Of late, I've stayed away from the blatantly political post. Why? The black ribbon off to the right there is ample enough evidence of how I feel about the current "state of the Union". But today, I'm going to touch on some of the things I might talk about if I was talking about them.
(Sort of like "planned disingenuousness", if I may.)
First off, I read (yes, read) a report that FoxNews alerted me to. It was called "Education or Reputation? A Look at America's Top Liberal Arts Colleges" and was an exhaustive survey of 29 highly ranked Liberal Arts colleges by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. This group is an independent non-profit founded in 1995 whose stated goal is "to support Liberal Arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality education at an affordable price." In it, it pointed out three main problems.
First, that the true liberal arts curriculum, where you start out with core subjects such as history, foreign language, composition, literature, economics, math, and science, just doesn't exist anymore. Out of these subjects, and if you remove the three military academies which cuts it down to 25 schools, you find 13 have a comp requirement; 2 for literature; 11 in languages; one in history (which can be fulfilled by taking classes such as "History of electronic music dance"); 0 in Econ; 17 watered down requirements in math, and 20 likewise in science. And some of these requirements can be "fulfilled with courses like the one mentioned above, along with:
Food in the Middle East: History, Identity, and Culture (Middlebury)
Mad Men and Mad Women (about the TV show, also Middlebury)
The Ethical Shopper (Grinnell)
Bad Words (Grinnell)
Prostitutes in Modern Western Culture (Bowdoin)
History of Hip Hop (also Bowdoin)
'Bad' Women Make Great History: Gender, Identity, and Society in Modern Europe 1789-1945 (likewise)
The second point raised is that freedom of speech and intellectual expression has been cut drastically in favor of "civility", which is apparently required only of "certain" students. They used a study by another group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that did an exhaustive survey of the same schools ( with the exceptions of the Military Academies and Vassar), grading on a scale of green light (free speech not significantly imperiled), yellow light (policies of the administration either restrict or could be used to unreasonably restrict free speech), and red light (at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts free speech). Of the remaining 25, there were ZERO greens, 11 yellows and 14 reds. And stories from Vassar left no doubt that had they been surveyed, it would have been 15 reds.
Third point was that because of point one, GPAs were going up while (according to employers) the value of that grade was plummeting. They found the average student was spending 15 hours a week in the classroom and working on classes another 17 outside class, and then would come into the workforce unready and unwilling for a 40+ hour workweek. On top of that, tuitions for this lesser education were skyrocketing- $50K+ total expenses for ONE YEAR in many cases. And this was because when expenses came up, most boards of trustees would automatically grant the increase without EVER discussing increased endowments. Some of these expenses were due to building projects in which the college being endowed with a new building forgot to account for the fact that a new building will require some 70% of its original cost in maintenance over its life; but most was laid at the feet of an ever mushrooming administrative bureaucracy, topped off by University presidents who routinely made more that Barack Obama does. I was going to do an in-depth on this, but I'll spare you.
Next thing we won't talk about is the State Of The Union Speech last night. (I mentioned a couple of times how every time I saw the acronym "SOTU", my mind read "STFU".) I didn't watch. But a lot has been made of the President's limited raising of the minimum wage. Gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling, don't it? Now people can make more money who really need it, right? Well, let me give you an example of how this is really gonna play out if he extends it to everyone.
I used to work at a place that started everyone at 7.25. Laurie and I worked there for 20+ years and never topped 10.50. Now, you want to START at 10.10? Well, here's what will happen. This company is NOT going to take a 39% hit to salaries across the board, not when their employees are mainly migrant Mexicans of questionable legality. They will close the plants they can (likely Fort Wayne and Sanford, NC); They will leave open the most modern plant (Amarillo) in some reduced capacity; use Rancho Cucumonga as an import point; and send 95% of the work to China. Leaving Ft Wayne to try to absorb all those Mexicans into a workforce that they are by and large not going to find anything in. Then what happens? Do they go back to Mexico? No, they go on welfare and food stamps. By doing what appears to be warm and fuzzy if you DON'T stop and think about it, Obama drives more of our economy into China's arms and increases his constituency ( the "employed-by-government-aid") at one blow. But we won't talk about that.
The third thing we won't talk about is something I listened to on a TED talk (Google it, it's a great place to learn stuff) yesterday. A lady who had went from police chief to attorney general (in Jersey somewhere) who did an excellent job of explaining how proper statistical tracking can aid both police, prosecutors, and judges in stopping crime. And I had just one problem with it. She gave the premise that out of our overflowing prison population, only 5% were actually violent offender who NEEDED to be kept away from society. Her main point was developing a statistical matrix that would aid prosecutors and judges to know for certain just who was violent, who was likely to be a repeat offender, and who was likely to skip bail. Her secondary point was that using this matrix they could do a better job of keeping violent repeat offenders in prison and "harmless" non-violent offenders out. She used the warm-and-fuzzy example of a dude that was homeless and stole four blankets on a cold night spending 8 months in jail waiting for trial.
But I think to myself, say you let the soft offenders off easy. The drug dealers, the sellers of stolen goods, the petty thieves. How then do you discourage THEM, when it is their professions that many times lead to increased violence in others? Fine them? Hell, most of them have no money or property to take. Home detention? How much of our city do you want to turn into a prison- and how much of a deterrent is it really? Or how about white collar crime? Is it going to be on a "just give it back and we'll forget all about it" basis? Bernie Madoff wasn't violent- not physically. How do people like him fit the picture? Before you use this matrix as a way to keep people OUT of prison as well as keeping them in, you'd better look at what you're gonna do with the 95% you are left with. But let's not talk about that.
Finally, let's not talk about our "computer freedom". A friend told me he had a post "moved back to draft" by Blogger because someone had complained about a picture he had put on his blog off the internet. It had a link he could use to find out which the offending picture was. He told me it turned out to be a picture from Mountain View, California. This set off a red light for two reasons. I have this feedjit gizmo over here on the right, that tells you where your pageviews are coming from. I have often seen "Mountain View, CA" on this list, popping in on seemingly random posts. Enough that I've been just under my curiosity limit of seeking it out. Then I googled Mountain View- and learned that it was the HOME of Google. Hmmmm....
So, you know me, I went to my feedjit to see how many times MVC had been searching me lately. And of course, there were were NO recent searches from Mountain View, California.
There are, however, TWO searches from... "Mountain View, ARKANSAS."
Coincidence? I wonder...