Thursday, May 09, 2013

Vegan students at Calif. high school accused of bullying agriculture students online

Agriculture students at a Northern California high school say they are being bullied online by fellow students who identify as vegans.

Fox 40 reports the vegan students allegedly have been posting angry words against Elk Grove High School's agriculture program on social media sites such as Instagram.

“[One student] keeps posting about goats and sheep and pigs and dead pictures and them being slaughtered,” agriculture student Katie Velon told the station.

Outside vegan groups have also reportedly become involved in the bullying, and some vegan students are passing out fliers on campus. In one instance, meat eaters were called "carcass crunchers."

The agriculture students say they feel misunderstood.  “I don’t think it’s fair for people to be saying that, because they don’t understand the work we put into all these animals. And it’s something we voluntarily do,” student Miranda McCurry tells Fox 40.

A vegan student who spoke with Fox 40 but declined to be identified says she has not passed out any fliers and no vegan student has called a fellow student a "carcass cruncher."


Your Student Loan Shall Not Be Forgiven

There’s a decent chance you know a recent graduate with a student loan balance that makes Greece look tight-fisted. That graduate might occasionally jabber on about “student loan forgiveness,” which is a popular notion among people with large student loans.

The concept behind forgiveness is that college graduates are sweating debt through their pores like vodka, so the government ought to swoop in and write them a check. This plan sounds pretty swell if you’re a recent graduate, but if you’re some kind of weirdo who pays income tax it means you get to foot that bill. So watch out.

One such proposal presently in embryonic form is H.R. 1330, The Student Loan Fairness Act. This particular scheme would create a new “10-10” standard for student loan repayment, in which individuals would repay one-tenth of their disposable income for 10 years, after which their debt would be forgiven.

You’ll notice that representatives usually come up with similar token gestures in order to make graduates appear to be seriously contributing to their loans. For instance, a congressman might suggest that an alumnus periodically toss fistfuls of loose change at their bursar, or set up a “repayment fund” by hoarding pennies in the ashtray of their car. Then at some point, as in H.R. 1330, Uncle Sam steps in and waives their debt away. Their onerous student loan is “forgiven.”

In the world of finance, “debt forgiveness” is not the same thing as regular forgiveness, wherein the aggrieved party absolves you of guilt but secretly nurses a grudge. “Debt forgiveness” simply means someone else pays your debt instead of you. Your tuition bill does not magically disappear, but is rather transferred via legal mechanisms to another shmuck. The federal government steps in to magnanimously fork over the remainder of your tab to a university, loan shark, etc. But “the government,” which sounds distant and vaguely sterile, is funded by you.

And by me, for that matter. Which is irritating, because I strenuously avoided going into debt during college. I attended a state school despite acceptance to a pretentious “boat shoes” school. I obtained my masters degree through a scholarship. I intentionally zigzagged around accruing debt because I had the foresight to realize that both of my majors were utterly useless and would never earn the money back.

Thus, I do not carry a significant debt burden. However, I am still poor, underemployed, and probably eligible for food stamps. Assuming I make enough money this year to even pay taxes, should the government confiscate my income and give it to people who opted for expensive private colleges or who chose even more frivolous majors than I did?

Ultimately someone has to repay all these student loans, be they alumni or taxpayers. I nominate Warren Buffett. He’s always whining about not paying enough taxes anyway. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, Warren Buffett is a wealthy investor from Omaha who apparently was the inspiration for the lead character in the Pixar film Up.

Between his net worth of $53.5 billion and his endearing toothbrush-bristle eyebrows, I would like him to adopt my entire generation as his surrogate grandchildren. Then we can ask Mr. Buffett to use his vast, undertaxed fortune to pay off our student loans.

Better yet, what if we treated student loans like the sorts of investments Mr. Buffett needed to calculate himself in order to become a finance mogul? What if we treated student loans more like private enterprise? For instance, if you approached me for a $40,000 loan to obtain a degree in engineering, I might regard that as a savvy venture, whereas I might deny a $400,000 request to study Jurassic art. In a few years, you would see a dramatic reduction in redundant arts and sciences majors like myself, and no one would ever speak of nurse or technician shortages again.

Student loans, unlike all other species of finance, are ineligible for discharge in bankruptcy. Why not remove this legal impediment, allowing graduates to decide for themselves the pros and cons of filing for Chapter 7, which results in a personal balance sheet purged of debt, but a horrendously blemished credit rating? This option is better than the current option for students, which consists of faking their own deaths. Couple that with student loan speculation, and you could potentially push students toward degrees they might actually benefit from. Allowing them the option of bankruptcy would create an opportunity for true “forgiveness” of debt.

The combined student debt of our nation’s college graduates is massive, sad, and oppressive. We need to come up with solutions to deal with it. But remember: forgiveness of debt punishes someone else. The spiritual world may run on confession and absolution, but the financial realm is still firmly ruled by Mammon and Karma.


Why I don't employ students with first-class degrees, by Lord Winston

Fertility expert says applications who have fallen short make better employees

As one of the country’s leading fertility experts, Lord Winston might be expected to surround himself with the brightest minds at work.

But the Labour peer has admitted ‘deliberately’ discriminating against job applicants with first class degrees.

Those that have fallen short of academic brilliance are often better employees because they are more rounded individuals who work well in a team, the scientist and The Human Body presenter claimed.

‘I know scientists who are amazingly stupid,’ he said. ‘And in my laboratory I have appointed scientists on the whole that didn’t get first-class honours degrees, deliberately, quite specifically, because, actually, I would rather have young people around me who developed other interests at university and didn’t just focus entirely on getting that first.

‘That’s been a very successful strategy. It’s produced a lot of useful science because we’ve worked as a group of friends, a team. That’s very much more important than almost anything else.’

The comments, made to pupils from Clapton Girls Academy who were delegates of this year’s London International Youth Science Forum, may be influenced by Lord Winston’s own academic background.

His initial degree, in medicine and surgery, came from the London Hospital Medical College, University of London, which awards a pass or fail rather than the traditional classification used in other universities.

Education and employment experts yesterday broadly agreed that all-rounders usually make the best workers - although there was surprise at the peer’s bluntness.

Psychologist Professor Joan Freeman, who has conducted research into gifted people, said: ‘It’s a very strange thing to say. I think what he is saying it he doesn’t take people who are single-minded.

‘There are scholarly types who are utterly focused on their work. But there are others who offer other things as well.

‘I don’t think this little squeak from him will put anybody off doing what they want to do. People who get firsts are usually fairly driven.’

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said three-quarters of employers wanted candidates with an upper second degree at least.

But he added some had complained about job applicants with firsts who struggled to look their interviewer in the eye or string a sentence together.

‘There is a discussion to be had with students who go to university and think the only thing they need to do is come out with a superb degree at the expense of other things,’ he told The Times.

‘On that note I would be with Lord Winston. I think that an over-emphasis on the degree class probably is not in anybody’s best interests.’

Universities have been accused of grade inflation in recent years as an increasing number of students graduate with a first. The number has risen by 20,000 - a third - since 2008 and trebled since the late 1990s.

Some 30 per cent of maths students gain a first class degree, with 24 per cent in engineering, 22 per cent in physics and 20 per cent in computer science.

Lord Winston’s selection process would impact more on female applicants than male.

Of the 61,605 undergraduates awarded a first by British universities last year, 34,220 were women - 56 per cent, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

But Glenn Hayes, employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell said: ‘The grounds for someone being able to claim that they were discriminated against in the workplace are limited and include race, sex, disability, gender, age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

‘Professor Lord Robert Winston’s refusal to interview someone strictly on the basis that they gained a first class degree at University does not in itself constitute discrimination in terms of employment law and is not unlawful.’


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