blueollie

Fiscal Cliffs, College and Republicans…

Academia
I am still grading final exams. These-a-days, students always do worse on final exams (statistically speaking; there is a percentage that does better) than they do on the regular exams. This professor (not me, probably not at my university) ponders while watching her students take the final exam:

Do you know that I graded your last papers a little more kindly so that when I returned higher grades, you’d evaluate me better on the “paramount and frightening” end-of-course evaluations?

Do you know that the final you are taking is a little tougher as a result, because I also get in trouble if grades are too high?

Do you know that when you have a conversation with me where you explain how your other classes aren’t engaging enough or that you only want to hear another professor’s opinion on a subject if you already agree with it, it does not improve my opinion of you?

Do you know that if you start or contribute to a funny picture photo meme about a colleague of mine that basically reads like “Whine, whine. Proffie didn’t love me and it’s not fair!” that no one will want you to work for them? [...]

Do you know that even if you rocked the house on the basic baskets, all that means is that you mastered a few basic techniques that will be the starting point for the much more complicated things to come? Can’t you look at a professional basket and figure that out?

I might have to translate a bit: “basket weaving” is a metaphor for any generic subject. The final point is that undergraduate courses really only scratch at the surface of their subjects and are designed to be taught at a level in which the “C” student doesn’t get blown away. You stay miles (in some cases, AUs) away from research caliber things. So getting an “A” in an undergraduate course hardly qualifies one as an expert in a field; it means “competence at a few of the early basics” (if that). Note: I am speaking in general; I am NOT talking about teaching the truly exceptional subset of students at Harvard/MIT/Berkeley where one is teaching genuine prodigies (e. g., teaching those who eventually become full professors at 24)

I got a glimpse of this when I was an undergraduate. I had just finished the math major at the Naval Academy so, on a whim, I decided to walk into the library and to try to read an article in a professional mathematics journal. I never made it past the abstract! :-)

And, when I got to graduate school, I got my nose bloodied right away….I had to work my buns off just to pass qualifying exams. THEN I came to understand that the material on the qualifying exams was…in the great scheme of things….just “baby stuff”. I came to understand that my professors in graduate school didn’t just have their Ph. D.’s but also got tenure based on their research, and tenure at a Division I research school too.

Speaking of Science
Who is more science phobic: conservatives or liberals? In the United States: yes, it tends to be conservatives (AT THIS TIME IN OUR HISTORY) but the correct answer is really: “it depends on whose “sacred beliefs” are being attacked”. It is true that US conservatives are more likely to resist evolution and climate science. But to get liberals to attack science, bring up things like GMOs and homeopathy and other woo-woo.

Fiscal Cliff
The damage of the “fiscal cliff” is NOT exploding deficits; it is too much austerity at the wrong time:

It’s easy to get confused about the fiscal thing, since everyone’s talking about the “fiscal cliff.” Indeed, one recent poll suggests that a large plurality of the public believes that the budget deficit will go up if we go off that cliff.

In fact, of course, it’s just the opposite: The danger is that the deficit will come down too much, too fast. And the reasons that might happen are purely political; we may be about to slash spending and raise taxes not because markets demand it, but because Republicans have been using blackmail as a bargaining strategy, and the president seems ready to call their bluff. [...]

Meanwhile, there is almost no organized pressure to deal with the terrible thing that is actually happening right now — namely, mass unemployment. Yes, we’ve made progress over the past year. But long-term unemployment remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression: as of October, 4.9 million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months, and 3.6 million had been out of work for more than a year.

When you see numbers like those, bear in mind that we’re looking at millions of human tragedies: at individuals and families whose lives are falling apart because they can’t find work, at savings consumed, homes lost and dreams destroyed. And the longer this goes on, the bigger the tragedy.

There are also huge dollars-and-cents costs to our unmet jobs crisis. When willing workers endure forced idleness society as a whole suffers from the waste of their efforts and talents. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that what we are actually producing falls short of what we could and should be producing by around 6 percent of G.D.P., or $900 billion a year.

Worse yet, there are good reasons to believe that high unemployment is undermining our future growth as well, as the long-term unemployed come to be considered unemployable, as investment falters in the face of inadequate sales.

So what can be done? The panic over the fiscal cliff has been revelatory. It shows that even the deficit scolds are closet Keynesians. That is, they believe that right now spending cuts and tax hikes would destroy jobs; it’s impossible to make that claim while denying that temporary spending increases and tax cuts would create jobs. Yes, our still-depressed economy needs more fiscal stimulus. [...]

Emphasis mine.

So what about these Republicans?

I’d love to believe that the Tea Party’s influence is waning

and that maybe, just maybe, the Republican party is telling its wackos to take a hike.

But I don’t believe it at this point.

I hope that John Boehner can persuade his caucus to cut a deal.

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December 8, 2012 - Posted by | 2012 election, economy, education, evolution, politics, politics/social, republicans, science, social/political | , ,

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