Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Social Justice Warrior/Math Teacher

By Professor Doom

     The recent kerfluffle with the math EDUCATION professor claiming mathematics is now “white privilege” reminds me it's been some time since I've discussed the insanity of Education departments.

     Now, it’s no secret that Education classes have minimal requirements and ridiculously easy grading:

Education students face easier coursework than do their peers in other departments, according to the study, and they’re more likely to graduate with honors.

     When I was at a fake school, every year some clown with a Ph.D. in Education would come and lecture me (and all the other faculty) for 2 hours or more on how to be a better teacher. Since it was for all faculty, the advice was of no relevance to any particular course, so nothing useful like a good mnemonic for remembering a formula.

      No, it was always idiotic advice, like “assign more papers in the math classes (because it’s easier for students to plagiarize)” and “assign more group projects (because it’s easier for a student to slack and get a passing grade because his group did his work for him)” and “Don’t expect students to know material from other courses (because they’re cheating through those courses and thus don’t know anything)” among other ridiculous tidbits. Ok, they didn’t include my parenthetical additions, but it there was always a subtext, approved by the admin at the school, that we needed to have no integrity whatsoever, at any point. Admin led by example in this regard, I admit, and I was forever being punished for having integrity.

      In any event, these Educationists primarily were about degrading education, about ripping off and hurting kids. The worst, absolute worst kind of educationist was the Math Education professor. Oh how I hated how they’d strut around, often calling themselves “math professor” while lecturing on teaching ideas which had nothing to do with math.

       Being at a legit school now, I’m not subjected to nearly so much indoctrination, but I suspect things have gotten worse. Consider this snippet from a want ad for a professor of Elementary Math Education:

We seek candidates who share our commitment to educational equity, to social justice,

     Now, wait just a second here. I understand requirements for experience, for research, for appropriate degrees but…now you must adhere to a self-destructive and hypocritical belief system to be a professor?

     How embarrassing!

     Even more shamefully, this is for a position in Texas. In much of the country, the “social justice warrior” is held in as much disdain as a Klansman, for espousing bigoted views filled with hatred. In Texas, however, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there is an official hunting season for social justice warriors.

      But this Texas university is actively recruiting social justice warriors in their Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Isn’t that a funny name for a department? How did it happen that the minor topic of “Curriculum and Instruction” managed to get its own department? Can any of my gentle readers think of any time where something in this topic actually mattered to anyone?

      I’ve been in higher education my whole life, teaching, attending classes, and reviewing curriculum…absolutely nothing has changed from a general standpoint. I had no idea such a department could exist, because I’ve never seen any relevant research. I assure the gentle reader, there are no big questions in “Curriculum” worthy of doctorate research, much less a whole department.

      Now, one topic can branch out into its own department. Statistics, for example, used to be a topic in mathematics. But, seeing as it’s used everywhere (mostly badly, mostly for evil, but bear with me), I can see how it managed to become popular enough to justify its own department—the wide applications of topic meant there was incredible demand for specialists.

     But, outside of university, how much application is there for Curriculum and Instruction? Seeing as we’re perpetually mandating all classes be alike, all tests be standardized, there should be reduced need for this topic.

     I digress, my point for today is how now Social Justice Warrior is a prerequisite for a job, just as important for being a professor as having a relevant degree.

     Higher education is riddled with deep problems right now. Falling enrollments  due to demographics are cutting into revenues, revenues which are already being soaked up by a ludicrously top-heavy administrative caste--the bureaucratic structure of most universities today resembles a helium balloon with a monofilament string hanging down below it, with faculty being the string. Revenues are further being soaked up by overhead costs on excessive buildings on campus, palaces to hold those highly paid administrators.

      Endless riots are further eroding the future student base, and a heavy reputation for indoctrination wears even further away. At this point, it seems clear higher education should consider doing things to make people think universities are welcoming and good places to be.

     And yet, somehow, this university in Texas, and they’re hardly alone, is actively seeking to hire more professors following a belief system that the sane people in this country want nothing to do with. Much like with the NFL (and Hillary, for that matter), it appears our “leaders” running higher education are under the premise that insulting people will make them more likely to continue to follow along a path that clearly leads to destruction.

      I sure wish I could get the leadership to listen to me even a little and turn away from their path of assured annihilation. Higher education has been doing great evil this last score years, but I still feel there are some good things here worth saving.

      I reckon I’m alone, however.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Math As White Privilege…The Real Outrage

By Professor Doom

     It seems every week we learn another thing is racist, from milk, to showing up on time, or…whatever.

      The latest assertion is that mathematics, the ultimate measure of every civilization, does, in fact, have a racist component to it. As always I can’t make this stuff up:

     There’s been plenty of outrage over this idiocy, quite justified of course, but the true outrage has been missed by the smokescreen of stupidity. First, let me present her ludicrous claims by quoting from the above:

A University of Illinois math professor believes that algebra and geometry perpetuate “white privilege” because Greek terms give Caucasians unearned credit for the subject.

--emphasis added, as this needs clarification, being the real outrage here.

    Most “college” math is basically algebra. The word “algebra,” incidentally, comes from Arabic (“al-jabr”), since the notation we use is based around the notation used in that part of the world centuries ago.

     I can’t help but wonder what Greek terms she’s referencing here; the English language has stolen so many words from so many languages that I’m extremely hard pressed to figure which words she says are racist. In any event, Greece is considered the cradle of European (i.e., Western) culture. What of it?

      I just can’t wrap my mind around the concept here. Every culture discovered many of the same basic mathematical concepts. Pi, for example, has a Greek name, but pretty much every culture which advanced far enough to put one rock on top of another, from China to the Mayans, realized it was an important concept, even if we in the west give it a “Greek” name.

     In my decades of mathematical training, I honestly can’t recall anyone claiming pi was a Caucasian invention.

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness,” she argues with complete sincerity, according to Campus Reform. “Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.”

      What the actual heck? Does the professor not know about China? Honest, they teach mathematics there, too…it isn’t any more a “White” thing than physics, computers, or sanitation (things which also exist in China, I assure the gentle reader).

She concludes her argument with the claim that all knowledge is “relational,” or is, in other words, relative. “Things cannot be known objectively; they must be known subjectively.”

      Again, what the actual heck? In terms of the real world, math is pretty relevant, honest, and even if it was “relative” it seems to work reliably enough that training our kids in its use is a good idea.

Stay on the good side of the Office of Student Retention and Appeasement. Practice saying "when the student fails, it means the teacher has failed," "there are no wrong answers, just different ways of knowing,"

--from advice to new faculty…sounds much like what this person is saying, no?

       If she honestly believed this garbage she’s spewing, she should quit her job. I mean, if all knowledge is relative, if nothing has any value, then she should believe teaching is pointless, and should quit.

     She hasn’t quit, so she’s obviously being intellectually dishonest, and should be dismissed outright…which is what everyone (outside of administrators) who’s heard her “arguments” has done.

     I really want to hammer down how stupid her assertion is: she’s stating objectively that there’s no objectivity. If she’s correct, then she’s wrong. Or, she’s wrong in the first place. Since she’s wrong either way, her claim is irrelevant.

     How can a professor of mathematics make such a blatant logical error?

     Now we come to the real issue here. Let me quote another site:

A math education professor at the University of Illinois says the ability to solve geometry and algebra problems and teaching such subjects perpetuates so-called white privilege.

--emphasis added, clarifying one of the big problems in higher education today.

     And here, gentle reader, is the real issue. She’s not a math professor, she’s an Education professor. There is, in fact, a huge world of difference.

     When I was at a fake community college, and even at a questionable state university, I noticed that the “mathematics” positions were being taken over by Education positions.

      “They’re much better teachers” said admin. Wanting to be a better teacher, I sat in on the classes of Math Education professors, and noticed an important detail: they didn’t know anything about mathematics. A quick look at the graduate school curriculum for Math Education reveals the reason why this is so: they don’t learn any math in Math Education graduate school.

      The gentle reader should understand that to get a basic Education degree, you need not learn any higher than 10th grade mathematics, if that much (there are special “Math for Education Majors” courses just to avoid the hard math). From here, if you want to get a graduate level Math Education degree, you still will not learn mathematics.

“A differentiable function is continuous, and a continuous function is differentiable. They mean the same thing.”

--A Math Educationist teaching calculus wrong. I don’t expect everyone to know how wrong this is, but it’s about as bad as a Historian saying in all seriousness that “George Washington conquered Japan before subduing Stalinist forces in Indonesia.”

     “I’ve been teaching it that way for years,” said the Educationist when I tried to explain that she was wrong…much like the textbook says explicitly with numerous examples. Note: this was at a state university, although I certainly saw similar from “Math Education” teachers at a questionable community college.

       After you get that graduate degree in Math Education, you can then become a mathematics professor. You won’t teach anything in your math courses, because you cannot possibly do so. You’ll have no choice but to pass all your students, because any student you fail will complain, rightly, that you’re incompetent. Such complaints invite scrutiny, which, since you are, actually, incompetent, you cannot afford.

      Admin will love you, support you, promote you, you might even make department head, because all admin cares about is no student complaints and 100% passing rates.

     I’ve seen this.

     With my own eyes.


Admin is quick to pour praise on the Education professor:

University of Illinois interim Provost John Wilkin told Fox News that Gutierrez is an established and admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications.

     Hmm, she’s published, neat. I’ve shown before that peer review is a joke, since even a paper asserting that penises cause global warming can pass the peer review process no matter how idiotic (at best) the arguments.

     But that doesn’t mean her research is necessarily bad, of course. Let’s go to her profile and see if we can find any of this research. I can’t help but notice that none of her degrees are even remotely in mathematics. I know, degrees are overrated nowadays, but that worries me. 

      Her most recent published research is with, and I can’t make this title up, The Journal of Urban Mathematics Education. Sadly, it isn’t available to read online, nor is any of her other research; the titles of her papers indicate that she’s all about identity politics, there’s no actual mathematics in her work—nor should one expect there be, since she’s not a mathematics professor. She’s just some person who teaches math at the university level…for some reason.

       One comment from another site covers the real outrage we should have:

How horrible it must be to have children in school being taught by morons like this.

     Administrators are using “Education” as a joker to cover other college courses now. It’s a big part of what’s driving down the pay of professors. I certainly can understand why the gentle reader might not care about lower pay for professors, but allow me to hammer the issue down:

     Administration is lowering professor pay by hiring utterly incompetent, ignorant, Education teachers to teach courses they know nothing about. Admin doesn’t care about the fraud here, because the fraud helps them in two ways:

1 ) Lowering teacher pay puts more money into administrative pockets.

2 ) Incompetent teachers pass everyone and get few student complaints.

     To summarize, our kids are paying a fortune for their so-called “higher education,” and it’s being provided not merely in the cheapest possible way, but in a fraudulent way where they get a bogus education.

      And that is the real outrage revealed yet again, in this case by a pseudo-math professor spouting idiocy. That this idiocy is published, while I could get no publisher to consider my books revealing the immense fraud of higher education, is quite saddening.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Doubling Down, Fiat Currency, and the Social Justice Warrior

By Professor Doom

     Allow me to start by discussion of a gambling strategy that is, mathematically, guaranteed to win. Yes, I’m using “mathematically” as a weasel word, but let me explain the basics of it.

     Suppose you go to a casino, and you can make a $5 wager on a single die roll. If a 1 or 2 comes up, you are handed $10 (i.e., you win a net of $5) and if anything else comes up (i.e., a 3, 4, 5, or 6) you lose your bet.

     Now, this isn’t a fair game, right? You double your money less than half the time, and lose everything the rest, so it’s a game a casino would be happy to have you play.

      The way how mathematicians and rational people consider these situations is with “expected value,” weighing the payoff and probability of winning against the amount and probability of losses. Every time you play this particular game, for example, you mathematically expect to lose $1.67…a terrible game, and any rational person will tell you not to play. Ever.

     But there is a strategy here you can use that, on paper (again with the weasel words, I know), will make you a winner, and you can win quite a bit. Here’s how it goes, step by step:

1 ) First, bet $5. If you win, great, you’ve won $5, and start over from step 1. If you lose, go to step 2.

2 ) Double your bet to $10, and play again. If you win, well, you’ve doubled your $10 bet, so, combined with the $5 you lost in step 1, you’ve won a net of $5. Go back to step 1 and play again. If you lose, go to step 3.

3 ) Double your bet to $20. If you win, well, you’ve now won a net of $5, so go back to step 1 and play again. If you lose, go to step 4.

4 ) Double your bet to $40. If you win, take your $5 net and start over with step 1. If you lose, step 5 for you!

5 ) Double down again. I trust the gentle reader sees the trend here.

     This method, endlessly doubling down, will mathematically create wins for the player, even when it’s a losing a game, a game no person should ever play. Yes, you could hit a losing streak, but as long as you can keep doubling down, you’ll win (there’s a less than 20% chance you’ll even need to double down 5 times in the above terrible game—even with awful odds you’ll most likely come out $5 ahead if you only go through the doubling down procedure one time).

     So we have a guaranteed winning strategy, right? The devil is in the details, of course.

      The first detail is the one the casinos address right away: casinos put a maximum on your bet. Casinos only let you bet so much at a table—even in an unfavorable game, they need to make sure they stay in business, it’s their absolute priority (which is why the mainstream claim that Paddock “made a living” playing at video poker machines is pure idiocy…it just doesn’t work that way).

      The second detail is reality for most human beings: you need an infinite amount of money to use this strategy. Sure, you’re likely to win most times, but sooner or later you’ll hit a losing streak, and won’t have the money to double down again. To call this scenario a “losing streak” is a bit unfair, as this is a terrible game and this streak will happen eventually…the idea of using a strategy where you can risk thousands of dollars in an attempt to gain a measly five bucks is ridiculous.

    Even if the casinos didn’t shut it down, this “guaranteed to win” strategy only works if you have an infinite amount of money. Nobody has an infinite amount of money, so you can’t actually use this strategy. It’s probably just as well…this is a terrible game, nobody should play it, having an infinite amount of money just means you’d be pouring an infinite amount of resources on something you shouldn’t touch at all.

     In short, the doubling down strategy leads to major economic disaster for anyone who plays it, eventually; if you have more money, it’ll take longer, but it’s always a disaster in the end.

     While “doubling down” is a terrible strategy for normal human beings, there are two places where doubling down seems to be the only course of action.

     The Federal government, through their fiat monetary system, basically has an infinite amount of money. They can print up whatever they want, so it doesn’t matter how horrible the ideas they’re pursuing, they can just keep doubling down, over and over again. Trouble is, most things the government tries to do are horrible, not nearly as “fair” as the simple dice game I proposed above. A “losing streak” for a government policy is about as commonplace as a wet spot where a chunk of ice used to be.

     We began to see major doubling down in the Reagan era, when our debts first broke $1,000,000,000,000. It was such an innocent time. Because the government has infinite money, it saw no reason to stop, and so has doubled down at least 4 more times since then, and now the debt is over $20,000,000,000,000 (although more realistic estimates, using accounting methods you or I would normally use, put the debt in the 200,000,000,000 range, only a few more doubling downs, really).

      There’s not even the slightest hint this will ever stop. Effects of this doubling include a stock market that can’t drop even 1% even when we have cities crushed by hurricanes, economic stagnation for almost everyone in the country (to clarify: for everyone without access to the doubling down spigot), and spiraling costs for the things people really want, in addition to those beyond-astronomical debts.

     Trouble is, the government doesn’t really have infinite money, it just has the ability to make infinite amounts of currency. At some point, the fiat currency will assume intrinsic value (i.e., 0), and we’ll have the ultimate economic disaster my gambling strategy predicts.

--I haven’t read this book, but the point is it’s a powerful strategy…until it fails utterly.

     The rise of political correctness has been truly astonishing the last 30ish years. When its primary advocates, the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) first arrived on campus, they were looked at strangely. They had strange ideas, things that were obviously wrong on multiple levels (among many examples, things like “men and women are exactly equal in all ways, which is why we need to give women special privileges”).

      They were first pointed at with accompanying laughter, and their ridiculous ideas were shown as ridiculous.

     But the SJWs doubled down, insisting they were in the right. The SJWs didn’t have infinite money, of course, but they have infinite bravado, fueled by a zealous conviction of being in the right. All attempts to argue for common sense, for scientific reason, for basic decency, failed in the face of endless doubling down.

      Time and again their ridiculous ideas (I’m not saying all their ideas were ridiculous, mind you) were laughed at, but they kept doubling down…eventually getting lucky on every aspect of their agenda. This is why, in the face of all logic and reason, we have “Diversity Institutes” on our campuses, staffed by ridiculously overpaid Diversity Commissars, promoting the exact opposite of diversity, to the point of viciously attacking anyone who dare show even a hint of diversity of opinion.

     However, it’s starting to become apparent that the era of the SJW might be ending. Trump winning the last election was such an epic slap in the face, a resounding strike to knock some sense into these guys, that it should have made a difference.

     It didn’t.

      They responded with another double down, insisting, despite all reason, “Trump is not my president” and supporting every cockamamie idea that might somehow change this cold, hard, reality. There’s a distinct possibility they’ve run out of capital. Finally.

     We now have books detailing how to fight the SJW, how to stop them from “converging” those few institutions remaining in the country that have not fallen under their sway. We have formerly peaceful law-abiding countries now turned into rape-capitals by following SJW ideals. We have people talking about getting “red pilled” into understanding that SJWs are insane.

      In response to these obvious failures, the SJWs can only double down instead of consider that, perhaps, they’re playing a losing game and need to change what they are doing. It’s sad that their zealotry won’t allow for the possibility they’ve made a mistake. Already I have friends who swear that all their future votes will be in direct contravention to whatever SJWs want, and I believe the day is coming where there will no longer be even a slight attempt to negotiate in any way here.

     That’s a shame, because the SJW does have a couple decent things to say. But, much like with my gambling game where one must consider the expected value of playing, the bottom line here is playing their game is a losing proposition, and so it’s reasonable, if sad, that we must abandon the possibility of winning in the near term in the face of mathematical certainty of losing in the end.

      Too bad we don’t get that option with our fiat currency system.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Shakespeare Now Requires Trigger Warnings

By Professor Doom

     Ah the fragile college “snowflake.” These precious students are so delicate that they must be protected from shock at all times, must be provided safe spaces filled with puppies and Play-Doh. If you check alternative news, you can find endless videos of these creatures, as well as campuses eager to protect their genteel sensibilities from exposure to new ideas.

      But surely the alternative media exaggerates, right? Surely these mythical creatures, if they exist at all, are only at loopy private colleges? I mean, we do have a few “real” schools left in higher education, and those schools take knowledge seriously, laughing at the mere idea that students shouldn’t be exposed to concepts they don’t like?

      Welcome to Cambridge, a tip-toppiest top tier university:

--Egads, I’m citing Fox News.

     The lunacy here is extraordinary. While I know it’s impossible to teach a subject an infinite number of times, if it were possible, it would have been done with Shakespeare. For quite literally centuries, students have found themselves exposed to Shakespeare multiple times in their education. If it were really possible to do actual harm to a young human being by exposure to Shakespeare, we’d know this by now, right?

      It’s dementedly hysterical that there are people who have evidence (however denigrated) that vaccinations can hurt young human beings, and these people are laughed at, mocked, destroyed by suggesting maybe we should do something about it, because, hey, the evidence just isn’t good enough.

      But in the face of centuries of evidence Shakespeare does no harm, we’re going to do something to protect our kids from the nonexistent ravages of some old stories?

Undergraduates were advised in a “Notes on Lectures” document circulated to students that a potentially triggering lecture on Shakespeare’s "Titus Andronicus" and "The Comedy of Errors" would include “discussions of sexual violence” and “sexual assault,” The Telegraph reported Wednesday.

     It isn’t simply that we’re at the stage that even our great schools must deal with the snowflakes, there’s a hidden message here. See, this is a course for students who already (supposedly) know Shakespeare, already have been exposed to these stories before.

“If a student of English Literature doesn’t know that 'Titus Andronicus' contains scenes of violence they shouldn’t be on the course,” David Crilly, artistic director at The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

      These students should already know these stories, the purpose of the academic course is discussion in additional depth. Allow me to highlight the hidden message:

     This need for trigger warnings didn’t come from a vacuum. Students must have complained before, and these complaints not only indicate the presence of coddle-requiring snowflakes, but also that these students are stumbling into advanced courses without having learned the basic material…doubtless because they were coddled overmuch in earlier courses.

     I noticed, when I was at a fraudulent community college, that the students in the calculus courses were no longer able to add fractions or perform any other basic calculations without mechanical assistance. In short, I noticed that the students were literally learning nothing in their previous classes; I chalked this up to the widespread incompetence, fraud, and corruption I saw everywhere else at the community college.

      But now, with a just bit of reading between the lines, we’re seeing it at Cambridge, where students can come into their second-year Shakespeare courses clearly completely ignorant of what they should have learned in their first year courses.

But she added school officials are caving to a trend to appease "hyper-sensitive" undergrads, The Telegraph reported. For instance, the University of Glasgow issued warnings to theology students earlier this year they may see distressing images of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

     Yes, that’s right, we’re also getting theology students, raised in a predominantly Christian culture, unaware that they may see depictions of The Crucifixion in their Christianity courses.

     I can’t emphasize strongly enough how the elimination of material from college coursework has debilitated higher education. Yes, the snowflakes have to be melted off campus, but we really need to have standards again, so that students of calculus know something about arithmetic, students of Shakespeare know something about Shakespeare, students of theology know something about Christianity.

"Frailty, thy name is snowflake"

--from the comments section, though I wish I’d been clever enough to think of it.

     While most mainstream news articles don’t allow comments (the better to prevent real people from making corrections to any false narratives the mainstream news wishes to advance), this Fox News page allows it.

      Of course, the commenters point and laugh at the insanity here. People have always pointed and laughed at pointy-headed academics, but this time it’s different.

      Before, the laughter would be about how the academics could take their work, in this case Shakespeare, so seriously. I even have to admit watching English professors heatedly argue over minutely different interpretations of one line of prose can be pretty amusing…even as I’ll spend an afternoon calculating a precise solution to a theoretical problem nobody else could possibly care about.

     Today, the laughter is not how academics take their work seriously, but instead is how we’re taking the snowflakes so seriously. And everyone off campus is laughing about it.

     As always, the source for this shift is the restructuring of where the money comes for higher education. Now that any snowflake can qualify for that money, our institutions have shifted their priorities to take care of those snowflakes, at the expense of education.

     If we just go back to when the only people who qualified for higher education were interested in higher education (rather than in simply not being offended), we could actually make education about education again. Would that be so bad?

     End the student loan scam.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

MOOCs Are Dead, But Why Not Online Classes?

By Professor Doom

     For a solid 20 years of my career, I’ve dealt with admin drooling to “get into the online education market.” Every college, every university, has infinite interest in the hot fad of online education. From an admin’s point of view, online classes are great: minimal overhead and maximum profit.

     I actually thought there was something to it, even created one of the first online courses (in the previous millennium), but I had reservations about how to do it—admin politely listened to my concerns, and ignored anything that would dampen their sales model of growth, growth, and growth.

      My opinion of online education, insofar as it’s offered at the university level, dropped sharply and quickly for two reasons:

     First, online courses have a potential for cheating that is simply unmatched in “traditional” classes. It was completely obvious, very early on, that cheating would be a big problem. Naturally, getting rid of cheaters would cut into those sales figures, so admin didn’t care 20 years ago and doesn’t care now. There are at least a dozen “we’ll write your paper,” “we’ll take your course,” or “we’ll do your math homework” sites more than willing to facilitate cheating, and when I revisit the sites every year, I see they’re still in business; their traffic numbers indicate business must be pretty good. I grant not wanting education to be more about cheating than anything else might be a somewhat self-important view of education—most of what we teach in higher ed is far removed from practical applications or, nowadays, common sense, so what difference does it make if someone cheats to get a Bachelor’s in Deviant Sexual practices?

     The other reason I’m against online education in universities is more practical: why charge for it? 20 years ago, YouTube didn’t exist, but it sure does now, and anyone who wishes can get a fine education, practical or otherwise, by devoting time to appropriate videos. Similarly, internet resources are many magnitudes greater than they were a score years ago, with appropriate material available for just about every conceivable subject…how can a university charge, and often charge exorbitantly, for information already quite available for free?

     MOOCs, massively open online courses, address all my concerns. These courses are put together by faculty who actually care about education, and the coursework is appropriate (finding such is a bit of a problem with a YouTube/online education, I concede). They’re free, and, because they don’t really count as coursework like “paid” classes, the cheating factor is pretty minimal. I suppose there are cheaters, but why would anyone pay a cheating website a few hundred bucks to do free coursework which doesn’t count for anything but personal edification? I’m sure it happens, but I reckon it’s minimal.  
     Dollar signs in their eyes, admin have been raving about MOOCs for years. The gentle reader might find this surprising, but many institutions have a “butts in seats” model when it comes to pouring money into administrative pockets. MOOC enrollments are in the thousands, so we’re talking potentially many butts in seats here even if nominal tuition for the courses is low, if anything.

     Trouble is, that potential has never come close to realization. Because admin has no control over those free courses, these college courses are legitimate…that means it takes real work, real understanding to pass them. This makes course completion rates low, ridiculously low, sometimes a fraction of a percent---far lower than administrators, who often order faculty to see to it 85% or more of students complete, i.e., pass, a course.

      Udacity has been the major advocate of MOOCs, and it was only few years ago that they were predicting itself to be one of only a handful of educational institutions that would even exist in the near future, thanks to the awesome power of MOOCs. What do they think of MOOCs now?

     Look, they’re a business, they have to go where the money is, but there are two dogs not barking here that should be heard all the same:

     First, why do these open enrollment courses without administrative control, but legitimacy, have much lower passing rates than comparable online courses, taught by faculty completely under the thumb of admin? The answer here is obvious.

      Second, and this is a larger dog by far, is why do we have millions of people signing up for expensive courses when MOOCs can do the same thing, for free? I mean, if you had a choice between paying $20,000 for a car, and paying $0 for the same car, it’d be a pretty easy decision, right? The student loan scam, of course, presents the illusion that both cars cost the same, since, as near as the student can tell, he can buy the car now, and not pay until much later, when his worthless online degree gets him a job riding unicorns from goose to goose, collecting golden eggs. Or something.

     The student loan scam is the only thing keeping all our online universities and colleges afloat. It really should be obvious that a product you cannot give away, you should not be able to sell for thousands of dollars, either. I reckon it’s every bit as obvious as how prevalent the cheating must be in online courses…but such concerns are above my pay grade, apparently.

     Udacity is moving on to corporate-training style MOOCs, and I hope it works out for them. A few comments from Inside Higher Ed are worth mention:

“…in 1922, Thomas Edison announced that the motion picture industry will revolutionize education and textbooks will disappear within ten (10) years. Then it was television that was going to revolutionize education.
Now, proponents of technology [read "those financially invested in technology] insist personalized and blended digital learning will revolutionize education. And so goes the limited thinking of most Americans.
The best, most beneficial education has always been, and will always be, through in-person teacher-student and student-student interaction.”

     Much like with the failed Sunrise Semester (which was when you used the hot, new, technology of VCRs to record taped classes broadcast at 4 am), it does seem like every few years there’s another new fad that’s supposed to revolutionize education, only to quickly fade away.

That is why "chalk" and "talk" are two of the most reviled words in the edtech sector.

--I’ve had admin sneer this phrase at me a few times because it’s how I teach. I like proven methods. I also think human beings are too precious to gamble with using questionable new education fads.

      Bottom line, however, humans just don’t change as fast as technology, and so the best education methods today are the same as they were a few millenia ago: you have an actual human teacher in close proximity to actual human students teaching actual skills and knowledge. I mostly teach in auditoriums now, and, as I sit grading yet another mountain of tests, I do consider that maybe it’s time I just go to non-interactive PowerPoint presentations and fill-in-the-bubble tests like most all my peers now.

     Maybe the next time class sizes double because the $200,000 a year Dean (or one of her three $150,000 a year assistants) tells me “we don’t have the money for smaller classes” I’ll give in…but until then I’ll stick with methods providing proven results, and keep my hands off the latest fad.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

College/Uni is NOT Higher Ed

By Professor Doom

     Every day I read another poll that says something or other. Now, the last election showed that pollsters (or at least the media) can outright lie about the results, but even if pollsters were honest (stop laughing!) about the results of their polls, they can still be dishonest about what they are doing.

“Three out of four people prefer flame broiled burgers to open gas!”

     A fast food chain used the above line to say their burgers tasted better, but it was dishonest. The “open gas” referred to the flame coming from burning natural gas…meat cooked by flame is meat cooked by flame, for the most part. The simple phrasing of the poll created the desired result…the chain’s burgers were indistinguishable from any other chain, but people were just turned off by the phrase “open gas.” You can easily manipulate poll results by using the right phrasing.

     So, we have polls on higher ed that show Republicans don’t like higher education, while Democrats do:

Well, the articles, based on separate polls from Pew and Gallup, found some strong partisan disparities. According to Pew, 58 percent of Republicans say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country (36 percent said they have a positive effect), compared to 19 percent of Democrats with a negative view of colleges and universities. 

     I’m quoting Reason magazine above, and they’re often worth reading. Unlike mainstream news, they do more than just read off the party line, they ask questions and think about the information being spoon-fed to them.

     The polls make it look like Republicans want people to be ignorant, that Republicans don’t believe in Education, even implying that Republicans are “against science” and free thinking and all that…because the headline news says Republicans don’t like higher education.

     I’m no Republican, but kudos to Reason for thinking about things:

Wait a minute. Those headlines said "higher education," but poll respondents were asked about "colleges and universities." That's not necessarily the same thing.

     Note the twisting of the results of the poll: a different phrasing would likely get a different result. It’s no secret that colleges and universities are openly supportive of Left wing Hate/Democratic ideals, shoving them into courses which have no need of them:

“Why am I f$(&ing reading The Communist Manifesto in an English Lit class?”

--a student records her issues with higher education, and asks this question, among quite a few others. Her language is foul, but you can hear her address this around 3:10 of the video.

     It is unconscionable that Karl Marx is basically the #1 author in our colleges and universities right now. Students are heavily exposed to him in philosophy, political science, economics and, yes, even in English Literature courses. To clarify, they’re very heavily exposed. While students might read snippets of other books, Marx’s entire books are used in many of these courses. I’m not pro-censorship, but the writings of Karl Marx should be studied by students about as often as the works of Hitler, Mao, Charles Manson, or Ron Jeremy—there are times and places for such things. Honest, Karl Marx belongs in college courses exactly as often as Ron Jeremy: in very specialized courses covering extremely particular topics, not in foundational courses for education.

     Karl Marx was not an Englishman, and didn’t write literature, but he’s now assigned in English Lit courses. Why might thinking people see this and suspect something is awry in our universities?

     Now, Republicans see that colleges and universities today are indoctrination centers, and, probably more importantly, indoctrination centers for an ideology that does not support the Republican party (the gentle reader should note carefully: I hold no illusions about what Republican support would be like if colleges/universities solely advanced Republican ideology).

That flip occurred during years when colleges and universities have frequently featured in wince-worthy headlines about ideological intolerancepoliticized instruction, and eroding due process.

     It wasn’t always this way, there was a time when Republicans supported colleges and universities as much as, well, the only other political party Americans are allowed to have. It’s a simple fact that things have changed on many campuses. Between the open fraud at many of our community colleges, the horrific fraud at many of our for-profit schools, and the blatant indoctrination at many of our state and non-profit schools…I think it’s fair for someone to not be supportive of the current environment in colleges and universities.

      But colleges and universities are, to a great extent, not higher education. Our media conflates these concepts since it’s to the detriment of the Republicans (again, to be fair, the media is also pro-Democrat to a huge extent, and, I reiterate, if it were as biased towards Republicans as it currently is towards Democrats, I’m sure their opinion would flip accordingly).

     “Higher education” as most people think of it has changed, it’s that simple. The gentle reader might recall the conservative professor at Evergreen college, who stood up and said it was time to end racism. He did so by speaking out against the racist policies there. The students rioted, of course, because admin tried to appease them the last time they rioted. While any idiot could predict what further appeasement would bring, admin, despite their Ph.D.s in Leadership, had no idea it would cause more riots.

      It’s no surprise how they’d respond to more riots:

No, not that Weinstein.

      Only tenured faculty can dare stand up to what’s happening on our campuses, but, as Weinstein has learned, tenured faculty are nearly extinct on campus…there just aren’t of them of them to stop what’s happening here. While I’ve documented the myriad underhanded ways admin has removed tenured faculty, they’re not above a straight payoff just to get the last scholars off campus.

     Again, this is a slur against colleges and universities, not higher education.

     One of the many evils on campus is our kangaroo court system; as a former insider to this system, I assure the gentle reader it’s a joke of a system, and, much like everything else on campus, is being abused to further advance and instill ideology.

Nevertheless, many university administrators seem averse to restoring some legitimacy to campus judicial processes. University of California President Janet Napolitano and Stanford University Provost Persis Drell both expressed doubts about efforts to restore due process.

     Seriously what hope is there for our colleges and universities, when the “leaders” of the system have no interest in legitimacy?  So, sure, Republicans are against colleges and universities…there’s nothing in it for them.

     All the indoctrination on our campuses, as well as the kangaroo court system, is paid for by the student loan scam. The day will come when the scam will end, and our campuses won’t be drowning in student loan money.

      When that day comes, many of our colleges and universities will wither and die; Republicans won’t shed a tear, and neither will I.

       I promise the gentle reader: higher education will not in the slightest be reduced by the death of those colleges and universities, as they are no longer a part of higher education.