Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Things were hopping today at Directional U…

It appears, as I read the tea leaves that change may be afoot at Directional U.

My coworkers get tired of my harping on the need to change, but I am convinced more and more about the need to divorce education from a particular time and place.

William M. Brigss, Statistician to the Stars, has a series of post on the subject.  He talks about the differences between research, college and trade schools.  My students, and I agree on this point, should be in trade school according to Bill.  Quite a bit of posting on his part.

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part I

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part II

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part III

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part IV

I, naturally, think he’s too dismissive of us lower level assitants to the assistance to the assistant dean.  He seems to think flunkies like me are a cause of the problem as opposed to a symptom.  Briggs to seem concerned about the quality of instruction.  I would say the problem with instruction is largely the making of his peers over time.

Very Funny Picture…

Over at Curmudgeonly & Skeptical.  Check it out.  Especially if you have kids in DISD.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Larry G. Smith Elementary, is located about where you would expect.  Especially if you have lived in East Dallas like I have.  The crappy nature of large public school districts is, as Walter Russell Mead says, one of the great failures of the Blue Social Model.  Something needs to be done about this.  The failure of public education really is about the kids.

If you’re really a fan of Earth Hour…

You can move to North Korea!

It’s Earth Hour all night long in North Korea.  Not just tonight, every night!

Swiped this one from Gerard at Ka-Ching!

I won’t be sitting in the dark tonight…

I’ll be off at one of my hockey teammate’s 50th birthday party.  Coincident to celebrating his birthday, we’ll be able to keep the lights on while we celebrate Human Achievement Hour!

This will help a lot…

They are going to shut down the Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier for an hour tonight.

For those of you planning to sit in the dark tonight…

Can I try once again to change your mind?  Will you please click on this link, which I’ve blogged before?  Here is a small snippet:

Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity. Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.  Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases. Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. 

There is no other way to put it: Green Kills.  Go read down the link chain on that post.  It is about the lunacy of ethanol.

What he said…

I am not alone in my thinking that Accreditation is a major road block to Higher Education reform.  From an essay by Burck Smith:

To be accredited, a college must meet a variety of criteria, but most of these deal with a college’s inputs rather than its outcomes. Furthermore, only providers of entire degree programs (rather than individual courses) can be accredited. And even though they are accredited by the same organizations, colleges have complete discretion over their “articulation” policies—the agreements that stipulate the credits that they will honor or deny when transferred from somewhere else. This inherent conflict of interest between the provision of courses and the certification of other’s courses is a powerful tool to keep competition out. In short, by controlling the flow of funding, accreditation insures a number of things: all colleges look reasonably similar to each other, the college can’t easily be “disaggregated” into individual courses, and coursework provided by those outside of accreditation can’t easily be counted as credible.

Lastly, to further tip the scales toward incumbent providers, accreditation bodies are funded by member colleges, and accreditation reviews are conducted by representatives from the colleges themselves. The “iron triangle” of input-focused accreditation, taxpayer subsidies tied to accreditation, and subjective course articulation ensures that almost all of the taxpayer funds set aside for higher education flows to providers that look the same.  And by keeping innovations out, colleges can maintain their pricing structures.

Some day this problem will be fixed.  It is a matter of justice for the student.  If society is going to hold out credentials as a ticket to improving the condition of ones life, those credentials should be attainable in a manner that suits the students, not the institutions.

Liz Taylor, RIP…

So I heard the news this morning, and of course it starts a conversation in the office.  I made the comment that the young Liz Taylor was a Movie Star.  Behold the evidence:

That is from the set of Giant.  Apparently just after having her second child.  Again, my wife kind of looks like that.

I went searching for such a picture today and found this at The Selvedge Yard.  Go check out that blog.  What an awesome collection of culture you will find there!  Added to the blog roll.

I found this via one of my Facebook friends…

Unbelievable.  Maybe I can get a plastic colored wrist band to show my concern to too: Deepak Chopra to Lead a Live Global Healing Meditation for Japan This Monday, March 21.

Facebook continues to, for me, be a compendium of lameless lame and uninteresting people.

Maggie’s Farm…

Is one of my favorite group blogs.  I stop by there daily.  There are a handful of posters that are regularly putting up new posts daily.  Bird Dog puts up a round of links of interest to him; The Barrister, like me, seems to be interested in higher education right now; Dr. Bliss posts on psychiatry; Dr. Mercury on computers and nonsense; and, Bruce Kesler on Israel and world affairs.  There are others, and my leaving them off the list does not slight them in the least, they just don’t post as often.

Bird Dog put up a re-post yesterday on high school / college curriculum.  In particular what he thinks his children should be taking in college if they have not already been exposed to these courses in high school.  It is heavy on classical liberal arts education.  It is somewhat short on practical vocational course work.  There is a pretty lively comment section to the post, with the commenters mostly agreeing but pointing to where they might change the emphasis some.

The commenters at Maggie’s are good people.  They are not rude to each other and offer up a lot of good information and opinion.  It is part of the reason Maggie’s Farm is one of my favorite blogs.

Anyway, to make a short story long, I’m having one of my moments where I don’t communicate well with other people.  I was reading Bird Dog’s post and got hung up here: “for a lifetime of self-education and informed citizenship.”  In particular I got hung up on the “informed citizenship” phrase.

Instead of saying I won’t make my kids learn Greek, Latin, or any other language unless it’s something like C++, I couldn’t get past this informed citizenship idea.

That’s because somewhere along the way between the ratification of the constitution and today, we as a people gave up our rights as citizens.  There are several inflection points.  Pick your favorite.  There is the presidency of Lincoln.  If you think the civil war was over slavery you a sadly misinformed.  The civil was started over the South saying they had had enough of the union and voted themselves out.  Less than one hundred years after the ratification of the constitution by a vote, there is no doubt the people believed they could exit the Union.  Lincoln said no they could not leave the Union and the carnage of the civil war resulted (Note: there is no defense of slavery in this argument.  Also, if you think this notion is crazy, go read the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln freed the slaves everywhere he had no power and nowhere where he did have power.).  Next up is Wilson, who presided over the institution of the income tax and the Federal  Reserve system.  Wilson is followed by the further curtailment of individual liberty by Hoover and Roosevelt through their ineffectual responses to the Great Depression.  We could also point to Johnson and his war on poverty and his Great Society.  Nixon enters my list with his price controls and EPA.  Reagan gets special mention as he is probably most responsible for cutting loose government from any concern over deficit spending.  I’ll blame Clinton for the bulk of expansion of Freddie, Fannie and Sallie (the total cost of these three programs is one of the great unknowns we “citizens” will have to deal with).  Bush for his crappy wars of no end.  And now we have Obama starting another crappy war.  Add on to the wars the deficit spending of  these last two socialists (there is no other way to describe someone who gives away prescription medicine and another who wants to give away all medicine).

Where in this long line of crappy statist politicians is one that was concerned for the welfare of the citizens?

That’s because we are no longer citizens, we are subjects.

I ask why my two kids should study to be an informed citizen when all around me the smart money guys are teaching their kids how to best game the system.  I should send them to Russia for what is likely the best place for lessons on how to become an apparatchik.  Why should my kids be informed citizens when the path to a upper middle class lifestyle goes through the forest of government subsidies (just ask a Wisconsin school teacher, they know how to milk the system to their advantage and certainly have no understanding of informed citizenship).  My kids don’t need to understand the philosophical underpinnings of republican democracy, they need to know how to align themselves with government protected industries and projects.  That’s what subjects do, they try to figure out where the most government largesse will fall out of the sky.  Corn fields in Iowa?  Wind farms in California?  High Tech in Texas?  Water for farms in Arizona?

Yes the path of least resistance for a life of conventional success lies in finding where they Eye of Sauron will look with favor.  That is what the good subjects of this nation will do.

I will actually walk myself back from the ledge now.  My kids, I hope, and work to achieve, will be free thinking, individuals beholden to no man.  They will deal with the world as they find it, and they will find their own way, as I won’t be forcing my will upon them much longer.

So as a comment to Bird Dog’s list of courses, I have this to say: While they are young, I want to tilt their education in a more practical direction.  Our conversations around the dinner table, with just the immediate family, range widely and cover lots of topics where we encourage additional reading.  Conversations with our extended family and our circle of friends reinforces this and demonstrates to the kids the need for being educated in our culture, broadly defined.

But yes, I really do think we are no longer citizens.  We are but mere subjects.  The government no longer trusts us to find our own way, to negotiate solutions to the problems facing us and our neighbors.  No, the government has to impose a uniform solution on each subject.  I give you as an example trash.  I am proscribed by law from setting my trash out on the curb too early.  If I set it out too early, I’ll be subject to a fine.  Really.