27.2.05

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, YOU JUST MIGHT GET IT. The Kerry Spot covers a speech by former Speaker of the House and former academician Newt Gingrich, in which the Speaker Emeritus suggests academic tenure provides no protections academicians would otherwise enjoy.

You don’t need tenure in this country anyway. The idea that he would be oppressed without tenure is nonsense. There are 75 whacked-out foundations that would hire him for life. Dozens of Hollywood stars would hold fundraisers for him. His life will become a film by Michael Moore.

The question here, is ‘What obligation does society have to fund its own sickness?’

We ought to say to campuses, it’s over…We should say to state legislatures, why are you making us pay for this? Boards of regents are artificial constructs of state law. Tenure is an artificial social construct. Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then. You could introduce a bill that says, proof that you’re anti-American is grounds for dismissal.

Ouch. Donna Shalala or Stanley Fish might have different ideas about what is anti-American than would Newt Gingrich. Set up no machinery of repression you would not entrust your most severe critic to operate. (By the way, there is no such thing as an "artificial" social construct. Institutions evolve to reduce transactions costs. The question before the house is, are there more efficient ways of achieving the desirable outcomes of academic tenure, with fewer of the bad features?)

The next Kerry Spot post offers some followups. A Poliblogger post (and I wish I had met the owner of that site, who works at Troy, before December 30), calls for quotation and commentary in detail.

There already exists a great deal of resentment towards universities in the public, and Churchill has become the poster child for that resentment. Still, I find it ulikely that there will actually be a major movement to utterly do away with tenure. Although I will note that there has been a diminution in the number of tenure-track jobs in recent years, and that fact has nothing to do with public pressure.

Setting aside the issue, for a moment of whether tenure is a good thing or not, I find Gingrich’s stance to be stunning. Yes, Ward Churchill has said, and will continue to say, hateful thing about the United States, yet how in the world does Mr. Gingrich propose operationalizing the concept of “anti-America” and thereby codifying it into law? And do we really even want to do such a thing? Do we want to unleash a witch hunt in our universities to weed out those who don’t think and speak “the right way"? To what end? What will we, as society, gain from such a process?

Amen. And to what extent might the existing "diversity" machinery be co-opted into this process with only the objects of hounding changed? And Poliblogger is correct that it would be very easy to weed out the "anti-American" formerly tenured faculty and enhance productivity, badly measured, at the same time.
I will say this: a lot of university administrators would love to get rid of tenure. It would allow them to cow the faculty, because any uppity professor who dared to challenge the administration would know that their job was on the line, meaning that there would be a whole lot fewer uppity professors to have to deal with. Doing away with tenure would take away the ability of the faculty from being any kind of check on administrations, who often do not make decisions based on the best academic/educational reasons, but rather looking solely at financial considerations. Further, doing away with tenure would allow administrators to create more jobs like this one, noted by OTB’s Leopold Stotch, which has the long-term effect of turning universities into the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th grades. The tenure system, which requires more than just teaching, helps to guarantee that professors are, indeed, area specialists–i.e., experts in their fields who engage in career-long learning and contribution, not just teachers who get four years of training and then teach essentially the same thing their whole careers.
This is true up to a point. It is not always clear that tenure is recognition of scholarship already done, or anticipation of research yet to come, and administrators like to exploit tenured faculty by seeking to make them serve on proliferating committees, or become department chairmen, or otherwise spend less time either on original thinking or on revising their class notes, or seeking a clean proof that a function is linear if and only if it is concave and convex. (That's not as easy as it looks. Prove it from first principles, without taking derivatives or asserting it as a definition.) This conclusion, however, is correct.

On a more minor notes, Gingrich statement “Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then.” is a non sequitur. For one thing free speech, per se, isn’t the underlying issue, academic freedom is, which is a related topic, but not the same thing. Further, whether or not there was free speech (or academic freedom) pre-20th century raises questions about the quality of that speech at that time, as well as the nature of the university system in the 19th century.

Really, conservatives make a major mistake in making Ward Churchill representative of the entire academy. Further, he is more effectively an argument against affirmative action hiring, rather than an argument against tenure or some generic critique of the academic world.

Yes. Freedom of speech, narrowly defined, applies to political speech. Private universities, strictly speaking, can restrict speech without running afoul of the First Amendment. But private universities that do not encourage the continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found, which is the essence of academic freedom, limit themselves to parroting work already done, while adding nothing to the understanding or the development of that work. (It is true that some tenured professors are equally guilty of that, but the blame for that rests on the professor himself as well as on the tenure system. It is also true that sifting and winnowing includes, but is not limited to, the questioning of the existing order of things.)
GOOD EVENING, HOCKEY FANS, AND WELCOME TO THE DANE COUNTY MEMORIAL COLISEUM. As I went through my archives pulling out some keepsakes from the Milwaukee Hamilton 1972 state basketball championship, I came across an article from Sports Illustrated, sometime in January or February of 1973, headlined Wisconsin on the ice: hullaballoo! Here's the way things used to be.

The house specialty is reserved for a Wisconsin goal. At 8:15 of the second period Dennis Olmstead, son of the NHL immortal Bert, scores. His is the first of 41 shots at the Michigan State goalie to get through. Still, to the gathered faithful the goalie is obviously full of holes, like a sieve, which explains what follows.

The noise begins low down near the ice, from a few voices, clipped and quick: "SIEVE, SIEVE, SIEVE," and then spreads quickly, the tempo slowing: "SIEVE . . . SIEVE . . . SIEVE," sonorous and heavy, continuing as play resumes, on and on, accompanied by a forest of raised forefingers, all shaking and pointing derisively at the visiting goalie in tempo with the chanting. The boos had been a blessing in comparison, and the din has hardly abated when Gary Winchester scores Wisconsin's second goal.

Wisconsin had the best sieve-chant anywhere in hockey, EVER, in those days. The seating capacity of the Dane County Coliseum, where smoking was not permitted in the seating section, was 8,431, and the fans would boo the announcer if the night's attendance was a number less than that.

In Madison, hockey fans may be excused if they ask, "What hockey strike?"

Maybe the best way for America's dwindling core of [NHL] hockey lovers to look at things is that the game isn't dying, it's just away getting an education.

While the pros were throwing themselves under a Zamboni last weekend, the Kohl Center was selling out twice as the University of Wisconsin split with first-place Colorado College. More than 30,000 people were content to let the conglomerates fuss while they watched the collegians check.

But Wisconsin's coach, Badger national championship veteran Mike Eaves, aspires to do better.

They've sold out their last five games in the Kohl Center, lead the nation in attendance, are a lock to make the NCAA tournament, still have an outside chance at winning the league title and will lose only two seniors after this season.

In other words, hockey is doing fine at Wisconsin. But it used to do better and should again, according to the coach. Eaves played on one of the Badgers' five national championship teams, and he thinks it has been too long since the last one came around in 1990.

"We should be in that mix every year," he said.

That certainly wouldn't hurt the gate, but then Wisconsin already is averaging just 2,000 a game short of a sellout, which is another area Eaves plans to improve.

"We'd like to get to the point where basketball has evolved, and that's a tremendous goal" he said.

Two thousand short of a sellout. Back to Sports Illustrated.
No boos were ever like the Coliseum's -- none so oppressive, so incessant, so nearly evil. They reverberate so thickly they seem to form clouds, to rain down millions of little b's and o's onto the bowed heads of visiting teams.
But presumably no longer, and no longer on the announcer who reports that 8,431 people are in attendance at the somewhat larger Kohl Center.

How things change. In the early 1970s, the basketball team floundered while the hockey team played the Soviets in Madison on New Year's Eve and made regular appearances in what was not yet called the Frozen Four. The basketball program has made great strides,
A reminder of how tremendous will come in a couple of weeks, when Wisconsin has home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs but will get bumped to the Dane County Coliseum while high school basketball takes over the Kohl Center.
Where, I hope, the reported attendance will be no less than 8,431. And I hope to hear of some good sieve-chanting.

The coach has a bit of a problem, however, as the Badgers are in the middle of a late-season swoon. They have to make up five points with three games to play, which means they'll need a little help from the other teams in the league.
ON DEALING WITH ADVERSITY. Florida State rises from ACC, personal depths.

Sue Semrau, in her eighth season as coach at FSU, has found a way to win despite a five-guard starting lineup.

"You can develop a real character about you if you really believe and commit to going through pain," says Semrau, whose team rebounded from a 28-point loss Thursday to No. 24 North Carolina State to post a 94-83 triple-overtime win against Virginia Tech two days later. "Obviously, we've been through that."

As Women's Hoops Blog notes, it has been a lot to go through. The players and the coaches didn't let the early expectations or the adversity get to them.

Understandably, expectations for FSU were low. The team was picked eighth in the 11-team ACC, and even that would've been considered an accomplishment in some circles.

"From the outside looking in, I would've thought the same thing," Semrau says. "But we had to find a way to make this work."

While many will cite the Seminoles' upsets of Maryland and North Carolina as the catalyst, Semrau looks back further.

She believes the second game in November, when Linnea Liljestrand, who averaged 3.1 points as a reserve the previous season, scored 20 in a 72-62 win against Florida, was the key.

"Being able to beat our archrival, a team we hadn't beaten in 16 tries, was huge," Semrau says. "The kids began to see the reward."

The result was a school-record 12-game winning streak that's led to the first 20-win season in 14 years.

That's such a refreshing contrast to this.
SNAKES ALIVE. Kimberly at No. 2 Pencil has linked to my post about common spelling and interpretation errors. There are several good comments in her comments section. Those individuals, and other No. 2 Pencil readers, are welcome to participate in bull sessions here. The coal stove is near the tool crib, and the coffee is hot and strong. There will be some racket from the boiler shop and occasionally the drop forge will make itself heard. Explore safely, but do have a look around.
ALMOST ENOUGH INSPIRATION. Several members of the 1972 Milwaukee Hamilton state basketball championship team made it back for the Friday night game and the post-game party at a nearby saloon. The current basketball team, which has no seniors, took Milwaukee North to overtime before bowing, 65-68.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM.... Atlantic Blog asks a good question.
For some reason, I keep encountering football players majoring in the subject and women's studies directors who teach in them. Coincidence?
No. Symbiosis between two fictions. His post focuses on the fiction of oppression. The other is the fiction of the student-athlete.
KUDOS. Betsy's Page takes a blogging sabbatical to take a quiz bowl team to the Big Dance.
AUDIT THE INTERCHANGE REPORT. Prof. Blogger's Pontifications reminds readers that his service is different from Professor Blog, who appears to have embargoed his service toward the end of last year. Mea maxima culpa.

24.2.05

SUPERHEATED STEAM. Sometimes it can be preserved. Sometimes it has to be reconstructed. There's one very interesting preservation project going on in Argentina.


This is Argentina, the first design project of Livio Dante Porta. Some British steam enthusiasts have discovered it, in a poor state of repair in an obscure engine terminal, and organized a fundraising drive to return it to running order.
Put simply 'Argentina' is one of THE most important steam locomotives of the 20th century. How so? At the age of just 27, Argentine engineer L.D.Porta oversaw the design and production of his very first locomotive. In the process he produced one of the most striking and memorable locomotives of all time. On test 'Argentina' matched or bettered just about every efficiency record that stood.
In Britain, steam locomotive preservation has become steam locomotive re-creation, with a Great Western Saint (don't you agree 2929 is well-named?) being built using components from a Hall (reversing the creation of the first Hall from a Saint) and this magazine noting a project afoot to create a Great Western County (I have a fiendish plot for a model of No. 1027) from scratch, see also this. There is also a new Peppercorn A-1 a-building in Darlington.

My candidate for a re-creation in the States? Let's start with the Hiawatha F-7 Baltic, and once one is built, let's turn it loose on the C&M to see how fast it will go.
MAINTENANCE MATTERS. New York Metro reports that, although the subway is still in good shape, the current budget raises the spectre of future decay. Back to 1975?

A sidebar offers some suggestions to improve the subway, borrowing the best ideas from other cities. One proposal suggests that the way to prevent passengers from being nudged into the way of arriving trains is to equip each station with sliding doors that open opposite the car doors after the train has stopped. The article borrows this idea from the Paris Metro.

The city that does this really well is Piter, where the sliding doors are most practical in the depths of the Russian winter, when the sun barely gets above the horizon and there may be thirty degrees of frost in the tunnels.

London Underground -- and now Washington Metro -- countdown signs to the arrival of the next train get rave notices as well.
DIE SCHNELLSTE DAMPFLOK. Nothing is quite so charming as a pointless argument about the greatest achievements of an out of date technology. But I do commend this site, which makes the provisional argument that the steam speed record belongs to a German streamlined Baltic. Here is that candidate.

Baltic 05-002 leaves Hamburg.

The author's thesis is as follows.
A comparison is made with UK A4 class pacific Mallard which is said just passed the 124.5 mph of 05 002 on 3rd July 1938, as Mallard's designer, Sir Nigel Gresley only counted the 125 mph as the true maximum. But Mallard's dash was down Stoke bank against 05 002's near level track epic, and Mallard failed with an overheated big end bearing immediately after its top speed. The comparison will ask if horsepower calculations support the partly erratic dynamometer car speeds recorded for Mallard, and whether railway "politics" or national pride influenced the speeds reported for that loco.

The achievements of the USA's Milwaukee "Hiawatha" A class Atlantics and F7 Hudsons will be examined: locos recorded at speeds very close to the European records. Did one of these locos have the capability and opportunity to set the world speed steam record?
The site is quite well researched, although the author has not yet analyzed a footnote in Baron Vuillet's book that refers to the 125 mph an F-7 maintained over five miles with a test of a 1938 Hiawatha consist.

And let's compare and contrast the test trains. The German trains never exceeded 255 Imperial tons on the drawbar. That's a five coach Milwaukee Express. A real Hiawatha looks like this.

Swift of foot was Hiawatha
With each stride two miles he measured.

Note that regular service Hiawatha trains put 450 Imperial tons plus on the drawbar. In the case of any ties, the honors ought to go to the locomotive that could move a heavier train at the same speed. Anybody can build a sports car or a jet sled to go fast. But to build something that can pull a serious train at those speeds is a real accomplishment.

The site offers one interesting nugget about the large German Pacific 18-201, which holds the speed record for steam in the 21st Century.


This locomotive began life as a large 4-6-6T (did the Germans have a case of Boston and Albany envy?) But doesn't that partial skyline casing and the smoke deflectors give at least a nod to the Boston and Maine P-4a Pacifics?
SOMETIMES THE CRAZIES COME WITH WARNING LABELS. There won't be much posting on academic follies today, but I couldn't resist linking to this gem at Tears of Things, who has been devoting much more energy than I care to to the Ward Churchill story. But I love this invented spelling.
Identifying as Xican @ --written with an "X" and with an "@" symbol as a progression of the term Chicano-- has become increasingly complicated and hybrid since the rise of cultural empowerment and nationalist movements during the 1960s and 70s. Twenty-first century diversity and hybridity of Mexican-American experiences --Mexitaliana/o, "Jewsixcana/o," Native-Chicana, SalvadoreƱa-Chicano, Chicana/o-queer, etc.-- have greatly expanded the terms on which we can identify as Xican @ s. What has remained a constant, though, is that Xican @ identity is steeped in social and economic justice, race, gender and sexual equality, cultural progression and decolonization under a shared, albeit diverse, Mexican-American experience, history and cultural origin.
Got that. I shall give the same wide berth to devotees of Xican@ that I do to people who insist on referring to females as "womyn."
COMING TO THE READY TRACK. Too much grippe, too many lower back pains, too many drab overcast days, stacks of bluebooks, stacks of homeworks add up to little time for the railroad and little energy to work on it. But relief is on the way, and look what K-Line Trains are doing in O Scale.


Pay no attention to that out-of-scale track.

North American railroads didn't have many tank engines, as the distances between water tanks tended to exceed the capacity of the tanks. This locomotive, employed in commuter train service on the Riverside line of the Boston and Albany (now a branch of the Green Line streetcar network), is the guts of a J-1 Hudson in a package capable of running around on a short tail track, and offering the crew a clear view when running bunker first.

In British nomenclature, this engine would be classed 8P (it's too big for the British loading gauge, despite that short stack and those flat domes.)
TWIXTERS. University students and recent graduates are considering the implications of having many choices to make, while discovering what the choices are under uncertainty about what the consequences will be.

Between-time for undergraduate and graduate school has lengthened because students are taking more time to understand exactly what their chosen profession entails...

As Lev Grossman recently noted in TIME magazine, "twixters"- those making the transition from education to career- are not lazy although they may still live with their parents and have unstable personal and professional lives.

One student recognizes the tradeoff.
"You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re miserable for 30 years, what’s the point?"
Photon Courier has also noted the phenomenon, and offers a suggestion.

And one of the reasons why we spend such vast sums of money and human energies on higher education is precisely to give the students an exposure to a cultural framework extending behond the popular culture of the moment.

Yet, it's probably true. For most college graduates, the popular culture probably remains the only culture.

It seems to me that university professors and administrators should either disagree with this statement, or be profoundly disturbed by its truth.

True enough. To expose students to something resembling a common culture, let alone a higher culture, would be to challenge many of their preconceptions, as well as to call into question much of the mindless "inclusion" rhetoric popular with educational "theorists." However, the recognition by students that doing what somebody else thinks is right, no matter how miserable it makes you, is a healthy development.
SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM. Thomas C. Reeves has been thinking about strengthening the high schools.

Those not going on to college see no reason to be forced to read, write, and calculate on an advanced level. Many planning on college know they can be admitted to the great majority of the nation’s institutions of higher education with mediocre credentials. And once there, they can major in Mass Communications, Police Science, Film Studies, Peace Studies, Recreational Management, and the like.

Of course, the picture is not entirely bleak. A great many private high schools advertise their high educational quality, and so do some public schools, especially those competing for voucher students. In Pewaukee, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee, the public school system runs a newspaper ad boasting of its superior academic scores and its “rigorous and challenging curriculum that surpasses state high school graduation requirements.”

In that direction lies the road to prosperity for some, to ruin for others. Many of the majors Professor Reeves mentions are in the Division of Cooling Out The Mark.

And it's time to lay to rest this myth.
If the raising of standards leads to many student drop-outs, so be it. There are many avenues available for such people to learn trades and skills, and their absence may well enhance the learning environment of the schools they have left. People who cannot or will not learn are often disruptive; their frustrations can be, understandably, acute. We should concentrate in high school on those who truly want to learn—or who can be persuaded to learn.
But let us think more carefully about how the schools allocate people to "trades and skills." There are many fine colleagues at Northern Illinois, excellent scholars, great conversation buddies, but they couldn't carry my calipers and I don't want them anywhere near my Unimat, especially when the milling machine is set up. You think somebody who has trouble with "want fries with that?" is going to be able to interpret the calipers or set up the milling machine?

This conclusion, however, is correct.
It may be that, in time, if we can raise the high school standards, we can then turn much-needed attention to the nation’s colleges and universities.
There is, however, another route to the same outcome. But it would require great fortitude on the part of all the colleges and universities. Imagine a national policy of "no remediation." No four years of composition and literature in high school? Fuhgeddaboudit. No mathematics through pre-calculus? Fuhgeddaboudit. No foreign language? No Charlotte Simmons experience for you. No lab science? No way.

Unfortunately, some institutions would see a way to bring in additional student fee money to retire revenue bonds by defecting from the agreement.
THE LIMITATIONS WHICH TRAMMEL INQUIRY. Jeff at Quid nomen illius? and Professor Blogger have weighed in with reactions to my question about the state of academic freedom.

I think Jeff is teasing, but there's an edge to it.

Professor Blogger suggests all academics have freedom, but some have more freedom than others. He gives three reasons for anonymity.
1. In order to be honest about some issues otherwise generally taboo (such as the lecherous minds of faculty).
OK, I'll keep reading his site with this in mind. Perhaps economists aren't that randy, or perhaps my own mind is sufficiently lecherous that the lecherous minds of others make no impression. This site tends to be G-rated anyway.
2. Out of a sense of loyalty to his school. If Prof. Blogger wishes to kvetch about a particular administrative decision, for example, he thinks he owes this institution enough that he should not bring public disgrace upon it (unless some wrongdoing of such magnitude occurs that he cannot maintain silence in good conscience).
Different styles. The Superintendent believes in naming names. The Superintendent also conjectures that the public disgrace will be greater, the longer the lag between the wrongdoing occurring and the wrongdoing coming to light.
3. Because some of his posts would be professionally suicidal. While the Professor has not made such an ass out of himself as Ward Churchill, he has certainly made more provocative statements than the mild Larry Summers.
The followup to this observation is telling.
In a side note, the Professor would like to write a book from a conservative perspective after he completes his current projects. When he mentioned the idea to his chair, the chair said, "Someone needs to write that book. Don't you start on it until after you get tenure." For those students who do not understand the Byzantine world of academic hiring, the (simplified) translation: "That is an excellent idea that would get you fired."
Put another way, academic freedom for the untenured is the freedom to hold the party line, or to leave. Now consider this mix: the prospect of lifetime employment is likely to attract disproportionately many time-servers, risk-avoiders, and conformists in the first place. Now reward those behaviors with tenure and promotion. Is that the proper foundation for engaging in continual and fearless sifting and winnowing once the congratulatory letter from the trustees arrives?

That's a point Academic Game made some time ago (in a series of exchanges with Professor Blogger.)
Academia, through academic feardom, prevents people from speaking the truth lest the speaker offend someone and turn that person into a powerful enemy. On the other hand, for those who have real power and abuse it on campus, practically nothing can stop them in the name of academic freedom.
This was before the Churchill and Summers stories broke.
HOW OTHERS SEE US. George Neumayr writes an essay for American Spectator that is unsparing in its criticism of the academy.

Time and again, the post-1960s university has chosen politics over truth, "equality" (which, let's face it, means hiring incompetents to teach illiterates) over academic excellence, and petulant professors over students seeking a real education.

Students always come last in these controversies. Whether they get a good education is irrelevant to tussling academics. In fact, faculty ideologues would prefer students not receive any deep, comprehensive knowledge from the curriculum as that makes them more difficult to manipulate.

To see how fundamentally uninterested they are in the academic welfare of students, look at the endless energy faculty ideologues spend on "diversity" demands, a blatantly political, not academic, goal.

Well, sometimes they spend energy on assessment of the obvious, or on wrangles over how to divide the niggardly sum the administration consents to make available for merit pay. Or they redefine curricula so as to keep more credit hours in-house and away from more demanding departments.

Methinks Mr Neumayr does not quite grasp the difficulty of finding good teachers who are also original thinkers.
If every female teaching candidate Harvard interviewed were like Marie Curie, Harvard could hire them all and have 100% female representation. Would that be "diverse"? No, but it would guarantee that Harvard students received brilliant instruction. Similarly, if every candidate were like Albert Einstein, Harvard could hire all male mathematicians and serve its students.
We don't know that. Are there excellent teachers and researchers who were advised by excellent teachers and researchers who were advised by Professor Einstein, or by Professor Curie? If memory serves, Professor Einstein once estimated that perhaps six people could grasp his general theory of relativity. (Correct me if I've misstated this.) Does that say something about his ability to teach, which involves rendering the unfamiliar familiar, and the familiar strange (any thought experiment involving a train getting shorter as it goes faster would do that.)

23.2.05

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?
On Lake Placid ice, the embattled skaters swirled
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Was it really 25 years ago that the U.S. Olympians beat the Soviets to earn the right to face Finland for the gold medal? Mitch at Shot in the Dark and Superhawk at Right Wing Nut House have some observations about the state of life in the U.S. (although President Carter never said "malaise," he was dressing in sweaters long before that became a European way of shilling for the Kyoto treaty; he was generally being pessimistic, when not being chased by swimming rabbits. And you've had some kind of mushroom ... no, wrong song.)

The victory was so newsworthy that Detroit's classical music station, WQRS, announced the score between two performances, which ruined the surprise (my plan was to work and listen to the radio station least likely to give a hockey score and catch the tape-delayed game without any information.) I watched the game and enjoyed it anyway.

And while the Minnesotans are right to take pride in their Coach Herb Brooks keeping that team together, I like to think of that 1980 Winter Olympiad as the Wisconsin Games, with Eric Heiden and Sheila Young winning speedskating events, and current Wisconsin women's coach and Badger forward Mark Johnson, son of legendary Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson, scored the go-ahead goal against the Soviets. It would be anachronistic to call the Reds the "Evil Empire," as The Empire Strikes Back was released in April of 1980.
A SHOUT OUT. Bogus Gold has been interviewing members of Minnesota's Northern Alliance of Blogs. The most recent interview is with King of SCSU Scholars, who says kind words about Cold Spring Shops. Check out the rest of the interview.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. The administration at a high school decides to strike a blow against obesity by removing candy vending machines? (Candy vending machines?? The powers-that-be at Milwaukee Hamilton resisted the idea of a student lounge, available for pool or ping-pong in the second half of lunch hour; there were no vending machines in the lounge; and I'm not sure anybody had the disposable income for such goodies anyway. The basketball team managed to win a state tournament despite such oppressive conditions. But I digress.)

Efficiency is the identification and exploitation of all possible gains from trade. Enterprising high schoolers recognize the gain from trade implicit in the removal of all the vending machines. A Constrained Vision details what happens next.

22.2.05

THE HIRING SEASON. Michael at Wormtalk and Slugspeak provides a rundown of the search and tenure procedures at his college. His primary message:
Lack of transparency is everywhere a problem, but it is particulary bad in academia, and particularly bad within academia at large institutions and state-run schools.
Why is that true? At tenure time, decisive sets and blocking coalitions are possible.
There can be administrative veto by any number of Deans up the ladder to the Provost. The Provost or the President can also veto, and they don't need to give any reasons. There are also in-department vetoes at some places (we don't have one officially, but it is unlikely that someone would be tenured if their entire department wasn't behind them), and by this I mean that there are small committees, controlled by single individuals or small groups, that can effectively veto a candidate.
This varies among institutions. The Northern Illinois University bylaws require the Provost and University Council, and the President and Trustees, to approve any recommendation that has the support of the department, the department chairman, the college promotion board, and the college dean. A written explanation (which can be cursory) is supposed to accompany any negative recommendation.
Where can there be corruption and malfeasance? Obviously at any stage where there is a veto that doesn't need to be explained. The next most obvious places are with the selection of outside referees. Due to super sub-specialization, it is at least theoretically possible for people to choose their friends or obvious supporters and for the Provost and Tenure Committee not to know that this has happened. If there isn't an obvious paper trail, the Provost and President won't see that the possible conflict of interest. People do look out for their friends and political fellow travelers. And the biggest problem of all is that nobody really wants to be a bad guy. So once someone gets to the tenure process, it's very hard to stop it from happening. Referees don't really want to write negative reviews. Faculty members don't want to write negative letters (they'd rather just ignore the whole thing in many, but not all, cases). Most people are only willing to be negative when it appears to be safe--thus the over-emphasis on any hint of certain politics.
I'm not sure what that last sentence communicates. Perhaps economics is different. Note, however, that those reviewers are evaluating published research -- sometimes, in the case of tenure candidates, working papers that are still being evaluated at a journal. And there is one source of the error rate John In the Shadow of Mount Hollywood notes.
I challenge both Jim and Michael to explain the error rate, the assistant profs who are hired whose accents are too thick for sophomores to understand, whose mastery of the material in the 101 course is dodgy, who lecture with their backs to the class, who break out in tantrums at students, who assign soap operas instead of readings, who stay out for a week with a toothache. . . how can this happen with a formal procedure that appears to be so rigorous?
Um, because the formal procedure doesn't evaluate teaching that carefully. That's the message in several of the posts describing the "job talk," which is a presentation of current research. Very rarely does a job candidate get called upon to guest-teach an introductory course. I might have just confessed that the research mission dominates the teaching mission in many searches, but as long as the incentives are for promotion to depend on research and for research to be funded, and as long as evaluation of teaching is limited to student surveys and assessment of the obvious, and as long as administrators use student credit hours per faculty member as the metric of teaching productivity, that is going to be your reality. (Oh, as an aside to John: K-Line have just announced a Suburban Tank in O 2-rail. Thus endeth today's rail content.)

It also remains true that searches can be conducted for reasons unrelated to performance as a teacher or as a researcher. That remains the common thread in the Ward Churchill and Larry Summers stories. Stanley at the Corner suggests that Harvard's president is being mau-maued for telling an unpleasant truth.
Summers calls for research on whether affirmative action does what it claims to do. Do diversity searches really find top quality professors who were only being verlooked because they are minorities, or do these searches only yield professors of middling or low quality? Summers also points out contradictions in what diversity advocates are asking for. Some of them want faculty picked on purely objective criteria like number of papers published. This will supposedly eliminate subtle hiring discrimination. But other diversity advocates want the opposite. They call for choosing minority candidates based on subjective considerations like potential and collegiality, supposedly to overcome the discrimination built into “objective” criteria. Summers asks, which is it? He also wants data to back up the choice of strategy. So in this talk, Summers is subtly but clearly exposing the contradictions and secrets of the campus diversity industry. By calling for objective proof that diversity searches really produce faculty equal in quality to color blind or sex blind searches, Summers is laying out a standard that he knows diversity proponents can’t meet. And the contradictory criteria thrown up by diversity advocates are just different ways of getting to the numbers they want. By calling for objective studies of which strategy actually works, Summers is exposing the failings and contradictions of the whole diversity enterprise. I think this is the deeper reason why Summers is in trouble.
We shall see. It is true that administrations can interfere with searches to force departments to expand their pool or to interview individuals the diversity industry has identified as potential hires. I continue to maintain that many of the shortcomings of hiring identified in the other posts are consequences of the deteriorating working conditions and pay packets, which push ambitious people away from their academic vocations.
HOW BAD IS IT OUT THERE? David at The Torch gets a report on the intellectual climate on a college campus that he is reluctant to post, at the request of the author of the report.
Last week, we received a long and thoughtful e-mail regarding political uniformity at major universities as well as its consequences for students. The author, a professor, closed his message with the following statement:
[P]lease don’t print this—I have too much fear of what would happen to me if my name became too prominent.
As a result, I will not print any excerpt of his substantive remarks lest anyone recognize the argument and attribute it to him, nor (of course) will I print his name. I wanted to note the closing comment because it is representative of dozens of similar messages I’ve received since I joined FIRE. There is a real climate of fear amongst those who challenge the perceived campus orthodoxy—a fear that is grounded in countless speech codes and countless examples of censorship.
Am I fortunate, or just obtuse, that such things have either not happened to me or that I have not noticed?

And what are others up against?
SOME GOOD NEWS. King at SCSU Scholars has been following a number of stories involving heavy-handed actions by academic administrators. There is one bit of good news. The mau-mauing of Professor Hoppe at Nevada-Las Vegas (motto: no felon with a jump shot refused a scholarship) has ended with the non-reprimand reprimand expunged from the professor's file. His request for a year's research leave as compensation for time lost in the show trial remains under consideration.

21.2.05

SOME GOOD NEWS. Cold Spring Shops has been your one-stop-assessment-mock site, complete with a jaundiced view of holistic rubrics.

We are pleased to bring to your attention a positive development at Marquette University (motto: snipers and warriors are insufficiently Catholic.) Marquette Warrior reports that the assessment industry has been mugged by reality.

Over the past three years or so, the most nettlesome and oppressive bit of bureaucratic nonsense imposed on the faculty has been “outcomes assessment” – the requirement that each of us that taught a core course had to collect (or invent) data specific to our course in order to prove that students had achieved some defined educational “outcomes.” Just pointing to the fact that they take tests and write papers and do projects and we grade all of those wouldn’t do. Apparently, that didn’t create enough bureaucratic busywork.

This has been nettlesome because of the amount of work involved, and oppressive because of the realization that Marquette would do something so dumb.

This is priceless.

All of this was supposedly done at the behest of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which has been demanding “assessment” from Marquette. But when the North Central Association came to evaluate the University, they were unhappy with the assessment they found.The problem became obvious when [two REMFs] sat down and went through the data that course based assessment had produced, and tried to find some common metric that would allow aggregation and produce an overall measure of what a Marquette education had achieved. There was none. The data were useless.

And the North Central Association, when they saw it, concluded pretty much the same thing.Bloom says the attempt was “well-meaning” and not the result of anybody being stupid, but that the “sense of pressure” from the North Central and the fact that “not enough people really understood learning assessment” created this fiasco.

Put another way, Evaluator Curley had read Professor Shemp's article in some journal in educational "theory" advancing the argument that "outcomes assessment" was an important metric for judging the effectiveness of a curriculum, and Administrator Moe, without taking the time to read and understand the journal article to discover the absence of empirical support for Professor Shemp's argument, convinced Provost Curly that Marquette had to have "outcomes assessment" across the core curriculum.

Perhaps the administrators at Northern Illinois will reconsider some of their assessment follies in light of Marquette's experience.
LONG, LONG TIME AGO. A relatively new Milwaukee high school won the first Wisconsin Class A boy's basketball championship. There were state champions before, but the field mixed large and small schools.

That high school was, for a number of reasons, quite sports-obsessed. But only now is Milwaukee Hamilton dedicating a banner hailing that 1972 state championship. The celebration is this Friday.
LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE. That is, unless one is coaching a basketball team mired in losing ways.

Ohio (11-13 overall, 7-6 MAC) outscored NIU 27-6 from the free-throw line as the Bobcats converted 22-of-25 from the line in the second half.

"That is a huge free throw disparity," NIU coach Carol Hammerle said. "We shot 50 percent from the floor, had more steals, less turnovers. How else are you supposed to make up 21 points at the free throw line?"

Apparently recent practices have not incorporated any lessons from three weeks ago, when the team also committed a lot of fouls.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. David Frum explains why critics of the university establishment ought take no glee in its follies.

The corruption of the universities is a terrible shame upon the United States and a cause of profound sadness among American conservatives. When we complain about the abuses on campus, it is not out of glee at scoring a point against an ideological opponent, but out of terrible regret that some of the most essential institutions of this great country - the institutions at which learning and inquiry ought to be honored and served - have so often perverted their best natures to serve bad causes.

America suffers from a dangerous separation of its mind and soul. Its elite intellectual institutions are too often hostile to the country's culture and founding values. As the Journal reporters mention, Harvard continues to ban ROTC from campus for fear of offending the university's militant gay lobby; as Samuel Huntington details in his important book, Who We Are, elite institutions like Harvard regard themselves as multinational, multicultural enterprises independent of the nation and the people that created, sustain, and defend them.

This separation serves nobody. It makes places like Harvard effete and irrelevant. I had lunch a little while ago with a representative of another prestigious school. "We see it as our mission," he told me, "to train leaders." But how can you do that, I asked, when you are instilling your leaders with an ideology that is despised and mistrusted by their potential followers?

At the same time, it badly disserves America to lose the services of places like Harvard.

(Via Milt Rosenberg.)

SECOND SECTION: David at Left2Right has thoughts of his own about Mr Frum's essay, and about the Diversity Boondoggle crowding out other goals of the university.

This comment to that post raises a useful observation about the campus culture wars.
Frum and others are referring to the best universities and liberal arts colleges, and non-religious ones at that. His criticism does not apply as readily to community colleges, lower-ranked state schools, and other schools where education consists primarily of communicating the basics to students who are underprepared for college. That's the kind of institution I teach in, and I can assure you that we don't have time for wallowing in political ideology. Nor do we have the strange sorts of courses that conservatives complain about. And yet we educate more in number than the elite institutions do. ... There the conflicts are between liberal arts professors and those who favor a purely practical education. Perhaps the need for some basic education in the history of philosophy, literature, political science, history, etc., are things we can all agree on, both liberal and conservative.
True in part and false in part. Isn't it the case that the mid-majors have also renamed the employment office as a "Diversity Resources" or something similar? Don't such universities and colleges have majors for cooling out the mark? And to what extent is the preparation problem this commenter notes a consequence of misnaming "admitting unprepared students" as "access?" Isn't that misnaming at the hands of the Diversity Boondoggle?
MORE ITEMS NOT ANTICIPATED IN GRADUATE SCHOOL. I'm finishing a stack of blue books. There were sufficiently many spelling errors that I posted the following announcement on the class website.

I don't want to deduct points for spelling errors.

On the other hand, I expect juniors and seniors to have a basic understanding of the meanings and spellings of simple words.

"There" means "in or at that place."
"Their" is the third-person plural possessive.

"Affect" is a transitive verb.
"Effect," in most circumstances involving economics, is a noun. There is a transitive verb form of "effect," but it leads to cumbersome constructions such as "I expect students to effect improvements in their spelling and punctuation."

A firm that has expenses in excess of revenue "loses" money. The NIU womens' basketball team loses a lot of games. Note that "a lot" are two words.
"Loose" is the command to release a pack of dogs. It can also be used as an adjective to describe Paris Hilton.

"To" is a preposition.
"Too" is a conjunction.

Oh, and it's "i before e, except after c."

Plurals do not take an apostrophe. Contractions and possessives do. Note in the preceding sentence that both nouns are plurals, hence no apostrophes.

Got that?

Editorial comment: can these students sue their high schools for malpractice?

20.2.05

GET BEYOND GRIPING. Katie at A Constrained Vision visits the Conservative Political Action Committee gathering and has some suggestions for students to get beyond making fun of the Last Marxists.

I worry about some of these conservative student activists. They get too caught up in feeling oppressed and always fighting and attacking that they lose any chance of getting people to listen to them. Duke's conservative student magazine, for instance, often seemed more concerned with being snarky and making fun of professors and administrators than trying to make a reasoned case for conservative philosophy that would win people over to their causes. The occasional conservative columnists or letter-writers in the daily paper often seemed to delight in being outrageous and controversial rather than thoughtful and persuasive.

And a lot of these student activists seem to have the attitude that the left is strident and partisan, so we should be too.

That is only the first step. The next step is to offer evidence and propose changes.

Roger Kimball suggests that it is time to get going.
How long will we continue to pay for so-called higher education that abdicates its intellectual responsibilities for the sake of leftist claptrap about "social justice," "structural oppression," "race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, xenophobia, imperialism, environmental issues, etc."? Ward Churchill did us the courtesy of issuing a wake-up call, however inadvertent. Let's hope that parents, college trustees, and college donors heed the call.
His post links to the St. Cloud State position announcement that I greeted with great glee, and it's generating lots of spillover traffic (thanks, King!) so come in, the coal stove is hot, the coffee is strong, and it's time to get busy on some positive action. Consider, for instance, what sort of "justice" is served by admitting unprepared students and calling it "access" and what sort of "oppression" is perpetuated by cooling out the marks with un-rigorous area-studies programs that offer degrees of little or no intellectual or commercial value, but high grade-point averages. Or call the public's attention to retention and graduation rates that make Amtrak's timekeeping look good.
REMAIN BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE UNTIL THE TRAIN STOPS. This Boing Boing post features a playful Japanese version of an Operation Lifesaver message.


Translation: "A warning. Don't cross the yellow line! Or you become food for the shinkansen."

19.2.05

BALANCING TRANSGRESSIVENESS AND CONTINUITY. Book Review No. 8 is Richard J. Evans's The Coming of the Third Reich (details only; the price comparison service appears to be bad-ordered.) This book focuses on the evolution of German government from the North German Union of Bismarck to the consolidation of power by the Nazi government in 1933, with primary focus on events from the Armistice on. Professor Evans suggests that a combination of irresolution on the part of republican elements and economic difficulties left Germany in a difficult spot. He speculates that after an emergency decree by Chancellor Franz von Papen in July of 1932, "the only realistic alternatives [for a German government] were a Nazi dictatorship or a conservative, authoritarian regime backed by the army." (p. 287). The latter, he suggests, would be unlikely to have engaged in the aggressive suppression of the opposition parties, the avant-garde, and Jews documented in Coming.

But it is not to Nazi suppression that I wish to speak. Rather, I want to contemplate an observation University Diaries made about Ward Churchill's being disinvited to Hamilton College, quoting a Hamilton professor who said, "If I want to have someone come to class to talk about problems with the Treaty of Versailles, I don't have to bring in a Nazi."

Per corollary, I want to contemplate alternatives to bringing in the thought police (bearing in mind the true nature of Nazis Atlantic Blog has documented) to talk about problems with the academy and the broader culture. Do such alternatives exist? Consider first the avant-garde. Professor Evans devotes several pages to Nazi attitudes toward such manifestations of (take your pick) advanced creativity or jerkishness as dadaism, abstract art, or atonal music. Sample, from p. 413.

While German music in the 1920s was no longer the dominant force it had been in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries German painting, liberated by Expressionism, abstraction, and other modernist movements, had undergone a remarkable renaissance in the first three decades of the twentieth century, outstripping even literature as the most prominent and internationally successful of all the arts. This is what the Nazis ... now undertook to destroy...

Controversy had long raged over the work of painters such as George Grosz, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix and many others. Conservatives and Nazis detested their paintings. A major furore had been caused by Grosz's use of religious motifs for the purpose of political caricature ...

I claim no expertise in the finer points of painting, or of composition, although I know what I like and what I don't like. But here's my problem: what is the proper balance between freedom for the avant-garde and continuity of the stable society that makes the avant-garde possible? And what happens when, as many German voters perceived during the Weimar era, and many U.S. voters currently perceive, the avant-garde is monopolizing the institutions of higher learning, of the performing arts, and of the entertainment in ways that are destabilizing the society? We know what choice the Germans made. What can we do differently, and with what freedom for contemporary transgressives, and with what respect for continuity?

Contemporary case in point: Roger Kimball identifies the influence in the academy of transgressives whose dominant paradigm is subverting others' dominant paradigms.
Ward Churchill is not the problem. He is merely a symptom of a much deeper disease, interesting and worthy of attention for the light he sheds upon the larger issue, which is the extent to which higher education is captive of the anti-American, politically correct Left.
Strong stuff, that. But how best to end that captivity without destroying the free inquiry by which alone the truth can be found, and without excluding the Academic Left on grounds that may not withstand scrutiny? Put another way, is it possible to talk about problems with the transgressives without imitating their worst behavior? Or summoning the thought police? Or conducting a book-burning? (The first book-burning rally occurred at a German analog to the Kinsey Institute, see Coming, p. 375.)

Inside Higher Ed has captured the contradiction at the heart of the academic bill of rights -- which is a long way from a book-burning rally, let's stay calm here -- currently under debate in Ohio.

The sloppiness [in the bill] may well be intentional, since the goal isn't good law but political intimidation. The most plausible outcome is that the bill will die a quick but noisy death: After hearings in which radical right-wingers get headlines by blasting academics, college presidents pledge to promote fairness and the bill dies. Meanwhile, red-baiting students will get the not-surprising impression that they can level charges against any professor who makes the slightest polemical point, or, more important, who utters a disconcerting truth. Students who aren't satisfied with an administrative response are likely to sue. The university will waste precious money in either administrative or legal costs, and any atmosphere of robust and critical thought that now exists will dissipate as many instructors take the line of least resistance.

Not the least curiosity here is that the very same people who, 10 years ago, ridiculed the campus speech codes as "political correctness" now want to impose the most extreme sorts of speech codes through force of law and outrageous intimidation. The very people who howled about the debunking of the great Western traditions of free speech and critical reason are now engaged in a frontal action that can only squelch free speech and establish a radical subjectivity as the rule of the day.

Harvey at The Torch makes the same point more succinctly.

For more than two decades now the academic left has been seeking—with a considerable degree of success—to censor and otherwise punish the right for its politically incorrect views on a wide range of social, political, and even intellectual/academic issues. Speech deemed offensive to “historically disadvantaged groups” or otherwise “regressive” has been punished as either “harassment” or “hate speech.” Now comes someone from the left mouthing words and ideas found highly offensive by those on the right (and indeed by many on the left), and he is roundly attacked, with a state legislator from Wisconsin, protesting Churchill’s scheduled March 1 lecture at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, describing his writings as a form of “anti-American hate speech.”

Ah, how the worm turns! What better proof is needed that all folks need to protect the rights of all other folks, because next year the target might be on one’s own back? This is the proven genius of our notions of academic freedom and constitutionally protected free speech, and especially of the doctrine of “viewpoint neutrality.” We all enjoy only so much liberty as we accord those we despise but who might be in the driver’s seat next time around.

So I repeat: can we talk about problems with the lack of viewpoint diversity in the academy, about vulgar and un-whistleable music, about artwork of dubious creativity, about misbehavior by entertainers who have easier access to safety nets than the common folk who mimic them, about vapid poetry, about junk science, in such a way as to keep the truly useless developments in the junk box, rather than "celebrating" it, without destroying the opportunity for some of those developments to produce a genuine insight?
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. David Brooks:

The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution.

But what can't last won't last. Before too long, some new sort of leader is going to arise, especially if we fail to reform Social Security this year. He's going to rail against a country that cannot control its appetites. He's going to rail against Republicans who promise to be virtuous - but not just yet. He's going to slam Democrats who loudly jeer at Republican deficits but whose own entitlement proposals would make the situation twice as bad. He's going to crusade against the interest groups who are so ferocious on behalf of their members that they sacrifice the future.

(Hat tip: Stephen at Vodka Pundit.)
END OF THE LINE? President Bush's budget does not provide for the continuation of Amtrak. National Corridors reports that the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a lobbying organization that combines train enthusiasm with occasional careful introspection, is not pleased.

“The National Association of Railroad Passengers condemns this proposal as radical and irresponsible.”

NARP executive director Ross Capon declared, “It would end virtually all intercity rail passenger service in the nation, including through service on the Northeast Corridor between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. This places the burden of funding intercity passenger rail entirely on states that do not have the financial resources to assume such an unfunded mandate.”

He said, “States with limited resources would place first priority on saving the commuter operations within their borders. The $360 million the Administration proposes is to allow freight and local commuter rail operations over the Northeast Corridor to continue. It is not clear that this would be enough to accomplish these purposes, and not even the Administration claims it would allow continuation of any Amtrak trains.”

Capon added, “Past experience suggests that the only way to fund services which cross multiple state lines is at the federal level,” and added, “The Bush Administration misleads the public by saying that a ‘restructuring’ based on zero federal support ‘should lead to the development of short-corridor routes between major population centers.’"

The Chicago Tribune takes a somewhat different view.

In a few places, like the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington and possibly the Chicago-Milwaukee area, Amtrak does draw a noticeable number of people off the roads. But that fact only lends weight to the administration's preference for letting states decide which operations warrant continued support.

Under its proposal, Washington would offer a 50-50 match for state capital investments. Deprived of operating aid, Amtrak has various options: ending service in most places while cutting costs so it can make a profit on selected routes, letting private companies take over some trains, and transferring particular segments to state or regional agencies.

Rail buffs say the money given to Amtrak is a pittance compared to that spent on infrastructure for drivers and fliers. In fact, on a passenger-mile basis, which measures how much it costs to transport a given number of travelers a given distance, the subsidy to Amtrak is huge. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that from 1990 to 2002, Amtrak averaged a subsidy of $186 per thousand passenger miles. Commercial aviation, by contrast, got just $6--and the government actually got more from highway users than it spent.

Given its meager performance, which shows no sign of improving, it's impossible to justify that expense. In a time of many urgent budget needs, Amtrak is a luxury that the nation would be better off without.

These observations merit further consideration. Although Amtrak is not supposed to be a commuter train operation, it is difficult to interpret its Philadelphia-New York and Sacramento-Oakland service as anything but a commuter service. Some of the Western trains currently operate as a convex combination of cruise train to the national parks and accommodation train to intermediate small towns, a compromise that pleases nobody, as schedules optimized for sightseeing imply prairie towns served in the wee small hours, but those stops add to the running times of the trains. The interstate corridors might work better if express trains coexist and exchange passengers with local trains, something not currently encouraged on those tracks shared by Amtrak and Metro-North, New Jersey Transit, Metra, Metrolink, and other commuter rail authorities.
THE PSEUDO-INDIAN DEFENSE. To review, the King's Indian and Queen's Indian involve the fianchetto of the King's or Queen's Bishop, respectively; the Nimzo-Indian is the development of the King's Bishop at such time as putting the question to it is unsound.

The Pseudo-Indian is somewhat different, as it involves identifying the best square for a Bishop when one is not clear what color that Bishop is. And, unfortunately, we cannot ignore this story by arguing that the Pseudo-Indian is so much fantasy and science fiction. That is true of Von Goom's Gambit.

In the Pseudo-Indian, a university that seeks to score a higher diversity rating by retaining a faculty member claiming Native roots overprotects that faculty member.
Kaye Howe, a vice chancellor at the time, had warned Middleton in May 1990 that the university could lose Churchill to another school if a role for him was not found. But Howe has said she never expected Churchill to get tenure.
(Hat tip: View from a Height.) The statement is unsound. Tenure is an up or out decision, and most universities will not retain faculty in teaching positions without tenure. Under some interpretations of the AAUP statement on tenure, adjunct faculty of long standing presumptively have tenure. Perhaps Mr Churchill could have obtained a long term contract without tenure and perhaps with a pay raise by resigning from Communications before his tenure case had to be considered, then hiring on in some administrative role with teaching duties. Such dodges are not unknown in the Diversity Boondoggle, disclaimers about Native American Studies being unable to grant tenure notwithstanding.

The Pseudo-Indian offers a way out. The overprotection redesignates the Bishop as a Special Bishop that can be deployed to a square of any color.

Ward Churchill was rejected by two University of Colorado departments in 1991 before the communication department agreed to give him tenure. Even in the communication department, the chairman-elect was "uncomfortable" with the decision, according to documents released Friday by CU.

At the time, CU officials were shopping for a department that would accept Churchill, fearing they would lose him to another university.

A communications department, otherwise known as the refuge of scholarship basketball players, with a shred of propriety. There may still be hope for the academy. (Hat tip: Stephen at Vodka Pundit.)
YOU MEAN I GET MORE PAY AND BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS? Yes, in California school districts that's true, reports Joanne Jacobs (thanks, Joanne, for reopening the San Jose gateway!)
California schools with the poorest students spend less on teachers, concludes an Education Trust West report on the hidden gap in teacher pay. Experienced, higher-paid teachers move to schools serving more affluent, easy-to-teach students, leaving low-income, high-stress schools with inexperienced, low-paid rookies.
Is it time for another lesson on compensating differentials?

18.2.05

ARISE, YE PRISONERS OF STARVATION. King at SCSU Scholars finds an employment opportunity for a chekist.
Human Relations and Multicultural Education is an interdisciplinary department that emphasizes student-centered pedagogy and examines the impact of power, resources, cultural standards, and institutional policies and practices on various groups in our society.
Make sure you understand Prof. Blogger's translation of a related discipline description. Apparently the succesful applicant at St. Cloud will have an opportunity to teach outside his or her home department.
May teach other appropriate courses in human relations and multicultural education when needed, as determined by department. The theoretical base of the department includes a global critical framework of structural oppression, social and environmental justice and the interrelationship of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, xenophobia, imperialism, environmental issues, etc.
Don't you love that "etc?" Apparently it's also a plus to understand non-intellectual ways of intellectualizing.
Demonstrated knowledge of: theories of racism and other forms of oppression and the interrelationships between them; theories related to social and environmental justice; non-dominant, non-western "ways of knowing"; connections between global and personal issues.
The scare quotes and the use of the catch-all term "issues" speak for themselves. I wonder, however, whether someone who ran an affirmative action bake sale would satisfy this qualification.
Demonstrated experience in social action to challenge oppression effectively.
It's job searches like this that give ammunition to the advocates of the so-called academic bills of rights. I have some reservations about such bills and hope to post more about that over the weekend. On the other hand, to prevent the advocates of those bills of rights from prevailing, somebody within the academy must step up and be adult enough to recognize that while challenging the dominant paradigm has its value, there is also value in the dominant paradigm. I'm still looking for a suitable trade-off to address.
USE A SEX TENT TO SHOOT WHAT? Ian at Truck and Barter observes that along the German coast, lighthouses might be rendered obsolete as more skippers rely on their Global Positioning System, hereafter GPS, receivers to navigate. He's not impressed with the argument that the lighhouses are a useful backup to the GPS.
Individuals that decide to ply the Germans seas without proper training and without the appropriate tools are choosing to take risks. The public receives no benefit from it, and isn't really in danger of being hurt the way drunk drivers end up hurting others. The larger companies, on the other hand, have invested time and money into preparing for the eventuality of a GPS failure. Seems to me that Germans (and others) are being taxed to protect someone's sense of nostalgia.
Although that statement makes sense, it conflates two phenomena: paying for uneconomic backup systems, and incompetent recreational sailors. This quote from the linked Spiegel article is really recognizing the second phenomenon.
[Naval historian Heinrich] Bauermeister fears hobby captains are losing more and more of their skills as a result of modern technologies. If their GPS systems were to malfunction, they could face serious danger. "The sense of orientation is one that must be constantly trained," he cautions. "Those who now only rely on GPS are losing this important ability, which can save lives in dangerous situations."
The problem, however, is a separate problem from the closure of lighthouses, as sailors are more likely to get into trouble on the high seas.

"Navigation with GPS may seem easy, but in truth it isn't," said Georg Fries of the Nautical Association in Brunsbuettel, a German coastal hamlet northwest of Hamburg. For one thing, GPS can never be 100 percent reliable -- extreme weather conditions like hail or snowfall or even solar winds are known to disrupt service. The Pentagon, which operates the system, also has the ability to suspend or scramble service during major crises, as it did briefly during the war in Kosovo. "If that happens, ship captains will lose their orientation at sea," warns Fries. "It will be like getting lost in a dark forest."

The former marine traffic controller says he was especially disquieted after reading a recent article in Lloyd's List, an influential shipping industry publication, stating that US President George W. Bush was considering a plan to scramble GPS during times of "extraordinary threats to national security." The Europeans have also left open the option of scrambling Galileo, the EU competitor to GPS scheduled to go into service by the end of the decade, during times of crisis. Fries finds this equally unsettling.

Problems aboard a ship, including engine room fires that could temporarily cut off electricity, can also disrupt GPS equipment. Once the juice is sucked out of a ship's back-up batteries, the monitors flickering with the electronic ocean maps and satellite-supported positioning information will go black -- possibly putting a ship close to shore into a dangerous position.

The lee shore is no place to be with no power and no knowledge of one's position, but the featureless open ocean will also kill you if you don't show the proper respect. The ocean may still kill you if you know how to reckon your position with a sextant and a good watch, but your odds are a bit better.
THIS ABOUT SUMS IT UP. Six years of experience teaches nothing.
NIU coach Carol Hammerle said that she isn’t concerned about her players that are losing often for the first time in their career."It’s always good to recruit players from successful programs with winning attitudes," Hammerle said. "We are still trying to figure out what it takes to win on this level."
For the record: Northern Illinois University played in the Mid-American Conference in the 1998-1999 season, the current coach's first season. Several recruits to the team have been honored as part of the conference All-Newcomer team. What does that tell you about figuring out how to win "on this level?"

This comment at View From a Height, which is addressing the continuing Ward Churchill saga, is on point for the basketball program.
They're saying that you got to the point where an ideological commitment to ethnic bean-counting led to a complete suspension of judgment.
Success at a lower level of competition (although Wisconsin-Green Bay is doing better since 1998) plus making a diversity point with a coaching hire does not equal a successful team in the mid-majors.
THINGS THEY DON'T TEACH YOU IN GRADUATE SCHOOL. Northern Illinois University is one of the institutions of higher learning that does not provide bluebooks (examination booklets) as part of a department's used and useful supply budget. Students must procure their own bluebooks before an exam. One local bookstore has had some fun with this penny-wise but foolish policy, making two bluebooks available per student per visit. On the back is the slogan, "Nobody should have to pay to take a test," a dig at the university-operated bookstore, which has a rack of bluebooks for sale at each checkout station.

What is instructive, however, is many students' familiarity with essay tests.

Inevitably, some questions will come up that I will always answer straightforwardly and without editorial comment, although they raise questions in my mind about what is going on elsewhere in the P-20 world.

Prior to the exam, I announce, "Please bring one bluebook." Inevitably somebody will ask, "what's a bluebook?" I don't mind explaining, but it makes me wonder what has gone on in that student's prior college experience. By the fourth week of freshman year at Wisconsin -- this was in 1971 -- we all knew what a bluebook was. The bluebooks were Department Issue.

During the exam, it is likely that someone will ask if it's OK to answer the questions out of order. I don't mind; all I ask is that students clearly identify that they are answering No. 4 first. (A big "4." before the first words suffices.) Again, that makes me wonder what prior experience that student has had with essay exams -- or was there some excessively anal [what, the Superintendent calling somebody excessively anal? Oh, stop it.] teacher somewhere in that student's past who insisted that students answer the questions in order. (Here are two reasons why that is a bad idea. First, people differ in their style of attacking questions. Some will focus on the ones they perceive as easiest first, others will tackle the hardest ones first. There are advantages or not to either approach. Second, cheaters -- provided their peripheral vision is good enough -- will be frustrated in sneaking peeks at other papers if the writers of the other papers are working on different questions.)

Likewise, students will sometimes wonder if they can use both sides of the bluebook pages. My response is always "yes," why let half the book go to waste. Again, I have to wonder what sort of experience with essay tests these students have had.

17.2.05

SIXTY YEARS AGO. Sgt. Karlson spent his 20th birthday in Belgium.
MORE ON THE EVOLUTION OF THE DIVERSITY BOONDOGGLE. Comrade Snowball is making life difficult for the little Napoleons that would like to privilege their particular points of view.

It must be a reflection on the political clout of geographers that academic historical geography is seen to be possible in departments of history and economic geography is not out of bounds in departments of economics or political science. Contrast this with departments of Ethnic Studies or Women’s Studies in colleges that also house departments of History or Sociology or Political Science. Or consider universities that have both a department of English and a Department of Reading. This really exists but I’ve yet to come across a Department of Subtraction in a university already paying for a department of Mathematics. I know of a Department of Biological Sciences that used to be two separate departments of Biology and Biochemistry until they saw the light.

Now I’m no less interested in folks studying women’s history or women’s politics than folks studying subtraction but I contend there are both practical and intellectual reasons not to subdivide these investigations into overly-fine categories.

All educations are equal. But some educations are more equal than others. (Leave aside the Subtraction of Mathematics from the University for the moment.) Comrade Snowball has also linked to a Richard Mitchell essay worth your careful reading.
A RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY. Professor Blogger notes the February slump.
The Professor wondered aloud to his students today: has any serious scholarly work been done on the psychology of a semester, or does all this remain in the realm of anecdotes?
If memory serves, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has its spring break the last week in February, and the institutional wisdom was that student suicides were most likely at that time of year. I have not seen any institutional research corroborating this. I can tell you that late winter in southeast Michigan is miserable: lots of overcast, lots of rain, if it does snow, it melts to slush, and it can only be worse if the Wolverines are floundering on the basketball court. DeKalb has 40 more sunny days a year than Ann Arbor. The timing of our spring break is purely instrumental: there are eight weeks before the break and eight weeks after the break, which provides a little extra time for people teaching eight week courses to get grades in and prepare for their next stint.
SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM. University of Illinois puzzled by drop in undergraduate applications.

The U of I has followed the lead of the University of Michigan and other schools that have added essay questions to their applications. For the first time, applicants now are asked to write a 500-word "professional statement'' along with the 800-word personal statement that has long been part of the application.

"That could have the effect of reducing applications because a student who is applying to 10 different schools ... will decide not to apply,'' Marshall said, adding: "If those are the students we're losing, they weren't terribly committed to coming to Illinois anyway.''

I'm a bit uneasy about asking people whose experience is limited to high school, or sometimes high school with a stint in the work force or a hitch in the military, to write a brief "professional statement." College is supposed to be an opportunity to discover talents, not necessarily to validate one's adolescent ambitions, or those inculcated by one's parents. On the other hand, if the essay has the effect of discouraging applicants who haven't thought through why they want to attend college (no, the party scene and the opportunity to act foolish on MTV's Spring Break are not good reasons) there might be something to research further.
HELPLESS. Women’s losing streak reaches 7.
"We had no answers for [Toledo forward Danielle] Bishop and she single-handedly beat us," said NIU coach Carol Hammerle, whose team lost its seventh in a row. "As soon as we would make a run Bishop had an answer and it was disheartening."
Such a splendid confession that time devoted to reviewing game tapes and practicing adjustments was wasted. Egad. Any patzer could tell you the way to deal with a troublesome Bishop is to put the question to it.

16.2.05

THE MAKING OF A MODEL RAILROADER. If one Thomas is good, and Thomas needs a trip to the backshop, doesn't it make sense to have James on hand also? And more track, of course!
WELCOME TO HARD AMERICA. Yep, life'll burst that self-esteem bubble. The headline makes claims that don't quite stand up.

Kids born in the '70s and '80s are now coming of age. The colorful ribbons and shiny trophies they earned just for participating made them feel special. But now, in college and the workplace, observers are watching them crumble a bit at the first blush of criticism.

"I often get students in graduate school doing doctorates who made straight A's all their lives, and the first time they get tough feedback, the kind you need to develop skills," says Deborah Stipek, dean of education at Stanford University. "I have a box of Kleenex in my office because they haven't dealt with it before."

To be clear, self-esteem is important to healthy development... But empty praise — the kind showered on many kids years ago in the name of self-esteem — did more harm than good.

"Instead of boosting self-esteem, it can lead you to question your competence," says developmental psychologist Sandra Graham of UCLA.
The phenomenon these observers are commenting on is at least as old as the competition to get into good colleges, and I conjecture that the self-esteem effects are second-order at best. Consider the usual college-admission tournament: the best students from several high schools wind up at the same college. Sorting goes on, aided and abetted by MTV Spring Break and the fraternity scene. Some students who cruised through high school now have to work for the first time; some might still be able to cruise.

To the extent that college now serves as a graduate or professional school admission tournament, the drama repeats itself. Now the survivors of the best high schools that have also excelled at the best colleges all wind up in the same graduate program. Sort and repeat as before. Sometimes a 21 year old factory rat from the south side of Milwaukee gets through.

The article notes there is still room for attitude adjustments.

Overall, research shows that self-esteem scores have increased with the generations, says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who compared studies on self-esteem of 66,000 college kids across the USA from 1968 through 1994. Such studies are typically based on self-ratings.

She also has noticed that the undergraduates she teaches tend to have an inflated sense of self.

"When you correct writing, they'll say, 'It's just your opinion,' which is infuriating. Bad grammar and spelling and sentences being wrong is not my opinion, it's just bad writing," she says.

So when the criticism flows, some college students are increasingly seeking counseling.

Sam Goldstein, a neuropsychologist at the University of Utah, likened some students to bubbles — on the surface they seem secure and happy, yet with the least adversity they burst.

OK, fire the purveyors of crying towels and repeat these instructions silently while I read them aloud:
Suck. It. Up. Do. It. Right. Stop. Whining.

RUNNING EXTRA: The Phantom Professor faces the hotshots who have to come to terms with the meaning of "level playing field."
I'm a tough grader. I've written "This stinks" on student assignments. I tell students when I think they're B.S.'ing me or when I think they've gotten lazy. I push and prod to get them to work harder. I give them D's and F's when they deserve it. And when I do, I always tell them "It's not personal. It's about the work."

And boy, do they NOT take it well. I've had young men and young women in my office sobbing over a grade or over a comment on a paper. They say, "I always got A's in high school!" And they run through every excuse, from ADD to eating disorders to writer's block (which I don't believe in, even for real writers).

I've had to learn how to criticize creatively so that I don't have to face the nervous breakdowns. And I blame parents for this. Trying so hard to be their children's pal, they forgot how to toughen them up for real-world criticism. Too many pats on the back for stupid stuff: "Way to stand at the plate, Travis!" "Good job finishing that sandwich, Ashley!" The kids don't know what it feels like to actually accomplish something worthy of praise.
Of course they always got A's in high school. So did everybody else in the writing class. Let the sorting begin. But "This stinks??" That's a bit over the top.