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Sara Robinson asks of Rick Santorum’s false claims about the UC and US history, “Did Rick Santorum just declare the next right-wing crusade?”

The thing to remember is this: Even though right-wing narratives are often factually wrong, they are absolutely never content-free. Stories like this are always about something. And the weirder and more factually challenged they sound to liberal ears, the more important it probably is for us to know what that something is.… This is almost always a clear sign that conservatives are lining up their artillery — in this case, for an open assault on America’s public colleges and universities.

The thing is, the artillery have already been lined up and firing for years. The UC has already been drastically cut. Student tuition and fees are, notoriously, “hella high” – and rising. There’s no sense in which this is the “next” crusade. It’s ongoing.

That’s a shocking infographic.”

Rick Santorum:

I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught. Just to tell you how bad it’s gotten in this country, where we’re trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are, so they have an understanding of what America should be.

I suppose that narrowly speaking, he might not be lying: he might have read “something … from the state of California” that said this. That something might of course have been scrawled in green crayon on a crumpled paper bag.

But there is certainly no substantial truth in this statement, especially the notion that either of the “California system[s] of universities” is “trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are”.

Someone is trying to make Santorum look like a profoundly ignorant man.

I was able to find US history courses at the CSUs:

Bakersfield
Channel Islands
Chico
Dominguez Hills
East Bay
Fresno
Fullerton
Humboldt
Long Beach
Los Angeles
Maritime
Monterey Bay
Northridge
Pomona
Sacramento
San Bernardino
San Diego
San Francisco
San Jose
San Luis Obispo
San Marcos
Sonoma
Stanislaus

As for the UC’s:

Berkeley
Irvine
Los Angeles
Merced
Riverside
San Diego
Santa Barbara
Santa Cruz

Here at UC Davis, of course, American history is part of the General Education requirement of all students.

And UCSF is of course exclusively a medical school. But even it offers a history of Psychiatry in the United States as part of its History of Health Sciences program.

USA Today hed reads, “Higher education vanishing before our eyes”.

Even with top grades and extracurricular activities, students may find it difficult to gain acceptance to or graduate from a four-year university after recent cuts to higher education budgets.

The month of March has been particularly bad for colleges and universities nationwide, as budget negotiations have left many institutions of higher education in the red.…

California’s State University (CSU) system announced Monday that they would close the admission process for nearly all of its 23 campuses for the Spring 2013 semester, affecting almost 16,000 students wishing to attend.

In addition, every student applying for the 2013-2014 school year will be waitlisted while officials await Gov. Brown’s proposed budget initiative to increase taxes in November. If the measure is defeated, officials will be forced to cut enrollment by an additional 20,000-25,000 students.

“By limiting enrollment we are able to concentrate on our current students,” said Mike Uhlenkamp, CSU spokesman.

Current CSU students have seen their fees rise while their class sizes have increased and their course options have become more limited; all of which has helped to increase expected graduation time from four to six years, according to Uhlenkamp.

The CSU system has already lost approximately $1 billion, or 33%, in the last 4 years due to state budget cuts.

In Britain, the Labour Party justified doing this sort of thing by a change of colors: it became New Labour, shifting rhetoric and policy, with house philosophers and lots of Thatcherite flourishes. In the US, the Democrats have simply done it.

Eric Alterman has this to say about George Kennan and John Gaddis:

Had Kennan not lived so long, Gaddis might have done a fair job as his biographer. But as Kennan, despite remaining an old-fashioned conservative in the tradition of Walter Lippmann and Hans Morgenthau, moved further and further to the dovish/diplomatic wing of foreign policy debate, his biographer rushed headlong in the opposite direction. Kennan, for instance, strongly opposed Bush’s Iraq adventure, while Gaddis sounded like Dick Cheney on steroids during this period. Cautioning Democrats not to take issue with intellectual currents underlying Bush’s foreign policy, Gaddis argued: “The world now must be made safe for democracy, and this is no longer just an idealistic issue; it’s an issue of our own safety,” later adding, “A global commitment to remove remaining tyrants could complete a process Americans began 232 years ago.”

The result, sadly, is a biography, George F. Kennan: An American Life, in which the author not only sides emotionally and intellectually with his subject’s adversaries but, in many instances, does not even try to do justice to his subject’s arguments.

It must be significant that Kennan agreed to Gaddis as his biographer before Gaddis wrote The Long Peace – before that, I suppose it was not clear how different were their respective directions.

It troubled me when President Obama scoldingly said, “We’re putting colleges on notice: you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year”. The UC has raised tuition, but it hasn’t been on its own initiative; it’s been because the state has cut funding to higher education.

Now Robert Frank riffs on Obama’s comment, attributing rising tuition to rising faculty salaries.

To recruit professors, universities must pay salaries roughly in line with those made possible by productivity growth in other sectors. So while rising salaries needn’t lead to higher prices in many industries, they do in academia and many other service industries.

As they say about the International Jewish-Zionist Monetary Conspiracy, if there is one I want my share.1 I don’t think rising faculty salaries are the primary cause of increasing tuition costs.

Frank’s colleague Ronald Ehrenberg has been more eclectic – and I think more persuasive – in attributing the rise of tuition costs.

These include the aspirations of academic institutions; our “winner-take-all” society; the shared system of governance that exists in academic institutions; recent federal government policies; the role of external actors such as alumni, local government, the environmental movement, and historic preservationists; periodicals that rank academic institutions; and how universities are organized for budgetary purposes and how they select and reward their deans.

Or consider this report:

  • The main reason tuition has been rising faster than college costs is that colleges had to make up for reductions in the per-student subsidy state taxpayers sent colleges. In 2006, the last year for which Wellman had data, state taxpayers sent $7,078 per student to the big public research universities. That’s $1,270 less (after accounting for inflation) than they sent in 2002.
  • Public universities have been reining in overall spending per student in recent years. Flagship public universities’ spending per student has risen from about $12,400 in 1995 to $13,800 in 2006 after accounting for inflation. But since 2002, spending at public colleges has generally not exceeded inflation.
  • Increases in spending were driven mostly by higher administration, maintenance, and student services costs. Public universities spent almost $4,000 per student per year on administration, support, and maintenance in 2006, up more than 13 percent, in real terms over 1995. And they spent another $1,200 a year on services such as counseling, which was up 23 percent. Meanwhile, they spent about $8,700 a year on classroom instruction for each student, up about 9 percent.
  • Big private universities, powered by tuition and endowment increases, have increased spending dramatically while public schools have languished. Total educational spending per student at private research universities has jumped by almost 10 percent since 2002 to more than $33,000. During that same period, public university total spending was comparatively flat and totaled less than $14,000 a year.

I wonder what Mark Thoma himself thinks.


1Or half-share, if you insist.

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself why I don’t edit, say, the Keynesian section on the New Deal on Wikipedia, you might want to look into the now much-covered story of Timothy Messer-Kruse’s valiant effort to get Haymarket treated properly. (We have previously drawn on Messer-Kruse’s excellent work here.)

To be clear, this is, if not quite laziness on my part, then simply a prioritizing of time and energy. I believe in what Messer-Kruse is doing and I wish him greatest success.

Yesterday in the Aggie one read,

The UC sent cease-and-desist letters to notehall.com on Nov. 10, 2010, a note-sharing website owned by the Santa Clara company Chegg, as well as coursehero.com on Jan. 10, 2011, appealing to the websites to stop encouraging students to post notes on their sites. They remained in negotiations for several months before the sites removed the content.

Today, I received an email from someone named Tracy King, Content Administrator, reading

Hi there,

Thanks for being part of the Notehall family. We are working hard to expand our services at UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS and need your help.

Apply to be a Note Taker this term.

The Position:
The job is a flexible semester long position. Depending on the class you cover you can earn up to $450.

The responsibilities:
• Take notes for a class you’re currently enrolled in
• Create study guide for exams
• Earn commissions
• Make money for being a good student!

Apply Now

I don’t think the UC is making much of an impression on Notehall; if they took down the content, they are apparently now keen to replace it.

Michael Bérubé runs the numbers on Penn State:

In 1985, the state provided 45 percent of Penn State’s budget; in 2011 it provided 6 percent. In 1985, in-state tuition was just over $2,500; today it is over $16,000. Over the past twenty-five years, the cost of a public college education has increasingly been offloaded onto individual students and their families, as education has been redefined from a public good to a private investment.

And he concludes:

A fully privatized Penn State no longer has any reason to call itself “Penn State.” Indeed, the name would amount almost to false advertising, since there would be nothing “State” about us. And that means a whole new vista would be open to us – and in different ways, to Temple and to Pitt. In two words: naming rights … Let the bidding begin.

My hopes are in the title.

Ronald Reagan with Newt Gingrich
What did you say your name was?

Reading this Wall Street Journal article about Newt Gingrich’s short but odd career as a history professor,* I felt the need to explore what the other people in the story were thinking. Obviously, I have no direct knowledge of West Georgia College or the people there, but I have been at an academic institution for a while.

In addition to the normal application materials, Gingrich submitted his reading list for the last three months to the history department at WGC. He had read 26 books, though they were “too eclectic for a specialist” Gingrich confessed in his letter to the department. Nonetheless, Benjamin Kennedy, the chair, talked to him on the phone, thought he sounded nice, and hired him. Even early on, Gingrich was not shy:

A year into his first full-time teaching job, Newt Gingrich applied to be college president, submitting with his application a paper titled “Some Projections on West Georgia College’s Next Thirty Years.”

According to a history professor, this “‘drew a chuckle'” from administrators. Gingrich did not get the job, needless to say, but he applied undeterred for the chairship of the history department when it came open the next year. This was not funny. It was one thing to apply for the Presidency, but presumptuous to apply for a job with real power. Gingrich’s application was not greeted “so kindly.” Kennedy ruefully recalled him as being “Well, he seemed pretty energetic, young, ambitious. God, always that.”

At this point, there seems (I speculate) to have been a meeting of minds between the administration and the history department on how to distract Gingrich into less bothersome pursuits. The answer? A committee! Read the rest of this entry »

Mitt Romney is flacking for his campaign donor’s business, “Full Sail University.” I eagerly await even one of our leaders sending his children to such an outfit.

Some excellent advice.

  • It is best to go on the job market your last ABD year, so that you’ll appear fresh AND it’s preferable to have your degree in hand and a few years of teaching experience.
  • One should publish aggressively in field-leading journals and seek to publish one’s dissertation as soon as practicable in order to stand out AND it’s best to go the more traditional route and hold back on publishing one’s research so as to save it for the tenure probationary period.
  • One should cultivate as wide a teaching competence as possible so as to serve a variety of departmental needs AND one needs to have a clear, narrow specialization.
  • One should jump at the opportunity to do adjunct work in order to stay in the field and develop one’s teaching portfolio AND one should be cautious about doing adjunct work lest it leave you with the taint of being a second-rater.

Excellence in truth, not in usefulness.

Under the title, “Watch this man,” the London Review of Books publishes Pankaj Mishra’s review of Niall Ferguson’s Civilization. The essay opens with a riff on the “this man Goddard” scene from The Great Gatsby, in which Tom Buchanan rails against the decline of the white man’s West. Noting that “Goddard” stood in for Lothrop Stoddard, the real-life racist, Mishra refers to the arguments of Ferguson’s first major book, The Pity of War, as “Stoddardesque laments about the needless emasculation of Anglo-Saxon power.” Mishra refers also to Ferguson’s “bluster about the white man’s burden.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Cathy Davidson makes excellent points about the UC Davis situation and how higher education should respond in general:

I keep hearing the arguments that universities have to call in the police to protect the students, that the Occupy encampments are unsanitary, unsafe, and insecure. That’s almost comical when you teach at Duke where “tenting” is one of our most venerable student traditions. A tent-city called K-Ville has been thriving since 1986. Krzyzewskiville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krzyzewskiville) is an encampment of students staying in tents, in winter, for weeks at time in order not to lose priority getting into Duke basketball games. Read the rest of this entry »

If you want to know why tuitions at American universities are rising, don’t look at the likes of me: faculty compensation isn’t going up. Felix Salmon explains what you might guess:

spending on faculty compensation is never more than 40% of total spending, and “has remained steady or decreased slightly over time”. Then have a look at the numbers.

Overall, if we exclude for-profit schools, which were a tiny part of the landscape in 1999, we have seen tuition fees rise by 32% between 1999 and 2009. Over the same period, instruction costs rose just 5.6% — the lowest rate of inflation of any of the components of education services. (“Student services costs” and “operations and maintenance costs” saw the greatest inflation, at 15.2% and 18.1% respectively, but even that is only half the rate that tuition increased.)

The real reason why tuition has been rising so much has nothing to do with Baumol, and everything to do with the government. Page 31 of the report is quite clear: “except for private research institutions,” it says, “tuitions were increasing almost exclusively to replace losses from state revenues or other private revenue sources.”

In other words, tuition costs are going up just because state subsidies are going down. Every time there’s a state fiscal crisis, subsidies get cut; once cut, they never get reinstated. And so the proportion of the cost of college which is borne by the student has been rising steadily for decades.

Anthony Grafton on the crisis (“if there is a crisis,” as 1984-era Hal Riney would say) in higher education. One thing that’s sure: the effort to crack into the top athletic tier isn’t the right answer. At least, it’s not the answer if the question is, “how do you make colleges better?”

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? The system runs, in part, on its failures. Administrators count on the tuition paid, from borrowed money, by undergraduates who they know will drop out before they use up many services. To provide teaching they exploit instructors still in graduate school, many of whom they know will also drop out and not demand tenure-track jobs. Faculty, once they have found a berth, often become blind to the problems and deaf to the cries of their own indentured students. And even where the will to do better is present, the means are often used for very different ends.

In many universities, finally, the sideshows have taken over the big tent. Competitive sports consume vast amounts of energy and money, some of which could be used to improve conditions for students. It’s hard not to be miserable when watching what pursuit of football glory has done to Rutgers, which has many excellent departments and should be—given the wealth of New Jersey—an East Coast Berkeley or Michigan. The university spends $26.9 million a year subsidizing its athletic programs. Meanwhile faculty salaries have been capped and raises canceled across the board. Desk telephones were recently removed from the offices of the historians. Repairs have been postponed, and classroom buildings, in constant use from early morning until late at night, have become shabbier and shabbier.

When critics argued that it made no sense to support football at the expense of teaching, an official spokesman replied: “The university’s direct support to athletics represents only about 1 percent of the Rutgers budget.” Presumably he counted on readers not to know that in any large organization’s budget, the entire amount of money that is not committed years in advance is no more than 1 or 2 percent—or, to put it more specifically, that athletics has swallowed the money that could otherwise have been used to improve the university’s core activities. Christopher Newfield is not the only sober, informed observer who believes that political elites are deliberately attacking middle-class education.

This advice on business writing, although pitched against academic writing, actually seems like pretty sound advice for academics, except maybe for the advice to use “I” and “you”. But: don’t assume a captive audience, get to the point, cut, especially cut fancy words, and it’s okay to begin sentences with conjunctions—all of that sounds pretty good.

Am I understanding this right? A teacher starts talking to a guy in a bar, tells him a story about how another teacher used the word “nigger,” and this results in the storyteller getting into trouble?

The intuitive sense of unfairness comes from the fact that we all understand the difference between genuinely asserting and using the same language in a way that doesn’t assert. You might overhear me utter the phrase “Ari is so handsome” as I’m in the midst of saying “Only Mrs. Kelman could think that Ari is so handsome,” for example. While the phrase itself retains its meaning in the two contexts, the sentences mean very different things.

As I recall, Frege’s general point about this is that there’s no operator that indicates what follows is being asserted. Phrases like “I’m genuinely asserting that….” are themselves subject to the same problem– they can be put in contexts where they aren’t asserted. Geach seizes on this to develop a really interesting objection to expressivism, the thesis that moral judgments are expressions of noncognitive states such as emotions, rather than statements of (moral) fact.

On the expressivist view, “lying is wrong” is doing the work of “boo lying!” But notice how “lying is wrong” appears in contexts where it’s genuinely asserted and in contexts where it isn’t. Canonical example:

1. Lying is wrong.
2. If lying is wrong, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.
3. Hence, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

This argument looks good (by which I mean deductively valid). In order to be good, though, “lying is wrong” has to mean the same thing in (1) and (2). Wrinkle: in (1) it’s being asserted, in (2) it’s not. Even if (1) makes sense as the expression of a boo-attitude toward lying, (2) doesn’t. You’re not booing lying because you’re not saying lying is wrong, when you assert (2). So it looks like the expressivist is stuck. (Stuck in two related ways: first, it’s a problem that the expressivist hasn’t given us an account of (2), and second it’s a problem that, whatever an account of (2) would be, it won’t preserve the meaning of “lying is wrong,” and that’s needed to make sense of the validity of the argument.)

Simon Blackburn has a go at this by trying to understand (2) as something like “boo for the following conjunction of attitudes: booing lying while not booing getting little brother to lie.” Not really convincing, but a nice attempt.

There’s lots more to say, but now you’re equipped to utter “The latest O’Keefe shenanigans got me musing about old Gottlob Frege” and that will make you sound erudite.

I can see the benefits of online learning, especially for certain kinds of introductory level information dump courses and for students who aren’t able to make regular class times.   But I can’t see how someone can learn to pronounce a foreign language without an instructor encouraging you to speak the language in class, and what’s strange about the push for online education is that it comes as elite places eschew traditional lecturing in favor of other methods that are supposed to be better for learning.   Things to keep an eye on:  what’s the attrition rate?   Does it lead to better or worse class performance?

This isn’t really about the technology itself.  It’s just a tool. But… look.  When boomers were graduating from college, a majority of their courses were taught by tenured faculty, even at state schools.  (If you have a tenured researcher lecture, do you get to say that your 1500 person lecture course is taught by a tenured researcher?  Hmm.  Watch those numbers.)  Why did this change?

We’re doing to higher education what we already did to secondary education; private schools, and public schools barely scraping by with lower standards, with smart people knowing that that’s not where you send your kids if you value education, except that we’ll want those public university students to take out lots of loans.

Unfortunately, I think the conclusion is that English PhDs aren’t as funny as lawyers.

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