Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Food Banks Rescuing College Professors

By Professor Doom

    Few outside my blog realize that the typical college professor is an “adjunct”, a minimally paid, no-benefits, “temporary” worker that can easily be temporary for a decade or more. Even with college tuition rising, and rising, and rising, college administrators, when asked about the abuse they give to educators, are told that “budget considerations” just don’t allow them to pay the educators much.

      Then the administrators get in their new BMWs, and drive back to their 6 bedroom, 4 bath, homes before flying to exotic locations for weekend, “leadership building” corporate retreats.

My college will not approve unemployment benefits for adjunct professors between semesters; I’ve tried to get it. Although I teach the same, or more, number of classes per year as “full-time” faculty, giving more than a decade of top-notch service to the college, and I am scheduled to teach my classes every semester, year-round, I’m classified as part-time faculty. Like the earnings of countless other adjunct professors, my annual earnings are below the poverty level.

--most adjuncts cannot apply for unemployment benefits between semesters, even though they are receiving no checks and are in all ways unemployed.

      In Colorado, the adjunct situation is particularly bad. The adjuncts there were not even allowed to participate in national Adjunct Walkout Day (last February 25; anyone see this on the news? I try to follow higher education, and saw not a tiny blurb…), because of their job classification.

      Adjuncts are paid so little that local food banks are helping them specifically:

      What exactly is going on in higher education that the workers now have to rely on food banks just to get by? These people have advanced degrees, were told all their lives that “education is key” to prosperity…and can’t even feed themselves, even though they’re in the exact career their education is for.

…the annual average wage for FRCC adjunct faculty remains thousands below the minimum living wage* for Colorado’s front-range communities. This low wage qualifies many FRCC adjunct teachers for food stamps, food-banks, indigent health-care cards and other resources. **

Join our food bank visits.
Get some groceries.
Meet with colleagues.

      Yeah, maybe some questions need to be asked about how higher education is being run. When “meet with colleagues” means “go to the food bank”, you know it has to be bad. It really is system-wide:

“…adjunct (part-time) faculty teach 70 -85% of all the courses offered within the Colorado Community College System.”

     The largely impotent American Association of University Professors is trying to do something for the adjuncts, and is helping with flyers and such. Too bad they can’t make edible flyers, I’m sure the adjuncts would get some use out of those. 
     Much like I’ve said before, the problem is higher education is no longer run by educators, instead it’s run by an administrative caste that simply cares nothing for education, and is primarily involved in feathering its own nest as comfortably as possible. If we’d just go back to the “old” system, where administrators were drawn from, and returned to, faculty, then this level of administrative abuse would no longer be possible (and, hey, the students could get an education, which is deeply unlikely in community college today, as the previous link addresses in some detail).

     Anyway, the AAUP can’t do much. An Adjunct Cookbook helps a little:
“…Included are recipe categories such as “The Frappes of Wrath” and “Nobucks Coffee Drinks.” Recipes calling for beef scraps, bruised tomatoes, orange peelings and chicken bones point to a workforce living on the edge. “Cracked Windshield” is a mint drink based on cracked Lifesaver candies. “If Only” is a gin-and-tonic sans gin. “Sliding-Toward-Despair Asian Sliders” are, perforce, small and inexpensive to make….”

--the cookbook also gives the real facts on just how abusive the adjunct situation is, and how it happened:

--the faculty really do know what the problem is in higher education, we’re just in no position to do anything about it anymore.

     But adjuncts just can’t get benefits, or even unemployment checks. No money in the system, you see. Too bad.

      Now, daylong strikes, flyers, and cookbooks are all well and good, but I’m just a little too cynical to believe admin will stop eating their truffle-stuffed-steak-stuffed-Dodo-bird-stuffed-lobsters long enough to even notice things like that.

      I’m not wild about laws, either, but I at least appreciate a law might make a difference:

      The above link is from last year. Too bad the law failed to pass. Oh well. I guess no chance someone will take my advice for just changing the system so that administrators and faculty are the same people, like it was before the student loan scam warped everything? No?

      Thank goodness for those food banks, so our most educated people won’t starve while they help our children get the education they need to get good jobs…where, apparently, they’ll need food banks just to get by.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Another Top Teacher Resigns

By Professor Doom

     I’m hardly alone in suspecting something has gone terribly wrong in education. John Taylor Gatto has done an amazing job of explaining what’s going on, identifying that our current system is designed to keep people ignorant, through a process of enstupidation. Beyond his excellent writing, I find what he has to say important because he has important credentials: he wasn’t just a teacher, he received big awards for being an excellent teacher.

      This is important to me, because it was something I noticed in graduate school, and in the years immediately following grad school: the smart people were getting the heck out of academia. I noticed it at the time, but my sagaciousness fused with my stupidity, preventing me from connecting the dots: I figured I’d look better on the curve if there were less geniuses to compete with me.

      Now, of course, I realize I should have taken the hint, and followed in the footsteps of the smarter people. That said, I don’t regret continuing my studies of mathematics, climbing upon the shoulders of the giants of mathematical thought that have come before me, and seen things only those few who also struggled through the climb have ever seen.

     “Yo, teach!”

     “Excuse me, professor.”

---one of these is the greeting I received many times when at a school of ill repute that mostly just ripped off students that didn’t know better. The other is from a more respectable school. I’ve leave the gentle reader to ponder, and guess which came from which.

     I also don’t regret teaching; it’s honorable work, and when I’m at a legitimate school, I know I’m actually helping people to achieve their goals, or at least there’s a chance I’m helping. Sometimes I even get people to climb up with me and see the wonders of mathematics, though I’m content if I only help them to achieve their goals, if not also my own.

      So, it worries me greatly when a teacher, one of obvious passion and ability, decides to leave the profession, not because of a higher calling, but because the teacher no longer feels there’s honor in the profession.

      Much like police officers against the drug war, or psychiatric practitioners against psychiatry, it worries me quite a bit when there’s a movement within a profession to give up (or reduce) their paychecks, because they realize the profession is doing harm.
      John Taylor Gatto is not a movement, of course…but it’s happened again:

Nation's Top Teacher Drops Resignation Bomb: "I Can't Drill 'em and Kill 'em"

     So, once again, we’ve got a top teacher who has had enough. While Gatto left because he had learned that public/government education was harming students, this top teacher’s reasons are a bit different:

What is even more insidious, is that special needs students have been left out of the mix to fall by the wayside. By that I mean, while they are normally allowed to have helps for their disability (like having the test read aloud), they are not allowed any such thing with PARCC. Which means that PARCC is acting outside and above the law with a "survival of the fittest" standard. Starr demonstrates the irony of all the children becoming "left behind" in this new system.

      Her issues aren’t merely with the insane standardized testing that is much of government education today, but also with the bizarre Common Core “standards” that honestly seem designed to (further) debilitate the ability of our children to think, to understand information they receive, and to distinguish the occasional glimmer of truth from the tsunami of lies. I’ve certainly written of some of the critical problems of Common Core, myself, so I understand her valid concerns.

     One of her reasons for quitting, however, I can’t entirely get behind:

“I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere,” adding, “I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive.” 

     I certainly agree the “one size fits all” pace is a bad idea to apply to every child in the country (doesn’t that seem, well, obvious?), but what’s so wrong with “drill ‘em and kill ‘em”?

     Students are flooding onto campuses with literally no measurable knowledge, no noticeable skills. More importantly, they don’t have a clue how to gain knowledge, how to gain skills. Google is great for looking up information, mind you, but honest, after 12 years of even government education, students should know something without having to look it up. How many “man on the street” interviews with people that obviously don’t know even basic facts must we all laugh at, before realizing that these ignorant people are products of the modern school system?

       In addition to some actual skills and knowledge, our students should also have some memory of how to learn things, how to learn skills. Unfortunately, skills are only gained through practice. Yes, it’s dull. Yes, it takes time and concentration (and that means turning the cell phone off for a bit).

      And no, we don’t do that in schools any more, and our top teachers are quitting the profession at the thought having students do what it takes, what it has always taken since the dawn of civilization, to gain skills.

      So, I’m sorry to see a top teacher leave, and I worry that it will start a movement where we lose all the best people.

       But what worries me more? Nobody in the comments asked “how are our children supposed to learn skills if they don’t actually do any drills?” I ask the gentle reader to consider an 8th grade exam from a century ago, and realize that everything on that exam is learned through drill, study, and practice…activities that no longer exist in our schools, and that our teachers would quit rather than perform.

      Realize also that almost nobody can do any part of that exam today. The valuable skills of a century ago are not valued today, but most people escape school with no skills comparable to anything on that old test that would be of value today. Ask yourself if maybe, indeed, something has gone horribly wrong in education.

     Our best teachers are asking themselves that question, and deciding to do something else.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Unaccredited, For Profit…And Very Legitimate

By Professor Doom

     So a new type of school has popped up to fill the enormous demand for people with computer skills, a demand that is completely unmet by the many bogus “computer science” programs in our schools of higher education.

      Let’s go over some of Hack Reactor’s policies, which are fairly comparable to other such schools:

     First, not everyone with a pulse gets in. A student has to demonstrate that he’s interested in learning, and has already learned the basics, to the satisfaction of Hack Reactor, before they accept the student. Open admissions--in exchange for sweet, sweet, student loan checks!--has done much to destroy higher education. Like old school accreditation, Hack Reactor has real admission requirements. If higher education would tell students up front “hey, you need to have an interest in learning to come here”, our institutions could do more than just jerk students around for years until the loan money runs out, and we’d do better than the 10% or so graduation rates that are so common to our state/non-profit/for-profit schools.

     Second, the curriculum is legitimate. There’s none of this idiocy where students are only expected to spend maybe 2 hours a week sitting in a classroom, with no studying or anything like that after they leave the classroom. In the legitimate, unaccredited school, students spend 8 hours or more a day (wow, that’s almost like real work) actually DOING and LEARNING relevant things. This concept is completely alien to higher education, which has been taken over by a broken student as customer paradigm that doesn’t dare ask students to study, that actually adjusts its programs to facilitate student partying, and that punishes faculty who actually try to push students ahead to become something better. 

     These “real job” schools don’t need student/customers, since they only accept students that legitimately come to learn. They also don’t waste time on history, or philosophy, or the like. Nothing wrong with such subjects, mind you…but this is about job skills. There’s just no reason, if the student is there strictly to learn job skills, to teach anything besides job skills.

Admin: “We’re going to address the budget shortfall from hiring the new Associate Student Resources Dean by increasing the cost of a parking tag by $5. We sell about 20, 000 tags a year, and that should cover most of it…”

--Quality education is just never on the table, admin thinks only of growth. If the student base doesn’t grow, the school won’t have enough money to pay the new deanling’s guaranteed pay raises (faculty get no such guarantee). If the student base shrinks, well, then, guess they’ll have to let go of faculty, because you obviously need less faculty if you have less students. Meanwhile, coding schools have no bloated, overpaid caste of administrators to support…

     The third highlight is cost: between $5,000 and $20,000, for a 12 week program. Yes, that’s steep, but still far below a university education, which runs around $100,000 for four years (and with that much time involved, lost wages is a very legitimate part of the cost, tacking on another $50,000 at least…then add 50% more since 6 years is the average amount of time to get a degree). Rather than waste 4 years of students’ lives learning endless worthless material, these guys focus on job skills, and make the students actually work for those skills. 

     Since they’re not accredited, coding schools have to actually get the money legitimately, without the student loan scam. Unlike “accredited” schools, Hack Reactor has the balls integrity to finance tuition themselves, getting their tuition money back within six months of graduation (heh, compare that to the nightmare of endless student loans that drag on for a lifetime—more people have student loans outstanding than there are college students right now!). 

     Restricted admissions, students perform legitimate coursework, decent cost, no overpaid Poo-Bahs. All of these things are the exact opposite of higher education today’s model of “open admissions, bogus coursework, high price”. Educationists have warped higher education to the monstrosity it is today; by their theories, going back to these abandoned ideas would be a disaster.

     So how do these unaccredited schools perform? Amazingly well! These schools are ridiculously successful; job placement rates can break 90%, and starting graduate salaries can break $80,000 on average. As mentioned before, they do well enough to give guarantees:

--why would anyone go to university to learn computer programming job skills with this kind of deal on the table? 20% of the cost, 15% of the time, and a freakin’ job…or your money back. You think they’ll go ‘open admission’ anytime soon? You wanna bet their graduates are respected in the industry? What do you reckon the odds are they have effective teachers, and not a lot of crappy exorbitantly paid deanlings running Institutes of Sexually Sustainable Partying and other bizarre fiefdoms?

    You really think the grossly overpaid Poo Bahs that control higher education are paying any attention to these types of schools? You think they’ll copy the obvious, successful ideas of “restrict admission, make students work, and make the work relevant” to their job training degree programs? You think they’ll stop taking all those sweet Federal student loan money checks? Of course not, every single one of those ideas would cut into receiving government money that doesn’t care in the least about quality.

     Higher education insists the only way to keep afloat is to have courses with hundreds, even a thousand students for each course. What do the unaccredited schools manage?

--I doubt there’s a university anywhere with a 1:4 ratio, not with schools adding more administrators than students or faculty.

      No, Poo Bahs won’t turn down Federal checks under any circumstance, and the money comes so easily that there’s just no need to be legitimate, or to care in any way about education. Meanwhile, private enterprise can and will do what the broken higher education system cannot do, even with hundreds of billions of dollars handed to the latter.

      Oh, one more kick in the jimmies: you’d think these high tech computer “schools” would do it all online right? They’re run by computer guys with the skills to create online sites, so they totally could do it if they thought it was effective. Most of them don’t do anything online. Only one of the top schools has online training—but it’s 1 on 1 with a personal mentor, instead of the idiotic “multiple choice test you take at home, and we beg you not to use your smartphone to get the answers” nonsense that accredited schools use. 

     Even the computer guys know online coursework is bogus, and that the fastest way to learn advanced skills is to have another human being show you how. You think these guys waste a lot of time with Powerpoints and fill-in-the-bubble foolishness? They’ve got a guarantee of a job to keep, after all, and so they know that such “education” methods just create bogus graduates that nobody will hire. 

     Hmm, it really becomes more and more obvious what a scam higher education is today the more and more you look at legitimate schools.

     These for-profit schools are engaging in policies that are the exact opposite of our state, “non profit” schools, are incredibly effective, and their graduates are desired in the modern workforce, to the point that they can guarantee their graduates actually know something worthwhile in the marketplace of jobs.

     The unaccredited schools, not so coincidentally, are engaging in the policies of accreditation of a century ago, back when an accredited school was a good school. Back then, accreditation meant small classes and “respectable entrance requirements”, and graduates from accredited schools were respected. Accreditation of today requires nothing relating to education…and we have graduates from accredited schools standing in the streets with signs, because nobody wants them, and these graduates have no hope of paying back their student loans.

      Today, standard higher education moves more and more material online, has less and less instructors available to help students, tuition goes ever and ever higher…and moves further and further away from any relevance or desirability at all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Unaccredited Schools Doing What Our Colleges Will Not

By Professor Doom

     While our institutions of higher education are failing so badly that even Starbucks is setting up schools for its employees, new “bootcamp” schools are opening up to teach actual relevant job skills to our college graduates. What’s happened?

     Wayyyy back in the past, a university education and degree was a big deal. To get one, you had to take 45 or so classes, and to pass those classes, you had to freakin’ WORK. Spending 15 hours a week in the classroom, and 25 or more hours a week studying (more when it was time for exams), was typical…and a student had to maintain this level of effort for years to get that degree.

      Higher education has been so diluted today that students scarcely spend a minute more on classwork beyond simply showing up for class, if that much. Administrators in higher education want it that way, I promise you.

Admin: “Our Tuesday/Thursday courses have a much lower retention rate than our Monday/Wednesday/Friday courses. Why is this so?”
--admin doesn’t care about education, but does care about retention, passing rates. So the community college does surveys and interviews to find out the answer to this question. This is a multi-part anecdote demonstrating what happened in higher education: first, admin sees retention is low.

      Now, back in this mythic past, it was very clear that degree holders, any degree, generally made more money in high paying jobs, and so it came to pass that “You need a degree to get a high paying job” became a cliché for our culture, even though it’s a lie. The truth? The kind of people what will work very hard for four years to learn and understand the thoughts and skills of the greatest of humanity’s thinkers just tend to be more successful, is all.

     Anyway, because of this lie, “higher education” became more and more associated with “jobs” even if the reality is nothing of the sort. Higher education degrees in the past were designed to give people the skills that the “great men” (apologies for any implied sexism here, just bear with me) of history had.

Faculty: “Based on the responses so far, we’ve found that many students skip Friday classes, and, because they don’t come to class on Friday, they also tend to skip Thursday classes.”
Admin: “They’re skipping a class a week from either type of course. Why is this an issue? Retention should be the same either way.”
Faculty: “Uh, because ultimately these students are missing half of the Tuesday/Thursday courses, but only 1/3 of the Monday/Wednesday/Friday courses.”
Faculty: “There’s another factor….”
--Second, admin tries to figure out why retention is low. They usually need help.

     These great men tended to be well read…so a degree holder had to read many books. Great men tended to speak, read, and write more than one language….so a degree holder had to have the ability to do the same. Great men tended to have knowledge of science, mathematics, politics, and history…and so a degree holder had to know these things, as well. It takes years of study and hard work to know the things the great men of the past knew.

      But, none of this stuff is particularly useful for a “job”, which we’re trained from childhood to want to get, given to us by an “employer” (curiously, our children receive no training in how to be self-sufficient…I encourage the gentle reader to consider on his own, why that is the case).

Faculty: “The other reason students do poorly in the Tuesday/Thursday classes is because most students spend no time whatsoever in study outside of class. Effectively, this means that students have more opportunity to forget material over the 5 day “break” between Thursday of one week and Tuesday of the next, as opposed to the three day “break” between Friday and Monday.”
Admin: “Good. Have the faculty reduce content to allow for this, with most material on Monday/Wednesday, and the same material in those two days being as much as on Tuesday.”

--Third, admin does what it takes to improve retention. Yes, reducing the material really did improve retention rates (and the sweet, sweet, student loan checks flowing into administrative pockets), but I really didn’t think it was giving the “real” students a fair deal. I stupidly opened my mouth on this issue, and was penalized for it. This is all higher education is today, at most schools.

      And so higher education has become something of a shell game: students are told they need higher education to get a job, but very little of what goes on in a university really helps for getting a job.

      This “education means jobs” mythology is particularly exploited on community college campuses, where much fraud and lies are used to cover up the simple fact that college doesn’t really have that much to do with a job.

      My own favorite example of the shell game involves a course called “Business Calculus”. That sure sounds like a math course for business majors, right? Nope; it’s a very watered down calculus course, and nothing in it helps to run a business (I used to be part owner of a restaurant, and I PROMISE you, nothing in that course relates to business). It has better retention than “real” calculus, though is pretty useless overall.

      Anyway, the “college for jobs” fraud isn’t just a problem because of the massive student loan debts that are destroying our youth, it’s also a problem because, well, businesses actually do need students with skills. I mentioned before that McDonalds, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart are getting around the fraud by offering their own jobs training “universities”, which should really be a red flag to the “titans of industry” getting paid a million a year apiece to run our institutions of higher education…but it is not.

      Really, we should cut student debt by firing these Poo Bahs, but that’s not today’s topic.

      Today’s topic is the real world is finally waking up to the massive scam of higher education, realizing jobs training is not going to happen in higher education, and the corporate world is responding.

       If you have a job, then hopefully your employer will see to the training that you can’t get in higher education…but this does nothing for the many unemployed.
     One of the biggest gaps in job skills right now is in computers. Higher education has failed here; I used to be a computer science major, but once I saw that every semester I was going to learn another dead computer language (Fortran, Lisp…and can’t even recall the others) that would do me no good with my computer at home, much less in the “real” world, I switched to mathematics—a topic that’s been pretty stable the last few thousand years. But I digress.

     Any viewing of the want ads shows there’s a HUGE demand for people with computer skills. One more anecdote: the IT department at one school I was at had no trouble finding people with computer degrees, but we fired these guys every year because they had no skill. The only time we kept an IT guy more than a semester or two was when he was self-taught what to do--but we paid so little that keeping them once they had some experience was tough. And, yes, the school had a computer science program…our own students couldn’t do a thing to help the school.

      You really, really, think the Poo Bahs would take the fact that they wouldn’t even hire their own graduates to do the job as a hint that they are failing, badly. I mean, the school boasted of how their computer science program would get people jobs…but wouldn’t hire those poor suckers. But I digress, again.

      So, a huge market for computer skills, and higher education does nothing. Can a “school” open up to train students in computer skills, successfully? The Pooh Bahs of higher education say it’s impossible, because of all the regulation. They’re paid so much, they must know what they’re talking about right?


     Consider Hack Reactor as a template for how this is working, although there are others. These guys, coding schools, aren’t part of the accreditation scam, so no free money from the government: the only way they can succeed is to be legitimate.

      It’s so funny to read how these specialized schools are using all the ideas that higher education used to use, before the student loan scam flooded it with money and plundering administrators.

      Next time we’ll take a look at these unaccredited, for-profit schools, and see how they operate. From the media, the gentle reader has doubtless been trained to believe that “unaccredited” means “bogus” and “for-profit” means “fraud”. This blog has shown, many times, that “accredited for-profit” schools are typically the most bogus, most fraudulent schools around (followed with alarming closeness by community colleges).

      The reality of what education can be when you take out the student loan scam is amazing. We’ll see next time, but I’ll drop one more hint: 90% job placement rate (they guarantee jobs or a tuition refund for a reason!).