blueollie

Slackers and punishment…

Workout notes early morning: 10K walk in Bradley Park; 5.1 mile plus lower 1.23 mile loop. It was cool and pretty; it would have been peaceful too except our local ROTC contingent saw fit to run around and chant stereotypical military sounding stuff. They might have been more impressive had they not been going 10-11 minutes per mile. They aren’t exactly West Point material.

So, needless to say, I don’t like slackers. But sometimes one can be counterproductive when one attempts to punish them. This New York Times story talks about the poor who get into debt but are then hampered by losing their driver’s license …which makes many jobs off limits to them. I believe in paying one’s debts; perhaps wage garnishments are the way to go.

Charter Schools I have mixed feelings about these; and these can sometimes lead to increased segregation:

Parental preferences are part of the problem. The charter school admissions process is itself race-blind: Schools that are too popular conduct lotteries between their applicants. But if a school isn’t white enough, white parents simply won’t apply.

In previous research, Ladd discovered that white North Carolina parents prefer schools that are less than 20 percent black. This makes it hard to have racially balanced charter schools in a state where more than a quarter of schoolchildren are black.

“Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point,” the authors write. “Once a school becomes ‘too black,’ it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.”

On the upside: this is the type of bipartisanship that I hope to see more of:

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade.

The 92-to-8 vote in the Senate, following passage in the House last month by a vote of 392 to 37, was a major success for Republicans, who devised a solution to a complex policy problem that had frustrated lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill, saying it “could help slow health care cost growth.”

The bill, drafted in the House in negotiations between Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, through 2017.

Without action by Congress, doctors would have faced a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on Wednesday or Thursday. Senate leaders cleared the way for final passage by allowing votes on several amendments sought by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics, poverty, walking | | Leave a comment

Has Government cut higher eduction funding?

I found this Paul Campos article interesting :

The conventional wisdom was reflected in a recent National Public Radio series on the cost of college. “So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute told NPR. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.

Campos goes on to point out that colleges are spending a LOT more on administrative overhead. Now there are many reasons for this; some include technology (someone needs to administrate the computer systems), mandates (all of the “learning disabled” students who are entitled to “accommodation”), helicopter parents and, yes, competing for students to stay in business. Obviously, this is an incomplete list.

But Jordan Weissmann published a counterpoint:

To his credit, Campos is at least gesturing towards an important point. Even in years when states increased their per-student education spending, public colleges still raised their prices faster than inflation. And while schools tend to up tuition when legislators cut their budgets, they don’t usually lower it when the subsidies get restored (see the graph below1). Instead, they lock in the extra revenue so that they can spend more per undergrad. Where has that money gone? Here, Campos is more on point. As he writes, universities are spending an increasing share of their budgets on administration. In other words, the bloat really has grown in higher ed, and it’s costing students.

But that doesn’t change the fact that government cutbacks have contributed to the problem. There have been moments when university profligacy has been the major driver of tuition increases. At others, contracting state support has played a critical role. This has especially been the case in these days of post-recession budget austerity. Depending on who’s calculating, states are giving schools somewhere around 25 to 30 percent fewer dollars per student than they were 15 years ago. And someone has had to make up the difference. Namely, college kids.

Now this gets to the crux of the disagreement. When you say “spending on higher education is up” or “spending is down”, what exactly do you mean?

Now of course, we have to adjust for inflation. But do you mean: “amount spent” in terms of dollars? (Campos does) Do you mean “percentage of GDP” or “percentage of budget”? Do you mean “per capita” in terms of a state’s population or in terms of “per student”? And if you mean “per student” do you mean “dollars per student” or “percentage of expected expenses per student”? Which measure are you using and why are you using that one?

To give the Devil His Due: Mitt Romney explained this principle very well in his book when he discussed “defense spending”.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, education, social/political | , | Leave a comment

School books…

fruts

Okkkkaaaayyyyy….

(Thanks Jennifer)

April 2, 2015 Posted by | education | | Leave a comment

PC-ness on various levels

Today on Facebook, a friend posted the following:

realmenblahblahblah

I had to laugh. Personally, I think that I am attracted at what I am genetically predisposed to be attracted to, moderated by what I am capable of attracting back. Seriously….this is expressed very well here: (science)

and here

“Love: being slightly deluded in each other’s favor”…or an evolutionary adaptation that makes it easier for our species to propagate.

Heck, to see who I might be in love with, all I have to do is to watch her pick something up. If she bends over like this…she is probably for me.

No, I don’t go along with ideas that I don’t agree with (though I can change my mind upon seeing appropriate evidence). And yes, I am a liberal, who sometimes loses patience with other liberals:

There is some good discussion on this topic at Jerry Coyne’s website.

And no, liberals attacking each other over …well…not much is nothing new.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | education, evolution, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

Today’s college students: similarities and differences

Workout notes swimming only; 2200 yards (2000 meters, or 1.25 miles)
500 warm up
5 x (50 drill with fins, 50 free)
5 x 200 on 4: 3:31, 3:33, 3:27, 3:27, 3:31 (tired out)
100 back, 100 fins (50 fly drill, 50 fly)

Hey, I got it in.

Students
I went to a forum devoted to the search process for a new college president (the current one is retiring). Yes, there is more to this, but that isn’t what I want to focus on.

There were mostly faculty there, along with some staff and a few students.

One student rose to speak: she mentioned that she and her fellow students LOVED the current President “their “Jo-Jo” ” who…well, held office hours to directly listen to their concerns, showed up at student events, and..well..gave them hugs. Yes, I am talking about a college president.

The issue isn’t whether this is the role of a college president. The issue is the student reaction.

When I was an undergraduate, I would have found such behavior by a college president to be, well…sort of creepy. I liked my “higher ups” to keep some distance between me and and them..for the “adults” to be ‘adults”. At student events, I didn’t want to rub elbows with old people! Some informal discussion was fine, but I liked my professors staying professors and older leaders staying leaders.

I am that way now. I might joke in class, but I am NEVER the student’s friend. That isn’t my role.

So, I see this as a genuine generational difference.

On the other hand: some things remain the same.

Example: I am teaching a topology class. On one hand, I have an advantage because I know this stuff inside and out. The disadvantage: I know this stuff inside and out. I found that with a month to go in the semester, inadvertently…I’ve covered almost the entire “small” text book. That is a bit too fast for them as they are beginners. It still takes time for stuff to sink in.

Hence, I’ll be doing a ton of examples the rest of the semester; that is how they learn, just as that is how I learned.

Learning new stuff still takes time. :-)

March 30, 2015 Posted by | education, swimming | | 2 Comments

Numbers, fraudulent and misleading…

Education: yes, if you base teaching performance on the test scores of their students, the teachers will cook the data any way that they can. Given a metric, people will seek to optimize the metric, regardless of end results.

A questionable pro-President Obama claim: This article claims a 22 point improvement in President Obama’s approval ratings:

President Obama’s approval rating has improved by 22 points in the Gallup poll since Republicans won control of Congress. Obama’s opposition to the Republican agenda is making the president more popular while destroying the myth of a GOP mandate.

Really? Well, his approval went from 39 to 50 percent, which IS nice. So where did “22 point improvement” come from? You see, his DISAPPROVAL went down so the difference (approval minus disapproval) went from -17 to +5. Okkkkaaaaayyyyy…

That is an interesting slight of hand. But Rep. Sessions (R-Texas) thinks that 108 billion divided by 12 million is 5 million and not 9000. He called it “simple arithmetic”. Hmmm, for him, not so simple? :-)

That’s ok; Fox News will probably back him up, and NPR will probably try to present “both sides” of this arithmetic issue “well, most math teachers say that the quotient is 9000, but some say 5 million so we’ll give BOTH SIDES an equal opportunity….”

March 26, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics | | Leave a comment

Some stark reality: academia and otherwise

This is from College Misery and discusses the lament of someone teaching an astronomy course to, well, less than talented and less than motivated students:

Each semester, I usually teach a large section of general-ed astronomy for non-majors. I also teach a large section of physics for engineers and scientists.

I also teach a smaller, upper-level theoretical astrophysics course for physics majors and grad students. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? We’re supposed to be delving into the secrets of the Universe.

Well, THIS semester’s astrophysics class has convinced me that American university education is without question in its death spiral.
[…]

The large, general-ed astronomy class is packed with freshpersons. Sniveling, patently unprofessional, childish behavior is common. I hate it, but it’s like the smell you get living near a slaughterhouse: you get used to it.

Similar childish behavior is rarer in the physics class for engineers. This is because it’s more advanced, with at least three other prerequisite classes. When childish behavior does raise its ugly head there, it hurts.

This semester, for the first time, I am encountering childish behavior from most of the upper-level astrophysics class, and it REALLY HURTS. More than once I have reminded them that astrophysics isn’t an immediately commercially applicable subject: people do it mainly because it’s interesting.

So WHY do these students treat the wonders of the Universe as such a dreadful CHORE? Probably because even the simplest wonders are quite beyond them. Most of the grad students don’t understand significant digits, despite my TRYING to explain what they should have learned on their FIRST DAY of college. If they think they are going to GET A JOB doing this, they’ll be going up against people from Caltech and MIT, ALL of whom funnily enough DO understand significant digits.

I think that we are seeing “regression to the mean” effects: we are sending higher percentages of people to college. So: this means more jobs for professors at “teaching oriented” institutions but also…a less talented student body. None of the lament surprises me at all.

We even see this in the humanities:

I recently left a teaching position in a master of fine arts creative-writing program. I had a handful of students whose work changed my life. The vast majority of my students were hardworking, thoughtful people devoted to improving their craft despite having nothing interesting to express and no interesting way to express it. My hope for them was that they would become better readers. And then there were students whose work was so awful that it literally put me to sleep. Here are some things I learned from these experiences.

Writers are born with talent.

Either you have a propensity for creative expression or you don’t. Some people have more talent than others. That’s not to say that someone with minimal talent can’t work her ass off and maximize it and write something great, or that a writer born with great talent can’t squander it. It’s simply that writers are not all born equal. The MFA student who is the Real Deal is exceedingly rare, and nothing excites a faculty adviser more than discovering one. I can count my Real Deal students on one hand, with fingers to spare.

There is more in the article. But yeah, what is said there counters many popular but hare brained ideas:

1. “You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it badly enough.” Anyone who believes this has never accomplished anything of significance.

2. “It is never too late to start”. Wrong. It is probably not to late to learn something new, but if you start from scratch late in life, you are all but guaranteed to not be good at it (there are isolated exceptions, of course). And by “good at it” I mean “good compared to the stronger people in the profession”, not good compared to “the other average old geezers”.

As you get older, it becomes more difficult to pick up brand new material, though if one is still active in an area one can often compensate by having a broader perspective and by having a larger tool box of knowledge to draw from (just from learning for so long).

Extrapolation from the local
Yes, it may have been cold where you live…but:

Screen shot 2015-03-21 at 3.03.17 PM

Yes, I live in the dark blue area.

Being certain…even if the facts are against you. Zealots are very good at doing this:

The Times has an interesting headline here: Richard Fisher, Often Wrong but Seldom Boring, Leaves the Fed. Because entertainment value is what we want from central bankers, right? I mean, Janet Yellen is such a drag — she just keeps being right about the economy, and that gets old really fast, you know?

OK, never mind. What is remarkable is Fisher’s complete confidence in his own wisdom despite an awesome track record of error. What’s even more remarkable is that his unshaken certainty is the norm among inflationistas and anti-Keynesians in general. So wrong for so long — and the other side has been right, again and again — yet not a hint of self-doubt.

And check out this anti-new atheist article.

This is supposed to come from a “sophisticated believer”, but never once does he even make the case that the existence of any deity of any kind is even a reasonable conjecture, much less a belief in their deity of choice.

Really. We live in one average galaxy and orbit one of billions of stars in said galaxies ….among billions of other galaxies. And somehow, the scribblings of profoundly ignorant groups of humans made are supposed to be taken seriously as a guide to knowledge of how things work now? Oh boy…if the old blue hair says so… :-)

What is comical is that these sort of writers expect to be taken seriously.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | astronomy, atheism, economics, education, religion, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Schock, snowflakery, dishonesty on different levels.

Aaron Schock is stepping down from his US House seat (IL-18); he was my Congressman for 4 years (and Illinois State Representative for 4 years prior to that) until I got redistricted into IL-17.

Each time, I voted for his opponent.

Well, now he is under investigation by the FBI for a number of things; witnesses are being subpoenaed and a Grand Jury has been formed.

I admit that I never liked him and that was for reasons beyond his being a Republican.

But I did wonder to myself: “how much of this dislike is just simple envy?” After all, much of his resume was impressive: school board as a teenager (elected), school board president, winning the Illinois State House (close election the first time) and winning it again in a very blue district and then running for, and winning Ray LaHood’s old seat.

He finished his undergraduate degree in 2 years and made money in real estate, and, at least at first, much of it was above board.

Yes, he is fit, though my Steamboat 15K best (1998, 1999) is about 7 minutes faster than his. He is a heck of a lot faster than I am now though. :-)

But..I wondered “how much of your dislike is that he is/was ambitious, attractive and successful?”

Still, in his debates, he was quick with statistics and data..but it was almost all cherry picked. He reminded me a bit of a young Paul Ryan.

Now I never cared one way or the other about his Instagram photos and the like; I know that when it comes to social media, I enjoy my friend’s vacation and adventure photos, especially those that show me what they are seeing.

So, as much as I’d love to tell you “I told you so”, I really don’t know if my dislike stemmed from tribalism (“other political party”), envy (his success and ambition) and from personality; there was something that seemed phony about him (as it does, to be fair, with Bill Clinton who I mostly liked). He just struck me as a frat boy who used slick power point slides to bluff through a presentation of stuff that he really didn’t understand that well.

So I really can’t crow “I told you so” and there is about 5-10 percent of me that is genuinely disappointed that he didn’t put his considerable talent to better use. And yes, there is about 50 percent of me that is gloating; I am not proud of that. :-)

Speaking of entitled snowflakes Randazza has a laugh about this:

NH Lawmakers Crush Fourth Graders Bill. Good.
And I applaud them for it.

In the spirit of learning by doing, students drafted a bill to learn the process of how a bill becomes law. They proposed House Bill 373, an act establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor. Even though it passed through the Environment and Agriculture committee with a majority vote, some representatives were far from receptive.

(source)

Cue the outrage.

In fact, the headline was “NH lawmakers brutally kill 4th-graders’ bill in front of them”

Rep. John Burt, a Republican from Goffstown said, “Bottom line, if we keep bringing more of these bills, and bills, and bills forward that really I think we shouldn’t have in front of us, we’ll be picking a state hot dog next.”

Exactly.

Yes. Just because you think your kids are “smart” and “cute” doesn’t mean that their ideas warrant being taken seriously. Really. I feel the same way when someone posts some video of some pre-teen or teenager “owning” someone on an issue.

Really. I teach college. I’ve seen the work of 60-70 undergraduates per semester for 24 years. The vast majority of them don’t know what they are doing, just as I didn’t when I was that age.

When it comes to laws, issues, etc., if you want me to take an idea seriously, give me someone who knows what they are talking about and who is respected by others in the field. I am not interested in what your little snowflake has to say.

Now of course helicopter parenting isn’t unique to the United States; check his out:

Cheating in school tests is an old Indian problem.

But the malpractice literally scaled new heights this week in the eastern state of Bihar when relatives of 10th-grade students climbed the wall of a school building and perched precariously from windows of classrooms as they handed cheat sheets to children writing the tests inside.

Videos also showed school inspectors slapping young girls as they pulled out cheat sheets from under their tables.

Cheating is common in schools in remote rural areas in India, where jobs and seats in college courses are few but competition is fierce. But the sight of parents risking their life and limbs to climb the walls shocked many Indians.

I’d like to think that we aren’t that bad.

Why your Republican friends sound so nutty
If your Republican friend watches Fox News, they are often only getting part of the story. The government issued two reports about Ferguson, one which showed that it was a very bad idea to use Michael Brown as some sort of innocent martyr and one that showed that there WAS systemic racism within the Ferguson city government and police department. Guess which one Fox News emphasized and which one was downplayed? (though NOT totally ignored)

Bonus Read Randazza’s CNN post on why the racists at the University of Oklahoma have free speech rights, which include their right to NOT be kicked out of school. Note: I have no problem with the Fraternity being kicked off of campus and their charter being revoked.

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Aaron Schock, education, IL-17, IL-18, racism, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

The relative honesty of sports relative to education

Workout notes: 31 F (0 C) at the start; I walked my 10.5 mile course (included the Goose Loop) and it took me 2:37 instead of the 2:34 it used to take me in 2012 (with the same effort). Time marches on. But there is a long time between now and October 18, 2015, so I have a lot of time to build up to a marathon and time to work on my 5K/1 mile run first.

Main Post

First, I realize that there are doping scandals at the highest level of sports and sometimes eligibility fiascos at lower levels.
And I also understand that academia at the higher levels, at least in my field (mathematics), tends to be honest. Sure there is a fake journal here and a fight over “who got the results first” there. But when one writes a math paper, it isn’t as if one can crib other sources.

I am mainly talking about the lower levels.

I remember my English class during my senior year in high school; it was the usual “British Literature” that is taught for college preparation. I had great teachers.

One of the things we had to do was to write a book report and present it in class. And so I sat through them; I specifically remember the one on Wuthering Heights.

The guy who gave it had an easel complete with charts, a circle diagram (concentric circles) with the various characters and relationships in the concentric circles, with Heathcliff vs. Heathcliff in the middle.

I rolled my eyes; I knew that the guy giving the presentation wasn’t smart enough to come up with this on his own.

Afterward, the teacher said “very good; perhaps you should look to sell this to Cliffs Notes. ”

cliffsnoteswh

Well, eventually I went to a book store, looked at Cliffs notes…and what did I see? You guessed it….and no, he didn’t sell his work to them.

That was just the beginning of my eye opening process.

The bottom line: many see education as nothing more than a credentialing process; a way of getting credits, a GPA and all that. The idea that one’s mind is supposed to be challenged and grow along the way really isn’t a popular one. It is all about “that piece of paper” and, perhaps, learning something along the way.

Yes, students search for solutions to homework problems on the internet; that is why I try to give some in class exams. The exception is for a courses in which I expect them to be able to use software.

I still remember my undergraduate days. I really did my homework and I really did find joy in figuring out things for myself. Not everyone else took the same approach, including some who had a higher GPA than I did.

Even funnier: some (almost all?) who got undergraduate degrees are completely unaware that what they learned was..well…baby stuff.
I wonder how many of these would have survived Ph. D. comprehensive examinations which, at least at my school, had a pass rate of 30 percent?

Then after sweating these, which seemed so difficult to me at the time..you work on your dissertation and find out that your qualifiers were really just…baby stuff. :-)

Now contrast that with sports. Say you want to finish a marathon within the course’s time limit (and yes, the time limits are getting longer year by year).

If you don’t put in the miles, well, you aren’t going to finish (true for most of us, anyway, especially those of us who are older than 50). And to finish the marathon, you have to cover every step of the course.

True, there is some cheating (even in trail ultras!) and some who claim to do what they haven’t done. But the vast majority who finish a marathon really do finish it; there is no “cut and paste” available; no one to crib off of.

Of course, even in running where the results are there for all to see, there are those who don’t understand that, well, a 2-2:30 plus half marathon is really nothing to boast about (at least for someone 45 or younger) and that a strong marathon runner would have gone twice as far in close to the same amount of time. But I suppose there is a social aspect to it; the vehicle “mileage” stickers and the attitude face selfies..and of course, the “bling” (Showing off a medal for a half marathon finish? Really? should you award yourself a medal for finishing a medium long workout? ;-) )

Note: my current half marathon running time stinks; I ran a couple of 2:01 half marathons in 2013 but I have enough self awareness to know that those times stink. My “over 40″ PR is 1:34 (1999) and, for a 40 year old male in good health, that is more or less a “meh, fit but not a runner” time.

But no matter how sorry the performance is and how many grossly overestimate their achievements, there is no getting around that most have covered every inch of the course under their own steam…sans wikipedia. :-)

March 15, 2015 Posted by | education, running, walking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appropriate teaching attire or not?

appropriateteachingattire

Interesting question. I suppose that context is important (grade? all boys or all girls school?).

I don’t have a good answer. Here is why: had some of my high school teachers dressed like this, yes, I’d be distracted. But is the onus on me, or does the teacher at least bear some responsibility? And please, spare me the “it doesn’t matter” stuff: obviously a male who came to teach while wearing a speedo would get called out.

I’d have to think about this one.

March 14, 2015 Posted by | education | | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 673 other followers