28.5.04

SUCK IT UP. Joanne Jacobs:
Six-year graduation rates range from less than 10 percent to almost 100 percent. Some colleges and universities do much better than others with comparable students. For example, University of California at Riverside, the least competitive campus in the elite UC system, "has an overall graduation rate of 66%, 15 percentage points better than the 51% median rate of its 33 peer institutions. . . . success at UC-Riverside is equally distributed across groups. The graduation rate is 65% for white students, 67% for Asian students, and 68% for Latino students."
Might that have something to do with California doing a better job of matching students with universities? Discriminating for equality leading to unequal retention rates: imagine that?

King at SCSU Scholars notes,
Four-year rates at SCSU are in the low teens, and the last six-year graduation data I saw for here was a bit under 40%. We emphasize retention, but retention for its own sake is pointless. Rather than folks wondering if we're spending too much money, shouldn't they ask why we don't meet UNI's performance?


Contemplating enrolling at Northern Illinois? Your teaching assistant might not be your ally in a crisis.
U of IL's policy: less than 1.0 GPA in your first semester? Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya on your way outta here...and if you want to come back? work hard somewhere else and PROVE it...we'll be happy to take your money.
The balance of that post is somewhat more colorful.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. Apartment 11-D is home to some thoughts about obtaining good teachers.
Teachers need to act more like white collar workers than blue collar workers. They ought to not punch a clock, but work overtime for free if needed. They should be paid according to their effort and ability, just as any other career. Bad teachers should be quickly fired. Of course, the teachers unions hate these proposals.
The thought is one among several, sometimes mutually interfering suggestions (don't you love tradeoffs?) I would add only this: put the coats and ties back on. It is rather difficult for the schools to crack down on bare midriffs or butt cleavage (yes, INCLUDING in the shop classes!) when the faculty and administration look picnic-ready, or perhaps prepared to go bowling themselves.

I would note further that working conditions matter: higher teacher pay might call forth more teachers, but the supply curve is likely to be more elastic if teachers can be more confident of weeding out the troublemakers in their classroom -- a development that would have a salutary effect on the performance of the universities as well.
NEGATIVE INCOME TAX? Tyler at Marginal Revolution suggests the Earned Income Tax Credit (is it a cleverly designed rebate of social security taxes for some wage earners?) might be the "best antipoverty program." To call it a negative income tax, in the Robert Lampman or Milton Friedman tradition, might be too much.
ONLY YESTERDAY? John Derbyshire with a retrospective on events a quarter-century ago (was it that long?):
Western civilization had turned to face its enemies, both those inside the walls and those without. The war that then commenced is not yet over. Perhaps it never will be; but it was in 1979 that we got our nerve back, picked up our discarded weapons again, and resolved to fight. This was the year it all changed, the year the ice cracked.
(Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)

27.5.04

LOTS OF SCHOOL NEWS. It will have to wait for tomorrow, however.
CRUNCH. Newmark's Door points to a lurid comparison of the integrity of the passenger compartment of automobiles and trucks. Nice to see that my colleague Marc Ross is still working on technology policy. (The reference is en passant, you may have to work through a reprise on the psychology of sport-ute buyers to find it.)
RARE RAPID TRANSIT. In this case we are referring to the transit of Venus (it will pass between the Earth and the Sun on the morning of June 8.) Talk about your path dependence ... the Antipodes might be British owing to Captain Cook doing some geometry with the 1769 transit ... and getting to Polynesia before the French did. But Polynesians as the first blue-water sailors? In the Pacific, perhaps. (Hat tip: Live from the Third Rail for the astronomy history.

Closer to home, the DeKalb Concert Band will perform its first summer concert on the evening of June 8. On the program will be Sousa's Transit of Venus. Apparently the sheet music has been well-hidden for a long time, as the march (which is a bit different from the usual Sousa march and trio with the orchestration augmented in the reprise of the trio) is not played frequently. It is, however, available on the Detroit Concert Band collection of all the Sousa marches. I learned about this band and its collection while working in Michigan; the march collection was once upon a time offered by the Musical Heritage Society and I bought the CD set. Transit of Venus, on demand, in my office.

25.5.04

ONLY IN THE STATES. Rapid transit escalators (there are such things) serve both dashing commuters and tourists. In Washington, D.C., the difference in styles is evident at rush hour. At the Pentagon - Crystal City station, just about everybody understands that the convention is stand right, dash left. At the tourist locations such as Archives or the various Mall and Capitol Hill stops, not enough people do. Going Underground finds it amusing that at one time, the escalators were marked "Walk Left, Stand Right" but Official Washington had them removed with the view that walking (or running) on the escalators is an unsafe practice not to be encouraged, if not exactly prohibited. As Dave Barry (channelling Anna Russell?) would put it, I am not making this up, you know.
WILL THEY PUT CHARLIE OFF THE TRAIN? Eszter at Crooked Timber links to coverage of new security measures on Boston's rail lines, including identification checks and possible questioning. No mention in the story of whether the increased security is protection for the Democratic Party convention, which will nominate Senator Kerry, whether he accepts the nomination or not. (Don't you just love the unintended consequences of campaign finance "reform?" Weren't the Donks the big advocates of this law, and aren't they getting bitten by it more often?

On the transit security front, a Type I error has surfaced in the Philadelphia area. A motion detector found in a Philadelphia area coach yard has been placed by a worker apparently desiring early warning of the yardmaster's approach.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Today's educational establishment is making actual illiteracy look good, like an act of humanity and rebellion. Writing, which ought to nurture and give shape to thought, is instead being used to pound it into a powder and then reconstitute it into gruel.

The thoroughly modern grade-A public-school prose style is not creative or interesting enough even to be wrong. The people who create and enforce the templates are, not to put too fine a point on it, people without understanding or imagination, lobotomized weasels for whom any effort of thought exceeds their strength. I recently read one of the many boilerplate descriptions of how students should write their essays. "The penultimate sentence," it said, "should restate your basic thesis of the essay." Well, who says? And why?
Crispin Sartwell is not impressed with what passes for writing instruction at the secondary level. The column provides some insights into the questions students sometimes ask about writing assignments, without letting the collegiate composition course off the hook. (The last is simply venting. We just started offering a capstone paper course to our students, and discovered that we have to do a lot more to develop basic expository and research skills.)
QUALITY DISTORTION? Interesting Econ Log post on self-segregation in schools (the rich refused to mingle with the poor, so they sent them down below where they were the first to go?) with some thoughts on the implications for vouchers.

One of the economists of the late nineteenth century (was it Dupuit?) proposed that railways deliberately made third class more uncomfortable in order that rich passengers would pay the first-class fares (parlors and sleepers were the first to be air-conditioned in the States, and coaches tended to be marshalled closer to the locomotive where the cinders were thicker?)

The metaphor breaks down to an extent with schooling, although as states continue to starve their universities of resources, the pattern may recur by default, with academic-minded parents of means being driven to the big-name private universities, despite any evidence of those universities conferring any permanent advantage on their graduates.
THIS DEFIES PARODY. As Betsy's Page observes, "This is NOT an Onion satire."(Full particulars.)
Because of plans for several new Wal-Mart Supercenters across the state, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the entire state of Vermont on its 2004 list of the most endangered historic places in the United States.

We are fortunate that the National Trust is only able to pursue its reactionary agenda within the United States, and only as an advocacy group. Imagine such an organization, with governing powers, recommending that the entire country of North Korea be preserved in place because it had intact collective farms and gulags at risk of being overwhelmed by "chain retail businesses" or Green Revolution farming or basic human rights for prisoners. (or perhaps, consider a less extreme example, in which an entire tribe of hunter-gatherers be preserved in place, as a living link to our prehistory.)
PROFILING AND STALKING:
Before the broader issues of crime and punishment are broached, the university community must know whether this student was being stalked. If she was, did the university know about it? If they did, what measures did they take to deal with the problem?
Professor Adams is following a rather disturbing story from his own university.
LIBERTARIAN COMMUNIST? Joanne Jacobs offers a humorous political quiz with some insights into maintaining classroom discipline.

24.5.04

PUTTING PROFIT AHEAD OF PRINCIPLE. The University of Louisville, a basketball school, has a little problem. The local klavern of the Ku Klux Klan distributed leaflets requesting the opportunity to offer a differing point of view. Critical Mass has picked up the story, including coverage of the chapter's request for "equal time" and an honorarium for the local imperial wizard to rebut Sister Souljah, a paid guest of the university. (The request made no mention of the entertainer's academic credentials, or lack thereof.) The university denied the request. (The article captures in microcosm one of the great cultural divides in the U.S. Note on the one hand the klavern's request and on the other hand the names and the titles of the university officials involved in the request.)

The story gets more interesting after the Klukkers started distributing leaflets. To prevent any non-approved advertisements from being posted on university kiosks, the university removed all the kiosks. (How will students find out where Casablanca and Citizen Kane are playing, or am I showing my age again?) Furthermore, university officials, confusing themselves with kings, sought to banish Klan members from campus grounds. Or perhaps not. As Dr O'Connor notes,
Consider, too, that the ban not only bars them from setting foot on campus in their present capacity as KKK promoters, but also from registering to study at U of L (they can, however, attend athletic events, where, presumably, their money talks louder than their views).

Presumably the athletic department will refuse any donations or paid advertisements in the programs.

That's a pretty extreme punishment for having failed to obey the U of L's posting policies.One wonders whether less offensive groups who stick flyers on cars and such get similar treatment.
That's testable. Louisville readers: do you get adverts for clothing sales or summer work placed under your windshield wipers?
TODAY'S ENERGY ROUNDUP comes from Chicago Report, with discovery of an environmental scientist who suggests nuclear power can prevent global warming, refining capacity might help with the spot shortages of gasoline, and that perhaps part of the U.S. dependence on imported oil reflects unwillingness to develop domestic resources.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Minimal skills should be reflected in grades, not in graduation tests. Ninth-grade teachers should be able to trust eighth-grade teachers to give grades that are meaningful, and eighth-grade teachers need to be able to trust that seventh-grade teachers give grades that are meaningful. Conversely, eighth-grade teachers need to be given a curriculum (goals and standards) that will bring students from the seventh-grade level to the ninth-grade level; if the eighth-grade teacher is teaching sixth-grade level skills and knowledge, then the "passing" grades are not meaningful.
That's Jonathan at Cliopatria, comparing and contrasting the Japanese primary and secondary education system with what passes for a system in the United States, and making a case for earned promotions rather than proficiency exams. Worth a look.
DEAL THE VODKA PUNDITS IN. Will at Vodka Pundit has picked up the coverage of Emory's Assistant Dean for Campus Life, Vera Dixon Rorie, who has been looking foolish whilst hassling Republicans. Nice to see the big boys picking up the story. Dean Rorie was named nine of hearts (because all the weaker cards were taken) on St. Patrick's Day. The snakes have not all been driven from the academy, alas.
SCHADENFREUDE. Newmark's Door has little sympathy for observers of the social scene who neglect the information content of prices, in this case gas prices. A Mercedes econobox for $20K? If it is capable of towing a Laser ...
IF YOU'RE SO SMART, WHY AREN'T YOU RICH? Perhaps you are. Alex at Marginal Revolution has turned up research to that point. It transpires that being able to follow directions can extend your life.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS calls at Startup Skills, with a promise of a Second Section to be run later in the day.
IS THE FORCE WITH US? Supercells to the north of me, twisters to the south, cool and dry here. There is a lot of picking up to do nonetheless.

23.5.04

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. All blog and no trains makes for a cranky Superintendent. On the other hand, figuring out how to hang crossheads is not good for the state of mind, either. Here's what's currently on the workbench.

The Andreyev class 4-14-4
This monster has two crossheads, in order to keep the reciprocating mass down. One crosshead has a pivot for the main rod, and the other supports the piston rod. Each has its own guide. The cylinder has a 31" stroke, and the crosshead guides are not much longer than that, if the one side elevation I have (if there are any Soviet readers who have found an archive of railway plans, please advise) and the photos are accurate. Thus getting the guides in the right place such that nothing binds is going to be quite a challenge.

RUNNING EXTRA: In Kettleski!, Tim at Where Worlds Collide asks, "But just how does that thing go round corners?

The prototype couldn's solve that problem, so I'm not going to worry about it too much. A Trains article on Soviet steam experimentals noted, "Wherever it went, it left its mark on the tracks. Wherever it arrived, no turntable could hold it." It had a habit of breaking switches, which is a bit of a problem. I am building a roundhouse layout with a 128' turntable to display this engine and the Pennsy duplex that had a similar problem.
ASSIMILATE. A public official has a bad time at McDonald's. (No big surprise: the company is at least modest enough to no longer brag on its "Speedee Service System" or suggest that "You Deserve a Break Today.) What was his problem? The order-taker had insufficient grasp of English to take his order. What is the surprise is that the public official, the former governor of Maryland, took occasion to brand multiculturalism as "crap." Power Line has the details. Michelle Malkin riffs on the story, with a litany of complaints of shoddy service. (Methinks she doth protest too much about the cash dispensers, however. It is darn convenient to find a cash dispenser in Taipei with an English option, and I'm sure the German tourists at the Beatles Museum appreciated the German option at the cash dispenser there. I didn't check at King's Cross to see if any wizardly dialects were offered.) H. George Hahn builds on the story to note that the various multicultural offerings have crowded the serious stuff out of the curriculum. Perhaps the times, they are a-changing.
LOSING PATIENCE ON THE TARMAC. The city you don't want to leave has an airport that can take you anywhere, provided you have time to spare. Lynne at Knowledge Problem discovers that the air traffic controllers, whilst public employees, are hardly public servants.
Another Friday night, another ground hold trying to fly home to O’Hare. This time we sat on the ground in Austin, Texas for an hour and a half. The pilot was really frank; he said that we were two minutes from liftoff and everything was fine, and then they said they would hold us for an hour and 20 minutes. I had called home earlier so I knew that there was no weather/radar reason, and other passengers around me calling people corroborated that information. The pilot later said over the speaker that he knew of no weather events going into O’Hare.

That means it was an air traffic control hold. It’s bad enough for me to get home to my family an hour and a half late, but the worst thing is that I’m surrounded by many fellow passengers who were all supposed to be making connections through O’Hare to someplace else. Now we won’t arrive in O’Hare until after 10, well after many of the last flights have departed. They’ll be stranded and have to spend the night in O’Hare. That is, of course, unless there are other planes full of people whose lives and priorities have been disregarded as much as ours have.

The FAA’s disregard of its constituents is unconscionable and utterly reprehensible. I cannot believe, with all of the soul searching and introspection that federal officials are supposed to have been doing in the past two and a half years, that the FAA and the Department of Transportation can still get away with this appalling indifference to the harms that their bureaucratic policies impose on so many people. The reply I would expect from them, that we may be home late or tomorrow but at least we get home all in one piece, is a pathetic excuse for an unwillingness to engage in some forward-looking thinking and openness to new (or not so new) ideas.
Sometimes it is experience, not ideology, that leads people to call for a rollback of State functions.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES.
The surest way to get lower prices tomorrow is to put up with higher prices today, The surest way to get higher prices tomorrow is to insist on lower prices today.

This is a matter not of theory but experience. When Ronald Reagan scrapped oil and gasoline price controls in 1981, critics said prices would soar. They did, but not for long. Supplies rose, consumption fell and prices began a long decline, which left us all swimming in cheap gas and spoiled beyond belief.
That's Steve Chapman, with a reality check on gas prices, as well as the gratifying news that Hummer sales are off again.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM....
We are all familiar with the Mars robots that are cruising around the Red Planet looking for signs of life. Suppose that they were unable to find a single bit of evidence for it; no water, no carbon, no primitive fossils, nothing. Then, on the last day of their exploration, one of them finds... a spoon.
Hugh Hewitt (via Betsy's Page) expands.
SOME RENAMINGS ARE NOT CAVINGS. Professor Ray's Political Correctness Watch notes with dismay the transformation of the Confederate Air Force into the Commemorative Air Force, bringing the Sounds of Freedom to an air show near you. An air travel newsletter from across the pond suggested that the CAF renamed itself for "politically correct" reasons. The Ghost Squadron's official page suggests something different.
Changing the name was first discussed in July 1999 and again in February 2000. Many members were of the opinion that the name did not accurately reflect the primary objectives of the organization which are: 1) to restore, maintain, and fly World War II aircraft; 2) to maintain museum facilities for aircraft as a tribute to the thousands of men and women who built, serviced, and flew the planes; and 3) to perpetuate in the memory and hearts of all Americans, the spirit in which these great planes were flown in the defense of this nation.
(Ghost Squadron, which is the name for the squadron of planes that calls at major air shows, came in second.) As there are plenty of Confederate reenactors in the States, the organization's attempt to avoid confusion is logical. The person most likely to attend a reenactment is unlikely to be too upset about the use of the term "Confederate." I have been to a number of Civil War reenactments over the years, and the modal response I have heard parents give to kids that ask "who are the bad guys" is "That's not easy to answer."
WHAT'S IN A NAME? A trustee at Marquette University offered the university a large sum of money if it would restore the "Warriors" name. (A hint: if you see a university with an eagle as its mascot, there is a good chance it used to have a Native American theme. Marquette and Eastern Michigan come to mind.) Editors at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel urge restraint.
On Monday, Father Robert Wild, MU's president, did the wise and right thing: He declined the funds while he kept the door open to discussion about a name reversion. The full Board of Trustees would decide whether to revisit the nickname issue, Wild said.

The reason money ought to be off the table is that MU changed the nickname out of sensitivity to American Indians, whose leaders overwhelmingly oppose the common practice by sports teams of using Indian nicknames and mascots. Indian leaders believe that such use promotes stereotypes. To offer money is to suggest that Marquette's principles are for sale.
I promise to be nice and say nothing about sponsored research and selling principles. See this for that commentary. Rather, I want to address the silly idea that mascots aren't supposed to give offense. (Why else does Michigan's band insist on playing the one tune it knows as often as it dare?) If we take that seriously, Tongue Tied correctly notes that Incarnate Word's Crusaders (also Valparaiso's) give offense -- do you really want a jihadi blowing up your stadium? For that matter, Wisconsin's Badgers have nothing to do with a small carnivore, rather it refers (originally) to the lead miners of the southwest. For pasties, pirates, and Lands' End, you don't have to go to Cornwall. And Marquette's Warriors might have more to do with the Spanish Inquisition than some basketball fans would be comfortable with.
MAKING AN ACADEMIC. Critical Mass encourages aspiring academicians, particularly the late adolescents, to think again.
Most people conceive of the idea of becoming a professor from sitting in classes being professed at. They don't know what academic life is about, they don't know what the professor does with the hours when they are not professing at students, they aren't familiar with scholarly writing, they don't have a clue about either academic politics or the gruntwork of self-governance. What they see is someone they think is erudite, spinning eloquent sentences about complex material, seeming so intellectually capable, so informed and so brilliant.
It depends on what professor one is watching. My inspiration came from observing the late Robert Lampman at the University of Wisconsin, who was teaching history of economic thought. (Officially, it was principles of macroeconomics, but we did the first six weeks on history of thought, which was most useful.) Once we got into policy, he proceeded to tell some stories of his time as a staff economist to the Kennedy and Johnson Council of Economic Advisors. This struck me as something to look into ... advising the powers that be, writing policy papers, and telling war stories about it later. In my case, it turned out to be the Department of Energy, not the Council, that accounts for most of my trips to The Seat of Power, and the war stories went to Wayne State students, and later Northern Illinois students, the best of whom can hold their own with any Badger. The part graduate school does not prepare one for is committee meetings and university governance, which (the down side of the principle of comparative advantage) tend to attract the drudges and nitpickers of the academy. The creative people stick to their desks.

RUNNING EXTRA: On the other hand, if you're expecting to be taught by Russell Crowe (or harboring fantasies of hanging out with Russell Crowe, or seducing Russell Crowe) think again.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Tardiness is an attitude. It isn't something that has to happen. If I want to be on time, I'll be on time.
Thta's Milwaukee Custer High School principal Willie Jude, featured in an Alan Borsuk report on strategies to close the achievement gap between black and white students. The article continues,
Closing the gap in academic achievement between white students and those in predominantly black schools such as Custer is "not as complex as people want to make it," Jude says. It's as basic as showing up regularly, showing up on time, adhering to firm discipline policies and putting your mind to schoolwork.
Comedian and Temple and Massachusetts graduate Bill Cosby has stirred up a bit of a controversy suggesting that some people have lost sight of those basics. Joanne Jacobs picked up the story earlier this week, and there is a spirited discussion going on in the comments section she maintains. What did Dr Cosby say to stir things up? An extended quote from the Washington Post coverage of the speech includes
"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' . . .

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

The Post's Hamil Harris reports that Cosby also turned his wrath to "the incarcerated," saying: "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"
(Betsy's Page links to additional coverage.)

The usual transgressives raise the usual objections to the speech. Felicia Lee offers a roundup at the weekend.
Some people said Mr. Cosby's comments had simply brought to the surface long-simmering generational and class schisms among blacks. Some applauded him for using sharp language to reiterate a long-running debate among blacks about the direction of the black struggle. Still others said they feared that his remarks would become fodder for racists or conservatives who believe that blacks alone avoid personal responsibility.
One such fearful person is a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania (surprise!)
But the cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson said that Mr. Cosby's comments "betray classist, elitist viewpoints that are rooted in generational warfare." Mr. Dyson, a professor of religious studies and African studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Cosby was "ill-informed on the critical and complex issues that shape people's lives."

Mr. Cosby's comments, he added, "only reinforce suspicions about black humanity."
And the phrase "white trash" does not reinforce suspicions about white humanity? But that's just a throwaway snark. What purpose does the higher education serve, if not to lift people up? Since when does "elitism" become a dirty word? At one time the education system existed to instill middle-class behavior patterns and values in youngsters. (It also existed to track some people out of that class, but did we have to throw away the good along with the bad?)

For that matter, does middle class equate to college attendance? Back to the Milwaukee report. Model railroader and Socialist Mayor Carl Zeidler (who is still active in politics) commissioned a report on conditions in the inner city some 40 years ago.
One line that stands out in the report is an observation: "Too many Negro children do not picture themselves as mechanics, technicians, artisans or professional people; the result is a void where ambition should lie."

For many minority children, the void remains. It does not take many visits to Milwaukee middle schools and high schools to see that a large number of students aren't on track to pursue good-paying jobs - or don't seem to have a realistic connection to dreams of a solid future. Thousands come from homes where there has been little educational success in the past and the conditions that surround them do not send messages encouraging future economic success.
Perhaps those are the "critical and complex issues" to which Professor Dyson wishes to speak. But to blame the messenger for pointing out the problem does not address the problem itself.

19.5.04

REPROFILING THE KETTLE MORAINE? The latest disaster flick is called "The Day After Tomorrow," featuring twisters in Los Angeles and ice in Manhattan. Dan Drezner has a post and a thread on the question, "why not Chicago?" Indeed, why not? Can there be a more telling opening than the Cubs winning the World Series on the last at-bat at Wrigley, and then the storm moves in?

16.5.04

THE PRINCIPLE OF DERIVED DEMAND.
We might as reasonably dispute whether it is the upper or the under blade of a pair of scissors that cuts a piece of paper as whether value is governed by utility or by cost of production.
That epigram, from Marshall's Principles, which I often require principles students to read aloud to the class, provides a good jump-off on Crunch This.
Here's a question for economically-minded readers: If all college and university teaching were done by tenured or tenure-track faculty, how would tuition for undergraduates be affected? This question assumes that the (bloated) bureaucratic structure of today's higher ed institutions would remain constant, and that tenured faculty members' teaching loads and salaries would, too. It also accepts the current estimate that between 40 and 60% of college and university teaching is done by graduate students and adjunct lecturers.

King at SCSU Scholars, who knows his Marshall, concludes, No effect, provided the demand curve does not shift.
Will students pay premium tuition for a course taught by a Nobel Laureate or an instructor with a NYT bestseller?
Apparently students, or their parents, are willing to pay a premium for the school name, even with the knowledge that the hotshots rarely see freshmen.

There is one further possibility. The Critical Mass post suggests securing sufficient tenure-track lines. No mention of salary. Given the size of the industrial reserve army in the adjunct-dependent disciplines, mightn't it be possible for such universities to get tenured and tenure track faculty very cheaply, as the risk premium (such as it is) would be smaller with a greater likelihood of a tenured job at defense of dissertation.
QUOTE OF THE DAY.
Contrary to popular belief, the evidence indicates that the cost of tuition prevents very few students from pursuing a college degree. The problem isn't that students can't afford college — it's that not enough students possess the academic qualifications necessary even to apply. This cannot be fixed through better financing for tuition: It requires reforming K-12 education.

That's Jay Greene and Marcus Winters commenting on Senator Kerrey's latest proposal to get cheap labor for public works projects in exchange for lower tuitions at college.
Using data provided by the U.S. Department of Education, a recent study by the Manhattan Institute estimated the number of students in the nation who were college ready. The study found that nationally only 32 percent of students leave high school prepared to apply to college. The picture is particularly bleak for minorities: Just 20 percent of African-American students and 16 percent of Hispanic students are even eligible to apply to a four-year college at the end of high school.

The defect rate in primary and secondary education is apparently almost as bad as the defect rate in the universities themselves.
For the high-school class of 2000, that translates to an estimated 1,298,920 who were college-ready, a figure very close to the 1,341,000 students who actually enrolled in college for the first time in that year. The same is true for minority groups: Hispanic students make up about 9 percent of the college-ready population and about 7 percent of students entering college; African Americans make up about 9 percent of all college-ready students and about 11 percent of incoming freshmen. The pattern is similar for white and Asian students as well.

This indicates that there is not a large pool of students who are academically qualified to apply to college but who are prevented from doing so by a lack of funds — or by anything else, for that matter. Just about all students who are academically able to go to college do go to college.

King at SCSU Scholars quips that he has just finished grading the exams for all the students that didn't belong in college.

The column continues,
Thus no plan can increase college participation simply by providing greater access to funds. And since nearly all minority students eligible to enroll in college already do, attempting to increase their number by expanding affirmative-action policies is similarly futile.

Number 2 Pencil picks up the column to observe that the K-12 must be fixed first.
ZING. Planning a party? Tightly Wound suggests being careful about the proportion of academicians one invites. In full:
As I've said before, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, the most annoying thing about graduate school is dealing with The Tenured. Not all tenured full professors are members of The Tenured, by the way. No, The Tenured are a special subset of academia, unfortunately much more prevalent than they should be, and they are the ones the dissenters both inside and outside of academe hold up to ridicule. The Tenured personify the pompous insulated arrogance that sends intelligent non-, ex-, or fellow academics completely around the bend. On the positive side, they're really easy to make fun of. On the negative, they completely lack the humility and self-awareness to appreciate a little self-deprecation. They're over-intellectualized pricks, basically, and respond to each and every criticism by calling the attacker an anti-intellectual or by implying (particularly against a non-tenured adversary) that their opponent "couldn't (or can't) hack it," or has a "case of sour grapes."
These are the individuals the Superintendent refers to as good people who he wouldn't trust with a soldering iron.
So why am I revisiting The Tenured? Well, because it's easy to forget how completely overbearing and socially inept they are when you aren't dealing with them on a daily basis. Lord knows I did, until I ran into one at a recent social event. The soiree in question contained folks from all walks of life--plumbers, teachers, doctors, IT folks--and The Tenured. How do I know this? Because The Tenured spent the entire evening doing the same tired name-dropping of institutions, degrees, programs and "colleagues," that I would expect to hear at an MLA conference. To my chagrin, my first impulse was to counter with a little degree and institution name-dropping of my own (particularly on the BA level--dear God! She went WHERE?), but I recognized the incipient symptoms of Academic Dick Swinging before I succumbed, and squelched the impulse.

Look, we were hanging out and eating finger food and discussing family pets and toilet training. I have to admire her ability to work the names of the leading lights at such-and-such U into the conversation, but "work" was the operative word here. No one else was talking about their work. It wasn't like the plumber was pouncing on every conversational pause and remarking, "You know, that reminds me of something a colleague told me just the other day. I had my head stuck down so-and-so's toilet, and Bob (you know Bob, he's tops in his field over in Garner and leading the research into hair clog removal in kitchen pipes) let fly such a witty riposte that I nearly concussed myself on the porcelain rim! Post-modern plumbing theory is just so rich and layered!"

Priceless.
But The Tenured was. And while I was secretly amused by her antics, I was also more than a little pissed off, because it wasn't like this prof was just looking for a little ego stroking. It was more like she was trying to put everyone else into some sort of pre-defined "place," where rank was determined by an actuarially unsound conflation of job description and perceived IQ. I have a problem with snobbery generally, but intellectual snobbery really pisses me off, mainly because it forces me to revisit the portions of grad school that I found most infuriating (and it forces me to do a bit of uncomfortable self-examination: I defy anyone to look back upon year 22 of their lives with nothing but righteous pride about the ideas they held).

I often wonder, now that my hindsight has that lovely 20/20 quality, if folks in the increasingly incrementalized and politicized courses of study in the humanities know that a lot of the research they do isn't as earth-shatteringly useful as they think it is? I wonder if they question the validity of their pieces of paper, if they see through the sham studies that a lot of Universities are funding and that they're benefitting from, if they realize that their positions often owe as much to judicious ass-kissing and the "right kind" of scholarship as to their own intellects, and feel shame? And I wonder if that's why they need to constantly prove their superiority--not necessarily because their IQs may be a few points higher than someone else's, but because they've spent a lifetime pursuing work that no one deems as important as they do? And they fear that the great unwashed might be right about their work? Insecurity is a horrible thing, and impossible to hide.

Great questions, and they provoke yet another one. Perhaps the politicized humanities types and their useful idiots in the administration spend so much time fretting about the multiple oppressions and status hierarchies of everybody else (railway workers, kids in day care, tribes) as a way of diverting attention from the far more oppressive and far more status conscious hierarchies of their own disciplines, which are, once one gives it a moment's thought, rather small fishbowls not that much more or less important than the fishbowls of steel making, dispatching, fly fishing, or Laser sailing, or necessarily as interesting to talk about as any of those.
INCUBATING THE CREATIVE CLASS? Laura at Apartment 11-D goes on walkabout.
Universities as economic development for an area of the country where the old industry has become irrelevent, outsourced, or made unprofitable. I don't know why I found this facinating, but strange things amuse me.
State College, Pennsylvania, is a university town of long standing, as is Normal, Illinois (albeit neighboring Bloomington has railroads and industry) and to some extent DeKalb, the barbed wire factories and the creeping Schaumburgization of the northeast corner notwithstanding. Youngstown, Ohio, might be a better example of an attempt to make that conversion. Much of downtown has been turned over to Youngstown State, particularly some new athletic facilities.

There is potential for the development Dr. Laura isn't noticing.
It's one of the failures of the technological era that computers and the internet haven't led to jobs for these areas. After all, there is really no reason that my husband has to work in Times Square. He could easily do his job anywhere with high speed internet access. And we could afford one of those quaint Victorian homes out there. But it hasn't happened. Cities continue to monopolize jobs.
It varies. Perhaps not on the ridges of Pennsylvania, because the topography is not conducive to wireless communication, and perhaps not west of the hundredth meridian and east of the Front Range. Furthermore, it's not the cities that are accounting for most of the jobs. Metropolitan areas, perhaps. Manhattan and the Chicago Loop are exceptions. Other large cities continue to be losing population and jobs to their exurbs.
VICARS OF VACILLATION. What used to be called "mainstream Protestantism" (if the roots of the United States are in the Puritan Pilgrimage, how does the Anglican Communion and its willing accomplices get off calling itself "mainstream?") continues to totter into irrelevance. The sensible-shoes crowd (that's a reference to a P. J. O'Rourke essay, extra credit for finding it) have issued two briefs for the surrender wing of the Democratic Party pastoral letters objecting to, you guessed it, the course of the liberation of Iraq.

One originates with the National Council of Churches, and Christopher at Midwest Conservative Journal disputes its premises, and questions its logic. Another originates with the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and One Hand Clapping suggests the bishops, in conclave assembled, reason like kindergarteners.

Rev. Sensing links to an Alan Wisdom commentary on both pastoral letters (the American Baptists have a General Secretary?? Vashe mat!.) that manages the neat trick of calling Silent Generation church elders, so proud of their process and nuance, simplistic!
The NCC and the Methodist bishops would have served church members better by grappling humbly with these kinds of questions. Instead they have offered quick and easy answers. In March 2003, their easy answer was: No to war! Today their easy answer is: Let the UN save the day!
The five questions are somewhat more challenging than the set beginning with "Why is this night ..."
THE WAY RAILROADING USED TO BE.

Galewood yard of the Milwaukee Road in Chicago
A color photo from the Farm Security Administration -- Office of War Information collection. (Hat tip: Jonathan at Chicago Boyz.)
NO PRETENSE HERE. Thanks, Doxagora. Insight here, sometimes. Importance here? Perhaps. The readership continues to grow; thanks for your support. But the Superintendent, acrimonious? Did Watchful Babbler once work at Northern Illinois University? Acrimonious in faculty senate meetings, you bet. On Cold Spring Shops? Wouldn't acerbic or acidulous be more accurate?
DID HE GET AN INDIRECT COST RETURN? Universities have encouraged their faculty to seek external funding for their research. Sometimes that funding includes an administrative reassignment referred to in popular parlance as "release time," which translates into more time for research and fewer courses to teach.

There is a line, somewhere, between externally funded pure research and externally funded advocacy. (In the Superintendent's view, the two National Endowments cross that line as a matter of nature, but that's for another day.) A professor at California-Davis is discovering that the location of the line depends on the observer's perspective. He has been accused of treason, according to Tyler at Marginal Revolution. Did he take money from the Republican National Committee? Nope. (OK, I'm being acerbic, but that's a feature here.) Was it Hamas money? Nope. Was it a foreign government? Yep. In this case, it's Brazil's government. (Does that country currently have a socialist government? Curious the effect politics has on commercial policies.)

What did this professor investigate that was so loathsome? Cotton subsidies.
[Agricultural economist Daniel] Sumner said that like many economists at universities, he is not favorably disposed toward farm subsidies in general, because he sees little rationale for protecting farmers from market forces, and he believes that some of the goals subsidies are supposedly aimed at -- preserving rural communities, for example -- could be achieved much more effectively by using other programs.
Right on. It is amusing to hear U.S. trade officials complaining about the dumping behavior of other countries whilst tolerating the export subsidies for grains, sugar, cotton, and tobacco (yes.) I am still waiting for the opportunity to buy a Lands' End button-down made in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq from cotton grown in one of those countries, but my government won't let me.

There is a dimension of the sponsored research that Marginal Revolution has glossed over, that requires further comment. Apparently the agricultural economics faculty at Davis have done some work for U.S. cotton interests. Are those interests upset that their court intellectuals don't stay bought off?
The message has been received loud and clear by Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC-Davis, who said the amount of money farm organizations provide for research at the university is "significant."

Van Alfen said Sumner "has the right, and it's an important right" to use his academic expertise as he did by working for the Brazilians, and be paid for it, especially since he was careful to spend only vacation time doing so. But, the dean said, "I question his judgment. It's a matter of, in any organization, if you have close working relationships with a broad group of people, you want to think twice about developing relations with their competitor, and doing it in such a public way."

The problem, dear readers, lies not with the professor's judgement, but with the sponsored research system itself. Research is expensive. Good research is particularly so. With (in some disciplines) a rather elastic supply of teaching labor available at budget rates legislators and others holding the university's purse strings understandably seek to encourage all faculty who wish to do research to seek external funding, in order to boost default teaching loads (both course load and course size.) External funding, however, involves the possibility of the principal investigator doing work that supports the agenda of the sponsor. That's not the same thing as doing research for its own sake.

The administration at Davis has chosen to ride the tiger. Now they must face the consequences. It is for cases like the Sumner case that academic tenure exists. To accuse him of treason for doing his job is to be silly. (Rent seeking makes some people silly, though.)

9.5.04

MARKING OFF. Thanks for looking in. More free ice cream in a week.
SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS. I was grading exams, and the new Blogger front end has been put into operation. Clean design.
KARNIVAL OF THE KAPITALISTS visits Clay Whittaker. Thanks for setting it up. Welcome, visitors.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Granted, I'm procrastinating from grading exams. On the other hand, some of the students are going to have a close encounter with Hard America, very soon. Three opinion columns from the past couple of days might give you some insight into whether I'm disposed to be lenient.

Doug Giles is likely to earn a Derbyshire Award for some of the examples he introduces to support this assertion.
That’s why your and my country, the U.S.A., freaked me out, pre-9/11.

The latter part of the 20th century wasn’t characterized by bravery and courage. Buffoonery and cowardice were ascendant. The ‘90s especially were a decade of decadence, headed up by the crude King of nihilism himself, Billy Bob Clinton, a guy who resembled our forefathers’ illustrious character and accomplishments about as much as a Celine Dion CBS Special resembles a Godsmack concert.
Mr Giles suggests a mood shift is in progress.
The greatest commodity our nation has is the original spirit of our Nation’s framers. The greatest threat to our nation doesn’t come so much from Iraq or Iran or North Korea; it doesn’t come from Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and their terrorist freak posses. No, the ultimate threat is from those of our fellow citizens who would seek to separate the hardy, righteous, and sacrificial spirit of our forefathers from the heart of this generation. Because it is that courage, commitment and energy that will securely propel our country forward in victorious righteousness … the true blessing of any nation.
Kathleen Parker suggests there is more work to be done. She sees the decadence as contributing to the bad behavior of a few reservists at that Baghdad prison.
But some of what happened at Abu Ghraib, specifically the sexualized humiliations, may reflect American culture, especially in the instance of the naked human pyramid, which is nearly iconographic within the adolescent zeitgeist that spawned our current generation of soldiers.

The images from Abu Ghraib, now irreversibly tattooed on the Arab brain, were every frat-house cliche magnified. The human pyramid, males mooning, masturbation, bags over heads. What we saw, at least in part, was "The Farrelly Brothers Do Baghdad."
I am still waiting for a well-positioned university administrator to take advantage of the current resource crunch to announce "The era of Animal House is over" and balance that university's budget by raising tuitions, restricting enrollments, and ending spending on courses that attempt to do what the high schools have failed to do. Perhaps we'll be able to introduce into class discussion a serious parsing of the following hypothesis, without fear that somebody will be offended.
I don't want to overstate my case by insisting that the culture made 'em do it, but we'd be missing a few dots if we didn't admit that the culture that birthed our young soldiers has dumbed down the definition of human dignity.
The third column, by George Will, attempts to use Hard America, Soft America to read the political tea leaves.
Barone believes that promotion of competition and accountability -- hardness -- is the shared theme of President Bush's policies of educational standards, individual health accounts, Social Security investment accounts and lower tax rates to increase self-reliance in the marketplace. Barone's book is a guide to electoral map reading: the blue and red states have, respectively, softer and harder sensibilities.
(That's the 2000 blue -- went for Gore -- and red states. I believe the colors will be reversed for this fall's map.)

There is a bit more than political perspectives, however, to Barone's principal observation, "America produces so many incompetent 18-year-olds but remarkably competent 30-year-olds." My sister noted that they have different parents. That is part of it, as the schools have probably become less demanding over the years, and the parents possibly more distracted or less involved, and the culture coarser. On the other hand, twenty years ago, observers were fretting about the SKOTEs -- Spoiled Kids Of The Eighties -- who are presumably the competent thirtysomethings Mr Barone is now seeing.

8.5.04

THROWING BACK THOSE RIBBONS, ER, MEDALS. Southern Mississippi president Shelby Thames continues to win friends and influence people. Robert at Liberty and Power reports that ever-more powerful members of the inner circle are leaving, and a distinguished professor has taken early retirement and publicly destroyed a number of awards he had received from the university.

That reminds me, I owe readers an update to the deck of cards. After downtime. (I know, this is sounding like the Amtrak late trains desk, but bear with me.)
WHEN I LOOK BACK ON ALL THAT **** I READ IN HIGH SCHOOL. Via Priorities and Frivolities, the latest display of intellectualism. If you wish to pass it along, go ahead. Copy the following list of books. Highlight those you have actually read.

Beowulf (*)
Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice (*)
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot (*)
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales (*)
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard (*)
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness (*)
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage (*)
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities (*)
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment (*)
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man (+)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter (*)
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey (*)
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener (*)
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick (*)
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac (*)
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet (*)
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth (*)
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet (*)
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex (*)
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island (*)
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels (*)
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden (*)
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace (+)
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (*)
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass (+)
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son
Explanation of Reference Marks
(*) Assigned reading in some class sometime in the past.
(+) Reading in progress
If not for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the University of Wisconsin, there would be precious few of these books highlighted. But perhaps It's. Their. Job. to expose students to these things.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? Proper railroad names combine city names, directions, and destinations. Chicago, Lake Geneva, and Pacific works, as does London and North Western, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, and if you want to economize on commas, Chicago South Shore and South Bend. It is possible to achieve great economy, which Union Pacific, Great Western, and Trans-Iranian accomplish. Sometimes, a single word works. Pennsylvania. Ffestiniog.

Alas, modern business gurus, who insist on butting words together and inserting capitalizations in the middle (SouthShore -- I kid you not) come up with such clinkers as First Great Western and One Railway (hint: it does not -- yet -- refer to Norfolk Southern.) Michael at Transport Blog has a good dose of disdain for such efforts.
QUOTE OF THE DAY.
Manufacturers are the new farmers

Read and understand.
YET THERE'S NOT A TRAIN I WOULDN'T TAKE. Internet Commentator responds to Tyler Cowen's musings from a train window with
It occurs to me that some train journeys are better at "being architecture" than most buildings. The train journey between Dundalk and Dublin is quite impressive, particularly as it passes the Lagoon at Malahide: as you look out the window, the train appears to glide across the water, no land in sight. Passing over Drogheda on the elevated viaduct on is also good (passing over that "city" would generally be recommended by us Dundalkers!).
Good observations. I'm not sure whether to sing the praises of the Hudson River line on the New York Central, or the Milwaukee or the Burlington along the Mississippi River north of LaCrosse, or to commend the eastern approach to Chicago through the steel mill district, or the view of Astoria with Manhattan beyond from the Hell Gate Bridge.
YOU CAN'T BE TOO THIN OR TOO RICH. Newmark's Door is less than impressed with assertions that only the rich can afford to be thin.
FINDING THOSE GAINS FROM TRADE. It's been a while since I visited Legal Theory. Could be a mistake not going there more often. I found an abstract of work that's attempting to bridge the gap between behavioral economists and rational choice economists (which in my view is often about the nature of the constraints people operate under) that calls for careful attention.
However, it may be possible to end the intellectual tug of war between rational choice theorists and behavioralists without turning it into a zero-sum game.
The paper is Professor Solum's Download of the Week and I'm downloading it (Francesco Parisi and Vernon Smith of George Mason wrote it) and posting at the same time.
HO-HO-HO CHI MINH. Yet more selective repression on the part of university administrators. It's commencement season, and universities welcome dignitaries and family members honoring graduating seniors from all over the world. But what happens when the graduating seniors have Vietnamese roots, but their families fled at the time of the takeover by the current government, a Communist government not afraid to take Nike's money.

Opinion Journal is on the story.
Right now the two municipalities that straddle Little Saigon--Westminster and Garden Grove--are mounting the kind of protest traditionally associated with the left. But instead of declaring themselves nuclear free or unwilling to enforce the Patriot Act, these cities are considering legislation that would make them no-Communist zones. The frank intention is to discourage any outreach to Hanoi, and already the controversy has led the State Department to cancel plans to take one Vietnamese delegation to the area for a goodwill visit.
Not quite ready for the Scottish compromise, in which H.M. Government can send a representative to the Highland Games and the multitudes can sing "Rose of Scotland," are we? Opinion Journal says send 'em a message.
We're not for giving Little Saigon a veto over U.S. foreign policy. But surely universities that would be the first to understand African-American students legitimately offended by the flying of a Confederate flag should have no trouble understanding Vietnamese-Americans who hold equally strong sentiments about a Communist flag. And by accommodating those sentiments, we might give any visiting Vietnamese delegations something they are unlikely to see back home: a taste of how we do things in democracies, where authorities are accountable to the people.
Professor Bainbridge, who picked up the story, enjoys the dilemma:
This will present campus lefties with a dilemma of their own making. On the one hand, since American universities are one of the last bastions of Marxist and socialist thought, how can they turn their back on one of the last Communist states? On the other hand, a core tenet of the modern multicultural left is avoiding offense to any underrepresented ethnic group.
DIVERSITY TRAINING REQUIRED? The Right Coast discovers simmering intolerance in Detroit. Some entrepreneurs report
The genesis of these designs started on the campus of Wayne State University. Talking with Jewish students who attend WSU, I discovered that identifiably Jewish students on that campus, for example those who wear a Kippah, a Chai or Star of David, know the Arabic word for Jew, al Yahud. Wayne State, located in Detroit, Michigan, not far from Dearborn, has one of the largest Arab and Muslim student populations of any American college campus and it seems that Arab students like to mutter "al Yahud" at Jewish students as they pass by. Of course, the Jewish students are proud to be Jewish and resent being targets of the word "Jew" being used as a slur. The aggressive attitude of Arabs, Muslims and others who support the 'Palestinian' cause, have made American campuses a hostile environment for Jewish students and other supporters of Israel.
The news does not reflect well on Wayne State, but it is difficult for administrators at a commuter university to sentence incoming students to sensitivity gulag training. The website offers some provocative apparel.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, WAIT. Thursday: shorts and polo shirt for receiving exams. Sunny and low humidity. Friday: jeans and a sweatshirt for grading exams. I was being too responsible and missed all the excitement when a train broke a coupler knuckle and tied up downtown for two hours. Not newsworthy. Blustery and raw, with thunderstorms all around. Saturday: shorts and t-shirt for grading exams. Good news, bad news. Sunny and high humidity. Not the best conditions for dressing up for graduation, but people are putting on a good show. Thunderstorms overnight?

7.5.04

HOTELLING, SAMUELSON, KRUGMAN. Professor Krugman's latest column appears to have been written without reference to either of the other-named greats. (Perhaps he was in a hurry: a footnote that Bob Herbert is on vacation might suggest he's pinch-hitting.) Today's topic is oil prices.
Oil is a resource in finite supply; no major oil fields have been found since 1976, and experts suspect that there are no more to find. Some analysts argue that world production is already at or near its peak, although most say that technological progress, which allows the further exploitation of known sources like the Canadian tar sands, will allow output to rise for another decade or two. But the date of the physical peak in production isn't the really crucial question.

The question, instead, is when the trend in oil prices will turn decisively upward. That upward turn is inevitable as a growing world economy confronts a resource in limited supply. But when will it happen? Maybe it already has.
The Hotelling theorem on the rate of depletion of exhaustible resources suggests that the price will increase at the interest rate. If it isn't happening, that is evidence of the development of replacement resources, conservation, or development of new supplies. Professor Krugman recognizes there is conservation.
During the 1980's, oil consumption dropped around the world as the delayed effects of the energy crisis led to the use of more fuel-efficient cars, better insulation in homes and so on. Although economic growth led to a gradual recovery, as late as 1993 world oil consumption was only slightly higher than it had been in 1979. In the United States, oil consumption didn't regain its 1979 level until 1997.
People respond to incentives, and that response takes time.
So what should we be doing? Here's a hint: We can neither drill nor conquer our way out of the problem. Whatever we do, oil prices are going up. What we have to do is adapt.
Adaptation is easier if there aren't artificial impediments to adaptation. That's the LeChatelier-Samuelson principle at work. It is, perversely, leading to automotive fuel consumption that is probably higher than it would be in the absence of fuel economy standards for cars but not for trucks. Consider what's been happening to the sales of sport utility vehicles in the past year.
Sales of full-size sport-utility vehicles tumbled last month, and sales of some smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs boomed in what could be a sign that higher fuel prices are hurting automakers' high-profit models.
Thus does USA Today report on the automotive market. Despite some cheerful words from the car dealers, ominous signs proliferate.
• Full-size SUVs sat on dealer lots 68 days last month compared with just 50 days a year ago, according to data analyst Power Information Network.

• Inventories of unsold big SUVs rose to about 100 days' supply in April. That's about 30 days above normal, says Gary Lapidus, auto industry analyst at Wall Street investment house Goldman Sachs. "Light-truck inventories are bloated across the board," he says.
What's going on? Here's the Detroit News from last year.
In 1999, 7 percent of large SUV owners said they would trade for something different; last year, that percentage ballooned to 35.

"People find them too big," CNW [Marketing, a research firm] chief Art Spinella said. "People are shifting to Buick Rendezvous and more wagon-based sport-utes."
So why not build station wagons, which could use automotive unibody construction rather than truck frame construction, and achieve lower fuel use and greater passenger comfort? Station wagons are covered under the automotive fuel economy standards, which are more restrictive than those on trucks. Smaller sport utility trucks use more fuel than station wagons, as well as being somewhat odd looking. Rethink the fuel economy standards, or simply abolish them and let consumers respond to incentives, and expect more, not less, conservation of gasoline, provided the real price of gasoline continues to rise.

RUNNING EXTRA: Kevin at Truck and Barter has comments on the column and a useful summary of others who have commented on it.
NOT THAT THE PARTIES WON'T STOP SPINNING IT. There's more evidence of economic expansion in the official numbers. The New York Times anticipates.
After months of sluggish payrolls gains, the economy added 308,000 jobs in March, the most in four years. The government releases the employment report for April on Friday, and most economists are predicting significant growth in payrolls.
Confirmation comes from the Chicago Tribune, likely to be accused of flacking for the Democratic campaign.
Payrolls have risen now for eight straight months, with 867,000 new jobs created so far this year, the Labor Department reported Friday. The strengthening jobs market comes just in time to aid President Bush's re-election efforts, which were in question a few months ago based on his economic record.

Bush is on track to be the first president since the Great Depression to have lost jobs under his watch. But the hiring gains in recent months have shrank those losses to about 1.5 million.
Republican propagandists will no doubt have their own interpretation.

The flacking is likely to be pointless, notes Michael at Chicago Boyz.

Presidents have little effect on the economy.

Read and understand.
FINDING THOSE GAINS FROM TRADE. Jonathan at Chicago Boyz finds some press coverage of moms returning to the workforce. He reiterates the reality that those who choose to stay more attached to the work force are going to get the big prizes.
Some of these women may have unrealistic expectations. They want to resume their careers at their old pay and responsibility levels, but they seem not to understand that the business world changes rapidly and that career skills decay if not maintained. People who want to remain employable at a high level, even if they already have jobs, have to keep learning and updating their skills.
He's also captured in a nutshell the existence of unexploited gains from trade between employers and workers who seek a way off the treadmill.
The reluctance of some managers to hire competent women who are returning to the work force creates opportunity for employers who are more flexible, and for the people they hire.
It's more than returning moms who would welcome such flexibility.
PUBLIC CHOICE. Live from the Third Rail considers possible improvements to Amtrak, none of which generate sufficient political support.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. "A country with no declining industries is a country that doesn't have many better new ideas." That's Tyler at Marginal Revolution, who gets opportunity cost while gazing out a train window.
SEX, DEATH, AND MIGRATION. The Idea Shop locates a positive theory of prostitution. Prosperity has the effect of reducing prostitution, as the incentives for both women and men to participate in that market diminish. Hmmm, what came first, the Protestant ethic or the rise of capitalism?
NEWTON'S FOURTH LAW? "The Volume of the Music in Your Car is Inversely Proportional to Your Intelligence." Thanks to Kyle at Chicago Report for proposing it.

6.5.04

FACTOR PRICE EQUALIZATION? If a labor supply curve shifts to the right, what happens to wages? Yup. Whether the additional workers are legal or illegal immigrants appears not to matter. Sabbatical time. More on this project in January.
BUT IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. The University of Iowa (Hawkeyes?!) will play the University of Illinois (Illini) but not the Bradley University (Braves?) King at SCSU Scholars, who picked up the World Net Daily coverage of the University of Iowa's less-than-principled refusal to schedule Bradley, despite the Native origins of the term "Hawkeye" (It's not a Korean War surgeon or an Illinois Central train the university is recognizing) suggested I investigate Wisconsin's mascot policy. That's Faculty Policy 1023. Note:
Scheduling. During the regular season, UW Athletic Department will not schedule any team with a Native American mascot or nickname unless the team is a traditional rival or a conference member.
Thus Illinois is exempt in most sports other than hockey and North Dakota is exempt in hockey.

This discussion of the policy is particularly Orwellian:
The policy does not address any specific university by name, nor is it an attempt to be politically correct. We believe it is a reasonable and clear statement of principle that responds to an important constituency of our university. At the same time, we are confident that this policy does not go so far as to infringe on rights of expression at this or any other institution.
The policy cannot address conference rivals by name, nor can it address bowl opponents. As it does not apply to other institutions, the final sentence is irrelevant.

Although the Superintendent finds most of the Indian mascots, past and present, about as accurate as a Captain Myles Standish at Plimoth Plantation wearing jackboots, a field-gray uniform, and a spiky helmet and dancing a Schuhplattler, this article from the farm club in Urbana gets it about right.
The University of Wisconsin Athletic Department Policy on Native American Logos and Names still allows the Badgers to play schools with American Indian mascots if that school is in the university's conference, a long-time rival or if it is game in a tournament or bowl match-up.
Wisconsin, let the record show, also made an issue about West Virginia's Mountaineer (aren't hillbillies a protected class? The idiocy of rural life, the multiple oppressions of class, fundamentalist religion, and inbreeding and all that?) bringing his musket to Camp Randall. At Northern Illinois, we use a howitzer.
JUST SUCK IT UP. It's final exam season, and term papers are due, and dogs are developing a taste for Corrasable (tm) paper. Oh, that's so last century. Rather, it's time for all the hard drives to fail. Better yet, it's time for a website to provide plausible excuses.
A national student survey recently found that nearly two-thirds of students spent 15 hours or fewer per week doing coursework, and about 20 percent of both freshmen and seniors claimed to spend fewer than five hours per week.
There might be more to the high defect rate in higher education than a coreless curriculum. But the professoriate has to develop some spine.
For the truly lazy, a feature on the Web site student.com generates automatic excuse-requesting e-mails. Users pick the phrases they want, asking for "a bit of slack" or a "slight favor" because they "have SO much work to do" and could never finish the assignment "in the complete way you deserve."

"As an isolated phenomenon it might not be so serious, but it has to be seen in the overall context of diminishing expectations," said Bradford Wilson, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, a group that is working to combat what it believes is a decline in college standards.
What was I posting last week about quiche-eating surrender monkeys? Fortunately, a few continue to man the ramparts.
After 22 years of mounting frustration over extension requests, Wellesley political science Professor William Joseph introduced a new approach to his classes two years ago. His students have seven extension days, to allocate as they choose, each semester. But then he starts knocking down grades, barring an extraordinary excuse like a death in the family.

Joseph also tells students to save and print drafts. If a final version is lost in a computer crash, he expects an earlier version.

The change has cut back on the excuses he hears.
People respond to incentives. I made available the scoring rubrics for the regulated industries term paper, as current expertise suggests. I also announced a tariff for late papers. The paper was due on the last class day, a Thursday. Thirty points maximum. Five points off for turning it in on Friday. Ten points off for turning it in before the exam. Fifteen points off for turning it in after the exam. All but one paper accounted for by Friday.

One of these days, students will figure out proper study strategies.
"You get to the end of the semester, it's 85 degrees out, all your friends are on the lawn playing Frisbee," said Corey Frampton, an undergraduate at Binghamton University in New York, who admits to occasional extension requests. "It takes a certain amount of will to write a paper, which most people don't possess."
Quite so. But I was able to get a lot of good sailing in during exam week of the spring semester. Why? There is something called preparing during the term. The notion of cramming never occurred to me. Got the degree, got the dissertation, got the tenure, not going to brag to the Chronicle of Higher Education about any of it. Got it?

Joanne Jacobs, who turned up the story, also responds to incentives.
Only once in my college days did I turn a paper in late. I'd had a bad cold. The teacher lowered my A to a B. I coughed piteously. It didn't work. I never missed a deadline again.
Heh.

SECOND SECTION: Some professors don't mess around. Fail to turn in a paper, fail the course. Ouch. One letter grade off for each day late. Imagine incentive payments for Amtrak along these lines. No credit for late work without prearrangement (also here.) Some people would be more credible with more careful proofreading. "If you come in after role is taken or if you leave early, you are counted absent." Students in this class have an out, however.
If you have family or personal issues that keep you from class, or some type of issue that you cannot get documentation on, then you may see Elizabeth Steele in the Advising, Retention and Assessment Office. At her discretion, she will provide an excuse. Ms. Steele and the Advising, Retention and Assessment Office are located in 235 Smiddy, phone 328-0313.
Does she have a shelf of teddy bears?

For reader information, here is a collection of excuses, although many look like material for a compendium of tasteless jokes.
MORE BEDLAM AND CONFUSION IN HATTIESBURG. Southern Mississippi President Shelby "Ten of Diamonds" Thames expects a Dilbert moment to spare him further grief. Herewith a mass e-mail to the faculty, staff, and students of Southern Miss:
The University of Southern Mississippi has more than 12,000 e-mails per day pass through our technology system. iTech, the university's technology support division, does not monitor e-mails. The e-mails monitored for the hearing were done so in accordance with university policy and state law. The monitoring was limited in its scope and time. No monitoring is occurring at this time. We encourage faculty, staff and students to review the university's information technology use and security policy, which can be accessed at http://www.usm.edu/infosec/policy.
I suppose the Southern Miss community should be grateful that the NKVD is on the job, but mostly drinking vodka and playing chess. Robert at Liberty and Power, who obtained the email, observes
That information technology use and security policy allows the administration to read anyone's email at any time for any reason--and does not require them to announce that they are doing it.
INTERDISCIPLINARITY. Yet more followups to the latest academic job market posts. Tyler at Marginal Revolution, reacting to the latest Anthropology and Economics post, observes,
Anthropology is most likely to outperform economics when wealth maximization is not a useful proxy for utility maximization. That's quite a broad swathe of cases. We need then to see how other values become imbued with social meaning and why they hold such an important place in the utility function. The answers to these questions are almost certainly context-dependent. Yet most useful economic theories deliberately abstract from context. For this reason, every economist should do fieldwork at some point in his or her career. A stint in government, time behind the counter at Nordstroms, or a sojourn in a third world village can all qualify. That being said, without an inquiring and curious spirit, all of these endeavors are a waste of time.
There are limits to how far one can take a demonstration that all monetary values ultimately reflect subjective preferences before one runs afoul of the problem that any observation can be explained by an appeal to preferences. Therein lies the dilemma that Anthropology and Economics faces. Specifically,
Meanings qua meanings are not scarce. In the material world and especially in the artistic world, I can attribute any meanings to any object.
Sure. Fantasies, hobbies, role playing, hanging out with friends, the possibilities are in fact endless. The problem, however, is in getting others to see the value in those possibilities. (I have gotten into more than one argument with an artistic type about the concept of "intrinsic value." In my view of the world, it doesn't exist. I find requests for subsidy for artistic expression that rely on that argument particularly offensive.) Professor McCracken is struggling precisely with that point:
But credible, shared meanings begin to take on scarcity when the meanings of the private domain are exposed to public scrutiny. I can claim any meanings for myself that I want. (And this is a growth industry with individuals empowered to make larger and more various claims in a kind of solipsistic vacuum. Maybe people now cherish the notion that they are the king of France. I believe history will one day show me to be the one true claimant. But that?s another topic.) But if I want these meanings to be publicly ratified, I am obliged to display, perform, variously present them to public scrutiny.

This becomes one of the reasons I go to the marketplace. It is, among other things, a market of meanings in which I must make a choice under constraint. A Mercedes gives me a claim to certain kinds of meanings. It allows me to present, perform, display a bundle of meanings to do with status, age, sophistication, etc. It allows me to lay claim to these meanings in a manner that the world can recognize and ratify. (?We know who you are.? ?We accept who you are.?) I have surrendered economic value to get cultural value.
Yes, and to get that Mercedes, you have to exchange your best efforts for the best efforts of others. Competition entails the discovery of those best efforts, and competition to discover best efforts is socially useful because some kinds of resources are indeed scarce and have competing uses.

On the topic of best efforts, Professor Cowen notes his enthusiasm for Professor McCracken's work. Professor McCracken has been bouncing ideas off of his colleague Steven Postrel (yes, that Steven Postrel), all of which makes his comment that "Karlson writes like a wizard" (from here) particularly gratifying. Thanks!

5.5.04

PERFORMANCE TEST Among the management fads to hit Northern Illinois University are exit interviews for graduating seniors. The faculty received the summary of the first interviews today. Students were not pleased with the paucity of course offerings, the size of the upper-division classes, and the lack of opportunities to improve their writing. Now we shall see what trade-offs the administration will make between "customer-centricity" and "productivity," to use a couple of fad terms. To offer more courses, won't the department have to hire more professors? And won't the English Department have to do a more effective job in composition courses, so that economics faculty are not teaching writing along with sustainability and subsidy-free pricing? And pigs will fly ...
IT'S BETTER BEING AN ECONOMIST. That's Apartment 401's contribution to the continuing conversation about the sad state of (some) academic job markets. The conversation has taken a rather spirited turn. Tim Burke has reacted to the exodus of academic webloggers from the academy by invoking the idea of core and peripheral workers leaving. The distinction is one that comes up in economics from time to time. It usually does not get much traction, as it is somewhat tautological. A core job is a job that the writer would like to have; a peripheral job is not. Whether the peripheral jobs are or are not central to the functioning of the organization is more important.

Academic Game has responded to Professor Burke, line by line, and Professor Burke has responded in the comments section, 1000 characters at a time. Critical Mass has also weighed in.

In the course of researching this post, I discovered something called Topic Exchange: Invisible Adjunct that continues the themes the now-abandoned Invisible Adjunct site used to cover.