Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Obama’s Plan to Undermine American Higher Education

President Obama is yet again undermining American higher education under the guise, naturally, of trying to help those who cannot afford it. Unfortunately, this killing with ostensible kindness strategy has been barely noticed, so let me illuminate the evil. Indeed, our economic rivals abroad could not have invented a more stealthy even brilliant strategy.

President Obama's recently proposed American College Promise (ACP) would offer federal government subsidies ($60 billion over ten years plus $20 billion from the states) for Community College tuition so as to promoted economic growth by expanding access to college. Congress will probably kill it but even if enacted it would only make matters worse.          

The culprit is that today's colleges, save a few elite institutions, undermine good work habits and, as any employer knows, solid work habits can trump book learning. And, the harder Washington pushes kids into college, the worse the acquisition of tenacity, an ability to follow directions, honesty, a knack for   surmounting obstacles, self-discipline and similar traits that define "a good employee."         

 As someone who spent four decades in the academy teaching political science and fourteen years as the owner of a small retail business, I know this disjuncture first hand.          

Let's begin with today's academy. When the baby boomers arrived on campus during the early 1960s most students encountered the "look to your right, look to you left, next year you may be the only one who is still on campus" speech since there were far more freshmen than could be graduated.          

Today the supply of qualified enrollees has dwindled and the number of colleges has exploded so emphasis is now on retaining tuition-paying warm bodies, many of whom enjoy sky-high unearned self-esteem. No more culling the herd so schools must tolerate once unacceptable student behaviors. Customer satisfaction is now the educational goal.          

Nearly all professors can tell horror stories about today's often indifferent students. Forget about enforcing mandatory attendance or even requiring students to show when class begins or insist that they refrain from gossiping with neighbors, texting on cell phones, Tweeting, or checking Facebook or eBay. Assignments and deadlines are now de facto mere "suggestions" and student privacy requirements make medical excuses unverifiable. One of my graduate students used his "don't ask don't tell" disability to customize my graduate seminar to suit his whims. Students would be outraged if the instructor demanded that all assigned readings be completed prior to class lectures and just to be sure, he would randomly call on students to summarize the readings or give pop quizzes. I'd bet that if these policies were announced on the first day of class, the exodus would be immediate, a disaster for part-timers and adjuncts whose livelihoods are enrollment driven. Meanwhile even tenured faculty would be punished with terrible course evaluations for being "unreasonable." 

Fortitude in the face of obstacles is hardly necessary these days since students understand the importance of retention. To this end, schools typically provide multiple support services (called "resource centers") to help students avoid the inevitable pain associated with mastering difficult subjects. College counselors will also be happy to steer failing students to gut courses or easy grading professors. These rescues are particularly plentiful for struggling minority students who have the most to gain by acquiring self-reliance.

Such sloth can be seen when professors compare their syllabi from the 1970's to the current version. Reading lists are now usually much shorter and serious research papers are long gone. Add grade inflation so anything less than a "B" is rare, even for shoddy work. Students quickly learn that it takes real effort to flunk out (the Obama proposal would require a "C+" for eligibility).

 But, the most serious transformation is the new tolerance for offences that once brought automatic expulsion. Few professors strictly enforce rules against cheating or plagiarism given that enrollment worried administrators are cowards. If anything, there will be some academic plea bargaining so cheater may drop the course without penalty, receive an "F" just for the plagiarized paper or are admonished not to cheat again. I recall one offender who handed in an awful three-page paper downloaded from a "My Professor Sucks" website (the service has apparently vanished). Alas, the miscreant forgot to remove the $25 invoice before submitting the paper. I settled out of court by allowing him to drop the course well past the official drop deadline.          

Life in the world of business is, of course, just the opposite. Particularly in the current economy, the "look to your right..." message is a harsh reality. Picture any firm tolerating chronic lateness, sending personal e-mail during a meeting, asking questions that clearly showed unfamiliarity with company policy, forever slouching in a chair with one's face obscured by a baseball cap, chronic complaining, handing in memos culled from Wikipedia or ignoring deadlines. What about an employee who screwed up a project and then requested to drop the project without any consequences so he could take some remedial instruction and then begin anew? Or blaming sloppy work on some unverifiable disability?          

And how do you manage a recent college grad that has internalized all the trendy race/class/gender cosmology? Imagine a subordinate who explains his indolent habits on your micro-aggression, the company's invisible racism, his low salary to the crisis of late-stage capitalism, the lack of a caring multi-cultural environment and the arbitrary nature of company rules? Remember, this dazzling display of fashionable nonsense brought "A's" just a few months prior to being hired.          

In sum, when you push poorly prepared, often coddled kids into college and demand that schools graduate nearly everyone regardless of performance, schools rationally undermine solid workplace habits. The reverse is financial suicide for many schools and helps explain why employers often hire ambitious immigrants lacking fancy credentials versus American college slackers.          

What I find particularly disturbing is how business people often equate higher graduation rates with an improved work force. Most business folk certainly know that shoddy products are not the ticket to success in today's quality oriented marketplace and many recognize that their own recent hires are often troublesome employees despite their degrees. I certainly saw this first hand in my own business.          

Obama's American College Promise has it backwards. Boosting America's economic competitiveness requires limiting college access. Let's bring back the "look to the right, look to the left..." model of higher education. Equating high graduation rates with academic achievement only brings disaster. Give the faculty raises only if they prevent late arrivals from entering the class, humiliate the unprepared and reject any excuse for a late paper short of "I died." Then add bonuses to professors who flunk lots of students and punish cheating. Yes, the number of college graduates would drop sharply (along with student debt) but the word would soon get out-an American BA finally means something.  


Dartmouth College Banning Possession and Consumption of Hard Liquor

But beer is OK!

 Dartmouth College is changing the way it does business, and that includes "tackling the challenge of excessive drinking" among students.

As part of his "Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan," Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon ('77) announced on Thursday that "Dartmouth will take the lead among colleges and universities in eliminating hard alcohol on campus."

The college is prohibiting the "possession or consumption" of alcohol that is 30 proof or higher on campus by individuals, including those of legal drinking age. The ban also applies to "Dartmouth-college recognized organizations."

"In addition, we will ask that the entire campus community follow suit and not serve hard alcohol at college-sponsored events and be role models for the healthy consumption of alcohol.

"The key to the successful implementation of any policy change is a clear path for enforcement," Hanlon said.

"To this end, we will require third-party security and bartenders for social events. We will also increase penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol, especially for those students who purchase and provide alcohol to minors."

The college also plans to do "everything in our power" to eradicate sexual assault on campus -- and promote "community awareness of sexual violence and gender-based harassment."

Starting next year, the college will introduce a mandatory, four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for all students, as well as first-responder training program for faculty and staff.

The college also plans to create an online “Consent Manual,” including" realistic scenarios and potential sanctions to reduce ambiguity about what is acceptable and what is not."

To instill what Hanlon called a "higher standard of behavior" among students, every student who enrolls at Dartmouth will sign a Code of Conduct that sets out expectations -- "as they relate to civility, dignity, diversity, community, and safety—for all members of the Dartmouth community." The new code will be ready by the start of the next academic year.

Fraternities will be required to eliminate their pledge periods, "during which members have a lesser status." Greek houses also must have active faculty or staff sponsors -- one male and one female.

The college plans to create a "more inclusive and diverse environment," by recruiting under-represented faculty and students.

In his speech to students, Hanlon said colleges and universities across the country face the same issues that Dartmouth does:

"We are not alone in facing them. But we will take the lead in saying 'no more.' We will take the lead in American higher education in restoring student life to a safe and sustainable place. We will offer a campus experience that is in every way worthy of our name … that is in every way conducive to the promise of our future. We will Move Dartmouth Forward."

"Now get to class," he concluded.


Australia: Does a private school education justify the extra money that it costs?

This is pretty hokey data below -- of the sort we expect from Leftists.  Not mentioned below is the sample in which State schools did better than private schools. If we dig, however, we find that "out of the 60 most advantaged schools in the state, public schools scored above 90 in 38 per cent of their exams, on average, while the rate was 26 per cent in private schools".  So the figures do not derive from an overall  public/private comparison at all but rather from a very limited comparison of a small and select number of schools.  And it is highly likely that the "advantaged" State schools had similar amenities and offerings to the private schools.  The parent and citizen committees would be very active in such schools.  So the comparison tells us very little.

And note that the unmentionable is a factor.  The second highest performing school, James Ruse state school, is overwhelmingly Chinese and we all know what a difference that makes.  See here, for instance.   So once again, the study is shallow.

The one thing the figures do tell us is the key role of the students rather than the school.  It's who your fellow students are that matters most.  Children from successful families are probably going to be more advantageous classmates in many ways  -- less disruptive etc.  So getting your kid into a "good" (affluent) school (private or public) is important if only because of the fellow students there.  And "good" state schools are few in many parts of Australia.  So there is good reason not to gamble on a State education.

The authors below in fact acknowledge that.  They say: "The substantial contribution to their success is the capacity and background of the kids they enrol. Almost 90 per cent of the schools which topped the HSC last year were also the most advantaged schools in NSW, showing social class is a far stronger indicator of how a school will rank than the quality of teaching."

And, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago: "In choosing your son's school, you are choosing his friends for life.  Except for the army, men rarely make new friends far into adulthood, and even if they do, their old school friends will still usually predominate in their friendship circle.  So choosing a school is choosing a lot for a son.  What sort of friends do you want  your son to have?  He will tend to have smarter and more socially competent friends if you send him to a private school.  And if you send him to a sink school ...."

The state's expensive private schools are spending $3.3 billion more on their students each year than equally advantaged public schools, despite achieving the same academic results, a new report has found.

This excess cash is more than the total amount spent annually in the 600 most disadvantaged schools in the state, where critics argue the money would be better spent.

The analysis is the latest in a series by researchers Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd that examines data from the My School website.

They found private and Catholic schools are investing significantly more money per student than public schools. Yet, when comparing schools with similar students, they are achieving similar or worse results.

Among moderately advantaged schools, for example, public schools spent $10,932 per student on average in 2012, the most recent data available.

Yet, to achieve similar results, Catholic schools spent an extra $588 per student and independent schools spent $1389 per student more, much of which comes from school fees.

Among the most advantaged schools, the average spend per student was up to $22,000 in private schools, more than double that spent on similar public school students.

When looking at all schools across the state, the excess money spent on students who achieve the same results as their cheaper public school equivalents was $520 million in the Catholic system and $2.77 billion among independents.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, would not respond to Fairfax Media's questions except to say "analysis of this type is ideologically driven and has no useful educational purpose".

A spokesman for the federal education minister, Christopher Pyne, said increased money was allocated to disadvantaged schools under the needs-based model introduced in 2014.

Tim Hawkes, the headmaster of The King's School, published an article on his website last week in defence of spending money on a private education.

"Most parents I speak to are looking for a great exam performance in year 12. But, this is only part of what they are looking for," he said. "They are also wanting a school that pays a lot of attention to values, that advances a faith position, that has a strong co-curricular offering, that offers boarding, that has strong accountability."


No comments: