Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Irresponsibility of Higher Education

By Professor Doom

     For decades now, every school in the country has focused on growth, growth over standards, growth over reason, growth over need. It’s been easy to acquire such growth, thanks to the student loan scam, and our rulers of higher education have awarded themselves gargantuan salaries and magnificent golden parachutes due to their “leadership” in signing every sucker they could scrape up for loans.

      I’ve ranted plenty about the robbery of the taxpayer by our leaders in higher education, but an angry note from a reader has prompted me to address the failure of higher education in a new way. The key line from the note:

“You’re being very irresponsible discouraging people from education…”

     I don’t have a problem with education at all, in fact, I strongly encourage everyone to get one. But I encourage an education to be acquired the proper way: freely (at least in terms of money). Books served to provide an education in years past, and today the internet provides massive amounts of material to anyone who wants it, and knows what questions to ask. I grant that “knows what questions to ask” is tough, but I still see no need to get into perpetual debt slavery just to get some help in that regard.

     It’s not I who has been irresponsible, it’s higher education, because the insane focus of growth has really cheated people in so, so, many ways.

     “We’ve started a new program to create more math and science teachers…”
--it seems every year I read something like this from Admin.

     Take the apparently endless need for more math and science teachers. Gosh, it seems like I’ve heard screaming about the shortage of these types of teachers for my entire life. I grant I’ve never been unemployed but…I don’t get anything extra for being a math teacher over, say, being a Women’s Studies teacher, if anything I get less. To judge by pay, the biggest shortage must be in college sportsball coaches…queer how there are no programs for that (could you imagine a thousand sections of “remedial sportsball coaching”?). But I digress.

      Anyway, I’m told there’s a massive shortage of teachers in my field, year after year. Other fields with chronic shortages give their employees huge pay. Why doesn’t that endless shortage seem to help teachers some? Instead, they just create programs to churn out more, more, more.

      I could also point out that there’s no shortage of buffoons, and yet administrative pay seems to only go up, and not once have I been at a school that’s pushed the creation of more administrator degree programs, but I digress, again. 

     Higher education today is more and more about jobs training, even at the university level. The point I want to get to is that amidst the grotesque fetishization of growth in higher education, nobody ever asks: Do we really need so many math teachers/deviant sex specialists/psychology majors/communications majors or whatever?

      Maybe this question is unreasonable to ask at the undergraduate level, where much of the coursework is “general studies” despite all the specialization, but  what of graduate school?

      It’s irresponsible for a university system to create thousands of specialists in graduate level deviant sexual practices, to name just one topic, when it knows full well there are only a handful of positions open for the graduates.

     A recent post on Academics Anonymous, a series of posts from academics criticizing higher ed--if you criticize higher ed, you need to be anonymous as administrative reprisals can be vicious--really highlights how bad the system is today:

      Whenever an academic position opens up in my department, we get hundreds of applications. In today’s demented system, there is a strong priority given to females and other  “protected minorities” as they’re called…it’s an open secret I’ve covered before.

     There aren’t even enough jobs to be filled just by the protected minorities. Hundreds of applicants to fill the one position, and only one position opens up every few years.

     But then we accept 20 or so graduate students every year.  Admin pressures and pressures and pressures for more, because more students means more growth, and growth is everything in higher education.

     Do the math here.

     Let’s just say that one position opens up every 2 years.

    In those two years we get 40 students to train to fill that position. 

     Around 20 of those students eventually graduate (and in many departments far more than half graduate).

      Bottom line, we produce 20 times as many people as necessary to fill job positions.

      It’s not just math departments, every department on campus is run like this. If the department head doesn’t accept an irresponsible number of students, admin will fire that department head and replace her (going with the most likely pronoun it seems) with someone who will push for more more more irresponsible growth.

     The end result is yes, the poor academic linked above, despite having a STEM degree, will receive 100 rejections, despite the graduate degree in a field we’re constantly being told needs more graduates.

     There’s nobody to hire them, and in most technical fields, self-employment isn’t an option (gene splicing in the ol’ garage just doesn’t work so well).

After 10 years of hunting for an academic post, I’m exhausted and seriously doubt my choice of career. There must be a better system…

    There are so very few “real” jobs in academia, and the competition is fierce. I have to consider if administration was really clever enough to plan this out: creating a huge surplus of people in the job pool means administration can exploit academics pitilessly while admin plunders the system.

But I have my doubts about working in academia now. An old tutor of mine has advised me not to on a number of occasions. He has warned me of an academic environment that is increasingly exploitative. He says many colleagues feel trapped by it.

     It is a stifling, brutal system. When I was at a skeezy community college, I felt trapped. There were few positions available elsewhere, and they might not even consider me because of the black mark of the skeezy school on my resume (and yes, I was asked about it at the job interview). If I quit, well, then I’m unemployed for years, and even more desperate, and having to compete with “joker” education degrees makes the system even more hostile to honest educators.

     It really is nuts what’s going on in academia, and it forces me to be honest in my advice, even at the risk of being called irresponsible:

     “Remember kids, don’t stay in school!”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Student Explains Why College Graduates Are So Stupid

By Professor Doom

After a good four plus years in college, I’ve had enough time to evaluate the whole professor-student dynamic. And after all this time, I’d have to say that I’m walking away with the most sympathy for my instructors, and not my classmates.

A lot of people say that U.S. college students are really, really dumb.

     It seems every few weeks I see another hysterical video demonstrating the awesome ignorance of the “average” American citizen. Considering over 80% of our citizenry now goes to college at some point, these videos serve well enough to show the awesome ignorance of our college students as well.

     This leads to a natural question: why? What is lacking in our educational system that so many don’t know roughly when World War II was, can’t make change in a simple financial transaction, can’t find Russia on a map, or cannot even identify the historical figures on our money?

      The whole point of higher education is to make well-rounded, “educated,” graduates, with no major gaps in knowledge that would cause such embarrassment in a street interview. Thus it was in the past that our college graduates were forced to take coursework in a wide variety of fields, all of which have been debased in our modern higher education system. Which of these fields is the most important? Is the debasing of this important field of knowledge responsible for the extreme ignorance that is more accurately described as everyday ignorance today?

     While my field is mathematics, I readily concede it’s not the most important thing to teach a human being. An educated person should be familiar with the basics of math to be sure, and the modern world requires the educated to understand statistics (more accurately, to understand how easy it is to manipulate statistics to get a desired result)…but it’s still not the most important.

      The most important thing to teach a human being is how to read. Reading is the gateway to all other knowledge, and all forms of ignorance can be helped with reading. Our public education system, with its emphasis on dull, miserable reading assignments where the protagonists invariably suffer and die no matter how goodhearted they are, seems designed to discourage reading.

      Beyond the simple ability to read, however, what subject should be most read? Today’s article suggests one field is most important above all others, and blames the removal of this field for the increasing ignorance of our citizenry. The article gives several reasons for the ignorance, but foremost?

We have virtually ZERO understanding of history

     That’s right, History is the subject lacking. This field has quite possibly taken the worst beating in higher education today, relatively speaking. Mathematics has suffered the death of a thousand cuts, with “college work” being defined down now to 8th grade material on some campuses. English likewise has been reduced, from several papers and books a semester to a few small essays and very short stories assigned, answers to any quizzes relating to the latter provided via PowerPoint, making the reading optional in any event.

     Other fields have faced execution, or nearly so. Philosophy is mostly consigned to the abyss of “electives only,” but admittedly philosophy departments were always small affairs on campus. Foreign languages likewise have been essentially destroyed, with departments being closed down wholesale; why bother learning about any culture that the current crop of ideologues insists is evil and of no value? Computer science has vanished in places as well, administration’s not about to pay for students to learn actual job skills.

      But history, formerly hefty departments with hefty textbooks in the courses, has taken it from both directions. Such departments have been whittled down as the course requirements for students to know something about their own past were annihilated. What few courses remain are heavily diluted, with reading and writing requirements a tiny fraction of what they used to be.

Not only does the average college student have a deficient understanding of history, his or her perceptions of history are so terrifyingly off-the-mark that you wonder if the next generation will even be able to tell you the difference between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler. 

       The result of this, of course, is our college graduates know little of history, and thus have essentially nothing upon which to base their knowledge of current events, either. 

      In a surprisingly eloquent rant, the essay highlights how History touches upon every other field:

History requires students to understand causal relationships, and how things are correlated, and how things have influence way beyond their original occurrence. It requires you to understand logic, and ideologies like religion, philosophy and sociological movements - i.e., political beliefs and how technology changes human existence. It requires you to understand human beings, and their motives,

     The above is only an excerpt of the rant, but a careful reading of just that one paragraph shows History’s introduction to statistics, mathematics, theology, psychology, political studies, and a few other critical fields.

     So what happens when you have students that think “Hiroshima” happened in the 1970s and World War I was fought to save the Jews from extermination? And don’t laugh too hard, because I’ve heard students in senior level classes say both of these before. 

      The gentle reader should not laugh at all, and be worried, as I’ve seen people that teach in community colleges with comparable ignorance of what really should be basic historical knowledge. 

      The essay addresses five reasons our college students are so stupid, but the argument regarding the foremost reason is very strong. Thus I amend my opinion regarding what the best thing to teach a human being.

     First, teach that human being to read.

     Then hand that human being a history book.


Friday, June 24, 2016

The Hierarchy of Education Fraud

By Professor Doom

     There’s no doubt about higher education being a major source of illicit funds. The primary reason for this is the student loan scam, but part of why the scam works is we’re trained from a very young age that “go to school” is the trick to being a successful person. Thus, we as a people are willing to spend any amount of money (especially money we don’t even have) to get that magical education.

     We’ve basically bred ourselves into being suckers for schooling. Thus, if you’re a big shot and you want to make a lot of money, you start a school, or at least go into education administration. Thus it’s no surprise that all three of the top presidential candidates are linked to schools, and I’ll leave it to the gentle reader to determine which is worse: that our political leadership is focused so much on money, or that our schools have such a powerful tendency to be fraudulent and attract the worst sort of people.

     It’s an interesting hierarchy of fraud, when you look at the top presidential candidates.

     Let’s start with Donald Trump.

    Trump (with Trump University) has been associated with a bogus school, but this school is small potatoes; not being a political insider, he had no way of accessing the torrential downpour of money from the student loan scam. While the school was called “Trump University,” it was no university. It was merely a real estate scam school, of the sort I’ve seen many times, hawking “no money down real estate” on TV at 2am, or the like. To his credit, Trump did hire  a few legitimate academic faculty to create courses for his school, along with less qualified folk.
     In sworn statements released this week as part of a federal class action lawsuit, former employees complained of unethical sales techniques, unqualified instructors and widely unsatisfied students.

     Having taught at accredited schools with wildly unqualified teachers and administration behaving extraordinarily unethically along with most students being cheated, I’m hard pressed to see what the difference between Trump University and your typical community college is. Yes, Trump University lies about being a university, but community colleges lie about being college…that’s hair splitting if you’re going to call that a difference.

Schnackenberg told the story of a couple he talked to the month before he quit who had no money to pay the $35,000 tuition. Schnackenberg said they were talked into using the husband's disability income and a home equity loan to pay for it.

     Trump University, being a real estate scammy school, at least focused its attention on adults (unlike the kids fresh out of high school who are the primary prey of higher education). Sure, Trump U used a different branch of Federal loan scheme, but we’re still not talking anything like the money that student loans bring to our campuses.

      What’s interesting about the Trump University scandal is there is no discussion of how much money was taken this way. Trump U went non-functional in 2011, and was barely in business for 5 years; while I’m sure there are dissatisfied customers, the total amount of money raked in this way was perhaps a few million in revenue, maybe. That’s revenue; the net profit, if any, was not enough to keep this “university” in business.

     Sure, the business was as much a scam as all the other “get rich quick in real estate” scams out there. As a business that could never be accredited, was never close to being a university, and probably never turned even a tiny profit, Trump University was nothing.

    Let’s move on to a non-profit college that actually was a college.

    The method of plundering here is pretty much standard procedure, one I’ve seen many times. She spearheaded a big real estate purchase leading to the eventual destruction of the college. 

In recent years, Burlington College has struggled under the crushing weight of the debt incurred by the purchase of the Archdiocese property on North Avenue.

     The Poo Bah (in this case, Mrs. Sanders) comes in with big plans for growth, and says the growth must be accomplished by first purchasing expensive real estate at a huge premium, or by buying/building overpriced buildings. The trustees, dollar signs in their eyes, sign off on the plan without thinking things through. The Poo Bah arranges to buy real estate with the college money at a huge inflated price, in exchange for “considerations” to the Poo Bah. It’s great work if you can get it, though it does tend to lead to the destruction of the helpless school.

     The Poo Bah then leaves, with a golden parachute, plus whatever “bonus” proceeds from the buying spree, plus more bonuses for “growing” the school. The school then goes bankrupt. Seriously, I’ve seen this before. Accreditation, being run by the same administrators who are looting the schools, is completely impotent to stop school after school being plundered this way.

Jane Sanders apparently overinflated the college's donations in order to get a loan for that property. Isn't that bank fraud? 
Also, Jane's daughter got a position at Burlington College as Director of Woodworking (really). Although her woodworking shop wasn't accredited, she also was approved as a class for Burlington College students. College $, position & students sent to the president's daughter - isn't that nepotism? 
Finally, the Sanders campaign STILL won't release their income taxes or complete the (required) financial disclosure statement.

--I’m not picking on Mrs. Sanders here, this is run-of-the-mill Poo Bah behavior. Director of Woodworking? Ok, usually the fiefdoms that bloat our campuses are Diversity-related, but it’s the same principle.

     And again, we’re not talking Presidential-levels of money here. Mrs. Sanders was “only” given $200,000 to go away and never come back, and it’s hard to imagine she got more than a couple million bucks more than that for the real estate “deal.”

      Time to move up to the big kahuna, for-profit education. Or was I talking about Clinton?

     We all know the for-profits are the worst scammers, however, and, of course, the Clintons are associated with skeezy for-profit school, Laureate. Curiously, I couldn’t find a “mainstream news” article on their dealings, however. I’ve covered Laureate’s “slash and burn” method of getting past limp accreditation before.

      Let’s talk about the kind of money involved once you hit the big leagues in student loan plunder.

…Bill Clinton $16.46 million over five years while Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. pumped at least $55 million to a group run by Laureate’s founder and chairman, Douglas Becker, a man with strong ties to the Clinton Global Initiative. Laureate has donated between $1 million and $5 million (donations are reported in ranges, not exact amounts) to the Clinton Foundation.

     Wow, look at the money pouring in here. Bill was paid over $3,000,000 a year for his role as “Chancellor” at this school. Not to denigrate Bill, but I still think educators should have primary roles in education. Why aren’t more people asking questions about this level of tax dollar looting?

“During Bill Clinton’s tenure as Laureate’s chancellor, the school spent over $200 million a year on aggressive telemarketing, flashy Internet banner ads, and billboards designed to lure often unprepared students from impoverished countries to enroll in its for-profit classes. The goal: get as many students, regardless of skill level, signed up and paying tuition.

     Wait. Trump gets grief for aggressive marketing by a few dozen salesmen at Trump U, which failed, while the Clintons get a pass for being associated with a school that needs to spend $200 million a year on marketing to get students? There really seems to be some hypocrisy here as the Laureate log is far larger than the Trump U splinter.

     It’s not like the Clintons didn’t use themselves to market the school less than Trump did his school:

Still, for five years, Bill Clinton allowed his face and name to be plastered all over Laureate’s marketing materials. As Clinton Cash reported, pictures of Bill Clinton even lined the walkways at campuses…

     I’m not trying to be pro-Trump here, but it’s clear when it comes to the hierarchy of education fraud, the Clintons are on top by a wide margin. It’s weird how the mainstream news doesn’t know any of this, however.