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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Charles Hugh Smith: The Nearly Free University

“G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.” - - Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies

The post secondary education system cannot last.  I have read about this on Gary North's site, and he has written a book review about Charles Hugh Smith's The Nearly Free University.  You can read the introduction to Smith's book here.

Why can't the current system continue?  Because of cost.  In the old days, the college degree was a weeding out process - employers would use it as a way to avoid low IQ workers and they'd know that the person could at least start a task, finish it, and deal with boredom.  Now, with 'everyone' getting (or deserving if you subscribe to Current Progressive Thought) a college degree, that vetting process doesn't work. 

In the interview below, these topics and others are brought up.  If you're getting a degree in something, why are you paying huge dollars to pay the Assistant Dean of Supervision, or some other useless bureacratic sinecure $150,000 a year?  For what?  How does that person help you get your degree?  What is he teaching you?

Many people I work with, and students of mine seem to think I am against college.  This is not true.  I am against going broke - hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for a degree that you can't use for anything.  Americans as a whole now owe more money for student loans than they do for their credit cards.  This from a population that has been conditioned in a Pavlovian manner to SPEND when things get tough, or any other reason for that matter.  You should count the cost, and analyze the benefits and job market you'll get after you get your degree.

College tuition is way out of line in terms of cost, and Charles Hugh Smith has some good ideas as to avoiding it and becoming successfully educated.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

$227 Million Doesn't Buy What It Used To

Something of a rant here, but any high school student (the people for whom this site is engineered) will instantly recognize what is going on.  Especially students from in the schools on the wrong side of the tracks, the bad part of town.

Our school budget passed the last week.  When I started, the school budget was out of control - topping out at around $160 million.  People where aghast at that figure.  That was 12 years ago.  Now the budget is $227 million dollars. This is for a school district with a poor academic record, crumbling infrastructure and, in my case, a repair - free zone.

I go into more detail in the podcast, but I have had no heat, no air conditioning, a broken smart-board (since early March), missing blinds and a bell that barely makes any noise.  Where there once was a clock is an unsightly hole, and rickety chairs and profanity laden desks populate the room.

Naturally, criticizing public education gets you yelled at - the ad hominem attacks come quickly at rapid fire pace, but you should expect that by now.  The Gov't schools are 'good', and their defenders vouch for them, facts be damned.  Naturally these are the same people who have the perfect fix for the schools: more money.  The irony is off the charts, but it allows them to participate in that most comfortable activity, hand wringing.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

High Stakes Testing Gone Crazy

The latest 'trend' (they're all trends, no one seems interested in fixing real problems) in education is "raising the standards" and measuring performance with "data driven instruction".

What that means is that my students, and most public high school students, are buried under at least 3x more exams than normally exist during a school year.  Today we had the year end 'summative' exam.  This test, which didn't reflect the material from the year, nor much of anything, will be measured against the exam results from the Fall exam.  Here's the problem: the conditions of the exam are totally different, the weather was hot today, my students were all kinds of tired and intellectually checked out.  Never one to excuse student malfeasance and laziness, I was however sympathetic to what they were feeling.  Young people still have a functional BS radar - unlike many adults.  They knew they were being turned into guinea pigs in a lab, and they hated it.

This exam, the iReady exam, the SLO exam and the other Common Core time wasters are now becoming the norm.  Who gains?  Not the students.  They realize that they are not the beneficiaries of any of this kabuki dance - you should realize this too.  The education corporations are making a killing off of this, mainly through consulting fees, but also in exam generation, both paper and digital forms.

Here's my take on this awful trend:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Best Creator Driven Comic Book Runs

I have mentioned to students over the years how I was a comic book reader in my youth.  I've always stressed reading anything to my students - I am quick to mention that I read comic books and Sports Illustrated maniacally as a young person.  What I noticed starting around the age of 13 was that I became more interested in who was writing and drawing the comics than the characters themselves.  If John Byrne left Alpha Flight and went to write and draw the Hulk - I went with him, even though I didn't collect the Hulk regularly.

These runs are what I feel are the best long term tenures on various books.  They are by the creators / artists I feel created the best work and stayed on to come up with a timeless body of work that will be a standard bearer for future artists and writers.  I limit the list to post 1980, simply because that is the era where I am an expert.  I realize there are others that should be on the list, but I was a Marvel / DC person for most of those years, so something like Dave Sim's Cerebus is not on the list, as I read one issue of it as a young person and didn't like it too much.  Maybe I missed out on something but I can't comment on it with any authority.

The list:
  • John Byrne on Fantastic Four
  • Frank Miller on Daredevil
  • Alan Moore on Swamp Thing
  • Marv Wolfman and George Perez on The New Teen Titans
  • Walt Simonson on Thor
  • Chris Claremont on The Uncanny X-Men
  • Peter David on Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider Man

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Donald Sterling Affair

What has turned into a mainstream media freak show is best summed up by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in an editoral at Time called "Welcome to the Finger Wagging Olympics".  He puts things in perspective, as the MSM is still up to its usual tricks, trying to create a 'narrative' and pit regular people against each other on racial grounds.  Abdul Jabbar calls BS on this instance, noting that Sterling has been a bigot for a long time.  So why begin the most favorite of American Media activities, hand wringing, now?  And what about the leaked recording?  Abdul Jabbar's take:

"And now the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping.

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it."

Jabbar is right - here is my take on the whole affair.  Of course, the most disappointing part of the whole thing is watching the MSM tell Americans who to be angry at, when, and why.  Where has everybody been?