Thursday, November 29, 2018

Overruled: Despite Clear Student Preferences, NJ University Bans Chick-fil-A From Campus Dining Survey

Chick-fil-A, according to customer satisfaction surveys, is the top-rated fast food chain in America --winning the crown for three consecutive years.  It seems as though consumers enjoy the company's delicious fried chicken offerings and their renowned, high quality service.  According to multiple reports, Chick-fil-A's fan base includes quite a few students at Rider University, a private institution in New Jersey.  When school officials distributed a survey about on-campus dining options this past spring, Chick-fil-A emerged as the top choice.  Such an injustice could not stand, administrators decided, so they've stripped the restaurant from the questionnaire's list of options -- because "values:"

Rider University removed the restaurant from a survey of dining options "based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community." The fast-food chain was included in previous surveys. Chick-fil-A has supported Christian values. Its corporate purpose is "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us." ... Rider says it understands some may view the decision as a "form of exclusion" and called the decision "imperfect." But the school says it wanted to be "faithful to our values of inclusion." "We understand that some may view the decision as being just another form of exclusion," University President Dr. Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Leanna Fenneberg said in a joint statement. "We want to be clear that this was not the spirit in which the decision was made. We fully acknowledge an organization’s right to hold these beliefs, just as we acknowledge the right for individuals in our community and elsewhere to also personally hold the same beliefs."

How very magnanimous of the university to acknowledge that individuals in their community have the right to "personally" adhere to traditional Christian teachings. But if those community members would like to eat crave-able food from a popular company whose top leadership has incorporated orthodox religious teaching into their corporate value structure, they'll have to go elsewhere. In fact, these individuals will not even be permitted to vote for their (and many others') primary preference, as it's been banished from the roster of options by the powers that be.  "Inclusive" values are just too important, you see, even if that means excluding the values (or tastebuds) of many Rider students.  Inclusion requires exclusion, and some are more worthy of inclusion than others.  Many of the Left's hangups over Chick-fil-A stem from 2012 statements from corporate executives in support of the traditional family unit, and in opposition to same-sex marriage.  Agree or disagree, these beliefs were -- and are -- part of a mainstream worldview that should not be automatically treated as synonymous with bigotry or discrimination.  In a statement to the media, Chick-fil-A reiterated its commitment to serving chicken lovers from all walks of life:

The chain pushed back against the university's characterization, saying the restaurant is merely providing food and doesn't have any agenda. "Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality, and our restaurants and licensed locations on college campuses welcome everyone. We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda," the restaurant's spokesperson told CBS News.

In our book End of Discussion, Mary Katharine Ham and I decried what conservative writer and social critic Sonny Bunch has termed 'the politicized life,' wherein politics and ideology consume all aspects of society and culture. It's unhealthy and soul-crushing. We add that the rejection of hyper-political life choices should run both ways. For instance, as a conservative who strongly opposes socialism, I have all sorts of issues with various corporate values espoused by Ben & Jerry's ice cream, to pick one example.  But I'd be furious if my school barred me from buying their products on campus because of their founders' aggressive leftism.  I'd be even more furious if my university actively prevented me from even registering my interest in Ben & Jerry's ice cream.  I don't really care that Ben and Jerry are left-wingers from Vermont; I care that they make a wonderful product (Pistachio Pistachio, Americone Dream, and Cherry Garcia are among my favorites, for the record).  In the book, we urged Americans who aren't interested in allowing hardcore partisans to pollute apolitical elements of life to band together into a "coalition to chill the hell out" and eat delicious chicken.  It looks like many Rider students were happy to sign up for that club, but the supposed adults in charge chose to impose their personal values onto everyone else. 

Remember, exclusion is bad unless the "bad" are being excluded, and the imposition of morals is theocracy, unless the morals are "good."  Just ask any number of liberal politicians.  I'll leave you with a follow-up to yesterday's item concerning recent developments out of Twitter -- which has announced that the platform will not permit the "misgendering" or "dead-naming" of trans people.  The social media company says that it does not discriminate against any viewpoint, but I'm not sure that claim remains tenable:

 Yup, this is a move that will echo beyond Twitter. Each major corporate move in this direction reinforces the notion that there is nothing left to discuss and that enraged activists can and should exercise veto power over public debate.

I happen to believe that trans individuals should be treated with respect, in accordance with the Golden Rule, which entails calling people by their preferred names and pronouns.  I also don't see eye-to-eye with every belief held by the top leadership of Chick-fil-A.  But I don't think attempts to enforce beliefs through bans or boycotts are usually wise, persuasive, effective, or conducive to an free-thinking and pluralistic society.  I'll leave you with a common sense quote from a Rider student: "If people didn't want to buy their food, then they don't have to."  Well, people at Rider do want to buy their food.  They just won't be allowed to, or even register their desire to do so.


The Case for Dropping Out of College

by Samuel Knoche

During the summer, my father asked me whether the money he’d spent to finance my first few years at Fordham University in New York City, one of the more expensive private colleges in the United States, had been well spent. I said yes, which was a lie.

I majored in computer science, a field with good career prospects, and involved myself in several extracurricular clubs. Since I managed to test out of some introductory classes, I might even have been able to graduate a year early—thereby producing a substantial cost savings for my family. But the more I learned about the relationship between formal education and actual learning, the more I wondered why I’d come to Fordham in the first place.

* * *

According to the not-for-profit College Board, the average cost of a school year at a private American university was almost $35,000 in 2017—a figure I will use for purposes of rough cost-benefit analysis. (While public universities are less expensive thanks to government subsidies, the total economic cost per student-year, including the cost borne by taxpayers, typically is similar.) The average student takes about 32 credits worth of classes per year (with a bachelor’s degree typically requiring at least 120 credits in total). So a 3-credit class costs just above $3,000, and a 4-credit class costs a little more than $4,000.

What do students get for that price? I asked myself this question on a class by class basis, and have found an enormous mismatch between price and product in almost all cases. Take the two 4-credit calculus classes I took during freshman year. The professor had an unusual teaching style that suited me well, basing his lectures directly on lectures posted online by MIT. Half the class, including me, usually skipped the lectures and learned the content by watching the original material on MIT’s website. When the material was straightforward, I sped up the video. When it was more difficult, I hit pause, re-watched it, or opened a new tab on my browser so I could find a source that covered the same material in a more accessible way. From the perspective of my own convenience and education, it was probably one of the best classes I’ve taken in college. But I was left wondering: Why should anyone pay more than $8,000 to watch a series of YouTube videos, available online for free, and occasionally take an exam?

Another class I took, Philosophical Ethics, involved a fair bit of writing. The term paper, which had an assigned minimum length of 5,000 words, had to be written in two steps—first a full draft and then a revised version that incorporated feedback from the professor. Is $3,250 an appropriate cost for feedback on 10,000 words? That’s hard to say. But consider that the going rate on the web for editing this amount of text is just a few hundred dollars. Even assuming that my professor is several times more skilled and knowledgeable, it’s not clear that this is a good value proposition.

“But what about the lectures?” you ask. The truth is that many students, including me, don’t find the lectures valuable. As noted above, equivalent material usually can be found online for free, or at low cost. In some cases, a student will find that his or her own professor has posted video of his or her own lectures. And the best educators, assisted with the magic of video editing, often put out content that puts even the most renowned college lecturers to shame. If you have questions about the material, there’s a good chance you will find the answer on Quora or Reddit.

Last semester, I took a 4-credit class called Computer Organization. There was a total of 23 lectures, each of 75 minutes length—or about 29 hours of lectures. I liked the professor and enjoyed the class. Yet, once the semester was over, I noticed that almost all of the core material was contained in a series of YouTube videos that was just three hours long.

Like many of my fellow students, I spend most of my time in class on my laptop: Twitter, online chess, reading random articles. From the back of the class, I can see that other students are doing likewise. One might think that all of these folks will be in trouble when test time comes around. But watching a few salient online videos generally is all it takes to master the required material. You see the pattern here: The degrees these people get say “Fordham,” but the actual education often comes courtesy of YouTube.

The issue I am discussing is not new, and predates the era of on-demand web video. As far back as 1984, American educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom discovered that an average student who gets individual tutoring will outperform the vast majority of peers taught in a regular classroom setting. Even the best tutors cost no more than $80 an hour—which means you could buy 50 hours of their service for the pro-rated cost of a 4-credit college class that supplies 30 hours of (far less effective) lectures.

All of these calculations are necessarily imprecise, of course. But for the most part, I would argue, the numbers I have presented here underestimate the true economic cost of bricks-and-mortar college education, since I have not imputed the substantial effective subsidies that come through government tax breaks, endowments and support programs run by all levels of government.

So given all this, why are we told that, far from being a rip-off, college is a great deal? “In 2014, the median full-time, full-year worker over age 25 with a bachelor’s degree earned nearly 70% more than a similar worker with just a high school degree,” read one typical online report from 2016. The occasion was Jason Furman, then head of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tweeting out data showing that the ratio of an average college graduate’s earnings to a similarly situated high-school graduate’s earnings had grown from 1.1 in 1975 to more than 1.6 four decades later.

To ask my question another way: What accounts for the disparity between the apparently poor value proposition of college at a micro level with the statistically observed college premium at the macro level? A clear set of answers appears in The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, a newly published book by George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan.

One explanation lies in what Caplan calls “ability bias”: From the outset, the average college student is different from the average American who does not go to college. The competitive college admissions process winnows the applicant pool in such a way as to guarantee that those who make it into college are more intelligent, conscientious and conformist than other members of his or her high-school graduating cohort. In other words, when colleges boast about the “70% income premium” they supposedly provide students, they are taking credit for abilities that those students already had before they set foot on campus, and which they likely could retain and commercially exploit even if they never got a college diploma. By Caplan’s estimate, ability bias accounts for about 45% of the vaunted college premium. Which would means that a college degree actually boosts income by about 40 points, not the oft-cited 70.

Of course, 40% is still a huge premium. But Caplan digs deeper by asking how that premium is earned. And in his view, the extra income doesn’t come from substantive skills learned in college classrooms, but rather from what he called the “signaling” function of a diploma: Because employers lack any quick and reliable objective way to evaluate a job candidate’s potential worth, they fall back on the vetting work done by third parties—namely, colleges. A job candidate who also happens to be someone who managed to get through the college admissions process, followed by four years of near constant testing, likely is someone who is also intelligent and conscientious, and who can be relied on to conform to institutional norms. It doesn’t matter what the applicant was tested on, since it is common knowledge that most of what one learns in college will never be applied later in life. What matters is that these applicants were tested on something. Caplan estimates that signaling accounts for around 80% of the 40-point residual college premium described above, which, if true, would leave less than ten percentage points—from the original 70—left to be accounted for.

Much more HERE 

Foreign postgraduates now outnumber Australians at Sydney University - as fears grow over Chinese influence

This is a very good sign for relations with China.  The students will go back to China with a firm impression of Australia as a relaxed non-threatening country.  Would there be so many of them if they experienced Australia as a racist place?

International postgraduate students now outnumber Australian postgraduates at Sydney's oldest university, as fears rise over foreign influence in student politics.

Questions have been raised over whether Australia's universities are too dependent on revenue generated by international fee-paying students, or if their primary role is still to educate the next generation of Australians.

Sydney University, Australia's most prestigious sandstone university, now has more foreign postgraduate students enrolled than Australian citizens.

As of November 15, Sydney University had 15,082 international postgraduate students compared with 13,891 Australian citizens.

Almost a third of the university's undergrad student body is now made up of international fee-paying students with 11,622 foreign students compared with 25,075 Australian citizens, according to university figures.

Of the combined student body of 70,412 enrolled students, 38 per cent or 26,704 are international fee-paying students.

In 2017, the university made $752.2 million from overseas fee-paying students.

The issue has become controversial after organised Chinese international student factions have come to dominate university politics.

For the first time this year, Sydney University's postgraduate student body SUPRA had an executive elected composed entirely of foreign fee-paying students, according to a report by student newspaper Honi Soit.

Recent Sydney University Students Representative Council elections resulted in increased representation for Chinese international student group Panda which won 11 out of the 33 council seats, up from eight the previous year under the 'Panda Warriors' banner. 

Panda worked together with moderate liberal group Shake Up in the election, whose members included Gabi Stricker-Phelps, the daughter of recently elected Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps.

Together the two groups control 15 out of the 33 council seats, while Advance, another Chinese international student faction, holds another 3 seats.

Incoming SRC President Jacky He (Panda) strongly denied that the China Development Society had anything to do with the Chinese Communist Party in an interview with Honi Soit.

He, a permanent resident who moved from China to Australia as a child, said he has been unfairly asked by several people whether he had links to the Chinese Communist Party. 'I feel like it's quite unjust for people to say 'Hey look, because there's a lot of Chinese students, they must be Chinese spies',' he told Fairfax Media.   

Sydney University would not reveal how many Australian citizens won the right to sit on the student council in the elections, citing privacy reasons.

Sydney University told Daily Mail Australia it is proud of the contribution international students make to the university.

'We welcome any attempt to ensure that representative bodies at the University of Sydney are as diverse as our student population and would encourage more of our students to get involved,' a Sydney University spokesperson said in an emailed statement.  

The Sydney University Students Representative Council is known as a training ground for future political leaders, with Joe Hockey, Anthony Albanese, and Tony Abbott all having served.

Australia's security agencies including spy agency ASIO have warned about the threat of foreign interference in Australia's society.

In October last year, ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis warned in the ASIO Annual Report that foreign powers were clandestinely seeking to shape the opinions of the public, media organisations and government officials to advance their objectives.

'Espionage and foreign interference are insidious threats,' he said. 'Activities that may appear relatively harmless today can have significant future consequences. The harm may not manifest until many years, even decades, after the activity has occurred.'

According to Australian government figures, as of August there were 640,342 international students enrolled in Australia, an 11 percent increase on the previous corresponding period.

Chinese nationals make up 30 percent of the national total, or just over 189,000. The majority of foreign students - more than 380,000 - were enrolled in tertiary education. 


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