Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crooked teachers' representative

A chorus of Washington, D.C. Democrats are calling on Mayor Vincent Gray to resign amid allegations his campaign engaged in “underhanded deeds” to win his race against incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010.  The Washington Times reports :
“Three D.C. Council members called on embattled Mayor Vincent C. Gray to resign Wednesday, just hours after he defended his integrity in his first public comments since federal prosecutors outlined a politically damaging ‘shadow’ effort by members of his 2010 campaign.

“David A. Catania, Mary M. Cheh and Muriel Bowser became the first city leaders to argue that Mr. Gray is no longer entitled to the highest office in the District because of underhanded deeds committed during his bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

“’I’ve been trying to decide, ‘What possible explanation is there that would exonerate him from this?’ said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, who deemed the decision ‘absolutely’ more heart-wrenching than calling on Harry Thomas Jr. to resign from the council for stealing public funds. ‘I had come to admire [Mr. Gray] greatly. This is a hard one. I’m going to go home and cry.’”

Gray seemed to implicate himself at a press conference yesterday when he said, “This is not the campaign we intended to run.” Gray is accused of having received “at least $653,800 in unreported cash to pay for supplies and consultants.”

Lest we forget, Gray was the American Federation of Teachers’ “million-dollar man.”

The AFT was bent on getting rid of its arch-nemesis, former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who was appointed by Fenty. Rhee shook up the system, firing underperforming tenured teachers and administrators, pushing for performance pay and other relatively bold reform initiatives.

For the union, Rhee was a significant problem and to get rid of her, they had to fire her boss. To accomplish that, the AFT spent "roughly $1 million" to hammer Fenty.

According to Politico, the effort’s intent was clear:

“And while the teachers union has been careful not to claim the scalps of Fenty and his schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, the election may serve as a political shot across the bows of other urban officials considering similar policies.”

So the union, desperate to get rid of Rhee, jumped in bed with someone accused of “underhanded deeds” by federal prosecutors. The teachers union sure knows how to pick upstanding individuals !


Colbert's Campus Coddlers

On July 9, Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi composed a puff piece to honor Stephen Colbert, "fake news" commentator and satirical fake conservative. It turns out Colbert is becoming an "obsession in academia," with a new collegiate submersion in "Truthinessology."

Let us agree that he can be very funny. Let's also agree that his satire being taken seriously by academia says something about the state of academia.

It also says something about those in the press who agree. Farhi winked in his story that this obsession is a problem, but then unfurled a long list of academic tributes. Parents are now paying tens of thousands of dollars each year for their children to skateboard around boring old Aristotle and Locke and instead immerse themselves in the study of smirking liberal TV wise-crackers.

Colbert, we are told, is a television icon already, like CBS legend Edward R. Murrow. This would be more upsetting if Murrow weren't in reality one partisan hack in a long line of truth-mangling CBS News partisan hacks.

Professor Geoffrey Baym proclaimed, "I'm sure there are still a lot more books out there on CBS News and Edward R. Murrow, but you could argue that the emergence of satire news at this level is an important phenomenon that I don't think we still completely understand." Baym wrote a book titled "From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News."

Maybe we don't understand because it's nonsensical. I get it that liberals believe in evolution, but do they really think journalism is growing more profound by transforming from long-form documentaries on migrant workers to Colbert's self-promotional, punchline-packed congressional testimony on migrant workers?

Apparently, they do.

This is Baym's dustcover Colbert-smooching: "'From Cronkite to Colbert' makes the case that rather than fake news, those shows should be understood as a new kind of journalism, one that has the potential to save the news and reinvigorate the conversation of democracy in today's society."

Translation: We had to destroy the news in order to save it.

Baym noted that there are "still a lot more books" on Murrow and CBS, but Amazon will quickly assemble for its consumers a wagonload of fake-news flattery oozing out of supposedly sober academe:

-- "The Stewart/Colbert Effect: Essays on the Real Impacts of Fake News" (with Jon Stewart and Colbert on the cover);

-- "And Nothing but the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert" (Colbert on the cover);

-- "The Daily Show and Rhetoric: Arguments, Issues, and Strategies" (Stewart on the cover)

-- "Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era" (Colbert on the cover);

-- "Entertaining Politics: Satiric Television and Political Engagement" (Stewart and Barack Obama on the cover).

This is a partial list (one mostly different from a Post list of treatises). Farhi reported, "The college crowd says Colbert is worthy of study because his single-character political satire is unique in the annals of television. His character, an egomaniacal right-wing gasbag, connects him to a long Western satirical tradition going all the way back to the Roman poet Horace and the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles."

Obviously, these educators wouldn't insult the ancient Romans and Greeks to make comparisons to a conservative topical comedian like Dennis Miller. Professor Don Waisanen analyzed Miller after his turn to the right and lamented that he was "disoriented" and his humor was destined to "neuter socio-political action."

Professors, being professorial, add gravitas to the unbearable lightness of their comedic heroes by applying jargon, explaining that Colbert and Stewart ably employ "parodic polyglossia," "satirical specificity" and "contextual clash" to evoke both laughter and social change.

Farhi even found one super-fan: Penn State Professor Sophia McClennen. McClennen compares Colbert to Ben Franklin and Mark Twain as one of the greatest satirists in our nation's entire 236-year history and argues that "our democracy is in a tough spot now, when corporations are exercising increasing power over government, and that Colbert captures this moment as they did."

I bet even Colbert laughed at that.

As much as liberals claim to treasure irony, McClennen didn't grasp that Colbert is "exercising increasing power over government" through a large media corporation called Viacom. This corporation's greedy devotion to the bottom line led them to spit on those obsessed academics who watch Colbert and Stewart via satellite on DirecTV. Viacom not only cut off 20 million subscribers to DirecTV after a failed attempt to wring an estimated $1 billion in additional carriage fees, but they removed online streaming of full episodes on the Comedy Central website.

After all, applying "parodic polyglossia" to promote progressive politics is only worthwhile if a corporation is maximizing their profits. That is certainly a "contextual clash" the academics were not expecting.


More British students forced to sit university admissions tests

Rising numbers of students are being forced to sit admissions tests to get into university amid fears that A-levels fail to mark out the brightest schoolchildren, it has emerged.

At least 75 universities are setting exams to gain admission to a series of traditional academic disciplines such as law, medicine and mathematics, figures show.

Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, insisted that the number of institutions running their own exams had soared by 50 per cent in just three years.

Last night, it emerged that Oxford is forcing almost nine-in-10 candidates to take some form of aptitude test as part of the admissions process next year. In 2009, just a third were required to sit an entrance exam.

The disclosure will fuel fears that universities are struggling to identify the most able applicants from a huge rise in the number of school leavers with straight As at A-level.

Last summer, 27 per cent of entries were graded A* or A – almost three times the number in the mid-80s – and the overall pass-rate increased for the 29th year in a row.

In a speech, Mr Gibb warned that “strong evidence has been emerging of grade inflation across subjects” in recent years.

He quoted figures showing that 75 universities – roughly half of those in Britain – were running some form of admissions test this year, up from 50 in 2009.  “In an effort to distinguish between candidates, more and more universities are resorting to using their own tests,” he said.

The Government is now toughening up A-levels by proposing to scrap bite-sized modules and giving universities new powers to write syllabuses and exam questions to raise standards in the traditional exam.  Mr Gibb said the move would “help restore confidence in standards”.

Currently, dozens of leading universities use common admissions tests to dictate entry to subjects such as law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and maths.

Figures from the organisation Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA), which advises universities on admissions policies, shows that 27 use the UK Clinical Aptitude Test for Medicine and Dentistry.

A further nine use the National Admissions Test for Law and six employ the Sixth Term Examination Paper in Mathematics.

But research shows that many universities also set their own their own exams for a range of other subjects such as accounting, classics, engineering, English, history, languages, teacher training and nursing.

Mike Nicholson, head of admissions at Oxford, said that 85 per cent of applicants to the university will take some form of aptitude test as part of the 2013 applications process. This covered around seven-in-10 subjects, he suggested.  Three years ago, between 60 and 65 per cent of candidates sat an entrance exam.

He said the exams acted as a “sifting process” to assess candidates who are later shortlisted for a formal interview, adding: “The tests are part of the additional information tutors will have that allows them to make calls on the candidates who seem to have the greatest strength, the greatest potential for future success.”

Mr Nicholson said a rise in the number of tests had “predominantly been driven by the significant increase in applications that we’ve seen in the last five years”, adding: “It’s not so much A-level. It’s more the diversity of our applicant pool now, so about 70 per cent of our candidates take A-level, 30 per cent don’t, and it’s the 30 per cent that don’t that’s been an increasing figure.

“So part of the value of the tests for our tutors is that it benchmarks the candidates against each other within a discipline.”


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