Sunday, November 30, 2014

Report: Accreditation is Foxes Guarding Henhouses

By Professor Doom

     Many, many, times I’ve pointed out that accreditation is a joke and has nothing to do with quality, or even legitimacy, of higher education. I know, most everyone outside of higher education thinks “if the school it’s accredited, it must be legitimate.”

      But, no, accreditation means nothing. I’m hardly the only person to figure out that the great student loan scam could only “work” if accreditation were a fraud. A recent report on accreditation sums up what’s going on in somewhat more polite terms than I tend to use:

     Conflicts of interest, indeed. I’m mentioned before that a big part of the problem of accreditation is accreditors are not drawn from educators, they are, instead, taken from the people that rule over our institutions of higher education, people that have no respect for education. To clarify: the people that determine if our institutions are legitimate are the same people that run those same institutions. Yeah, that’s a conflict of interest, and with over a trillion dollars of student loan money on the line, it’s easy to see why our administrators in higher education sold out quickly, and sold out completely.

     The report hints above at an important issue that I’ve seldom mentioned. What happened to accreditation is little different than what’s happened in quite a few other regulatory bodies. The FDA, for example, has huge conflicts of interests with the pharmaceutical companies it’s supposed to be regulating. Attorney General Eric Holder resigned from his position at attorney general, only to take a $77,000,000 a year job (plus bonuses!) with a bank he refused to prosecute-- before the ink on the resignation was dry! One wonders if the next attorney general will investigate the appearance of conflict there, or simply submit his resume to the same bank for future consideration. 

     So, yeah, it’s pretty common for regulators to be taken over by the ones they’re supposed to regulate. But that doesn’t make it right, and it won’t be fixed if we just pretend it isn’t happening.

     Accreditation is a bit different than others. Accreditors aren’t government supported, they get their money directly from the institutions they’re supposed to be regulating. 

“…Colleges are dues-paying members of accrediting associations that determine their accreditation. Consequently, accreditors are more reluctant to deny accreditation renewal, an action that would result in the loss of dues-paying members of the association. “The desire to maintain collegiality and not to lose paying association members raises conflict of interest issues that make the regional accreditors questionable gatekeepers for eligibility for federal funds.”
--it’s amazing how often when I tried to explain the problem to my supposed colleagues, “collegiality” came up as a reason not to pursue the matter. Administrators have been given a level of respect that, in many cases, is wholly undeserved. Not all, mind you, but enough that giving them the benefit of the doubt for acts that sure look like fraud is pure foolishness.

     Now, accreditation is voluntary, at least in theory, but the student loan scam provides so much money to accredited schools (and only to accredited schools) that a non-accredited school simply can’t compete. The first mission of a non-accredited school is to look legitimate enough to get accreditation, after that, legitimacy is both irrelevant and detrimental to getting those sweet student loan checks. Anyone wishing to maintain legitimacy in an accredited institution risks being forcibly shown the door (as my own eyes, and, alas, my own job history, can attest).

     Accreditation is private, and not government, so it can’t force institutions to join. Private institutions can be legitimate (for example, ETS, which runs much standardized tests, enforces integrity and legitimacy quite well), but it’s long past time to give accreditation the benefit of the doubt about its ability to keep our corrupt institutions of higher education acting legitimately.

     The report details only a few of the many, many, ways that accreditation fails, but I’ll cover the report’s highlights:

Credit for Courses of Dubious Academic Value. In 2010, the University of South Carolina (USC) made headlines for offering a credit-bearing course entitled “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.” The objective of the course was to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.”[22] Because USC is an accredited institution, any course offered at the school is thereby also accredited.
USC is not alone in offering college credit for courses of questionable academic rigor and value. Indeed, courses such as “The Science of Superheroes,”[23] “Gay and Lesbian Caribbean Literature,”[24] and “Cyberfeminism” are offered at UC Irvine, Syracuse, and Cornell, respectively—all of which are accredited universities.[25] And at Bowdoin College, students can take a “Women’s Studies” course (for credit, of course) that asks: “Is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony a marvel of abstract architecture culminating in a gender-free paean to human solidarity, or does it model the process of rape?”[26]

     Because accreditors don’t do their job (more accurately, “don’t do the job they’re supposed to do”), schools primarily self-report their legitimacy. The “Paper Courses” scandal at UNC is only a tiny shard on a small part of the iceberg of fraud going on in higher education today. There are many colleges where the vast majority of coursework has nothing to do with higher education, above and beyond the highly questionable-sounding courses mentioned above.

     The report continues:

Colleges Insulated from Competition from Higher Education Start-ups. Part of the reason colleges can offer courses of dubious academic rigor or educational value is that the current accreditation process (along with other factors such as easy access to federal student aid) insulates them from the competitive pressures of the market.

     For all its lack of legitimacy once the school is accredited, going through the accreditation process is very time consuming…it takes millions of dollars to pay the ridiculous administrative salaries for the years it takes to get that coveted seal of accreditation. It is a barrier, but as the hugely profitable (and thoroughly scandalous) for-profit higher education scam industry shows, it’s not that much of a barrier.

     No, the problem here isn’t that accreditation is the only problem, it’s also the student loan scam, which the current system of accreditation facilitates.

     So while the report does well to criticize accreditation, it gets a few things wrong; no surprise, since the report isn’t written by any insiders to what’s going on in higher education. I’ll cover some more details that are “off a bit” next time.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Professor Criticizes Higher Ed, Uses Real Name: Pt 2

By Professor Doom

     So, a professor critical of what’s going on in education, and making the mistake of using his real name for such criticism, was, allegedly punished by admin by having all his e-mails for the last few years leaked. I have to say “allegedly” for now, but the leak came so quickly on the heels of his criticisms, that it sure looks like retaliation, and only admin would have quick access to his old e-mails. If years of other professors’ old e-mails regularly leaked out, I might be inclined to call this a coincidence, but, c’mon now.

     Anyway, last time around we read his private e-mails to see that he, like many, are starting to ask real questions about what’s going on in our culture today. Sometimes he’s not very nice about his questions…but I remind the gentle reader these were private e-mails about private thoughts—not on the same level of Climategate, where private e-mails revealed collusion about strong-arming scientific journals into not publishing anything disputing global warming.

     The Professor has taken much abuse for the following (the “transcript” has numerous redactions, but take it at face value for now, anyone wishing to not be offended should stop reading):

Goodness, what different times.

Today, [A PERSON] told me of a problem at [A COMPANY]. Some harlot [A WOMAN] went back to a room party when her key would not work and waiting, went to sleep on the bed. Another [PERSON AT THAT COMPANY] put his penis in her mouth, as you do, and she called the police.

I told [A PERSON] she was a worthless slut who will now cause this poor chap, who certainly did not adhere to Debretts , years of imprisonment with big black chaps because she is a worthless slut who should not have been there. In Dubai, she would be locked up as well. The muzzies are not all wrong about this.

--I concede language like “worthless slut” is harsh, but it’s quite obvious to me that he’s on familiar terms with the person he’s e-mailing, and it’s almost certain the “slut” knew quite well the cad who inserted the penis…probably knew the cad in a Biblical sense, if you take my meaning. I’d be reluctant to put that organ in the mouth of someone I wasn’t quite confident wouldn’t bite, after all. (Hey, I wonder if anyone will give me grief for calling the guy a cad? I guess not, since he’s male…). 

     Not knowing all the details, I’m hard pressed to attach any relevance to this passage; it’s just some personal e-mail that doesn’t concern me, and certainly has nothing to do with a curriculum review. These passages are supposedly the reason why a curriculum review is being negated, after all.

     “Muzzie” is apparently a derogatory term for “Muslim”, or at least it’s taken to be such. Seeing as the Professor is agreeing with “the muzzies”, I’m not convinced it’s all that derogatory here.

     The Professor is also taking heat for daring to say anything against a transgendered:

Red Lantern is excellent and [a friend] had reserved for us 'the special table', partitioned off from the rabble. We must go there some time. Told me a story about a [woman who chose to gender transition to] a man, from [Female name] to [Male name].

I'll give you the full details when next we meet. Not having children preserves you from these alarms and excursions. The poor mother, in her 80s, is still alive and struggling to come to terms with this, as you can imagine. 'Stop calling me [woman’s name], Ma, I'm [a man’s name] now. [Woman’s name] doesn't exist anymore' [all this in a bass voice].

--I again emphasize these are personal e-mails sent to friends, what one says informally, particularly when OBVIOUSLY making a joke, is hardly relevant to one’s general character. One could just as fairly look at this and say the man has incredible compassion for the elderly, to worry so much about a mother he’s never met. Of course, in today’s society, compassion for the elderly is bad, far worse than lack of compassion for the transgendered. Yet the Australian media is seriously trying to make something of this.

Today I went to the first graduation ceremony at which I have seen the new Chancellor in action. Apart from the fact that she is utterly lacking in any ceremonial gravitas and speaks in mangled often difficult-to-hear sentences, she managed to use ‘alumni’ as a singular noun: ‘I was very proud of alumni who won an award,’ she said.

Now, this woman has a BEc (Pass) degree, so one does not expect her to be a skilled Latinist. But if there are two words that would, one imagines, be repeatedly on her lips, they would be ‘alumnus’ and ‘alumni’. And she doesn’t know the difference.
But, hey, she’s a WOMAN and from the Big End of Town, so who cares about such academic pedantry at a conferring of degrees ceremony. Lighten up! It’s only a university after all.

--Professor Spurr is hardly alone in wondering why so many administrators represent themselves of being incredibly ignorant of things that, gee whiz, they should know about. Professor Spurr is also hardly alone in noticing the rampant pro-female sexism of higher education. Again, for some reason, the media neglects this snippet.

“I have long said that about 10% of those currently enrolled at Australian universities should be at a university. James Athanasou argues today in the Herald that 5% is the figure. I think he's closer to the mark, as standards continue to slide and degrees - especially generalist ones - become increasingly worthless”

--I’ve commented before that Australian higher education, much like the US, is in serious trouble. Why is it bad for a professor to realize this?

     Just one more snippet:

These are the people whose 'ancient wisdom', our V-C says, we should respect, and to whom we apologise on every possible occasion and whose rich culture we bow down before, confessing our wickedness in our mistreatment of them.

--This is in reference to a free home given to an aboriginal family, which they aren’t caring for responsibly. In much the same way I see no need to apologize for slavery (because my family came here in the late 19th century), and thus rather resent the apologizing I’m forced to support, I rather see how Professor Spurr might express the occasional resentment for similar silliness. His mistake isn’t not being sufficiently culturally sensitive, his mistake was not realizing just how vicious administration would be in retaliation for his criticism.

     One more snippet, because it isn’t a snippet:

--the entire private e-mail was redacted, and yet, somehow, the media actually takes this “quote” (sic) at face value? I don’t want to say “conspiracy theory”, but am I the only one to think something’s fishy here? Who among my gentle readers has never had a negative word to say about a boss? I try to be fairly accurate in my descriptions of the bosses in higher education, but I daresay, in anger at their fraud and incompetence, I’ve sometimes used unprofessional words that are less than accurate. Well, less than literally accurate, anyway.

     So now the professor is being called a man of low morals, among other unpleasant names, and his criticisms of what’s going on in higher education are being negated. And, of course, he’s suspended, pending a (nigh-literal, again) kangaroo court hearing where he’ll probably lose his job.

     Poor fool. He’s been around long enough to know that criticizing the plundering rapaciousness of education in any way is a career-ending mistake…if you attach your real name to the criticism, that is. Saying mean things about people doesn’t help, I admit…but does that really mean there are no worthwhile criticisms in education today?


Friday, November 21, 2014

Professor Criticizes Higher Ed, Uses Real Name: Oops!

By Professor Doom

     I’ve seen many professors criticize what administration is doing, and I’ve seen them punished severely, every time. Even straightforward criticisms like “The Dean’s girlfriend shouldn’t get that job over someone with actual qualifications” is basically a career-ending mistake, as too few legitimate faculty exist to stand against even the most miscreant behavior. 

     Even tenured professors with long and distinguished careers are in immediate jeopardy if they dare try to do anything about the various madnesses infecting higher education. Today, I’ll like to introduce my gentle readers to Barry Spurr, an Australian Professor of Poetry of some note, who dared voice a criticism of the multiculturalism in Australian education in a curriculum review:

     Australian education, like in the US, has been infested with Educationists. While here we have an over-reliance on Gender Studies and African Studies coursework (together demonizing the white male), Australia, it seems, devotes considerable time and appreciation to the aborigine culture there, to the detriment (in Professor Spurr’s learned opinion), of other fields of knowledge and other cultures.  

--“Abo” is short for “Aborigine”

     Professor Spurr had numerous other criticisms, but little different than anything said elsewhere. Australian administrators are every bit as vicious as the ones here. Ok, that’s just conjecture on my part, but, somehow, days after his criticisms, Professor Spurr’s private e-mails from long ago were released to the public, and, somehow, the media was instantly perfectly confident the e-mails were legitimate, and thus these e-mails were quickly published.

     I find it curious that when government agencies get hacked, the media takes a long, hard, time before releasing any information they get, but this guy’s e-mails were released instantly. Hmm.

     I mean, seriously, the time between “criticism” and “private e-mails released” is so short that it’s hard not to consider this as some sort of retaliation. These e-mails reveal some, shall we say, “indelicate racial humor”, as well as further criticism of goings on.

     I concede Spurr’s defense is pretty feeble. That said, we’re talking 2 years' worth of e-mails here…it’s highly curious that nobody in the media suspects an ulterior motive, or is able to figure out a possible source (hint: administration has full access to all e-mail accounts). Spurr claims the e-mail snippets were taken out of context, and, alas, the media isn’t providing complete transcripts (“for ethical reasons”—I’m glad I wasn’t drinking milk when I read that!). So, despite Spurr’s odd defense, the unwillingness of the source to provide full transcripts, just the parts that make Spurr look bad, leaves me little choice but to at least consider Spurr’s defense.

     Let’s look at a few quotes of what he privately said to see what got the good professor immediately suspended, and is, somehow, being used to justify negating what he had to say about the curriculum review. While no defense is necessary, I’ll add some comments:

Good series on SBS about the Amish in these weeks. Once in their lives, as late teens, they go in a group from Pennsylvania into 'the world' for a few weeks. The progam showed four of them, two boys, two girls, going to the UK this year for this excursion. The juxtaposition of these impeccably mannered, demurely dressed, softly spoken, intelligent (and not self-righteous or morbidly pious) youngsters up against the reality of modern-day Brit was as fascinating as it was terrible.

--How DARE the good professor suggest that devout Christians are in any way superior to British youth and their government education! While most media reports ignore this quote, I think it’s a good quote, since it tells me Professor Spurr is looking up from his books and asking questions about the possibility that what’s going on in government schools is Not A Good Thing. I must continue this passage, because it’s so revealing of Professor Spurr’s character:

This week came the most ironic moment of all. They had gone to spend a week with some minor nobility in their Scottish castle. These toffs consisted of divorced mum and four teenagers - the two girls looking and sounding like low-grade Soho whores (caked with makeup and mascara, grubby denim micro-mini-skirts and 'you know', 'yeah', 'like', 'kinda wow' etc) and the boys, monosyllabic scruffy slobs. 

After every segment, the program has the Amish youngsters commenting on what they're experiencing and this week's took the cake, in this context. It was one of the Amish girls, pretty, fresh-faced, squeaky-clean, beautifully, softly spoken in grammatical sentences and, of course, in a long dress and hair neatly groomed. And this is what she said, while the whores and louts were lounging and cavorting in the distant background: 'We have been very privileged to meet these high class British people. Their world is very different from ours. I never thought I would come to such a place and meet such people of the high class'. High class!!

Hilarious, and she was so innocent I don't think she saw the irony of her well-mannered phrase, as the scum of the earth were behind her. The only class act was hers.

--The Professor is being castigated for the use of “whore”, but, again, I want to remind the gentle reader that this is a private e-mail, not a formal discussion. And again, it’s clear the Professor is questioning what’s going on in the world. Does anyone else remember when the British Isles were famous for their politeness and civilized nature? Now, nigh-literally, it’s the Luddites who are the civilized. Why doesn’t media mention this passage at all? Hmm.

     Unlike the media, I’ll show both sides of the good professor’s private e-mails, focusing on the more negative ones next time.