Sunday, May 29, 2016

University Teacher Training Has Gender Unicorns

By Professor Doom

      It’s been a long time, but I still remember the training I received to teach at the university level, despite the clear fact that my memory isn’t what it used to be. The reason I recall this training is because it was fairly simple:

“Here’s the syllabus. You can pick up a copy of the text from the departmental secretary.”

     Aaaand that was it. I didn’t receive lectures on “different modes of learning” or other Educationist claptrap. What was important to my job was making sure I covered that syllabus, that I prepared my students by helping them learn the material that would allow them to address even more difficult concepts.

      Prepare the student for more advanced learning. This was the purpose of higher education decades ago, and it was even written into the rules of accreditation back then (though such rules have long since been removed, as they cut into growth).

      A few months after I started teaching, a film crew came in and recorded my lecture, which in turn was reviewed by mathematics faculty. It was a reasonable enough process, one that was abandoned in favor of (incompetent and ignorant) administrative oversight.

     That’s not to say I didn’t go to workshops and such…these weren’t mandatory, but I was told they had useful information.

“Would you teach a pedophile? A murderer? A rapist? An African-American?”

---questions I had to answer on a quiz, in writing, at a teacher training workshop, circa 1993. I’d try to count the number of ways such a quiz was idiotic, but I have insufficient mathematical training to do so.

      These workshops were run not by faculty but instead by the new breed of administrator that began taking over campuses 20 or so years ago. They were trained in pablum, multiculturalism, to chant “yes I agree” to whatever the head ideologue had to say. And it was very clear they never had to think much.

Black Male: “White people are evil, they get all the breaks. The only way we’ll get anything is to take it by force.”

Black Female: “That’s not true, we can work with them peacefully to get what we should have.”

--excerpt from a whole “example dialogue” between an imaginary couple. Both male and female were amazingly offensive two-dimensional stereotypes. No, the workshop wasn’t on invalid stereotypes, but on learning how “other cultures communicate.” In retrospect, the look of horror on the faces of some members of the diverse attendees was pretty funny…just not at the time.

      Almost invariably, these workshops and training seminars are a waste of time. Mercifully, I haven’t had the opportunity to go to one in a few years, but I see they haven’t changed much:

--click on the link if you want to a picture of the bizarre purple beast they’re using as a teaching aid.

      I don’t watch it as much as I used to, but South Park is pretty funny, with much of the humor coming from its exposure of barely-hidden truths in our culture. Thus I laughed when South Park’s “Sexual Harassment Panda” came onto the screen, as I knew it was not a joke…this is the sad truth of the capacity of our Educationists to present information.

     The Sexual Harassment Panda was at least for children…but what of this unicorn, to help adults learn?

At the University of Minnesota, teaching assistants (TAs) in the college of Public Health are forced to sit through a job training seminar on gender identity and sexual orientation that uses a mascot known as, “The Gender Unicorn”.

“The Gender Unicorn” has two different colored hearts centered on it’s [sic] chest, and has a DNA strand near it’s [sic] genitalia. In addition, the mascot has a thinking bubble that depicts a rainbow.

     I grant that Educationist-run workshops are insulting to the average intelligence, but…damn, to sit there and have a purple unicorn teach you things? As an adult. It boggles the mind.

“The mandatory training seminar…”

     The above is only a few words, but it says so much about how things have changed. As a teaching assistant, I was invited to training seminars…now it’s so well known how atrocious teacher training seminars are that they are mandatory. We all know how insulting these things are on any level, nobody wants to go to them, but they are mandatory, a word that is all too common in higher education today.

     There’s more to it than that, however. When I was a TA, the Educationist/Administrative chokehold wasn’t so strong, and they didn’t have the power to force people to sit down and be insulted for hours on end, with no recourse.

      They have that power now, and show no reluctance to use it. Higher education is clearly not the better for this training:

Instead of “gendering anatomy” by saying things like “a man’s penis, or a women’s uterus”, you have to say “a person with a penis” or “folks with a uterus”

     Seriously, higher education used to be about learning and preparation for learning…and now it’s about “folks with a uterus.” Who’s responsible for this idiocy?

“The Gender Unicorn” was created by Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER). According to their website, TSER is “a youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment.”

     Part of the reason higher education is so expensive today is our campuses are loaded down with expensive fiefdoms…the student pays dearly to have his teachers indoctrinated in purple-unicorn platitudes. He must pay for this because it’s mandatory, you see.

      Part of the reason higher education is so ineffectual today is these expensive fiefdoms have actual power, the power to indoctrinate teachers, the power to warp classes away from education, and towards unicorns with DNA helixes on their genitals.

      This type of madness goes on nearly every month, on nearly every campus in this country, but only rarely does it make the news. Why is that?


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rerun: The Farce of Education

 A rerun, yes, but worth reconsidering in light of some recent posts:
The Farce of Education as a field of study

“My Ph.D. thesis, which was the only thesis that was shown to be true, showed that students who study tend to learn more.”

Quote from an Education expert who came to tell us how to teach better. It isn’t simply that this was considered a Ph.D. level thesis that worries me, it’s all the wrong theses that still nevertheless led to successfully awarding a Ph.D. in Education.


    With all the new suckers pouring into the system, one might think that all the new data from incoming students would lead to breakthroughs, real improvements in how course content is delivered, leading to better and easier learning by the students. A field that might do something like this is called Education, a field that has exploded in influence the last twenty years; its practitioners are Educationists, and their numbers have likewise grown.

     The study of how humans learned used to be part of psychology,  the domain of psychologists, and is a legitimate mode of inquiry in a legitimate, if often qualitative, field. Education, on the other hand, is more about how to transmit knowledge, or at least it is taught that way. It might be more fair to say Education is more about getting high retention/passing rates, since that’s the entirety of how the field is presented to other faculty.

    Not once in years of being lectured by Educationists have I been told “teach how to graph a line this way, students understand it better,” or “use this method to draw a parabola, it more intuitively relates to the functional definition” or even something as pathetically simple as “here’s a mnemonic for the rational root theorem.” Not once has an Educationist ever told me anything that would help students learn and understand the material in my courses, nor have I seen an Educationist offer up anything directly useful to another course.  Instead, it’s always “give more extra credit assignments that don’t relate to the course, it will get more students passing,” or similar advice that couldn’t possibly require years of study to give.

     Luckily, being at an institution of higher learning, I can go to someone else in my department (i.e., someone that actually knows the subject), and get help in finding additional ways to explain concepts. But Educations seems to have nothing to offer students of any particular discipline.



Student: “Why do I have to learn this crap? I’m only going to be teaching 8 year olds once I get my Education degree.”

Me: “Because the parents of those 8 year olds want the teacher to know more than an 8 year old.”

--I get an Education major that complains to this effect every semester, and my response never gets old. Most all Education majors believe they’ll only teach small children.


     At the undergraduate level, Education majors live in a world of their own, with most all subjects converted to a special format just for this special major. There’s a special Math for Education Majors course, with- few mathematical concepts. As mathematics is a basic skill useful in many fields, perhaps it merits a general course just for education majors. Similarly, many topics in psychology might well be justified as having special courses just for Education majors, and they are offered as such.

     Why are there special Chemistry for Education Majors and special Physics for Education Majors courses? Shouldn’t people planning to teach subjects like chemistry and physics have an actual knowledge of the subject, given to them by people that know the subject? Even music, apparently, is too technical a subject to be handled by specialists in the field, so campuses offer special Music for Education Majors courses as well. In times past, a teacher of a subject was required to actually know the subject, but now a degree in Education is the starting and ending requirement, and knowledge of a real topic no longer is considered necessary. Having directly observed the material in these courses, they really are just highly watered down versions of “real” courses.


“1. If a 12 foot ladder is broken into 3 equal parts, how long is each part?

2. If you go the store and buy a 6-pack for $4.59 and a loaf of bread for $2.20, what is your total bill? Ignore sales tax.”

---final exam questions for a “Math for Education Majors” course I proctored, calculators allowed. The other questions were likewise simplistic, with no requirement to solve them in any particular way (for example, like an 8 year old would solve it). Only the “extra credit” question was arguably at the high school level: “Write as an algebraic expression: A number plus three times the same number is twelve.” No, they didn’t have to solve it.


     The Special Olympics is a fun idea; it’s composed of special events for members of our society that, realistically, aren’t able to compete in the “real” Olympics. There’s nothing wrong with this, but nobody seriously thinks competitors, even winners in the Special Olympics are world-class athletes with much to say to others wishing to learn physical skills.

     Education as a field is basically the Special Olympics of higher education, and most everyone in the industry (outside of Education) knows it; as I showed in an earlier article, Educationists would rather deceive people about their specialization, because their credibility is so low (outside of Administration, and I’ll explain why in a future essay). Nonetheless, this special major with special classes is supposed to be taken seriously.


“Needed: Math tutor.”

“Needed: Chemistry tutor.”

“Needed: Physics tutor.”

“Needed: Writing tutor.”


--various sites and places allow for postings of students needing tutors. I often frequent them, as I occasionally tutor for math. Not once, not one time, has there been a student looking for an Education tutor. As near as I can tell, the field covers no material so difficult that any student would need a tutor to understand and become proficient with it.



     Graduate level Education degrees fare little better. Students entering graduate programs in education commonly score among the lowest on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination, a test comparable to the SAT, but for college graduates; public administration is the only field of study with incoming students often scoring lower than education majors). It’s worth noting that the majority of education programs don’t even require applicants to take the GRE—scores would probably be lower if so. Education majors even score less on the qualitative (English comprehension) part of the GRE than non-native English speakers, and often score abysmally in the other sections1.

     Now, ordinarily it wouldn’t be any concern of mine what goes on in other fields, but Education has a ridiculously powerful influence over what goes on in educational institutions, and that’s where I work, so it matters to me. Administrators are easily enraptured by even the most marginal of Educationist topics, as long as the Educationist promises to deliver what administrators want: retention. It seems every year another new method of teaching at my school is introduced by an Educationist for dubious reasons.


“You should put more writing in your math courses, it will improve retention.”

--typical advice and justification from an Educationist training me how to teach.


     Always, Educationist advice is justified by the increasing the retention (all that matters to administration). Never is education part of the reason; the field really should be called Retention rather than Education. Nevertheless, faculty constantly receive indoctrination lectures in Educationism (administration tells us to be grateful for all the “professional development” they give us), and sometimes we try to take their advice:


“Half a dozen students turned in the same paper, word for word, in my course. One student changed the font, but otherwise, the same paper. There’s even a line in the paper where I think a cat walked across the keyboard, so the text reads ‘the elDLKSNLKNLKNSGectron…”, and no student chose to even edit that out.”

--Physics professor explaining to me how adding writing to his course helped with learning. Any wonder at all how students got used to the idea that if they all turned in the same paper everything would be ok? This type of thing doesn’t happen out of the blue. Catching cheaters cuts into retention, so it’s discouraged by admin.



    Luckily, not everyone is under the influence of this field of study, and allow me to present an example where ignoring Educationists yields many beneficiaries:

     Our written languages are phonetic; the letters on the page represent sounds. Thus, the deaf are at a strong disadvantage when it comes to learning how to read, and only with advanced training by an Educationist can they achieve even high-school level reading skills (with third grade reading level being acceptable even at high school graduation), and it’s basically impossible to for them to learn more than one written language. Any Educationist will happily tell you this, and this is what is still taught in special Education for the Deaf courses.

     Viataal (formerly called The Institute of the Deaf), in Sint-Michielsgestel, The Netherlands, begs to differ. Their deaf children learn to read three languages (Dutch, English, and German), reading at grade level in their native tongue by graduation, and graduating students typically read English at a 9th grade level. Surely such achievements are only possible using the best possible Educationists using the most advanced theories? No, not at all. While the school does have its own theories about how to teach the deaf, they simply do not hire people with education degrees, not even specialists in teaching for the hearing impaired…there are none at the school. Instead, hiring is based on the subject needed. When the school needs a physics teacher, they hire a physicist and train the new teacher on how to teach the deaf2. To that high achieving school, it just makes more sense to have the subject taught by someone that actually knows the subject, and spend a little time training that person how to teach the deaf, rather than spend years training someone in educational gobbledygook, and then have that poor soul try to teach a topic he knows nothing about.


“2 + 12 = 16”

“16 = 16”

“Are these the right answers?”

“Yes. One side equals the other side.”

--Excerpt from Winning at Math, Fourth Edition, page 171, an Educationist book on math. Yes, four editions.


     While perhaps the school for the deaf is some isolated example that only applies in The Netherlands, consider how disastrous various new types of Educationist-spawned reading programs have been for teaching. Homeschoolers use “Hooked on Phonics” and raise children that read, while public schools try “Whole Word” and “Ebonics” methods to churn out children unprepared for the real world, much less college. Similarly, “New Math” has been of little use to helping public school age students. And yet, with this sort of track record, college administrators rapturously accept any idea coming from this field, especially one that improves the all-important retention of college students (and those sweet checks!).

     Should a field with a flawless track record of failure have much influence in the teaching of our young adults in higher education? Should they be teaching our children?

Think about it.






Thursday, May 26, 2016

The True Nature of Community College?

By Professor Doom

     So now we’re looking at a typical “nontraditional” community college student, who has come to campus for the exact reason the community paid for the campus: real job training.

Gert is about done. She has no idea why she needs calculus and art history and chemistry to be a massage therapist…she is having big-time trouble finishing her thirty credit hour [now forty-one credits] certificate.

I don’t want to sound like a jerk here but…not everyone is academically inclined. Community college administrators only care about butts-in-seats, know nothing of education, and don’t care about helping people. And so they set up programs so that even massage therapists are taking “job training” coursework like calculus and chemistry that is utterly idiotic on the face of it…and spending much of their adult lives learning a trade that realistically takes a few months to learn all you need to know, at most.

The results are, of course, predictable:

This was her second try at art history, her third try at calculus [after taking five pre requisite math classes over seven years!], and her first attempt at chemistry…

…Gert had spent nearly eight years working on what should have been a one-year massage therapy program…been receiving Bell Grants, been able to get school loans,…
--by “Bell Grants,” the book means “Pell Grants.” Recall, this book is thinly veiled fiction at best. Every community college has classrooms filled with students like this.

     Does anyone honestly believe this mother-of-four, even if she someday manages to get that massage therapy degree, will actually be able to pay off all those years of loans? Like many student loan victims, she’ll see her social security checks garnished. Imagine how much better off she’d be if her certificate training program was put together by people that actually wanted to help human beings, instead of pitiless administrators out for yet another buck. Gert would have been working for the last 7 years, instead of just handing her loan money to the community college administrators.

     The vast majority, 80% or more on some campuses, of community college students are remedial students. While admin insists that these students can get up to par just by taking a few remedial courses, it’s a well known fact that over 90% of remedial students won’t get their degree within 3 years. Well known to people in higher education, mind you, but admin never tells the remedial student this important information. Instead, admin says “check this box so you can get loans that we know full well are guaranteed to run out before you get the quick degree we’re promising you…” It must be all administration can do not to laugh maniacally every time they screw someone over like this.

     I’ve seen so many poor students cheated in this manner, spending years and years to get that “quick and convenient” certificate, trying to fulfill course requirements that simply have nothing to do with the job training, and are far beyond the capacity of non-academically inclined student (i.e., the kind of student who will be going for those quick certificates). Many years later, these students are spit out with nothing but deep debts and no useful skills. My begging admin to modify programs to actually give students a fair chance garnered only administrative enmity.

Me, at a faculty-only meeting, addressing a deanling: “Hi. This meeting is for faculty only. What are you doing here?”

Deanling: “I’m here ex officio.”

Me: “Uh huh. And what do you think that means?”

Deanling: “I’m non-voting.”

Me: “Well, we’d be more comfortable if you weren’t here.”

Deanling: “No.”

--This kind of arrogance is displayed all the time, and, incidentally, the deanling doesn’t even know what ex officio means.

      And the leaders of these schools? They’re hideously ignorant despite their strange yet fancy degrees; I’ve been shocked time and again just how little these people know. The book highlights an all-too-credible Q&A with an administrator (and I’ve had similar ostentatious displays of ignorance with Education/Administrative Ph.D.-crowned admins):

"Oh, tell me, Doctor Preston—who was Karl Marx?" asked McDougal as if he did not know.

"Ah, well, let me think, he was, uh, yass, he was premier of the Soviet Union in the 1950's," said a reddening Dr. Preston.

"And do you know…who is Hugo Chavez?"

"Hmm. I believe he is president of Southern El Paso Community College—or at least somewhere over in Texas. Yass."

"Dr. Preston, what do ye think of collective bargaining?" queried the enlightened McDougal.

"Oh, Barb and I don't haggle over prices at garage sales," said the cheery Dean.

"I see. And just what is your doctorate in, Dean Preston?"

A beet-faced Preston replied, "What do you mean, what is my doctorate in?…I have an EdD in Educational Leadership."

"What did you study in school lad? What subjects?" asked the now-investigative highlander.

The dean seemed surprised. "What? Well, we studied, uh, diversity, networking, uh, email etiquette, operating PDA's and smart phones, salary negotiations, student organizations, dancing, program review, quality management, higher education leadership, TQM, collaboration, team development—-you know, an in depth look at management processes and dialogue—oh, and best practice theory."

     Seriously, the people running the schools all too often are embarrassingly ignorant of a wide range of topics, and knowledgeable of nothing academic. There is no reason to believe they care about education, and every reason to believe they hurt the vulnerable simply as a living.

     While the book might not be a complete discussion of the sad reality of community college, I find it fairly accurate and worth a read for those interested. 

      In the end, this “fictional” account of community college comes to the same conclusions all the real data presented in this blog comes to: community colleges are primarily a scam, helping a tiny minority at the expense of legions of victims. The book goes over every aspect of the scam in a great epiphany at the end:

Is this why they refer to themselves as leaders rather than stewards? Is this why they ignore the data—the information which shows real merit, real quality [education of students] comes from vocational programs? Is this why they can't decide on program review rubrics, learning outcomes assessment, and program assessment instruments?

Perhaps they don't want to know—they don't want to decide—they don't want better retention or more program completers. They want enrollment—continuous enrollment—and now they even count two-year degree completion after six or seven years of study as successful.

     If the conjectures above are all true, it does much to explain why schools where essentially nobody gets their degree on time despite what it says in the glossy brochure are nevertheless rewarded for their success.

      I really want to emphasize the key issue of the epiphany. Community colleges weren’t intended to be major centers of academics. They were supposed to be, and are sold as, jobs trainers first, with academics a secondary goal at best. Because of this, there’s very little scrutiny over what goes on, academically, in community college.

      Our higher education system has been taken over by a ruthless caste of vicious mercenaries, “leaders” they call themselves, and this caste has exploited the lack of academic oversight to all too often turn these campuses into their private plundergrounds, hiding their shenanigans behind a cloud of pseudo-academics.

      This book is presented as fiction, but I’m telling the gentle reader: it is an all too realistic portrayal of how community colleges function.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Your Typical CC Job Trainer and Student

By Professor Doom

     So I’m looking at a very thinly veiled fiction book, College Leadership Crisis: The Phillip Dolly Affair, which details some of the truths of community college in America today.

      Last time around I took a small glimpse inside the Poo Bah’s mind, and found it filled with edu-speak gobbledygook, along with whining about not getting enough money for his leadership. Now we’ll take a peek at the other people commonly found at a community college:

Even so, fifty-four of our faculty are enrolled in an Ed Leadership Program because they, too, want to become CCC administrators and earn large, comfortable salaries for attending boring meetings and out-of-nation conferences, and eventually purchase lake front property.

     While the book is from 2004, much of what it has to say is still valid. I was surprised to learn how many of the faculty/administrators at my community college were simultaneously enrolled in Education or Administration doctoral programs; once it got out that I was legit (not a given at a community college), many of these people came to me for help with their dissertations.

      Don’t get me wrong, people should push ahead, but I couldn’t dream of doing a full time job while getting a doctorate in a legitimate academic field. Nevertheless, 25% of the staff, possibly more, at my school (no idea of others) were getting or already received their doctorates this way. This speaks to two things: first, administrative jobs are pretty light. For most of higher education’s existence they were part time jobs—very busy at the beginning/end of the semester, pointless otherwise.

      Next, and more importantly, doctoral programs in Education/Administration are a joke. Having taken the most advanced, 8000 level, administration course available, as well as graduate level Education courses, I can assure the gentle reader of this. And so our schools are filled with graduate students pulling down 6 figure salaries while “studying” leadership skills. We’re literally paying these people to award themselves degrees so we can give them more pay.

     Those are the kind of people running the place. Let’s look at a recently retired faculty from the community college:

Mr. Hose made a mistake when computing his retirement pension. He retired one year too early, and this error will cost him 646.40 dollars per month for the rest of his life.

     There are many weird retirement rules, and faculty getting screwed at retirement is quite common. Again, only long time insiders know about this, because the screwed faculty is gone from campus…it just never makes the news, since only a few are cheated at any one time.

He was never able to pass his CPA exam, and has trouble doing his own taxes.

    Again the book is being a little subtle, so I must highlight again. This former faculty member who messed up his retirement, can’t pass the CPA exam, and can’t do his own taxes? He was the accounting professor for 17 years…he was at the school to teach people how to plan for retirement, how to pass the CPA exam, how to do their taxes.

     It’s so funny, every month someone writes me and asks “are you at my school? The stories you tell are just like my place…” Here in this book, I feel as though the authors are describing my school, because the situation there was much the same.

      Now, absolutely, you can find good and competent teachers in a community college. Bottom line, however, is community college administrators only want to get the cheapest faculty they can find. This is all well and good when you want someone to teach “Women are Superior 101,” “Sexual Deviancy 101” and “How to Be a Homosexual 101”…the people with graduate degrees appropriate for this type of coursework can’t find jobs in the real world, and so are quite willing to work for peanuts. 

      On the other hand, when it comes to legitimate job skills like accounting, well, yeah, a skilled accountant can make two to ten times as much as an accountant than as a teacher at a community college. You can find good and competent job trainers…but realize these would be the exception, because admin doesn’t really want these kind of people around, and certainly won’t pay for them.

     And so, the more useful job fields at the community college will quite often be taught by the least skilled in the field. This assumes the field will be taught at all. My own community college used to have a computer science degree program—believe you me, computer skills are in high demand. Unfortunately, we simply could not find anyone with the appropriate skills willing to work at the miserable pay admin was offering. Computer skills are in such demand that even the completely incompetent can find work that pays well, and not be treated like garbage, two advantages over being a community college professor.

      Rather than pay a fair wage for skills that would actually help the community, administration shut down the program…some universities have done the same, shutting down programs with skills so valuable in the marketplace that they can’t hire faculty willing to work for nothing to teach the skills. This is just reality: you’re not going to get top rate things at a cut rate price, and administration would much rather put the money in their own pockets than do honest work helping people.

      While many students at community college are just kids being suckered out of their loan and grant money, there’s a distinct sub-class of student that is seldom discussed: the non-academic student there for a job certificate:

Gert poured herself a shot of cheap tequila and got out her art history book. Her four kids were finally asleep. Gert is thirty-six years old. 

You might say she had been a bit of a party girl back in her late twenties. Gert had been quite happy with her routine—back then she had worked at Sticky-Mart… 

Her parents wanted her to go on to college, or cosmetology school, after she finished her GED, but she would hear nothing of it… 

She even worked as an exotic dancer for a few years…

…Now, fifteen years later, she was holed up in a twenty-six foot travel trailer with her kids, living on welfare…

     The book is from 2004, and this was before the huge Pell grant scam filled our campuses with desperate nomad students, going from campus to campus getting scraps of Pell grant money. Pell was a small thing a dozen years ago, but it’s expanded by many billions since then (don’t believe the crap about how tuition is rising because government support is dropping).

      My own school also had numerous “exotic dancer” students, able to realize that such a career really can’t last 20 years, and very interested in a way out, a way that should be provided by community college. Unfortunately, they get suckered by vicious community college administrators. Quite a few aging lawn-boys and similar folk, honestly looking for more career options, also get cheated by this system.

      I feel for these people, I really do. Life shouldn’t be so hard…and community college shouldn’t be so eager to hurt these people some more. The book addresses this in a mighty epiphany. 

     Next time.