Jan 17 2009

Marsalis on today’s music students

Category: education,higher education,music,societyamuzikman @ 9:39 am

Here are comments by a legendary musician on music students today. Some of his comments may apply to students in other areas, but it’s really about the music. Mild language warning.

Branford Marsalis’ take on students today

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Dec 31 2008

The demise of the university

Category: education,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

Victor Davis Hanson

Until recently, classical education served as the foundation of the wider liberal arts curriculum, which in turn defined the mission of the traditional university. Classical learning dedicated itself to turning out literate citizens who could read and write well, express themselves, and make sense of the confusion of the present by drawing on the wisdom of the past. Students grounded in the classics appreciated the history of their civilization and understood the rights and responsibilities of their unique citizenship. Universities, then, acted as cultural custodians, helping students understand our present values in the context of a 2,500-year tradition that began with the ancient Greeks.

But in recent decades, classical and traditional liberal arts education has begun to erode, and a variety of unexpected consequences have followed. The academic battle has now gone beyond the in-house “culture wars” of the 1980s. Though the argument over politically correct curricula, controversial faculty appointments, and the traditional mission of the university is ongoing, the university now finds itself being bypassed technologically, conceptually, and culturally, in ways both welcome and disturbing.
Continue reading “The demise of the university”

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Dec 16 2008

Coming off sabbatical soon

Category: higher education,humorharmonicminer @ 10:52 am

I’ve been on sabbatical this semester, but I start teaching again next semester. I am hoping against hope that the following is not the experience of my students.

Click here to see how “A Bunch of Rocks” ends

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Dec 02 2008

On compulsory service

Category: education,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 1:39 am

That brilliant observer of society, Thomas Sowell, on “service” requirements.  The whole thing, as usual, is worth reading, but this part stands out to me:

The most fundamental question is: What in the world qualifies teachers and members of college admissions committees to define what is good for society as a whole, or even for the students on whom they impose their arbitrary notions?

What expertise do they have that justifies overriding other people’s freedom? What do their arbitrary impositions show, except that fools rush in where angels fear to tread?

What lessons do students get from this, except submission to arbitrary power?

Supposedly students are to get a sense of compassion or noblesse oblige from serving others. But this all depends on who defines compassion. In practice, it means forcing students to undergo a propaganda experience to make them receptive to the left’s vision of the world.

I am sure those who favor “community service” requirements would understand the principle behind the objections to this if high school military exercises were required.

Indeed, many of those who promote compulsory “community service” activities are bitterly opposed to even voluntary military training in high schools or colleges, though many other people regard military training as more of a contribution to society than feeding people who refuse to work.

In other words, people on the left want the right to impose their idea of what is good for society on others– a right that they vehemently deny to those whose idea of what is good for society differs from their own.

The essence of bigotry is refusing to others the rights that you demand for yourself. Such bigotry is inherently incompatible with freedom, even though many on the left would be shocked to be considered opposed to freedom.

As with many such issues, it’s what you call it that matters. If instead of service, we substituted “compulsory performance of duties other people think someone should do”, we’d be in better shape on this one.

Is it any less “service” to participate in the creation of a useful product that society would not have as much of without your efforts? I don’t think so.

Those who think serving in soup kitchens is more laudable than growing wheat tend to be people who think motives matter more than results, and for whom only certain results are acceptable.

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Aug 15 2008

Proving the obvious: and they call it “higher learning”

Category: higher education,humorharmonicminer @ 9:22 am

So, being an academic myself, I often find it embarrassing that so many pieces of research are undertaken to prove the obvious. Here is the latest.

For the first time, scientists have proven that “beer goggles” are real – other people really do look more attractive to us if we have been drinking.

Well, that certainly is surprising. Some other favorites of mine:

When close family members have terminal illnesses, the rest of the family has a hard time, too. (Some nursing professor got a government grant to prove this.)

People who are good-looking have easier lives than other people, all things being equal. (No… say it isn’t so.)

People whose minds drift while they are reading can’t remember what they read as well as other people. (Well… that certainly explains a lot.)

Students who do their homework learn better than students who don’t. (I finally figured this out after being graduated from college. Nice to know someone has finally proved it.)

Depressed people are more likely to commit suicide than un-depressed people. (Maybe they should drink more beer? Those beer goggles would cheer them up.)

People who exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet are healthier than people who are fat, sedentary, and eat a diet of potato chips and, well, beer. (Darn.)

And finally, my all-time favorite: men are more likely to watch the entire match in women’s beach volleyball than women. (No beer goggles needed here, but they may enhance the experience anyway.)

And here’s something I’d like to see researched:  Has any man ever committed suicide while watching a women’s beach volleyball game?  If not, maybe they should just run that all day, everyday, on the SPIKE channel.  If it saves even one life…..

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Jul 05 2008

Virtual Diversity: The Diversity You Wish You Had

Category: diversity,education,higher education,universityharmonicminer @ 9:00 am

Is this so bad?

A sociologist at Augsburg College, together with an undergraduate, recently studied the viewbooks of hundreds of four-year colleges and universities, selected at random. The research team counted the racially identifiable student photographs and also gathered data on the actual make-up of the student bodies.

The findings: Black students made up an average of 7.9 percent of students at the colleges studied, but 12.4 percent of those in viewbooks. Asian students are also more likely to be found in viewbooks than on campus, making up 3.3 percent of real students on average and 5.1 percent of portrayed students. The researchers acknowledge that appearance does not always tell the story of race and ethnicity, and say that they only counted clearly identifiable photos, and feel less confident about figures for Latino students. But they report relatively few students whose appearance suggested that they might be Latino, which is striking given the growth in the Latino student body. (A total of 371 colleges were studied, and historically black colleges were excluded; the findings were recently presented at the meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society.)

I suppose there are all kinds of reasons for fudging the appearance of diversity, maybe even including trying to attract a more diverse student body.  One assumes that these schools also try to make residence facilities, meal plans and recreation areas look better than the truth….  that is, after all, the American way…  for some of us.  This is not a random failure to be accurate….  none of the minorities were represented as being less than the real figure.

And when some of the students who see these viewbooks come to campus, and fudge the data in their academic work, at least they have a good excuse….  they learned it from the university they attended.

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Jun 30 2008

New Book Coming out on “Diversity”

Category: college,diversity,education,higher education,universityharmonicminer @ 8:01 am

This looks like it will be a fine complement to Peter Wood’s book, discussed here. As chapters of Purdy’s book are released, I’ll link to them here.

New Book on Diversity to be serialized on line

Today, Larry Purdy—one of the three lawyers from the Minneapolis law firm Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand who represented Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter in the U.S. Supreme Court cases Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger—presents a picture of the upside down house in which we live. His book, Getting Under the Skin of “Diversity”, shows how racial preferences have engendered an upside down view of race, racism, affirmative action, diversity, and justice.

The National Association of Scholars is privileged to present, beginning today, an advanced look at Purdy’s book. A printed version of Getting Under the Skin of “Diversity” will be available later this year. In the days and weeks to come, however, we will serialize this important book on our website. Each chapter will go up in PDF form until the whole book is present. We do this with the author’s permission. Mr. Purdy retains the copyright to Getting Under the Skin of “Diversity” and all legal claims to his intellectual property.

In the preface, Purdy names the three purposes of his book: First, he sets out to refute another book, The Shape of the River (1998) by William Bowen and Derek Bok, former presidents of Princeton and Harvard. Bowen and Bok’s book strenuously argued that racial preferences in elite colleges work as advertised: the minority students who receive the preferences thrive; the colleges benefit; and society is better off. In her majority opinion, Justice O’Connor relied heavily on the arguments put forth by Bowen and Bok in The Shape of the River, and yet, until now, no one has systematically examined their arguments and so-called “evidence.”

Second, Purdy critiques Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter. Purdy is certainly not the first to do this. Grutter is notorious for its loose reasoning and selective use of evidence, but there is probably no one better equipped than Purdy to demonstrate the waywardness of O’Connor’s judgment in this case.

Purdy’s third object in this book is to discuss the continued use of racial preferences in higher education and the injustices those preferences propagate. Ultimately, Purdy writes, both the “beneficiaries” and the “victims” are harmed—by condescension and by discrimination.

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