30.1.11

DICING FOR THE REDEEMER'S ROBES.  That's a hyperbolic way to introduce Book Review No. 6; on the other hand one keeps waiting for Paul Clemens to work a "forgive them for they know not what they do" into Punching Out:  One Year in a Closing Auto Plant.

As a work of business reporting with an emphasis on Who's interesting?, What's compelling?, Why isn't that really odd?, Punching Out is fine.  Think Richard Preston's American Steel, but instead of the protagonists beating back the imports and the legacy steel companies, the protagonists are plucking the Arsenal of Democracy for the Harpies of Outsourcing.  The people who disassemble precision industrial equipment, in the instant book the stamping presses of Budd's Detroit works, are at least as colorful as the people who build a steel works and bring a thin slab caster on stream.

The political economy that occasionally intrudes is less compelling.  Mr Clemens takes umbrage at a Steven Landsburg criticism of trade adjustment legislation that includes this:
If you're forced to pay $20 an hour to an American for goods you could have bought from a Mexican for $5 an hour, you're being extorted.  When a free trade agreement allows you to buy from the Mexican after all, rejoice in your liberation -- even if Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and the rest of the presidential candidates don't want you to.
It is difficult to contemplate Detroit without reflection on the concentrated, unionized new industrial state that dominated the world economy immediately after World War II, the rationality of people hiring out at those plants as the best thing to do, even if it involved migrating from the agricultural south, the distortion of middle-class ambition into making sure your kids could replace you at the same job, the incentive those Mexican, Brazilian, and Korean industrialists had to emulate Fordist methods, and the case in equity that Detroiters who made what looked like the best choice at the time present to the rest of the country.

That contemplation probably has no place in a first-hand report on the people who are attempting to adjust to their new circumstances at the same time that other people are making their living stripping the press lines.  Mr. Clemens's response -- see page 160 -- is less helpful.
Spoken like a man with tenure -- at a university that extorts parents to the tune of fifty thousand dollars per year.  Perhaps parents might send their college-age kids to school in Mexico semester after semester, year after year, allowing them to earn a degree for a fraction of the cost that supports Professor Landsburg's teaching load and research agenda?
Once upon a time, that was the mission of city colleges.  Their students might not have the money or the social connections of their counterparts at Rochester, but they, too, could struggle with Paradise Lost or the intricacies of the hyperbolic sine.  More recently, though ... I learned my cynicism at Wayne State: "access" is a euphemism for "admit unprepared students"; "non-traditional students" means "lacking life-management skills"; "urban mission" is "enabling mediocrity".  Mr Clemens is Associate Director of College Information in Liberal Arts, my old college.  Perhaps parents pay those higher rates at Rochester precisely to avoid the intellectual dead zone that accompanies the lower rates and the lofty sentiments.

In an aside elsewhere in the book, he remarks on a job candidate who used "creative destruction" to describe what was happening to Detroit.  He expressed relief that the candidate did not hire out at Wayne.  Says more about him, and about Detroit, than it does about the candidate.

Detroit, nay, large parts of the Rust Belt, will continue to lose ground as long as the remaining thinking people cling to their old ways.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
COMMUTERS DON'T CHECK BAGGAGE. Metra and the operators of the Ogilvie Transportation Center decided that unused space previously devoted to storage or left idle in the old North Western Terminal complex could be put to commercial use. Thus, a baggage handling area north of the commuter concourse became a French market. (Yes, Philadelphia's Reading Terminal had a produce market under that train shed years ago. It's a good idea all the same, and the commuter concourse is open again on Saturday, at least during market hours.)


The computer-controlled annunciator boards replaced some truly marvellous train indicators that for many years were re-set by hand after each train, with the hands of a clock spun to the departure time, and strips of wood with the station stops slid into slots underneath.


There's not a lot of seating, and the few tables set about the edge of the room are perilously close to the hustle of commuters rushing to their trains. On a Saturday morning, it's pretty quiet.


Because it's a Saturday morning, the stalls of the market proper get started slowly. There was coffee and French pastry to be had, if you knew where to look.

The market visit was prologue.  The weather forecast was tolerable (for once) and a train ride can be restorative.  At Union Station, a train ride to a college basketball game was in order for a number of Syracuse fans, on their way to watch their Orange play the team formerly known as the Marquette Warriors.  The spirit of Al McGuire was with Marquette, or perhaps it was the intervention of Our Lady of the Sewer Socialists.


The mosaic, a gift of several parishioners, adorns Old St. Mary's Church, which is represented along with City Hall, the Gas Light of the Weather Forecast, and the First Wisconsin office tower, blending the modern image in the iconic Italian style. She faces the Frank Zeidler Municipal Building.

My destination that afternoon was the Milwaukee School of Engineering's Grohmann Museum, a collection devoted to artistic representation of things agricultural and manual. The visiting exhibit is "Lake Boats."

Jim Brozek worked on the winter maintenance crews during the 1970s, and the Port Captain gave him permission to take photographs during breaks, and of the work, subject to safety considerations.



Presumably this occurred just before Miller Time. Mr Brozek finished his work before jihadi videos adopted this grouping as a signature style.



A needle gun is not a toy, and playing with one in front of a safety message simply shipfitter humor.

Christopher Winters also worked the Lakes.


Autumn at Johnson's Point

Edward J. Ryerson on the St. Mary's River. The photo description notes "archival inkjet print". So much for darkroom technique?

Decision time: watch the end of the basketball game at the Milwaukee Ale House, or catch an earlier train? It was not a bad day to be outside. The signage at Red Arrow Park advises that the Starbucks is open all year. The skating rink is seasonal.


Go for the early train. Amtrak Hiawatha 338, Milwaukee to Chicago, 29 January 2011: cabbage car 90224, Horizon coaches 54584, 54561, 54522, 54527, 54513, Amfleet coach 82770, Genesis 817 pushing. Temperature 31 degrees (F) and mostly cloudy, dry rail. Superintendent's watch not synchronized to a standard clock, go 2:59:16, Milwaukee airport 3:09:09 - 3:10:35, Sturtevant 3:24:36 - 3:25:20, Glenview 4:01:12 - 4:02:06, meet 7 - 27 at Edgebrook 4:08, Mayfair 4:10:43 with light braking, pass Pacific Junction 4:14:20, stop in Chicago 4:24:30. 85 Minute Train.

The Amcoach must have been sent west for some reason without a full cleaning, as a number of the seat pockets contained copies of the November-December 2010 issue of Arrive, the promotional magazine of the northeastern Acela service. Perhaps there's an opportunity for some comparative reading, as in the Cold Spring Shops stacks of stuff to be archived or tossed are magazines for some of the British and German intercity services.

The theme of the magazine is "home for the holidays", fittingly enough for trains in the Thanksgiving-Christmas time slot. Look closely at that cover.


Baltimore station, before the high level platforms and the Metroliner project, and those coaches are unmistakably P70s of The Pennsylvania Railroad.

The Milwaukee Road, er, Amtrak, delivered me to Chicago in time to catch the 4:40 to Elburn without breaking a sweat.  (Hooray for the north exit from tracks 13/15). Further north in the North Western Station, the first floor of the power house has been converted into taverns. The Iron Horse offers good beer and lots of C&NW publicity photos on the wall for those occasions when the next train is over an hour away.
HEIRS TO THE BLUE COLLAR ARISTOCRATS.  Milwaukee's public schools used to prepare them, and the skilled trades require creative people Shepherd Express reports that the tradition and the potential are still present.
Milwaukee is known for our beer, our manufacturing might, our motorcycles and, most recently, for our water industry.
But a theme running through those industries is our creativity, built on generations of skilled, hardworking artisans and craftsmen and -women.
That creative thread is being highlighted by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee, which released a study last week on southeastern Wisconsin’s surprising jobs potential in the creative industries.
Not only does the region’s creativity reflect our past, but it also could lead to greater global competitiveness in the future.
The study, which was commissioned by the Cultural Alliance and the Greater Milwaukee Committee, was conducted by Mt. Auburn Associates, which has analyzed the economic impact of the creative industry around the world.
When the study was released with much fanfare last week, Mt. Auburn researcher Michael Kane called the region’s creative depth and breadth “absolutely remarkable” and encouraged policy-makers to think of our creative industries as “one element in a diversified portfolio” that can be marketed to other regions and countries to bring revenue to the area.
“Southeast Wisconsin’s economy and prosperity will depend less on how much it produces and more on what it produces, less on its cost of living and more on quality of living, less on its workers’ skills and more on its people’s talents, less on corporate identities and more on entrepreneurial energies,” the report concluded. “Thus, prosperity will result from creativity that, directly and indirectly, produces employment, makes other sectors more competitive, contributes to making the region more desirable, makes people more innovative, and recognizes and rewards the talent that may lie outside the mainstream career pathways.”
It's still about creating the things that enable other, less clever people, to be more productive, whether they're in Detroit or Datong.
“We’re a maker economy,” said Christine Harris, head of the Cultural Alliance.
Product design is an integral part of our area’s most iconic products and images. Think of the "rolling sculpture" of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the distinctive shape and color of your average beer bottle, the functionality of GE Healthcare’s medical devices, Faythe Levine’s do-it-yourself “Handmade Nation,” and the elegance of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava addition, which quickly became the symbol of the city.
Milwaukee was even home to one of the nation’s first industrial designers, Brooks Stevens, whose designs range from the model for Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Miller Brewing’s logo to engines for Briggs & Stratton and Outboard Marine.
Ironically, the importance of product design is relatively unappreciated by the area’s manufacturers, Mt. Auburn’s researchers found. They urged the region's manufacturers to look toward product design—and not lower cost—to increase their global competitiveness.
“[Manufacturers’] best chance for its employers to withstand the global cost-based competition will be to be more creative, to use design in ways that distinguish and differentiate its products, and to make them more desirable because they appeal to customers in ways that mass-produced products cannot—something the region’s most successful companies have been doing for decades.”
Whether the city's schools have squandered that cultural capital, or whether do-it-yourself design on a computer is within the reach of any thirteen year old with enough Snickers bars in the freezer remains to be seen.
LAST PICKED, BUT STILL AN ALL-STAR.  The National Hockey League tries something new in the All-Star game: rather than assign players by conference, the team captains take turns picking the teams.  That introduces strategic considerations.
Martin St. Louis of Team Lidstrom and Eric Staal of Team Staal have made mention to the fact that they would like to select their teammates for the upcoming All-Star game. Team Staal's selection committee consists of captain Eric Staal (Carolina Hurricanes) and alternate captains Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) and Mike Green (Washington Capitals). Under this notion Team Staal would be looking to select Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes), Henrik and Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks), and Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals). Team Lidstrom's selection camp consists of captain Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings), and alternate captains Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks). They would be looking to select Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) and Patrick Sharp, also of Chicago. At the same time, the opposition may be looking to select teammates of the opposing selection committee just to throw off their draft plans.
The rules require all goaltenders to be taken by the tenth round, and all defenders by the fifteenth.  Thus, a forward has to be picked last.
After 34 players came off the board, it came down to Toronto's Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche to determine who would be All-Star hockey's first "Mr. Irrelevant." Kessel earned the dubious distinction of being the last pick when Stastny was chosen by Team Staal.
"I'm just happy to be here," said Kessel, who acknowledged that the wait was nerve-racking.
He didn't leave empty-handed, however. He was awarded with a new car, and a donation will also be made to a charity of Kessel's choice.
The forwards had the last laugh, with Lindstrom defeating Staal, 11-10.  Who's the sieve?

28.1.11

PILING ON.  I've been looking for a copy of Academically Adrift.  The commentary from people who have obtained a copy and been able to read it is compelling.  Jason Fertig posts a paragraph excerpt at Phi Beta Cons.
Only the most cynical policy analyst could advocate “college for all” without simultaneously demanding that once admitted into college, students would be compelled to demonstrate significant academic growth. Otherwise, “college for all” becomes little more than a policy designed for warehousing students during the years when they would otherwise face an elevated risk of unemployment and criminal behavior.
"Students pay some hefty storage charges at these warehouses," he quips.

Mark Bauerlein's Minding the Campus post frets about the tradeoff higher education faces.
But colleges are in a bind either way. They are under pressure to open access and keep retention rates high. But the obvious solution to the low-learning problem---raise standards, assign more reading and writing, increase rigor---might improve test scores, but the other rates will fall. That is, if homework goes up and assignments get more rigorous, dropouts and flunk-outs will rise as well. At the very least, grades will plummet. Reaction will follow. Colleges are under intense pressure to get kids in the door and keep them there. If the retention rate falls, they have a lot of explaining to do in public.
So keep that dilemma in mind. The more you make students work, the fewer students will cross the finish line.
In the midst of a recession, might the colleges be able to explain that the completion problem often begins with high schools, let alone elementary schools, that have failed to carry out their part of the social contract.

Although Reason's Greg Beato focuses on the money-suck that higher education has become, with little social and diminished private returns on investment, and the misplaced, to a free-market perspective, emphasis on the shortcomings of for-profit colleges that charge large sums of money (perhaps enlarged by the availability of third-party money) for little effect, he, too, notes the deleterious consequences of access for its own sake.
It’s true that for-profit institutions are raking in huge profits in large part because of federal subsidies. (The CEO of the holding company behind Strayer University made $41 million in 2009.) But it’s also true that few if any for-profits are using federal money to finance lengthy sabbaticals for high-paid professors who teach a handful of classes a year, or the athletic pursuits of undersized linebackers who should have hung up their cleats after graduating high school. Non-profit institutions of higher learning have been using federal money to make sure American college kids are the tannest, best-fed, most vigorously administrated students in the world for decades now. For a little extra credit, our elected officials should start holding them more accountable too.
It's not quite "higher education should be higher," but it's a start.

27.1.11

THEY'RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU. President Ford's Whip Inflation Now campaign came complete with government-issue WIN buttons.

Our President has not yet authorized the issue of buttons for his Winning The Future campaign.


American Glob is producing the buttons.
RECLAIMING HIGHER EDUCATION.  What Profscam failed to do, because higher education could treat it as the rants of an outsider, and what How the University Works failed to do, for lack of a coherent narrative, Academically Adrift appears to be doing.  Kevin Carey of Education Sector recognizes that higher education should be higher.
The good news is that Academically Adrift offers a way forward along with its dire diagnosis. When colleges set high expectations for students, assign them a lot of books to read, and give them a lot of papers to write, students respond. This is true across a range of liberal arts and science majors. Whether students prefer a traditional curriculum focused on the classics or want to explore the outer reaches of new thinking is less the issue -- the most important thing is that they have the chance to attend a college staffed with well-trained teachers who are committed to helping their students work, engage, struggle, and improve.
Carnegie-Mellon's Stephen Brockmann, president of the German Studies Association, isn't reacting to Academically Adrift, but he acknowledges the possibility that casting loose from the Canon and the Core sets learners, well, adrift.
We humanists inherited a tradition more or less intact, with all its strengths and weaknesses, but it appears highly likely that we will not be able or willing to pass it on to them. That is a signal failure, and it is one for which we will pay dearly. No doubt there is lots of blame to go around, but instead of looking around for people to blame, it would be more constructive to save what we can and pass it along to the next generation. They are waiting, and we have a responsibility.
During an era of budgetary stringency accompanied by increased doubt about the utility of degrees, a restoration of the essentials might be the only cost-effective response available.
During our beginning-of-semester faculty assembly, the president of the university announced [a call for serious retrenchment]. The chair of the math department then asked, "Why don't we cut the bottom students?" The president didn't know what to say.
As the math chair said to me later, "We get over 200 students taking remedial math every semester. They're costly. Why don't we just raise admissions standards, and not take them?" If anyone objects that it isn't fair, is it as unfair as penalizing the student who can do math at college level?
That last question refers to cutting expenses by eliminating sections in calculus, statistics, or analysis, otherwise known as college-level mathematics, rather than by eliminating sections in Junior High Arithmetic for Young Adults.  There's an extension: what right do the innumerates have to drag down the curriculum for everybody else?
THE MONUMENTS WE'VE DESTROYED.  The dean at Anonymous Community contemplates his son discovering sports, and perhaps Guyland.
For all the gender theory I waded through -- and yes, dear readers, I did -- the on-the-ground version of masculinity that I keep coming back to as a regulative ideal is something like a gentleman. Not a Sensitive New Age Guy, since that always struck me as creepily passive-aggressive, and certainly not a frat guy. Something more like a self-possessed, confident man who thinks enough of himself to treat others with respect. Not a saint or a martyr, but a decent man who understands, even if imperfectly, that his actions affect other people. My grandfather was like that, even if he would never use terms like these.
Between Grandpa and his son, however, the gods placed the Consciousness Revolution, an era in which the humorless harridans with institutional haircuts hectored anyone so retrograde as to hold a door open.

26.1.11

SO BUY A SHARE OF THE CALGARY STAMPEDERS.  A University of Connecticut donor retracts his contribution after the athletic department does not consult with him on the hiring of a new football coach.  I mean, we're talking about ZooConn football, for crying out loud, not Notre Dame or Texas or Ohio State here, and for the kind of money the donor is carping about, he could become owner of a Canadian Football League team and fire coaches in the best Jerry Jones manner, without losing to the Packers first.  The good news is that this donor hasn't expressed his displeasure with Geno Auriemma.  (Via Inside Higher Education.)
WHITE HOUSE ON THREE. Our President's policy hopes face a strong reality check.


Gateway Pundit image via Betsy's Page.

His football prognostication also faces a reality check.  (Via Charlie Sykes).
President Obama probably did not help his reelection campaign much in Wisconsin when he predicted a Chicago Bears win over the Green and Gold in the NFC championship game and announced he would attend the Super Bowl to watch his home team compete for the Lombardi trophy in person.

After a White House press pool spray with President Hu Jintao in the Oval Office last week, a cameraman asked President Obama "If the Bears win, are you going to the Super Bowl?"
"Oh we're going," President Obama replied. "No doubt."
Those comments stung like frostbite in the bitter cold of the frozen tundra. Even players on the Packers took notice of the president's bold prophecy, and while the president's future schedule no longer includes the prospect of a trip to Dallas to attend Super Bowl XLV, the NFL's 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson told the rest of his Packers teammates to make their own plans to see the president at the White House.
"The president don't wanna come watch us [go] to the Super Bowl?" Woodson asked his teammates in the locker room during a huddle following Green Bay's 21-14 victory on Sunday. "Guess what? Guess what? We'll go see him!"
Our President also endorsed the Jets in a rally at Albany last week, thereby endearing himself to Franco's Italian Army, or whatever name the Steeler faithful go by these days.

The two largest followings away from the home state constitute Pittsburgh's fans and Packer Nation.  In Wisconsin, Republicans took advantage of a number of follies by the Democratic governor and legislature to take control of the state house, and there were some changes in Harrisburg last November.  How is that hopey-changey stuff working out?
LET THE THING BE PRESSED.  More reaction to Academically Adrift, this from the U.S. News education weblog.
In one of the book's few bright spots, students who majored in one of the liberal arts, such as philosophy, economics, chemistry, biology, and languages, did experience "significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study."
Those are disciplines in which there are meaningful performance tests, as well as the opportunity to test the ideas one plays with against observational or experimental data.
Why are so many students seemingly sleepwalking through school? Because they can. The authors argued that among the culprits is an educational system that doesn't expect much from its undergraduates. Many students can graduate from college without spending much time reading or writing. According to the researchers, 37 percent of students reported spending fewer than five hours a week on homework!
The Chronicle of Higher Education provides a book excerpt, which for the present is in front of the subscription wall.  A Chronicle news analysis appears to endorse the proposition that higher education should be higher.
In the statistical analysis that sums up their book, they identify two significant college-level variables. First, all else equal, students' CLA scores are more likely to improve if they report that faculty members at their college have high expectations. Second, students' scores are more likely to improve if they say they have taken at least one writing-intensive course and at least one reading-intensive course in the previous semester.
It might sound trite, [coauthor Richard] Arum says, but those observations boil down to the lesson that colleges must find ways to build cultures of academic rigor. He says that task is something that each campus will need to do for itself. It would be a huge mistake, he believes, for the government to impose a new learning-accountability regime from outside.
Donna Heiland, vice president of the Teagle Foundation, which also supported the study, agrees. "Even though this is a book with a lot of sobering news," she said, "I think it also contains some things to be encouraged by. First of all, it's encouraging to see new evidence that college does have an effect"—that is, that writing-intensive and reading-intensive courses actually do improve the CLA scores of students across the ability spectrum.
"It would be depressing to think that students just sorted themselves into colleges based on their SAT scores and life histories, and then essentially marched in place," Ms. Heiland said.
What is depressing is that graduates are not equipped to reconstruct their civilization from scratch, should that be required, let alone to take an interest in its construction or deconstruction.
Among the most troubling findings from the postgraduate survey, Mr. Arum says, is that 30 percent of the recent graduates said that they read a newspaper "monthly or never," even online.
"How do you sustain a democratic society," Mr. Arum said, "when large numbers of the most educationally elite sector of your population are not seeing it as a normal part of their everyday experience to keep up with the world around them? We need higher education to take the institutional responsibility for educating people broadly to see this as a basic part of civic life."
The Chronicle's Kevin Carey summarizes: 'Trust Us' Won't Cut It Anymore.
Critics like Charles Murray will probably say those students should not have gone to college in the first place. But that would amount to condemning them for the failures of their institutions, because the study found that how much students learn has a lot do with how much colleges ask them to work. After controlling for demographics, parental education, SAT scores, and myriad other factors, students who were assigned more books to read and more papers to write learned more. Students who spent more hours studying alone learned more. Students taught by approachable faculty who enforced high expectations learned more. "What students do in higher education matters," the authors note. "But what faculty members do matters too."
Charles Murray's position appears to be that real higher education is hard work, and College Lite is a fraud on everybody, a position that the higher education lobby might be pushed to accept, preferably out of pride, but out of necessity if recognize the breach of trust they must.
Students majoring in the humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, and math—again, controlling for their background—did relatively well. Students majoring in business, education, and social work did not. Our future teachers aren't learning much in college, apparently, which goes a long way toward explaining why students arrive in college unprepared in the first place.

Financial aid also matters. The study found that students whose financial aid came primarily in the form of grants learned more than those who were paying mostly with loans. Debt burdens can be psychological and temporal as well as financial, with students substituting work for education in order to manage their future obligations. Learning was also negatively correlated with­—surprise—time spent in fraternities and sororities.
Or pursuing the supposedly lucrative but genuinely soul-deadening degrees in the expectation of being able to pay off those loans?  Apparently working one's way through university is no longer an option.
The study makes clear that there are two kinds of college students in America. A minority of them start with a good high-school education and attend colleges that challenge them with hard work. They learn some things worth knowing. The rest—most college students—start underprepared, and go to colleges that ask little of them and provide little in return. Their learning gains are minimal or nonexistent. Among them, those with a reasonable facility for getting out of bed in the morning and navigating a bureaucracy receive a credential that falsely certifies learning. Others don't get even that.
Consider too that the study measured the growth of only those students who were still in college two and four years later. The all-too-common dropouts weren't included. It's a fair bet their results were even worse.
Who is hurt the most by all this? Students saddled with thousands of dollars in debt and no valuable skills, certainly. Even worse, workers who never went to college in the first place, languishing in their careers for lack of a college credential. To them, the higher-education system must seem like a gigantic confidence game, with students and colleges conspiring to produce hollow degrees that nonetheless define the boundaries of opportunity.
Who else is hurt?  The students with a decent high school education, solid work habits, and ambition but without the money or connections or extracurriculars or spectacular talents to get into the most selective universities, who might find themselves bored or overwhelmed at the sub-prime party schools?  As long as there are more people capable of doing the top-tier work than there are spaces in top tier entering classes, there are opportunities for other universities (are you listening?  Northern Illinois?  Wayne State?  Whitewater?) to restore that trust and do their students a service.  The professors who pursued an academic vocation, only to be steered into a simulacrum of scholarship to keep up appearances and to be pressed to go easy on the clientele, in order for the retention and completion rates to look good?  The employers who end up having to provide the training in fundamentals the universities, heck, the high schools failed to do?
Fortunately, the way forward is clear. The students who learned the most in the study came from all manner of academic backgrounds. Nobody is doomed to failure.
Colleges can start by renewing their commitment to the liberal arts. Let's be honest—a lot of students are majoring in business simply because they plan to get jobs in businesses and need a degree of some kind to do it. Making college less vocational will actually help more students learn the skills they need to succeed in their careers.
The study suggests that we have overcomplicated the practice of higher education. It comes down to what it always has—deep engagement with complex ideas and texts, difficult and often solitary study, the discipline to write, revise, and write again. What students need most aren't additional social opportunities and elaborate services. They need professors who assign a lot of reading and writing. Professors, in turn, need a structure of compensation and prestige that rewards a commitment to teaching. Some object that today's hedonist undergraduates won't do the work. But the research suggests otherwise. Colleges are responsible for taking the first step toward reaching a newer, higher equilibrium of mutual expectations.
Let the thing be pressed.
Deep down, everyone knows that learning has long been neglected. But they don't want to know. Policy makers who have poured gigantic sums of money into financial-aid programs designed to get people into college don't want to know that many of the graduates, leaving with degrees in hand, didn't learn anything. College presidents don't want to know, because fixing the problem means arguing with faculty. Faculty don't want to know, because it would expose the weakness of their teaching and take time from research. Students don't want to know, because they'd have to work harder, and it would undermine the value of their credentials.
There are market tests, and those market tests are undermining the value of credentials faster than any curricular reform will.

24.1.11

A RATE YOUR STUDENTS MOMENT. Stoner cap: check. Disengaged expression: check. Earbuds: check. Slouch: check.


Chicago Sun-Times photo by John J. Kim.

The Bears' medical staff removed Mr Cutler from Sunday's Packer victory for a medial collateral ligament tear.  He took some stick from callers to Chicago and Milwaukee radio stations for not showing more interest in the proceedings on the field.

Those callers might be our current students' future senior job-mates, shift supervisors, office managers, directors of personnel, or executive vice-presidents.

Be guided accordingly.
RECLAIMING HIGHER EDUCATION.  Yesterday, we noted anthropologist Lionel Tiger questioning the verities of his discipline.  Last October, we surveyed introspection in sociology.

Meanwhile, Inside Higher Ed notes a vision for the future worked out at a conference of faculty unions.
Participants reviewed and many expressed support for a set of organizing principles contained in a draft document called "Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century" that was prepared by the California Faculty Association. It advocates for more scrupulous analysis of calls to reform higher education. "Wholesale embrace of change without careful thought and deliberation can take us in the wrong direction," the document states, "not toward reforming higher education but, in fact, toward deforming precisely those aspects of American higher education that have made it the envy of the world."
Yes, changing the formula for Coca-Cola, or letting Brett Favre retire and unretire, will have deleterious effects.  Picking the wrong elements of current practice ditto.
The document stakes out seven broad principles: increased inclusivity and access for students; a broad, diverse, liberal arts curriculum; less reliance on contingent as opposed to tenure-track faculty; incorporating technology with an eye toward maintaining educational quality; more judicious balancing of short-term cuts with long-term costs; better state support; and the adoption of evaluation metrics that go beyond graduation rates.
Those proposals do not address the problems of inefficiently many students in college, coreless curricula that deteriorate into gen-eds to get out of the way, the latest computer fads, regressive transfers, or degree programs that fail market tests.
PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE.  Kay Hymowitz of City Journal recalls the litigious impulse of activists, back in the days of the sheltered industrial economy the U.S. inherited after World War II.
The second-wave feminists of the 1960s and 1970s who revived the moribund suffragette movement came of age during and after World War II, a time when confidence in Washington was high. Modeling their aspirations on the civil rights movement, they saw government as the vehicle they would ride to their liberation. America’s powerful strain of don’t-tread-on-me libertarianism was largely quiescent, and Great Society liberalism was the default mode for the young and educated. Bringing legal complaints before judges and lobbying legislators, bureaucrats, and civil servants to take action on a multitude of “women’s issues”—that is, barriers standing in the way of female advancement—seemed the only way to go.
Technocracy, expertise, Presidential Power.  Ms Hymowitz argues the formula didn't work for everybody, particularly for all ambitious women.
Tech geeks, businesswomen, and ranchers: not Lesley Stahl feminism, that’s for sure.
Further unsettling the feminist framework was the vigorous maternalism of the newcomers. Many heartland women had seen in feminism’s enthusiastic careerism, as well as its resentment of men and domesticity, an implicit criticism of their own lives. Hence their rejection of the feminist label even as they joined the workforce and lived lives that looked, in many respects, consistent with the movement’s principles.
Vanguardism is like that.  The corrective is coming a little late for me, but come it will.

23.1.11

FOUR MORE QUARTERS TO PLAY. Summon the echoes: Halas. Lombardi. Arctic temperatures.


Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photo by Benny Sieu.

The Packers have one more game. The Steel Curtain. The tradition of the Sixties. The tradition of the Seventies. On the Cowboys' field in two weeks.
HIGHER EDUCATION SELF-DESTRUCTS.  Lionel Tiger doesn't call it the chickification of the university, but you get the idea.
This is clearly a reason for the growing disenchantment and ineffectiveness of male students which has led to a disproportionate ratio of female to male graduates is at least 40% male to 60% female. From their first day of school, males are less successful than females. Even in nursery school, four of five students expelled are boys (how does anyone get expelled from nursery school?) and the overwhelming number of victims of Ritalin are boys.
This largely reflects the ability of women to succeed in the system and the plight of men to flounder. However it becomes necessary to question the system itself, if only because it is largely publicly supported and such a discordant result of taxpayer money is in itself volatile. The system has often very mushily configured sex-gender,-males- females, as post-modern derivatives of cultural norms rather than focusing on the nature of sex itself. In this formulation, there is no essential sexual reality, only its description, evaluation, and codification as if life were a series of competing magazine articles.
Perhaps he protests too much, but he is correct to fear that his discipline has lost the good of the intellect.
This sort of folderol recently prompted the American Anthropological Association to question the use of the term "science" in its description of its work. Surely everyone knows everything is relative, science is just a style, a chimpanzee is just a congeries of attitudes to chimpanzees, post-modern argumentativeness renders discrete realities into conceptual hash. There also rests here an approach to males which demeans and discourages them such as the rape seminars which are common as first day programs in countless colleges such as my own Rutgers.
Meanwhile, the job markets for engineers, computer programmers, accountants, and (dare I say it) investment managers remains stronger than those for cultural studies majors.

21.1.11

THE SOCIOLOGY OF A LIGHT BEER COMMERCIAL.

Stony Brook sociologist Michael Kimmel seeks to understand contemporary coming of age of young men.  The result of his example-gathering is Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men: Understanding the Critical Years Between 16 and 26.  Perhaps I could reduce Book Review No. 5 to an epigram: if the subtitle has a subtitle, you probably know what the conclusion is.  The shame is that Professor Kimmel concludes with a laudable proposal.
In the end we need to develop a new model of masculinity.  Young men must understand on a deep level that being a real man isn't going along with what you know in your heart to be cruel, inhumane, stupid, humiliating and dangerous.  Being a real man means doing the right thing, standing up to immorality and injustice when you see it, and expressing compassion, not contempt, for those who are less fortunate.  So much of Guyland encourages cowardice -- being a passive bystander, going along with what seems to be the crowd's consensus.
John Wayne and Spencer Tracy got that, but we're not going there.  The opportunity to rebut the Susan Faludi of Stiffed or the Christina Hoff Sommers of The War Against Boys, two volumes that got into the Cold Spring Shops library before the Superintendent got into the Fifty Book Challenge is there, but apart from brief mention of their arguments, there is little systematic or organized reaction, let alone rebuttal, to their suggestions respectively that the information economy upends some of the ways once available to men to demonstrate their usefulness, or that expanding opportunities for women too often has a zero-sum basis in which the men must be held back.  Professor Kimmel notes the yob phenomenon, something that Yob Nation notes involves destructive behavior by men and women, but his excursion into Guyland looks at a different social phenomenon than soccer mobs, public shagging, and excessive drinking.
It's easy to observe "guys" virtually everywhere in America -- in every high school and college campus in America, with their baseball caps on frontward or backward, their easy smiles or anxious darting eyes, huddled around tiny electronic gadgets or laptops, or relaxing in front of massive wide-screen hi-def TVs, in basements, dorms, and frat houses.  But it would be a mistake to assume that each conforms fully to a regime of peer-influenced and enforced behaviors that I call the "Guy Code," or shares all traits and attitudes with everyone else.  It's important to remember that individual guys are not the same as "Guyland."
In fact, my point is precisely the opposite.  Though Guyland is pervasive -- it is the air guys breathe, the water they drink -- each guy cuts his own deal with it as he tries to navigate the passage from adolescence to adulthood without succumbing to the most soul-numbing, spirit-crushing elements that surround him each day.
Not that there's anything new about spirit-crushing elements.
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity.
In Professor Kimmel's view, the conformity so obtained is not that virtuous: beer, sports, babes, sports, internet smut, beer, sports, video games, beer, crude music, babes, gadgets, sports, beer.  The closest approximation I can come up to for a working hypothesis behind such apparently self-destructive behavior is the identity-politics notion of resentment.  See page 166.
They're tired of "being made to feel like losers," as many of them put it.  They're tired of feeling that the game is over before they've even started to play.  They're tired of putting the damned toilet seat down every time, of saying "he or she" on their term papers, of calling people of color "people of color."  They're tired of feeling like there's no mobility -- or if there is, someone else is climbing over them on the ladder of success.
As if affirmative action didn't exist.  As if mandatory rape awareness sessions didn't exist.

And as if the Sixties didn't happen.  Much of Guyland focuses on the minefield that is male-female interaction in the era of the hook-up.  The young ladies have lots of opportunities, and lots of confidence.  But too many of them for Professor Kimmel's liking still play the roles assigned to them by the light beer commercial, and his new age sensibilities apparently predispose him to ignore the possible evolutionary stability of Guyland.
Professor Laurie Rudman, of Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: 'Our findings demonstrate that men encounter prejudice when they behave modestly.'
They also raise the possibility that men may avoid behaving modestly because they risk backlash when they do.
Changes in gender roles that have afforded women more financial independence have not yielded relaxed demands for men.
'Men are still required to uphold masculine ideals that require chronic exhibitions of strength while avoiding signs of weakness.'
Likewise, his discontent with the b**ch or slut dichotomy of the Guy Code fails to recognize the possible influence of the Sixties.  Abortion and contraception were never primarily about rape, incest, or life of the mother: women say yes to men who say no was an antiwar slogan.  Under the new dispensation, a Guy has no reason to believe that a babe who turns him down is doing so as a general principle.

Ultimately, then, Professor Kimmel's sensibilities are likely to keep Guyland from changing many people's minds.  Collect the grossest examples of fraternity initiation rituals and call them homoerotic: a reader with older notions of propriety and perversity is unlikely to be more favorably disposed to the new dispensation.  Show your new age bona fides:  a reader who gets the point of Rush Limbaugh's new castrati schtick will nod.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)
UNIVERSITIES ARE FAILING AT THEIR MISSION.  Retired political scientist Abraham Miller is not surprised at the reaction to Academically Adrift.  The failure begins with the parents.
Look — if your child did well in high school, got excellent SAT scores, and signed up for a demanding major, you have nothing to worry about, except the price tag. And if that’s not a problem, you can stop reading right here.
But plenty of you parents know you have children who rarely cracked a book, got mediocre high school grades, and really have no interest in the demands of a real college learning experience. They got into less demanding schools or curricula, or you’re paying out-of-state tuition money for the privilege of sending your kid someplace he couldn’t have gotten into if he lived in-state.
The walking tour revealed what those parents really wanted.
I’ve been on the orientation tour with you, as the young man and young woman decked out in their school-spirit sweat shirts took you around the campus. And what kinds of questions did you ask? When you went to the library, you were inspired by the building. You asked not a word about the collection or the on-line computer stations. You wanted to know about the social life, the shopping, and how well the athletic teams were doing. When was homecoming, so you could plan your visit?
I remember when one set of parents asked how much people studied per class, what the intellectual demands were, and were there a lot of term papers in the liberal arts courses. The tour guides were dumbfounded, and the rest of you looked at this couple like they were the biggest bunch of party poopers. You kept some distance from these parents during the rest of the tour, as if they had a visible case of leprosy. Their son was an engineering major, and he did very well in school. By the way, they were sufficiently disgusted with the guides’ lack of intellectual concern that they wrote a letter about it to the faculty.
One wishes, however, that Professor Miller had taken more responsibility for straightening out his students.
Your son probably ended up in my class. He was the kid who slouched in his chair and sat in the back entertaining himself with his Nintendo or cell phone. At least, that’s how he behaved when he bothered to show up for class. Sometimes he disrupted class by coming late and being sure to walk across the front of the lecture hall to draw attention to himself. I wished that on such occasions he had the grace to have pulled his Levis above his underwear. But that was too much to ask.
The next time you think the Superintendent is cranky, read the rest of the post.
A CHEDDAR CURTAIN HAS COME DOWN.  USA Today visits Chicago and Green Bay.
Green Bay and Chicago share proximity to Lake Michigan, Midwestern grit and bluntness and a zeal for sports, but not much else.
Chicago's population dwarfs Green Bay's, 2.8 million to 101,412. Green Bay's tallest building is the nine-story Bellin Building; Chicago has the 110-story Willis Tower. Chicago has the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs and the White Sox. Green Bay has the Packers and a unique connection to the team, which is owned by the community.
All three million of those Chicagoans vacation in Wisconsin, many of them maintaining second homes in the two northernmost counties of Illinois, Vilas and Door.
"There's a natural connection between Illinois people and Wisconsin people, not always pleasant," says [author David] Maraniss, who has homes in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis. "Wisconsin people are always complaining about Illinois drivers coming up for summer vacation and ruining their state. On the other hand, they're putting money in Wisconsin. They need the Illinois people. And Chicago is really the big city for Wisconsin."
Illinoisans need the Wisconsin people, too.  Well-off parents in Illinois send their spawn to the University of Wisconsin to stretch their minds, and Illinois businesses and universities hire Wisconsin graduates to show the flatlanders the proper use of their minds.  (The biggest Wisconsin alumni chapter outside Wisconsin is in Chicago.)

A related article notes that three of the NFL's Final Four do not have cheerleaders.
The [Packers' since disbanded] Golden Girls were drawn from a dance studio, and included some national champions in baton twirling. They are in the Packers Hall of Fame, but the team did away with cheerleaders in 1988, after a TV station poll found fans were split 50-50 on whether they were needed.
What for?  Football is supposed to be played on a fall afternoon, with perhaps a hint of snow in November, with a blast furnace or paper mill in sight of the stadium.

There is still a blast furnace not far from the Napoleonic Wasteland of Soldier Field.

20.1.11

HIGHER EDUCATION AS IF IT MATTERED.  Inside Higher Ed interviews Richard Arum, co-author of Academically Adrift, from the early reactions to it a likely candidate for a book review.
Arum said that the problems outlined in the book should be viewed as a moral challenge to higher education. Students who struggle to pay for college and emerge into a tough job market have a right to know that they have learned something, he said. "You can't have a democratic society when the elite -- the college-educated kids -- don't have these abilities to think critically," he said.
It helps if headquarters considers students as potential critical thinkers, rather than as a revenue source.
And the book acknowledges that many college educators and students don't yet see a crisis, given that students can enroll, earn good grades for four years, and graduate -- very much enjoying themselves in the process. But in an era when "the world has become unforgiving" to those who don't work hard or know how to think, Arum said that this may be a time to consider real change.
The culture of college needs to evolve, particularly with regard to "perverse institutional incentives" that reward colleges for enrolling and retaining students rather than for educating them. "It's a problem when higher education is driven by a student client model and institutions are chasing after bodies," he said.
The analysis in the book stresses that there is significant variation within institutions, not just among institutions, with students in some academic programs regularly outperforming others at the same campuses. Arum said this suggests that institutions can improve student learning by making sure that there is some consistency across disciplines in the rigor of requirements. "You need an internal culture that values learning," he said. "You have to have departments agree that they aren't handing out easy grades."
Further, he said that colleges need to shift attention away from measures of "social engagement" (everything that's not academic) and toward academic engagement, even if some of those measures of non-academic engagement help keep students engaged and enrolled. "It's a question of what outcome you want," he said. "If the outcome is student retention and student satisfaction, then engagement is a great strategy. If, however, you want to improve learning and enhance the academic substance of what you are up to, it is not necessarily a good strategy."
Minding the Campus also notes publication of the book.
Since our copy of the book arrived only today, we haven't finished reading it, but we assume that its huge welcome in educational circles has a lot to do with the many books and articles deploring the lack of study on our campuses, the large number of college grads working at low-level jobs, books arguing that partying is the main activity of a great many collegians, and articles such as Peter Sacks' here reporting on the all too common disengaged and academically tone deaf college students of today. We will have more to say later about Academically Adrift.
Years ago, my economics colleagues at Wayne State argued that a time of budgetary stringency offered an opportunity for the university to cut costs by raising standards, enrolling fewer students in the first place, and devoting fewer resources to a retrospective of high school.  It has been a thirty years' war, but the logic and the fiscal circumstances again align.
CROSSING THE FIFTY.  Just north of the Illinois-Wisconsin border is State Highway 50, which, at least in Kenosha County, separates the Bear zone from the Packer zone.  The boundary is probably fuzzy: at last night's basketball game, there were more than a few green coats and stadium blankets (when the Convo is relatively empty, it's chilly) in view.

Sunday's game is not the first time the Bears hosted the Packers for an opportunity to play in the league championship game.  The same thing happened on December 14, 1941.  The Chicago Sun-Times offers a recollection, including a box score.

That Bear team had most of the same personnel who ran up the score on Washington, 73-0, the previous season.

18.1.11

OUCH. A video, possibly from Taiwan, noting the visit of the mainland's president Hu Jintao to Washington, D.C.

GIVE THEM FREE REIN TO 110. A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report acknowledges the potential for faster Hiawathas. Proposed running times will be the fastest ever.

Here is the 1941 train schedule.


The proposed timings with some infrastructure improvements between the Airport station and the beginning of Metra territory, inclusive of intermediate stops, are encouraging.



The article envisions additional trains.
A separate $12 million federal grant, unaffected by the Milwaukee-to-Madison controversy, is already paying for upgrades to the platform at the Mitchell International Airport station and to the Hiawatha tracks, and the state can use the remaining $2 million from the larger grant for Hiawatha upgrades.

With a third train, the Hiawatha could add an eighth, and perhaps even a ninth, daily round trip, Beitzel said. Hiawatha ridership has grown more than 99% since Amtrak and the state added a seventh round trip in late 2002.

Jay Sorensen, a Shorewood-based transportation consultant, said the Hiawatha attracts an even higher proportion of affluent business riders than his former employer, Midwest Airlines. He says authorities could double the Hiawatha's frequency "and demand would rise to meet that.... They could make it so blindingly convenient, by having trains every half-hour, that people say, 'Why am I driving?'"
That's probably wishful thinking, even the North Shore Line, before Highway 41 was doubled through Racine and Kenosha County, offered hourly service.  Journal-Sentinel editors endorse the train, and the Hiawatha line makes Metro's list of most promising rail corridors.
IN THE APPROVED FORM WITHOUT PUNCTUATION ERASURE OR INTERLINEATION.  THE BOOK OF RULES IS STRICTER ABOUT THE FORM OF TRAIN ORDERS THAN SHAKESPEARE IS ABOUT THE FORM OF A SONNET

THE DISCIPLINE OF WRITING A SONNET DEVELOPS STUDENT SKILLS
MAKE THE STAKES HIGHER.  The first two years of college: a waste?
Nearly half of the nation's undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don't make academics a priority, a new report shows.
You think that third party payments and enrollment for its own sake and enabling the high schools' failures might have something to do with it?

A longer version of the article gives reason to question yet another fad.
The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups."I'm not surprised at the results," said Stephen G. Emerson, the president of Haverford College in Pennsylvania. "Our very best students don't study in groups. They might work in groups in lab projects. But when they study, they study by themselves."
Group projects: yet another manifestation of the tragedy of the commons.
It is fascinating to see A students put their names on papers that they would never dream of submitting for individual assignments. The most common explanation for those occurrences is that the A students do their portions to their standards, and then they sit back and assume that the rest of the team will do their part.
I envision that the previous sentence will lead some readers to say that such results are not a big deal – I’m the professor; I should grade according to performance. If students submit poor work, they should receive their low grade and sleep in the bed that they made. I agree, but there is also no such thing as a perfect assignment. There are other issues in play.
If one student takes charge of a team project, that student will inevitably contribute more to the project than other students. In turn, professors navigate those waters by building in a peer evaluation system to align the final grade with student effort.
Interesting, also, how relative prices matter.
While many students submit team projects below their individual standards, the collaboration rarely results in F-level work. It takes a real effort to fail a team project because one member usually does not let that happen. Because these projects often pass, they do more to bolster the grades of weaker students than help the stronger students. I have witnessed F’s become D’s and D’s become C’s because of team project performance. Thus, I regrettably pass weaker students onto other professors solely because someone else’s work helped them get through my class.

When I raise the grade inflation issue with others, they tell me that I should weight the project low enough that it cannot cause such a grade enhancement. But in doing that, the lower weighting invites poor performance, and students devote their energy to other assessments that matter more towards their course average (I call this the insanity of weighting something 10%).
The article considers a number of strategies professors might consider to encourage and elicit the right kind of effort.

It helps if headquarters considers students as potential critical thinkers, rather than as a revenue source.

17.1.11

I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOYRonald Reagan, religious freedom, and vanguardism.
Michael Petrov, president of the Digital Edge data management firm in Staten Island, notes that in his opinion, the Democrats are “micro-managing the economy,” and that “Government is affecting small business more and more. It’s the same as what's happening in Russia.” Petrov identifies Democrat-supported policies restrictive of business as fundamentally akin to the Soviet Union’s brutal centrally-planned command economy, where the state controlled and owned the means of production, assets, and investments, resulting in massive inefficiency, corruption and socioeconomic stagnation, with an eye toward the “just allocation” and the “redistribution of wealth.”
Never mind seeing Russia from Wasilla, they can see it from the Narrows.
SOMEBODY HAS TO DO THE HEAVY LIFTING. Book Review No. 4 takes up David Coates's A Liberal Tool Kit: Progressive Responses to Conservative Arguments, is a Praeger offering that has been promoted in mailings to academicians and it's on offer at academic prices (read: higher than the prices Morning Sun charge for full-color railroad picture books. There are no guaranteed student loans or $700 book allowances for train-spotters.)

The book crosses the line into polemics. Professor Coates admits as much, by way of making a case for the necessity of his work, at page 7.
Debating [powerful conservative arguments] is a serious and important endeavor. But there are other arguments out there too -- arguments of less force and value -- that need to be cleared away first. These arguments have a different purpose. They exist less to stimulate debate than to close it down, and they are disseminated less by intellectuals within the conservative movement than by their more populist outriders, who collectively make up a kind of right-wing "heavy brigade." We eventually will have to compete with the pedigree conservatives, but first we need to deal with their rottweilers.
Leave aside the sloppy mixing of metaphors and the lack of knowledge of matters military in that excerpt: the shame is the opportunities the book misses.


The introduction promises more:
  • We need to deal with the alternative point of view in all its complexity.
  • We need to balance complexity in argument with clarity in presentation.
  • We need to design arguments that can run the gamut from sound bites to theses.
  • We have to anchor our case in solid and reliable evidence.
  • The problem specification has to be superior
  •  ... and the logic has to be tight.
That's what frustrates about the book. On the one hand, in some chapters it recognizes that there is diversity of perspective on the Right (Heritage is different from Cato); on the other hand, when it reverts to dealing with the rottweilers, it gives the impression that Lou Dobbs or Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage are the frontier of conservative thinking.  (Tes, I'm referring specifically to immigration policy; it's that unit where drawing a distinction between Heritage and Cato, as well as distinguishing pro-market from pro-business policies would be particulary fruitful).

Furthermore, Professor Coates fails to engage the greatest challenge to the progressive project: the culture of failure that contributes to persistent poverty and underemployment.  In urban slums, that culture provides reliable Democratic voters; in hardscrabble suburbs and rural communities, the Christian right.  Thomas Sowell's Black Rednecks and White Liberals gets closer to the heart of that policy challenge.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT ENCOURAGES STUDENT AFFAIRS.

I'm inverting the title of a real university office as a way of returning to the subject of sex imbalances on campus. "How many women entering higher education realize they are going to de facto Women's Colleges?" The topic has provided material for lots of commenters over the last few years. There's a useful summary at 11D:
One downside to having college campuses that skew female is it kills dating. If you take out the social misfits and the guys with girl friends, there are slim pickings indeed. And the slim pickings end up setting the rules. Even this guy with the zit on his neck.

Because there is a huge competition for the few datable men on campus, male dating rules win. The article describes a woman grabbing a strange guy in a bar and dragging him onto the dance floor to get his attention. Women sleep with guys right away, in order to get noticed. No guy needs to settle on one girl, when he has sororities of girls desperately throwing themselves at him with the hope of getting noticed.
That analysis is superficial, as the poster notes in her conclusion.
My first job after college was working as an editor of computer books. I went to the COMDEX conference to showcase our books. The other editors and I were the only women among the sea of computer nerds. I liked that ratio. Too bad they were all geeks.
Put another way, contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable. That doesn't stop commenters from drawing all sorts of Deeper Implications.

The general problem is that with two girls for every boy, the incentives for the boys to be gentlemen goes away. In economics, that's Bertrand competition, something that Tim Harford thought was likely, although I was skeptical.
A mating market in which there are 19 identical men and 20 identical women leads to a Bertrand dissipation of all the gains from trade available to the women. Does that model generalize? Mr Harford doesn't tell us.
I had reason to explore the same vein subsequently.
There's something missing in a mating model in which the sole criterion for a match is the willingness of the providers in excess supply to put out, to put it bluntly. Shouldn't an excess supply of women at colleges be an incentive for intellectually active women, or women of high integrity, to signal those characteristics as well?
Laura McKenna's "too bad they were all geeks" suggests at least some women are willing to maintain their standards.

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution clarifies and extends the analysis.
The key simplification of the marriage supermarket is that the next best option to marriage (pairing) is worth $0--thus there is a long way to fall from the equal sex ratio equilibrium of $50. If the outside option is worth more then changes in the sex ratio will have smaller effects. Nevertheless, the logic of the marriage supermarket explains why a relatively small change in the sex ratio can lead to a large change in sexual and other mores affecting the marriage equilibrium.
That observation is a reaction to more from the New York Times about university admistrators fretful over a sex imbalance on campus. The money quote appears to support the Bertrand equilibrium.
Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said.
Thus, there still is selectivity, incentives to Bertrand competition notwithstanding, and the nature of the selectivity requires more research.
The phenomenon has also been an area of academic inquiry, formally and informally. “On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote in an e-mail message. Her book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” was published in 2008.

“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she wrote. “This results in more casual hook-up encounters that do not end up leading to more serious romantic relationships. Since college women say they generally want ‘something more’ than just a casual hook-up, women end up losing out.”

W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, which is 57 percent female, put it this way: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships,” he said. Translation: more partners, more sex. Commitment? A good first step would be his returning a woman’s Facebook message.

Women on gender-imbalanced campuses are paying a social price for success and, to a degree, are being victimized by men precisely because they have outperformed them, Professor Campbell said. In this way, some colleges mirror retirement communities, where women often find that the reward for outliving their husbands is competing with other widows for the attentions of the few surviving bachelors.
Perhaps so, but younger people have different time horizons, and different rates of time preferences, as the Times itself suggests.
Several male students from female-heavy schools took pains to note that they were not thrilled with the status quo.
“It’s awesome being a guy,” admitted Garret Jones, another North Carolina senior, but he also lamented a culture that fostered hook-ups over relationships. This year, he said, he finally found a serious girlfriend.
Indeed, there are a fair number of Mr. Lonelyhearts on campus. “Even though there’s this huge imbalance between the sexes, it still doesn’t change the fact of guys sitting around, bemoaning their single status,” said Patrick Hooper, a Georgia senior. “It’s the same as high school, but the women are even more enchanting and beautiful.”
And perhaps still elusive. Many women eagerly hit the library on Saturday night. And most would prefer to go out with friends, rather than date a campus brute.
Thus there might be more than one type of person participating in the mating market, such as it is. There is also more than one type of commentator. What the commentariat sees in that fretfulness often depends on the commentator's prior beliefs. Here's a passage from a Wendy Shalit review of several academic studies of campus rabbit culture.
For their part, the men explained that “You can’t go psycho over girls, there are just too many of them out there.” (“Psycho” in this context means caring.) The female students don’t care for this attitude, but they can’t do much about it when the hookup is “the only game in town.”
It's precisely that lack of caring that drives the Bertrand equilibrium in dating competition, and it's presumably with a wish to avoid that equilibrium that university administrators fret about their sex ratios.

On the right, the Times article leads to extended meditations on the effects of second-wave feminism. An editorial in the Badger Herald of 21 April 1987 by Michael Warner and Dorothy Freiberg provides the essential arguments.
One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women and denounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens' traditional roles as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.

Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
That line of thinking is still present. Charlotte Allen's "The New Dating Game: Back to the New Paleolithic Age" in The Weekly Standard goes pages and pages to reach the same conclusion.

The Herald editorial illustrates what the new dispensation involved in practice.
The demands of feminism required certain concessions on the part of men. Men had to be willing -- or forced -- to open their career ladders to the likes of women. They also had to cease to understand fidelity and commitment as prerequisites to sexual relationships. Needless to say, the second "concession" made the first much easier to swallow. It quickly dawned on men that there was now no reason to put women on the proverbial pedestal.
Several commentators at Phi Beta Cons reacted to different bits of the Times article.  Robert VerBruggen addresses the evolutionary stability of social norms.
While the trends we see in young people’s college years (and beyond) are troubling, the center holds — both in college and in the adult marriage market. I would guess this is due to two factors: One, lots of women will choose monogamy over high-status mates; two, social norms against promiscuous behavior and in favor of marriage still have some sway.
While the hookup culture exists on college campuses, it’s not ubiquitous. Virtually any woman who wants to hook up can do so, but an Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) survey of college girls found that only 40 percent had. Only 10 percent had done so more than six times.
Also, this situation doesn’t persist much beyond college; eventually, monogamy takes hold again, forcing former participants in the hookup culture to pair up. IWF found that 83 percent of college girls considered marriage an important goal, and 63 percent of them wanted to meet their future husbands in college.
The exceptions make for better copy, and perhaps they sell more newspapers.  (Or, perhaps, as a close reading of the Times article suggests, the point of the piece is to reassure The Establishment that all is well in the Official Region, never mind what those party animals do at the basketball schools.)  A second post is an instructive corrective to beyond-parody constructivists or believers in an immutable human nature.
Also, I don’t understand why it’s important how evolutionary psychology arrived at the place it is today. My concern is: What actual evidence is there that its current arguments about human nature are wrong?
Finally, regarding whether monogamy is “natural”:  Human societies have had plenty of different mating systems, and even in monogamous societies, many people stray, so I have a hard time believing it is. But so what? Capitalism isn’t “natural,” either; nor is democracy. It doesn’t much matter whether an institution is part of human nature; what matters is whether it channels human nature in a useful way. Monogamy minimizes sexual jealousy by forbidding adultery, and it makes sure that low-status men have access to partners by restricting high-status men to one partner apiece. Those are two very valuable features, and that’s why monogamous cultures have dominated non-monogamous cultures for centuries now, “unnatural” as either may be.
The construction of a keeper, however, appears to be robust.

A second line of discussion at Phi Beta Cons attempts to discern the role of feminism in creating, or reacting to, the hookup culture.  Carol Iannone probably overanalyzes.
Feminism is largely responsible for the cultivation of “beta males” by making men suppress their natural masculinity. The truth is, even the merest so-called beta has all the masculinity needed to attract women if only he would exercise it. The simplest masculine look or “male gaze” at certain moments can make females melt. Confidence shown in conversation and interest in a subject can attract female admiration. If men would dress to complement their masculine form rather than wearing baggy shorts, baseball caps turned backward, and oversized Hawaiian-type smock-shirts that used to be the reserve of retired overweight men on vacation, they would be very appealing to women.
That depends on the setting. Perhaps Professor Iannone projects her own perspective on attractiveness. The young men she describes seem to have no trouble finding female company. The quality of the companionship might rise to the level of male-female interaction in a light beer commercial, but perhaps that's satisfactory for the parties involved. Not everybody has grasped the finer points of third-wave feminist theory.  Further, those baggy shorts and backwards caps signify frat-boy athlete types, and a few of them might actually be able to win a bowl game or close a sale.  (But then, the commentary on higher education, never mind the ideology or politics, too often is defined by the aesthetic standards of the coastal symbolic analysts.)  Maybe she's read too much Camille Paglia, whose writings about wimpy academic men make Rush Limbaugh's new castrati schtick look tame.  Who knows, maybe the life of a lacrosstitute has its attractions.

David French offers a different take, one that tangentially suggests a parallel between feminist consciousness and environmental consciousness.
On the college campus, one constantly hears students lament “where have all the nice guys gone?” Well, the ones who pay attention and have a modicum of self-confidence often react to market pressures and display the stereotypical “alpha” behavior that may not be “nice” but certainly is “attractive.” As for the ones who stay “nice?” They’re still there, but they’re just as (un)attractive as they’ve always been.
As we hear about the alleged inherent attractiveness of the “good guys,” I’m reminded of what happens when we forget what the market is really like and instead talk about the market we’d like to see. The “good guy” is the Toyota Prius of the dating world: He’s the person you (allegedly) should end up with. But the Ford F150 is where the moneys’ made. The feminist tries to force people to like the Prius — ultimately a fool’s errand. The conservative exhorts F150 owners to use their powers for good and not evil.
No, the feminist project is simply the expansion of life choices for women, whether that involves pairing up or not. It has nothing to do with the quality of mate.  The life choices rhetoric gets into the social mix, but it's probably the only part of the feminist project that does.

Cold Spring Shops is not an advice column, but gentlemen, if you ever hear "I'm not ready for a commitment," treat your situation as friends-with-benefits, no matter how desirable the benefits are.  Matt Yglesias's reaction to the entire issue gets it.
That said, most of the hand-wringing about this seems silly. It would be bizarre to start admitting fewer women to college in order to make it easier for the remaining women to find steady boyfriends. Things like improved labor market opportunities for blue collar women and improved college preparation for low-income men would help resolve the imbalance, but those things would be goals with pursuing even absent the gender balance on campus issue. What’s more, there’s a large-scale shift toward people getting married later that’s rendering a lot of these ideas about meeting your future husband in school obsolete anyway.
To some extent, the Times article suggests the same thing.
“If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many of us,” said Katie Deray, a senior at the University of Georgia, who said that it is common to see six provocatively clad women hovering around one or two guys at a party or a bar.

Since that is not her style, Ms. Deray said, she has still not had a long-term relationship in college. As a fashion merchandising major, she said, she can only hope the odds improve when she graduates and moves to New York.

At colleges in big cities, women do have more options. “By my sophomore year, I just had the feeling that there is nobody in this school that I could date,” said Ashley Crisostomo, a senior at Fordham University in New York, which is 55 percent female. She has tended to date older professionals in the city.

But in a classic college town, the social life is usually limited to fraternity parties, local bars or coffeehouses. And college men — not usually known for their debonair ways — can be particularly unmannerly when the numbers are in their favor.

“A lot of guys know that they can go out and put minimal effort into their appearance and not treat girls to drinks or flatter them, and girls will still flirt with them,” said Felicite Fallon, a senior at Florida State University, which is 56 percent female.
It's not just about the urban universities contrasted with the rural sports colleges, and it doesn't have to involve only the big cities.  Rent in a well-off neighborhood (which doesn't have to be the tower blocks of the financial districts), take up an upscale sport or two: the supply curve of trophy wives has to get its elasticity somewhere.