Friday, August 12, 2011

ADF-allied attorney calls out Colorado professor for feeble “apology” to student

The stereotype of the arrogant, leftist professor in the ivory tower occasionally shows up in real life in a manner that shows that the truth is stranger than fiction.

Recent case in point: a biology professor at a Colorado college (let’s call him Dr. Jones) hotly ridiculed a student (let’s call her Ms. Smith) in front of her entire class for her lack of belief in the theory of evolution. In order to avoid legal trouble for his immense misstep, he agreed to settle the case in advance of litigation. Part of the settlement required a written apology to the student. Here is the letter of “apology” from the professor, followed by a response from Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney Barry Arrington that can only be said to…um…set the record completely straight:
Ms. Smith:

With regard to our conversation about your belief that evolution is not true, I apologize to you for appearing to denigrate your obviously strongly held beliefs. I had not intended to offend you in any way regarding your faith or your world view. That this was so perceived by you, I again offer my sincerest apology.

In making this apology to you, I am reminded of what happened to Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – considered by many to be the father of modern science. In 1610 Galileo determined through his telescope and various mathematical calculations, that the Earth moved around the sun, rather than the other way around which was, according to the Catholic Church “false and contrary to Scripture.”

In 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant heliocentrism, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. As he was led away to begin his confinement, he said (to no one in particular) “and yet it still moves”.

Sincerely, Dr. Jones

Response from ADF-allied attorney Barry Arrington:
Dear Dr. Jones:

I am writing in response to your June 1, 2011 letter to my client Ms. Smith, in which you apologized to her for “appearing” to denigrate her strongly held beliefs. Sir, we both know you did not merely “appear” to denigrate Ms. Jones’s beliefs. You specifically intended to use your position of authority as a platform from which to denigrate Ms. Smith’s beliefs and humiliate her in front of her peers, and you accomplished your purpose. It saddens me that in your letter you decided to add mendacity to your boorish and abusive attack on your student.

You say you did not intend to offend Ms. Smith. Rubbish. I assume you are not an idiot, and only an idiot would not know that your words would demean and humiliate her, intimidate her into silence, and curb her natural desire for self expression in the face of the orthodoxy you represent. Do you really expect anyone to believe that it was an unfortunate and unintended side effect of your actions that she would feel hurt by the experience or perceive it as an assault on her personal dignity? Please do not insult our intelligence.

Finally, I cannot let your smug reference to Galileo go unchallenged. Firstly, as a matter of simple fact, your history is all wrong. Galileo never uttered the words you mistakenly placed in his mouth. I provide for your edification a primer on the matter under my signature.

More importantly, however, your letter illustrates an utter failure to grasp the significance of this figure from history. I will not spell it out for you. Instead, I urge you to go back and think about this one a little more. To assist you in that endeavor, please ask yourself and answer the following questions: As between Ms. Smith and you: (1) who is the pope (i.e., the authority figure with all of the power in the relationship)? (2) Who speaks for an unyielding established orthodoxy? (3) Who holds the minority dissenting view? (4) Who was willing to challenge the entrenched orthodoxy at significant personal risk to herself?

“But Galileo was right and his opponents were wrong!” you might respond. And that response would completely miss the point. The adherents of every entrenched orthodoxy believe not only that they are right, but also that everyone who challenges the orthodoxy is at least wrong if not wicked. Yet history is full of failed orthodoxies, collapsed paradigms, and discredited dogmas.

You are a high priest of the Church of Darwin. How easily you slipped into the role of inquisitor. You sniffed a hint of heresy from Ms. Smith, and you did not hesitate to put her on the verbal rack. In your letter you point to Galileo as a hero of free thought and expression against an entrenched orthodoxy. I hope you appreciate by now how richly ironic your appeal to Galileo is.

Sincerely, Barry K. Arrington


IBD: Administrative Bloat In Higher Ed‏

Why Are Tuitions So High? College students and their families have struggled to pay for the rising cost of tuition, a cost that has been driven in part by swelling administrative expenses.

Over a 20-year period, the growth in administrative personnel at institutions of higher education has outpaced the growth in both faculty and student enrollment.

Critics refer to this as administrative bloat and contend it shows that universities and colleges are inefficient institutions.

Defenders say colleges are adding administrative staff to meet student needs.

An IBD analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 1989-2009 the number of administrative personnel at four- and two-year institutions grew 84%, from about 543,000 to over 1 million.

By contrast, the number of faculty increased 75%, from 824,000 to 1.4 million, while student enrollment grew 51%, from 13.5 million to 20.4 million.

The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

Administrative personnel are employees who are not engaged in instruction and research. The jobs range from university president and provost to accountants, social workers, computer analysts and music directors.

One reason administration at public institutions has grown faster may be that bureaucracies tend to expand their staff and programs over time, regardless of need.

"The increase has a lot to do with all the money these institutions pull in from third parties, like state funds and student financial aid," said Daniel Bennett, a research fellow at the conservative Center for College Affordability & Productivity. "They're using it to grow their staff rather than on students."

Since students are insulated from the full cost of tuition, administrators feel less pressure to spend more on faculty to teach students.

Bennett has also written that an onerous regulatory environment that higher education faces may be partially to blame. "In order to comply with the government's requirements, colleges need to employ a staff that is responsible for providing the multiple state and federal agencies with compliance reports and data," he wrote.

Acknowledging that some of the increase may be due to administrators wanting "to re-create themselves," Dan King, executive director at the American Association of University Administrators, claims it's also due to changing needs.

"Students are coming in less prepared, needing more remedial assistance," he said. "If they need help from a writing lab or math lab, that's usually done by administrators. That's something that universities didn't have to provide as much even 10 years ago."


Can't add up? We are either born with a mathematical brain or not

If you struggle with figures, you were probably born that way, research has suggested. Being good at mathematics may be entirely pre-destined – you either have it or you don’t.

And those who find the numbers never add up shouldn’t feel too dim – mathematical talent does not appear to be linked to all-round intelligence.

Previous research has indicated that ‘number sense’ is basic to humans. We use it to estimate such things as the number of seats in a cinema or crowd sizes.

U.S. psychologists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore made their finding after testing children too young to have been taught mathematics.

During the study, 200 four-year-olds viewed flashing groups of blue and yellow dots on a computer screen and were asked which colour was shown the most. The children then had to count items on a page, determine which of two numbers was greater or lesser, as well as read numbers.

They were also tested on calculation skills, such as multiplication. The participants’ parents were then asked about their child’s vocabulary.

The verbal test was done because language and maths abilities are thought to be linked through general intelligence.

The researchers wanted to be sure success in maths was not part of an ability to perform better in all sorts of tasks or to some children feeling more comfortable being tested than others.

The results, published in the journal Developmental Science, showed that children who got the best score in the dots test were also the most competent at the maths tests.

Dr Melissa Libertus, who led the study, said: ‘Previous studies testing older children left open the possibility that maths lessons determined number sense. ‘In other words, some children looked like they had better number sense simply because they had better maths instruction.

‘Unlike those studies, this one shows that the link between number sense and maths ability is already present before the beginning of formal maths instruction.

‘One of the most important questions is whether we can train a child’s number sense to improving his future maths ability.’


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