Wednesday, May 18, 2016

For the Love of Teaching and Economics

As a former High School economics teacher myself, I heartily agree with the thoughts below -- JR

By Abigail R. Hall

I love teaching economic principles. There is something truly exciting about introducing students to the economic way of thinking for the first time. It’s a privilege and honor I take very seriously. It seems to me, if more people understood basic economics, we could avoid a lot of patently backward policies.

However, I also find teaching principles to be frustrating on some level. This is not because of my students, who consistently make my job abundantly rewarding, but is a result of current events. In an effort to keep my classes relevant and interesting to my students, I try as often as possible to bring news stories into the classroom. Why does this frustrate me? It’s because there are always stories of terrible economic policies. Moreover, they are terrible policies that have been repeated over and over and over.

Take, for example, the minimum wage. I always analyze minimum wage policies with my students when we discuss price controls. After learning the important role prices play in the economy, we learn about the unintended consequences that result from interfering with market prices.

The minimum wage is as easy as it gets. If we (meaning government) set wages, or the price of labor, above what the market will bear, several things will happen. First, the promise of higher wages will induce more people to seek minimum wage jobs. In other words, more people will be willing to supply their labor at that price. Second, seeing the increase in the price of labor, employers will be less willing to hire low-skill workers. They will demand less labor. This results in a surplus of labor—otherwise known as unemployment.

But the story doesn’t end there. I ask my students,

“Who do you think this helps? Who does it hurt?”

The answer is always the same. “The poor workers,” one will inevitably reply. “They are now getting higher wages.”

“It’s true that workers who retain these jobs will earn higher wages,” I tell them. “These people win. But are they really the people we (government) want to help?”

We then discuss how, when faced with the choice between a relatively skilled worker and a relatively low-skilled worker, employers will choose the skilled worker. The skilled worker, who bring more to the table in terms of what they can do, are more likely to be worth the higher wage. The low-skill worker simply doesn’t bring enough to the company to make their labor worth the higher wage. I ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an employer. Every time, they say the same thing, that they would fire the low-skill worker.

This is precisely what happened recently at UC Berkeley. After spending quite some time “fighting for $15,” California Governor Jerry Brown signed the higher wage into law. A week later, UC Berkeley cut some 500 low-wage jobs. (Granted, the University had announced it would independently raise wages prior to the law being passed, but it makes no practical difference.)

Most of my students understand. I’ve had several tell me that the class has made them think differently about how they think about policy. Whether that’s a change in how they view the world, or just openness to thinking about things critically, I consider this a great success.

The sad fact of the matter is that these stories are bound to continue. People will still advocate for the minimum wage, rent controls, trade restrictions, mandates on businesses, and laws that will limit and erode our personal freedoms.

But teaching economics is my passion. I know countless other wonderful teachers in schools all over the world who, like me, believe that economics is key to understanding the world around us. Like Sisyphus, we keep pushing the “economic thinking boulder” up the hill. It will roll back down. We’ll push it up again.

I’m optimistic, though, that the more we teach our students to think about these issues, we won’t always be pushing alone.



Due Process Is Being Kicked Off Campus

Academia’s descent into perpetual hysteria and incipient tyranny is partly fueled by the fiction that one in five college students is sexually assaulted and that campuses require minute federal supervision to cure this. Encouraged by the government’s misuse of discredited social science (one survey supposedly proving this one-in-five fiction), colleges and universities are implementing unconstitutional procedures mandated by the government.

The 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case fit the narrative about campuses permeated by a “rape culture.” Except there was no rape. In 2014, the University of Virginia was convulsed by a magazine’s lurid report of a rape that buttressed the narrative that fraternities foment the sexual predation supposedly pandemic in “male supremacist” America. Except there was no rape. Now, Colorado State University-Pueblo has punished the supposed rapist of a woman who says she was not raped.

Grant Neal, a CSU Pueblo pre-med major and athlete, began a relationship with Jane Doe (as identified in Neal’s lawsuit), although she, as a student in the Athletic Training Program, was not supposed to fraternize with athletes. Jane Doe texted an invitation to Neal to come to her apartment. The following is from Neal’s complaint against CSU Pueblo:

“As the intimacy progressed, knowing that they both wanted to engage in sexual intercourse, Jane Doe advised Plaintiff that she was not on birth control. Accordingly, Plaintiff asked if he should put on a condom. Jane Doe clearly and unequivocally responded ‘yes.’ … They proceeded to engage in consensual sexual intercourse, during which Jane Doe … demonstrated her enjoyment both verbally and non-verbally.”

The next day, one of Jane Doe’s classmates, who neither witnessed nor was told of any assault, noticed a hickey on the woman’s neck. Assuming an assault must have happened, the classmate told school officials that an assault had occurred. Jane Doe told school officials the sex was consensual: “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped.” Neal’s lawsuit says she told an administrator: “Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy. He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla!” Neal recorded on his cellphone Jane Doe saying that nothing improper had transpired, and soon the two again had intercourse.

Undeterred, CSU Pueblo mixed hearsay evidence with multiple due process violations, thereby ruining a young man’s present (he has been suspended from the school for as long as Jane Doe is there) and blighting his future (his prospects for admission to another school are bleak).

Title IX of the Education Amendments enacted in 1972 merely says no person at an institution receiving federal funds shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex. From this the government has concocted a right to micromanage schools' disciplinary procedures, mandating obvious violations of due process.

In 2011, the Education Department’s civil rights office sent “dear colleague” letters to schools directing them to convict accused persons on a mere “preponderance” of evidence rather than “clear and convincing” evidence. Schools were instructed to not allow accused students to cross-examine their accusers, but to allow accusers to appeal not-guilty verdicts, a form of double jeopardy.

Although a “dear colleague” letter is supposedly a mere “guidance document,” it employs the word “must” in effectively mandating policies. While purporting to just “interpret” Title IX, these letters shred constitutional guarantees. And the letters evade the legal requirement that such significant rulemaking must be subject to comment hearings open to a properly notified public. Even were CSU Pueblo inclined to resist such dictates — academic administrators nowadays are frequently supine when challenged — it would risk a costly investigation and the potential loss of the 11 percent of its budget that comes from Washington.

The Chronicle of Higher Education says the case raises this “intriguing” question: “What responsibility does a college have to move ahead with a third-party complaint if the supposed victim says she consented?” This question, which in a calmer time would have a self-evident answer, will be explored in Neal’s lawsuit. It should reveal what the school thought of Jane Doe’s statement exculpating Neal, who says a school official “brushed off” the recording and said that Jane Doe said what she said “just because she was scared of you.” Neal’s lawyer says he suspects that Jane Doe might now be intimating something “inappropriate” and is perhaps scared of losing her place in the Athletic Training Program.

CSU Pueblo should be scared of joining those schools that have lost lawsuits filed by students denied due process. Such suits are remedial education for educators ignorant of constitutional guarantees.


Against the censored Study of History and Literature

The educational establishment seems to be expending a great deal of effort these days to excise “offensive” material from the curricula of history and literature. For example, Mark Twain’s great anti-racist novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been removed from the study materials in many schools because of its use of the word “nigger” in the dialogue—as if any accurate representation of the time and place Twain portrays in this book could have been written without this key word. Recently this censorial campaign has reached such heights of stupidity that new editions of Twain’s books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are being published with the word “nigger” replaced by the word “slave.” With friends like this misguided editor, anti-racists need no enemies. One is not likely to produce an intelligent end by the use of foolish means.

More generally, the wrongheaded effort to produce feel-good instruction in history and literature undermines the entire purpose of studying these subjects as part of a liberal education; it aims to make the students feel comfortable and unchallenged rather than to help them acquire knowledge and understanding of the human past and human nature with all its potential for both good and evil. A well-warranted study of history and literature certainly will on many occasions leave the students feeling very bad indeed, as they gain knowledge and understanding of the horrible deeds that people have done and of the twists and turns of human motivations, actions, and—all too often—crimes against their fellows, frequently founded on the most brutal and senseless rationalizations.

Yet the study of true history and an unfettered immersion in great literature can also reveal mankind in its most splendid and shining moments. Rising like beacons above the monstrous ideas and savage mayhem have been individuals who resisted the mob, who defended the defenseless, who gave sustenance and protection to the victims, who put decency before popularity, who rebelled against the inhumane dominant ideologies, religions, and prejudices of elites and masses alike. But the comprehensiveness that permits a real liberal education to become uplifting as well as depressing cannot find a place in a feel-good curriculum in which avoidance of hurting someone’s feelings receives priority.

Human beings and their historical record, viewed with warts and all, give any serious student ample reason for taking offense and feeling dismayed by what people have believed, said, and done. But unless we face these aspects of our species and its actions frankly and fearlessly, we will never be able to appreciate in stark contrast the true heights to which people at their best can rise and actually have risen in the past—and we will thereby deprive ourselves of the most inspiring models we can have for carrying on our own struggles for a more humane world.


UK: Students vote to split from hard-left NUS: Lincoln University becomes first to break ties following referendum with Oxford, Cambridge and others set to follow

The National Union of Students suffered a bitter blow yesterday when a university became the first to resolve on breaking ties over its hard-left policies.  The student union at the University of Lincoln will formally disaffiliate with the NUS after a campus-wide referendum on leaving the national body.

It is the first in a string of student bodies to vote on the issue after the controversial election of radical activist Malia Bouattia last month.

The 28-year-old has prompted disquiet among Jewish students after calling Birmingham University a ‘Zionist outpost’ and decrying the influence of the ‘Zionist-led media’.

More generally, the NUS has been ridiculed for banning ‘intimidating’ clapping at meetings and ‘no-platforming’ a wide range of speakers which they consider ‘offensive’.

Lincoln student union leaders said yesterday that their students no longer felt the NUS was focussed on the issues they face ‘every day on campus’.

The move could spark a snowball effect as other unions at elite universities across the country adopt similar referendums.

Exeter student union is currently in the process of a campus-wide vote, while Oxford and Cambridge are expected to do the same later this month.

Losing lots regional branches would be a major blow to the NUS, which is almost a century old relies on its 600 member unions for funding.

Announcing the referendum last month, Lincoln student union wrote that four representatives ‘returned from the recent NUS conference disillusioned with the direction that NUS are taking the student movement.’

The decision to hold a referendum was not connected to election of Miss Bouattia but rather the ‘general direction’ the union is headed, they added.

Yesterday, Lincoln student union president Hayley Jayne Wilkinson said: ‘As a group of elected officers, we no longer felt confident that the NUS represented the views of our students.

‘We agreed it was necessary to ask our members themselves if they wanted to remain affiliated with the NUS.

‘This debate has been about what students want from the organisation that represents them nationally and, for some time, we have felt that the focus of debate within the NUS has been far removed from the issues that our students tell us are important to them every day on campus.’

Just over half of the 12 per cent who turned out to vote at Lincoln voted to disaffiliate.

The union said there would be ‘no noticeable difference’ and that there would be ‘no impact on the quality and level of services’.

However, the NUS said the move would cost Lincoln’s union more than £150,000, and cause prices to go up on campus. Members will also lose their NUS discount cards.

Megan Dunn, NUS national president, said: ‘NUS has always campaigned tirelessly on issues that affect students every day, most recently the cost of living crisis, housing, NHS bursaries, maintenance grants and college closures.

‘The student movement is stronger when we stand together, and NUS is disappointed to see University of Lincoln Students’ Union go.

‘By choosing to disaffiliate, Lincoln students have lost their collective voice and won’t be part of programmes that make a real difference on campus.’

Other institutions with campaigns to disaffiliate include Hull, Loughborough, Warwick, Belfast Met, Bangor, Nottingham and Newcastle.


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