Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Common Core and Fractions

By Professor Doom

     “See that big thing with the hairy mane? Don’t go near that, it will eat you!”
--advice from adult to child on the Serengeti, to avoid lions. This is really all the explanation a child needs, at least at first. A discussion of biology, the need for the lions to eat, their caloric intake, the size and weaponry of lions, and their hunting habits, while interesting, distracts from the key thing the child needs to know. If he follows the adult-provided guideline, he’ll live long enough to learn the other things.

      It’s time to talk about Common Core. I grant that this mostly affects primary and secondary schools, but what affects the schools will eventually reverberate into higher education…not to mention that much of so-called higher education is a fraud, merely re-teaching the material already given in schools.

     Before I can address the problems that are most evident in Common Core, I want to talk about “adding fractions.” I imagine a wave of fear just passed through some of my readers at the mere thought of “fractions.” A great number of my students are terrified of fractions, to the point that the class can completely shut down if I put a fraction on the board.
      For all I know, in the public schools, around 3rd grade or so, the students are all lined up and a fraction comes in and touches each student, inappropriately.

     That’s a joke, but the point is students are trained into freaking out at the sight of a fraction. The reason for this is the schools, in an effort to “explain the theory” of fractions, buries the student in so much crap that they lose track of what the theory is for: to be able to add fractions.

     Let’s go over all you need to know about how to add fractions. I’m sorry to start with fractions, because I know many readers will simply shut down. That’s entirely my point: many readers only know fractions from the incredibly and stupidly complicated method taught in schools, and I’m going to show a simple way to do it. I want to compare two techniques, the “easy” way, and the way taught in public schools. Both assume the student knows the basic times tables, and perhaps a little about division.

The easy way:

1) If the denominators (the numbers on bottom) are the same, you just add the numerators (the numbers on top), and leave the denominator alone…then you’re done.
2/5  +  7/5   =  9/5  (no need to do anything more)
Sometimes you’ll need to simplify:
1/6  +  2/ 6  = 3/6, but 3/6 simplifies into 1 / 2, since “3” is a common factor of the numerator and denominator. So, 1/6 + 2/6 = 1 / 2.

2) If the denominators are different, it’s a little harder.
Multiply the first fraction (top and bottom) by the denominator of the second fraction, and don’t simplify.
Multiply the second fraction in the same way, by multiplying top and bottom by the denominator of the first fraction.
Now that the denominators are the same, add the numerators, and simplify as before. Here’s an example:
1/3 + 1/4   (note: denominators different)
Multiply 1 / 3 by 4 / 4 (i.e., multiply both numbers by 4), to get 4 / 12
Multiply 1 / 4 by 3 / 3, to get 3 / 12
Now add:
4 / 12  +  3 / 12   (the denominators are the same)
7/12   (add the numerators).

     Now, the above is a very simple “sledgehammer” technique, guaranteed to work every time. The only issue with the technique is sometimes you have to simplify the fractions (by eliminating common factors), but conceptually, “sometimes you need to simplify” is still far easier than the theoretical methods taught in school (which, still, sometimes need to be simplified).

     I emphasize: above, half a page of text, is all you need to know to add fractions. I’ve tutored dozens of “special ed” students that had no idea how to add fractions after YEARS of public school.

     I show these “special” students the above technique, and in a matter of minutes they’ve mastered adding fractions.  It requires no intuition, or knowledge beyond the times tables; you use the numbers that are right in front of you.

     Why do many (most?) kids coming out of school approach fractions with fear and awe? Because the schools take a heavy theoretical approach, one the kids get browbeaten with starting around the 3th grade…they’re never shown any guideline that’s as easy to follow as “stay away from the lions.” Instead, they’re taught such a ridiculously overcomplicated method that, while mathematically more sound, is just unreasonable to inflict on an 8 year old.
     The simple method for fractions really highlights what Common Core will do to our children. The overcomplicated methods will create a generation not just terrified of fractions, but afraid even of addition of whole numbers.

     I encourage the reader to practice adding fractions using the “sledgehammer” method above (with another example below), to better appreciate how sad it is that more than half of high school graduates have trouble adding fractions:

Example:   1/3 + 2/5   =   (5/5) * (1/3) + (3/3) * (2/5) = 5/15 + 6/15 = 11/15

Now try:
1 /2 + 1 / 4
2/3 + 1/5
3/7 + 1/3

    Now, for an adult, three problems is usually enough to master a basic skill. Children are, generally, slower. Did your child learn to “pick up the laundry” after only being told three times? How about “take out the garbage”? How quickly did he learn to tie his shoes? 

     Common Core, to judge by the worksheets I’ve seen, seldom gives the child even three chances to learn the skill.

     I know I’m losing some readers by talking about fractions first, but if you thought fractions were hard, try to learn the above method, and see how simple it is. I want the reader to be angry about being trained into hating fractions, so that the reader can better appreciate what Common Core will be doing to his children, not just with fractions, but with basic addition and subtraction.

     Next time, we’ll go over how students are taught to add fractions in the public schools, and then start on Common Core.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Education as Entitlement, Part 2

By Professor Doom

     Last time around I mentioned riots at an institution that had the “audacity” to not consider undocumented immigrants as in state students, charging them the tuition that out-of-state students would need to pay. These undocumenteds want to get rid of the administrator that’s trying to put some common sense into the system.

      This is to their credit, since the taxpayers being cheated like this don’t even know the name of the administrator that came up with the bright idea to consider immigrants as “local” for purposes of tuition in the first place. I again point out how minimal the integrity (or is it mental capacity?) of many administrators must be, to even consider that someone from a different country entirely should be as “from the same state” as the institution.

     The reason the immigrants are upset, is because it’s a great entitlement program. The students get the loan money for tuition, get extra loan money for living expenses…then, when the loan money runs out, they can just go back to their home country, with little chance of ever repaying the debt.

     And these students are rioting at the thought of not being able to take more this way.
     It’s a slight variation on the Pell Grant scheme, which can be used repeatedly—thanks the administrator’s bright idea not to keep track of who’s received the grants--to rake in as much money as a low-wage job (without all the work).

     The articles I’ve referenced for these schemes just gloss over administration’s role in promoting the schemes, however. Go and read the Pell Grant scheme to get an overview…the biggest thieves are not the “students”, I promise you.

     I feel the need to point out this entitlement program isn’t restricted to immigrants and Pell Grant recipients, there are loads of students in higher education that are, wittingly or not, scamming the system. 

     When you qualify for a student loan, you don’t just get money for your tuition. You can borrow more than the tuition expense, far more, and use that extra money for “living expenses.”

     Somehow, it never occurred to anyone that giving teenagers extra money to spend on “whatever” could go horribly wrong.

The tipping point was when he approached the school's student loan office to get help with his $3,000 tuition payment, he says. He walked away with $16,000 for that quarter, starting a cycle that would continue for the rest of his undergraduate career.

     While the above article highlights a fairly extreme case of how abusive the student loan scheme can be, the idea that anyone, merely by taking classes, can “qualify” for an extra $10,000 or more a year for loans for “living expenses” is extreme. I had to put down a significant down payment, and show considerable documentation to get a loan for my house…and any yahoo can sign up for college and rack up $50,000 in loans in excess of the cost of tuition.

     Seriously, how did nobody see something wrong here?

      Not everyone gets so much, of course, but realize that the bulk of students that could use money for tuition for wildly useless courses like Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, could also use money for critical things, like food and rent.

“The University of Oregon estimates the total cost for undergraduates living off campus at nearly $24,000 for the 2013-2014 school year. Less than $10,000 of that goes to tuition, leaving students with refund checks of roughly $14,000 each year.”

     Am I the only one that thinks it’s odd to call the loan kickback a “refund check”? Of course, that “refund” only applies if the tuition is low enough that there can be some money left over to go to the student. For-profit institutions typically raise their tuition as high as it can go, to maximize their revenue.

     I see commercials for ITT Tech all the time, and they’re fairly notorious for how much they abuse students that get trapped in their school. I grant that ITT Tech makes no claim for to be higher education. They do claim to be job trainers, however. Unfortunately, ITT Tech degrees seems to be of minimal use to graduates when it’s time to get a job.

--the speaker is Steve Eisman, famous for betting against the subprime mortgage industry. I shudder to think what he’d have to say of the state education systems, if he looked at them.

     While smart investors are guessing the for-profit industry is doomed, the fact still remains that student loans, for many, have turned into a form of welfare. Over 70% of college seniors have student loan debt, and that’s not factoring in the Pell Grants that go to everyone…it’s not a stretch to think that many college students are eventually using loans to cover their day to day expenses, little different than welfare checks.

      People talk of the riots that will occur when/if support programs like food stamps are ever cut off. I concede there will be some big riots in that case, with well over 40,000,000 people on food stamps.

Student Loans Entice Borrowers More for Cash Than a Degree

--even the Wall Street Journal is catching on to what’s really happening. Keep in mind, administration knows exactly what’s going on, but facilitates the fraud because they get their cut, while the fake students get their debt. Why does a caste that facilitates fraud get a free ride like this?

     There were over 20,000,000 college students last year, and yes, there will be riots when the student loan support programs are cut off. At least it will be a good warm-up for the larger riots when the bigger programs finally end.

Friday, April 25, 2014


I just finished reading your book and applaud your writing and expose of the fraud and rot of higher education. Anyone not on the inside would have no idea of the truth you reveal. I'm curious about something though, I know administrators want to string along as many students as possible for as long as possible to increase retention, but I'm also seeing a huge push here in the state of Texas to push students out after 4 years with some rather harsh punitive measures. I don't understand the real motive behind this, why is graduating in 4 years a magic bullet? The only reason I can see is that our school is trying to reach Tier One status which means access to federal grant money for research and must get rid of the weaker students, the ones they've been exploiting since our school's inception and now will kick them to the curb to serve more affluent students who are smart enough to teach themselves and can afford to pay more. The schools are starting to charge out of state tuition for those who exceed 20 hours past the minimum needed for the degree, they're forcing all student to register for 15 hours each semester (these are mainly Hispanic, first generation, working, students) and have raised up admissions standards a little, but actually are admitting student into what's called the University College which is a holding stall until students meet requirements for their major. In essence, they will admit students into the university who will never be able to declare their major requirements, makes the University College look bad, but makes the Department's numbers look better. It's a hidden filtering system. Why are schools so concerned not only with students graduating, but now it's about graduating them in 4 years? What's the real driving issue here? 

Thanks for your kind words; once I realized the hand over fist fraud that is much of higher education, I had to write Why Johnny Can't Read, Write, or Do 'Rithmetic Even With A College Degree.

To answer your question regarding Texas, there are two factors:

1) The loan money is running out. Many programs no longer support students for basically forever. With no money to be plundered, there's not much reason to keep them in "school." Many loans have some arbitrary time limit, like 4 years.

2) Since administrators have sucked the students dry, they have to do something with the husks. Graduating them, with any degree at all, is a fine option--admin can claim their improving education by churning out folks with 4 year "General" degrees, that still can't perform at the high school level.

3) I saw so many students with credit hours far beyond what would be needed for a degree (the record, I believe, was over 150 credit hours, in a school where no degree required more than 66 hours), that it's nice that finally, lethargically, the institutions are doing something. In times past, a student couldn't just sign up for crap year after year, the student had to go to an advisor, who signed off on the student's schedule for the next semester. Admin changed the rules so that weren't advisors any more. Why do you think admin would help children hurt themselves like this?

But to answer your question in short: the loans are no longer going to be indefinite, students have to actually get a degree and move on....or just move on. Tier 1 status is irrelevant to graduation rates, that has more to do with research (a part of higher education that is, at least, somewhat legit, but I have a few toe-curling stories to tell there as well).

One of these days I'll sit down and tell the story of a very wealthy man who donated a vast sum of money to "higher education". Once he found out that the money was just going to teach hordes of sub-remedial students, he got politicians to change the law...admin changed the rules...he got the laws written even more clearly...admin changed the rules. It took about a decade, at which point most of his donation went to lawyers, politicians, administrators, and courses that weren't even close to higher education. In the end, he only managed to at least have a couple of institutions not be 90% high school material.

Again, thanks for the kind words on my book; I worried that it would not be a fun read.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Only The 1% Can Afford to Teach in Higher Education, part 2

By Professor Doom

      Last time I discussed a serious change in higher education: the replacement of the faculty by part-time, minimally paid, no benefit “adjuncts”. Such adjuncts now teach the majority of classes in our colleges and universities, and represent a serious savings, costing only 25% (often, much less) of having full time faculty teach the course. 

     For lowering the costs of teaching, administrators get much, much, higher pay, so much more that tuition still needs to go up far more quickly than any other consumer good.

     The abuse of our nation’s most highly educated people by administration in higher education has gone mostly unnoticed in mainstream media; if students only knew that their teachers generally got less pay and respect than a fast food cashier, they might begin to ask why their education is so expensive…or even ask, if education were so valuable, why it didn’t translate into a decent job for their educator.

     Or maybe not, since many students in higher education are just there for the loans; I’ll be discussing how this works soon.

     In the meantime, the question arises: where is administration getting all these highly educated people to teach for peanuts?

About 213,000,000 results
--a Google search of “online Education degrees”, no quotes, reveals this many links, close to 1 for every adult American citizen. A search of “pornography” only gives 45,700,000 results, to put this in perspective. Usually, when you add words to a search, the number of results goes down…and not a lot folks think the internet is a running short on pornography. Anyone think maybe the online education thing is a little overdone?

     To become an adjunct in higher education, you need to have at least a Master’s degree in the subject you’re going to teach. Alternatively, you can have a Master’s Education degree, and within that Education degree you can rationalize that you specialized in the subject. There are History Education, Art Education, Math Education, Physics Education, and a host of other such questionable degrees.

Math Education “teacher”: “Yes, I know the syllabus says we’re covering the first six chapters, but we’re only going to go into detail in the first chapter, and a little of the second.”
(the class cheers)
--often when I get a glimpse of what goes on in an Educationist run course, I see that they’re not even close to covering what they claim they’re covering, or what is reported to accreditation. Thus I must assume the above announcement must come at some point in the class. The students are happy, but then get destroyed in the next class, unless it also is taught by an educationist. It often is, leading to college graduates that know nothing more than when they entered college.

     In terms of actual knowledge of the subject matter, these degrees are bogus, as I’ve demonstrated and illustrated many times on this blog, even to the point of taking a graduate Education course so I could see with my own eyes why there were so many frauds teaching. These feeble Education degrees are being used as jokers, and greatly watering down the quality of the education.

The following problems were noted in the five minute sample lecture (the candidate chose the topic, “Roots of Third Degree Polynomials):
1)    Candidate could not define “polynomial” (a basic term in the algebra course he would teach, and one he used in his lecture).
2)    Candidate tried to demonstrate vertical multiplication, but did so horizontally (defeating the entire purpose of “multiplying vertically”).
3)    Candidate used “FOIL” to multiply a binomial by a trinomial (he called it FOIL, but, that mnemonic only applies for multiplying binomial by a binomial).
4)     Candidate was unaware of the rational root theorem (curious, since the syllabus of the courses he claimed to have taught included this theorem).
--on a committee I was on, we interviewed 5 different Math Education graduate degree holders for a faculty position. These are my notes on the presentation given by one of the candidates. This particular candidate, with a decade of experience teaching in higher education, was the second best. The best was not offered the position; admin overruled us, picking a completely unsuitable candidate.

      Because these graduate education degrees are content free, anyone can get them…and that’s a big part of where the flood of adjuncts are coming from. Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of legitimate graduate degree holders in higher education…but there are so many bogus degree holders just as desperate. Administration, with degrees every bit as bogus, can’t distinguish the legitimate from the fake, either.

--an article by a lucky one to advance from adjunct to full-timer, though still with a minimal contract and no respect. Written, of course, under a pseudonym, due to the culture of fear in higher education. Keep in mind, change one line in accreditation, so that “a position lasting more than 2 years cannot be classified as temporary”, and this abuse could be fixed. Wonder why that change has not been made…

      I concede it’s not all Joker-Education degrees, however, but accreditation being such a joke makes it easy to setup bogus graduate Education degree programs. In addition, semi-legitimate institutions have increased the number of grad students they take, while simultaneously lowering standards, adding more warm bodies desperate to get a job to pay off the loans they took out for their degrees.

Adjunct No Longer, Jill Biden Earned $82,022 as a Community-College Professor in 2011

--one way to get a real job is to be married to the vice president of the united states. Her pay is way over the average, and her duties are somewhat below average, for a community college professor. Many professorial positions are patronage, where connections, not caliber, are key. No connections? Adjuncthood for you!

      Soon, outside of patronage positions, being a professor in college will have all the status and pay of being a fast-food cashier. Perhaps it should be, but I feel the need to point out: administration tells everyone to take out loans and go to college, because education can lead to better jobs, simultaneously treating people with advanced education as chattel and giving them jobs with less security and pay than barista or janitor.
      Why would you want people of such hypocrisy and ruthlessness anywhere near your children? Why would you want them responsible for what your children learn?