American Elephants

Celebrate Diversity of Thought; Not Race, Not Sex. by The Elephant's Child
December 4, 2012, 6:21 pm
Filed under: Education, Freedom, Politics, Progressivism, Socialism | Tags: , ,

Few bad ideas are more devastating, and conversely more celebrated than “diversity.” There are few, if any, places where “diversity” is more important and more needed than in America’s colleges and universities. Every picture taken for the college catalogue will be a careful array of skin colors and ethnic heritages. If they could get some Indian (excuse me Native American) headdresses and Sikh turbans in the pictures they would be in seventh heaven. Yet conservative thought, conservative speakers and heaven forbid, conservative faculty members are simply not allowed. Diversity of thought is unwelcome.

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto has some wonderful examples today:
“A construction crew working on the campus of Ohio’s Sinclair Community College was forced to halt work until it removed a ‘Men Working’ sign that was deemed ‘sexist’ by a college administrator,” reports National Review’s Eliana Johnson:

A spokesman for the college told National Review Online that the incident, which occurred on November 21, stemmed from the school’s “deep commitment to diversity,” and that it takes that commitment “very seriously.”

One laughs, but then one reads stuff like this, from a Lafayette College (Easton, Pa.) press release:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $100,000 grant to Mary Armstrong, associate professor of English and chair of women’s and gender studies, and Jasna Jovanovic, professor of psychology and child development at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, for their study of how colleges and universities can more effectively support the success of underrepresented minority women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic fields. . . .

“Our approach is based on the idea that institutions tend to structure supportive initiatives that address only one aspect of a potentially marginalized group, such as gender, or race, or sexual orientation,” explains Armstrong. “But an underrepresented minority woman will, by definition, have several such identities; hence, lesbians or women of color experience being a woman in STEM with complex, compound disadvantages.”

Armstrong and Jovanovic are conducting the first comprehensive study of how initiatives funded through the NSF ADVANCE program are enhancing the success of underrepresented women in STEM. The research team believes that successful institutional programs have to be creatively reshaped to accommodate the complications experienced by women who identify within multiple underrepresented identities.

One wonders how much money and talent are being poured into this sort of thing instead of producing scientists and engineers. It reminds us of that scene in “Star Trek” when Captain Kirk asks (we quote from memory), “Scotty, can you get us warp drive?” and Scotty replies: “I’m doin’ my best, Cap’n, but I’m strugglin’ with multiple underrepresented identities!”

We really have to do better than just holding up examples to laugh at. Ridicule, disparage, mock, sneer and taunt. They deserve every bit of it. I think it’s a kind of mind rot.

Pity the Poor Professors: They’re on Food Stamps Too. by The Elephant's Child

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of people with a graduate degree who were on food stamps or were receiving another kind of federal aid more than doubled, reaching 360,000.

In 2007, 9776 people with PhDs were receiving some kind of aid.  In 2010 that number had more than tripled to 33,655. For people with Master’s degrees, the number spiked from 101,683 to 293,029.  Austin Nichols of the Urban Institute crunched those numbers for The Chronicle using census data.

Walter Russell Mead surveys the situation:

And we have nothing but admiration for the love of knowledge that leads young people to want to study these fields in greater depth.

But that respect and affection shouldn’t blind us to the sad reality that much of the American academy today works as a Ponzi scheme. PhD programs in many fields are churning out grads for whom no jobs will ever be found. They have to produce excess grads because if they cut back enrollment, the programs would be too small to justify the continued employment of their current staff. …

Worse, if we decided to cut the number of programs so that the number of job openings matched the number of PhD graduates each year, the number of job openings would crash. Currently, suppose that 200 professors of medieval history retire or otherwise leave the field each year; that would mean we need 200 new PhDs each year to replace them.

The jobs of the current practitioners depend on recruiting a steady stream of new hopefuls into the profession, even though many of those new hopefuls won’t get jobs themselves. This is pretty much how Ponzi schemes work, and besides being unfair to the young, it undercuts the integrity of the teacher-student relationship and it puts the whole scholarly enterprise under a dark ethical cloud.

The Baby Boom started all this. Colleges and Universities expanded like crazy to cope with the army of new students.  The first 18 year-olds started college in 1963, and the numbers increased exponentially until the peak year of 1977, and dropped off precipitously in the baby bust. These same years saw students avoiding the Vietnam War by staying in school for advanced degrees. We have had a temporary boom in the need for PhDs as anyone who could think up a grant proposal linking their specialty to global warming  became deeply involved in some kind of (profitable) climate research. There is a higher education bubble, and it is collapsing. Mead adds:

This is beginning to break down. Governments — federal, state and local — have less money for higher ed, and the student loan burden is becoming insupportable.

The current system will change. It imposes unsustainable costs of society at large even as it leads tens of thousands of aspiring professors down the primrose path to the food stamp line.


There is a Higher Education Bubble. Taxpayers Beware! by The Elephant's Child

Sixty-one percent of folks with a student loan are not paying back their loans.  Many of the non-payers are still in school, but many others have long since graduated and are failing to make payments on their student loans. After the housing collapse, 28% of mortgages were underwater.  Could we be worrying about the wrong bubble?

There supposedly is $870 billion in outstanding loan balance. There is $85 billion  that is held by those who are past due. The numbers seem to be somewhat unreliable.  There’s a category defined as loans under forbearance: that’s a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time because you are experiencing financial difficulty. You can get forbearance if you are not eligible for deferment.  A deferment is a temporary suspension of loan payments for specific situations such as reenrollment in school, unemployment or economic hardship. These are for people who are not making their payments, but they are officially considered as people who are making their payments, so the “default rate” is probably not a meaningful number.  It may just be a measure of the number of students who never made any payments at all.

We have this gigantic and growing government, full of certified “experts,” and they can’t keep their numbers in some form that makes them intelligible to those who want to understand the problem. Federal loans are growing — up 25%this last year — but when people who aren’t paying are counted as paying, and over 50% of those in either forbearance or deferment end up defaulting, we don’t seem to know what is happening at all.  I just read some scary numbers about food stamp fraud. We are constantly informed that there are enormous amounts of fraud in Medicaid and Medicare. Conservatives talk about the need for an audit of the Fed, and no one seems to have a clue about the real financial state of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in terms that make it clear that everybody is scared to really ask.

Government numbers come in first guesses, then revised numbers and revised again. If it is a bad number, like unemployment, it usually gets progressively worse: if it’s a good number like new jobs created, that usually gets worse too.  Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes how much the Obama administrations has done to make things worse:

Although for-profit colleges have been demonized by the Obama Administration (which has forced some of them to jack up tuition through tightening of the 90-10 rule, and subjected career colleges — but not traditional colleges — to “gainful employment” rules),  education expert Richard Vedder says that “the for-profits care more for their students” and care more than other colleges about whether their students get jobs and are able to repay their student loans.

The Obama Administration has also done other things that increase college costs and drive up tuition.  It has harmed American industry and students who choose not to go to college by discouraging the vocational training needed for well-paying, skilled factory work, contributing to a severe shortage of certain types of skilled factory workers.

Government subsidies over the years have encouraged colleges to raise their tuition, and to dumb down their offerings to attract marginal students. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learn little in four years of college, and students now spend 50% less time studying compared with students of a few decades ago. Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.” The conversation and the demand for change is increasing.

Obama wants everyone to go to college, which means the trends will increase. He wants more student loans, and more forgiveness for the defaulters. (Which means the taxpayers get to pay). He wants more control over the curriculum. (More indoctrination).  He wants to stamp out for profit schools.  And desiring to be the education president, he won’t even continue the DC Opportunity Scholarships that are such an enormous help for poor black children in the nation’s capitol.

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