Thursday, March 31, 2011

Krugman, Academic Freedom and Phony Whining

Tibor Machan

In his column of March 28, 2011, Paul Krugman whines a good deal about how Republicans in Wisconsin are targeting scholars who may not like their opposition to public service union profligacy. No doubt, in these battles all sides can go overboard but let’s just face it, the Left has been dominant in higher education for decades on end, which is why, perhaps, I am not a professor at Princeton University while Dr. Krugman is, and why my columns and blogs are mostly marginalized and his appear on the pages of The New York Times. (But enough of sour grapes!)

First, opposing public service unions does not amount to opposing organized labor, certainly not of the kind that would take place in a free market where competition affords the opportunity to seek out firms not hit by union action. Public union members work for monopolies and there is no option but to do business with them all. That’s a major difference and cause of most of the problems faced in Wisconsin and elsewhere vis-a-vis public employees.

Another point to keep in mind is that Wisconsin’s and other states’ universities are tax funded and citizens who have to foot their cost cannot walk away and go elsewhere to buy their higher education from an alternative institution, not unless they are willing to be charged twice.

Furthermore, college professors, like college students, enjoy academic freedom, not the full protection of the rights secured via the Fist Amendment to the US Constitution. University policy, in part dictated by public officials at the state level, trumps academic freedom (which is mainly a tradition or custom, not a legal guarantee). Politicians, who take themselves to be in charge of–or, euphemistically put, “responsible for”–higher education policy, have the legal authority to butt in anytime they can convince themselves that it is a matter of the public interest to do so. And that task is a very easy one for politicians and bureaucrats, don’t kid yourself.

So when Wisconsin’s politicians scrutinize public university employees, including professors, in the public interest, there is no legal argument that can be made against this. They are ultimately in charge, something they would not be if they dealt with private educational institutions (which, more like churches, largely enjoy constitutional protection from such meddlers).

None of this should come as a surprise to Paul Krugman, an old hand in the education industry. (His professed shock with Wisconsin’s politicians is just about as authentic as was the shock of the police captain at the end of the movie Casablanca with the illegal gambling that had been going at Ricks!) Once you are near the centers of power, such as state and federal capitols, you will use whatever legal or near legal means you can deploy to hang on to your clout and to gain more and more of it.

Your opponents will, of course, always holler “foul” as you make your moves but this is certainly just a ruse. No one should be fooled that Republicans and Democrats or any other mainstream political bunch do not try every trick in the book to undermine those on the other side.

Dr. Krugman himself is simply playing the game–charge your opponents with ill will and corruption even while you are guilty of these as well. Maybe he thinks no one can figure this out, him being such a well positioned public intellectual. Fact is, however, that Krugman is simply trying to keep and gain power for his team. It has nothing to do with overarching principles, not, especially, when you recall, also, that Dr, Krugman is a fierce defender of pragmatism and opposes all ideologies, including the ideology of remaining true to the principles of proper public conduct. Only amateurs would be bothered with that!

We live in a dog-eat-dog political arena and very few people have the backbone to remain above the fray. By now anyone who reads his stuff should know that Dr. Krugman isn’t one of them.


Landmark win for assault case teacher: British police to pay £1,000 for arrest over pupil's claim

A teacher falsely accused of assaulting a pupil has won a landmark High Court ruling against the police for unlawful arrest. Mark Richardson was held in a police cell after an 11-year-old boy claimed the 39-year-old had punched him in the throat.

The heavy-handed police action came weeks after the alleged offence and after the boy’s parents said they did not wish to pursue the matter.

Furthermore the school said it would handle the matter internally and Mr Richardson, who voluntarily went to a police station to speak to officers, was adamant the claim was false.

The media studies teacher of Blue Coat Comprehensive, Walsall, West Midlands, said the boy ‘walked into his outstretched hand’. He was later released and no charges were brought against him.

On Tuesday High Court judge Mrs Justice Slade found his arrest was unlawful and awarded him £1,000 damages.

Mr Richardson, a father-of-one and step-father of three, claimed the police action was a stain on his character and had damaged his promotion chances.

It is the first ruling of its kind involving a falsely accused teacher and has been hailed as a significant turning point for the profession.

And it comes as figures show that just 5 per cent of all allegations made to police about teachers result in action. Since 1991 some 2953 allegations have been made to the police. Of these just 170 have resulted in a caution or conviction.

Chris Keates, of teacher’s union the NASUWT, said she would now be writing to the Education Secretary and the Home Secretary to seek changes to national procedures. She said: ‘This is a landmark decision for teachers and others who are vulnerable to allegations made by children and young people. ‘New guidance for police is needed urgently to prevent these needless arrests that wreck innocent people’s careers.’

Mr Richardson, of Walsall, was suspended at the time of the allegation in December 2009 but has since been reinstated at the Church of England school.

A police spokesman said: ‘Following the court ruling West Midlands Police will launch an internal investigation into this matter to review the circumstances of the arrest and handling of the case. ‘Until this is completed it would be inappropriate to comment on today’s ruling or the case in question.’

Mr Richardson also wanted the police to be forced to destroy DNA samples, fingerprints and photographs taken from him during the arrest and to remove or amend his arrest entry on the Police National Computer.

The judge declined these requests, leaving any alteration of police records to West Midlands Police.


Another "safe" Australian school

A 14-year-old boy was stabbed at Southport State High yesterday after he and a fellow Year 10 student were sent to the principal's office for fighting. Students claimed the boys were involved in a violent lunchtime brawl in a classroom and later heard screams as one allegedly stabbed the other in the stomach in the administration building.

The victim suffered damage to an internal organ but is expected to make a full recovery after surgery at Gold Coast Hospital.

Police arrested his alleged attacker near the school and seized a knife which it is believed he took to school. He was last night charged with unlawful wounding. The Courier-Mail understands police are working on the theory the incident was not gang related but may have been linked to alleged bullying.

A male student said he saw one boy "smashed against a bubbler" and thrown into a wall in the lead-up to the stabbing.

Gold Coast police inspector Geoff Palmer said yesterday he was unaware of any gang problems at Southport High but detectives from the Child Protection Investigation Unit were investigating.

Insp Palmer said the stabbing followed an "altercation" between two 14-year-old students. "There were no other children in danger and the school was not placed in a lockdown," he said. Insp Palmer appealed for any student witnesses to come forward.

Latest Education Queensland figures show 303 Southport High students were suspended in 2009, up from 160 in 2006.

In September 2009, a Southport High student was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm after allegedly bashing a fellow student. The victim allegedly needed plastic surgery after the attack, which happened just days before a Southport State School pupil, aged six, was found with a knife in his bag.

Yesterday's stabbing was the latest in a series of knife incidents at Queensland schools in recent years.

The Queensland Teachers Union last year warned that teachers and principals had to be more vigilant about knives in schools.


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