29.9.13

RANKED.

The Northern Illinois football team is above the line in the coaches' poll.
Northern Illinois' earliest appearance in the Top 25 came in 2003 when the Huskies were ranked 20th (AP) and 22nd (USA Today) in Week 5 after defeating No. 21 Maryland, Tennessee Tech, No. 23 Alabama and Iowa State. NIU spent a school record eight weeks in the Top 25 that season and reached a record-high ranking of No. 12 (AP) and 14 (USA Today).
That run included two games at home, the season opener hosting Maryland, and the Tennessee Tech game. The only home game so far was a very good Eastern Illinois, in DeKalb a week ago.

The other three wins came on the road, the most recent in West Lafayette.  Two Big Ten teams and a state flagship (Idaho), none of them ranked.


Five for the Fourth, at Ross-Ade Stadium.

By then, most of the people remaining in the stadium were in red.

PUNISHED FOR BEING COOPERATIVE.

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Tenured Radical spells out the false economies of downsizing in the university.  Read past the following false start for the substance.
[Mid-career academics face] personal responsibilities that can make sustained work on a book difficult for both men and women. Children are born or require a different kind of attention; spousal careers take unexpected turns that create logistical problems; parents age out and require care; sometimes the scholar herself becomes ill. These difficulties reverberate into scholarship: the complexities of the middle decades make sustained writing difficult. Travel to archives becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile with domestic, child-care and dual work schedules.
That's probably as true of middle managers or surgeons or hedge fund managers or other professionals who would like to have a home life of some sort, and the Say Aggregation Principle bites on dual-career families no matter their circumstances.

Now, history's current promotion metric is probably too restrictive, and Professor Potter recognizes that historians might have something to learn from (gasp) economists.
But why must the exercise of continued engagement result in a book? Don’t other aspects of a faculty member scholarly production demonstrate continued engagement and intellectual growth? Any of the things I suggested above might plausibly demonstrate this engagement, as they often do in fields like economics, political science and media studies — to name a few fields.
Yes, and mid-career economists and political scientists might want to have a life, too. (Sticking the single people with additional responsibilities might work, as long as that's where the pay raises and promotions go. But we're talking about higher education.)

The cause of faculty burnout, however, is a rise in scut-work accompanying a shrinking of the faculty.  Regular readers know about this phenomenon.  Read the comments that accompany Professor Potter's post, though, and consider how widespread the disaffection must be.
Being promoted to Associate Professor makes a scholar eligible for endless institutional labor.
That might be manageable with sufficient Associate Professors and Professors to share the work.  Ain't happening.
The “raising of standards” for those on tenure lines has been accompanied by accelerated adjunctification: thus, there are fewer full-time faculty at all ranks and they do more institutional work than they ever have done.
Yes, and the proliferation of computer-based data handling achieves a false economy.
You can add this to the fact that online university systems now substitute for the pink and white collar workers who used to do a great deal of the administrative work and paper pushing of the university. Using the software provided by my university, it can take me up to an hour to process the charges for a research trip; using course platforms or online reserve systems to organize a class can now take up to three or four days; using “student success” software can be a time-suck of gargantuan proportions. This isn’t just true at the level of the university: applying for grants on line is a huge headache because each foundation has its own system, requires its own passwords, and has slightly different requirements (personal statement no longer than four pages/three pages/ 1000 words that is double-spaced/single-spaced/fits in the box below.)

No one has done the research, but I would stand by this assertion: associate profs are being asked to do more scholarship in less aggregate time because, in addition to everything else, they are now doing all their own secretarial and administrative work. Promotion standards need to take into account not just the lack of time, but what this does to the ability to sustain the continuing labor of writing a book – as opposed to articles.

What our current system does by raising expectations, raising the bar for promotion, and keeping pay flat, is to create a high level of burnout at the level of associate professor.
I'd add to that list the introduction of password-protected submission management systems by the journals.  It's probably more convenient for authors who can compose on the keyboard, convert their Scientific Word to a PDF, and upload the works.  But when an unsolicited request to do refereeing comes in, with some peremptory request to register someplace and go through all the password rigamarole, I tend to ignore it, and reserve the right to advise the editor that I'm calling it a career shortly.

On the other hand, it is the duty of the tenured faculty to say no to administrative requests that are not essential.  Hell, it's probably a good idea to ask the maker of any such request to justify it, and to propose a compensatory reduction of duties elsewhere if the most recent request is justifiable.

HE FOUND A WAY TO BEAT YOU.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports correspondent Tyler Dunne interviews Bill Moseley.
Bring on the bourbon.

"Take your drink," he says, "I have to show you something."

And the man who coached Bart Starr in high school takes calculated, six-inch steps toward his time machine of a garage. Lined across the wall are yellowed photographs. There's a photo of Moseley with his coach at Kentucky, Paul "Bear" Bryant. There's a portrait of Starr and Moseley together at the quarterback's Hall of Fame induction, where Moseley introduced him.
It's part of the build-up to Mr Starr's forthcoming 80th birthday.  It's also an opportunity to revisit the art of improving by simplifying.
Sonny Jurgensen still remembers sharing lunch with Starr in Washington in 1969. Lombardi was leaving Green Bay for the Redskins. The preparation would be intense, Starr told him. The game plan, extensive.

"And he said that when you play the games, the games are fun," Jurgensen recalled. "I said, 'What?' I said, 'I'm running for my life.'"

Jurgensen is the only other quarterback who truly understands the whole one-of-a-kind coach, one-of-a-kind player theory. He spent one season with Lombardi himself — in 1969. That one season, Jurgensen, like Starr, had access to a mind, a man no other quarterback did.

Like Starr, Jurgensen still reads those notebooks from his days with Lombardi.

He's a legend in his own right. Jurgensen has a bust in Canton, too. Five Pro Bowls, the best passer rating of his era. One championship. If Jurgensen did have Lombardi for any of those other 17 pro seasons, "it would have been like stealing," he says.

Only two coaches — any era, any sport — had this ability, he adds, to mash a complex game into a simple one. Lombardi in football, Red Auerbach in basketball. Jurgensen has talked to Sam Jones, to John Havlicek about this. The Boston Celtics had six plays in 12 years and options off those six plays. Like Lombardi.

Starr took this system and mastered it. Jurgensen says Starr will be remembered as "one of the very smartest quarterbacks to ever play the game."

"He ran that football team," Jurgensen said. "He was the leader of that football team. That's how he'll be remembered — as a great field general."

Dan Fouts calls Starr one of the most underrated quarterbacks of all time. If you judge quarterbacks by championships, well, "he's No. 1."

As the son of the San Francisco 49ers' play-by-play man, Fouts saw Starr up close at Kezar Stadium. A ball boy, Fouts had a front-row seat to the most accurate quarterback of the era. When Starr retired, his 57.4 completion percentage was the best ever.

"They always kicked the 49ers' ass," said Fouts, now a CBS analyst. "His command and consistency was just, I don't think he ever, ever, it just doesn't seem like he ever made mistakes."

Yet "Bart Starr" might not resonate today. The personalities of Lombardi and Hornung and Nitschke and Taylor were overwhelming, Fouts explains, and Starr never sought the limelight. No guarantees. No fur coats or flashy nickname.
Just being smart enough to not overthink the fundamentals. (That's one of the hardest things to instill in economics students. Substitution. Opportunity cost. Indifference. Arbitrage. Do those things well, and the analysis will take care of itself.

There's no reason to revise this list.  Or disregard the five rings.

28.9.13

CHICAGO'S BIG TEN TEAM.

That's what Northwestern likes to claim in its radio spots.  Never mind that Iowa and Wisconsin draw bigger crowds for their away games with Northern Illinois at Soldier Field.

But Northwestern and Northern Illinois have agreed to a game at Dyche Stadium, er, whatever they sold the naming rights to, in Evanston.
With Northwestern not in session that early in September, [current Northwestern and former Northern Illinois athletics director Jim] Phillips needs to fill seats and sell tickets. Recent NU nonconference opponents such as Towson, South Dakota, Maine or Rice didn’t draw or excite North Shore fandom as the Huskies should. Sure, in some ways, it’s a risk bringing in an up-and-coming local mid-major with seven bowl appearances in the past 10 years. Give Phillips and coach Pat Fitzgerald credit.

For NIU, so was scheduling FCS Eastern Illinois. Look what happened. Classic comeback victory before a sellout crowd at Huskie Stadium. What better advertisement for NIU football?

[Current Northern athletics director Sean] Frazier hit the nail directly on the head about football scheduling problems, i.e., avoiding good teams and in-state rivals.

“Declining attendance at college football games is a national trend and scheduling has been identified as a prime factor in the decline,” he said in NIU’s announcement release.
Some of that declining attendance might be a consequence of the power conferences buying wins from weaker programs, or from a surfeit of conference games destroying traditional rivalries such as Notre Dame - Michigan.  Or it might be the annoyance of not being able to plan your weekend until Thursday, when the networks announce their television lineup for the weekend.  Or it might be weeknight football.

The announcement, however, gave the Chicago Tribune's "Main Event" an opportunity.


"Main Event" for 24 September 2013.

At the end of last season, Northwestern finished ahead of Northern Illinois in the opinion polls.  Today, though, Northern Illinois did its coming from behind in the first quarter, en route to a 55-24 squeaker at Purdue.  Northwestern will play at Iowa, but does not face Purdue.

RESPECT THE MARKET TESTS.

In the Cold Spring Shops coverage of the pedagogical successes of Northwestern's lecturers, the unifying theme of all posts is the unsustainability of attempting to offer a college education on the cheap.

At the same time that story broke, longtime Duquesne University adjunct professor of French, Margaret Mary Vojtko, died alone, penniless, and effectively homeless at the age of 83.  She had served Duquesne for 25 years.

Arizona's Gary Rhoades, who directs that university's Center for the Study of Higher Education, wrote a commentary for CNN.
If American higher education says to students and society that a college education is the path to the middle class, how can we justify such treatment of these professionals, with advanced degrees, who are teaching the students?

We are living a lie that cheats these professors and the students they teach, particularly in access universities and community colleges where adjunct faculty numbers, like percentages of lower-income students, are highest and instructional spending per student is lowest.
Yes, it is the lie of access - assessment - remediation - retention. The pay and working conditions for "access universities and community colleges" -- often put more bluntly as higher education's subprime sector, are terrible.  But such institutions will claim they are unable to recruit against the more highly regarded institutions either with respect to pay or working conditions, and on the other side of the market, the good researchers and the star teachers will discover they have opportunities, and act upon them.

Rebecca Schuman of the University of Missouri at St. Louis proposes the next step.
We must provide tangible, capitalism-friendly reasons that college “consumers” are getting a very raw deal. The first step: not to bang our heads against the wall when referring to our students as “consumers.” The second: to examine the adjunct crisis from the perspective of the two industries in which the vast majority of today’s college graduates will find employment, if they ever do: service and retail. If that seems cynical, keep in mind that people who think language and literature professors are useless often have a hard time detecting cynicism.
There's an argument from equity in the above: it's the consumers of what passes for higher education at the dropout factories and subprime providers who are getting the rawest deal: lots of debt, little learning, last hired, and hired only at the peak of the business cycle.

It's counterproductive, Ms Schuman argues, to think of higher education as an upscale product.
So as long as college is viewed as a brand-name product, its workers’ wages will only get lower as  management wages soar. And as long as that diploma continues to confer what little status it still does, nobody will care.
Yes, in a world where Apple views Chinese prison labor as more dependable than North American burnouts, the Enhance Shareholder Value model probably has those consequences.  But that Enhance Shareholder Value doesn't always work for the for-profit loan sinks, nor is it likely to work well for the dropout factories.

On the other hand, to think of higher education as an upscale service instantly suggests a way around Baumol's cost disease (apart from a theoretical novelty due to Baumol himself that I recently rediscovered and hope to expand upon).
Consumers pay a ton; ergo, they deserve premium service—which includes, say, an office in which to meet with their professor instead of a 1998 Subaru, and a professor who is rested and showered because her home has heat and hot water.

If, instead of viewing a diploma like a $500 purse (one we don’t care was made by Vietnamese 4-year-olds), we view the college experience as, say, CrossFit or a Brazilian bikini wax, but for the mind, then tuition payers might actually start getting up in arms that so little of their tuition goes to instruction.
The rat-hole model of management is a false economy.

BE AWARE OF FALSE POSITIVES.

In statistical inference, a researcher ought to spell out his loss function, or at least say something about the power of his tests against Type I or Type II errors.

Psychologist Enrico Gnaulati suggests that contemporary psychologists and educators are caught in too tight a prior, and that prior leads to the misdiagnosis of ordinary behavior by brainy children as some sort of disorder. In his Salon essay, an excerpt from his recent Back to Normal, he suggests that the erroneous prior is in viewing differences in the play of boys and girls as a social construct, rather than an evolutionarily stable strategy.
It’s this public discomfort with discussing children’s gendered behavior that gets many traditionally masculine boys inappropriately labeled as high-functioning autistic. Poor eye contact, long-winded monologues about one’s new favorite topic, being overly serious and businesslike, appearing uninterested in other’s facial expressions, and restricting friendships to those who share one’s interests, may all be signs of Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism. However, these same traits typify boys who are traditionally masculine in their behavior.
There's a lot of content in the essay, and I may have to add the book to the next library requisition. For now, concentrate on three paragraphs toward the end.
Highly intelligent boys who happen to be introverted by temperament are probably the subpopulation of kids who are most likely to be erroneously labeled autistic. In her provocatively titled Psychology Today article “Revenge of the Introvert,” Laurie Helgoe, a self-described card-carrying introvert, captures a key personality characteristic of introverts: “[They] like to think before responding—many prefer to think out what they want to say in advance—and seek facts before expressing opinions.” Introverted, highly intelligent boys may appear vacant and nonresponsive when asked a question like “What is your favorite animal?” Yet in their minds, they may be deeply and actively processing copious amounts of information on types and defining features of animals and zeroing in on precise words to use to articulate their complex thoughts. Thirty seconds, a minute, or even more time may pass before an answer is supplied. In the meantime, the listener might wonder if the boy is deaf or completely self-absorbed.

According to Laurie Helgoe: “Introverts seek time alone because they want time alone.” Brainy, introverted boys may cherish and look forward to alone time, which allows them the opportunity to indulge their intellectual appetites full throttle, amassing knowledge through reading or Internet searches. Solitude creates the time and space they need to totally immerse themselves in their preferred interests. They may get more turned on by studying ideas, pursuing science projects, or by solving math problems than by conversing with people.

In our extroverted culture, where being a “team player” and a “people person” are seen as linchpins of normalcy, the notion that a brainy, introverted boy might legitimately prefer the world of ideas over the world of people is hard for most people to accept. Parents of such boys may feel terribly uneasy about their tendency to want to be alone and try to push their sons to be sociable and to make more friends. But if you get to know such boys, they would much rather be alone reading, writing, or pursuing projects that stimulate their intellect than be socializing with peers who are not their intellectual equals. However, once they come into contact with a kindred spirit, someone who is a true intellectual equal with whom they can share the fullness of their ideas, that person just might become a lifelong friend. Around such kindred spirits, brainy, introverted boys can perk up and appear more extroverted and outgoing, wanting to talk as well as to listen. With people who share their interests, especially people who possess equal or greater knowledge in these areas, brainy, introverted boys can display quite normal social skills.
The generalization to pursuing an academic vocation or designing a model railroad is left to the reader as an exercise.

Reflect, though, dear reader, on those areas of society where the extroverts dominate the culture.  Greek-letter organizations.  Business.  Politics.  How well have those areas been performing lately?
When we mistake a brainy, introverted boy for an autism spectrum disordered one, we devalue his mental gifts. We view his ability to become wholeheartedly engrossed in a topic as a symptom that needs to be stamped out, rather than a form of intellectualism that needs to be cultivated.
Indeed.

THINKING ABOUT THE INTAKE.

To repeat, as repeat I must, when the latest dismal College Board scores come out, we'll not have better academic outcomes in college, until there's less Distressed Material matriculating.
Only 48% of test takers reached the "SAT Benchmark” — a score of 1550 that is associated with a 65% likelihood of obtaining a first-year college grade point average of B- or higher, according to the College Board.

Students who reach that threshold are more likely to enroll in a four-year school and complete their degree, the College Board said.

In high school, the students who surpassed the benchmark were more likely than their peers to have completed a curriculum of four years or more of English and three years or more of math, natural science and social science.

They were also more likely to have taken honors or Advanced Placement courses.
The article states the obvious. In an environment, though, in which freshmen whinge about being placed directly in Finite Math, reiterating the obvious is necessary.  And in many institutions of higher learning (and I use the term loosely), slipping enrollment becomes reason to fret about maybe being too selective.

The good news, which College Insurrection posted late on Friday, is that the University of North Dakota apparently decided to save money by raising admission standards, never mind that the intake might be smaller.
There are a lot of reasons for low graduation rates at the university level. The number of kids – just 23% according to the latest ACT numbers – prepared for college-level work out of the K-12 schools is a factor, no doubt. But another problem is the “pack the campus” mentality that seems to permeate the universities, particularly here in North Dakota.

In years past, it seems the higher ed folks have measured their success by enrollment. The more students, the better, regardless of outcomes for those students. Because more students justify more staff. Bigger budgets. More building on campus. And the students, after all, are a delivery mechanism for lots of tax dollars and taxpayer-guaranteed student loans.
Yes, and sooner or later Stein's Law will bite.  At Say Anything, that's a desirable outcome.
If UND is reversing that trend, if this is a genuine change of philosophy toward more selective admissions and not just spin to cover up poor institutional performance, then kudos to UND.

This is what’s needed to fix higher education in North Dakota.
That's encouraging, particularly in light of the "every ship seaworthy" response to the social stratification apparently coming in train with the positional arms race in college ratings and college enrollments.

It is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

26.9.13

TONIGHT'S RAILROAD READING.

The Interurban Tradition, in 1940 and 2013.

RELATIVE PRICES MATTER.

John Cochrane reflects on the consequences of raising the minimum wage.
McDonalds provided a positive social externality -- it gave young people their first experience of work, of showing up on time, in a uniform, of learning to be pleasant to customers, to work within a heirarchical organization, and so on. Young people who work at McDonalds don't get internships at NPR, the New York Times, or Goldman Sachs to to develop work experience. As McDonalds goes, so will that process. All that will be left is cleaning.

A sturdy hike in the minimum wage, in today's economy, is basically an industrial policy subsidizing the transition to low-skill service industry automation.
That transition is likely, because Professor Cochrane's experience the last time he ate at a McDonalds demonstrated the limitations of computer technology that allows orders to be taken by sub-literates.  Newer bun-'n-run companies are likely to set up smart-phone applications that allow the diner to avoid any human interaction with less-than-competent help.

THE RICH WOMAN FARMS OUT THE CHILD CARE.

We've noted previously the implicit necessity of class divisions in the dependence of ambitious and upscale families on cheap labor to do domestic chores.  At The New Republic, British economist Alison Wolf brings more formal analysis to bear.
Alison Wolf argues that as the gap between genders has narrowed for the affluent, the gap between rich and poor women has broadened. The former’s professional success is made possible by “the return of the servant classes”—almost uniformly female housekeepers and nannies who free their employers to pull farther ahead. “Until now, all women’s lives, whether rich or poor, have been dominated by the same experiences and pressures,” she writes. “Today, elite and highly educated women have become a class apart."
She also notes, in good economist fashion, that so-called work-life balance is likely to be elusive, as long as people are able to improve their lot by working harder.
If you go to the very, very top and you look at the demands of the jobs which are the top half a percent, even the top tenth of a percent, I personally don’t believe we’re ever going to get work-life balance into those jobs any more than anybody did really in the past. It’s also why I believe they will never really be 50-50. I think we’ll end up one-third to two-thirds at the very, very top, as a kind of stable thing. I’m an academic because although I work all the time, I have amazing control over when and where I do it. I think for a lot of women, that is appealing, and there will always be more women who make that choice than men.
And to be an effective economist, one must be sensitive to trade-offs.
It’s not like everybody had their lives transformed for the better. We are still living on the labor of other people, but so was everybody in the past. It’s saying, okay, there are things that are unfinished, there are things that are not right, but we have truly transformed the world in which we live. It’s a completely different society and one that to me is definitely for the better. I cannot see why one would want to go back.
To push it further, though: all of civil society depends ultimately upon some sort of division of labor.

PARTIAL MONOPSONY BAD, FULL MONOPSONY GOOD?

In The Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins considers the unintended political consequences of implementing the so-called Affordable Care Act.  The real kicker, though, is the apparent lack of economic thinking on the part of the political class.
ObamaCare also sets in motion long-run forces that could erode the political foundation of Medicare. Don't believe it?

ObamaCare already contains a large implicit subsidy for the old (regardless of income) in the form of protection of pre-existing conditions and its limitation on how much higher rates insurers can charge the old than the young.

Medicare, for its part, is already means-tested and will become more so. Millions of Medicare users already have opted for a private insurance option. How many ObamaCare customers might one day decide they'd also like to keep their private insurance rather than enroll in fee-for-service Medicare—especially as no signal has been clearer from Washington than the signal that Medicare quality will decline as reimbursements to doctors and hospitals are trimmed back?
Yes, and some physicians are limiting their service to Medicare and Medicaid patients already, consistent with the expected response of a supplier to a monopsonist.

But the failure of the Affordable Care Act is supposed to leave voters with the idea that There Is No Alternative to single payer.
It should be noted, finally, who is really rooting for the Affordable Care Act to be a train wreck: It's people on the left, like L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who anticipates that "glitches, loopholes and shortcomings" will lead to a single-payer system. It's people like Sen. Harry Reid, whom Mr. Hiltzik quotes telling voters back in Nevada that ObamaCare is "far from having something that's going to work forever."
Yes, and what happens when that Federal Insurance Provider takes sole control of the reimbursement rate to health care providers?  Does anybody seriously expect that Wal-Mart-like methods to bend down the cost curves are going to work any better because it's Washington optimizing against the marginal factor cost schedule?

25.9.13

AN UNCLE TIM RECONSIDERS.

Warren Farrell notes the perversion of equity feminism by the Perpetually Aggrieved.
In 1972, many feminists, including male feminists like myself, sought a gender equality that would benefit both sexes. But from day one women's studies' departments at leading universities skipped right past that--and into Marxist feminism with its paradigm of males-as-oppressor/females-as-oppressed. Over the past thirty years that model expanded from the politically correct gender framework at the leading universities, whose professors are typically more radical, into more vocationally oriented universities such as Ryerson, who in the past were barely affected by Marxist-type feminism.
But with the zanies in charge of student affairs, sometimes the presence of other misguided initiatives offers opportunities.
Lakeland Community College in Ohio, and Pierce College in Washington State, found that men's problems could get attention if couched as an issue of retention.  James Shelley at Lakeland explained that the new Ohio funding formula is based on success rates, including graduation and retention. And since men are more likely to drop out, the issues putting male students at risk might be more widely considered if it meant more money from the state.

Similarly, after Pierce College's Bret Burkholder elicited data from colleges throughout Washington State, and discovered male students about four times as likely to be dismissed as women at all of Washington state's colleges, he got no traction when he presented it as a male problem. It too had to be presented as a retention problem.

Learning from this, Burkholder has framed his work less as about men per se, and more, for example, as about veterans, which clears through the patriotism filter; or work with single dads, since the beneficiaries are children.

This approach, while gaining traction, is still slow. As Shelley puts it, "the premise is still, 'Men are the problem" rather than "Men have problems."
There are also intriguing ways to push back under the rubric of Title IX of the 1972 Civil Rights Act.

I like it.  Use the machinery of oppression against the oppressors.

REVEALED PREFERENCES.

The Atlantic's Amanda Ripley asks the Question of the Day.
The United States routinely spends more tax dollars per high-school athlete than per high-school math student—unlike most countries worldwide. And we wonder why we lag in international education rankings?
What the schools celebrate, they get more of.  Ms Ripley quotes James Coleman, in 1961, remarking on a visitor encountering the trophy case in the lobby of a representative high school.
His examination of the trophies would reveal a curious fact: The gold and silver cups, with rare exception, symbolize victory in athletic contests, not scholastic ones… Altogether, the trophy case would suggest to the innocent visitor that he was entering an athletic club, not an educational institution.
Indeed, even if one of your high school valedictorians went on to a high-profile career in entertainment,  you might not find her picture.  The first time I went to the Kiwanis pancake breakfast at DeKalb High, I noticed the cups, and the pictures, of sports accomplishments ranging from state titles to obscure third-place finishes.  No Cindy Crawford, or any other valedictorian.  And it might be the case that the new high school got built in order to provide a larger athletic complex, including a dedicated football stadium (although the annual tilt with Sycamore still takes place at Huskie Stadium).  My sources inside the high schools also tell me that the ridiculous starting times (first class at 7.30 am??) are dictated in part by practice times that don't run afoul of Hours of Service regulations for teachers who are also coaching.

But one hardscrabble district in Texas decided to go cold turkey on sports in order to free up resources to bolster the academic mission, and to reclaim the school culture.
In the spring of 2012, after the state threatened to shut down Premont Independent School District for financial mismanagement and academic failure, Ernest Singleton suspended all sports—including football.

To cut costs, the district had already laid off eight employees and closed the middle-school campus, moving its classes to the high-school building; the elementary school hadn’t employed an art or a music teacher in years; and the high school had sealed off the science labs, which were infested with mold. Yet the high school still turned out football, basketball, volleyball, track, tennis, cheerleading, and baseball teams each year.

Football at Premont cost about $1,300 a player. Math, by contrast, cost just $618 a student. For the price of one football season, the district could have hired a full-time elementary-school music teacher for an entire year. But, despite the fact that Premont’s football team had won just one game the previous season and hadn’t been to the playoffs in roughly a decade, this option never occurred to anyone.

“I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms,” says Singleton, who has spent 15 years as a principal and helped turn around other struggling schools. “This was the worst I’ve seen in my career. The kids were in control. The language was filthy. The teachers were not prepared.” By suspending sports, Singleton realized, he could save $150,000 in one year. A third of this amount was being paid to teachers as coaching stipends, on top of the smaller costs: $27,000 for athletic supplies, $15,000 for insurance, $13,000 for referees, $12,000 for bus drivers. “There are so many things people don’t think about when they think of sports,” Singleton told me.
The austerity seems to have worked, albeit not without some hurt feelings.
“We were freaking out,” says Mariela, a former cheerleader and tennis and volleyball player. American kids expect to participate in school sports as a kind of rite of passage. “We don’t get these years back,” she told me. “I’m never going to get the experience of cheering as captain under the lights.”
On the other hand, she's never going to get any practice at being a Mean Girl and enabling her clique to lord it over the less popular girls.  That may be a Good Thing, and it's salutary to see it in Texas, where small school districts still field football teams (seven rather than eleven to a side) and big suburban districts have indoor practice facilities suitable for Super Bowl preparations.

There's more on the story at Joanne Jacobs, including some spirited defenses of high school sports.

WE MUST ALL HAVE BEEN CHILD PRODIGIES.

The latest wisdom from developmental psychology suggests adolescence lasts for a long time.
Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, says we have infantilised young people and this has led to a growing number of young men and women in their late 20s still living at home.

"Often it's claimed it's for economic reasons, but actually it's not really for that," says Furedi. "There is a loss of the aspiration for independence and striking out on your own. When I went to university it would have been a social death to have been seen with your parents, whereas now it's the norm.

"So you have this kind of cultural shift which basically means that adolescence extends into your late twenties and that can hamper you in all kinds of ways, and I think what psychology does is it inadvertently reinforces that kind of passivity and powerlessness and immaturity and normalises that."

Furedi says that this infantilised culture has intensified a sense of "passive dependence" which can lead to difficulties in conducting mature adult relationships. There's evidence of this culture even in our viewing preferences.
I accepted a contract as an assistant professor at the age of 24, and some of my contemporaries were starting families.  But then, we had to organize our own sand-lot ball games or Lionel train operating sessions or what have you, and we had chores, and we understood that when the streetlights came on it was time to go home.
TV property expert Sarah Beeny says that adolescents do not have to move out of the parental house in order to learn how to be independent and there are huge advantages to multi-generational living.

"The solution to not having useless 25 [and] 30-year-olds living at home is not sending them out of the home, it's making them do their own washing, pay their own way, pay towards the rent, pay towards the bills, to take responsibility for cleaning up their bedroom and not waiting on them hand and foot," says Beeny.

She says that parents should play a part in teaching adolescents key skills and that young people in return can keep their parents current.
Four year olds can learn to set the table and put away their toys, eight year olds to dry the dishes (you want to have a little maturity to deal with the hot water to wash them) and ten year olds can manage sorting the clothes and loading the washing machine.

INCENTIVES MATTER.

In Atlantic Business, Jordan Weissmann introduces economic logic into the continuing discussion of the Northwestern study of teaching effectiveness (see here and here for background).
Nothing about the Northwestern study suggests that colleges should embrace the rat-hole model of labor management. Rather, it's another piece of a growing economics literature that, taken as a whole, suggests exactly the opposite: Poorly paid, part-time faculty are poor substitutes for full-time professors.
That seems obvious, but in professor-speak, even the brightest among you will benefit by a modicum of repetition.  Or we remember Vince Lombardi practicing 48 and 39 and 31 Wedge every day.
To review, what does the study tell us? If colleges pay their professors a middle-class wage to teach year-in and year-out, they might just do a better job of it than faculty who focus on research and publishing.
Yes, and at Northwestern those professionally respected and effective lecturers are working in an environment where a critical mass of motivated and responsible students is likely present to counteract the party pathway that diverts students elsewhere.  In higher education's subprime sector, however, the rat-hole model of management is a false economy.
The Northwestern study is just one paper, part of a small-but-growing volume of economics research into which kinds of professors make the best teachers. And collectively, they suggest that schools may be hurting students by over-relying on adjuncts, especially at the community college level, where part-timers are most prevalent.
There are subtleties. But note, in particular, part-timers who can say no might be more effective.
A retired executive teaching in his spare hours probably has more time to devote to students than an adjunct juggling 3 or more courses to make ends meet.

Reflecting on both studies, the team concluded that while a faculty full of adjuncts might hurt graduation rates overall, part-timers could still be very effective in certain subjects — especially pre-professional fields. Adjuncts might be great for teaching high level computer science and less great for teaching Chaucer.
Note, though, that a retired executive or a moonlighting engineer is in a position to be more selective about picking up a night class. Think DePaul rather than Joliet Junior, or Marquette rather than Wisconsin-Waukesha.

The teaching point, though, is that attempting to offer what looks like a college program on 2s6d a day isn't sustainable as a business model.

THE AMERICA'S CUP REMAINS IN AMERICA.

But in the wake of Oracle's USA defense, the yachting world seems to be rethinking J. P. Morgan's maxim that nobody who has to ask about the cost of owning a yacht has any business owning one.
In 2007, the last full Cup, there were 11. This year the $100 million cost of mounting a challenge meant only teams from Italy, Sweden and New Zealand showed up.

"They are too expensive," said Grant Dalton, general manager of the partially government-funded Kiwi effort and a longstanding critic of the AC72 class of yacht.

"For participation you need somthing that's more realistic pricewise," added Dalton, 56, who expects to leave the America's Cup scene. "Oracle has done an amazing job with their technology."

A lower bar-to-entry could mean simpler boats with more off-the-shelf parts. But the main focus will be reducing the massive on-shore staff needed to build, maintain and operate the sophisticated sailing machines, which for this regatta climbed into triple digits.

Ellison, one of the richest men in the world, indicated that he was inclined to remain in San Francisco in the next defense with some form of foiling multihulls that were able to reach speeds above 50 mph. But he did not want to go backwards in a regatta he said had "changed sailing forever."
That 2007 competition featured large sloops, perhaps better performers, if not as pretty as the America's Cup-class sloops that replaced the Twelve Meters commencing with the 1992 defense in San Diego.  This year's competition featured what might best be described as soft-water iceboats, with extreme planing characteristics and airfoils rather than sails.

Overshadowed in the expense, and the technology, is a rules change that made the U.S. defense even more impressive.  Because of some rules infraction during the semifinal races, the U.S. team entered the defense with minus two wins, meaning their team had to win eleven to the Kiwis' eight to defend the Cup.  And in this elimination race, the U.S. team got a poor start and trailed at the first weather mark.

23.9.13

TIME TO PUSH BACK.

College Insurrection offers Jonathan Taylor a forum to introduce his A Voice for Male Students.
The reality, as many of you likely know, is that much of the culture of academia has been perverted far from values like equity, diversity, and so forth – values it claims to promote, but no longer believes in. Instead, many of them now live in a world where equality means discrimination, gender sensitivity means vindictiveness and class hatred, and tolerance of diversity means celebrating and protecting only the speech of those who hold similar perspectives.
Yes, that sounds angry, and it might be hyperbolic. It's worth, though, noting that the Perpetually Aggrieved have been taking advantage of the unwillingness of academicians, particularly what we used to understand as mainstream white guys, to push back.  (What's the point of having the protections of tenure if you just go along and don't push back?)
Much of the world is driven by fear. This is especially true in the shark tank of academia, where the fear of losing money, power, status, and especially one’s career often takes precedence over everything else. This is a culture that, when faced with a moral dilemma of “is this right or wrong” instead often decides by asking “does this benefit my career.” It is also a culture that ignores or sweeps problems under the rug just to get by another day, and is often suffocating to any form of principled dissent.

While misandry is best defined as a subculture of academia, the culture of conformism is pervasive throughout academia as a whole. It is a common enemy between men’s advocates and anyone else seeking change in academia. In my experience, men’s advocates who mainly operate online are more likely to underappreciate this element of the cultural power struggle in academia. Perhaps this is because the culture of conformism doesn’t target men and boys exclusively, or because they have never been employed in academia to feel it directly.

The very structure of academia – with its most important decisions taking place behind closed office doors – creates a culture where conformism to the status quo is not just the modus operandi, but is also the preferred option whenever trouble arises or change is needed. It empowers faculty and especially administrators to employ a wide array of bureaucratic parlor tricks to ward off those they hope are too naïve, ignorant, or powerless to oppose them.
It doesn't hurt, either, to have faculty governance populated by careerists and conformists.

But when the Harvard Business School decides to castrate its male students, perhaps it is time to push back even harder.
That’s what kills me about initiatives like Harvard’s that are trying to alter the landscape so that women can succeed. In order to alter the landscape, you are destroying what makes the MEN such formidable competitors. Now, I’m not stupid. I realize that the men who are in the Harvard MBA program are rich, connected and come into the program with advantages most of us can only dream of, but they cannot parlay those advantages into real world rewards without combining them with boldness, confidence, assertiveness and a total unwillingness to kowtow to political correctness.

What are we achieving when we take our best and brightest men and force them to squelch the attributes that ultimately benefit us all so that women can feel like they won the race? What exactly are the women going to do with their glorious credentials?
Perhaps -- my view of MBAs is only slightly less favorable than my view of replay-assisted sports officiating -- those feminized Harvard grads will be less prone to wrecking companies, or the banking sector, in the service of an incompletely thought out model, or in obeisance to the quarterly report.

On the other hand, in an environment where searches come with the caveat, mainstream white guys are less desirable candidates, and a preponderance of the same among the majors fevers the brows, it's essential to have a forum for pushing back.

PROFESSORS OF THE PRACTICE.

Edward Kazarian follows up on his previous investigation of the Northwestern student achievement study.
Broadly, it shows that full-time, relatively stable and (presumably) well-compensated non-tenure-track faculty do well in the classroom.

Specifically, the paper outlines evidence for two conclusions: 1) that students "learn" better during their first term at Northwestern in classes led by non-tenure-track faculty, and 2) that students taking classes with non-tenure-track faculty are more likely to take another course in the same discipline.
But professors of the practice (I believe that's the Duke term) and senior lecturers, whether on long-term contracts or not, do not sit on curriculum committees or on the University Council. Perhaps administrators like it that way.
At the end of a report on a study contrasting non-tenure-track to tenured and tenure-track faculty, we are told that hiring "teaching-intensive lecturers" in addition to "research intensive tenure-track faculty" is an "efficient" solution to the problems facing administrators at research institutions.

Notice how the operative distinction has shifted to one between teaching and research-intensive faculty — but without quite disconnecting it from the issue of tenure.

Given this shift, the claim may be true. But there is nothing about teaching-intensive faculty that is incompatible with their being eligible for tenure — especially if one fully intends to build long-term relationships with them and keep them around.

Why, one is led to ask, can we not have "efficiency" and tenure? The answer, if there is one, must have to do with other ways in which non-tenured faculty differ from those with tenure. The authors mention academic freedom — an important consideration.

But they otherwise ignore the degree to which non-tenured faculty lack a secure position from which to question, criticize, or oppose the actions of university administrators.

And here, indeed, is another sense of "efficiency" that administrators at many institutions might well wish to cultivate, allowing them to enjoy a pedagogically effective, but largely vulnerable, and therefore easily controlled faculty.
Indeed.

TAKING THE CAKE.

During the summer, the Heathrow Express received a truly impressive fifteenth birthday cake, and the bakers trusted commuters not to run their fingers through the frosting.

RIOT RENAISSANCE.

A website called Complex appears to be a forum for aesthetic criticism.  One gallery features The 50 Ugliest College Campuses.  The gallery is full of references to "brutalist" and "modernist" and "post-modernist" and unfavorable comparisons with office parks and medical complexes.

In other words, the startup universities and the upgraded teacher's colleges of the Baby Boom era get most of the stick.  That includes Northern Illinois.
As for the architecture, most students agree that the school sometimes presents itself falsely. It shows pictures of the castle-esque Altgeld Hall online, when most students never get the luxury of even being on that side if [c.q.] campus.
That's a fair point. I've featured the Northern Illinois State Normal School side of campus for my winter scenic shots.  The cluster of falling-apart 1960s red-brick buildings that house Liberal Arts and most of the classes surely is office park modern.  Perhaps the high ranking for lack of aesthetics is a call for truth in packaging.  There's no whimsey or Arch Deluxe in the office park.

TODAY'S RAILROAD READING.

USA Today notes the efforts of The Magazine of Railroading.
For anyone who ever wondered how shiny new cars seem to magically appear at dealerships around the country, the magazine says it explains it all in its next issue.

In its 50-page report in the November issue, Trains notes the latest developments in moving cars by rail and shows the routes from the plants to markets.

"Auto shipping is a success story for railroads, and one that is booming now thanks to the robust market for new automobiles," says Editor Jim Wrinn in a statement. "It's a fascinating story of how railroads respond to a customer need."
There's an accompanying picture gallery including images from a 1962 article on the railroads regaining the automobile hauling business.  A multi-deck flat car makes a lot more sense than a box car with interior hardware to stow the automobiles at odd angles. The rack car is a successful transfer of a European freight railroad invention to North American rails.

18.9.13

GETTING THE INCENTIVES RIGHT.

Jonathan Marks of Minding the Campus comments on recent research on student performance at Northwestern University that appears, to commentators that haven't read the paper carefully, to reinforce the impression of a dual labor force in the academy in which the tenured research stars teach little, and poorly, while the freeway flyers teach a lot, and well, for very little money.

The reality is more subtle.
At Northwestern, especially in the college of arts and sciences, where over 80 percent of the classes take place, has career ladders with four ranks; these lecturers have long-term contracts and the same benefits as tenure-track faculty members. Many accounts in the news media have missed this point, despite our repeated statements throughout the paper, and are trying to generalize our findings to one-off and journeyman lecturers. Others are trying to generalize to upper-division courses without basis.
Mr Marks develops the point.
Northwestern's tenure system presumably favors research over teaching, so that would-be tenured professors have an incentive to limit the hours they spend preparing to teach. But other tenure systems, including the one in place at my college, weigh teaching more heavily than research. The results of the Northwestern study imply at most that at universities that value research more than instruction, tenured and tenure-track professors are on average slightly less effective teachers of introductory courses than full-time, long-term, non-tenured instructors, whose main work is teaching. Perhaps it doesn't take an all-star research team to draw that conclusion.

Some colleges and universities‒I would not count Northwestern among them‒have let the pursuit of research prestige get in the way of their educational missions. But the ongoing "disruption" Mead cheers on, which consists in replacing long-term tenured and tenure-track employees with part-timers at $3000 a pop, advances nobody's educational mission.
I'm not persuaded that making a university's profile more like Northwestern's is an error.  It is likely, though, that there is a critical mass of motivated students at Northwestern, such that a little work with like-minded friends and floor-mates can offset a lot of disengaged teaching by the Rising Star establishing a Nobel-worthy body of work.  In another reaction to the study, New APPS contributor Ed Kazarian notes,
I suspect what we might learn more conclusively if and when we get more robust data about the faculty involved in this one—is that it is probably a relatively better compensated, full time and long term 'teaching' faculty that is producing this result. Such a faculty would be on the high to very high end of the scale of how such faculty members may be valued and treated in the U.S. system.

So it's by no means clear that a better report wouldn't provide strong reason to think that treating 'teaching' faculty substantially better than most of today's 'adjuncts' wouldn't do good things for student learning. It's also not clear that such a report wouldn't show that any difference between the teaching effectiveness of such faculty and 'tenure-track' faculty has less to do with their length of tenure or job security than it does with how frequently they teach the courses in question and under what circumstances. There is, as I say above, a lot of information we don't have here which should be very pertinent to how one understands these results.
Indeed. Working conditions matter. At Minding the Campus, a retired professor notes that the responsibilities of a professor include a substantial dose of scut-work.
Loved the classroom, hated the claptrap and busy work that comes with academia. Now I'm an adjunct, (adjunct Emeritus?,) teaching two mornings a week and loving every minute of it. Many of my retired colleagues, realizing how much they missed the classroom are back as adjuncts. Free of the non-teaching effluvia that comes with full time teaching, perhaps we can now focus on the classroom to the exclusion of all else.
I'm not sure whether "effluvia" refers to producing Minimal Publishable Units, as opposed to meaningful research, or to the straining at gnats of committee meetings. I note only that faculty involvement in committee meetings is a necessary evil, in order to slow or preclude the administrative preemptions of what is properly the faculty's responsibility to uphold standards.

I also suggest that retired professors returning to the classroom as adjuncts are complicit in their university's efforts to starve the academic departments of resources.  There's something compelling about being able to walk away from it.

IT DIDN'T START WITH TOYOTA.

The Detroit Free Press offers its explanation for how Detroit went broke.
[T]he 1950s brought the first sobering inklings of crisis, and Detroit mayors for two decades made halting attempts to get ahead of it. Albert Cobo (1950-1957) formed the Dodge Committee to recommend diversifying the city’s tax base as wartime contracts dried up. Jerome Cavanagh (1962-1970) responded to falling revenue by instituting Detroit’s first income tax. Roman Gribbs (1970-1974) spearheaded an effort to revitalize downtown and Detroit’s tax base.

But two trends were undermining Detroit and the nation’s industrial centers like no foreign enemy had been able to do.
First, the federal policies that encouraged single-family home ownership undermined the existing patterns of pre-federal involvement single-family home ownership within Detroit proper.
All cities spread out postwar into the farmland at their perimeters. Automakers and road builders eager to sell cars, home builders eager to sell new houses, village mayors eager for new taxes — all promoted suburban growth. So did the federal government with its subsidies and tax incentives. Eager for elbow room, families in crowded cities like Detroit and Cleveland and St. Louis began moving to the new communities. The process of spreading out hasn’t stopped yet.

Discriminatory practices, such as redlining — denying minority buyers mortgages and access to homes in white neighborhoods — made the process in Detroit and many other cities an ugly one. Unscrupulous real estate agents encouraged white flight by stoking some whites’ fears of black people moving in next door. Rancor ran deep. Experts warned of two Americas: one privileged, suburban and white; the other poor, urban and black.
Whether public policies that were supposed to ameliorate that stratification actually enhanced it remains a topic for future research.

Second, the New Industrial State proved unsustainable.
Cities like Detroit and Flint that rose to power in the first half of the 20th Century were shocked to find in the second half how many factory jobs would be lost to foreign competition. Detroit auto executive Lee Iacocca once boasted that U.S. carmakers would kick their Japanese competitors back into the Pacific Ocean. He was wrong. American steelmakers learned the same hard lessons.

Even by the late 1950s, the signs of strain were showing in industrial cities. Population and housing values peaked in Detroit in the 1950s and began their long and seemingly unstoppable decline. The urban riots of the 1960s, including Detroit’s, accelerated the process.

By the 1960s, in Detroit as in city after city, the process was well under way. And mayors and civic leaders, here and elsewhere, began their long, anguished battle against decline.
There's plenty of blame to go around.  It wasn't the Japanese or the Germans who introduced near-net-shape continuous casting or thin-slab technology that could recycle scrap into sheet suitable for washing machines.  It was Nucor Steel, operating out of a small office in the South.  But raising taxes on residents and businesses without providing public services commensurate with the taxes simply induces anyone who is able to flee to flee.

AWARE OF YOUR WORSENED CIRCUMSTANCES?

Children of the Great Depression often told their Baby Boom children, "We didn't know we were poor.  Everybody else was just like us."  These days, perhaps the better-off people are easier to see.
For decades, the vast majority of Americans have seen themselves as "middle class" or "working class." Even during earlier downturns, so few people called themselves lower class that scholars routinely lumped them with working class. Activists for the poor often avoid the term, deeming it an insult.

When people call themselves lower class, "we'll say, 'You're not lower than someone else. You just have less money,'" said Michaelann Bewsee, co-founder of Arise for Social Justice, a Massachusetts low-income rights group. But many don't consider it insulting today, Bewsee said.

"They're just reflecting their economic reality," she said.
So much for raising self-esteem by way of self-delusion.
For many, "the feeling is that things are not likely to get better any time soon," said Michael Zweig, director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at Stony Brook University.

Last year, less than 55% of Americans agreed that "people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living," the lowest level since the General Social Survey first asked the question in 1987. An unusually high share of the unemployed  — more than 4 million Americans as of August — have been out of work for six months or longer.

Jobless people have long been more likely than other Americans to call themselves lower class, but in recent years people who work at least part time have been increasingly likely to do so too. Activists say workers are frustrated as jobs with fewer hours and less pay have proliferated, a hallmark of the sluggish recovery.

"It's not surprising if the American worker is thinking, 'I'm working harder than I've ever worked, yet I'm being paid less — and I'm working two or maybe three jobs,'" said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. "It creates a feeling that you're trapped."
The concept of the industrial reserve army is 150 years old. Consciousness of your status in that army requires additional information.
Census data show poverty rates were just as high in 1983 and 1993 — years when far fewer Americans called themselves "lower class." One difference this time around, some scholars suggested, is the widening gap between rich and poor.

Last year, the richest 10% of Americans enjoyed more than half of the income nationwide — the biggest share in nearly a century, a recent UC Berkeley study showed. In countries around the world, the starker the difference between rich and poor, the more likely people are to think of themselves as worse off, said Robert Andersen, a professor of social science at the University of Toronto.

People seem aware of the growing gap. When Americans are asked how much chief executives and unskilled workers make, they have reported bigger differences over time, said Leslie McCall, a Northwestern University sociologist who studies attitudes about inequality. McCall added that the media also paid more attention to inequality during the Occupy Wall Street protests and the last presidential race, making "the 99%" a new catchphrase for the struggling.

High school dropouts are much more likely to call themselves lower class, but the numbers have also jumped among Americans who spent at least some time in college, the General Social Survey shows. From 2002 to 2012, the "lower class" among Americans with one to four years of college more than doubled — from 2.6% to 5.8%.
The new thinking, though, illustrates a class-consciousness different from the version propounded in Marxian political economy.
Besides facing new stresses and inequalities, Americans might be thinking differently about class today.

University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen, who pointed out on his blog the rising numbers of people identifying as lower class, hypothesized that more struggling twentysomethings were doing so because fewer have been raised in union households. Many people told the Los Angeles Times they had no idea what separated the working class from the lower class.

"Working class used to be a term of pride," said Betsy Leondar-Wright, program director for Class Action, a nonprofit focused on class issues. "That's somewhat faded out."
Yes, that working class entailed a union card or a journeyman's license, a seniority system or a sole proprietorship with a fleet of white vans.  It may not be a conceptual error for a person attempting to hold things together with three part-time jobs to view himself as lower-class, rather than as a member of the lumpen-proletariat.  And let us not rule out the possibility that at least some of those collegians have been sucked in by slick marketing and packaging, and rendered unemployable by some combination of access-assessment-remediation-retention and business lite degrees.

16.9.13

GETTING THE MODEL RIGHT.

The 91st Reason Not to Go to Graduate School is actually a call for the lower-profile institutions to lift their game.
As a general rule, when you complete a PhD, you can only expect to be hired by institutions that are less prestigious than the university at which you earned your doctorate. That is why the prestige of your graduate program is so important.
Presumably, a few graduates can be hired into a comparable institution, and on rare occasion, a genuinely promising graduate can go up.  And affiliation with a less-favored institution might affect one's chances at getting research published.  Other aspects of the job, however, are within the faculty's control.
However, it's just as likely that your new institution (where you may spend the rest of your career) will have lower standards, a greater number of ill-prepared students, fewer resources, and less name recognition than the university at which you completed your graduate work.
Admission and grading standards are within the purview of the faculty. To acquiesce in lowering standards because the institution isn't Princeton or Wisconsin deprives the students enrolled there of the challenges they deserve, and saps the morale of the faculty.

THE ESSENCE OF ECONOMICS.

No fixed points were invoked in this Econ Log report.
The trick is not to manipulate for one's own gain. The uniquely human trick is to integrate strangers into a "we" for voluntary mutual gain.
Yes, and the emergence of cooperation isn't guaranteed, even in experimental settings.

WISHFUL THINKING.

Highway commissioners have been deferring bridge maintenance, and it's showing.
An Associated Press review of national bridge records found that some 7,795 bridges nationwide are classed as both “fracture critical” and “structurally deficient,” a combination that experts say is especially problematic.

The first designation refers to bridges that were designed with no redundant protections, putting them at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails. The “structurally deficient” label is attached to bridges that need rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component has advanced deterioration or other problems that have led inspectors to deem its condition “poor” or worse.

The most recent federal data available identifies 189 such bridges scattered around Illinois.
Move along, though, nothing to see.
“We don’t feel that the public should be worried,” said Carl Puzey, chief of Illinois’ Bureau of Bridges and Structures, which subjects fracture critical bridges to a more intensive inspections regime than the rest of the state’s roughly 26,000 bridges.

“In very rare cases, if it’s necessary to ensure the safety of the traveling public, we will close the bridge. So, if a bridge is open, it’s safe,” he said.
Famous last words?
The main problem in battling the maintenance backlog is money. It takes hundreds of millions of dollars – sometimes as much as $1 billion – to replace a major crossing with a heavy traffic load.

Federal fuel taxes, a main source of highway funds, do not keep pace with inflation and have not been raised since 1993. Meanwhile, politicians in control of scarce funds are often more keen to take credit for brand new facilities than to support something as un-sexy as bridge maintenance.
The role of triple trailers, 53 foot trailers, and overweight trailers in subjecting the roads and bridges to greater live loads doesn't seem to come up. You'd think, though, that there might be some way for public officials to get the truckers to kick in additional money to provide contemporary bridges with sufficient load-carrying capability, and then the politicians will have plenty of ribbons to cut.

THAT SLIDE INTO BARBARISM.

Vox Popoli riffs off a New Yorker cartoon that, shall we say, transgresses the usual Liberal Pieties.
Think about how dumb your senior yearbook quote is. Then imagine it following you around for the rest of your life, advertising how your mind hasn't improved since you were a teenager.

The increased popularity of tattoos and other forms of body decoration are visual reminders of the gradual decline of civilization in the West. Like music and art, personal decor is indicative of the long term societal trend. It's more than a fad, it is a sign of the descent into savagery.
Unlike your eighth grade transcript or your juvenile arrest records, your body decorations stay on your permanent record permanently.

THE ULTIMATE NANNY HAS A MASTER'S DEGREE.

The ultimate First World Problem: the winners of the credentialing race seek the also-rans to watch their spawn.
[Cliff] Greenhouse [president of a search firm identifying good help for the 1%] assured me that race has never factored into his clients’ requests—that he has placed comparable numbers of whites, blacks, Latinas, and Asians in a range of homes, and that they make comparable salaries. It's simply that, in the wake of the recession, homegrown college grads are pursuing new career options. And that, as Greenhouse told NBC, moms these days "aren’t going to work full-time unless they can leave their children in the care of someone they consider a peer." Who counts as a peer, exactly, is never specified.
The article, from (not surprisingly) Slate, includes the obligatory hand-wringing about competition from over-credentialed graduates seeking some way to pay down their student loans (or keep up their social and professional networks in upscale cities?) crowding out the au pairs and striving immigrants.  "It would be a shame if parents’ misguided preoccupation with academic credentials forced qualified people out of one of the few fields that remain viable to them." On the other hand, perhaps the more reflective yuppie moms will use the life story of their nannies to motivate their kids to greater effort, or perhaps, more practical majors.

Via Joanne Jacobs, from whom I borrowed the post title.

13.9.13

TODAY'S E-T-T-S REPORT.

It's really too nice a day to spend a lot of time grumbling.  For the first time in September, there's a touch of fall weather, and hot chocolate will be in order at the local high school football games this evening.

The decline goes on, though, and today's Cruising the Web has enough E-T-T-S for the most determined pessimist.

EPIC INCOMPETENCE.

Thus does Charles Krauthammer evaluate Our President's "Strike Syria, Maybe" speech.  If you'd like a more measured assessment of Mr Obama's dilemma.
President Obama believes in universal justice; while Americans must limit their use of power overseas, when we do use that power, we should use it for good things.

What this leads to may be quite admirable, abstractly considered, from a moral and humane point of view, but leaders have a hard time translating this approach into policies that can win broad support. You claim there are universal values that guide your actions, but there are strict limits to how far you will act in defense of them.
It's a long essay, perhaps it will calm you down. Let me raise your blood pressure, though, by quoting critics right and left.  It's no surprise that Victor Davis Hanson would point out, once again, the failure of symbolism when substance matters.
After five years of this, the world caught on, and sees juvenile and narcissistic petulance in lieu of statesmanship—and unfortunately a sinister Putin takes great delight in reminding 7 billion people of this fact almost daily. In terms of geostrategic clout, Obama has nullified the power of his eleven aircraft-carrier battle groups, Putin through his shrewd insight and ruthless calculation of human nature, has added five where they didn’t exist.
Helena Cobban breaks bad on several key members of Our President's foreign policy team:
The deal is definitely not good for Susan Rice, Samantha Power, or John Kerry. The attempts these three have made to (a) hype the threat in Syria, (b) express certainty where none was warranted, and (c) sell the war to Congress and the American people– let alone that 95% of humankind who are not U.S. citizens!– have been mendacious, ill-informed, and unsuccessful. They have led the president into looking pretty stupid. Should they keep their jobs? I don’t know.
Better to point that out to Common Dreams readers now, than to continue to sit on information that isn't exactly a state secret.

THEY ARE BEGINNING TO CATCH ON.

The Cold Spring Shops position on highway construction is that widening existing roads is often not cost-effective.
There's something called the Law of Peak Expressway Congestion that suggests road improvements divert traffic from other roads, until travel times are the same on the improved road as they are on the unimproved roads. (Indifference at the margin, anyone?) An elaboration of the law suggests that additional capacity shortens the duration of the peak subject to the same indifference condition, which makes sense as long as the total volume of trips stays the same, but a shorter crush hour serves as an inducement for more people to relocate.
A recent guest column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in objecting to providing additional lanes on the original East-West Freeway, makes precisely that point.
Even though people are driving less, it's possible to get them to drive more. How? Build more lanes. Whenever capacity is expanded, more driving is induced. Don't take it from me; listen to the most recent newsletter from HNTB — one of the nation's biggest road builders:

"Conventional wisdom suggests that we simply need to build more capacity. Adding lanes, however, will never fully solve the congestion problem. When new general-purpose lanes are built, they immediately fill up. They may help compress rush hours slightly, but the congestion problem remains."
Precisely.  Ribbon-cuttings are fun.  Implementing policies that work, less so.
The "most effective" policies are also those most difficult to sell to the public: peak-hour pricing of all expressways and arterial streets, possibly including satellite tracking of vehicles to enforce time-of-use tolls (invasions of privacy be hanged?); higher gasoline taxes (conscripting soccer moms into the Pigou Club?); expressway expansion in the form of high-occupancy toll lanes only; and surcharges on long-term parking in the morning. The policies favored by technocrats tend to be "very ineffective": concentrating jobs in clusters in new-growth areas; driving bans based on license plate numbers; zoning to put jobs closer to houses; higher automobile licensing fees; growth limitations.
To his credit, the columnist shows the garlic to the vampire.
If needed, use price signals to control traffic. One example would be to charge large trucks a fee for using the freeway during peak congestion — that would send a signal to use an alternative route or an alternative time, reducing congestion on the highway. There are many other non-structural, cost-efficient ways to better manage traffic. This would all cost a lot less than adding a lane.
The problem with a special toll for trucks is that National Avenue is available for the elephants to pound to pieces. It's a start, though: a political coalition of environmentalists and libertarians and investors in freight railroads can find common ground in identifying just how much corporate welfare is present in the ability of the truckers to cause havoc with 53 foot trailers everywhere.

12.9.13

EPIGRAM OF THE DAY.

Phil "Sports Economist" Miller on Ronald Coase. "JC Bradbury once quipped on Facebook that if Coase had a Twitter account, he’d rarely post, he’d use all 140 characters each time, and they’d be the best posts in the world."  So mote it be.

PLACARDS MATTER.

At the time of the Lac-Megantic train explosion,  I suggested that corporate restructuring oft involved cutting corners.
Park a train for crew rest with the operator on short time, though, and there's lots of potential for bad things to happen.

That seems to be the common error in all corporate downsizing efforts: as long as nominal conditions prevail, the bottom line gets richer.  Let something small, or something large, go wrong, and things turn sour for the company, and its neighbours, very quickly indeed.
It transpires that the corner-cutting began at the oilfield.
Canadian rail investigators say tests confirm crude oil involved in the Lac Mégantic crash behaved more like gasoline than expected.

In a mid-morning news conference, Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators told the news media that samples they took from the tank car train involved in the July 6 crash in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, and one train behind it, had lower flash points, making the oil more dangerous than it was described in shipping documents.

Don Ross, the lead English-speaking transport agency investigator, says the crude oil in the trains was described as Packing Group III, which includes diesel fuel and “bunker-type, thick, gooey oils.”

Instead, Ross says, crude oil in the trains tested would be more appropriately described as Packing Group II liquids, that include varieties of gasoline and kerosene. Ross says the finding are limited to the two trains tested, and that the Transportation Safety Board cannot comment on whether the shipments are representative of other crude oil trains.
Never mind those other trains. We have evidence that on at least two trains, a loading platform foreman accepted the wrong kind of car for the consignment, or a carman put the wrong placard on the car.  I am not prepared to attribute malice to what simply might be sloppiness.  That's up to Canadian courts to adjudicate.
Provincial police have conducted an extensive investigation since the incident.

According to the unnamed source, the first wave of arrests will target individuals in connection to charges of criminal negligence. A second wave will be aimed at various companies involved in the wreck. While the railroad is an obvious target, investigators are also examining the role Dakota Plains Holdings Inc. played in the trans-loading of the oil into DOT-111 tank cars, as well as others companies on both sides of the border, with the help of the FBI.

Under Article 219 of the Canadian criminal code, someone can be found guilty of criminal negligence if by doing something or omitting to do something that they are required to do they show reckless indifference to life or the security of others.
The company that owns Montreal Maine and Atlantic is in bankruptcy protection. The chain of liability: is Montreal liable for accepting cars improperly placarded? is going to make for some instructive reading going forward.

PUTIN SCHOOL.

The Tsar of Only Russia wrote an open letter to the American people in Komsomolskaya Pravda The New York Times.

Washington Post foreign policy guru Max Fisher offers a fact checking that does not rise to the level of a Fisking, although it has trouble sometimes rising above the level of tu quoque.
Still, you’ll be shocked to learn that Putin does not hold himself to the same standard he’s setting here for Obama. Putin’s Russia launched a war against Georgia just five short years ago. He would argue that the war was justified, but it certainly wasn’t approved by the United Nations Security Council.
Countries have permanent interests. Keeping a court logician in the Ministry of Propaganda isn't one.

It takes Rush Limbaugh to point out where Tsar Vladimir got his closing argument.

My God, we have the communist leader of Russia more proudly quoting the Declaration of Independence than our own president does! We got Vladimir Putin asserting a "moral superiority" to the president of the United States.  Vladimir Putin! Do you people in the White House not know what's happened here?  Vladimir Putin has positioned himself as a mature adult who stopped your immature child from messing around in somebody else's sandbox that he had no right being in and didn't know what he was doing.
Let us remind the Tsar: American exceptionalism is conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  And let us remind Our President: it has nothing to do with the international community's credibility.