Friday, March 31, 2017

U Washington: English Grammar is Racist

By Professor Doom

     One of the many strange decays in higher education today concerns language skills. In times past, every college graduate had to take at least a year’s worth of some foreign language. 

      Now, I grant that Latin (a common option, decades ago) wasn’t particularly useful all by itself, but studying another language is incredibly helpful for mastering one’s native language. Even my very crude understanding of other languages has from time to time given me some insights into English. I mean, Spanish has such easy pronunciation, French has an interesting adherence to aesthetics, Mandarin has a very streamlined structure (those are just the languages I can at least barely speak). All of them, overall, are so much easier than English.. . I have a real appreciation for people who have learned English as a second language.

      Unfortunately, in administrative eyes, foreign languages were a real problem: there’s just no way to fake your way through a foreign language. You study, and learn the vocabulary and grammar…or you do not study, and fail. There’s nothing in between. You can’t load up a campus with fake students if you have real courses.

      So many courses we offer on campus now require practically no studying; a student can casually fake his way through wide swaths of courses offered on today’s campuses. Foreign languages just can’t compete with fake classes, and so admin just got rid of these courses, in favor of feel-good courses where it’s easy to pass without study.

     Today our students learn nothing of other languages and, looking at e-mails and such from students, it’s clear they know little enough of English.

      It seems administrators just can’t stop debasing education, however. The latest is to attack students even learning English. I’m serious:

     Hey, I’m willing to admit English is a brutal language to learn, the worst is the vocabulary. English is the Pimp Mac Daddy of all languages, we’ve stolen so many words from other languages that we don’t notice when a word “isn’t from around here.” For example, some of my Chinese friends didn’t understand why everyone was freaking out that a “hurricane” was coming. I told them that a hurricane was a “typhoon” (i.e., “tai phun”)…and they understood that word, and the concern for the approach of such a storm. Most people don’t know that “typhoon” is really not a native English word, and English is loaded down with words whose origins are far, far from English.
     On the other hand, when you listen to a speaker from, say Japan, talk about modern, Western concepts, you can clearly pick out the words that, quite obviously, are not Japanese—a sararii man (“salary man”), gasorine (gasoline), and quite a few others are just slight adaptations with modified pronunciation. When English takes a word, it often as not doesn’t even try to make the pronunciation fit within the usual English pronunciation…anyone learning English de facto must learn words and pronunciation from many other languages.
     English accepts words wholesale, and doesn’t try to change them. How is this racist? Why does the University of Washington writing center, which is supposed to be about teaching students how to write, have a statement on antiracist, and social justice work in the writing center? Why not have a statement regarding teaching students to write well?
     Instead of being about writing, the writing center is…off the rails:

The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things…

---from the Writing Center statement, it goes on and on like this, I lost interest and so can’t even tell you if it eventually ever talks about writing being important to the Writing Center.

      I can’t emphasize strongly enough how misguided this foolishness is. The whole point of writing is to be able to express concepts clearly (with a secondary standard of eloquence). Instead, the writing center is a train wreck:
“We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” announces the poster. “We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”
--seriously, what does this even mean?

     Honest, standard English is a good idea: it gives people a basis from which to formulate and express thoughts. Having standard conventions for how this language works helps with that. If “anything goes,” why does this university need a writing center? 

      One question comes to mind: why isn’t education on the table here? The answer is the administrative takeover of higher education. Instead of scholars making decisions about scholarly activities like writing, we have administrators with no interest or respect for education. Instead, they just want to expand their fiefdom. Let’s hear an admin justify the lunacy regarding that social justice statement:

“[The statement] is a great example of how we are striving to act against racism,” said Dr. Jill Purdy, Tacoma’s vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs. “Language is the bridge between ideas and action, so how we use words has a lot of influence on what we think and do.”

      One of the things we need to do is thin out the administrative caste. The quick rule of thumb is to eliminate all positions whose titles are twice as long as the position holder’s name. In this case (and, in fact, nearly every case I’ve found in this blog), the title “vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs” is clearly long enough to be eliminated with no risk of harming any student’s education in any way. 

     Considering education is supposed to be a primary mission of higher education, why can’t we start helping out students?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Claremont College: New Program Excludes Whites

By Professor Doom

     It’s so funny how often official policy is ignored; in particular, every campus I’ve been on has had policy regarding equality, that everything is open to everyone without concern for ethnicity, gender, orientation, or anything else. Despite such policy, I’ve seen faculty and administration chosen based on race and gender, and I’ve seen faculty and administration refused promotion or hiring based on being the wrong race and gender. It’s really weird how once a position is occupied by a female, it remains occupied by a female forever afterwards.
      Because administration has gotten away with bigoted and sexist hiring for years, it only makes sense that we’ll now see programs in explicit violation of written policy:

Claremont McKenna College is set to offer a program restricted to non-white individuals who feel they have experienced race-related stress. The college is officially funding the program, and its administration announced this week in a message directed to the students and faculty.

     It’s so weird that there’s no money for so many things on campus today, but there’s always money for yet another pointless fiefdom. Let’s hear the administrative description for this lunacy:

“Dear CMC community, The Cultural Influences on Mental Health Center at CMC is offering a FREE 8-week compassionate meditation program for ethnic minority students to learn how to heal from racism- and race-related incidents,” wrote Vince Greer, Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion.

      Before going any further, I want to talk a bit about Vince Greer. Did you catch that title, “Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion”? We really do have so many administrators on campus today that “Dean” just doesn’t cut it anymore. They have to award themselves ever more splendiferous titles. It’s been some time since I’ve mentioned a guideline for improving higher education: fire every administrator whose title is more than twice as long as his or her name. In this case, the title is some five times as long, so safely in the “close this position” rule. I know, it’s an arbitrary, ridiculous, unfair rule…but I’ve spent my entire career surviving in this system, seen many faculty careers ruined by arbitrary, ridiculous, unfair rules. It really is time for admin to live by such rules.

      If such a rule is just too unfair, do keep in mind that the Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion just argued for an 8 week program that is racist on the face of it. He even has the audacity to call it “FREE” though I promise the gentle reader that, follow the money long enough, and you’ll see it comes from the student loan scam.

     Please understand, this position is so ridiculous on the face of it that Vince Greer realizes, every day, that his job is in jeopardy. The only way he can keep his job is to create as much racial strife as possible, to show how necessary his position is.  I’m not picking on Greer here; our campuses are loaded down with administrators with goofadelic titles trying to figure out some way to justify their jobs. Without this weird position of Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion, there’d be nobody whose job it (actually) is to create strife on campus, and nobody to advocate for racist programs to create strife.

       Ok, the admin didn’t say the program was racist, but the entrance requirements are clear enough:

“Students must identify as an ethnic minority, must have experienced race-related stress, and must have attended one of the Claremont Colleges for at least one semester.

       The requirements are ridiculous. I grant that being a student for at least one semester is fair enough, but how do you even determine the other requirements? Seriously, “race-related stress”? Is there a precise definition for such a thing? Heck, I’m pretty sure I’m feeling race-related stress just by reading this madness. I’d love to know for sure if my feelings satisfy the appropriate definition.

      And, of course, that very first requirement rather restricts white people from entering the free program. I guess there’s a grey area there, since anyone can “identify” as anything, right? The sustained goofiness is just too much to consider.

      In any event there are already student protests against this idiocy. That Vince, he’s pretty good at his job, no?

      You know, there used to be a time when courses and programs had to be determined to be legitimate before they could be foisted on students. Apparently there still is, though I don’t understand how the review board didn’t see any problem here at all:

Per the Claremont Independent, the Institutional Review Board of the college approved the program.

     The review really is supposed to consider carefully, i.e., “review” the program in light of what’s going on elsewhere on campus.  For example, if the campus already has a course called “Calculus,” the board would review a new course called “Calculus” and determine if it was a good idea (usually, such redundancy would be denied). 

     In this case, the review board should not have approved this program, because the school clearly has a racist element in it, an element that has already used exclusion to advance their cause:

      So, one anti-white safe space is filled in, and now the college wants to open up another? How did the review board miss this detail? How they could they possibly approve of this new program knowing exactly who’s going to use it, and what it’ll be used for?

      In times past, such review boards were filled with faculty, people that actually wanted peace on campus, so they could pursue the true goals of higher education: education and research.  Now, review boards, and every other committee on campus, are under the thumb of administration. Do we have any reason to think administration wants more strife and protests?

     Let’s see what the Poo Bah has to day:

President Hiram Chodosh wrote publicly that “We must ensure that each of our students shares a deep sense of belonging to the CMC community. Thus, I am committed to developing a thoughtful, productive, and responsible inclusion strategy, where every student is fully engaged and valued… No student or group on our campus should live and learn in isolation.”

     We really at the point in higher ed where “inclusion” means having programs that exclude white people. I assure you, no administrator, and certainly no faculty, on this campus (or any other) would dare to try to correct the Poo Bah.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Poo Bah’s Home For Sale

By Professor Doom

     It really is interesting how the other half lives, particularly when it comes to the Poo Bahs who rule over our institutions. Their lives are just so…different. I worry about losing my job, because that would be a major problem for me. 

      I want to move closer to my university, but it’s a major risk: I’m not exactly paid enough to buy a house near the place, so if I lose my job soon after moving, I’ll be really hurt, financially.  It’s a big gamble.

      Poo Bahs don’t worry about such mundane things. I’ve mentioned before how, when a Poo Bah is fired, he gets a fat check no matter how horrible he or she did the job. Over the course of even a wildly incompetent career, a Poo Bah can rake in a $1,000,000 or more just by getting fired repeatedly.

      But that’s not why Poo Bahs don’t worry about buying a house, because the institution actually provides a house for them. I’ve been to administrative palaces, and these residences are magnificent. I grant that I’m not much for interior decorating, my personal style is basically “late 20th century cardboard box” but the interior (and exterior) of an administrative mansion is gorgeous. The reason why these amazing homes have such beautiful decoration is because, like the house, the Poo Bah doesn’t actually pay for it.

      As luck would have it, a Poo Bah’s residence is for sale. Let’s look at some of the features these guys get, courtesy of the tax dollars provided via the student loan scam:

The 7,600-square-foot home…

     Wow. Every house/apartment I’ve lived in my entire life, put together, doesn’t add up to that square footage. Perhaps I haven’t moved around as much as others, but that’s one huge house. The decadence continues:

five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two half-baths…

      What is wrong with these people? Have any of my gentle readers ever lived in a place with more bathrooms than bedrooms, and two half-baths to share? To be in a house where half a dozen people can simultaneously take individual showers is pretty nuts. 

     Why is the house on sale? Well, the Poo Bah got into a bit of a scandal, seeing as the university blew nearly $1,000,000 on renovations of the palace. Goodness, I have something of an imagination, but I’m hard pressed to think of how to spend that kind of money, just on decorations. If I ruled over a university and had that much of the university’s money to blow on whatever I wanted, I’d have spent it on scholarships and continued to use a cardboard box as a coffee table….there I go again, thinking like an educator, it’s probably why I’ll never be a Poo Bah.

     One strange decoration drew particular ire:

A $556 olive jar in Scarborough's bedroom became a flashpoint for students and employees upset at the cost of renovations at a time when 161 employees lost their jobs.

      The olive jar is actually a planter (so no actual olives—I could see the cost justified if filled with olives, I guess). The planter is dun and not covered in gold foil or anything. I’ve seen the like at Wal-Mart for around 1/10 of the price…and I still can’t justify spending my own money on such a thing. I get by with cardboard boxes well enough.

      Anyway, the scandal of tossing such a huge sum of money away while over a hundred employees had to be fired for lack of money, among other issues, caused the Poo Bah to resign in disgrace, but no, the gentle readers need not feel much in the way of pity. As always, a golden parachute awaits the Poo Bah:

      Hey, want to be ticked off some more? That $450,000 award for being fired comes after less than two years of “service.” It must be so sweet living the lives of the 1%. I’ve put a decade into an institution and got nothing on the way out, and I suspect many of my readers get the same treatment. Did I mention this is at a public university? Our students are going into debt for this.

      As Poo Bah you get the use of a free house, luxuriously renovated, and a half-million dollar check when you’re fired. Just do that every two years, and you’d be pretty set after a handful of years, right?

     Once a Poo Bah moves out, a new Poo Bah comes in. Mercifully, this institution did things a bit differently:

     It’s amazing how things work for these guys. The university actually hires a search firm (paying tens of thousands of dollars) to get candidates, and makes a national search to find “the right person.” After the list of names is put together, a bunch of 6-figure administrators spend a great deal of time in interviews and parties deciding who will be the best. Then the new Poo Bah is anointed.

       And time and again, these guys get fired after a handful of years, grabbing a golden parachute on the way out. 

      The university this time decided to be clever (amazing!) and hire someone besides another wandering plunderer who’ll ride off in a few years, saddlebags stuffed with loot. This time they decided to pick someone from inside the institution. I hope it works out; at least there’s some reason to believe it’ll be someone who actually cares a little for the place.

     Too bad most administrative positions aren’t normally chosen so sanely.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

25% Of College Students on (Legal) Drugs

By Professor Doom

     “Are you on drugs?”

--common response to an individual exhibiting strange behavior. It seems a fair question to ask most students on campus today.

     Every day we get to see another example of insanity on campus, and while I usually blame it on the student loan scam, another explanation comes to mind:

     Wow! Please understand, when you go to these kinds of doctors (more accurately called “drug dealers”), the primary thing they’re going to do is give you a prescription for drugs. It’s not complicated—these drugs are almost certainly addictive, so prescribing these drugs is a great way to make a lifelong customer. Many of my students have told me of how they jump through hoop after hoop to get “their” drugs that they “need,” whether it be Adderall, Paxil, Xanax, Zoloft, Wellbutrin…or a host of others.

      So, yes, if 25% of our college students have been diagnosed for a mental health condition, then they’ve almost certainly taken drugs that (supposedly) treat that condition. Does anyone else think something is very wrong here? 50 years ago, these drugs didn’t exist. Back then, did we honestly lose 25% of our population to mental illness because we didn’t have these drugs? If these drugs are truly necessary at this level, how did we not notice 25% of our population consistently going bonkers before the drugs were invented?

     The report I’m snipping from has a bunch of little cited factoids, but just one more for now:

Almost 73 percent of students living with a mental health condition experienced a mental health crisis on campus

      I concede 20ish is a stressful time…but I really wish we gave our kids better guidance than “go see a doctor and take drugs for it.” Allow me to digress a moment with a couple of short anecdotes.

Student: (clunk)

      One time I was passing out algebra tests, and a student just passed out as I handed it to her. She was most petite, you could have given her cement shoes and she still wouldn’t have weighed much past 100 lbs. The problem was, she’d just donated blood to the bloodmobile on campus (in violation of their donation guidelines). The first thing she said when she came to her senses?

Student: “But I drank my Slim-Fast this morning!”

     I don’t think she needs drugs, and I don’t think the drugs she was taking was helping (and for what it’s worth, I never had much luck with Slim-Fast, I got up to 6 of those shakes a day and still never lost a pound).

      Another quick anecdote from me passing out tests, in vector calculus:

Student: (runs away, in tears)

     I thought I’d be up for the Math Professor Hall of Fame for breaking a student so quickly…she apologized later, it was some personal problem that just happened at a bad time, relative to test day. I doubt she went on drugs over it, and sure hope not.

     The main problem I have with all these drugs being passed out, to 25% of our students (and by extension, a like amount of our population) is they go on the drugs for life. I know plenty of people who take these drugs (because, hey, I know plenty of people), and I think I know exactly one person who’s managed to get off them—and I’m being optimistic.

       So, what are these drugs for, anyway?

     So, depression is the primary thing being treated. I sure don’t want people to be sad, of course I want them to be happy. Maybe it’s a valid solution is to get 25% or more of the population addicted to drugs…it might be a fair price to pay for happiness, I admit.

      Now, I’m very suspicious about the pharmaceutical industry, I really don’t think many of these drugs are as efficacious as claimed. I mean, I know they’re addictive, I know they have side effects, so it’s possible they’re not utterly useless, and might be helpful. That said, I know how trivial it is to jigger the numbers in a statistical study to show a drug is powerful…so I know it’s trivial to make a completely ineffectual drug look like it’s good for something. With such huge profit margins on these drugs, I see a motive to get lots of people addicted to them.

      I wonder if I can use statistics to show these drugs are useless?

     Hmm, we’ve been passing out these pills for decades, and mostly for depression. Hey, what symptom of depression is impossible to hide, and really hard to bury with statistics? Suicide. It’s hard to fake being alive when you’re dead, and deaths have to show up somewhere. Hmm, don’t we track suicide rates? Yes, we track them very carefully.

      What have the suicide rates been like for 15 years of hardcore drugging of our population, mostly for depression?

     Only one ethnic group experienced a decent decline in the above study: black men. That, unsurprisingly is not a dominant group on campus, and, I suspect, not a group likely to go to get drugs from a psychiatrist.

     Now, studies are trying to spin the huge psychiatric drug problem of our students in the obvious way: to say we need to set up more fiefdoms to track and care for our students’ mental health. 


     I don’t give a damn about yet another peer reviewed study showing that these pharmaceuticals are actually useful for depression. There have been plenty of “independent” studies showing these drugs are worthless…the people doing such studies are inevitably attacked, and discounted because “they have an axe to grind” with the pharmaceutical industry.

     I’m certainly no doctor, but it seems quite obvious to me that if the drugs we’re giving to prevent suicide are empirically leading to an increase in suicide…we should stop using those drugs, and we should strongly, strongly, question whether the drugs are doing more good than harm.

      Instead, the response to strong evidence we’re addicting 25% of our kids to useless (at best) drugs is “we should set up more fiefdoms to take care of our drug addicts on campus.” Why not instead ask some questions about these drugs, in light of the easily available evidence?

      Even more importantly, why don’t any of the people in power ask this question?