for professors to stand up to their students, but I guess the squeaky wheel gets the A. It's gotten worse in the last 12 to 15 years, says the prof, who's been teaching for 20 years.
That's Joanne Jacobs's reaction to a gripe lodged by an experienced professor who wishes to remain anonymous. Working conditions at universities are not likely to improve until more tenured faculty members stand up for what they believe in. That is, if they believe in anything in the first place.
MANDATORY DIVERSITY TRAINING?
When we entered the church, the usher asked us if we were with the bride or the groom. On the bride’s side of the church were good solid German-Swedish Midwestern farmers. They were blond and cheerful and broad shouldered. On the groom’s side were the Irish. Morose, sarcastic, laconic, under achieving, with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism and mental illness and depression. Bride or groom? I thought it should be fairly obvious.
As Laura in Apartment 11-D is an academician from an academic family, the choice may not be that obvious. Go read the rest, including the Chicago report. East Coasters: did you know there is a Circle Tour that goes all the way around Chicago on the water? It takes seven hours.
ELEPHANT AND? Going Underground has some fun with technical glitches on the Tube.
NEITHER CHICAGO NOR MILWAUKEE WAS AVAILABLE:

Take the quiz:
"Which American City Are You?"


Cleveland
You are blue collar and Rock n Roll. You Work hard and party harder.


(Via Atlantic Blog, who comments on some of the choices. The quiz offered "amusement parks" as one option I bet Bill wouldn't take.)

19.4.04

CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS visits Knowledge Problem.
DID THE FOOTBALL COACH GET A RAISE? Professor Adams (via Betsy's Page) catalogs the expense-preference behavior at UNC-Wilmington.
In the midst of recent criticism that a) the university has been spending too much money on speakers, and b) the speakers always seem to be Democrats; the university hired George Mitchell (D-Maine) to speak for about an hour for the sum of $40,000. Mitchell’s fee shows that he really cares about hire education. I mean, higher education. It also serves as a reminder that the Democrats are the party of the people.

Given the billion-dollar state budget deficit, many are questioning the wisdom of funding such a ceremony, which will cost around $100,000, after all is said and done. Instead of all of the pomp and circumstance, many believe that our budget crisis calls for an administration that is less pompous and more circumspect in its use of public funds.
Yup. The pomp and circumstance is an indicator of the low esteem in which these administrators hold themselves. (We wouldn't have responsibility for the undergraduate library at Wisconsin, and the Union Pacific wouldn't trust us with a switch engine, but we can sure make a big splash in this pond.)
The students are particularly angry because news of the expense of the installation came shortly after news that their tuition will be increasing several hundred dollars per semester, effective next year. Several students have come by my office recently to borrow paper because the computer labs are out. Some of the labs are also out of toner. And, sadly, other labs have reduced their hours of operation because the university can no longer pay the salaries of those who run them.

All the while the university continues to spend money on forums centered on “diversity” issues. Of course, these “forums” feature university-funded speakers who just happen to share the political perspective of the liberal administrators. The speakers are paid to parrot the political views of these administrators while students’ basic educational needs are being neglected. Some students would like to write a letter to complain but they can’t because the university is running out of paper.
There's a bit more to the story, isn't there? On the one hand, the state-located universities continue to be a subsidy to the upper-middle class, and some increases in tuitions and some tightening of the admission standards would bring budgets in balance. On the other hand, the Diversity Boondoggle would have to find real jobs, but the French diplomatic corps does a better job of sugarcoating reality.
Many faculty members are upset about the administration’s fiscal irresponsibility, although most lack the courage to complain publicly. While the professors haven’t had raises in four years, the salary for the chancellor continues to skyrocket in the midst of the state’s deep budget crisis. In 1993, the chancellor of UNCW made less than $100,000. Ten years later, DePaolo was given a starting salary of $205,000. Thus, the position has seen a pay increase of over 100% in just a decade.
The preceding says something about the mindset of many tenure-seeking people: not willing to take risks, despite having great protection against the consequences of taking risks. But the dirty little secret of tenure is that taking risks in one's research is a hazardous way to earn it in the first place, and continuing safe research projects afterward continues to earn rewards.

There is potential for things to change in Wilmington, however. Professor Adams contrasts deferred maintenance in the classrooms with administrative nest-feathering.
I didn’t bother calling a maintenance man because I know that those guys are overworked. In fact, last summer one of them had to make a house call to the chancellor’s home in the gated community I mentioned earlier. But before he did, he placed a magnetic cover over the UNCW logo on the side of the maintenance van he was driving. Someone understood that the taxpayers wouldn’t like the idea of such a house call in the midst of a severe budget crisis. Fortunately, a reporter caught wind of the incident and wrote it up in the local newspaper.
Here is an opportunity to make some noise. A president at Northern Illinois University was hounded from office over a similarly small misappropriation of state property.
WELCOME TO GREATER DEKALB. Laura at Apartment 11-D discovers genuine Mexican food and the tony and tacky side of Oak Brook. She promises more.

18.4.04

CALYPSO ROSSINI. One of the highlights of the end of the spring semester is the annual concert by the Northern Illinois University Steel Band. (Where can a musician who wants to do a Master's in pan study? Julliard? Fuhgeddaboudit. Oberlin? Ew, gross, that looks like the set of Civil Action. Harvard? Where did Harvard's string quartet study?) The program featured an arrangement of La Scala di Seta and some excerpts from Semiramide as one of two encores, as well as some of the latest calypsos from the islands. (The conductor thanked the band for putting up with a rushed rehearsal schedule on one such number called War 2004, which was not your usual academic-tenure wine-and-cheese afterwards dirge, believe me.)

Among the guests at this year's concert were Trinidad and Tobago's Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, Her Excellency Marina Annette Valere, who has an economics degree from Manchester, and some participants in Maryland's Cultural Academy for Excellence, who get extra support with their reading and arithmetic, encouragement to stay in school, and opportunities to play chess and study pan and music theory. One graduate of the program is a pan major at Northern Illinois.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Two more from Victor Davis Hanson. The first (via Atlantic Blog) considers the possible consequences of reacting to the original provocation, rather than attempting to work things out.
Imagine a different November 4, 1979, in Teheran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Jimmy Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the Shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Teheran’s leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response.

When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran’s assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the UN, Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini may well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there may well have been the sort of chaos in Teheran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979—and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.

The twentieth century should have taught the citizens of liberal democracies the catastrophic consequences of placating tyrants.
The second article continues the theme.
Out of all the recent chaos emerges one lesson: Appeasement of fundamentalists is not appreciated as magnanimity, but ridiculed as weakness — and, in fact, encourages further killing. A shaken Spain elected a new government that promised to exit Iraq. In return, the terrorists planted more bombs, issued more demands, and then staged a fiery exit for themselves. France, as is its historical wont, triangulated with the Muslim world and then found its fundamentalist plotters all over Paris. The Saudi royals thought that they of all people could continue to blackmail the fundamentalists — until the suicide-murderers turned their explosives on their benefactors and began to blow up Arab Muslims as well. General Musharraf once did all he could to appease Islamists — and got assassination plots as thanks.

Following the Iranian hostage takeover in 1979, the United States had embraced a quarter-century of appeasement that had resulted in far more American deaths than all those lost during the present war against terrorists abroad — flaming ships, embassies, planes, skyscrapers, and people the wages of its mollifying. And every time in Iraq we have tried to offer conciliation before complete military victory — low profiles, tolerance for looters and militias, allowance for vicious mullahs — we have seen more, not fewer, killed.

The sad truth is that civilization itself is engaged in a worldwide struggle against the barbarism of Islamic fundamentalism. Just this past month the killers and their plots have been uncovered in London, Paris, Madrid, Pakistan, and North Africa — the same tired rhetoric of their hatred echoing from Iraq to the West Bank. While Western elites quibble over exact ties between the various terrorist ganglia, the global viewer turns on the television to see the same suicide bombing, the same infantile threats, the same hatred of the West, the same chants, the same Koranic promises of death to the unbeliever, and the same street demonstrations across the world.

Looking for exact professed cooperation between an Islamic fascist and the rogue regime that finds such anti-Western violence useful is like proving that Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler all coordinated their attacks and worked in some conspiratorial fashion — when in fact Japan had no knowledge of the invasion of Russia, and Hitler had no warning of Pearl Harbor or Mussolini's invasion of Greece.

In fact, it didn't matter that they were united only by a loose and shared hatred of Western liberalism and emboldened by a decade of democratic appeasement. And our fathers, perhaps better men than we, didn't care too much for beating their breasts about the exact nature of collective Axis strategy or blaming each other for past lapses, but instead went to pretty terrible places like Bastogne, Anzio, and Okinawa to put an end to their enemies all.
And thus, the calculus that disturbs the people who object to the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns: does the sure knowledge that some of our best young people will die in battle against individuals who, absent the campaign, might have harbored no animus toward the United States, prevent randomly chosen civilians from dying at the hands of individuals who do harbor that animus?
We did not ask for this war, but it came. In our time and according to our station, it is now our duty to end it. And that resolution will not come from recrimination in time of war, nor promises to let fundamentalists and their autocratic sponsors alone, but only through the military defeat and subsequent humiliation of their cause. So let us cease the hysterics, make the needed sacrifices, and allow our military the resources, money, and support with which it most surely will destroy the guilty and give hope at last to the innocent.
Mr Hanson's summation notwithstanding, the question about that calculus will not go away.
REACTIONARY CROLYISM. Professor Krugman:
I'm a conservative. I want to preserve these programs we have and that unfortunately requires more revenue than we're collecting after the Bush tax cuts.
(From a debate with Robert Barro, via Marginal Revolution.)
GAMING THE ADMISSIONS SYSTEM. The latest escalation in the positional arms race called "My kid got into Harvard and your didn't" is college admissions camp. (At about $2500-$3000 for a week or two of preparation, is it a better investment than geting your grades up at a community college or state university extension for a year or two and transferring as a sophomore or junior?)

Joanne Jacobs, who headlines the story "Camp Compulsive," notes
It's true that grade inflation has made it hard to tell one A student from another, but the number of students with great SATs isn't rising dramatically. The problem is that increasing numbers of students are applying to the same list of elite colleges, which have limited spaces.
Where, once they arrive, they will be cossetted and counselled to deal with their perfectionism. Tyler at Marginal Revolution has picked up Joanne Jacobs's Fox News column, which highlights this and other stories.

Back at her site, Ms. Jacobs concludes,
We didn't think we could game the admissions system, so agonized a lot less about it. In particular, we thought our SAT scores couldn't be improved by studying or repeating the test. There were no essay-polishing services, much less marketers promising to craft our applications. We just applied, made sure to include a safety school and left it to the fates. It's a sign of how things have changed that my safety school was Middlebury, which is now very selective.
Ultimately, the gaming of the admission system is unproductive. Washington Post college columnist Jay Mathews reported, long ago on the nonexistent difference in lifetime achievements of similarly capable graduates of the name colleges and the mid-majors. If anything, the pampering of students admitted to Jacuzzi U. puts them at a disadvantage relative to those less favored.

RUNNING EXTRA. The investments the Jacuzzi Universities are making on spas and stress-free zones might prove to be unproductive, anyway. Why? Beanbags. There is a popular beanbag game that looks like the same idea as horseshoes, and some of the local students have made their game sets out of what looks like old plywood rearranged with a saber saw. It's the kind of do-it-yourself entertainment these students might have been deprived of at the age of eight, when they had only organized school and organized practices and lessons to fill their days.
WHAT DID BASHAR ASSAD KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT? Cold Spring Shops generally leaves the war commentary to others. News Max and the BBC have been reporting Jordanian claims to have disrupted an al Qaeda plot to attack either U.S. or Jordanian government interests with chemical weapons. Power Line notes,
The obvious question is whether the chemical weapons originated in Iraq and, as many suspect, were shipped to Syria before the war began. If so, the next question is whether Saddam (or perhaps his henchmen) intended from the beginning to get the weapons into al Qaeda's hands.
Command Post is also following the story.

17.4.04

FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Both Joanne Jacobs and Number 2 Pencil commend Kay Hymowitz on the evolution of generational attitudes. She concludes,
With their genius for problem solving and compromise, pragmatic Americans have seen the damage that their decades-long fling with the sexual revolution and the transvaluation of traditional values wrought. And now, without giving up the real gains, they are earnestly knitting up their unraveled culture. It is a moment of tremendous promise.
Perhaps, but there is still work to be done.
Think about how much more child-centered Americans have become compared with 15 or 20 years ago—the era of the latchkey kid, when the Nickelodeon children’s network touted itself as a “parent-free zone,” and Home Alone was the signature kids’ movie. But by the nineties, soccer moms had the keys to the house and the minivan, which was mounting up thousands of miles on trips to soccer matches, violin lessons, and swim meets. Studies showed a big drop in children’s unstructured time. Even older kids came under their parents’ hothouse scrutiny: “helicopter parents,” in Neil Howe and William Strauss’s term, hover over their children even after they leave for college, talking on the phone every day, visiting frequently, and helping them with their papers via e-mail.
Erm, is that why the big-name colleges are attempting to transform themselves into stress-free zones (see also this.)

The article provides one useful paragraph cautioning people in the interpretation of numbers.
And in fact, the incredible shrinking married-couple-with-children statistic cited by [author Laura] Kipnis is a statistical mirage, an artifact of two demographic trends, unconnected with American attitudes toward knot tying. First, young people are marrying later; the average age is 25 for women, 27 for men, up from 20 and 23 three decades ago. That means there are a lot more young singles out there than there were in 1970. Further swelling the ranks of these un–Ozzies and Harriets is the vastly increased number of empty nesters, retirees, and widows, beneficiaries of major health-care improvements over the past decades. There are 34 million Americans over 65, and it’s a safe bet that only those few living with their adult kids would be counted as part of a married-couple household with children. What it comes down to is that a smaller proportion of married couples with children is no more evidence of the decline of the family than more cars on the road is evidence of a decline in trucks.
The times, they are a-changing, and some of the change reflects different experiences of different birth cohorts. But there are still windmills to tilt against. More later.