Thursday, November 29, 2018

Community College As Road To Nowhere

By Professor Doom

    “Come to the community college! We’re cheap!”

--typical promotion for a CC

     Unlike universities, community colleges can spring up very quickly. You don’t need departments, you barely even need faculty. All you need are some administrators to hire cheap adjuncts, cut-and-paste the curriculum used at a nearby legitimate school…and you’re basically set.

     This simple set up does allow for cost-cutting, and students are quite justified in expecting, and getting, lower prices for their courses and degrees. Of course, the savings here are illusory: the coursework often doesn’t transfer (some 80% of students are victimized like this), and even whole degrees from a community college can be of no value. 

How can there be a savings when everything you get there is worthless? I’ve made this observation before, even documented it enough, but a recent article has a few things to add:

     It doesn’t take long to see the author here has thought about the kind of money being wasted on community colleges:

…the next time there’s a public event to celebrate the opening or expansion of a community college, it might make sense to bring both: cut the giant check with the giant scissors to signify the money being wasted.

      I hope someday someone sits down and does the math on these things, as the money spent is extraordinary. I don’t know for sure, but it’s quite possible, if, in lieu of a CC, the community simply erected a mosquito breeding ground and paid the associated health costs of mosquito-borne diseases, that it would come out better off than the sheer waste of a community college.

What community colleges represent is clear. They were the first higher education institutions in the community at a time when four-year colleges and universities were inaccessible to all but a small segment of the population. As the first open-enrollment institutions, they revolutionized accessibility in an era before a college degree became the sine qua non of the labor market.

     A big problem of what happened to higher ed was our “leadership” turned into plunderers. Yes, absolutely, there was a time in the not-too-distant past where community college represented a real opportunity to move ahead in a cheaper and more convenient way than going to university.

      Our leaders plundered that reputation, and many CCs are now unhinged, with most of what goes on in the classrooms outright fraudulent, and the courses which honestly admit what they cover are   90% high school level or lower, and accreditation does nothing because they’re in on it. Meanwhile, the leaders rake in the loot as reward for “growth” of the school.

      While CC admin say they’re doing a great job, the real world knows otherwise:

Employability is a huge problem for associate degrees. The more problematic associate programs are for students who don’t plan to end there; over 80 percent of students who enroll in associate programs at community college intend to transfer to four-year institutions. Of course, only 32 percent actually do within six years, and fewer than 15 percent earn a bachelor’s degree in that time frame. The trouble is transfer. A GAO report from last summer revealed that students who transfer lose 43 percent of credits they’ve earned, which means even more time for life to get in the way.

      Goodness, such miserable percentages…how can any community think of a CC as a boon when the facts say otherwise?

     Part of the problem of the useless of the CC degrees is from the core structure of the school: the faculty are irrelevant, being merely a collection of whoever admin can scrape together to serve administrative whims as cheaply as possible. How can there be a coherent degree program under such circumstances? It’s simply not possible, as any faculty with any standards are quickly removed…standards cut into growth.

      Another trick CC’s use to make their communities think they’re a benefit are dual enrollment programs, i.e., programs where the high school students get college credit by going to the CC. Sounds great, right? How’s that work out?

Dual enrollment has the same fundamental challenge as free community college: It may be free, but where does it get you?

     Again, if the credits don’t transfer, or at least transfer meaningfully, there’s no benefit to teaching the high school kids with adjuncts instead of high school teachers…well, beyond paying a bunch of CC admin $100,000 a year apiece to crow about how great they are.

      I’m close to finishing up the first 50% of the brutal chemo that gives me a chance of survival…I can’t help but draw parallels between the futility of fighting this cancer for decades now and fighting the immense fraud of our typical community college system.

      Yes, I know, someone will chirp in with “but CC really helped me out!” but much like with that one guy who actually recovers from cancer…it’s something of a fluke, and at some point we need to take a more realistic look at what we’re doing here, to see if we yet have the will to fix things.

       Somehow, I suspect that time is not yet here.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Supreme Court And The Student Loan Scam

By Professor Doom

     I often request an end to the student loan scam, but I seldom discuss why we have so many of our kids ready and willing to destroy themselves with student loans. Even if we destroyed the supply (student loans), we’d still have immense demand for accredited college degrees.

      So as I sit here being pumped through gallons of assorted drugs to stop a cancer a doctor first told me would be “no problem” in 2004, I thought it best to review how we ended up in this mess, particularly since it involves the Supreme Court (the composition of which is a major concern of late).

    Yet records for new college enrollment continue apace.”

      I should point out this article is a little old; in 2014, perhaps, enrollments were rising, but there’s been a clear trend the last few years where enrollments dropped (especially at converged schools). Ignoring the dated information, there are a few relevant things said here.

The only thing Americans, Right and Left, seem to agree on is that college is an unquestionable good.

      The above, of course, is part of the reason for the huge demand. It is, of course, wrong. Experienced welders can make $100,000 a year because of the demand for such skills, and it takes less time to get experience as a welder than it does to get a 4 year degree, the latter of which is deeply unlikely to lead to a job paying anywhere near $100,000…not even factoring in the debt, of course.

      Yes, it’s crass to equate a college degree to money, but that’s part of the problem. “Education” and “college” are being treated as synonyms today, even though anyone who wants can get a free education by going to the library (or this “internet” thing people are buzzing about), whereas college generally requires a large and massive debt…and doesn’t promise an education.

       Now, I do believe education is an unquestionable good…but where does the Supreme Court come into this?

…overturning Griggs v. Duke Power Company…

    This 1971 court case planted the seed leading to the destruction of higher education today. I concede I’m not one to follow the Supreme Court closely; the only reason I even cared a little about Kavanaugh was because of the outrageous treatment of him in response to the utterly baseless accusations, many of which were irrelevant on the face of it (seriously, who cares what he did in high school?).

     The basics of the case:

The saga began in 1969 when Willie Griggs, a black man born in the segregated South, decided he was overdue  for a promotion. In order to get one, per Duke Power Electric Company rules, he had to pass two aptitude tests and possess a high school diploma. Griggs smelled racism. The tests surveyed employees on basic math and intelligence questions. None of Duke’s fourteen black workers passed. Griggs and twelve others sued the company for discrimination. A district court and federal appeals court accepted Duke’s claim that the tests were designed to ensure that the plant operated safely. Duke bolstered its case by pointing out that it offered to pay for employees to obtain high school diplomas and that white applicants who failed to meet the requirements were also denied promotions. 

     Bottom line: companies used to use internal aptitude tests to determine who could advance. The weapon of RACIST, blunted today after decades of heavy use, was quite sharp 50ish years ago:

Griggs found that if blacks failed to meet a standard at a higher rate than whites the standard itself was racist—a legal doctrine known as disparate impact. 

      And…game over. Just like that, companies were hard pressed to use aptitude tests, unless those tests gave the same results for blacks as whites. I really feel the need to point out that, in higher education, blacks and whites are not equal, either (and do note any two different groups are “not equal,” as that comes with the territory of being different)…but for some reason our government won’t charge itself with racism by pushing the wildly disparate impact of student loans on blacks. For some reason, indeed.

“What is required by Congress is the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment when the barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of racial or other impermissible classification,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in Griggs. “Diplomas and tests are useful servants, but Congress has mandated the common sense proposition that they are not to become masters of reality.” Burger may have intended to free America of bureaucracy, but his decision in fact bestowed that title—“masters of reality”—on college administrators.

     So instead of letting companies determine who should work for them based on tests and demonstrations of ability, they had no choice but to rely on the integrity of college administrators to supply that information.


The solution for businesses post-Griggs was obvious: outsource screening to colleges, which are allowed to weed out poor candidates based on test scores. The bachelor’s degree, previously reserved for academics, doctors, and lawyers, became the de facto credential required for any white-collar job. 

      With now the only way to advance in life restricted to “first, get a college degree” the demand for higher education sky-sky-skyrocketed. Our kids coming out of high school had it drilled into their heads that college was the only choice for a decent human being…while, quietly the pay for trade skills headed up, due to basic supply and demand.

Diplomas do little to alter the dynamics of innate ability and intelligence—even less so now that institutions have lowered standards. The knowledge gap between college seniors and freshmen is negligible (see: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses). Other studies have found that class ranks at graduation closely mirror testing ranks upon matriculation. If businesses could recruit and screen candidates using testing metrics, it would allow workers to begin their careers earlier, advance quicker, and do it debt-free.

     This is such a great article, filled with important information. Not only does it provide a workaround for the huge problem facing higher education, it even clears up a myth I’ve been told, many times:

The lie that props up our Big Education regime is that the GI Bill, which paid for World War II veterans to attend college, produced the upward mobility and economic boom of the postwar period. It’s a heartwarming story, the veteran who would have been a dust farmer but for the grace of government generosity. But it just isn’t true. Only one out of every eight returning veterans attended college. The rest, the vast majority, benefited from something even more egalitarian: aptitude testing. The format favors raw talent above all else, allowing companies to hire high-potential candidates from any background and groom them to fit the company’s needs.

      Now, see, 1 out of 8, the top 12.5%, is probably about the right percentage of people who should be going to college. No, I’m not being elitist, and considering the marginal pay of most college degrees I’m certainly not trying to shut people out of college, but our current system where most high school graduates go to college, and most leave years later deep in debt, with no useful skills, and often without even a degree, is obviously wrong.

     Now, the demand to go to college was great, but how to pay for it? Here come the student loans…

Colleges, aware of their newfound utility and the easy money pouring in from student loans and Pell grants, jacked up prices. Education costs, as George F. Will has noted, grew 440 percent in the post-Griggs era. That trend continues today. The Project on Student Debt found that total college loans increased 6 percent annually between 2008 and 2012. The average student today takes out nearly $30,000 in debt to buy a ticket to the good life.

     Again, this is dated…but imagine starting life deep in debt with nothing to show for it. This is the fate of most of our kids in college today, and it all started with the cry of RACIST, which the Supreme Court heard and responded to (improperly) in 1971.

     Maybe we as a country should start paying attention to the Supreme Court after all, since their decisions can damn generations of young people.

How the Supreme Court Created the Student Loan Bubble

Friday, November 23, 2018

Feminist Re-Write of Mein Kampf = Publishable “Science.”

By Professor Doom

     While the hard sciences are not immune to the big problem in published scientific research—much of it cannot be reproduced—the “soft” sciences, that is to say the topics which didn’t even used to be called sciences (eg, they’re called “social sciences” now, but used to just be “social studies” a generation ago) are rife with “research” which barely qualifies as such.

      Scholars have long known about this problem, but there’s little we can do. The “ivory tower” nature of higher ed means we generally don’t stick our noses in other departments…even when those departments are far too arrogant to just leave everyone else alone (hi Education!).

     A group of scholars, so tired of having admin say “look at the sheer quantity of peer reviewed articles those social sciences departments get published! You other scholars SUCK!” finally decided to demonstrate what a farce the far-Left of those sciences are:

…medieval religious scholar Helen Pluckrose, author and mathematician James Lindsay, and philosopher Peter Boghossian—revealed that they had pulled the greatest academic stunt in history. Over the course of ten months, they wrote 20 hoax papers in a field they termed “grievance studies,” and then proceeded to seek distribution in the world’s finest academic journals. Fully seven of the twenty were approved; four were actually published, and another three were in the process of publication. The authors were even asked to peer-review other papers based on the expertise they displayed in their academic papers.

      Article I’m quoting from is by Ben Shapiro. I’m not a huge fan of his, he’s a little hit and miss in his observations. Anyway, so three guys got together and just cranked out hoax papers that sounded nice, to see if it was as easy as it seemed to get published in these very light fields.

       What topics did they address?

“Going In Through The Back Door: Challenging The Straight Male Homohysteria, Transhysteria and Transphobia Through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use.” This masterpiece appeared in Sexuality and Culture. Its thesis: straight men should be anally penetrated by sex toys in order to become more receptive to feminism and transgenderism, and to fight rape culture.

     The gentle reader should take extra time to consider the above paragraph, to understand how truly off-the-wall “research” in these bizarre fields is. The “research” such as it, is simply an argument for anally penetrating straight men, there’s no actual evidence provided it would help fight “rape culture,” even if such exists at all.

 “Human Reactions To Rape Culture And Queer Performativity At Urban Dog Parks In Portland, Oregon,” as published in Gender, Place and Culture. This article theorized that heteronormativity was underscored by watching dogs have sex with each other. This piece received an award for excellence.

      Again, the above isn’t research, it’s just an argument (at best). And yet somehow papers like this bear just as much weight as a paper detailing a new cure for a disease, an easier method of solving difficult mathematical problems, or a method for saving an entire species of plant. You just crank this crap out, arguing the ridiculous—but politically correct!—thing, and receive awards for it.

      Why would scholars do such a thing?

What was the goal of the hoax? The authors explained that they had amassed evidence that there is “a problem with bias in fields influenced by critical constructivist approaches and assumptions.”
That’s no shock. Constructivism is perhaps the most idiotic philosophy at work today in education, and it is also one of the most prominent. The authors of the hoax describe constructivism thusly: “an overarching (almost or fully sacralized) belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed. These constructions are seen as being nearly entirely dependent upon power dynamics between groups of people, often dictated by sex, race, or sexual or gender identification.”

      Shapiro is being a little kind here, as there’s more to it. As more and more (garbage) papers like this get published, they gain a credibility far beyond what they deserve. Ultimately, it leads to falsehoods like “men and women are the same” because “we have many, many, scientific research papers saying as much,” even as the scientific papers provide nothing beyond politically correct words.

Constructivism turns all of that on its head. In the view of constructivists, meaning is assigned by the powerful; there is no such thing as truth to be discovered. That means that all language is malleable, all realities mere social constructions. And that means that education is all about tearing away at reality rather than learning about it.

     To clarify: this is ultimately why this crap is so easily published. Since there is no objective truth, no need for actual, reproducible, experiments, all you need do to be successful is toe the party line.

       Another site gives a more thorough discussion of all the scholars did to perpetrate/justify their hoax. They really were thumbing their nose at the whole debased system:

Another tough one for us was, “I wonder if they’d publish a feminist rewrite of a chapter from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” The answer to that question also turns out to be “yes,” given that the feminist social work journal Affilia has just accepted it. As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.

      Even the works of Hitler can be politically correct now, as long as the right groups are targeted…yikes.

To summarize, we spent 10 months writing the papers, averaging one new paper roughly every thirteen days. (Seven papers published over seven years is frequently claimed to be the number sufficient to earn tenure at most major universities although, in reality, requirements vary by institution.)

      These papers were cranked out, every other week, with the authors just taking wild shots at what topics might be publishable, and little care to any actual scholarship.

      Based on their success in creating publishable gibberish, journals asked more of our hoaxing authors:

  • 4 invitations to peer-review other papers as a result of our own exemplary scholarship. (For ethical reasons, we declined all such invitations. Had we wished to fully participate in their culture in this way, however, it would have been an unrivaled opportunity to tinker with how far we could take the hypothesis that the canon of literature within these fields gets skewed in part because the peer-review process encourages the existing political and ideological biases.)

      Wow, what a missed opportunity to get inside the sausage factory. Oh well. I point out that the above offers were made despite the authors going out of their way to be terrible scholars:
Our papers also present very shoddy methodologies including incredibly implausible statistics (“Dog Park”), making claims not warranted by the data (“CisNorm,” “Hooters,” “Dildos”), and ideologically-motivated qualitative analyses (“CisNorm,” “Porn”). (NB: See Papers section below.) Questionable qualitative methodologies such as poetic inquiry and autoethnography (sometimes rightly and pejoratively called “mesearch”) were incorporated (especially in “Moon Meetings”).

      The above really highlights the standards for publishing in these fields. I feel the need to highlight what happened here: admin, not scholars, took it upon themselves to give scholars awards for research. Your typical administrator in higher ed today isn’t a scholar, and is far more likely to be an ideologue than anything these. In any event, all admin can do is count the number of papers published; they simply cannot consider quality, relevance, or standards.

      And so journals in less legitimate fields publish nearly everything, in a quid pro quo process with authors at other journals.

     In any event, the authors of these fake studies have demonstrate their point quite well about the fundamental fraud of these fields.

       Too bad admin doesn’t care about fraud…they’re too busy counting the number of papers published to care, after all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Endumbening Of Humanity

By Professor Doom

     I’ve written before that college graduate IQ is in freefall; within a decade it’s quite  possible that the IQ of a college graduate will be below average.

      But what happens if “average” a decade ago is higher than it is today?

     Intelligence is a difficult thing to define, much less precisely measure, but it’s been suspected that, for the last few decades, whatever intelligence is, we have less of it now.

“Every year, the students get weaker…”
--a professor explaining things to me in 1985.

     Mostly I write about higher education, and anecdotes there are rife that something is going on. That said, professor complaints about the steady drop in student ability are about as old as the universities themselves. The article I cited above inadvertently points out the legitimacy of the concerns right off the bat:

In November, the European TV channel Arte aired an hourlong documentary, Demain, tous crétins?Tomorrow, everyone’s an idiot?—on a topic that would seem to be of great importance...The same documentary has also been released in the U.S., with the less provocative title Brains in Danger?. (It’s now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.)

     We should have been concerned about this years ago, when we first started pointlessly changing the language around to “less provocative” terms. Time and again I’ve seen people abandon reason in the face of “offensive” language, failing to comprehend that there’s more to an argument than whether you like the ideas or not.

Starting in the 1980s, Flynn documented “massive gains” in mean IQ, starting with Americans, whose scores had soared by 14 points since 1932. The Flynn effect has since been well established across at least 34 countries; on average, scholars say IQs have increased by several points per decade.

      The Flynn effect has been a curious thing, but I’ve always felt a big reason for it is people are just more familiar with the “strange” questions you find on intelligence tests. In any event, for several decades, intelligence was heading up, and nobody argued that this was happening.

      It’s heading down now. As the measurement methods are the same as before, we’re less concerned about whatever “it” is we’re measuring.

      It’s happening, so the next question is “why?” The claims of poor schooling, immigration, smart people have fewer kids, and quite a few similar ones can be dismissed with a study which specifically focuses on brothers in Norway:

What they found is that for Norwegians born between 1962 and 1975, IQs increased within each family by 0.26 points per year: Younger brothers had slightly higher scores than their older siblings, relative to expectations. (The researchers had to control for the more general fact that older siblings tend to have higher IQs than younger ones.) From 1975 until 1991, this tendency reversed, with test scores dropping by 0.33 points per year within each family.

     Using brothers means that the “fewer kids” argument is meaningless, Norway (at the time of this study) had minimal immigration, and the schools there are known for being quite good…and certainly not known for decaying over the handful of years between use by one brother and the next.

      0.33 points per year might not seem much, but this means in less than 3 generations (60 years), the average IQ will drop down to 80—mentally disabled by today’s standards, but it could be “average” in 2080.

      Despite the design of the study, it relies on the standard (and obviously wrong) reasons for the decline:

What could be endumbening Norwegians, then? The authors note several possible factors, among them worsening health and nutrition, a decline in the quality of education, detrimental changes to media exposure, and the indirect effects of immigration.

     The article helpfully supplies better answers:

…the IQ decline might be caused by chemical pollutants.
That’s the theory posed by Paris-based endocrinologist Barbara Demeneix. In her 2017 book from Oxford University Press, Toxic Cocktail: How Chemical Pollution Is Poisoning Our Brains, Demeneix argued that hormone-twisting industrial poisons have so interfered with human thyroid function that the species has been thrust into “a sort of brain evolution in rather rapid reverse”—which includes among its symptoms, she says, the gradual diminishment of the human intellect, and increasing rates of autism and ADHD.

    Of course, to be able to address this question we’d need to study a population which isn’t exposed to “hormone twisting industrial poisons,” extremely problematic in the modern world. I guess we could try using some of the few stone-age tribes we have left, but I can see people disputing the results of such a study.

     We have a bit of a bigger problem with the claim that it’s about hormones and poisons:

According to the numbers, the Great Endumbening isn’t merely absent here in North America; our test results suggest that, by and large, Americans’ IQs are still increasing

      I’m quite confident Americans are exposed to just as much (and likely more) as Norwegians. I’m not taking much comfort in that, since whatever’s affecting humans over there can quite reasonably affect humans over here at some point.

     If trends continue, in three generations a Norwegian college graduate will struggle to operate a broom with much efficiency…even if American college graduates are ahead of that, will it be by much?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Less Than 1 In 280 Who Apply Get Student Loan Forgiveness

By Professor Doom

      Around 50,000,000 people have student loans (more official numbers are like 45,000,000, but I dispute their accounting methods). The bulk of these people have taken these loans in exchange for worthless college credits, while perhaps 20% actually managed to get a degree, with the value of such a degree varying from $0 to, well, something more than that (weighted towards the low end).

      Because the loans didn’t get anything to help pay off the loan, people are trapped: you can’t escape a student loan through bankruptcy. So, you have to pay off the loan. But you can’t pay off the loan, so it gets bigger…and of course you can’t pay off the bigger loan, either.

       Maybe “loan forgiveness” is the answer? There is a host of such programs, but the big one was created in 2007:

…the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which George W. Bush signed into law in 2007. Under that program, certain public servants—including teachers—who have made 120 qualifying payments on their loans can have their slates wiped clean. The program only counts payments after October 1, 2007, meaning no one was eligible to apply for loan forgiveness until late last year. 

     “120 qualifying payments” means you need to make your monthly loan payment without fail, for ten straight years—gee, if you could do that, you probably don’t really need forgiveness. But, the rules are clear enough. Let’s take a look at one person’s journey to get forgiveness, to give some insight into how hard it is to achieve:

In 2001, Bradford graduated from Central Washington University with a master's degree in history. At the time, he owed about $17,000 in student loans, 

     That’s a small loan by today’s standards…maybe he’ll catch a break with forgiveness? As per the requirements, he goes to teach at the right kind of school:

… teachers who've been at low-income schools for at least five years to have up to $17,500 of their student loan debts forgiven. More than 75 percent of the students in Yakima live in poverty, and Bradford has been teaching there for more than 13 years. He currently teaches social studies to incarcerated students at the juvenile detention center. He's precisely the sort of graduate the program is supposed to help.

      So, the guy’s a saint, he’s doing everything right, and devoted to honorable work. What happened?

But he found he had started his education about a month too early to qualify.

     Oops! Gosh, those technical details are rough. The man didn’t give up, though, and tried another program:

The program only counts payments after October 1, 2007, meaning no one was eligible to apply for loan forgiveness until late last year. Bradford waited a few months, then applied. He was denied on the grounds that he hadn't made enough qualifying payments.

     Qualifying payments? What? It’s not enough that you make payments, only certain payments qualify:

…the only loan repayment plans that qualify are income-driven. Bradford's plan is graduated, meaning it goes up over time but does not change based on his earnings. So again, a program that theoretically exists to help people like him doesn't actually do them any good at all.

       The gentle reader should understand there’s a very significant government bureaucracy dedicated to student loan forgiveness…but it seems like they are far more dedicated to denying forgiveness than anything else. Does anyone make it through the endless minefields?

Through the end of June, more than 28,000 borrowers have applied for loan forgiveness under the PSLF program. Of them, precisely 96 borrowers have had their applications approved,…

--emphasis added.

       Even if exactly 100 borrowers were approved, well, that’s 1 in 280 applicants…and we're not at that level. You are nearly 30 times more likely to get lung cancer than qualify for loan forgiveness. At least we don’t have a government bureaucracy to give people lung cancer, so there’s that.

      Keep in mind, this guy had a loan comparable to a car loan, which most folks can pay off in less than a decade. After his many years of payments, what’s he down to?

Bradford received a letter informing him he's eligible to apply. But he's not sure if it's even worth trying. "I know I'm going to be rejected again," he says. Plus, Bradford only has about $5,000 left to repay. At this point, he and his wife might just pay it off and "be done with it."

     Not to sound cavalier, but paying it off makes much more sense than continue to jump through government hoops in an attempt to get those last few thousand forgiven.

      I feel the need to point out the anecdote above is nearly ideal, and still he got nowhere. Millions of people with student loans were assigned those loans fraudulently, either via fly-by-night schools which had no interest in education, or even by state schools who sacrificed quantify over quality, bloating the size of the campus while doing very little to help all the new kids in the classes.

      I know my blog is insignificant, but I do wish there was a way to at least get the message out about “student loan forgiveness” programs because they quite obviously don’t work.