29.5.14

THE FALSE CULT OF THE PRESIDENCY.

Let the Discontent be Shared with a Candid World.

First, in National Interest, Stephen Knott takes the Cult on directly.
Both Professor Wilson and President Wilson believed that the Constitution was not fit for the complexities of twentieth-century American life. A document written at a time when the horse and buggy was the main mode of transportation was seen as an obstacle to creating an activist government capable of checking big business. Wilson held that it was the responsibility of the president to break the gridlock caused by the Constitution’s separation of powers and unleash the power of the federal government to restrain the barons of industry.
Perhaps those Smart People forgot that the British East India Company was a public utility that captured its regulators.  The Cult follows immediately.
The president would break this gridlock by serving as his party’s leader, thereby bridging the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, and would preside over an executive branch composed of experts who would regulate the economy in the interest of the common man. In addition to presiding over this regulatory state, the president would serve as an educator and visionary who would lead the nation through his oratorical skills.
Meanwhile, the Wise Experts get Congressional authority to issue regulations consistent with the objectives of the laws.  Reality, however, is messy.
Wilson upended the Founding or Constitutional understanding of the role of the president and overturned the expectations of what a president could be expected to achieve. Unfortunately, the Wilsonian conception of the presidency, adopted wholeheartedly by Democrats and eventually by Republicans, produced a massive expectations gap—a long train of heightened expectations followed by dashed hopes.
Not that there weren't presidential hopefuls who fancied themselves policy impresarios before Woodrow Wilson. But that's been the default position for national politics all my life.  Perhaps "It is actually harder to do some of these things in reality than we thought when we put it down on paper" will become a new watchword for the policy wonks.

MAKING MONEY FROM SHARING.

Last week, we looked at Jeremy Rifkin fretting over the possibility that shared property such as spare bedrooms, garden tools, bicycles, while lowering the pressure to make more stuff, might be another opportunity for entrepreneurs to make money.  Now comes Dean Baker, fearful that those entrepreneurs are engaging in a contrivance to evade taxes and regulations.  (And how things change: the self-styled progressives of the early twentieth century set up public utilities so as to make regular the pricing and taxation of businesses clothed with a public interest.  Thus the passenger and freight transportation cartels, and later, the telephone cartel.  I got to establish my teaching chops making sense of how those cartels outlived their usefulness.)  David Henderson suggests Mr Baker is excessively fearful.  The two services that received the most space are Uber, a cellularly-dispatched version of the jitneys that gave the streetcar companies of the 1920s fits, and Airbnb, which strikes me as a much more orderly market in temporary housing than looking in the classified ads for rooming houses, or finding a hippie commune.

#NOTALLMEN

Laura McKenna notes that it's difficult to conduct a debate within the constraints of 140 characters. That doesn't stop people from attempting to do so. The problem with many sharp-sign, er, hash-tag (why does that sound like a price sticker in a Colorado pharmacy?) campaigns is excessive aggregation. Perhaps it's more accurate to think of such devices as stereotypes. Rush Limbaugh decides to provoke his listeners, essentially proposing #notallmoslems as analogy.
You have one male go nuts here, and every man is capable of what this guy does, right?  Now, follow me on this, the way the feminists and the way the media and everybody else portray it, so Elliot Rodger goes nuts and that becomes symbolic of what every man is capable of.

And yet when militant Islamists blow up the World Trade Center, what's the first thing we're told?  Now, don't judge the whole religion by this, no, no, no, no, no.  These are just some isolated events with some isolated malcontents.  But you let some Looney Tune go nuts in a sorority house or wherever he went nuts, and all of manhood is indicted.
An Uncle Tim at Time suggests that "not all men" is a derailment tactic. In making that claim, he only makes it easier for the Perpetually Aggrieved, whether of the feminist or the boutique multiculturalist ilk, to antagonize people who might otherwise be sympathetic to arguments such as "it's easier for men to get away with being boors" or "the people of the book have more in common than not."  Cathy Young sums up what follows.  "But the worst possible answer is a toxic version of feminism that encourages women to see themselves as victims while imposing collective guilt on men." Indeed.

28.5.14

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE.

Apparently, getting into Harvard becomes a downer once you get there.
Number One finding in the annual survey of Harvard seniors: about 60 percent of African-Americans and more than 40 percent of Latino and Asian-American students have felt marginalized because of their race while at Harvard. "Marginalized," an invitation to aggrievement, is now a mainstream college term, raising the question, "How marginalized can you be if they let you into Harvard?" Another survey finding provides a rough answer to that query: "Seniors are nearly unanimous in the view that, if given the chance, they would choose Harvard again."

Other findings: 42 percent of seniors and 67 percent of homosexual or LGBTQ students have sought mental health support; 90 percent support same-sex marriage; 38 percent are agnostic or atheist; 44 percent want Harvard to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies; 21 percent of students say they are virgins; 12 percent of women were sexually assaulted; 12 percent have had ten or more sexual partners, and the median number of dating partners while at Harvard is one. Nearly half of the senior class, 758 students, responded to the survey, conducted this month.
Make of this information what you will.

PATHETIC HISTORY.

History Channel's six-hour The World Wars has ended, and it's an instructive clinic on how stories become legends become fantasy.  (And thus one Ragnar Lothbrok can figure in events that took place over a 200 year span in History Channel's Vikings, as at twelve centuries remove, because there's enough uncertainty about the record to allow the bard all manner of artistic license.)

But at a century's remove, retelling the interactions of Hitler and Stalin and Churchill and Roosevelt in a way that buries the richer true stories annoys me.  Germany's failure to take Moscow before the 1941-1942 polar vortex was a consequence of forces being diverted to Leningrad and Kiev, the attempt to block the Volga at Stalingrad came later, and Hitler's recorded mockery of the notion that the city was important because it was named for Stalin would have illustrated his Wolkenkuckucksheim much better than just another temper tantrum.   The Anglo-American campaign across Africa and into Italy was something the U.S. command resisted, preferring to prepare a cross-Channel invasion, although it allowed the soyuznichki the opportunity to show Stalin something other than preparations at the same time that the attrition in the Caucasus was in full flow, and Churchill's "underbelly of Europe" concept for the Italian invasion has more in common with his failed Gallipoli campaign than the show credits him for.  And Patton and the U.S. forces did not conquer Italy in six weeks.  The Italian government fired Mussolini and switched sides, but the Germans were more effective at conducting a fighting retreat in Italy than they ever could be in Ukraine or France.

The Pacific Theater gets a more superficial treatment, although it's going to give future students of that conflict the impression that four Japanese carriers were sunk in six minutes at Midway, despite the Japanese Navy having Aegis destroyers.  In another hundred years, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" may well be a legitimate opening paragraph of a history term paper.

27.5.14

MAY IS SUPPOSED TO BE FESTIVE.

This time of year, the seniors are graduating (full of hope, despite years of failed economic policies) and the returning students take their decompression time, or perhaps jobs as lifeguards or camp counselors, or at the worst job in town so as to better appreciate university when they return.

Aranye Fradenburg of California at Santa Barbara has a more difficult task.
And so we know — partly because we are part of a knowledge-making community — how true it is that we are all affected by the shootings, how much we have reached out to each other and how long it will be before we can enjoy again the shockingly good fortune of being alive. We are just so terribly sorry for those who had to leave us before they were ready.

Please be well. If we can help, tell us, and we will help you. If you need peace and quiet, we will be respectful. If you want to cry, we will cry with you. We will protest the unfairness of life right alongside of you. Please be well, and remember that we love you.
They've all lost a piece of their youth.  We understand.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, ROMANOV.

The signs were all there at the Olympics.  The cover of the May 19, 2014 Time suggested as much.  Somebody at Time was thinking along these lines seven years ago.

AUTHORITIES ELIMINATE AMENITIES.

We anticipated, four years ago, the end of club cars on commuter trains.  It once took four years from petition to abandon to complete closure of The North Shore Line.  These days, that's the implementation lag for abolition of bar cars in the New York City commuter service.
Long Island Rail Road had bar cars on regular commuter trains until sometime in the 1990s. The railroad also operated “parlor cars” to the East End of the Island on Fridays and back on Sundays during the summer, until a few years ago. These cars were commuter clubs, at least unofficially, patronized primarily by managers who spent their summer week-ends together at the Hamptons and other seasonal playgrounds at the east end of the Island. The parlor cars are gone, but the LIRR still sells drinks on the seasonal Cannonball, a summer express train from New York Penn Station to Montauk on Friday afternoons, with a return trip on Sunday evenings. This service is for “Hamptons Reserve” customers who sit in two special cars with bar service. The equipment is the normal bi-level equipment used for the rest of the train consist, but the extra fare is $20 or $21. This season’s Cannonball made its first run this past week-end.

It appears unlikely that Metro-North eliminated the bar cars merely to save money. Illinois rail advocate Pete Loomis posted this reaction to their demise: “How … do you lose money (or not make enough) with a bar car? A captive, thirsty and mostly wealthy clientele at cocktail time? The profit on drinks is sky-high.” It also seems unlikely that passenger-carrying capacity was an issue. New York advocate Joseph M. Clift, former Director of Planning for the LIRR, told this writer: “The bar cars can hold more people than any other cars. Many of the riders would stand and hang onto a post while they drank.” Still, Metro-North is retiring the M-2 Connecticut cars and replacing them with the new M-8 cars. It appears that the railroad does not wish to spend money on special-order interiors for a few cars.
Standardization, and a reluctance to spend public money on anything fancier than passenger accommodation that would violate the Geneva Convention play a role.  But we're not in the Don Draper or Man in the Gray Flannel Suit world any more.
In some ways, commuting is not what it used to be, and neither is drinking. The bar cars were men’s clubs, and so were commuter trains generally. More women are commuting today, and young commuters were not flocking to bar cars as their elders did. Also, commuters do not necessarily take the same train every day, as their predecessors did in an earlier era. The unofficial “commuter clubs” that formed in the bar cars have been moving steadily toward the attic of history for several decades. Cultural attitudes about drinking have changed, too. It is not as fashionable an activity as it had been years ago. Drinking on a train, and then getting off and driving the rest of the way home, is a recipe for danger and possibly jail time.

Friday, May 9th marked the end of an era. Fortunately, the smoking that had been associated with drinking on trains for so many years is long-gone. Drinking habits have changed. Commuters have changed, too. Some, who emulated the fictitious Tom Rath, will miss the opportunity to unwind by having a drink with their bar-pals on the way home on the train. Others are more interested in getting home to their families and other aspects of their lives. Many no longer commute at traditional peak-commuting times. Whenever they travel, there are plenty of places where they can grab a drink, either before leaving the City or after getting off the train.
Or, in proper City of New Orleans fashion, "penny a point, no one keeping score, Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle."  Bring your own is the Chicago going home tradition these days, except if Metra implements a container ban on trains, which is common during festival season.

A HERMAPHRODITE KARMANN-GHIA.

Men's Magazine offers readers "10 Cars You Don't Want to be Seen Driving."  Worst, or first, is the late, unlamented, Chevrolet SSR, which also made Time's Fifty Worst Cars.  I've never understood the logic of combining the worst features of pickup trucks and sedans, but the car companies insist on rolling these out from time to time.  Perhaps there's a counterexample to Mencken's "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence" proposition.

18.5.14

MARKING OFF.

My send-off from the Center for Economic Education.  Thanks!

INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE TO CONSERVE ON TRANSACTION COSTS.

The collectivist mindset is oft troubled by some of the conspicuous duplication of private property that often sits idle: the parking lots full of cars whose owners are riding the train to work or flying somewhere for business or pleasure; all those backyard swimming pools; those garages full of bicycles and garden tools and those lawnmowers.  So here comes Jeremy Rifkin with yet another attempt to reduce the conspicuous duplication, by enlisting the Internet to lower the cost of forming sharing groups.
The distributed, collaborative nature of the Internet allows millions of people to find the right match-ups to share whatever they can spare with what others can use. This is a different kind of economy -- one far more dependent on social capital than market capital. And it's an economy that lives more on social trust rather than on anonymous market forces.
Apparently, the internet makes the establishment of crash pads (to use the 'Sixties locution) simpler and children's toys can be passed along from child to child as long as the toys don't break before the youngsters tire of them, and clothing can cascade without the intermediary of the thrift shop.  And yet, incentives matter.
These new economic models seem so benign. Sharing represents the best part of human nature. Reducing addictive consumption, optimizing frugality, and fostering a more sustainable way of life is not only laudable, but essential if we are to ensure our survival.

ut even here, there are winners and losers. The still-dominant capitalist system believes it can find value in the collaborative economy by leveraging aspects of the sharing culture toward new revenue-generating streams.
To Mr Rifkin, that's a bug. Again, it's nothing new.  The environmentalists of the 1970s suggested that there'd be no development of alternatives to fossil fuels until Mobil figured out how to profit by them.  A more likely "profit by them" would be General Electric, but perhaps the Fortune 500 turns over every twenty years as new companies figure out how to profit by new things.  I fear, though, that he expects too much of the new ethos of sharing gently used stuff.
Although hotels will continue to book, they are already seeing their markets decline as millions of young people migrate to Airbnb and Couchsurfing. How does a huge hotel chain, with its high fixed costs, compete with literally millions of privately owned spaces that can be shared at low and even near zero marginal costs?

Retailers of all kinds, already on the ropes with disappearing profit margins, are going to be equally disadvantaged by a sharable economy where clothes, appliances, toys, tools, and thousands of other items are continually in use through rental and redistribution networks. Extending the lifecycle of stuff by passing it on from user to user significantly cuts into new sales.

Recent surveys underscore the broad economic potential of the Collaborative Commons. A 2012 study by Campbell Mithun, a Minneapolis ad agency, in partnership with Carbonview Research, found that 62 percent of Gen Xers and millennials are attracted to the notion of sharing goods, services, and experiences in Collaborative Commons. These two generations differ significantly from the baby boomers and World War II generation in favoring access over ownership. When asked to rank the rational benefits of a sharing economy, respondents to the survey listed saving money at the top of the list, followed by impact on the environment, lifestyle flexibility, the practicality of sharing, and easy access to goods and services. As for the emotional benefits, respondents ranked generosity first, followed by a feeling of being a valued part of a community, being smart, being more responsible, and being a part of a movement.
That was the logic of the hippie crash pads, with the internet replacing the bulletin board at the local college, and without the acid and Acapulco Gold.  I ask readers to contemplate the implicit accounting identity here: might businesses that attempt to make do without workers simply be feeding a dynamic in which people who are no longer working attempt to make do without buying?

16.5.14

IT IS CORPORATE WELFARE FOR ROADHOGS.

Michael Giberson contemplates methods for the government to raise money for government-provided roads.
In Texas two things stand between the fuel taxes and the user fee concept. First, about half of the gasoline tax is federal, 18.4 cents/gallon for gasoline, and Texas gets only about 80 percent of the Texas-sourced federally-collected fuel taxes back from Washington DC. The money comes back with some federal strings attached and some of the money is diverted from projects that benefit fuel taxpayers. Second, the feds 20 percent cut off the top is actually better for Texas fuel taxpayers than the state’s cut. By law, 25 percent of fuel taxes collected in Texas go to state government educational funding, so Texas road users only get about 75 percent of the Texas-sourced state-collected fuel taxes back from Austin. The 25 percent cut of fuel taxes for education is enshrined in the state’s constitution (a holdover, I suspect, when fuel taxes were paid primarily by the wealthy).
Bundling is always like that. Because some gasoline goes into lawnmowers, powerboats, and off-road redneck toys, a fuel tax is not as direct a user charge as a toll, based on time-of-day and vehicle weight, is.
I also urged more use of toll roads, which have become much more efficient these days, and congestion-based tolls on roads where congestion is a frequent issue. (Nothing annoys me more than some denizen of east coast metropolitan areas saying federal gasoline taxes ought to be higher because it will reduce congestion. For example. No amount of taxing my cross-Texas drives is going to speed your east coast metropolitan commute.)
And drivers of passenger cars are subsidizing the motor trucks, and the delay they cause with their underpowered acceleration, space occupied, and weight.
I had two promising suggestions from conference attendees. One is that, given that almost all of the actual wear and tear on the roads in Texas come from heavy trucks rather than cars and light trucks, we should tax large commercial vehicles more–probably on a vehicle-miles traveled basis–and the “user fee” for personal vehicles likely falls to something reflecting the modest consequences of driving relatively lightweight vehicles. Trucking companies would complain, and the political prospects of the idea are probably not good. Otherwise makes a lot of sense to me. The other suggestion was to employ certain oil and gas drilling fees currently in surplus for road work, at least for the road improvements needed in the parts of the state experiencing significant increases in commercial traffic due to the oil and gas drilling boom. The suggestion seems a bit kludge-y to me, but comes with enough symmetry between the payers and the beneficiaries to be plausible.
The Benefit Principle appeals as a way of designing taxes. If I were king, any movement of a trailer longer than 40 feet would require a special movement permit.

WORK IS BETTER THAN ALCOHOLISM.

The Last Psychiatrist elaborates.
At some point during the Truman Administration home life became more stressful than work life, where stressful is defined either as hysterical drama or rheumatismy boredom, and by Reagan II the home was no longer a respite from modern society's incessant demands to produce or at the very least a place to get a nap.  Home became work, it became a work, and not coincidentally this parallels precisely the history of homework.
It's a long article (via Voluntary Xchange.)

Let me suggest a simple therapy. Save those wooden stir-sticks from the coffee shop, until you have enough to build some circus wagons.

LEARN THE WAYS OF THE BOURGEOISIE.

A Wheaton College (the one in Massachusetts) dean of students explains that being able to think critically and make connections matters.  But the life-management skills matter more.
We routinely place students in positions of responsibility on our campus -- to manage money, to respond to behavioral issues, to serve on search committees and host a candidate for lunch -- and I know what many of them are capable of. I don’t always know their majors, but I know their prospects. They will find themselves in a job, maybe not the job of their dreams at first, but they will be able to manage the small, and then slightly larger, tasks placed before them. And they will think back, I believe, to some of the challenges they faced on the campus of this small college, which they often claim is not “the real world.”  But it is the real world in many ways -- fraught with hassles, battles, disappointments, requiring self-advocacy, empathy, patience -- and it is preparing them for the work world in ways that their academic coursework may or may not be.
I've sometimes told students that it's important to do what looks like a trivial or bulls*** assignment well and for the right reasons, as that might be a way of identifying who is going to screen for future promotion.  And if the parents aren't providing that lesson, and the common schools are too distracted by testing to do the work, it's up to the colleges.
I had the opportunity to teach a class this past semester. It was a small seminar with eight students, seven of them seniors. They were all different majors, and I'm not sure I could tell you who was what.  They were, though, smart and verbal and engaged in the discussions we had. They spoke, and they noticed when another person was trying to speak. They brought to the class their other academic interests, one of them using something learned in a religion and sexuality class to interpret one of our texts. Another explained to the class a landmark affirmative action case she learned about in her Constitutional law class.  A third offered her own experience as a resident adviser to provide context to a discussion on race relations on campus.

They are justifiably worried about their job prospects, especially since they have spent a semester with me reading about the various crises of American higher education and its roots in the global economy. I’m sure their parents are worried, too.

But I'm not as worried. I'm not sanguine, because it is difficult to find a job these days, but I believe that once they get into a work setting, they will do fine.  And their chances of getting into that work setting are better than average, because they can make eye contact and put several sentences together in service to their ideas. Not all of their classmates can do the same. Those are the ones I worry about.

We need to lessen our obsession with the obvious value of a liberal arts education and instead focus on the values of personal maturity, accountability, a sense of proportion and perspective. We need to be certain our students know how to give a good firm handshake, look someone in the eye and introduce themselves. We need to reinforce the importance of deadlines. We need to address (dare I say it?) personal hygiene and appropriate dress. We must make sure they can get to their feet at a college-sponsored dinner and thank guests for coming, or introduce a speaker at a lecture, or send a thank-you note to the director of an office that has provided them funds to attend a conference.

Is this the work of higher education?  Some would argue it absolutely is not, that postsecondary education is about mastering content and developing all-important critical thinking skills, about becoming self-taught, curious researchers and life-long learners. To those who would argue those points, I would say yes -- it is all about those things, and I am grateful for the liberal arts education that helped me develop those skills.  But I would then suggest, respectfully, that as maddening as it might be to spend valuable teaching time engaged in building the personal economy of our students, it is perhaps the best way to support the successful launch into that life we want for them.
Yes, but ...
“Whether it’s gender, religious preference or anything that might be a group that might be coming in that may feel like there isn’t enough understanding about them, we try to make sure that our staff are prepared as our population has diversified and that we’re prepared to help our staff best communicate with those groups and those individuals,” he said.

These meetings are strictly for WWU staff members—no students are allowed to attend—and it is unclear if they have had any influence on the student body.

“It’s really important, I think, that somebody continues to look into these and ask people who are at these colleges if we are really preparing our young people to be prepared to be global citizens, to have that kind of exposure, and for me, if we’re asking the student to have that kind of growth and development than we without question should be making sure that our staff are equally prepared,” [Western Washington dean of students Theodore] Pratt said.
Never mind that in making the staff sensitive to class oppression and hegemonic biases and all the rest, the Western Washington graduates are never going to learn how to introduce themselves or bathe or dress properly, and they'll forever be working for Wheaton graduates.  That is, unless the dynamic of rooting out privilege further destroys civilization.

Снова?

It's the first day after the end of the academic year, and the Russian again? (snova) is fitting.

That's at eight this morning.

I should be grateful we're not seeing a rerun of 2012, when there were 80 degree temperatures in mid-March, and a hard freeze in April that wrought havoc with plants already well leafed-out.

LIE DOWN UNTIL THE URGE GOES AWAY.

Samuel Goldman poses seven questions to anyone contemplating graduate work.

1.  Do you want to be a professor?

My response: it's not a bad gig if you can get it, but there are fewer gigs than used to be got, and the gig used to be better.

2.  Do you understand what professors really do?

My elaboration: the gig used to be better until meetings and electronic mail and the intrusions of special education got in the way.  Serious departments will protect their probationary colleagues from most of the scut-work until they make tenure, but that cramps the continued development of the senior faculty, particularly as administrative burdens increase while downsizing and attrition is de rigueur.

3.  Do you understand where professors really work?

Here's Professor Goldman.
Despite all the possible disadvantages--remote location, relatively low salary, long hours--a secure position at an elite university or college is a pretty great job. That's why so many people want it.

But institutions with selective admissions, verdant quads, and lively intellectual community are only a tiny sliver of American higher education. The vast majority of students attend community colleges, regional state universities, or private colleges with a local or regional draw and pre-professional emphasis. So that's where most professors teach.

Would you be happy working at unglamorous institution where students' abilities and interests are likely to be different from your own? Can you imagine teaching introductory surveys, semester after semester, year after year? If not, you're unlikely to find satisfaction in an academic career.
You have to bloom where you're planted.  The kind of student who contemplates an academic career is the kind of student that has kept his distance from the rabbit culture and the lifestyles of the boozy extroverts.  And graduate school is full of similarly self-selected strivers.  Thus, it doesn't matter whether you're at Stanford or Berkeley or Northern Illinois or Wayne State or Joliet Junior: your first encounter with undergraduates is going to be a shock, because you now have to deal with the life-management deficiencies of the people whose company you could avoid as a student.

4.  Do you understand the job prospects in your discipline and area of interest?

See point 3. Pick the best program you can, and expect to be disappointed.

5.  Is someone else paying?

Professor Goldman has it about right.
In the social sciences, that means the only Ph.D.s worth borrowing for are probably economics and clinical psychology.  In the humanities, currently-employed teachers who receive raises for additional degrees might be another exception. In general, however, you cannot responsibly pursue Ph.D. study unless you are independently wealthy or able to rely on support from others.

A lucky few are born rich. Others can count on extended family to chip in. But most graduate students depend on their universities to pay their way. So you should not enroll in a graduate program unless you are certain of being "fully funded".

But "fully funded" doesn't always mean the same thing. At some universities, full funding covers tuition, but not living expenses. At others, it requires teaching--sometimes a burdensome amount. And funding is usually time limited. For that reason, it's crucial to find out the average time to completion in the departments you're considering. If it's longer than the funding they offer, don't bother.

Also, keep in mind that you may not be able to provide financial support to others for some time--or ever. Apart from a few stars, even academics who are lucky enough to have "real jobs" don't earn much money.
Many graduate departments structure their financial aid as teaching assistantships, which often involve the introductory classes the research stars are allegedly avoiding, or there's a lot of grading, particularly in writing-intensive classes.

I must be fortunate, to be thought of as in the "star" class when it comes to earning money.  But getting to the position to earn that money comes at a price.

6.  Are you willing to delay starting a family?

Again, Professor Goldman has it about right.
Many young parents have told me they found it almost impossible to balance the intense focus required for graduate study and the early phases of an academic career with childrearing.

Most departments tout family-friendly policies, and some of them make a real effort to help graduate students with children. But fact remains the academics are expected to do their hardest and best work between the ages of roughly 25 and 35. Needless to say, the burden on women is especially heavy.
Yes, and I have heard stories of intense professors advising incoming graduate students, "if your marriage survives first year, you're not working hard enough," and I've seen more than a few faculty marriages come undone, sometimes before tenure, sometimes after.  There might be more at work, though, than the demands of academic life: ask lawyers or real estate hustlers or railroaders.

7.  Are you willing to move around -- and can you afford it?

That's a serious question for economists.  Yes, you have to move to where your job is, and that can mean exile to an unfamiliar part of the country or the world, irrespective of discipline.  Economics, however, used to hold the job meetings the week between Christmas and New Year's, and now it's the first week of the New Year.  End of semester stress, the holidays, the job meetings, beginning of the semester stress, and then the campus visits begins, just when the airlines are most subject to immoderate weather.  It's a wonder there isn't more domestic discord.

15.5.14

INCENTIVE COMPATIBILITY CONSTRAINTS.

Megan McArdle thinks about the allocation of space in airliners that are increasingly flying tenements (unless you're prepared to pay three adult fares for a drawing room).  First, a history lesson.
Let's recall that back in the good old days of flying, most people didn't. They couldn't; it was far too expensive. An airline flight was something you might do once in a very long while, for a special occasion like a honeymoon or a graduation.

As deregulation pushed prices down, more people flew. After the invention of travel websites, a lot more people flew -- and based their flying decision entirely on price.

The result is what you see today: To stay price-competitive for tourists, airlines have ruthlessly slashed services so that the headline price they see on Expedia will be as low as possible. They've crammed as many seats as they can into the back section, where those tourists sit. And they've used increasingly sophisticated software to make sure that the planes are always as full as possible.
That many of the economy travelers are Wal-Mart people and the business travelers remember Marshall Field doesn't help much.

But there's an economics lesson in the pricing and amenities of the first-class section, and it goes back to the days of those three adult fares for a drawing room.
The premium charged for first class is much more than proportional to the extra space they take up. Which means that folks buying first-class tickets are subsidizing those of us forced to sit back in the bleachers. If first class went away, again, who would lose out? The poorest fliers who can least afford the higher ticket prices.

Yes, this is somewhat complicated by the fact that many people in first class are elite fliers. But again, the elite fliers are less price-sensitive than the tourists -- which means that they, too, subsidize those who shop only on price. You can think of planes as being filled with basically three kinds of people: coach fliers who only look at the price tag; elite fliers, who will pay extra for a seat on their preferred airline as long as the damage is not too bad; and first-class fliers, who apparently have some sort of money tree in the backyard. The latter two groups are the reason that the proletariat gets such good ticket prices. And because the elite fliers do generally have to spend some time in coach, they're also the reason that the airlines don't actually stack the rest of us like cordwood.
In a deregulated environment, airlines have to be careful about extracting too much subsidy from the first-class passengers lest those passengers look into chartering jets, or buying their own jets, or lest some entrepreneur set up a first-class only airline (the business model is similar to my deluxe tickets-priced-by-the-hundredweight suggestion).  Hell, you get somebody to build the Sleepy Hollow legrest seat and install them in 2+2 configuration the way the Mid-Century Empire Builder did and you might have something a venture capitalist will fund.

At the same time, the differences in amenities and the prices of types of seats must be calculated in such a way that the carriage trade will accept the higher price rather than ride in the cheap seats, while the bargain hunters will not pony up the fare for the premium seating.  Part of that calculation involves making the cheap seats unpleasant.
The proper change would have been to have let fares alone, but to have given the present first-class accommodation for the present second-class fare, and then introduced an improved first-class carriage for those whose desiderata are quiet and comfort.  The companies err by not giving enough quiet and comfort for the additional prices which they now charge to first-class passengers as compared with second and third-class.
Graduate students working on industrial economics or regulated industries learn the logic of self-selection in class.  I should think that the space-management systems of airlines (which are more valuable than the planes) are quite up to correcting the error Walter Bagehot noted.

WE'LL BE JUST A LITTLE LIKE DIVISION I.

Union College vice president for student affairs Therese McCarty thinks she's keeping Union College out of the intercollegiate sports arms race.
Our league, the Liberty League, has done a good job of supporting all of its member institutions in integrating academic and athletic life. The big surprise at Union has been our success in adapting the Division III model to Division I hockey.

Union College completed its men’s hockey season this year by defeating the University of Minnesota for the national title at the Frozen Four, in Philadelphia. That is, a liberal-arts college—with 2,200 students, one National Hockey League draft pick, and no athletics scholarships—versus a major university, with 34,500 undergraduates on its flagship campus alone, 14 NHL draft picks, and 18 men’s-hockey scholarships. To play at this level, Union has followed the road less taken to competitive success, a path that relies on a strong academic-athletic partnership. Along the way, we have had ample opportunity to reflect on the relationship between athletic and academic priorities.

Athletics teams are the anti-MOOC. Membership is limited and competitive, not massive or open. Teams can’t play online. And, to state the obvious, in spite of their potential contributions to learning, athletics competitions are not courses. Rather, a team is an extracurricular activity that is grounded in a particular place and which is personal, with each player’s identity reflected in a particular role.
Yes, and wait until the basketball coaches start touting the visibility that participation in March Madness will bring Union.

ARBITRARY MANAGEMENTS ARE THE BEST UNION ORGANIZERS.

In the project box I found a Naomi Schaefer Riley essay from 2011 expressing doubts about faculty unionization.  At one time, perhaps, a unionized faculty was an unserious faculty.
In a study for the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, Seymour Martin Lipset and Everett Ladd concluded that faculty of "low scholarly achievement give greater backing to the principles of collective bargaining." But higher education looks a lot different than it did in the 1970s. For one thing, it is much larger and less exclusive today. The growth of community colleges and four-year colleges that include a great deal of remedial and vocational training has diluted the traditional academic snobbery.
That expansion of remediation and thirteenth grade is by design.  But I digress.

Ms Riley focuses on the downward-leveling impulse implicit in unionization.
Stony Brook's $6,000 tuition is about $5,000 lower than that of flagship universities in nearby states, and many faculty there think it's time they charge students what a Stony Brook education is worth, not what a Fredonia State education is worth. But the union still opposed the legislation. It doesn't want to see distinctions made among better and worse campuses and, thereby, among the better and worse faculties. Those distinctions would undermine union solidarity.

Indeed, students, parents and taxpayers should think twice about how unionization affects the quality of higher education in America. As John Simpson, president of the University of Buffalo, told me, "Unionization runs contrary to what you're socialized to do if you're a researcher. The notion of belonging to a herd seems on the face of it inappropriate."
Yes, provided the Buffalo administration protects its faculty to do what the better universities do.  The sub-priming of state flagships and comprehensives, whether under the rubric of "efficiency" or under the rubric of "access" wrecks faculty morale, and, for lack of any better alternatives, makes the union look good.

14.5.14

HAMFISTED, CAPRICIOUS, SECRETIVE.

Quinnipiac's administration commits a restructuring that leaves the dean at Pioneer Valley Community embarrassed.  There's no mention of whether the hockey team, a national runner-up not too long ago, might be an expensive luxury.

INFRASTRUCTURE WITHOUT FACULTY?

Whether the state legislature puts up resources to create another Big Ten-quality university in Illinois or not; whether Northern Illinois University will be selected as such or not; there are grand plans afoot to create a more unified campus that may or may not be walkable in ten minutes (with a little help from large electric golf carts masquerading as trolleys).
One of the larger changes is to make Lucinda Avenue what [design consultant Ron] Walters called “a great Main Street” for NIU. With the approved demolition of Douglas Hall, Lucinda will be extended to become a connection from one side of campus to the other. Students will be able to walk from the Convocation Center to the Music Building without winding through walkways and around buildings.

“It’s clear place is having an impact on our ability to recruit and our ability to retain,” Walters said. “There’s a lack of positive impressions and connections on campus.”

The university also plans to plant 2,018 trees to coincide with the graduation year of incoming freshmen, and NIU is considering planting a tree for every returning student to focus on retention.

Food Truck Fridays may also be implemented by next semester. If the event series is implemented, there will be a featured food truck placed at different spots each Friday to bring together students at areas around campus.
Yes, the west-central campus is mostly aesthetically-challenged 1960s office-park modern, and creating an avenue along the northern border of that campus leading back toward the sports complex might serve the function of a grand driveway to the front porch.  Whether Douglas Hall will in fact be gone by the start of football season remains to be seen. Stevens has been closed for renovation for all of 2013-2014 with no evidence of renovation in progress.

Residents along the street that will lead to the new grand driveway are less than enthusiastic about the added traffic.
College Avenue, which runs through the heart of the Ellwood neighborhood, has been floated as the main connection between campus and downtown DeKalb, with a tram service to help students get there. NIU officials also want to create internship and learning opportunities for students to serve those living in the Hillcrest neighborhood.

Residents in DeKalb’s historic Ellwood and Hillcrest neighborhoods are concerned that the university came up with these ideas without consulting them first.

The Ellwood neighborhood is home to some of most unique and beautiful older homes in the city. Its winding roads, some of them paved with brick, are shaded by a canopy of mature trees. Some of the houses have a long history of use as multi-tenant or multi-family buildings; some are vacant because people in the area tend to move frequently.
The university invited suggestions from students and staff.  I took some pictures of the message boards that were set up for comment.  Orange dots mean "Dittos."  The theme of this board appears to be to provide amenities in order that people be able to interact outside of classes or meetings.


But there's more than one vision of that bright future.  One person's renovation is another person's gentrification, and in a world where not everyone has the life-management skills of the upper-middle-class, creating a university that looks more welcoming to the upper-middle-class can be scary.  The fix, however, is not the university's to provide.


The role of the Greek-letter organizations is also subject to debate.


There are diverse conceptions of diversity.  Look through all the boards, though, and you see strong sentiment for extending Metra to DeKalb.  (Good luck with that.  It was ten years away when I got here in 1986.)


This exhibit also provided a map of the existing campus, with opportunities for people to suggest improvements.


This excerpt of the map shows a useful suggestion, a pedestrian and bike way under the Union Pacific to the nature trail that runs along the south side of the tracks through what passes as an arboretum, and provides a route to the disc-golf course in the park.

All of the above, though, offers no presumption of resources either for construction, or for adequately staffing the classes to serve the students whose aesthetic sensibilities are no longer disrespected by the construction.

INCOME EFFECTS MATTER.

I've long done my part to get people thinking that working longer hours when each hour worked is more productive is individually subobtimal, and likely to be misused by employers.  Now comes Matt Ridley suggesting that people stop fretting about the "job-destroying" effects of automation.
If the worst comes to the worst, and the androids take over absolutely every kind of work, providing all our daily needs so cheaply and efficiently that we just don’t need people at all, not even as politicians — why, then what’s the blooming problem? The point of work is so we can consume, not vice versa. Do not forget that the poor benefit more than most from automation — as consumers of ever cheaper goods and services.
Yes, although the current dispensation recognizes the value of mutually beneficial trade. The transition from a primitive division of labor based on hunting, gathering, and cultivating to a richer division of labor based on specialization, invention, and exchange might bring with it elites and masses, workers and shirkers, hosts and parasites, and the underlying causes and incentives are still not well understood by economists.  Nor is the evolution of the new division of labour likely to be within the ken of any one person, or any National Society of Serious People to design.
Keynes predicted that we would eventually have more stuff than we needed and would start to ration work down to 15 hours a week. When you consider that we work far fewer days a year and hours a week than in his day, and make allowance for the fact that we spend much longer in education and retirement, we are already there in a sense. As Arthur C. Clarke put it, “the goal of the future is full unemployment so we can play”.
Perhaps so, although ensuring that the internet of things doesn't get caught in a Hofstadter - Moebius loop or recognize that its human controllers  are superfluous might also concern the Serious People.
In 1700 nearly all of us had to dig the soil from dawn to dusk or everybody starved (and some did anyway). Technology liberated us from that precarious and awful world. If it does so again, so that our grandchildren never have to think in terms of “jobs” at all, but merely in terms of how they can fill their days fulfilling their wishes and helping others, mixing bits of work with bits of leisure, while drawing on the output of Stakhanovite machines for income, will they envy us our daily commutes and our office politics? I don’t think so.
Yes, we are all underemployed compared to our ancestors, and people put a lot of money into steam traction engines for the sociability of it, not because they are the most effective way to help God give us our daily bread.

NOTHING NEW ABOUT INVASIVE SPECIES.

At Quid Plura, we learn that Creeping Charlie used to be a cheap way of flavouring ale.
Meet Glechoma hederacea, the mint-like ground ivy called “creeping Charlie” in the United States and known, at least around my place, as “existence’s bane.” Rampant, sinister, nigh-unstoppable, this weed was brought to North America by early European settlers, who presumably appreciated its value as ground cover and its not-unpleasant scent.

Medieval people found Glechoma hederacea medicinally useful, as shown by a drawing of the stuff in a tenth-century manuscript from Constantinople. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can buy a watch and other jewelry based on its depiction in a 15th-century woodcut, gifts apparently intended for people who’ve never torn intractable fistfuls of the stuff from the contumacious earth.

More interesting is its etymology in England, where it’s known as Gill-on-the-ground or, intriguingly, alehoof. Britten and Holland’s 1886 A Dictionary of English Plant-Names claims the word comes from “‘Ale-hoove,’ meaning that which will cause ale to heave,or work,” because in an era sans hops, the Anglo-Saxons used the plant to give their ale its bitterness.
I've heard that the stuff is common in the midwest because early farmers used it as chicken feed.  Whatever its provenance, it's only slightly less prolific than kudzu, a Southern invader whose presence at these latitudes may be another indicator of warming.

BEYOND BOURGEOIS.

Peter Lawler challenges the instrumentalist view of higher education. That's a long-established line of argument, perhaps best stated by the late Richard Mitchell in "The Curriculum from Hell," and it's utterly predictable that the very people who devote most of their effort to deconstructing the higher tradition occasionally discover that their salaries depend on defending the higher tradition.  Professor Lawler's argument is more radical.
Being middle class falls between being an aristocrat and being a slave. It’s to be a free being who works. The middle-class American is free, like an aristocrat, to work like a slave. Unlike an aristocrat, he has no one to work for him. He’s very judgmental about work: nobody has a right not to work. What the aristocrat calls leisure, he calls laziness. And, as we see today, he can only pity the poor if they are “working poor.” Ensuring that all have the equal opportunity to better themselves through work is the foundation of the American idea of justice and prosperity. Aristocracies were poor by comparison to us, Americans know, because none of their members worked for themselves.

So middle-class education is education for freedom, for being able to work for oneself. Tocqueville found in America universal literacy and lots of techno-vocational education. Education, he observed, was largely achieved through apprenticeships to professions, and even science was studied in the spirit of a trade. Freedom was to be won through the rational and industrious deployment of tools and machines.

But that sort of education for freedom isn’t “higher education,” and it doesn’t bring the kind of intellectual and spiritual self-determination we associate with liberal arts education. So Tocqueville claimed to find almost no higher education in America, and little genuine concern for the leisurely cultivation of the soul. His main criticism of middle-class democracy was that it lacked a leisure class with the time and inclination to be an audience and patron for books, art, and music. The middle class, in this sense, is too busy and in love with money to have much real class.

Tocqueville observes that middle-class education produces middling brains. Democracy can turn even art and literature into industries, and push language in such a technical direction that the words conveying the truth about metaphysics and theology simply disappear. The middle class imposed a techno-orientation of thought that amounted to intellectual tyranny, pushing its pupils toward the “how” at the expense of the “who,” the “why,” and the “what.” It amounted to intellectual tyranny, preventing theoretical innovation and cross-cultural speculation about the merits of various forms of human flourishing.
Or, as Richard Mitchell puts it, "What purpose could there be in the study of Hell?" The answer is not as glib as "Hell is other people."
Go back now and read again the epigraph. Carefully. Notice, for instance, that we are among those who have lost not intellect, which readily lends itself to anything we want to do, but the good of intellect, which must be something else. Wonder what that something else might be. Ask: is there some special Roman Catholic notion hidden here, some at least religious notion, some notion that would be foreign and abhorrent to the Chinese perhaps, or the Martians, or some notion suitable to men only?

Ask yourself this: where could you go, today, to find yourself surrounded by strange utterances, horrible pronouncements, and accents of anger, all making an endless, gritty tumult, like whirling sand in the turbid air? If you are at a loss to answer, watch the news tonight.
In Professor Lawler's formulation, the products of that careerist training have lost the good of the intellect: "One downside of living in a country ruled, more than ever, by a meritocracy based on productivity (think Silicon Valley) is that our class of leaders tend to have no class, none of the sense of responsibility for one’s fellow citizens and creatures that should come with great power and influence." Perhaps, though, that's by design.  The networking opportunities for the young take place at the great universities, but in the fraternity houses and M.B.A. programs, not in the senior colloquium or the debating society.  Ross Douthat offers a cynical explanation for that development.
“Paying for the Party” is also a story about the socioeconomic consequences of cultural permissiveness — about what happens, who wins and who loses, when a youth culture in which the only (official) moral rule is consent meets a corporate-academic university establishment that has deliberately retreated from any moralistic, disciplinary role.

The losers are students ill equipped for the experiments in youthful dissipation that are now accepted as every well-educated millennial’s natural birthright. The winners, meanwhile, are living proof of how a certain kind of libertinism can be not only an expression of class privilege, but even a weapon of class warfare.

By this I mean that an upper class that practices and models bourgeois virtues — not only thrift and diligence but chastity and sobriety — will be more permeable, less self-protected and self-perpetuating, than an upper class that tells the aspirational that they can’t climb the ladder unless they join the party first.

Especially if no one mentions, until the tab comes due, that they’ll be the only ones who really pay for it.
Professor Lawler suggests a restoration of "the basics." In his essay, that's a call to remove climbing walls and all the other accoutrements of summer camp.  In Mr Douthat's forumlation, the bourgeois virtues are the basics.  I'll let Professor Mitchell summarize. "Which is freedom, the power to stand, or the intoxication of flying with the wind?"  Particularly with no idea how to properly trim the sails and sail the boat.

13.5.14

HISTORIANN HOISTS THE PROTEST FLAG.

I had my reasons for hoisting Code Flag BAKER.


A telephone solicitation for a contribution to her employer set her off.  Note, though, we have some complaints in common.
Here’s my thinking: at least 50% of my pique comes from the fact that faculty at my university are dramatically underpaid compared to our “peers” at our own “peer institutions.” I also didn’t get a dime’s worth of a raise between 2008 and 2012, and when I finally got a raise in 2012, it was a measly $1,860!  Seriously.  Another 25% of the rest of my irritation stems from all of the unpaid labor I do that the university doesn’t even recognize (like donating time to the university archives, one of the causes I was asked to support tonight on the telephone!), and the remaining 25% or so comes from the fact that my research agenda has largely been self-funded.  Yes, that’s right:  humanities faculty end up paying for the privilege of doing more work, because we end up without any meaningful research or travel funds to help us move our projects forward.

My feeling is that I’m so underpaid for my education, experience, public outreach, and publication record that at least 50% of my job is volunteer labor.  So, there you go, Baa Ram U.:  this year, I’m giving you nearly $67,000!
A More or Less Bunk post extends the argument.
Assuming you have the power to determine your own schedule (and most of you professors out there reading this probably do), then do more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t. This is hardly the same thing as going on strike, but if more of us assert the prerogatives that we’re supposedly paying for through the opportunity costs of doing meaningful work, it may have the same effect.
Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support. And if your electronic mail account has an autoreply function, put a strong hint of I WANT THINKING TIME in that message, particularly at summer and inter-session research time, and don't apologize for it.

HARVARD REDISCOVERS COMMON COURTESY?

Apparently, eight-year-olds, who no longer have unstructured time for bean-bag and have turned it into a collegiate drinking game, didn't have unstructured time to play church either.  You know the drill: borrow some dark clothes, arrange the dining room table seats into rows, put a tall cardboard box in front of the seats, somebody holds up a Ritz cracker and says hocus pocus dominocus.  Maybe the parents will light some tapers to add to the atmosphere.

In college, however, the ethos of transgressivity turns playing church into the Satanic Mass.  That form of play doesn't sit well with serious Catholics.  Judge for yourself why a "Cultural Studies Club" might have such an event, rather than a reading of protest poetry from six continents.

There is good news.  Among the Harvard administration, official pronouncements suggest there are limits to epater les bourgeois.  First up, a dean of students, Robert Neugeboren.
We do not agree with the student group’s decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many in the Harvard community and beyond. While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others.

To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed. For instance, we have ensured that no consecrated host will be used as part of the reenactment. Also, in an effort to help broaden the educational nature of this series, the Harvard Extension School has urged the Cultural Studies Club’s student leaders to reach out to Catholic student organizations on campus to foster a positive dialogue about the Catholic faith. The club’s student leaders have agreed to this proposal.

We hope these efforts and this dialogue will help address some of the most severe concerns about the event, while also helping students in the Cultural Studies Club better understand the perspective of many Catholics on these and other issues.
Gosh, transgressiveness for its own sake might be a gratuitous stick in the eye to normal people? And Somebody in Authority at Harvard gets it?

Harvard's president, Drew Faust, attempts to square two principles that may be irreconcilable.
Vigorous and open discussion and debate are essential to the pursuit of knowledge, and we must uphold these values even in the face of controversy. Freedom of expression, as Justice Holmes famously said long ago, protects not only free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

But even as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree. The 'black mass' had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.

Nevertheless, consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs. At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond—and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.
I wonder if a Roman Toga Party on Greek Row would receive such diplomatic chastisement.  It is a marker, however, in favor of free inquiry and the possibility of changing minds, and in opposition to letting the current consensus on what is justice trump that inquiry.  Good.

The response from the Let's Play Church caucus of the Cultural Studies Club is instructive.
“While it is unfortunate that many people took personal offense at rituals for which they have little or no understanding of their context, what we find most disturbing have been the demands that the rituals and beliefs of marginalized members of society be silenced,” the club wrote in the emailed statement. “It is gravely upsetting to us that some people feel vindicated on the basis that they have disingenuously mischaracterized our invited guests as being part of a hate group.”
Sometimes marginalization is efficient. Sometimes the shibboleths and incantations of political correctness lose their magic power. Good.  And the Cultural Studies Club learns that the Perpetually Aggrieved do not have a monopoly on the use of manufactured hate crimes as a weapon against those who disagree.  Even better.

GETTING THROUGH CHICAGO.

Years ago, Robert R. Young's Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad tweaked the establishment.  "A hog can cross the country without changing trains, but you can't."  For a brief time in the 1970s, Amtrak ran Milwaukee trains through to or from St. Louis or Detroit, but these days making a connection at Union Station is frustrating or impossible.  And if Amtrak passengers at least have the amenities, such as they are, of Union Station waiting their layovers out, regional commuters have to get from North Western or Union to La Salle or Randolph Street without the benefit of Parmelee Transfer.

Against this background, the CrossRail Chicago concept, bringing electrified commuter trains -- can we hope, in future, for turquoise-and-salmon Talgo trains with a better looking power car? -- through Union Station and onward to Rockford or Milwaukee, is a brave, if perhaps overly optimistic, proposal.

THE BRAZEN PREVARICATIONS OF DIVERSITY HUSTLERS.

Without a constituency rendered unemployable by "progressive" education and the minimum wage, there'd be no victims for the administration at Chicago State to claim to protect.
There is only one permissible multi-part narrative for Chicago State: [president] Wayne Watson as champion of the African American students, opposed by “disgruntled white faculty”; Wayne Watson as the infallible great leader; frankly, Wayne Watson as the heroic educational “reformer”. Any deviation from that party line by anyone risks severe consequences. Neither Willie Preston nor Brittany Bailey [dissident students active in student government] subscribe to that narrative and the administration has responded accordingly.

According to the pleading, [the dissidents having sued the university] the administration’s abuses begin with a conversation between [presidential aide-de-camp] Angela Henderson and Preston in Fall 2011. After the “Occupy Cook” event in November of that year, Henderson asked Preston to meet with her. Demonstrating that she viewed Chicago State’s students as a bunch of weak-minded fools, Henderson advised Preston (who she apparently believed had just fallen off the turnip truck in front of the school) that “faculty members were using students to attempt to hurt the President who she said was fighting every day to ensure African American students had just as many opportunities as white students across the state.” Henderson warned Preston that “he should not let a ‘bunch of white, Communist, atheist professors’ trick him.”
Wow.  That's coming from an administrator of color who fancies Chicago State to be an Experimental Prefigurative College of Transformation for the impoverished of Chicago.

As the post's author goes on to note, the totalitarianism isn't in the faculty alone.
Someone who disagrees with the administration of Wayne Watson, someone who attempts to exercise the right of free expression, is warned, threatened, harassed with judicial affairs complaints and subjected to arrest and prosecution. I suppose this is what the university means when it talks about “progressive discipline.”
But without the professors properly exercising their responsibilities and their rights, the learning environment at Chicago State will not improve.  If the pretensions of the diversity hustlers in the administration get exposed along the way, so much the better.

WHY IT MATTERS.

Higher education, properly viewed, is a profoundly conservative enterprise.
As we consider ways to reform higher education in our country, it’s important that we look past job markets and financial gains, and consider the qualitative benefits that higher education can still offer to students. As we’ve seen—via the information provided above, and through other studies—colleges and universities don’t always live up to their promises. But the student who desires to learn, for its own sake, will always receive benefits from college—and, if the Gallup survey is correct, from the working world, as well.
Late in my career, I discovered Andrew Delbanco's College, wherein he quotes (p. 29) Oxford moral philosopher John Alexander Smith. "Gentlemen, nothing that you learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life -- save only this -- that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education."  My instincts have been correct all these years.  Without the Oxoninan background, I've been counseling my charges to develop working jive detectors, a skill that, if anything, is more valuable in the presence of presentation software that makes the display of virtual lipstick on real pigs easy for even the most primitive of prevaricators.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Western Ontario's John Palmer reminds readers of the Fatal Flaw of Vanguardism. "[T]he sad, simple fact is that the more power gubmnt and politicians have over resources, the greater the incentive for individuals to try to influence gubmnt policy, politicians, and the behaviour of bureaucrats."  Perhaps, one day, Ralph Nader will figure it out.
Someday, I imagine, someone will organize a “national society of serious people” that can put this hedonistic corporatism on the nation’s table so we can examine its destruction of human potential and what we convey to our posterity.

We can start by asking why the corporatists – those most sensually exploitative institutions – can so often get away using, for free, our own commonly owned property (public airwaves, the public lands, the internet, the trillions of dollars of taxpayer research and development given to corporations) against the interests of “we the people” and, most cruelly, our children.
That's what the kiddie corps at MSNBC imagines itself doing.  But nobody is listening.  And somehow, holding yourself forth as Serious People who Care, and who Know Better, isn't likely to change many minds.  Or, for that matter, have any lasting effect.  Grousing about the exploitation of the average Joe is an effective road to power.  Exploiting the average Joe is easier to do, once one has that power.

12.5.14

THE PROTEST FLAG COMES DOWN.

Under the Racing Rules of Sailing, a yacht that believes she has been fouled by another yacht on the water requests a hearing by displaying the Protest Flag.  Traditionally, the Protest Flag is Code Flag BAKER (using the Old Navy phonetic alphabet) although under the current rules, any red flag will suffice.


This protest flag has a handy Velcro closure for affixing to a side-stay.  In my office, the control lever for the blinds deputised for the side-stay.

The legislature has not chosen to fund the universities adequately, nor has it corrected the ham-handed pension reform that has driven about one-fifth of the faculty and staff, along with the institutional memory carried therein, into retirement.

The university has not chosen to properly staff the academic departments, nor has it recognized that making increased demands on the fewer remaining faculty in the absence of any merit money is unlikely to yield enthusiastic participation on committees or a harvest of high-quality publications.

And the subtle denigration of mainstream white guys as less desirable hires or as majors continues.

But I no longer have the opportunity in meetings or other forums to argue against those follies.

Nor need I be complicit in them any longer.

THE UNION OF FISH WITH BICYCLE IS BARREN.

Unfortunately, in the real world, there is bastardy.  Those kids will have a harder time making it in the world than their counterparts growing up in traditional households.
Fathers still earn a good portion of household income in married families, and are thus able to contribute to a child’s education via investment in good school districts, educational activities, and college tuitions. Additionally, [W. Bradford Wilcox's] studies have shown that fathers are more likely to introduce their children to a work environment, athletic activities, civil society, and politics. They’re also more likely to encourage their children to be independent and to take risks (not to say mothers can’t encourage such activity—he just meant fathers, statistically speaking, are likely to encourage such things).
Mr Wilcox participated in a panel organized by the American Enterprise Institute. Yes, the findings are unlikely to convince the Perpetually Aggrieved, as they are likely to consider the venue a nest of hegemonic biases.
How to solve this problem? The panelists agreed that, at root, parental absences are often tied to marital issues. Though we do want to provide support to single-parent homes, regardless of the marital situation at hand, it’s important to note that stable marriages often lead to stable parent/child relationships.
Never mind that what the Perpetually Aggrieved are doing to what little remains of The America that Worked (TM) is not leading to demonstrably a better world.

BECAUSE I NEVER NEEDED TO WORK HARD, I NEVER LEARNED HOW TO.

Read and understand.  (Via College Insurrection.)

11.5.14

DONE.

A cup of coffee, and the last stack of bluebooks of my tenure.




PRIVILEGE IS CIVILIZATION.

Credit philosopher Alfred North Whitehead for the first part of the argument.  "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them."

Here's Amptoons for the second part. "Privilege Is Driving a Smooth Road And Not Even Knowing It."  Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Perpetually Aggrieved would like to extend the set of automatic operations to offering employment or retail assistance or endorsement without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, family circumstance, or university degree.  Then there'd be less reason to call attention to flawed politically correct arguments, because there'd be fewer flawed politically correct arguments in the first place.

Lefty Parent's Thoughts on Civilization and Privilege has an interesting way of describing the emergence of an elite in a complex adaptive system with a division of labour.
Think more the informal organization of a contemporary large extended family or a group of people on a field or camping trip rather than a highly stratified hierarchy of decision making. The fact that this organization of our species evolved naturally and continued for nearly 200,000 years mostly unchanged speaks to its efficacy and compatibility with innate human nature.

What I’m really wrestling with these days is the most recent 5000 to 10,000 years of our history, specifically our experiment with “civilization”, which seems to have been quite a mixed bag. In an effort to see what lies beyond and maybe even evolve beyond our nature, we created complex human societies where we all participate (some willingly but many coerced) as a sort of super-organism that has been able to explore and take control of virtually all of our planet’s territory and natural resources, compile an edifice of knowledge now almost universally available through the Internet, and take at least the first baby steps to explore beyond the friendly confines of our planet. A super-organism mimicking a purely biological organism which has a certain small portion of that organism dedicated to its control and executive function.

At its best this experiment with civilization has created a world that currently allows seven billion unique souls to inhabit it at the same time, share an incarnation on a beautiful planet, and share ever more connectedness with (through diminishing degrees of separation from) each other.

But the downside is that we have created complex societies and institutions within those societies which as designed require a controlling elite executing that executive function in a way that generally favors that subset of people at the expense of the rest of us participating in the super-organism. This privilege of a controlling elite may or may not have been an aspect of previous human hunter-gatherer societies, but it continues to be a foundational cog of our “civilization” approach to human society.

What’s a species to do?

One approach that has been tried occasionally in our human history is for the majority to overwhelm the elite minority by force of superior numbers and force them to relinquish their wealth and power. But from my reading of history, the rare successful rebellion of this sort has generally led to the elevation of a different elite jealously protecting its new position at the top of a newly stratified heap. Perhaps more often, the threat of this sort of a revolt has led to some important changes for the better.
And sometimes, the rebellious keep on fighting after the major victories have been won.  Thus, once the major tumors of injustice were excised from U. S. law, the continued harping of the Perpetually Aggrieved against micro-aggression and intersectionality in the presence of evidence of the failure of much of their project exposes them only to scorn.

Let's use Amptoons's smooth road metaphor.  Forty or fifty years of fundamental transformation or subverting the dominant paradigm or embracing difference or celebrating authenticity or privileging transgressivity has not smoothed the road for anyone.

In contemporary life, the roads that aren't potholed are construction projects.  It's a Falling Down sort of world, in which the traffic jams are permanent, everybody's gridlocked, when the orange cones go away, the potholes are still there, and when the construction is finished, the lanes are narrower and there are some places you can't get to any more.  When you get to where you can get, there are plenty of empty handicapped parking spaces, but the only parking spaces for normal people are a long hike to your destination.  Across the potholed road, there's a tatty lot that might have at once time been a public park, or perhaps it was an eminent-domain taking that failed.  The gathering of people there might be a concert, or a gang-fight.  It's hard to tell which, and half the participants are too wasted to tell, either.

Perhaps you parked to go shopping.  You see SNACK'S .99¢ on offer, but you might as well be the Invisible Man for all the attention the clerks are paying you, and when somebody deigns to ring the sale up, your change may or may not be correct. But the Perpetually Aggrieved will not be pleased with the displacement of the unhelpful help. "McDonald's Europe strikes another blow against human interaction by installing 7,000 touch-screen computers to take your order and money." Nor should you be pleased, because those touch-screens might be tracking your purchases or be running buggy software (because rigorous hiring standards are elitist) and your debit or credit card information is at risk.

At least, though, there's enough evidence of the failure of the fundamental transformationists to transform human interactions for the better that people can push back.

I close with a Lefty Parent aside repeating a bit of deaducationist cant.  "The old paradigm of teacher as 'sage on the stage' is giving way to a new paradigm of 'guide on the side', if a teacher is needed at all to learn."

Fortunately, I don't have to deal with that rot any more.

And Belmont Club has the deep word on what that guide ought to be doing. "The learning experience of the past was more than the award of a diploma. It was the transmission of culture." He has a link to a British railway training movie in which the apprentice driver learns the art of oiling around.
One should not idealize the world of the past, but education before institutional schooling had its advantages. First of all instruction of necessity conformed to reality. It was learned in the presence of moving masses of steel, timed events and actual human expectations. The link between theory and practice was unbroken.

Second, education consisted in learning work attitudes as well as specific skills. One learned to be part of a team and how to get along. At all events the inadvisability of turning a workplace into a wrestling ring was brought home very sharply. Last but not least, students often got paid to learn.
Not necessarily on the railroads, as the five required student trips before the man marked up on the extra board weren't paid. But getting along with difficult conductors and engineers and unsympathetic dispatchers was part of the job.