29.9.10

BUILDING CULTURAL CAPITAL. A few weeks ago, I mentioned the most important course in the business curriculum.
On occasion Northern Illinois offers a one-day golf etiquette seminar wherein the focus is on the social aspects of a business outing, rather than the finer points of the sand wedge.
I give you Business Golf 101.
Students who take Business Golf 101 at NIU don’t learn how to sink a 15-foot putt, but they do learn the value of “turf conferences” as a way to make connections and close deals.
What intrigues is that there's also a Business Bowling event.

Full disclosure: the Superintendent had to leave Milwaukee after missing the five pin too many times, and his putting prowess comes from the amusement park, not the country club.
NO BOY PROBLEM AT HAMILTON COLLEGE. Hamilton Requires First-Year Men to Attend Presentation on Campus ‘Rape Culture’; Female Applicants Not Forewarned of Dangers of Attending Hamilton. I don't make up stuff like this, and when the presenter is touted as "a national speaker and trainer on diversity and social justice and college men's issues" it's a good bet that there's indoctrination afoot, with people who look like younger versions of me blamed for all of society's ills.
[When Hamilton is] an environment where it is no longer acceptable in any way to objectify women or define masculinity as sexual conquest, or subordinate women's intelligence, capability, and humanity, or allow issues of racism, classism, and homophobia to go unabated, then this campus will be a better place for all of us to be.
That "issues of" is almost certainly constructing a thoughtcrime.

Perhaps the administration at Hamilton would just as soon be Surf City College, even if the ratio of girls to boys approaches undefined. Surf City College still has not been overtaken by events, and the promised longer post on the unsustainability of the Surf City equilibrium is coming soon.

28.9.10

LETHARGY THE NEW MALAISE? President Obama tells voters to "buck up."

The president has been telling Democrats to "wake up" and recognize that he and the Democratic-run Congress have delivered on promises, from a new health care law to tougher rules for Wall Street to more aid for college students. Obama wants disenchanted supporters to see that Republican wins in November would undermine the ability of Democrats to get the unfinished business done, from climate change legislation to allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

What emerges in the [forthcoming Rolling Stone] story is a stern, lecturing tone from Obama.

So far, no cardigan.

26.9.10

SADNESS IN EAST ORANGE. A house party near Seton Hall University is a crime scene, with multiple people shot and one reported death. (Via University Diaries.)

Some witnesses are requesting anonymity, whether for fear of reprisal from the perpetrator, who is still at large, or for fear of punishment from Seton Hall, which does not recognize Greek-letter organizations is unspecified.

It's not the first time somebody who was refused entry to a house party has returned angry. Some other time we can take up the sense, or not, of universities not recognizing Greek-letter organizations.

Spare a moment for Seton Hall and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
WHAT'S NEXT, A DEFENESTRATION OF THE COACH? University of Minnesota (motto: ten thousand ways to surrender the Axe) president Bob Bruininks told the Minnesota Daily his expectations for football.
I was deeply disappointed with the loss [to South Dakota]. I think we have done some of the right things in terms of trying to rebuild our football traditions and to put us on the path, I think, to a more successful winning strategy.

We need a stronger football program here at the University of Minnesota. Our fans deserve it and our students, faculty and staff deserve [it].

I’m guardedly optimistic, but I would say to all of our fans, we have high aspirations for Gopher football, and we’re not going to be satisfied with mediocre results and a mediocre season.
Since then, the team visited Southern California and hosted Northern Illinois.
Tailback Chad Spann ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 61-yard run with 6:22 left, as Northern Illinois claimed its second win over a Big Ten Conference team in the last two seasons with a 34-23 win over Minnesota Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Go to niuhuskies.com for the details.

It's that stadium I wish to address, again. A Minnesota sports commentator had an instructive response to Mr Bruininks's choice of words.
Yet, if football wasn't a big deal to the administration, Bruininks and the University would not have used so much of their lobbying and fund-raising clout to build an on-campus stadium.

Seven, eight years ago, this seemed nothing more than a Glen Mason hallucination, and then Bruininks embraced the idea, and the University went hard at their prized donors, and pleaded at the Legislature, and the first new football stadium to be built in the Big Ten in decades opened last fall.

And then Brewster lost to South Dakota in the 2010 home opener, and in an attempt to justify the embarrassment, the coach's bobos passed along some information to the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman that alleged to show Minnesota had the lowest football budget in the Big Ten.

In truth, several Big Ten schools put stadium costs in their football budgets, and the university puts those costs elsewhere, and that greatly distorted the numbers that were given to Hartman.

The university, through Gary Bowman, the head of the sports information department, was quick to refute Sid's information. The athletic department insisted the Gophers are in the middle of the Big Ten when it comes to football spending.

The only thing that really matters is this: The Gophers' football program wants for nothing.

The budgets for recruiting and assistant coaches are competitive. The new stadium is first-class. The Nagurski-Gibson Football Complex is more than adequate. And the university has allowed Brewster to admit many high-risk students - and given him a learning disability specialist to see to it that most any player who takes an interest will survive academically.

The Bruininks administration has gone through contortions trying to give Brewster a chance to succeed. And the reward for that support was that -- after Brewster's humiliation against South Dakota -- a henchman provided disinformation that was supposed to put the blame for this stagnant program not on the fourth-year coach but the administration.

The guess here is Bruininks and [athletic director Joel] Maturi will have no problem making the decision to fire Brewster if this winds up as another 6-6 season, or less. They might even secretly enjoy the task, considering what they went through to get TCF Bank Stadium, only to wind up with a coach who looks at the surroundings and sees himself as a martyr.

I like that use of martyr. Murray Sperber has his beer-'n-circus. Without loss of generality, will the proconsuls have the coach torn to pieces by a pack of (Northern) Huskies or (Nittany) Lions or (Northwestern) Wildcats?

The term contortion is an understatement: it's more like prostitution.

In two weeks, custody of the Axe will be determined in Madison.
GLORY, GLORY, HAM UNITED. Milwaukee Hamilton wins its fourth straight football (soccer, to those of you in Portage County) championship. If last year's calendar is representative of this season, additional postseason play is yet to come. Hamilton's program appears still to be the melting pot in microcosm.

24.9.10

TECHNOCRAT BEATDOWN. That's the Theme of the Day. Start with Victor Davis Hanson, making the Trenchant Observation of the Day.

[W]hy cannot liberal defenders of Obama simply say, “Government, much more wisely than a selfish private sector, can ensure a vibrant economy. When people are assured of comprehensive government entitlements they use that security as a base for renewed work and investment. Deficits create consumer demands, spread money around to those who need it most, and spur economic prosperity. And when business provides society with over half its profits in income, payroll, and assorted state and local taxes, the resulting redistributive change and spread-the-wealth equality ensure aggregate economic growth”?
The Welfare Economics Paradigm itself is suspect. Here's Arthur C. Brooks preaching The Gospel According to St. Paul of Cambridge.

I’ll be slightly more academic here, and simply contrast what the government should do with what the government is doing—the things that frankly are driving Americans crazy, and leading a majority to say they believe the government itself is our nation’s greatest threat.

When we say that the government should concern itself with market failures, we are obviously acknowledging that markets are not perfect. Market failures can occur when we have monopolies, externalities (like pollution), public goods (fire protection, for example), and information problems (such as when people cheat others in the marketplace). Nearly all economists agree that these kinds of failures can justify some degree of state intervention. Furthermore, it is legitimate (in our view) for society to provide some minimum basic standard of living for all, and government has a role to play in that process.

What we do object to is when government so manifestly moves beyond these basic roles. And that is what is happening now. From “Cash-for-Clunkers” to the GM and Chrysler bailouts, our government is incurring trillions of dollars of new debt and enacting heavy-handed regulation on the business enterprises that could otherwise provide the way out of our current woes (and provide the taxes that make government programs possible in the first place). The truth is that current government actions are not correcting market failures.
I suppose one could subtitle the essay "A Policy Wonk's Response to Just Criticism." King Banaian suggests an apology is unnecessary.

But the knowledge problem in any Pigovian tax/subsidy scheme is to know how much to tax or subsidize. I sometimes worry Ryan and Brooks have not thought about this enough, because explaining it may cost them some of the 70%. That is not an excuse for not trying, though.
So much for the sherry and cookies. Best of the Web is ready to rumble.

By now it should be clear that the only new idea Obama introduced into American politics was the idea of Obama: Obama the voice of a new generation, Obama the brilliant technocrat, Obama the postracial leader.

The reality of Obama has been quite the opposite. The fresh-faced young leader has governed according to stale old ideas. The dazzling intellect has proved inadequate to basic managerial challenges. We haven't even been able to enjoy the achievement of having elected a black president, because so many of Obama's supporters (though not Obama himself, to his credit) won't shut up about how every criticism of the president and his policies is "racist."

Yet in America's current predicament, there is ample reason for optimism. We'd like to think that the failure of Obama's policies will discredit the bad economic ideas on which they're based, that his incompetence will discredit the notion that the cognitive elite should run the lives of everyone else, and that the phony charges of racism will discredit the long-outdated assumption of white guilt, at last bringing America close to the ideal of a colorblind society.

This is not to deny that the Obama presidency has been ruinous. But sometimes the costliest mistakes are those from which we learn the most.

That's still pretty tame stuff. Hockey season is near, and Shannon Love of Chicago Boyz wants to throw down.
And for all you middle-class Palins and Tea Partiers out there: You don’t have to take any guff from any pseudo-intellectuals. Tradition, common sense and real-world experience have proven to generate more accurate ideas than have babbling “intellectuals”. History might eventually judge you wrong about some things (gay marriage, perhaps), but in the end, when it comes to the big concepts, the concepts that keep societies free, prosperous and happy, history will most likely judge you correct.
On the other hand, Jeffrey Tucker (via Econ Log) encourages readers to thank Government technocrats for bedbugs, lukewarm showers, and office lighting that makes you look ill.
Are you seeing the pattern here? Government planning was never a good means to do anything, but at least there was a time when it set out to bring progress to humanity. It was the wrong means to achieve the right goal. Today, government planning is working as a maliciously effective means to achieve the wrong goal: I mean by this that if there is anything that government is actually good at doing, it is destroying things.

Even so, in seeking to reduce our standard of living and drive us backwards in the progress of civilization, the government really is playing with fire, unleashing evils that are unknown to us today.
Unknown and perhaps unknowable, complex adaptive systems being prone to do what they darn well please.
MAKING A VIRTUE OF DEPRIVATION? Transition anticipates ecotopia after the oil runs out.

The Transition movement is built around making the transition to a world after peak oil—the time when world oil production reaches an all-time high, then goes into irreversible decline. Oil prices will spike and the economy will stop growing, wreaking havoc in our society, which depends on petroleum for nearly everything, from growing food to maintaining economies. The Transition movement aims to prepare communities for peak oil—or climate change, or economic meltdown—by reclaiming lost skills, teaching new ones, and fostering local self-sufficiency.
I can't make stuff up like this.

[Rob] Hopkins moved to Totnes, a town in southwestern England, and launched the first official Transition Town. He rallied people to devise an “energy descent plan”— which has become the core of the Transition movement—for scaling back energy use, sourcing food and other goods closer to home, and otherwise aiming for local sustainability.
Near Totnes is the Rattery Bank on the Great Western Railway. A rattery, for those of you who get no closer to the source of your meat than the frozen prepared foods aisle, is a rat farm. That's local sustainability in the days before scientific animal husbandry.

But these efforts could also strengthen communities and improve people’s daily lives. There’s no downside to eating fresher food, getting to know our neighbors, and avoiding maddening commutes. Those are all solid preparation for energy and food shortages, economic shocks, and climate tempests to come—and they may help us avoid such a bleak future.
Perhaps so. Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

A local book publisher is letting the Long Ashton group use a piece of land to start a community vegetable garden. When they wanted to break the sod, a Conservative Party district councilor brought his draft horses and plowed the plot. It was tough work, even for the stout horses, but now Transition Long Ashton is planting crops and building a chicken coop.
There's a Victor E. Garden behind Northampton Grange, and this has been a very good year for habaneros, okra, and tomatoes. But it's a garden, gosh darn it, not a political statement. The zoning code and the subdivision's covenants preclude a chicken coop. I suspect the neighbors wouldn't take too kindly to the cock crowing first thing of a June morning anyway. Although I joke with the neighbors that my electric lawnmowers and rototiller, whose power source is recycled nuclear warheads, are the quintessence of swords into plowshares, they're for quieter tools and for exercise.
In Long Ashton, those pitching in with the community garden are also trying their hand at keeping chickens and pigs, and learning from their neighbors how to build fences to keep them in. They’re learning how to preserve food as jams, by canning, and through lactic acid fermentation—the way that sauerkraut is made.
Perhaps this is the way I could convince the government to pay me not to raise pigs. I've had over fifty years of practice not raising pigs.

The real rewards will go to the people who develop backstop technologies, possibly using renewable energy sources, including breeder reactors. Reversion to the world of Pieter Bruegel the Elder is a second-best choice.
HE WHO SELLS HIS PRODUCT FOR A LOWER PRICE KNOWS WHAT IT'S WORTH. It's Filene's.

“You mean, to be in the room with the President of the United States is now on fire sale for $100?”

”Yup.”

And there was still room for late arrivals.

The author is Silent Generation relic Gail Sheehy, no member of the vast right wing conspiracy she.
DROPOUT FACTORIES DON'T GET IGNORED. The administration at Chicago State would no doubt like its internal critics to go away. Making them go away by fiat is against the law.
As Inside Higher Ed reported, the federal district court denied both the plaintiffs' and the defendant administrators' motions for summary judgment, citing the need to resolve material disputes of facts. More importantly, in handing down its decision, the court expounded on the free speech protections afforded to university student newspapers under Illinois state law. Specifically, the court cited the Illinois College Campus Press Act, enacted by the state legislature following the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' 2005 decision in Hosty v. Carter, a case that undermined the expressive rights of student journalists on college campuses and has been strongly criticized by FIRE and other First Amendment advocates.
The case is still in progress. Blatant progressive intolerance at the fifty claimants to be the ten best universities might sell more magazines; blatant progressive intolerance at the state universities, whether land-grant, mid-major, or dropout factory, blights more lives.
DEPENDS ON YOUR TIME HORIZON. Ragin' Dave has advice for the transgressive.
When I have people ask my opinions about tattoos, and always say to them "Imagine you're sixty or seventy years old. That skin is sagging, the tattoo is faded, nothing looks the way it used to. Now can you tell your grandkids just why you got that tattoo, and more importantly, is it still going to be relevant when your sixty or seventy? If the answer isn't a definite "Yes" without hesitation, then don't get that tat."
There's a Tom Lehrer line that applies here. Goes something like "It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age he had already been dead for four years." Perhaps the patrons of tattoo parlors or the jailhouse artist think the same way.

23.9.10

THE EVIL EMPIRE HAD GOOD SPORTS TEAMS TOO. The University of Georgia has many distinctions, including earning University Diaries honors as The Worst University in America, and this academic year's top party school. It's also an academic gulag, in which a student was subject to judicial sanction for mocking parking services' placement of scooter parking.

Did you hear about the Soviet soldier who got 26 years for calling his general an idiot?

Isn't that harsh punishment?

Not at all. He got a year for insubordination and 25 years for revealing a state secret.

What makes nachalstvo in Georgia so touchy about parking?

The judicial sanctions story has been Instalanched. The student sought the assistance of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and The Worst University in America has backed off.

Meanwhile, on September 10, FIRE wrote UGA President Michael F. Adams, explaining that [thoughtcriminal Jacob] Lovell's grievance was protected by the First Amendment. FIRE also repeated to President Adams that UGA maintains unconstitutional speech codes in addition to the regulations used against Lovell's protected speech, and that administrators could be held personally liable by a court for the violation of students' constitutional rights—as a federal judge in Georgia ruled recently in a case involving the president of Valdosta State University.

FIRE's letter, as usual, did the job. On September 14, [Associate Dean of Students Kimberly] Ellis informed Lovell that she "did not find sufficient evidence to move forward" with the charges and that the matter was now "closed."

Well, if a student can't complain about scooter parking, how can students be expected to feel able to take on anything genuinely controversial without the threat of punishment? On campus after campus we have seen that school administrators have forgotten that truly fostering a "marketplace of ideas" necessarily means sometimes hearing things you do not want to hear.

Ellis never should have let the case linger or almost a month. As soon as it is clear that the speech in question is protected by the First Amendment, the investigation must end. Fortunately, however, after FIRE intervened, Ellis did the right thing and ended the investigation.

You can tell President Adams what you think. Let's make sure President Adams understands that UGA must reform its unconstitutional policies before another student's rights are violated.

The Foundation's victory over the overweening president of Valdosta State is more significant.

Former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled from Valdosta State University in 2007 because university president Ronald Zaccari claimed he posed a "clear and present danger" both to the campus and to Zaccari personally. What had Barnes done to produce such a dramatic response? He had publicly protested Zaccari's decision to build a $30 million dollar parking garage, most notably by posting a collage he had created with Microsoft Paint on his Facebook account. For opposing the parking garage, Barnes found a note slipped under his dorm room door giving him 48 hours to leave campus.

After being kicked out of school, Barnes filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Zaccari, VSU, and a number of administrators, for violating his rights to freedom of speech and due process.

In a decision handed down on September 3, the district court held Zaccari personally and financially liable for brazenly violating Barnes' right to due process. The court also held the Board of Regents responsible for violating the contractual promises of due process the university made in its student handbook.

Dear reader, you really must read the details of Commissar Zaccari's pursuit of this subversive. Go there. I'll wait for you to return.

In numerous meetings, Zaccari was told by staff that this mere Facebook collage could not possibly be considered a threat, but Zaccari nonetheless decided to use it as justification for expelling Barnes.

I first became involved in this case back in October of 2007, a few months after Barnes had been expelled. Given that the facts were so ridiculous and horrible, and the violation of student rights so blazingly obvious, I felt sure that VSU, like most schools in this situation, would quickly back down after receiving a stern letter from FIRE.

Instead, after numerous press releases and articles shaming VSU, VSU did not budge. Therefore, we enlisted the help of renowned First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine in DC and Cary Wiggins of The Wiggins Law Group in Atlanta. Shortly after Corn-Revere and Wiggins filed suit on Barnes' behalf in January 2008, the Board of Regents had a sudden change of heart, overturned the finding, and offered to readmit Barnes. Unsurprisingly, Barnes, who was at this point attending a different college run by sane people, declined the offer.

After the nearly inevitable ruling came down against him earlier this month, Zaccari issued a statement that attempted to spin as a positive outcome the fact he was being held personally responsible for violating a student's constitutional rights. While my colleague Peter Bonilla does an excellent job taking this willful blindness to pieces on FIRE's blog The Torch, one part of his statement demands particular scorn. In defending his actions against Barnes, Zaccari invokes the specter of the Virginia Tech massacre to justify his actions. Especially given that the facts show that everyone around Zaccari counseled him that Barnes was no threat at all, treating Virginia Tech like a carte blanche excuse to expel a student who didn't like his parking garage is despicable.

As I have written before here on The Huffington Post, in the wake of that tragedy, too many campus administrators seemed to ask, 'What Can The Virginia Tech Tragedy Do For Me?', using the horror of that day to justify censorship of speech they simply did not like. While Colorado College is a close second for finding students guilty of "violence" for posting a flier that parodied a flier by a feminist group, Zaccari wins the award for most shameful invocation of the Virginia Tech tragedy to silence a student.

The fact that administrators can be held personally liable for oppressive behavior seems to have concentrated some minds.
Indeed, the message has been getting out, as demonstrated by at least one commenter over at The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) who seemed both panicked and horrified at the decision. Do not fear, college administrators! You only have to worry if you plan to trample on the basic rights of your students. And, if that is asking too much, well, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for you.
Not far from Valdosta is a larger academic gulag. The Young Americans for Freedom have not followed up their complaint about a Palm Beach State administrator conveniently forgetting a verbal authorization for a table at the student organization fair. Palm Beach State have not rebutted the complaint.

As of this evening, Olivia Morris-Ford remains Student Activities Coordinator at Palm Beach.
NO BOUNDS ON ACCESS-ASSESSMENT-REMEDIATION-RETENTION. I don't make up this stuff.

Here is a new trend: college for people who can't read or write. And no, that doesn't mean the one out of three freshmen whose literacy and numeracy skills are so poor that they have to take remedial courses before they are deemed ready to do college-level work. It means students who literally can't read or write because they are severely cognitively impaired by Down syndrome or some other mental disability. Yet an increasing number of campus administrators have decided that even the "intellectually disabled" (as this group is now called) deserve a college education.

Well, not exactly a college education, since even the most egalitarian administrators concede that people with severe cognitive disabilities can't handle even the most rudimentary of course offerings. Instead, what a host of new programs for the intellectually disabled offer is what the people who run them call "a college experience."

Some 250 campuses around the country offer such courses. Students enrolled in the programs sit in on a class or two per semester that regular students are taking for credit, but they don't receive grades, and their assignments are drastically tailored to fit their limited abilities. Batteries of counselors and tutors (the latter are typically volunteers from the regular student population) help them through, and they fill up the rest of their time with "life skills" seminars and workshops designed to help them use a debit card, take the bus, or get through a job interview, with internships at participating nonprofits, and, presumably, with making friends and soaking up the ivy-covered atmosphere. They don't receive actual college degrees---indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Education, no student enrolled in any college program for the intellectually disabled has to date received even a two-year associate degree---but if they complete their programs in a process that can take years, they typically receive certificates of completion that they can show to prospective employers.

There is a school of thought that a high-end university is summer camp, and 250 institutions providing internships for counseling majors as well as an opportunity for the unlucky sibling in a rich family to spend some time on campus probably isn't the end of higher education as we know it: the subprime side of the land grants, mid-majors, community colleges, and proprietaries does more damage.
Such sentimental linguistic trafficking in "dreams and aspirations" and "a college experience" in contrast to actual college can be viewed as a harmless if expensive exercise in philanthropy by university administrators---although it does help dilute the value and meaning of a college education, already threatened by grade inflation and the collapse of core curricula. It would be more honest to describe the programs as charity rather than college. The programs may also do some psychological good for the ultra-select group of people they serve (the Vanderbilt program, for example, enrolls only five students at a time). They also likely teach the volunteer tutors and classmates of the cognitively impaired important lessons in compassion for their less fortunate fellow human beings. But it is hard to assess their practical value. Although advocates cite studies showing that intellectually disabled students who complete some sort of postsecondary education earn 1.7 times more per week than their peers who receive no postsecondary education, no students or administrators interviewed by the Chronicle or other newspapers pinpointed any specific better-paying jobs offered to enrollees in the programs. One cannot help but wonder whether the programs simply help cognitively impaired students coast along at their parents' (or university) expense in a respectable academic setting instead of going to work at the low-prestige jobs for which their limited abilities qualify them.
That last sentence might also explain the 1.7 times weekly earnings. The column notes that subsidies and litigation are coming.

A recent article on the US News website about such programs was followed by angry comments from parents of intellectually disabled students taking issue with critics who questioned the programs' usefulness or propriety.

"Should [my daughter] work at Walmart and live below the poverty level for the rest of her life?" wrote one mother. Wrote another: "Why should [my daughter] have to wait on me at McDonald's"? Those comments said a lot---about upper-middle-class disdain for honest but entry-level service work and about the kind of employment for which those with severe cognitive disabilities can realistically qualify even with the best of "life-skills" coaching on a college campus. Such are the perils of deciding to offer a "college experience," or indeed college itself, to people who lack the intellectual qualifications to benefit from higher education.

What the comments also indicate is a lack of understanding about the benefits of technical progress. The monotony of the assembly line made individuals who couldn't carry a patternmaker's water productive enough to be able to buy a house in the patternmaker's neighborhood. During flush economic times, the counter help at fast food joints is more likely to be from the vocational service. Smart cash registers make people who otherwise would be relegated to pushing a broom more productive. I suspect additional improvements are possible.

Those improvements are less likely to be forthcoming if higher education fails to offer ordinary students the intellectual challenges that might develop their talents in such a way as to invent those improvements.
PATIENCE IS REWARDED. My mom moved to Green Bay in 1984, and on a July visit, we discovered the Bay Beach Amusement Park. Lake Michigan has long been without a shoreside roller coaster. The footings for a relocated Zippin' Pippin are now being poured.

Built on land recently used for parking, the Zippin Pippin is being laid out in such a way that riders will get a nice view of Green Bay on the first turn right before they make their first bone-jarring, thrilling plunge. For coaster enthusiasts, the Zippin Pippin is what's known as an "out and back" coaster, meaning it stretches out with camel-like humps before turning back to finish the ride, said Bill Landvatter, director of the city's parks, recreation and forestry department.

Bay Beach has been amusing residents since the 1890s, when it was a beach resort where swimsuits rented for a dime. The first roller coaster, dubbed Jack Rabbit, went up in 1901, was torn down and replaced in 1929 by the Greyhound, which was dismantled in 1936. The park is tied for the 21st oldest amusement park in the world, according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association; the 101-year-old pavilion has hosted dances, movie nights and politician visits ranging from Franklin Roosevelt to Al Gore.

The city does not track attendance because there is no entrance or parking fee. But last season 400,000 25-cent tickets were sold for the 17 rides, which cost either one or two tickets. The Zippin Pippin will be the first to cost four tickets. At some point, the park's train will be rerouted to travel underneath the roller coaster, Landvatter said.

The train ... well, it departs from a station that pays tribute to Chicago and North Western's Italianate depot, now home to Titletown Brewing, but it's no longer painted in hunter green and English stagecoach yellow, nor does it do a 400 impression on the straight stretch along the lakefront.

The Western Great Lakes Region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts is posting Pippin updates, and posting construction pictures. A webcam is in the works. Opening day is May 7.

We claim no credit for inspiring the roller coaster.

22.9.10

E PLURIBUS UNUM. The Statue of Liberty still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.

TOMMY’S International Sports Café, Inc, a makeshift social club on 657 East 189th Street in New York’s Bronx, would repay a visit from those Europeans who see their continent’s Romanies (also known as Gypsies, see article) only as a lawless and hopeless underclass, in which success means at most building a gaudy, windowless mansion (see picture).

Only the Balkan dishes on the menu, and the hum of Romani spoken from the mainly male clientele as they play cards and pool, distinguish the café from anywhere else in the neighbourhood. Just like the Albanians, Italians and Hispanics who live nearby, its patrons are Americans. They take vacations, work hard as cops, teachers and in business, and send their children to college. Asked what he thinks of his neighbours, a man across the street scratches his head and asks “We have Gypsies here?”

For their part, the Bronx Romanies view the old continent with mixed sympathy and disdain. “Money we spend on candy, they save to get food…to [expletive] live” says Vefki Redzeposki, a teenager who works for an electrical contractor.

In Old Europe, things are not so good for the Romanies. (The article, and a related article, struggle with the right name to use for tribes formerly known as Gypsies. Is Zigeuner a pejorative?)
In the bracing climate of the Bronx, such problems seem distant. “Once you give us a chance to succeed, we’ll grab that opportunity. And we’ll run with it,” says Saniye Jasaroska, a 34-year-old medical biller. America gives its Romanies that chance. Europe has yet to do so.
To do well in the United States is to buy into the ideas of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or creed, and one of the unintended consequences of the civil rights reforms of the 1960s was that people all over the world saw those ideas offered more broadly and responded to the opportunity.
TONIGHT'S RAILROAD READING. Kalamazoo College's Olga Bonfiglio has a pleasant ride on the Empire Builder.

After spending two days on the Empire Builder, the long-haul Amtrak line from Chicago to Seattle/Portland, I quickly realized that our investment in trains should be readily and heartily embraced. And, if more Americans were to take such trips, I’m sure they, too, would choose trains as an alternative mode of travel.

Amtrak staff was courteous and responsive to passengers, a bit quirky as train people can be, but absolutely delightful while we all traveled the miles and hours together across the country. Riding the train, especially on an overnight, was romantic and adventurous and we kept to our schedule despite the numerous times we had to yield to freight trains.

Apparently no locomotive failures, dogcatch crews, or rockslides hampered their course.

Professor Bonfiglio was sufficiently impressed to offer a number of thoughts about Passenger Rail. The paragraphs about the unintended consequences of the Interstate Highways are instructive.
Promoted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 required citizens to finance the Interstates by paying 15 to 20 percent of the price of a gallon of gas. The 46,876-mile Interstate system took 35 years to complete and cost $128.9 billion. The feds paid 90 percent of the cost or about $114 billion—$425 billion in 2006 dollars— even though the Interstates were under the control of the states. Governors and mayors signed onto this massive public works plan without hesitation because they saw it as an economic development tool for their cities. They would be proved wrong within a couple decades.

As more and more people needed and bought cars, they found themselves stuck in more traffic jams and having to contend with endless road repair. Operating an automobile amounted to $6,000 to $7,000 per year (outside its purchase) and the accident and death rates related to cars—at least 40,000 deaths per year—were overwhelming.

Building the Interstates in the cities also drastically changed urban life, something Eisenhower never intended and experts never foresaw. Neighborhoods were torn up to make way for the highways. Social stratification and racial discrimination intensified as middle class white people migrated to the suburbs and left poor people and minority groups behind in the cities. Downtowns that were designed for pedestrians became congested places and the influx of cars made them frustrating to navigate. Old buildings were demolished to create surface parking, which then created gaping, ugly holes in the cityscape. People felt unsafe and increasingly reluctant to go downtown. Retail moved out to the suburbs and the companies eventually followed. Of course, all of this out-migration ended up depleting the tax base and making ghost towns out of our once vibrant and prosperous downtowns.
The downtowns might have been doomed anyway: perhaps an ambitious economic historian is working on a dissertation where the counterfactual is telecommunication and computer network expansion that occurred more rapidly because reduced government spending on highways made more capital available for those industries. Or, put aside the speculations, consider the role of electric interurbans and limited tramlines in developing the suburbs of Los Angeles, Shaker Heights in Ohio, and, horrible dictu, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, ground zero of opposition to faster train service north of the Cheddar Curtain. Heck, Portland, Oregon, runs a trolley to a mall.

By the late 1990s transportation engineers and analysts began questioning the Interstate’s “externalities” as they costed out pollution, energy waste, land disruption, accidents, time wasted in traffic jams. They also learned that spending hundreds of millions of dollars to add highway lanes and interchanges didn’t relieve congestion.

The airlines tried to make up for their operational costs with reduced legroom, poorer air quality and overcrowding. Greater demand for air travel also necessitated building or expanding airports, which all takes up a lot of tax dollars.

Common Dreams readers might be intrigued by the regressive transfer inherent in that road and airport building. The late Paul Weyrich characterized public spending on roads as socialism, and the use of those moneys to build airports is a subsidy to relatively rich people.

I'm intrigued to see a Common Dreams article that has anything favorable to say about public-private partnerships.

Interstate II (http://www.texasrailadvocates.org/InterstateII.htm) involves double- or triple-tracking 20,000 to 30,000 miles of mainline freight railroads, establishing corridors for high-speed trains and eventually electrifying the trains to replace diesel engines. [Gil] Carmichael [of the University of Denver] estimates this could all be done in 20 years for two cents on the motor fuel tax.

“We have this incredible railroad network that goes out all over this land from city center to city center. That's what is so amazing. It's already there,” said Carmichael (in McCommons). Another idea train advocates promote is the re-establishment of a combined freight and passenger rail system through private-public partnerships that work with state transportation departments. Dedicated passenger lines have a multiplier effect that can relieve traffic congestion, reduce freight bottlenecks, diminish flight delays, reduce this country's carbon footprint and accommodate people without cars or the means or desire to fly.

The McCommons reference is to James McCommons, author of Waiting on a Train. There's a book review coming, but first a few more photo essays on the trains he rode. (The last Trip Report had your Superintendent in California. He did not find a Silicon Valley experiment with a beam transporter to get home.)

There is potential to provide the Passenger Rail capacity on existing railroad rights-of-way in some of the more thickly settled parts of the country, which reduces the enviromental impact and population displacement of construction. Better signalling and dispatching, and a few improvements at bridges and junctions will go a long way.
PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION. That was the motto of the Strategic Air Command, and in recognition of International Day of Peace, Vermont Tiger's Daniel Foty offers "tribute to the greatest peace-machine ever created by humans.

21.9.10

GET TO STEVE'S CHEESE. Hi. If you've been nosing around the site, the post Professor Munger recommended comes from the perspective of a professor at a mid-major that's conflicted about its future. The professor is less conflicted, seeing in the obsession with academic status an excess demand for institutions that don't offer sub-prime degrees that his own employer would be well-placed to serve.
THE CONSTANTINOPLE, XANADU, AND PACIFIC. A short Economist article brings an intriguing infrastructure development to the Superintendent's attention.
In the next few years a rail tunnel will open under the Bosporus, 150 years after it was first mooted. The Bosporus is a rail-freight bottleneck between Europe and Asia. When the tunnel opens, the possibilities will be endless. Before the first world war the Germans had dreams (and the British nightmares) of a Berlin-Baghdad line. Now the Turks and Chinese talk of a rail service linking Istanbul (and so Europe) to Urumqi in western China.
The prospect of this tunnel has induced the railroad operators of the erstwhile Yugoslav republics to affiliate as a company called Cargo 10.
Between 1918 and 1929 Yugoslav railways was formally called the railway of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Perhaps mindful of this grandeur, when the new company was actually formed this month, they chose the dullest name they could find: Cargo 10.

Yet the business behind Cargo 10 is anything but boring. The name refers to Corridor 10, a pan-European road and rail corridor linking central and south-eastern Europe (see map). It is another example of companies in the former Yugoslavia co-operating as they realise how small their domestic markets are. And it has big international ambitions.
The Macedonian railroad has also joined the company.



A railroad system that allows cargo to cross national frontiers more expeditiously has the potential for large productivity gains.
Today it takes more than 60 hours to move freight from the border of Slovenia and Croatia to Istanbul. Igor Hribar of Slovenian railways laments that, if a train arrives at night and customs officers do not feel like getting up to process it, “they don’t.” With greater Bulgarian and Turkish co-operation, the journey time should fall to 37 hours. The aim is just 25 hours.

Until the Balkan wars of the 1990s most freight between Turkey and western Europe crossed Yugoslavia. Then it was diverted to Romania and Bulgaria. Now only 2% of freight between Turkey and western Europe is carried by rail. Some 22% goes by road and 75% by ship. Goran Brankovic, director-general of Slovenian railways, says Turkish companies find it cheaper and faster to send containers by sea to Trieste and then fly truck drivers in to take the goods to their final destination.
Keep in mind that if a shipping container gets across Chicago in 24 hours, it is doing well. (In the open country it does move a lot faster).

In the title, I deliberately used archaic place names, organized in the form of an American railroad name, to wish these railroads well, and to provide some inspiration to set up a proper freight railroad in Eurasia. A Turkish Alexander J. Cassatt, a Balkan James J. Hill, a Chinese Charlie Crocker, clearances ample enough for double-stacks? I'd be delighted to see it.
HIGHER EDUCATION'S SUBPRIME SECTOR. Abraham H. Miller asks, "Are American Universities Going the Way of General Motors?" Little by little, we approach "Somebody in Authority Sees It the Same Way". Remember the formula: access, assessment, remediation, retention.
The American universities, or at least a number of departments within them, became like GM long before GM became like GM.
Preach it, brother.
We are reminded of the university’s strong and unwavering — administrators love using a word and its synonym together — commitment to retention. Retention? Yes, retention. You don’t need a college degree to get the message.
The essay wanders into familiar Culture Wars territory -- the area studies departments and the diversity requirements damage the intellectual integrity. The following, however, is uncomfortably close to the truth.
With greater demand for statistical outcomes from a pool of students that brings to the educational process lesser intellectual and motivational material and from students who have to work longer hours to meet expenses, education becomes transformed into a bean-counting ritual. We still know how to grant degrees, but in many fields education has become so bureaucratized that we have forgotten what the goal of an education is.
And there is a market test.
More than half of all Silicon Valley start-ups were the results of the creative power of immigrants. Draining the intellectual power of the rest of the world has worked well for us. But when these students find educational and economic opportunities closer to home, there will be a profoundly negative impact on our higher education system. Some of these students might find that having to fulfill a cultural requirement with a class in “the lesser lesbian poets” is a sufficient enough turnoff to think about educational opportunities elsewhere.
More to the point, when these students discover that the vaunted degree program they signed up for has been made less rigorous, for whatever reason, they will consider those opportunities.
UNUSUAL ADVICE FOR ILLINOISANS. The Northern Illinois University volleyball team have been playing well, and a sportswriter for the Northern Star welcomes the following they have developed.

The 1,000 people that showed up at Victor E. Court to watch NIU take on Wisconsin should serve as a sobering reminder to all the teams that struggle to get people in the stands. You can create all the marketing campaigns and all the promotions that you want: in the end, fans aren't going to come out to watch a team that's not capable of winning on a consistent basis.

The volleyball team is serving as the perfect example: people want to see a winner. If you win, they will come.

That Wisconsin match, where the visitors brought a noisy contingent with them, is still the team's only loss. The last sentence, however, is jarring. I see a lot of Cubs and White Sox apparel around campus, perhaps the Black Hawks jerseys will come out when the Gales of November come slashing.

20.9.10

NO CONSPIRACY REQUIRED. I've banned Regnery books from the 50 Book Challenge because they're polemical mental floss. If Bill Press's Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right has Poisoned America's Airwaves is representative of Thomas Dunne Books, Book Review No. 21 will be that publisher's only appearance in the Challenge.

There is much that a serious commentator could do to take on conservative talk radio. On occasion, Mr. Press, occasional Democrat strategist and peripatetic radio and television commentator, attempts something serious. For the most part, however, it's tu quoque and ad hominem and accusations that the opposition is inconsistent. But when the author finds Mike Malloy's epithets for President Bush 43 entertaining, and Mark Levin's epithets slurs, it drives even a backslid Protestant to Matthew 7.

There is substance to Mr. Press's claims. I'll focus on three points: first, that media concentration favors the syndication of conservative talk, this reinforced by the propensity of the producers to give the programming away; second, that conservative talk radio has powerful financial angels behind it; third, that many of the talkers are angry people reaching out to other angry and alienated people. In his world, these points interact to create and maintain a social pathology.

Let me use his own words. Open your books to page 239.
To one outspoken, provocative, hate-filled person at the microphone, add any number of ignorant, angry, paranoid, nervous, and worried listeners who tune in every day to find out what to think and whom to hate -- and voila!, you have perfect talk radio.

For better or worse, liberals are more complicated. That's what makes them liberals. They embrace complexity and nuance. They don't want to be spoon-fed the issues, they want to debate the issues. They don't want to be told what to think, they want to be challenged to think -- and even disagree. They may be liberal, but they're not necessarily always loyal. Talk show hosts can't even count on their coming back every day. Because they have minds of their own, and enjoy setting their own course.
It's harder to sell advertising time, if the intended customers don't come back every day. The failing in that paragraph, however, is the conjuring trick, using liberal in the sense of the liberal arts, which is to say, open to conflicting points of view. Thus, for instance, a listener who might have Rush Limbaugh or Mike Malloy or Keith Olbermann or Bill O'Reilly on as background, and who is muttering nonsense, nonsense, no matter which chatterbox is chattering, might have found a subtlety in Reason or The National Review -- or perhaps The Progressive got out of its degenerate artist and Latin American prison rut and did something relevant -- that makes the latest soundbite ring false. That sort of liberalism transcends ideologies. In Mr Press's formulation, however, the liberalism of the liberal arts morphs into the ideology of the left wing of the Democratic Party.
One choice, available everywhere, which greatly appeals to liberals because of its smart, in-depth, and consistently independent reporting and analysis is public radio. It's well documented that NPR programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and others cut deeply into the potential listening audience for progressive talk radio. According to Arbitron ... public radio listeners "overindex" for Democrats at 110 and "underindex" for Republicans at 90. In other words, the percentage of Democrats who listen to public radio is higher than the percentage of U.S. citizens who are Democrats.
Mr Press contends that public radio is not properly part of progressive talk radio, a point I'll concede as the only call-in show I'm aware of on that network is about auto repair. I also gave up on public radio on Labor Day 1990, when, after a year of reporting on the liberation of the Captive Nations in which the reporters seemed unenthusiastic about the dominoes falling, All Things Considered ended its Labor Day show with Pete Seeger singing The Internationale.

In this paragraph, however, we're not discussing the liberalism of the liberal arts, we're talking about that part of the Democratic Party that, whether it calls itself liberal or progressive, sees in each crisis an opportunity for an expanded government.

Technocrats, you see, are pretty good at pulling the right policy levers, and Wise Experts can always design legislation and write the subsequent rules to Improve The General Welfare.













The vast right-wing conspiracy might have put money into promoting talk radio, and more than a few of Rush Limbaugh's listeners might be disaffected. But without the accumulating evidence of the failures of the best and the brightest, accompanied by the establishment press twisting itself into pretzels to show the failed policies in the best possible light, there would be no large listening audience to support the advertisers that make the talk radio business model work.

The business model is a straightforward bundle. Local radio stations do not have to pay syndication fees. A station gets the content, Mr Press says, "for free" and it must devote some of its commercial time to advertisements the talk show has sold. These are the famous EIB Profit Center breaks. The local station also obtains a few time slots each hour for local sponsors. The success of the national program makes those advertising slots more valuable, ceteris paribus.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

SPELL OUT THE TRADE-OFFS. At Phi Beta Cons, Roger Clegg has the Trenchant Observation of the Day. He's referring to some Chronicle of Higher Education material on diversity that's behind the subscription wall at home. (Look for an update with links when I get to a computer at work).

But let me focus on the prominent pull-quote in the first piece on old-fashioned diversity: “One of the most damaging beliefs is that diversity and quality are mutually exclusive.”

Let’s analyze this. By “diversity,” it’s clear from the rest of the piece that what’s meant is, indeed, more people of particular races and ethnicities. And I suspect that the “damaging belief” is not that such diversity is itself inconsistent with quality, but that selecting individuals (whether faculty or students) with an eye on achieving such diversity will compromise quality.

With that elaboration, let me explain why this damaging belief is so persistent: It is true.

And not only true, but undeniable. If your aim is to select individuals based simply on quality A, then if you weigh factors other than quality A in making your selection, you will fail in your aim. You will be giving quality A less relative weight if you weigh other things along with it than if you don’t. If you want to choose the tallest people, then you cannot make your selection based on height and weight. And if you want to hire people of the highest quality (smartest, hardest working, etc.), then you cannot make your selection based on quality and skin color.

Old-style affirmative action, as practiced 40 years ago, encouraged search committees to treat minority status as a plus factor in a choice among candidates of otherwise equal quality. The tradeoff became the dirty little secret in the aftermath of Bakke.

To some extent, the Chronicle articles and the Phi Beta Cons reaction strike me as more obsession over a very small part of higher education. It does no good, for instance, for a search committee at a cash-strapped mid-major to sit through diversity training and make special efforts to diversify the candidate pool, when the cash-strapped mid-major authorizes a pay package and job description that are not competitive with those offered elsewhere.
IT'S ABOUT TIME. A new Illinois law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, the way it's been done west of the Mississippi for some time.

The former crosswalk law in Illinois required drivers to yield to pedestrians and stop only when necessary.

Now, drivers must stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks — even those that are unmarked or don't have a stop sign or a traffic signal. The penalty for failing to stop is a traffic citation of $50 to $500. Fines vary by county.

The new law also applies to instances in which a pedestrian enters the crosswalk against a "Don't Walk" signal or a red light, just as the old law required drivers to yield in such cases, officials said.

But police said they are not focusing enforcement on those types of situations.

In Chicago, police are enhancing some forms of crosswalk enforcement (the article makes reference to a sting) but the streets remain mean.

The situation can be even worse downtown, where a vehicles-versus-pedestrians culture seems to flourish unchecked. Simply walking across Adams Street outside Chicago Union Station at rush hour can feel like you're taking a big risk, as pedestrians dodge cars, buses and cabs and then must maneuver around the panhandlers and assorted vendors clogging the sidewalks near the curb.

It's a mystery why such mayhem is tolerated by city or Amtrak police. The highest volume of pedestrian traffic downtown is right there at Adams and the Chicago River outside the station, according to a study conducted for the city.

Perhaps a ban on right turns on red lights, Manhattan-style, and a prohibition of left turns from two-way streets to two-way streets will help tame the traffic. Failing that, Cold Spring Shops endorses more vigorous use of the red-light cameras against the rolling right turn on red. You know the one: the cell-phone yakker, looking only to the left, rolls through the crosswalk that has the light, into the turn, and if there is nobody close, rolls through the remaining crosswork, making a right turn on red without stopping.

19.9.10

AMERIKA, DU HAT ES BESSER. Der Spiegel offers a roundup of German commentary on political developments in the United States, including this gem from Handelsblatt.
In the US, people ... spend time and money supporting the Republicans. Unlike in Germany, in America, which never had a Hitler, being 'right-wing' is not taboo. 'Right-wing' represents Reagan, religion, the free market, individualism, patriotism and small government. In reality, it is an impossible mixture: National pride, God and tradition are conservative 'us' values. The profit motive, competition and a weak state are 'me-first' sentiments ... . But this mixture of conservative values and neoliberalism works well in America, where it transcends social class -- that's the difference to Germany.
Sure, there are fearmongers who see the totalitarian potential in ordinary voters pushing back against the technocrats. It is, however, the tension between what a German might understand as conservative values (nationalism and One Faith) and what a German does not understand (freedom of enterprise, freedom of choice) that keeps the pushback from becoming either tyranny or anarchy. Or, to steal a phrase from the diversoids, a salad dressing is also an impossible mixture. And, forgive the rudeness, what is so right-wing about affirmative action for Bavarians underrepresented (relative to Prussians) in the officer class or (relative to Jews) in retail and banking, or voluntary deprivation to spare food for people more hungry than you?
WILL THE SUNDOWN TOWN LEGEND GET NEW LEGS? A number of towns are again sounding the curfew.

The wailing of a curfew siren, usually from the local fire hall, was for many years a tradition in small towns across the USA.

"When that siren went off, it was 10 p.m. and curfew. No matter where you were, you were beating feet to get home," said Rick Olson, who grew up in Montello, Wis., a town about 100 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Olson spent his boyhood adhering to the curfew siren.

Today, that nightly siren endures, and Olson, 40 — Montello's police chief — enforces it.

In some communities that siren - rightly or wrongly - carries a different meaning.
The most glaring such illustration is the tradition of the six p.m. siren, which residents of at least one Illinois town told him, or not, was a reminder to any Blacks doing business in that town. At that town's latitude, six p.m. is after sunset five months out of the year, and long before sunset three months. As a reinforcement of oral tradition, however, it works. That oral tradition served as the principal technology of control.
A siren sounding each night at ten p.m. does not appeal to everybody.

The sound of the curfew siren in Palmerton, Pa., isn't so comforting to Kathleen Rehrig, 60, who lives within 200 yards of it.

The siren in the borough 80 miles north of Philadelphia blows to mark the noon hour — a vestige of the shift-change whistle at the old zinc factory that was central to the community — and again nightly at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to note the curfew.

"As we're sitting on the porch on a summer's evening, and 10 o'clock comes around, and the dogs start barking and the babies start screaming, it's not very pleasant," said Rehrig, who's lived in the borough all her life.

Rehrig, her husband, Glenn, and her son and neighbor, Seth, have circulated postcard petitions in the borough of 5,200 residents in recent months, trying to get the curfew whistle silenced.

"It's turned into a bit of a battle in Palmerton," Kathleen Rehrig said. "It's a siren. People have gotten emotional about it. I can't work up any nostalgia for a 140-decibel siren at 10 p.m."

I recall quiet nights in Milwaukee. When the wind was calm, the quarter-hour chimes from Blessed Sacrament Church at 40th and Oklahoma were audible at 79th and Morgan, and assorted factory whistles from the Menomonee Valley suggested that the end of the third shift came at 11 pm Central plus or minus the timekeeper's margin of error. All gone, now, probably to the relief of people living closer to those whistles.

There was a public service announcement on television. "It is 11 p.m. Do you City of Milwaukee parents know where your children are?"
WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL. Buffalo has twelve men on the field, with one in the neutral zone at the snap, and the Packers score anyway. (The player who caught the touchdown pass waited for the ruling on the field before his Lambeau Leap.)

16.9.10

THE PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED FAILS THE MARKET TEST. The dean at Anonymous Community looks for ways to develop cultural capital.

At Proprietary U, all degree students were required to take a Career Development class before graduating. (They typically took it in their last or second-to-last semester.) It covered the basics of resume writing, interview etiquette, and even professional dress. The idea was to ensure that the students didn’t sabotage themselves with presentation styles that suggested that they wouldn’t fit in a professional setting. It was badly needed; I recall intercepting one student I knew on the way to an interview and suggesting that he lose the “do rag” first. I couldn’t imagine doing that here.

In the more elite provinces of higher education, a course like that would probably be considered redundant, if not insulting. When you have students mostly from upper-middle-class or just plain wealthy backgrounds, you can usually assume some level of attendant cultural capital; they know how to present themselves in certain settings. (They often choose not to, but they can when they focus.)

But if you’re in the first generation of your family to go to college, and the folks around you are blue collar or marginally employed, the world of the professional workplace may be mysterious. The skills that the Swarthmores of the world could largely take for granted may or may not be there.

His challenge is nothing new. I recall an article in the Milwaukee Journal, probably 35 years ago, about an interview preparation seminar Wisconsin-Milwaukee (in those years much more of a commuter-nontraditional enterprise than I understand it has become) provided to prevent horror stories including an interviewee whose mother pressed his shirts rather aggressively (scorch marks aren't pretty) and another who grossed out the recruiting team at breakfast by putting peanut butter on a slice of toast, folding the slice into a manageable ball, and snarfing the ball in one gulp. On occasion Northern Illinois offers a one-day golf etiquette seminar wherein the focus is on the social aspects of a business outing, rather than the finer points of the sand wedge.

In those days, however, we did not have social theorists who produce neither theorems nor testable implications, but who can provide amusement, to mau-mau the education system into viewing cultural capital as a social construct worthy of deconstruction or transformation. It is interesting to read the suggestions the dean's readers offer, particularly when they offer opportunities for the students to self-select (what makes clods so charming is their self-unawareness) or they attempt to square their constructivist views with their desire that students don't toast-fold their way out of the middle class.

The root cause of the dean's problem, however, is with the constructivists.
To do so would require the colleges of education to lose their fascination with Rousseau and understand their objective as preparing teachers to develop the habits of the middle class in youngsters. Oppressive as that sounds, it is less oppressive than allowing youngsters to believe that anything goes.
I wrote that post just before I crashed my bike. Today I was released from rehab with a home program. I'll soon be back at fighting weight, and there has been no shortage of stuff for me to throw roundhouse rights at.
BLINKERED VISION? Blogs for Industry notes that Texas A&M's Vision 2020 encounters resistance from state government.

As the state's universities are bracing for a potential 10 percent funding cut, Gov. Rick Perry was asked by a Houston Chronicle reporter about the reductions. His answers riled some, who believe they are misleading and show Texas' top official doesn't have a grasp of how research universities such as Texas A&M work.

In the interview printed last week, Perry was asked about layoffs and buyouts of experienced faculty. He was quoted as saying, "We're laying off professors because there was a huge hiring increase that went on in the mid-2000s and these people are not even in the classrooms teaching our kids. I totally support that concept. Reductions in personnel that are nonessential at universities is good fiscal management."

Perry's campaign did not dispute the accuracy of the comments. A spokesman said Perry is a supporter of research universities, noting that he signed legislation last year that promotes the creation of more top-tier research universities in Texas.

"Just like families, and businesses, and corporations throughout the state, universities have to make the difficult decision of where their resources are being spent," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "Those resources should be in the classroom. The goal here is to educate students."

A&M's plan intends to raise the university's visibility. As such, it is a sensible response to the excess demand for perceived prestige. The state is pursuing a false economy: lower the profile, drive the competitive faculty away, discourage enrollments.

We can look forward to gripes about the most famous academicians in Texas being lured away to cushy billets elsewhere. (Yes, and the highway commissioner can, with equal justification, gripe about the price of steel going up because BNSF and Union Pacific are double- and triple-tracking their main lines.)

15.9.10

CONTEMPLATING THE WRONG BUBBLE, AGAIN. At Phi Beta Cons, David French anticipates a market test for weak universities.
Can any given college withstand 10 percent enrollment decreases without layoffs or without painful cuts? And a 10 percent loss wouldn’t fall evenly.
Bring it.
A special task force on right-sizing (Nineties-speak for strategic planning) determined that our enrollment target was around 19,000 students. (When I started in 1986, our enrollments were around 24,000, and there were 23 tenure-track faculty in economics. That task force determined our faculty size to be 15 for that 19,000. We are currently nine for the 25,400.)
With a ten percent enrollment decrease my colleagues and I might be able to give our students the kind of attention headquarters would like to provide them. That right-sizing exercise was supposed to manage a 20 percent retrenchement.

Mr French is focusing on that same small subset of colleges and universities that serve that same small subset of the population.
The world’s best universities always have a market for their educational product. But what of the legions of second-tier private schools that cost nearly as much as the nation’s best? Could they withstand a 15 percent or 20 percent loss?
Not relevant to the land-grants and the mid-majors. Our student body looks more upscale this year (the traffic jams at class-changing time have a lot of spectacular iron on display), perhaps as some parents see the financial advantage (regressive transfer or not) of a less pricey option for their kids.

Never mind that when those kids arrive, they might see Mr French's future, if they know where to look.
The world of the bursting bubble may not feature shuttered universities (though certainly some smaller private or public universities may fail); it is more likely to be a world of layoffs, of hiring freezes, of aging infrastructure, and of empty or half-full buildings. Bitter faculty, angry students, and besieged administrators would change the psychology of campus, making the situation feel much worse than it will be.
We have plans for the renovation of the Stevens Building and Cole Hall, but the heavy equipment has not yet moved in. Some stairwells remain partially out of service for floor or tread repair. The diving well in the pool is closed (as the rest of the pool is safe, a noncompliant drain at the bottom of the well is quarantined).

We have avoided furloughs, although the University of Illinois system has not.

My explorations of other academic weblogs also suggest high student-to-faculy ratios and stressed departments at state colleges and universities beyond Illinois.

Is it too much to ask that the peanut gallery on occasion note the experience of the majority of actually existing university students and faculty?
CATTLE CHUTES, CATTLE STANCHIONS, CATTLE PLANES. In order to herd more passengers aboard a plane, behold the Sky Rider seat.

"We feel extremely confident that this concept will ... have great appeal to airlines for economic purposes," Dominique Menoud, the company's director general, told USA Today.

“For flights anywhere from one to possibly even up to three hours ... this would be comfortable seating.

“The seat ... is like a saddle. Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle."

Yee-haw! To make the experience more authentic, give the gate attendants lariats, whips, and chaps. Git along, dogies, we are about to begin the boarding process.

The seat looks like something from a standing roller coaster, where at least each row of seats has a boarding corral at the station.

Short-haul passenger trains are going to rustle passengers from the air carriers, this time by default.
IGOR, JULIA, KARL. If the Hurricane Naming Convention can get this right, why do so many people struggle to spell my last name?

14.9.10

THE LAND GRANTS, THE MID-MAJORS, AND THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES.

The dean at Anonymous Community reads more silly navel-gazing at the New York Times, and offers the Trenchant Observation of the Day.
Here’s a thought. Instead of wringing our hands over the poor lost souls who miss out on Dartmouth and have to settle for Bucknell -- oh, the humanity! -- let’s send some fraction of that money and time and money and focus and money to the institutions that actually educate most Americans: the non-elite publics. That would mean community colleges, and it would also mean most of the four-year state colleges. You know, the backbone of the middle f*****g class. Those schools. The ones that actually compete with the for-profits, and that provide the best hope for most people. The ones that have taken draconian cuts even while their enrollments have risen. Those.
Yes, the ones that Charlie Sykes describes in Profscam (page 261) as where "the middle class is stuck in academic gulags created by the professors' culture." The academic gulags are more properly the product of access-assessment-remediation-retention and the Diversity Boondoggle, and treating the for-profits as the competition, let alone as the model, is a mistake.

The dean, however, is on to something.
I’m tired of watching mysteriously-annointed experts solve the wrong problem. Times, if you’re the least bit serious about higher education -- a colossal ‘if,’ I’ll admit -- would it actually, physically kill you to acknowledge the colleges to which most Americans go? And when you do, could it please be in the same section of the paper as the stories about safety schools and selective admissions? The blind, smug elitism is really getting to be a bit much, even for you. Community colleges are news fit to print, too. Honestly.
A bull session of prodigious length has ensued. The issue, however, is precisely that the U.S. News rankings exist because at the margin, many parents and students seek an experience more like Harvard (or Wisconsin before it went sports-mad) and less like a diploma mill. Institutions of higher education that fail to grasp this point may be reinforcing social stratification.

A participant in Dean Dad's bull session recommended a Historiann post that sees the social stratification at work.
All I can conclude is that the people writing these “high cost of higher ed” articles is that they 1) never looked at a state university themselves, nor did they ever consider sending their children to one, and 2) in spite of attending the nation’s top schools, they managed to avoid any courses in economics, where they might have learned about the concepts of supply and demand, or a seller’s market. Some universities have very expensive tuition, room and board charges, yes–because they can. There are enough upper middle-class and wealthy parents who are desperate to have these institutions cash their checks. And the bonus is that they get to brag to people about how ridiculously expensive it is to send their children to college, some of them in the pages of America’s top newspapers.
What have I been saying about excess demand for prestige degrees? It's not quite "Somebody in Authority Sees It the Same Way": all the same I sense we're out of the wilderness and sidling to the left. There is a bull session on an entirely different topic over there; by all means, take it in.

Minding the Campus presents an unsparing Peter Sacks review of several recent books that also makes the social stratification point.
The real elephant in the room that these books largely ignore, instead making glancing blows at some of the symptoms of decline and damage, is the growing class divide in American higher education and the consequences of this growing divide. American colleges and universities are working exceedingly well for some families and their children -- those near or at the top of the social, cultural and economic hierarchy. The system is not working well for students and families who lack the social, economic and cultural capital that the higher education system rewards in terms of access, the opportunity to learn and stay in school, and ultimately, completing a college degree.
Thus, when Chicago State is a dropout factory with a corrupt administration, when Valdosta State sells itself as "endless possibilities for outdoor fun" while sanctioning a student for protesting a parking lot, when Palm Beach State is a dropout factory with thought police, it is these academic gulags that deserve special attention, for operating academic gulags that promise but fail to deliver upward advancement, it matters. To repeat: students at Dartmouth or Berkeley or Northern Illinois know how to stand up for themselves.

And when (to scroll through University Diaries) Louisville or North Carolina or Kentucky or Mississippi State or Tennessee put beer-'n-circus and seat licenses ahead of academics, it matters. Back to Peter Sacks.
At the same time, the least selective institutions -- the "party schools" that [Craig The Five-Year Party] Brandon denigrates -- are turning into educational reservations for the poor and working-class -- people who are being trained to serve the leadership class. Indeed, the higher education system over the past generation has become more deeply stratified between colleges that primarily serve low-income and minority students and selective institutions that serve affluent students. In 1972, for instance, about a quarter of the students at community colleges were from low-income families. By 2002, 43 percent of community college students were from low-income households.
Thus, when [Andrew] Hacker and [Claudia] Driefus complain in Higher Education? about the "triumph of training," disdainful that students at many colleges are permitted to earn bachelor's degrees in such fields as photojournalism, landscape architecture, adult development and aging, ceramic engineering, and so on, while praising the liberal arts and sciences as genuinely worthy of a college education, they fail to fully appreciate the class distinctions.
In fact, given how our society has chosen to allocate educational resources, training -- provided by institutions of lower rank -- has become a necessity for those born unlucky. Education, by contrast, is fast becoming a privilege of the rich, who can study the liberal arts to their hearts' content, travel to Europe for a summer abroad, acquire a most desirable internship at a New York publishing house, and cap it all off with a first job with Teach for America before quitting to go back to grad school or law school and landing their first real job on Wall Street.
Read that review carefully; Mr Sacks raises a number of points worthy of further study. I choose to focus on two things. First, the failure of K-12 to equip students, particularly students from poorer neighborhoods -- for whatever reason -- with the reasoning skills to handle calculus and laboratory science and logic and the social skills of the upper middle class is no way to create photojournalists or landscape architects, let alone entry-level engineers and accountants.

I disagree with some of Mr Sacks's analysis. He suggests states have broken the social compact with higher education, inducing social stratification based on ability to pay. I submit that higher education has broken the social compact with the citizenry, by substituting a misguided inclusiveness and access-assessment-remediation-retention for common standards, in such a way as to antagonize precisely the well-to-do people who in previous years would have sent their kids to the local state university.

Second, the distinction between the liberal arts and vocational training isn't always clear. I submit a recent Wall Street Journal ranking (via Tax Prof) of universities by corporate recruiters. The sub-headline of the article tells the tale. "Companies Favor Big State Schools With One-Stop Shopping for Graduates With Necessary Skills." The top nine are large state universities, many with engineering and undergraduate business colleges, with three of the top five and six of the top twenty from the Big Ten. There are undoubted economies of sending a recruiting team to a university or college-wide job fair. The correlation with big time football might not be an accident.
Recruiters say graduates of top public universities are often among the most prepared and well-rounded academically, and companies have found they fit well into their corporate cultures and over time have the best track record in their firms.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is fiction, and The Organization Man material for a History of the Sixties course, or perhaps as supplemental reading in Mad Men Studies. Corporate America, however, can be as obsessed with "fit" as the most recondite English department, and desirous of hires that can be stationed in whatever Reloville is home to the entry-level technician or middle manager or executive vice president without causing trouble.
[Author Peter Kilborn] suggests that most of the residents of Reloville have degrees from "public universities of the Great Plains and the Midwest" (see page 217), or, more accurately, from the land-grant football factories of the old Big Eight and Big Ten (but he doesn't specifically mention Michigan, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, which feed workers to Chicago and the Twin Cities in the same way the Ivies supply the Northeast Corridor, and his Illinois examples might be outliers) located in states without major cities or major corporate headquarters. And the principal interest of many of the Relos he interviews, male or female, appear to be running and playing tennis and watching football. Perhaps we're seeing a new form of Babbitts, no longer confined to Gopher Prairie, but with no reason to take an interest in the quality of life of whatever Upscale Prairie they are inhabiting for the next two years. Perhaps, also, those land-grants do not have to fret either about a comprehensive academic mission (entry-level job preparation is sufficient) or about a brain drain as long as the football programs are successful. That's clearly a topic for future research.
The corporate recruiters, if the Journal is to be believed, are revealing a preference for the graduates of the land grants, and I was wrong about the University of Illinois. Still open for research is whether holders of entry-level degrees in engineering or business are more likely to ascend to executive vice president or chairman than are holders of liberal arts degrees.

Again, however, the students from poorer neighborhoods aren't getting the educational fundamentals or the life-management skills to enroll at the land-grants, let alone to make an impression at the job fair.