Friday, June 08, 2012

Going to college? Watch out for political correctness and impractical degrees

Here’s a fine book I enjoyed reading written by my friend Ari Mendelson, which talks about the dangers of political correctness on the university campus, and especially in the humaninities. It’s a work of fiction, but it’s based on actual cases from a variety of college campuses.  Here’s a snippet from Ari’s web page about the book:
    Lured by brochures promising limitless intellectual freedom, Jeff Jackson arrives at picturesque Tinsley College, eager to experience college life to the fullest. He does not know that the freedom he has been promised is in short supply at Tinsley, a college so dedicated to leftist ideals that the administration changed the name of the anthropology department to “anthrogynology” in order to make the name more “gender inclusive.”

    Jeff makes the mistake of believing that the renowned Professor Bancroft Tarlton would be willing to debate the left wing politics that the professor advocates in his classes. Not realizing that there are just some questions one does not ask on a college campus, Jeff submits an essay outlining his provocative theories about happiness and human sexuality.

    Professor Tarlton is not the only one furious at Jeff for his lack of devotion to left wing norms. Calling himself a “pomosexual” and believing Jeff to be not only a homophobe, but a “pomophobe” as well, Carl Fitzgerald, Jeff’s classmate, begins a feud with Jeff. The battle escalates from insults, to vandalism, to shattered love affairs and a dorm room inhabited by a fainting goat. In a college obsessed with political correctness, a clash between the writer of a “homophobic” essay and the “pomosexual” victim of a college prank can only end one way: with a showdown in a campus courtroom.

You can click the link to learn more about the book. It’s a nice little introduction to parents and college-bound students about what really goes on in the liberal arts departments of most universities. I resonated with the hero of the story who chose to study liberal arts, even though I studied computer science for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I knew that political correctness dominated in the liberal arts. My first choice of career was actually to be a lawyer and then an English teacher. I sat in on a criminal law course at one local university and then an English course at another while I was a senior in high school. That’s when I changed my major to computer science based on my experiences. Now that the economy is the way it is, I think it was the right thing to do.

University is a fine thing as long as you go there to learn math, science, technology or engineering. If you go there to study anything else, all you will learn is how to parrot the opinions of your professor. Any dissent will be met with bad grades, and possibly expulsion. There is no focus on producing value outside of the STEM departments. Not only is it a waste of money to be indoctrinated, but it destroys your ability to think critically and independently. You want to learn valuable skills in your time at university – all the better to pay back those enormous student loans. In case you would like to read a good book on the importance of choosing a major in STEM fields, here is a book authored by Captain Capitalism which makes the case for that, with all the facts and figures you would expect from an economist.

Here’s a blurb from his blog:
    The amount of money they (or you) are going to spend on tuition, not to mention the sheer volume of their youth they will spend pursuing a degree, can NOT be wasted simply because nobody had the courage to tell the kids the truth about economics and the realities of the labor market.

    But you don’t have to.  The book will do it for it you.

    “Worthless” explains first and foremost to the reader that the reason somebody got them this book is because that person really cares about them.  And while it may not be what they want to hear, they will end up appreciating it in the future.  “Worthless” also goes into detail and explains in clear, understandable language the economics behind the labor market, showing the reader how and why some degrees are worthwhile and others are literally worthless.

Sometimes, people just seem to go off to university and choose a major without really thinking about it. Both of these books will help a college-bound student to think a second time about why they are going to college and what they hope to achieve there. It might even be a good idea to just choose a trade school and learn some practical skills. In this economy, the first priority is to find a job. You can always study the really interesting fields like philosophy in your spare time once you are gainfully employed.


Whining teachers in Australia too

Teachers are Prima Donnas worldwide.  Check Wisconsin, NYC  and Britain, for instance

TEACHERS have rejected a pay deal from the Queensland Government and are planning to rally outside State Parliament in a fortnight.

The Queensland Teachers Union issued a newsflash yesterday telling its members they had rejected an enterprise bargaining package, which included a 2.7 per cent pay rise per annum over the next three years.

The union has raised concerns over what the Department of Education, Training and Employment "requires" to be removed from its current certified agreement as part of the enterprise bargaining offer.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said classroom teachers would earn up to $90,238 a year, graduate teachers up to $61,636 a year and principals up to $147,981 a year under the agreement.

Graduate teachers would be kept at the same classification for three years before being eligible to access annual increments.

The QTU warns pay progression "would require certification by principals of teachers' satisfactory conduct, diligence and efficiency rather than increments being held by exception as is currently the case".

Mr Langbroek said: "The salary increase of 2.7 per cent a year promises an increase in real wages with the annual national inflation rate currently just 1.6 per cent (CPI year to march quarter 2012).

"It is a fair offer in the current economic climate, particularly given the job security that teachers enjoy."

But the QTU has warned beginning teachers would lose more than $6000 over the life of the agreement, while "items" like class sizes they had fought for would be removed and "considered matters of policy to be determined by the department".

"Examples of items suggested by the department which are better determined by policy are: class sizes; remote area incentive scheme ... workload management and work/life balance; job security; conversion to permanency of temporary teachers ... policy can be changed at any time by the government and department without consultation with teachers and principals.

"These issues have been included in agreements over the past 18 years as a protection against unilateral change by government or department. The entitlements won over six EB campaigns and more now become uncertain."

The QTU newsflash states it will be seeking a permit for an after-school rally outside Parliament on June 19 or 20.


Dumb teachers in Australia

ABOUT one in 10 high school graduates who took up teaching courses this year had an OP 17 or worse.  Overall Positions (OPs) range from one, the highest, to 25, the lowest, and are used to rank students wishing to be admitted for tertiary education.

The revelation follows concerns new teachers are graduating without basic numeracy and literacy skills and that universities are churning out too many graduates despite an oversupply of primary school teachers in Queensland.

A report this year revealed more than 12,000 primary school and 4000 other teachers were seeking work with Education Queensland in January.

In submissions to the Productivity Commission for a Schools Workforce report released in April, the Department of Education, Training and Employment said it had concerns about the imbalance of graduate primary school teachers, while the Queensland Catholic Education Commission said it was concerned the oversupply could lead to "a decrease in the quality of teaching graduates".

Figures released to The Courier-Mail by the Queensland College of Teachers revealed 11.8 per cent of high school graduates who entered teaching courses this year had an equivalent of an OP 17 or worse, and about 3.6 per cent had an OP of 20 to 25.

QCT director John Ryan said higher education institutions providing teacher education "must provide extra tuition to any student who needs support in literacy or numeracy".

But he said the Queensland school-leaver figures were better than those nationwide.  "As a percentage, Queensland had more students with higher entry scores and less people at the lower end of the scale than the rest of Australia entering teacher education.  "This data only applies to school-leavers and accounts for approximately 50 per cent of people entering teacher education."

The revelation came as recommendations to introduce a pre-registration test aimed at improving the quality of teaching graduates has been postponed for a second time because of concerns over cost.

Controversial recommendations made to the Bligh government aimed at lifting teacher standards, including enforcing a better alignment between demand and supply by limiting practicum (practical experience) places, are also in limbo, with their fate yet to be decided by the Newman Government.


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