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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #100 on: September 01, 2011, 07:38:39 AM »

WHEN Stephanie Kelly, a 2009 graduate of the University of Florida, looked for a job in her chosen field, advertising, she found few prospects and even fewer takers. So now she has two jobs: as a part-time “senior secretary” at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville and a freelance gig writing for Elfster.com, a “secret Santa” Web site.

But is Ms. Kelly stressed out about the lack of a career path she spent four years preparing for? Not at all. Instead, she has come to appreciate her life. “I can cook and write at my own pace,” she said. “I kind of like that about my life.”
Likewise, Amy Klein, who graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in English literature, couldn’t find a job in publishing. At one point, she had applied for an editorial-assistant job at Gourmet magazine. Less than two weeks later, Condé Nast shut down that 68- year-old magazine. “So much for that job application,” said Ms. Klein, now 26.

One night she bumped into a friend, who asked her to join a punk rock band, Titus Andronicus, as a guitarist. Once, that might have been considered professional suicide. But weighed against a dreary day job, music suddenly held considerable appeal. So last spring, she sublet her room in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn and toured the country in an old Chevy minivan.

“I’m fulfilling my artistic goals,” Ms. Klein said.

Meet the members of what might be called Generation Limbo: highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.

And so they wait: for the economy to turn, for good jobs to materialize, for their lucky break. Some do so bitterly, frustrated that their well-mapped careers have gone astray. Others do so anxiously, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, their school loans, their living expenses — sometimes resorting to once-unthinkable government handouts.

“We did everything we were supposed to,” said Stephanie Morales, 23, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with hopes of working in the arts. Instead she ended up waiting tables at a Chart House restaurant in Weehawken, N.J., earning $2.17 an hour plus tips, to pay off her student loans. “What was the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?” said Ms. Morales, who is now a paralegal and plans on attending law school.

Some of Ms. Morales’s classmates have found themselves on welfare. “You don’t expect someone who just spent four years in Ivy League schools to be on food stamps,” said Ms. Morales, who estimates that a half-dozen of her friends are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A few are even helping younger graduates figure out how to apply. “We are passing on these traditions on how to work in the adult world as working poor,” Ms. Morales said.

But then there are people like Ms. Kelly and Ms. Klein, who are more laissez-faire. With the job market still bleak, their motto might as well be: “No career? No prospects? No worries!” (Well, at least for the time being.)

After all, much of the situation is out of their control, as victims of bad timing. Ms. Klein contrasted her Harvard classmates with the ones of her older sister, Lauren, who graduated from Harvard seven years earlier. Those graduates, she said, were career-obsessed and, helped along by a strong economy, aggressively pursued high-powered jobs right after graduation. (Lauren is a professor at Georgia Tech University.)

By comparison, Ms. Kelly said her classmates seemed resigned to waiting for the economic tides to turn. “Plenty of people work in bookstores and work in low-end administrative jobs, even though they have a Harvard degree,” she said. “They are thinking more in terms of creating their own kinds of life that interests them, rather than following a conventional idea of success and job security.”

The numbers are not encouraging. About 14 percent of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 are looking for full-time jobs, either because they are unemployed or have only part-time jobs, according to a survey of 571 recent college graduates released in May by the Heldrich Center at Rutgers.

And then there is the slice of graduates effectively underemployed, using a college degree for positions that don’t require one or barely scraping by, working in call centers, bars or art-supply stores.

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“They are a postponed generation,” said Cliff Zukin, an author of the Heldrich Center study. He noted that recent graduates seemed to be living with parents longer and taking longer to become financially secure. The journey on the life path, for many, is essentially stalled.

The Heldrich survey also found that the portion of graduates who described their first job as a “career” fell from 30 percent, if they graduated before the 2008 economic downturn (in 2006 and 2007), to 22 percent, if they graduated after the downturn (in 2009 and 2010).
In an ominous sign, those figures didn’t change much for second jobs, Dr. Zukin added, suggesting that recent graduates were stumbling from field to field. Indeed, Till Marco von Wachter, an economics professor at Columbia University who has studied the impact of recessions on young workers, said the effect on earnings took about a decade to fade.

MEANWHILE, modest jobs mean modest lives. Benjamin Shore, 23, graduated from the University of Maryland last year with a business degree and planned to go into consulting. Instead, he moved back into his parents’ house in Cherry Hill, N.J., and spent his days browsing for jobs online.

But when his parents started charging him $500 a month for rent, he moved into a windowless room in a Baltimore row house and took a $12-an-hour job at a Baltimore call center, making calls for a university, encouraging prospects to go back to school. “There’s no point in being diplomatic: it is horrible,” Mr. Shore said.

“I have a college education that I feel like I am wasting by being there,” he added. “I am supposed to do something interesting, something with my brain.” For a while, Mr. Shore ran LongevityDrugstore.com, an online drug retailer that he started, but it went nowhere. To stretch his pay check, he made beans and rice at home and drove slowly to save gas. Eventually he quit, got work as a dock hand and is now thinking of becoming a doctor.

Perhaps not surprisingly, volunteering has become a popular outlet for a generation that seeks meaning in its work. Sarah Weinstein, 25, a 2008 graduate of Boston University, manages a bar in Austin because she couldn’t find an advertising job. In her spare time, she volunteers, doing media relations for Austin Pets Alive, an animal rescue shelter.

“It’d be nice to make more money,” Ms. Weinstein said, but “I prefer it this way so that I have the extra time to spend volunteering and pursuing other things.” Volunteering, however, goes only so far. After three years without an advertising job, she is now applying to graduate school to freshen up her résumé.

Meanwhile, people forced out of the rat race are re-evaluating their values and looking elsewhere for satisfaction. “They have to revise their ideas of what they are looking for,” said Kenneth Jedding, author of “Higher Education: On Life, Landing a Job, and Everything Else They Didn’t Teach You in College.”

For Geo Wyeth, 27, who graduated from Yale in 2007, that means adopting a do-it-yourself approach to his career. After college, he worked at an Apple Store in New York as a salesclerk and trainer, while furthering his music career in an experimental rock band. He has observed, he said, a shift among his peers away from the corporate track and toward a more artistic mentality.

“You have to make opportunities happen for yourself, and I think a lot of my classmates weren’t thinking in that way,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of setting up your own lemonade stand.”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #101 on: October 15, 2011, 12:33:39 PM »

By RUPERT MURDOCH
These days everyone is for education reform. The question is which approach is best. I favor the Steve Jobs model.

In 1984 Steve introduced the Mac with a Super Bowl ad. It ran only once. It ran for only one minute. And it shows a female athlete being chased by the helmeted police of some totalitarian regime.

At the climax, the woman rushes up to a large screen where Big Brother is giving a speech. Just as he announces, "We shall prevail," she hurls her hammer through the screen.

If you ask me what we need to do in education, I would point you to that ad.

At the top end, our public schools are producing fewer and fewer graduates who have the skills necessary for the world's best jobs. At the bottom, each year more than a million Americans—that's 7,000 every school day—are dropping out of high school. In the middle, too many American children float from grade to grade in schools that never challenge them to reach their full potential.

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A high school student in Casper, Wyo., familiarizes herself with the iPad.
.This is unjust, unsustainable and un-American. And it is especially galling because we have the technology to change it.

If you read the front pages of the New York Times, they will tell you that technology's promise has not yet been realized in terms of student performance. My answer is, of course not. If we simply attached computers to leeches, medicine wouldn't be any better today than it was in the 19th century either.

You don't get change by plugging in computers to schools designed for the industrial age. You get it by deploying technology that rewrites the rules of the game.

Our children are growing up in Steve Jobs's world. They are eager to learn and quick to embrace new technology. Outside the classroom they take technology for granted—in what they read, in how they listen to music, in how they shop.

The minute they step back into their classrooms, it's like going back in time. The top-down, one-size-fits-all approach frustrates the ones who could do more advanced work. And it leaves further and further behind those who need extra help to keep up.

Teachers are likewise stunted. Some excel at lecturing. Some are better at giving personal attention. With the right structure, they would work together like a football team. With the existing structure, they are treated like interchangeable cogs.

The point I'm making isn't about Apple. It's about our colossal failure of imagination. The education industry bears a good part of the blame here. It continues to sell its tired wares into a failing status quo. It settles for mediocre charter schools. And its answer seems to be throwing more money at the problem.

Three decades ago, the Department of Education released a report noting that if an unfriendly foreign power had imposed our mediocre education system on us, "we might well have viewed it as an act of war." In the three decades since, per-pupil spending on K-12 education has doubled—while achievement scores have been flat.

That's where technology comes in. Just as the iPod compelled the music industry to accommodate its customers, we can use technology to force the education system to meet the needs of the individual student.

For example, say I was trying to teach a 10-year-old about Bernoulli's principle. According to this principle, when speed is high, pressure is low. Sounds dry and abstract.

But what if I could bring this lesson alive by linking it to the soccer star Roberto Carlos—showing students a video clip that illustrates how his famous curved shot is an example of Bernoulli's principle in action. Then suppose I followed up with an engineer from Boeing—who explained why this same principle is critical in aviation and introduced an app that could help students master the concept through playing a game. Finally, assessment tools would give teachers instant feedback about how well their students had mastered the material.

Better doesn't have to be more expensive, either. For example, Georgia state legislators now spend $40 million a year on textbooks. They are considering iPads to save money and boost performance. Unlike a textbook—which is outdated the moment it is printed—digital texts can be updated.

Textbooks aren't the only area for savings. Rocketship charter schools in San Jose, Calif., use a model that combines traditional classroom learning with tutor-led small groups and individualized instruction through online technology. So far the mix has brought higher performance with lower costs—savings that can be used to pay teachers more, hire tutors, and so on.

Let's be clear: Technology is never going to replace teachers. What technology can do is give teachers closer, more human and more rewarding interactions with their students. It can give children lesson plans tailored to their pace and needs. And it can give school districts a way to improve performance in the classroom while saving their taxpayers money.

Everything we need to do is possible now. But the investments the private sector needs to make will not happen until we have a clear answer to a basic question: What is the core body of knowledge our children need to know?

I don't pretend to be an expert on academic standards. But as a business leader, I do know something about how common standards unlock investment and unleash innovation. For example, once we established standards for MP3 and Wi-Fi, innovators had every incentive to invest their brains and capital in building the very best products compatible with those standards.

We are now seeing the same thing happening in education. Over the last few years, leaders and educators in more than 40 states have come together to reach agreement on what their students should know and be able to do in math and English—and by what grades.

They have come together because they have taken a look around the world. They know that the student in, say, San Francisco is not just competing against his classmate—or even against the kid from St. Louis. He or she is competing with his peers in Shanghai, Lima and Prague.

Steve Jobs knew all about competitive markets. He once likened our school system to the old phone monopoly. "I remember," he said in a 1995 interview, "seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said 'We don't care. We don't have to.' And that's what a monopoly is. That's what IBM was in their day. And that's certainly what the public school system is. They don't have to care."

We have to care. In this new century, good is not good enough. Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn't work or gets in the way. And to make our bet that if we can engage a child's imagination, there's no limit to what he or she can learn.

Mr. Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and a new Education Division. This article is adapted from his remarks Friday to the Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit in San Francisco.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #102 on: November 01, 2011, 10:38:41 AM »

For hard-working American families struggling to make ends meet, the student protesters at Occupy Wall Street must seem like cast members of a reality show designed to make them look shallow and self-indulgent. The irony is that these students and recent grads have a point about their college debt. It's just not the point they are making.

Here, for example, is a typical entry on the blog "We Are the 99 Percent." A woman is holding up a handwritten note that reads: "I am a college graduate. I am also unemployed. I was lead [sic] to believe that college would insure me a job. I now have $40,000 worth of student debt."

 John Kline on the National Labor Relations Board's strike against Boeing and the increase in the student loan default rate.
.The headlines tell us that, as a nation, we now owe more in college loans than we do on our credit cards. Notwithstanding the stock horror stories about the kid who leaves campus owing hundreds of thousands, however, the average college debt load is about the price of a new Toyota Prius—$28,100 for those with a degree from a four-year private school, $22,000 for those from public schools.

Even so, these figures don't touch the most important question: Are students getting fair value in return?

Anne Neal has been trying to help families answer that question for years. As president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, she believes students should leave college with a broad base of knowledge that will allow them "to compete successfully in our globalized economy and to make sense of the modern world." By that ACTA means universities should require a core curriculum with substantive courses in composition, literature, American history, economics, math, science and foreign language.

"The fundamental problem here is not debt but a broken educational system that no longer insists on excellence," Ms. Neal says. "College tuitions have risen more than 440% over the last 25 years—and for what? The students who say that college has not prepared them for the real world are largely right."

At WhatWillTheyLearn.com, students can click onto ACTA's recent survey of more than 1,000 American four-year institutions—and find out how their colleges and universities rate. Two findings jump out. First, the more costly the college, the less likely it will require a demanding core curriculum. Second, public institutions generally do better here than private ones—and historically black colleges such as Morehouse and service academies such as West Point amount to what ACTA calls "hidden gems."

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 .Alas, much of the debate over the value of a college degree breaks down one of two ways. Either people pit the liberal arts against the sciences—"Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?" asks Florida Gov. Rick Scott—or they plump for degrees that are thought to be more practical (e.g., business). Both are probably mistakes.

If the young people now entering our work force are going to change jobs as often as we think, the key to getting ahead will not be having one particular skill but having the ability to learn new skills. In this regard, the problem is not so much the liberal arts as the fluff that too often passes for it. In other words, though Gov. Scott is right to demand better measures of what Florida citizens are getting for their tax dollars, he'd probably be better off focusing on excellence and transparency than on suggesting specific courses of study.

As for the "practical" majors, New York University's Richard Arum and the University of Virginia's Josipa Roksa tell us they might not be as useful as once thought. In a recent work called "Academically Adrift," these authors tracked the progress of more than 2,300 undergraduates at two dozen U.S. universities. They found that more than a third of seniors leave campus having shown no improvement in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, or written communications over four years. Worse, the majors and programs often thought most practical—education, business and communications—prove to be the least productive.

So yes, the student protesters with their iPads and iPhones may come across badly to other Americans. Yes too, even those who leave school thousands of dollars in debt will—on average—find their degrees a good investment, given the healthy lifetime earnings premium that a bachelor's degree still commands.

Still, when it comes to what our colleges and universities are charging them for their degrees, they have a point. Too many have paid much and been taught little. They've been ripped off—but not by the banks or the fat cats or any of the other stock villains so unwelcome these days in Zuccotti Park.

"If these students and grads understood the real issues with their college debt," says Ms. Neal, "they would change their focus from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the Ivory Tower
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Rachel
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« Reply #103 on: December 06, 2011, 11:56:45 AM »

Guest post: In defense of a liberal education
By Daniel de Vise
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/guest-post-in-defense-of-a-liberal-education/2011/12/02/gIQAj8plKO_blog.html?mid=5484
St. John's College President Chris Nelson, left, talks with students on the Annapolis school’s campus. (Mark Gail - The Washington Post) Liberal arts colleges have struggled in these lean years to retain the confidence of parents that they will prepare students for a better fate than barista duty. Studies consistently show lib-arts students get a good education. Yet, Georgetown researcher Anthony Carnevale and others have documented that graduates in science and tech fields stand to earn more money in the long run.

Here, then, is a guest post from Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, an outspoken champion of the liberal arts.

Students headed for college are worried that they may not find employment when they graduate. Specialized career training at the undergraduate level might thus seem to have appeal. And yet, study after study suggests that this can be short-sighted. The best preparation for the workforce of tomorrow, for the jobs that have yet to be created, is a liberal education -- the kind of education most especially found at the small residential liberal arts colleges across the country.

In the latest of these studies, alumni of our national liberal arts colleges, including St. John’s College, describe just how much they have benefitted personally and professionally from their college experience. The Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 independent liberal arts colleges, released the findings of a national survey.

The Annapolis Group survey found that 60 percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt “better prepared” for life after college than students who attended other colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities. The reasons are undoubtedly many, but one of them must surely be the level of personal attention the student receives at these colleges. For instance, 89 percent of liberal arts college graduates reported finding a mentor while in college, compared to 66 percent for public flagship universities.

Another reason will be the efforts made at these colleges to help their students develop the skills they will need to use in any career or profession: thoughtful reflection concerning the ends and means of both public and private life, habits of inquiry that will open pathways to new discoveries, practice in shaping a thought and in listening to others - actually listening.

These are skills best honed in small classes, where students are not just taking lecture notes but are actively participating in their own education. There they get daily practice working with their classmates in analyzing problems, framing arguments, interpreting meaning, demonstrating propositions, and translating works written in a foreign language. Experience has taught us that education is a cooperative art that is best done with others who can challenge our thinking and open our minds to new ways of seeing the world and making our way in it. The stronger the community of learning, the more opportunity to practice this cooperative art. Once again, experience has taught us that smaller, residential campuses are stronger communities of learning that help to maximize these cooperative opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.

The best educated person today, just as yesterday, is one fully capable of adapting to or taking advantage of changing conditions, precisely because the well-educated adult has integrity of character, a rootedness in essentials, and a self-understanding that makes it possible to live well and consistently in an unpredictable world. That character and self-understanding are best shaped in communities of learning that are concerned more with foundations than with extravagances, more with roots than with branches.

How do liberal arts colleges go about doing this? Consider what they are asked to study. Students at St. John’s College study original works in mathematics and science, language and literature, politics and history, philosophy and theology. All of these books – from Homer to Shakespeare, Plato to Hegel, and Euclid to Einstein -- help students consider the deeply human questions: What kind of world do I live in? What is my place in it? What should I do with my life? How should I live a life that is worthy of my humanity? They then have a lifetime to practice the arts they have learned, to deepen their questions, and to choose with some intelligence the life that suits them best. Boundaries throughout the world are vanishing, and we need our next generation of leaders in every field, in every endeavor, to have been broadly educated across the disciplines rather than narrowly trained.

St. John’s graduates reflect the strengths of all liberal arts college alumni. They enter a broad array of careers, from entrepreneurial endeavors to medicine, law, and teaching. St. John’s College is among the top two percent of all colleges in the percentage of alumni who go on to earn PhDs, and the top four percent of colleges in the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs in science and engineering. These graduates have faced some of the most difficult texts ever written and have acquired intellectual virtues along the way: courage in the face of the unknown and the difficult; candor about their ignorance; industry in preparation; and open attentiveness to the words of their colleagues - all things that will stand them in good stead as they head into the world of work and family, citizenship and service.

Graduates of the nation’s many fine liberal arts institutions are prepared not only for a diverse range of career, but for life.
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G M
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« Reply #104 on: December 06, 2011, 12:10:40 PM »

A better title would be "In defense of the higher ed bubble" or "In defense of crippling student loans that will destroy most of our graduates when their useless degree leaves them unemployed".

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #105 on: December 06, 2011, 12:24:05 PM »

For some reason I am reminded of a humorous email of several years ago that told the story of a man and a woman who were given the assignment of writing a story together by taking turns writing sentences (or was it paragraphs?)

 cheesy
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ccp
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« Reply #106 on: December 06, 2011, 12:29:27 PM »

Rachel, interesting read.  I did a google on the value of liberal arts education.   A lot comes up.  Here is one take:

The Value of Liberal Arts Education  | Print |     
Written by Warren Mass     
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 16:00 
“The Death of Liberal Arts” lamented a headline in an April 5 Newsweek.com article that carried the subhead: “How the recession and unemployment are making schools and students rethink the value of an education in the humanities.”

The trend, notes Newsweek, was as rapid as the onset of the current recession. Case in point was Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, which Newsweek had labelled in 2007 as the “hottest liberal-arts school you never heard of.”

But the recession has taken its toll. As Newsweek reporter Nancy Cook observed: “After the endowment of Centenary College … fell by 20 percent from 2007 to 2009, the private school decided to eliminate half of its 44 majors. Over the next three to four years, classic humanities specialities like Latin, German studies, and performing arts will be phased out.”

In response to changing economic conditions, Centenary’s administrators are considering the addition of several new graduate programs to increase their students’ career prospects, such as master's degrees in teaching and international business.

The college’s president explained that the school was trying offer a compromise between providing “a grounding in the arts and sciences, but they also probably need some training in a specific area.”

As another college official quoted in the article, Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, noted: "Students want something they can sell."

The report provided statistics to prove that this was no small concern, citing a recent study by the Pew Research Center that just 41 percent of people ages 18 to 29 are working full-time compared with 50 percent in 2006.

The ancient principle that “man must eat before man can philosophize” may certainly apply to our current situation, as students opt for majors that will provide them with income over those that might feed the mind at the expense of the body. However, students and academians alike may have overlooked a liberal arts education’s value in the world of commerce as well as  in the arts. As Cook writes

Among liberal-arts proponents, the concern is that students who specialize in specific careers will lack critical thinking skills and the ability to write, analyze, and synthesize information. While business education tends to prepare students to work well in teams or give presentations, it often falls short in teaching students to do in-depth research or to write critically outside of the traditional business communiqués of memos or PowerPoints. "I think you need to have both liberal-arts and pre-professional classes at the four-year level," says José Luis Santos, assistant professor in the Higher Education and Organizational Change division at UCLA. "People need to graduate with critical thinking skills because most workplaces retrain individuals for the needs of the industry."

To put it simply: Most employers would prefer to train an applicant who has already learned to think and analyze problems the specific technical skills pertinent to an industry than to teach a new employee who has technical skills — and nothing more — how to think.

In the April 5 edition of The Maine Campus, the University of Maine student newspaper, French language professor Yann Dupuy wrote an op-ed piece entitled “In defense of the liberal arts and languages at UMaine.”

Professor Dupuy cited a statement made in response to proposed budget cut by Raymond Pelletier, the chairperson of the university’s Modern Languages and Classics Department, who was quoted in the campus newspaper as saying, “We need to go at it philosophically, not by the numbers.”

“He is perfectly right," observed Dupuy. “It is a matter of philosophy, and APPWG’s [the Academic Program Prioritization Working Group] report shows the philosophy of university pretty clearly: They lean toward education over instruction.” He continues:

Instruction means giving the bare minimum of knowledge a student needs to be competent at his future job.

Education is this as well, but it also includes giving students the tools they need to later be an independent, free-thinking and morally sound citizen. Education is aimed to make one grow as a human being, while preparing for your future career as well. Education makes citizens; instruction makes good servants. (Emphasis added.)

Dupuy lamented a recent e-mail communication from the university’s dean of students, Robert Dana, in which the dean wrote: “Our primary focus remains on providing the best possible experience for our students.”

Dupuy noted: “Tellingly, in this long e-mail, the word ‘instruction’ is used once, while the word ‘education’ is nowhere to be found.”

With a sense of ironic wit, Dupuy concludes: “People go to Disneyland for a good experience, but students pay tuition for an education.”

Yet another commentary on the decline of liberal arts education, “A look at teaching ills of top-tier colleges,” a book review written by Cornell University professor Glenn C. Altschuler, appeared in the Boston Globe for April 6. Altschuler reviewed The Marketplace of Ideas by Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard and staff writer at the New Yorker. Altschuler writes:

Liberal education, Menand reminds us, is in danger of being marginalized by the proliferation of alternatives. Twenty-two percent of bachelor’s degrees are conferred in business. Twice as many sheepskins are awarded in social work each year as in all foreign languages and literatures combined. Four percent of undergraduates major in English; two percent in history.

Over the past 30 years, the revolution in humanities disciplines has spawned a crisis of legitimacy. An emphasis on context, contingency, and interpretations rather than facts, Menand indicates, led to an abandonment of “Great Books,’’ “Western Civ,’’ a core curriculum, and, often, prerequisites for courses in the major. Professors of women’s studies, cultural studies, gay and lesbian studies, and postcolonial studies took the theoretical position that disciplinary boundaries are arbitrary and limiting.

If there is any surprise to be found in these critical analyses, it is that they originate from sources generally deemed to fall on the modernist “liberal” side of the philosophical spectrum, and not on the classically liberal side from which "liberal arts" takes its name.

Whatever the sources, and whichever labels are attached to these sources, they present a concurrence with the message delivered by the late University of Chicago professor Allan David Bloom (1930-1992) who championed the idea of “Great Books” education. Bloom became famous for his criticism of modern American higher education, and is best remembered for having expressed his views in his bestselling 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind.

That these concerns about the decline in American education are being voiced in circles traditionally thought of as being receptive to modern “liberal” philosophy is encouraging. Perhaps the ever-more apparent impending political totalitarianism and collectivism enveloping our nation is making the need for an intelligent, informed, and thinking electorate apparent to our nation's most intelligent and honest observers, by whatever philosophical label was previously applied to them.

More and more academians apparently are realizing, as Professor Dupuy said: “Education makes citizens; instruction makes good servants.
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Rachel
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« Reply #107 on: December 06, 2011, 12:44:21 PM »

GM,

Are you arguing against liberal arts degree or against college degrees at all?  The cost of not going to school is larger than the cost of college education-- statistically.  However,  If you want a job today  a degree alone won't cut it you need experience ( volunteer work, internships and summer jobs) and you need to network.    If  you think liberal arts  is the problem what do you think people should major in? I would say that  all the PHD's I know recommend a liberal arts degree  to start with because you will specialize enough later.  I only have A Bachelors but knowing how to read almost anything has certainly been very valuable to me personally and professionally.


http://www.snopes.com/college/homework/writing.asp ---Marc's Joke.
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G M
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« Reply #108 on: December 06, 2011, 12:53:16 PM »

GM,

Are you arguing against liberal arts degree or against college degrees at all?  The cost of not going to school is larger than the cost of college education-- statistically.  However,  If you want a job today  a degree alone won't cut it you need experience ( volunteer work, internships and summer jobs) and you need to network.    If  you think liberal arts  is the problem what do you think people should major in? I would say that  all the PHD's I know recommend a liberal arts degree  to start with because you will specialize enough later.  I only have A Bachelors but knowing how to read almost anything has certainly been very valuable to me personally and professionally.


http://www.snopes.com/college/homework/writing.asp ---Marc's Joke.

I think college degrees are vastly oversold, overrated and for many a bad investment. It's also another bubble that looms over the economy. If it's not a STEM degree, it almost always is a waste. Now, if one comes from a background where one has the financial security to indulge in English, Sociology, Queer Theory or whatever is the flavor of the day, fine. If one needs to use the degree to advance one's financial position, then it's crucial to get something that actually will pay off as an investment. Most Liberal Arts degrees will not.
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« Reply #109 on: December 06, 2011, 12:57:34 PM »

http://www.nationalreview.com/phi-beta-cons/283172/unc-wilmington-prof-tells-it-it-george-leef

UNC-Wilmington Prof Tells It Like It Is

November 14, 2011 3:57 P.M.

By George Leef 

 


This letter (published in the Wilmington Star-News) is by physics professor Moorad Alexanian, who has been a thorn in the side of the UNC-Wilmington administration for complaining that the university’s budget cuts avoid all the sacred cows:
 

The genesis of the problem in our universities is the “democratization” of education and the easy availability of student loans, “Affordable education,” November 7. The nation is thus saddled with a trillion dollars in student loan debt ready to follow the housing bubble.

The floodgates have been opened wide to campus admission with faculty responding by adding courses and programs that do not prepare students in the important basic areas, especially, in the hard sciences and mathematics. Accordingly, students do not seek truly academic knowledge and skills but are just satisfied with a diploma, which is used by potential employees as a selection tool.

Administrators cater to such business model irrespective of how soft academic programs expand exponentially with the more solid academic curricula not being supported and even eliminated. Students are thus shackled with bogus degrees that lead nowhere. The state subsidizes students and so the increase in the number of students results in higher tuition costs for all.

Education reform models, like outcome-based education, exacerbate academic problems and lead to mediocrity, a model that resembles a sausage factory with good quality control. Lip service abounds for teaching excellence but none for learning excellence. The failure of K-12 education is finally creeping and crippling our entire university system. Too bad.

Moorad Alexanian
 Wilmington
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« Reply #110 on: December 06, 2011, 01:12:39 PM »

http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2011/11/28/the_root_cause_of_market_failure_in_higher_education_99387.html

The Root Cause of Market Failure In Higher Education
By Bill Frezza


A little noticed Associated Press news story last week reported that China now plans to phase out college majors that consistently produce unemployable graduates. Any program in which 60% of the graduates failed to find work for two consecutive years would face funding reductions until supply was brought back into balance with demand.
 
This Chinese hand may not be invisible, but it would be one that Adam Smith would recognize. Isn't it amazing that even self-identified communists are figuring out that markets only work when adjustment mechanisms act to reduce surpluses and shortages? Destroy those mechanisms and unemployable college graduates pile up as fast as unsold electric cars.
 
The back story is a simple one illustrating the old adage: He who pays the piper calls the tune. In a world turned upside down, China's rulers want to make sure the young cadres they educate at the people's expense actually find jobs in the private economy. Here in the U.S., where outstanding government guaranteed student loans have recently passed the $1 trillion mark, education policy is geared not toward maximizing the employability of graduates, but toward garnering votes for politicians.


 

How so? After years of cultural bombardment, a college education has gone from being a means to an end - a successful career - to an end in itself. Parents who don't send their children to college lose status. American kids feel both entitled and pressured into getting a college education regardless of whether they have the intellectual capacity to profit from it, the work ethic to manage it, or the money to pay for it.
 
Alternative means of career training, like apprenticeship in trades that remain in demand - because, after all, you can't fly in Chinese plumbers - get no social respect. This despite the fact that skilled plumbers, with a little hustle, can out-earn most liberal arts majors.
 
Countless politicians now call college education a "right," alongside food, housing, and medical care. They pander to the education establishment, promising to deliver diplomas no matter how much of other people's money they have to spend. Meanwhile, the intelligentsia looks askance when college students are encouraged to choose a major based on practical expectations of future employment, suggesting instead that students should follow their muse.
 
To finance this so-called "right" to a college education a Government Sponsored Entity known as Sallie Mae, originally the Student Loan Marketing Association, was created in 1972 to issue below market rate student loans guaranteed by the federal government. Like its cousin Fannie Mae in the home mortgage business, lending practices were guided by political considerations, not sound economics. Just as Fannie Mae fueled an unsustainable housing bubble, Sallie encouraged runaway college tuition increases. And just as the federal government was forced to nationalize Fannie Mae when the bubble bust, Uncle Sam has now nationalized the college loan business with an eye on disguising the coming tsunami of student loan defaults.
 
Such policies have consequences. Too many aspiring young museum curators can't find jobs? The pragmatic Chinese solution is to cut public subsidies used to train museum curators. The free market solution is that only the rich would be indulgent enough to buy their kids an education that left them economically dependent on Mommy and Daddy after graduation. The progressive American solution is to seek increased public funding to build more museums.
 
When such make-work spending fails - as it must during periods of fiscal belt tightening - do progressives encourage maleducated kids to look around, see what needs doing, and start businesses of their own? No. They urge them to take to the streets to bang drums and chant slogans.
 
The system is nearing breakdown, which will come when student loan defaults finally push the federal agency that guarantees such loans into bankruptcy. At that point, we will have to face the fact that capping off adolescence with a four-year party at taxpayer expense is a luxury we can no longer afford.
 
College participation rates will have to go back down to historical norms. Slots will have to be reserved for students that can actually profit from them, restoring graduation rates to where they were before colleges were flooded with people who don't belong there, including illiterate freeloaders. Selection will have to be based on merit, not social engineering. Loans will have to be restricted to majors that confer capacity to pay the loans back. Dead-end programs used to train the next generation of professors - whose only skill will be to teach more such dead-end programs - will have to be limited, funded not by taxpayers but by ideological philanthropists with a hankering for fineries like literary criticism and gender studies.
 
This may seem like common sense to most people, but it strikes horror into the hearts of the liberal professoriate. After years of feathering their nests so they can produce students trained only to bite the hand that feeds them, perhaps it's time to serve up a few helpings of horror. We can no longer afford to take the snobbery of academics seriously. Taxpayers just don't have the money to keep them or their young acolytes on the dole.
 


Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a Boston-based venture capitalist. He can be reached at bill@vereverus.com. If you would like to subscribe to his weekly column, drop a note to publisher@vereverus.com or follow him on Twitter @BillFrezza.
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Rachel
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« Reply #111 on: December 07, 2011, 08:46:50 AM »

CCP---That was good balanced article

 My favorite quotes about education is


Scott Buchanan
http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/about/donrag.shtml
"Under the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, have you persuaded yourself that there are knowledges and truths beyond your grasp, things that you simply cannot learn? Have you allowed adverse evidence to pile up and force you to conclude that you are not mathematical, not linguistic, not poetic, not scientific, not philosophical? If you have allowed this to happen, you have arbitrarily imposed limits on your intellectual freedom, and you have smothered the fires from which all other freedoms arise."

A Liberal Arts degree does not equal a Humanities degree. I happen to have ended up with an English degree but I took more Math and Science classes combined than I took English Classes. 

I think EE majors should have a liberal arts background even if they have to be in a 5 year program to do so.  You will make lots more money if you are engineer that can speak or write well than if can’t but that is not the most important factor to me.  English majors should have a background in the math and sciences.   


There is a higher education bubble and it is a huge problem  but having everyone get a STEM won’t solve the higher education bubble.  STEM degrees will just be worth less.


My plumber has a college degree. ( My previous plumber his father didn’t)  I don’t think the only reason people  should  go to college is for money or status. 

I have a friend that was a math major and became an art history major and got her masters in museum  studies and  she is working and doesn’t regret it.  Her twin sister the physics major is actually having more work problems.  Statically Stem majors do make more but  I don’t think anyone one on this board thinks money equals happiness or  the amount of money you make has anything to do with your value as a person.

 I have friends who are writers and friends who are scientists and all value their liberal arts degree.     
I personally find my liberal arts degree one of the best choices I have ever made and you will never convince me it was  a mistake.

I will probably won't be able to post for a few days.

« Last Edit: December 07, 2011, 09:40:46 AM by Rachel » Logged
G M
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« Reply #112 on: December 07, 2011, 10:00:13 AM »

"I think EE majors should have a liberal arts background even if they have to be in a 5 year program to do so.  You will make lots more money if you are engineer that can speak or write well than if can’t but that is not the most important factor to me.  English majors should have a background in the math and sciences."

Once upon a time, public schools could be counted on to teach everyone to speak, read and write well and then higher ed could develop specialized areas of education based on the core foundations.

(CNSNews.com) - Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.
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« Reply #113 on: December 07, 2011, 06:17:29 PM »


http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/12/07/how-to-ruin-your-life/

December 7, 2011


How To Ruin Your Life


Alert reader Dan Shea drew Via Meadia‘s attention to an unusually depressing article in the Boston Globe.  It is one of those fluffy and airheaded “lifestyle” pieces, the print equivalent of empty calorie junk food and like many such articles it provides a horrifying glimpse into the vacuous nature of the modern American mind.  In this particular case, the reporter, who hopefully is affecting rather than spontaneously producing prose redolent of relentless stupidity, shares her view of 10 “awesome” classes at Boston area colleges that she thinks her readers would like to take.
 
A couple of them, we hasten to observe, look both useful and good.  The MIT course taking first year mechanical engineering students through the entire process of toy design seems a bit out of place on this list.  And we also note that the actual classes may have more substance than our chipper journalist reports.  But some “awesome” courses look like the kind of academic malpractice that help so many American kids emerge from four years of “education” with massive debt loads, major attitude problems, and no marketable skills.  Consider:
 

“Staging American Women: The Culture of Burlesque”. Burlesque is a complex and alluring underground culture — and sexy, too, of course. Think about tassels for a moment — are you blushing? Then you might want to skip out on a course that involves discussing pin-ups and early sexploitation films. Your loss.
 
It is hard to know which is more disturbing, here: that a college can accept student loan money for a course like this without being charged with financial fraud or the vapid thinking and limp prose that Globe editors evidently think belongs in their newspaper.  Or consider this piece of awesomeness from the same college (Emerson, where tuition and fees run to more than $30,000 a year, and almost half of those who apply are admitted):
 

“Puppetry”. “The course culminates in the construction of puppets for in-class presentations,” which is really all you need to know. Plus, puppets are pretty popular right now. I’ll be the first to say it: This class will make you a hit with the ladies.
 
Or there is our fatuous writer’s top suggestion, a useful course on the history of surfing:
 

“Surfing and American Culture“. As a Massachusetts native, I have a bit of trouble picturing the impact surfing has had on American culture beyond that Beach Boys song and Point Break. This class will take the uninitiated through the history of surfing up to the present day, as well as examine its role as a major economic force. And include field trips? Just a suggestion.
 
(Again, one wonders when the Globe decided that soggy, tasteless mush like this was publishable content.  Either the writer or the editor of this piece and quite possibly both clearly spent much too much time in college taking classes like the ones being praised here.)
 
As Via Meadia looked at these course descriptions, and reflected that all over America students are borrowing tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend expensive schools and then blowing the money on glittering fripperies like these, we were reminded of a book title we came across in our long vanished youth: How to Make Yourself Miserable.  It occurs to us that there is an infallible recipe for making yourself miserable, and that many young people in this country are following it — some, perhaps, without knowing that that is what they are doing.
 
So, inspired by this list of awesome courses, here is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserably unhappy in your twenties.
 
First, enroll in a college that you cannot afford, and rely on large student loans to make up the difference.
 
Second, spend the next four years having as good a time as possible: hang out, hook up, and above all, take plenty of “awesome” courses.
 
Third, find teachers and role models who will encourage you to develop an attitude of enlightened contempt for ordinary American middle class life, the world of business, and such bourgeois virtues as self-reliance, thrift, accountability and self-discipline.  Specialize in sarcasm and snark.
 
Fourth, avoid all courses with tough requirements, taking only the minimum required number of classes in science, math and foreign languages.
 
Fifth, never think about acquiring marketable skills.
 
Sixth, when you graduate and discover that you have to repay the loans and cannot get a job that pays enough to live comfortably while servicing your debts, be surprised.  Blame society.  Demand that the government or your parents or evil corporations bail you out.
 
Seventh, expect anyone (except for other clueless losers who’ve been as stupid and wasteful as you) to sympathize with your plight, or to treat you with anything but an infuriating mixture of sorrow, pity and contempt.
 
If you follow this recipe faithfully, Via Meadia promises that you will achieve all the unhappiness you want.  And don’t worry; anytime you feel sad and blue, just read some “lifestyle” journalism in the Boston Globe.  It will be sure to cheer you up.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #114 on: December 07, 2011, 10:40:49 PM »

Some pretty good back and forth there.

Rachel-- amazing that you could find that joke story I referenced!
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ccp
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« Reply #115 on: December 09, 2011, 11:21:23 AM »

"Once upon a time, public schools could be counted on to teach everyone to speak, read and write well and then higher ed could develop specialized areas of education based on the core foundations.

(CNSNews.com) - Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest."

I just did search on reading proficiency and a lot comes up and all very confusing with different definitions, ways to measure, ways to test for it, interpretations, goals etc.  I wonder how much is language barriers what not with all the foreign kids here who don't learn English.  Now we also have every learing disability under the sun with nearly everyone who can fit in some sort of category or ADD ADHD and on and on and on.

WE have more spent on schools more specialized classes and focus on these "disabilities" and yet is the above telling me 2 out of 3 kids in Wisconsin cannot read a paragrah and tell me what they read?

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #116 on: December 09, 2011, 02:50:45 PM »

Yes.  cry

IMHO a goodly part of this is due to:

a) mothers going into the workplace and thus not spending the time working with their children in support of their schooling that they used to;

b) fatherless children-- at its most extreme, the ghetto culture

c) progressive PC feel-good excrement and the general decline of holding people responsible for the consequences of their actions.
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JDN
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« Reply #117 on: December 09, 2011, 03:17:43 PM »

I'm not sure why overall scores are down, however I do know women themselves are the ones who fought to go into the workplace - equality and all that.
I don't think you will get many takers from women wanting to go back.

Anyway, I think Wisconsin, the place of my birth is getting a bad rap here.  Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.  That's right, the reading proficiency rate for Wisconsin eighth graders is slightly higher than the national average.

The question, of course, is why can't kids read is still valid (CCP - they can read a paragraph, just not at the test level expected of them in their grade).  However, it's just not a WI problem, but a nationwide problem. 
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« Reply #118 on: December 09, 2011, 03:45:14 PM »

City leaders, think tankers suggest various causes of Detroit’s high illiteracy rate
 

12:01 AM 05/10/2011

A damning report released this month showing that nearly half of all adults in Detroit, Michigan are functionally illiterate has pundits and officials playing the blame game.
 
“The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 47% of adults (more than 200,000 individuals) in the City of Detroit are functionally illiterate, referring to the inability of an individual to use reading, speaking, writing, and computational skills in everyday life situations,” a report from the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund reads.
 
Karen Tyler-Ruiz, the Fund’s director, explained the difficulties this presents to the average illiterate.
 
“Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday [things]. Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take…just your basic everyday tasks,” she said. “I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” she told WWJ Newsradio 950.
 
In a town where unions rule, some have pointed to the teachers’ union as a possible reason for the city’s high illiteracy rate.


Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/05/10/city-leaders-think-tankers-suggest-various-causes-of-detroits-high-illiteracy-rate/
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« Reply #119 on: December 09, 2011, 03:57:04 PM »

http://classicalvalues.com/2011/11/the-war-between-useless-and-useful/

The war between useless and useful
November 28, 2011 11:56 am - Author: Eric


 

The Democrats have finally officially decided to dump the white working class.
 

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.
 
All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
 
Bear in mind that the group that is being jettisoned was once the backbone of the Democratic Party, just as the big business/country club sets were once the backbone of the Republican Party.
 
I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but from what I’ve seen around here, the white working class is quite used to feeling abandoned. Liberals are seen as the sort of people who would never get their hands dirty and who disdain blue collar jobs of any kind, instead gravitating towards elite positions at universities or jobs in government or public policy where they can tell their inferiors what to do. While the universities are filled with the latter, local community colleges are inundated with white working class kids seeking to obtain for themselves what they failed to get from the public schools: basic literacy and numeracy — and job skills which are of actual use in the real world.
 
Aside from the irony that anyone with a high school degree should have to go to college in order to learn to read and write, a perfect example of a valuable real-world skill is welding. Public school teachers (who reflect the view of the educrat class) tend to hold such “dirty” and “dangerous” work in disdain, and they steer kids away from it. Guidance counselors attempt to push them into universities where they go into a lifetime of debt for worthless degrees that impart zero job skills. But some of the kids are smarter than that. They realize that if you have a skill that is worth something in the real world, you can actually feed your family.

 
They also know something that the Occupy movement (often holders of useless degrees) has missed: that the educational system’s institutional bias against promoting real world skills has led to shortages — in some instances not of jobs, but of skilled workers to fill them. Such as welders.
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« Reply #120 on: December 09, 2011, 04:15:35 PM »

"I'm not sure why overall (literacy) scores are down,however I do know women themselves are the ones who fought to go into the workplace - equality and all that. I don't think you will get many takers from women wanting to go back."

a) Forgive me, but that is not responsive to the point I am making.  My point is this MOTHERS MATTER.  If a mother is working with her children to help them succeed it school-- SHE MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  If she goes off to work and leaves here children in daycare and then on their own when it comes to school when they are of school age  THAT TOO SHOWS UP IN THE RESULTS.

b) I contest your assertion above.  While true of many women, it is untrue of many others.  Many women regret the choices they have made, and many others wish they could be with their children.

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JDN
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« Reply #121 on: December 09, 2011, 04:42:45 PM »

I absolutely agree, mothers matter.  So do fathers.

I'm not sure, I just checked briefly, but if Mom goes off to work, let's say she is an attorney, and leaves her child in a daycare center or mom quits her job
and stays home, I would like to see what you are referencing when you say, "THAT TOO SHOWS UP IN THE RESULTS".  From what I've seen, test scores
are comparable, often even higher among those in quality daycare centers than stay at home mom environments.

That said, I see nothing wrong with choices; work or don't work.  Or maybe the father stays home and the mother works if she draws the higher income. 
Most couples I know, except a few that are very very rich, in most cases both work.  They mumble about wanting more time at home, but when asked it
they would give up their job to stay home, the answer is a resounding "No".  The "proof" is that more and more women are working.  And choosing careers.  Opportunities abound. 
Also, unfortunate I think, but many/most working women often look down upon non working women in today's society.  They have little or no respect for them.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #122 on: December 09, 2011, 08:15:10 PM »

1) Being a full time mother IS work.  I submit that your description in and of itself IS condescending and disrespectful to women who exercise the freedom of choice you say you favor.  You are right, the condescension of the progressive paradigm intimidates many women into not doing what they really want to do.

2) You are right, many/most women "choose" work.  I would also note that groups where this is the predominant paradigm tend not to breed sufficiently to reproduce.  See the demographics of Europe to see just how that is working out.

3) I submit that women usually inherently disrespect stay at home dads, for reasons similar to those why they usually prefer a taller man.   Get a group of women sufficiently drunk to the point of honesty (in vino veritas) and ask if they want a shorter, less earning, Mr. Mom.
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JDN
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« Reply #123 on: December 09, 2011, 08:43:44 PM »

I do agree; being a full time mother is work.  I personally am not condescending to disrespectful to woman who do not work.  I don't care.  For example, I have a few Muslim friends who do not work;
their husband's insist that they stay home.  I have a close very rich white (Christian) male friend who prefers a cocktail then dinner on the table when he gets home.....  She is a nice wife, I like her,
but frankly, society looks down upon her.  "What do you do?"  "Oh, you're a housewife, huh? Aren't you bored?"  She has a UCLA Degree; yet she constantly feels put down.

Perhaps they don't breed sufficiently to reproduce.  Then again, if we had fewer people, in the long run we would be better off.  Large families, making a terrible generalization that is not always true,
seem to be on welfare.  In contrast, I've had affluent friends tell me that they "can't afford" any more than 2 children because of the high cost of raising them is prohibitive in the education and lifestyle that they
they think is appropriate.

Of course many don't want a stay at home Dad nor do they want a short guy.  But frankly, I think the short guy has it tougher.  Unless you are Mick Jagger, no taller girl wants you.  It just looks stupid.  Oddly enough, I know quite a few high wage earning females; their biggest complaint is that most guys ego's are insufficient to cope.  They actually have trouble finding a date.  One cute girl I know under 30 in particular, a Senior Associate on the fast track $300,000+) can't seem to find a date.  The guys are scared of her; actually she is quite sweet and fun out of the office.  I know a woman partner at a large accounting firm, another who is a doctor, they all complain not about the income, but rather the guy's insecurity.  Frankly, I think most of them would be happy to make the big bucks and have someone at home.  They love their job, but they want companionship too.  Me?  My wife doesn't make enough to pay for basic groceries, but I do wish she made high six figures.  I'ld have no problem with the insecurity issues.   grin
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bigdog
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« Reply #124 on: December 11, 2011, 06:53:31 AM »

May I ask what you consider to be "real world" skills or "useful" courses of study, GM?

http://classicalvalues.com/2011/11/the-war-between-useless-and-useful/

The war between useless and useful
November 28, 2011 11:56 am - Author: Eric


 

The Democrats have finally officially decided to dump the white working class.
 

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.
 
All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
 
Bear in mind that the group that is being jettisoned was once the backbone of the Democratic Party, just as the big business/country club sets were once the backbone of the Republican Party.
 
I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but from what I’ve seen around here, the white working class is quite used to feeling abandoned. Liberals are seen as the sort of people who would never get their hands dirty and who disdain blue collar jobs of any kind, instead gravitating towards elite positions at universities or jobs in government or public policy where they can tell their inferiors what to do. While the universities are filled with the latter, local community colleges are inundated with white working class kids seeking to obtain for themselves what they failed to get from the public schools: basic literacy and numeracy — and job skills which are of actual use in the real world.
 
Aside from the irony that anyone with a high school degree should have to go to college in order to learn to read and write, a perfect example of a valuable real-world skill is welding. Public school teachers (who reflect the view of the educrat class) tend to hold such “dirty” and “dangerous” work in disdain, and they steer kids away from it. Guidance counselors attempt to push them into universities where they go into a lifetime of debt for worthless degrees that impart zero job skills. But some of the kids are smarter than that. They realize that if you have a skill that is worth something in the real world, you can actually feed your family.

 
They also know something that the Occupy movement (often holders of useless degrees) has missed: that the educational system’s institutional bias against promoting real world skills has led to shortages — in some instances not of jobs, but of skilled workers to fill them. Such as welders.

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G M
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« Reply #125 on: December 11, 2011, 10:20:51 AM »



"May I ask what you consider to be "real world" skills or "useful" courses of study, GM?"


Anything that makes you more employable in today's and future job markets. As an example, one might compare the average wages for those trained as Welders and Plumbers from a community college vs. the wages earned from a holder of soft social science/english degree at a 4 year university.
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G M
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« Reply #126 on: December 12, 2011, 08:08:51 AM »

http://www.doctorhousingbubble.com/a-mortgage-every-college-graduation-student-debt-to-stifle-home-buying/

A mortgage with every college graduation – Student debt to stifle home buying prospects of younger Americans – In 2000 student debt made up 2 percent of all household debt. Today student debt is up to 7 percent of all household debt and growing.

In order to have a healthy housing market you need to have a steady employment base and also a low level of distressed properties.  Both of these prerequisites unfortunately are not applicable to the current economy.  One albatross of future buyers is the now increasing burden of student loan debt.  While virtually every other debt sector has contracted since the recession hit student loan debt is the only segment that has increased dramatically.  It is understandable since many unemployed and the steady stream of high school graduates are still demanding a college education.  What is incredible is the amount of debt students are taking on.  Most are coming out with the debt of a brand new car while many others, are exiting school with what amounts to a mortgage with no home.  Just look at the data; in 2000 student loan debt was roughly 2 percent of all household debt.  Today student loan debt makes up over 7 percent of total household debt.  Many future buyers are going to have their purchasing power curtailed by the amount of debt they are carrying with student loans.



What long-term impact will rising tuition have on other sectors like housing?

We’ve covered the housing bubble extensively on this site and the underlying argument has always been that home prices increased because of a mania produced by an economic bubble.  Incomes never justified housing values and so we are here with the repercussions of a bubble bursting and with 6 million distressed properties still waiting on the sidelines five years after the music stopped playing.  Yet as out of touch with reality that home prices became with household incomes student tuition saw an even more astronomical bubble:



Since 1978 home prices tracked the general rate of inflation until the late 1990s.  At that point you can see the housing bubble emerge.  But look at fees associated with college.  This is where the next bubble exists and with nearly $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, this will put a clamp on how much future buyers can afford when purchasing other items like automobiles and more importantly homes.

The Federal Reserve now publishes data for student debt from Sallie Mae.  This is only one component of the student debt market but nonetheless the chart is incredible:



Source:  Federal Reserve

This is not a healthy trend.  More importantly the long-term impacts of student debt are only now starting to filter down into the overall economy.  You think a recent graduate with an entry level job and $100,000 in debt is going to buy a home?  A decade ago this scenario was rare with 2 percent of all household debt being in the form of student loans.  Today it is over 7 percent and this debt is largely held by a group of potential future home buyers, not current owners.

Recent data shows that many graduates are working in fields that don’t even require their college degree:



Source:  John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

The good news for recent graduates is that 56 percent are working in fields that require a college degree.  The bad news is that 22 percent are not working while another 22 percent are working in fields that don’t require a college degree.  With this group, you probably have many that simply accepted whatever job they were able to find in this ongoing recession.  The above data is for the class of 2010 and I’m sure we are going to get more information soon on the class of 2011.

Home prices versus college costs

In relation to a public education even here in California, the cost of higher education has become more expensive in relation to home prices:




“The cost of an UC degree was cheapest in 1980 in relation to housing prices.  For example, for the cost of the median home in California in 1980 you would have been able to purchase over 330 years of education at the UC.  Today the cost of a median priced California home will only get you 22 years of college education.”

In other words, even measured against another bubble asset category in housing the cost of higher education is in a deeper bubble.  None of this has kept people from enrolling and much of the growth has occurred with for-profit institutions but public and private institutions have also been increasing their fees:



Source:  Pope Center

The patterns seem extremely similar to the housing bubble with certain segments taking up the roll of subprime lenders and the entire industry getting excited by easy finance and an unrelenting line of demand.  The only problem of courses is the debt is being backed by the U.S. government (i.e., taxpayers) and we all know what happens when the bubble pops.

You then have many thinking that graduate school is the answer and going deeper into debt:


“(Bloomberg) Gerrald Ellis, 28, took about $160,000 in federal loans to attend Fordham Law School, and then spent a year searching for a job. He eventually found work at a four-lawyer firm in White Plains, New York, doing consumer protection work.

Because his student debt is so high compared to his salary, Ellis said he expects to qualify for a plan that would let him pay 15 percent of his salary for 25 years, and whatever debt is left after that is forgiven.

“I’m trapped for at least two decades,” said Ellis, who lives in Harlem with a classmate who also borrowed more than $100,000. “The debt has an impact on everything, where I decide to live, what job I take. I can’t even imagine having kids with this kind of debt burden. Multiply that by a whole generation.”

Or what about this case:


“Laura Sayer, unsure of what she wanted to do after graduating from college in 2006, figured a master’s degree was “a safe bet.”

With $5,000 in undergraduate loans from her time at the University of Cincinnati, Sayer was set back $50,000 more after completing the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. The 27-year-old now makes about $45,000 a year as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit group, a job that didn’t require her advanced degree.”

A large part of this growth has come from the government working with banks to back up these loans:


“After a change in federal law in 2006, graduate students became eligible to borrow federally backed loans that covered the full cost to complete their degrees, while undergraduates are limited to $27,000 over four years, according to Kantrowitz.

The number of students enrolled in graduate schools, excluding law and medicine, totaled 1.7 million last year, a 33 percent jump from 2000, according to data from the Council of Graduate Schools, which represents more than 500 universities.”

Do you notice a pattern here?  The combination of banks and our government seems to produce bubbles that sprout up like weeds in a garden.  Only difference is there will be no investors to purchase distressed college degrees.

Tying it together with housing

Today more of the high paying jobs however do require a college degree.  Growth industries like engineering, health care, computer science, and applied sciences require four year degrees.  The problem comes when you have many entering for-profits and coming out with tremendous debt but very little job prospects.  With student debt not being discharged in bankruptcy, you lock in millions of potential future buyers from buying a home.  First, the debt burden is high and second you have a more reluctant group of people that may develop risk aversion.

Banks are no longer lending money out like candy during Halloween so income is important and debt-to-income ratios are now part of the lending lexicon.  Given that the student debt bubble keeps on growing and good paying jobs are yet to be found in mass, the justification for higher home prices seems to be a wishful fantasy.  The shadow inventory is still immense and the reality that home prices are making post-bubble lows is a reflection of this confluence of forces.  People are doubling up, don’t qualify even for FHA insured loans, demand is muted even with artificially low rates, and are simply burdened by weak household wage growth.  Certainly the millions who have moved back home because of the recession are putting a plug into the future buying pool and hierarchy of the old buying process:


-Go off to school

-Rent once you graduate

-Find a partner and purchase a home

-Build equity and move up

This has been the pattern for decades but this entire ecosystem of buying is no longer applicable.  Not at least in this current climate with distressed properties being the bulk of sales and home prices moving lower.

With every incentive in the world being thrown at home buying little can be done without a healthy economic jobs machine.  Those that understood this were able to see through the housing bubble rhetoric.  I wonder how many can understand this argument with the student debt machine going at full speed today and the future implications on other segments of the economy including housing.

Have any stories about student debt and housing?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #127 on: December 12, 2011, 02:53:10 PM »



http://www.theblaze.com/stories/teachers-upset-over-elementary-students-reciting-pledge-of-allegiance-in-english-and-spanish/
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DougMacG
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« Reply #128 on: December 13, 2011, 10:00:34 AM »

As the cost of college goes up and up and up, one thing missing in the value of the degree debate is the second part of what they call college degree or "equivalent".  (Link below)

With the college search process in full gear, soon I will know more about the inner workings of college pricing.  Our family income is very low, but does that mean she will get money paid by someone else or get loans.  The idea of loans equal to a large home mortgage just for a basic 4 year is unacceptable to me.  My understanding at the high priced places is that most don't pay asking price.  Some places pay money for ACT scores and for academics, but it is all very confusing.  Girls at her level in sports are getting recruited and some money may come related to that.  The girls a notch better than her in sports are getting full rides. 

There is definitely value in having the best technical people also develop real communication skills and for the communications people to have a deeper understanding of math, science, engineering and business.  Hard to measure value, but it is important.  The price problem is similar to health care.  As 3rd party pay grows, how can the consumer hold down the cost?  It is also hard for me to see if there is competition on price with quality or is higher education really just one large racket.  I know they compete for the high end students but they all seem to fill up with numbers of students, one way or another.

One avenue out of the cost mess is to achieve the equivalent in learning and don't pay the institution.  For the ordinary person that may not work and it doesn't work in every field, like medicine, but an amazing amount of information is out there for the taking.  Read the forum here for knowledge.  Also I like this site:

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/

2000 courses online, free.  No tuition, no admissions screening, no degrees.  Just courses, syllabuses, tests, lecture notes, etc. from one of the greatest technical institutions in the world on an amazing array of topics.

Google: 'MIT OCW' (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Open Course Ware)
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #129 on: December 13, 2011, 10:01:52 AM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-on-wall-street-than-in-classrooms.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23
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JDN
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« Reply #130 on: December 13, 2011, 10:09:59 AM »

Doug said, "One avenue out of the cost mess is to achieve the equivalent in learning and don't pay the institution.  For the ordinary person that may not work and it doesn't work in every field, like medicine, but an amazing amount of information is out there for the taking."

That is true, however unfortunately IMHO many/most white collar jobs now list a college degree as a prerequisite.  You simply don't even get the interview unless you have graduated from college;
we have "evolved" to the point where a college degree is almost mandatory.  I personally know hard working white collar people who do not have a college degree and they have been told by management that they will not be promoted, regardless of their performance, because they do not have a degree.  It's the price of admission.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #131 on: December 13, 2011, 11:04:29 AM »

'many/most white collar jobs now list a college degree as a prerequisite'

Yes in big corporations though I very often see things like Masters of Engineering or equivalent.  If you are the best in your profession, doors open up for you. More often I know people with PhD in Physics etc working in other sectors and the credential merely establishes they are smart and trainable.  With employment law and escalating mandates etc. we may be evolving back toward an entrepreneurial economy where merit may surpass credentials for criteria - at least in some sectors.

I have been hired in a degree required situation where the boss didn't have one.
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G M
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« Reply #132 on: December 13, 2011, 12:30:21 PM »

Doug,

A young relative of mine got her undergrad degree while serving on an aircraft carrier. Both the US Air Force and US Navy have their own community college systems that can be accessed globally by their personnel.
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Rachel
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« Reply #133 on: December 14, 2011, 06:07:52 PM »

GM.

I am missing the connection between puppetry and getting a liberal arts education.
Writing well at 18 and writing well at 22 should be very different things.

What happens  if you get learn a trade  and 5 years later technology changes and your skills are obsolete or even worse 25 years later and you way too  young to retire  but learning a new skill would be difficult. What do you do then?   A college degree might look a lot more attractive.   What is your suggestion for all the out of work construction workers? 

Community colleges are wonderful resources  and can be a great fit for some. However the undergraduate  education you get at community colleges is  often less rigirous than the education you get at many  traditional colleges. 


I am not denying that there is a higher education bubble and that is it a serious problem.

Marc,

This is an old study I couldn't find a more recent one the statics are not in you favor that working moms ='s lower literacy
http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Hoffman/Hoffman.html

Day Care does  provide education and you can help you kids with their homework when you get home from work.

It is true that people wrongly  look down on stay at home moms. They are definitely  worthy of great respect but so are working moms.  You seem to be suggesting that is impossible to be a working mother and a good parent.

I have friends who are working moms and I have friends that are stay at home moms and I have friends that are somewhat in between.    Almost all complain about feeling guilty and being looked down upon by people who made different choices than they did.      The right solutions for your family does not have to be the right solution for someone else.
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JDN
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« Reply #134 on: December 14, 2011, 11:08:48 PM »

Well put...
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #135 on: December 15, 2011, 12:46:57 AM »

Rachel:  I do not remember saying "lower literacy" (though I tend to suspect it, and tend to doubt the integrity of studies that purport to show otherwise).  I simply say that mothers being present matters, and matters a lot. 

Agreed that what is right or necessary for some is not necessarily right or necessary for others, but on the whole I think in the big picture on the whole mothers mothering their children is a good thing and to say it doesn't matter if they do not inherently depreciates all the women who do care for their children.    Of course a good mother will go to work if she has to (and as the kids get older things change) but I distinguish the self-important selfish yuppie attitude which simply sees kids less important than her ego gratification.
 
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G M
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« Reply #136 on: December 15, 2011, 11:39:26 AM »

GM.

I am missing the connection between puppetry and getting a liberal arts education.
Writing well at 18 and writing well at 22 should be very different things.

Really? One need not be a novelist to demonstrate basic writing skills, which are not as common as one would hope these days.

What happens  if you get learn a trade  and 5 years later technology changes and your skills are obsolete or even worse 25 years later and you way too  young to retire  but learning a new skill would be difficult. What do you do then? 

Go into whatever field that best fits the circumstances of that time.

 A college degree might look a lot more attractive.

Maybe, maybe not. Lots of people of various ages with college degrees facing long term unemployment these days. Except those with STEM degrees or trade skills that are in demand.

What is your suggestion for all the out of work construction workers? 

Look for what's in demand and has a reasonable expectation of being in demand in the future and go that route.

Community colleges are wonderful resources  and can be a great fit for some. However the undergraduate  education you get at community colleges is  often less rigirous than the education you get at many  traditional colleges. 

I think that point can reasonably be disputed in the era of grade inflation and lowered standards.


I am not denying that there is a higher education bubble and that is it a serious problem.
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bigdog
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« Reply #137 on: December 15, 2011, 12:29:32 PM »

An interesting article from a philosophy professor on the purpose of college.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/what-is-college-for/
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G M
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« Reply #138 on: December 15, 2011, 12:46:14 PM »

An interesting article from a philosophy professor on the purpose of college.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/what-is-college-for/

What is your take, BD?
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bigdog
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« Reply #139 on: December 16, 2011, 08:35:10 AM »

An interesting article from a philosophy professor on the purpose of college.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/what-is-college-for/

What is your take, BD?

You know I like college, GM. 
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JDN
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« Reply #140 on: December 16, 2011, 10:16:22 AM »

"To work or not to work after having children: it's a subject that's been debated over and over again. What's best for the kids? What’s best for women? And wait, what's best for you?

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association of over 1,300 moms the happiest moms are, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who work part-time.

Full-time working mothers were equally well-off on several important levels, though. Both part- and full-time workers reported better overall health and fewer symptoms of depression than those who stayed at home. The working groups also showed no significant differences in terms of personal perceptions that their jobs "supported family life, including their ability to be a better parent," the study's authors said in a press release."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/study-working-moms-are-ha_n_1152202.html

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G M
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« Reply #141 on: December 16, 2011, 12:42:31 PM »

An interesting article from a philosophy professor on the purpose of college.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/what-is-college-for/

What is your take, BD?

You know I like college, GM. 

Well, yes.

I was hoping to get a bit more from you, such as how many undergrads do you teach that actually should be there in your class?
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G M
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« Reply #142 on: December 18, 2011, 10:33:05 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2011/12/18/thomas-friedman-and-the-higher-education-bubble/?singlepage=true

Thomas Friedman and the Higher Education Bubble

That Thomas Friedman would spout stupidity and anti-Semitism surprises me no more than the appearance of a gumball after I put a quarter into the machine and turn the knob. But one line in the New York Times‘ calumnist’s (sic) Dec. 13 tantrum against Israel was worth a double-take:
 

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.
 
Why on earth is the “real test” at the University of Wisconsin? For liberals, the only people who count are the smart people, because it is an article of faith that  social engineering can fix all the world’s problems, and a logical conclusion that only smart people qualify as social engineers. It doesn’t matter what the dumb people think. They are the ones who need to be socially engineered. To Friedman, it is irrelevant whether Americans at large support Israel by a 4:1 margin or better, and that support for Israel is growing steadily, as the Gallup Poll consistently shows:



That poll includes dumb people, so it doesn’t count. To Friedman, what matters is what university audiences might think. The insularity of the liberal mind is astonishing. It brings to mind the anecdote about Emperor Ferdinand of Austria (deposed for incompetence in 1848). He went hunting and shot and eagle. The bird fell to his feet, and Ferdinand said, “It’s got to be an eagle — but it’s only got one head!”
 
The American university system exists for the most part to produce the social engineers who will fix all the world’s problems. During the 1960s, those of us who had the misfortune to attend the better colleges were taught that our mission was to make the world perfect, through the Great Society, arms control, internationalism, disarmament, and so forth. When the Vietnam War and the urban riots of the 1960s showed that the liberalism of our elders had not fixed the world’s problems, we abominated them, and pursued even more radical versions of social engineering. The radicalization of the universities produced a generation of clever people unsuited to productive activity in the real world but skilled at bloviating, and they became the tenured faculty of today. And their salaries, privileges, and perks continued to grow to the point that $50,000 in annual tuition barely covers them. Overall CPI is up 70% since 1990, but tuition and fees have risen by 300%.



Meanwhile the hard-science faculties of major universities (as well as the better music conservatories) filled up with foreign graduate students, mainly Asians. As I noted in a recent post, MIT’s Chinese graduates now get higher starting salaries if they return home. The most disturbing report of all was a UCLA study showing that only 40% of students who initially chose a science/engineering/math major finished a degree within five years (for blacks and Latinos, the completion rate was closer to 15%). Americans simply won’t work hard enough.
 
Rather than produce smart people, the university system has dumbed America down. After two generations of academic wheel-spinning, the transformation of universities into Maoist re-education camps with beer kegs has ruined their practical value. The giant sucking sound you hear is the air going out of the higher education bubble. As the New York Times reported in a Nov. 23 feature, “One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from non-elite schools. A bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability.”
 
Student loans, with a default rate of 8.8%, are the new subprime debt.
 
The only good news here is that liberal mainstream culture can’t afford to brainwash as many American kids as it used to. Prof. Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University likes to say that the big question in American politics is whether the red states can produce kids faster than professors from the blue states can corrupt them. The lure of the elite universities was the promise that kids could have their cake and eat it, too, that is, save the planet and drive a Volvo. The dashed hopes of American students promote the sort of misbehavior we see in the Occupy Wall Street protests. They would do better to sue their universities for fraud and demand a return of their tuition, with interest. Somehow, I don’t expect quite the same level of mobilization for Obama in 2012 as we saw at the universities in 2008. The kids won’t have gas money, let alone cars.
 
The existential question for liberalism becomes: If you so smart, how come you ain’t rich? Who cares what an audience of soon-to-be-unemployed kids at the University of Wisconsin might think? With their heads stuffed with literary theory, gender studies, and environmental pseudo-science, they are barely qualified for the cubicle jobs they will obtain if they are lucky. There is some value to a B.A. of any kind; it teaches you to read, memorize, show up on time and repeat what you are told. College graduates, at least, can read the new job manual, which explains why their unemployment rate is much lower than the national average. But few of them will live well, and almost none up to their expectations.
 
Liberalism, like cancer, is a self-liquidating malady. Eventually it kills the patient. Secular Americans, mainline Protestants, loosely-affiliated Catholics, and Reform and Conservative Jews breed like Germans or Italians, with fewer than 1.5 children per female. By contrast, Hispanic Catholics have 3 children, and evangelicals 2.6 children. America is like Schroedinger’s Cat, in a superposed state of being dead and live. And long before demographics catch up with liberal culture and extinguish it, like the post-Alexandrine Greeks or the 5th-century Romans, the economic destruction wrought by liberal education will have impoverished most of a generation of American young people.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #143 on: December 18, 2011, 01:06:09 PM »

"Who cares what an audience of soon-to-be-unemployed kids at the University of Wisconsin might think? With their heads stuffed with literary theory, gender studies, and environmental pseudo-science, they are barely qualified for the cubicle jobs they will obtain if they are lucky. There is some value to a B.A. of any kind; it teaches you to read, memorize, show up on time and repeat what you are told. College graduates, at least, can read the new job manual, which explains why their unemployment rate is much lower than the national average. But few of them will live well, and almost none up to their expectations."
---

As an aside, the abovenamed university with high academics and a very liberal reputation is one my daughter is strongly considering right now.  This question could go under parenting.  UW Madison is perhaps the best academic institution of the public schools within roughly driving distance and with in-state tuition reciprocity for us, rated higher than all but a very few small private colleges in the region.  If I had any influence, should I be steering her away from known, pervasive liberalism on campus and toward a smaller, more conservative college with perhaps lesser academic experience to protect her, or sit back and trust it all to work out fine in the end? Any helpful suggestions?
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JDN
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« Reply #144 on: December 18, 2011, 01:20:03 PM »

I think you will find that UW Madison to be an excellent school.  It has a "liberal" reputation, but solid real world academics - it depends upon your major.  My Mother, who was quite conservative graduated from
the UW Madison in Science.  If you are considering small liberal arts colleges, my father went to Lawrence University in Appleton WI.  Again, he is conservative.  He loved the school.  Further, I have had friends who have gone to both schools and everyone seems happy with their choice.

Since UW Madison is in the Rose Bowl this year and I live close, I suppose I could take a political survey on the street.  Already, the streets are beginning to be awash in UW red.
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G M
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« Reply #145 on: December 18, 2011, 01:31:28 PM »

Doug,

What kind of career does your daughter want to do?
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G M
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« Reply #146 on: December 18, 2011, 01:44:49 PM »


http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/are-american-colleges-cheating-students

The issue of liberal indoctrination and the iron grip of political correctness on campus has often been studied. The National Association of Scholars, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and activist David Horowitz, among others, have provided us with an abundance of evidence, especially in the humanities and social sciences, that we need not explore here. The fact is that students are too often unexposed to both sides of issues and lack opportunities to think for themselves. Conservatives on campus, students and faculty, suffer.
 
Then there is matter of what college graduates are supposed to know. A study sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, WhatWillTheyLearn.com grades 1,000 colleges and universities on the breadth of their graduation requirements and lists graduation rates. Campuses are graded from A to F on the basis of seven key areas of knowledge: composition, literature, foreign language, US history, economics, mathematics, and science. (Curiously, philosophy, fine arts, and the history of Western civilization are ignored.) Most educators and many students are well aware of the U.S. News ranking of campuses, in part a reflection of the reputation of professors on board. Now we have a more objective study pointing to the knowledge being required of students.
 
There are many, often shocking, surprises. In Massachusetts, for example, not a single campus earned an “A.” (That is true of most states.) Tufts and Wellesley earned a “B,” MIT received a “C,” Brandeis, Harvard, and Williams received a “D,” and Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Holy Cross were graded “F.” Academic reputations can be deceiving.
 
In California, Pepperdine, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, and the California State University at Dominguez Hills (which has a large minority enrollment), received an “A.” Almost all the California State University campuses and the University of California-San Diego earned a “B.” Stanford, Pomona, the University of Southern California, and the University of California -Santa Barbara received a “C.” Mills and the University of California-Santa Cruz, received a “D.” The flunk-outs included Occidental and the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, and Irvine.
 In Wisconsin, the “B” range includes Marian and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Campuses rated “C” include Marquette and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Graded “D” were Beloit, Carthage, Lawrence, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Trailing with “F” were Alverno, and the University of Wisconsin campuses at Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Parkside. (Both Milwaukee and Parkside, neighbors of mine, were given bottom ratings in the U.S. News rankings as well.)
 
Other schools around the nation receiving “A” include the Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard Academies, Brooklyn College, St. Johns Maryland, and Gardner-Webb. Among the “B” institutions are the University of Chicago, Ave Maria, Columbia, Cornell, St. Bonaventure, Seattle University, the US Naval Academy, Loyola University in Chicago, the University of Miami, Notre Dame, Duke, and Villanova.
 
At the other end of the scale nationally, the “D”s include Johns Hopkins, Yale, Northwestern, the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Ohio University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Oregon, Reed, Bryn Mawr, Penn State, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
 
At the very bottom we find: Vassar (where tuition alone is $43,190), the University of Rochester, Lake Forest, Knox, New College of Florida, Case Western Reserve, the University of Cincinnati, Colorado College, Bucknell, Dickinson, Gettysburg, Trinity, and Wesleyan.
 
There appears to be no correlation between breadth of knowledge requirements and graduation rates. In Massachusetts, “F” rated Amherst graduates 95 percent of its students, while “D” rated Harvard graduates 97 percent. In Wisconsin, “C” rated Madison leads the state with 83 percent graduation, and “F” rated Parkside trails all with a rate of 32 percent.
 High admission standards and venerable campus academic reputations appear to correlate most closely with high graduation rates. Students want a prestige degree, and actual knowledge acquired in the college classroom seems to be of secondary importance. That should not be surprising since American students, for many generations, have gone to college with rising socio-economic success as the foremost consideration. Business is the most popular major.
 
As for the conflicting claims that there aren’t enough college graduates, and on the other hand that there are fewer and fewer jobs for college graduates, perhaps we need to reconsider what a college and university diploma should mean.
 What is an educated person? I believe that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni has it right when they argue for breadth of knowledge. Tough academic courses in all seven fields should be required or at least encouraged strongly. (A Roper poll shows that that 70 percent agree that colleges and universities should require courses in basic skills. The figure jumps to 80 percent among those in the 25 to 34 year old bracket.)
 
Instead, catalogs are stuffed with pseudo-intellectual, ideological, and even silly courses and majors that require little mental effort and are often brimming over with ideological bias. Students are often able to select from a wide range of courses and, predictably, many choose the easy way out. (Mass communications, sports psychology, and gender and sexual studies anyone?)
 
Students need not major in, say, history or English if such studies lack employer appeal, but history and English should be somewhere on a graduate’s transcript. Exposure to the literature itself is important, even if the professor isn’t. Perspective, serious thought, and good writing skills can be useful, on and off the job.
 
Today nearly 40 percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree and higher, and yet the state of our popular culture and our political-intellectual life is scandalously low. In part this is because a college diploma too often signifies very little beyond foresight and persistence.
 
If you think I’m exaggerating, read Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation. The author documents in detail the miserable state of ignorance and anti-intellectualism shared by both our high school and college graduates. You can also learn the significance of computers and tech toys in the overall decline. And don’t miss the new book Academically Adrift: Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. The authors document lax standards in the classroom, and report that 36 percent of students experienced no significant improvement in learning after four years of higher education. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 63 percent of employers believe that recent college graduates lack the skills necessary for success.
 
I believe that educators are more to blame than students. Weak academic requirements are often products of deliberate efforts to keep campuses growing and prosperous. Students deserve more knowledge for their (often borrowed) money, even if they don’t want it. Our culture cries out for the learning that might produce higher standards of conduct, thought, sensitivity, and responsibility. We must also, of course, be able to compete effectively in the world marketplace. Few Americans want to be speaking Chinese in the near or distant future.
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« Reply #147 on: December 18, 2011, 01:54:30 PM »

http://www.navy.com/joining/education-opportunities.html

College is one of many routes to a higher education Education Opportunities

In America’s Navy, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon education. The high-tech work environment and the complex nature of Navy missions demand it. So when it comes to earning a degree or advancing the level of education you already possess, there are many programs that can help you on your way to an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or beyond.
 
Opportunities for Those With Diplomas or Degrees
 From a qualifications standpoint, the Navy insists that all recruits have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and all Officers have a college degree. With that in mind, initial and continuing education opportunities are available whether you’re just out of high school, in the workforce, in college, a recent college graduate or a degreed professional. And whatever your background, you’ll be encouraged to pursue your educational goals – and provided with many ways to do so.
 
Programs for Traditional and Distance Learning
 The Navy offers everything from degree earning coursework to degree-accredited on-the-job training – in settings that range from typical classrooms to ships or bases. There are college scholarships and post graduate scholarships that help cover things such as tuition, books and other expenses. Plus, there are educational savings programs and loan repayment programs available to subsidize your schooling costs. Some of the programs are offered as part of your service. Others require that you meet additional requirements.
 
Consider All Your Options
 Whether it's scholarships or financial reimbursement, salary advances or sign-on bonuses, educational assistance can take many forms in the Navy. It all depends on where you are now and which of the career areas you’re interested in pursuing.
 
Look into the NROTC, undergraduate and graduate and professional programs outlined in this section to identify the program or programs that best fit your needs. And be sure to talk with a recruiter for further details or clarification or just to make sure you have the latest information to consider.


 Undergraduate

Enter the military or go to college? Too often, the first thought is that you must choose one or the other. But the reality is this: Education and service can go hand in hand in America’s Navy.
 
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« Reply #148 on: December 18, 2011, 03:11:11 PM »

Exams in South Korea
The one-shot society
The system that has helped South Korea prosper is beginning to break down
Dec 17th 2011 | SEOUL | from the print edition

ON NOVEMBER 10th South Korea went silent. Aircraft were grounded. Offices opened late. Commuters stayed off the roads. The police stood by to deal with emergencies among the students who were taking their university entrance exams that day.

Every year the country comes to a halt on the day of the exams, for it is the most important day in most South Koreans’ lives. The single set of multiple-choice tests that students take that day determines their future. Those who score well can enter one of Korea’s best universities, which has traditionally guaranteed them a job-for-life as a high-flying bureaucrat or desk warrior at a chaebol (conglomerate). Those who score poorly are doomed to attend a lesser university, or no university at all. They will then have to join a less prestigious firm and, since switching employers is frowned upon, may be stuck there for the rest of their lives. Ticking a few wrong boxes, then, may mean that they are permanently locked out of the upper tier of Korean society.

Making so much depend on an exam has several advantages for Korea. It is efficient: a single set of tests identifies intelligent and diligent teenagers, and launches them into society’s fast stream. It is meritocratic: poor but clever Koreans can rise to the top by studying very, very hard. The exam’s importance prompts children to pay attention in class and parents to hound them about their homework; and that, in turn, ensures that Korea’s educational results are the envy of the world. The country is pretty much the leading nation in the scoring system run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2009 it came fourth after Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but those are cities rather than full-sized countries.

Korea’s well-educated, hard-working population has powered its economic miracle. The country has risen from barefoot to broadband since 1960, and last year, despite the global slowdown, its economy grew by 6.2%. In the age of the knowledge economy, education is economic destiny. So the system has had far-reaching and beneficial consequences.

Yet it also has huge costs. For a start, high school is hell. Two months before the day of his exams Kim Min-sung, a typical student, was monosyllabic and shy. All the joy seemed to have been squeezed out of him, to make room for facts. His classes lasted from 7am until 4pm, after which he headed straight for the library until midnight. He studied seven days a week. “You get used to it,” he mumbled.

His parents have spent much of Min-sung’s life worrying about his education. His father, a teacher, taught him how to manage his time: to draw up a plan and stick to it, so as to complete as much revision as possible without collapsing exhausted on the desk. His mother kept him fuelled with “delicious food” and urged him to “study more, but not too much”.

Min-sung says he doesn’t particularly want to go to university, but he feels “social pressure” to do so. He dreams of getting a job as an agent for sports stars, which would not obviously require a university degree. But he reluctantly accepts that in Korea, “You can’t get [any] job without a degree.”

Min-sung’s happiest time was playing football with his friends during the lunch hour. Every child in his school dashes to the cafeteria when the bell goes and gulps down the noodles like a wolf in a hurry. The quicker they eat, the more precious minutes of freedom each day will contain.

A poll by CLSA, a stockbroker, found that 100% of Korean parents want their children to go to university. Such expectations can be stressful. In one survey a fifth of Korean middle and high school students said they felt tempted to commit suicide. In 2009 a tragic 202 actually did so. The suicide rate among young Koreans is high: 15 per 100,000 15-24-year-olds, compared with ten Americans, seven Chinese and five Britons. Min-sung’s older sister, Kim Jieun, who took the exams a few years ago, recalls: “I thought of emigrating, I hated the education system so much.”

As more and more students cram into universities, the returns to higher education are falling. Because all Korean parents want their children to go to university, most do. An incredible 63% of Koreans aged 25-34 are college graduates—the highest rate in the OECD. Since 1995 there has been a staggering 30 percentage-point increase in the proportion of Koreans who enter university to pursue academic degrees, to 71% in 2009.

This sounds great, but it is unlikely that such a high proportion of young Koreans will actually benefit from chasing an academic degree, as opposed to a vocational qualification. A survey in August found that, four months after leaving university, 40% of graduates had not yet found jobs.

Unemployment represents a poor return on what for most families is a huge financial sacrifice. Not only is college itself expensive; so is getting in. Parents will do anything to help their children pass the college entrance exam. Many send them to private crammers, known as hagwon, after school. Families in Seoul spend a whopping 16% of their income on private tuition.

Seoul children

Korea’s rigid social model aggravates the nation’s extreme demographic problems. Korean women have stopped having anywhere near enough babies to provide the country with the workforce it will need in the future.

Since Korean women started entering the labour force in large numbers, the opportunity costs of having children have risen sharply. The workplace makes few allowances for women who want to take a career break. If a woman drops off the career track for a couple of years, Korean firms are far less likely than Western ones to welcome her back. And if a firm does take back a working mother, she will face a stark choice: drop off the fast track or work long and inflexible hours.

Flexitime and working from home are frowned on. This makes it staggeringly hard to combine work and child care, especially since Korean mothers are expected to bear most of the responsibility for pushing their children to excel academically.

The direct costs of raising children who can pass that all-important exam are also hefty. Sending one child to a $1,000-a-month hagwon is hard enough. Paying for three is murder. Parents engage in an educational arms race. Those with only one child can afford higher fees, so they bid up the price of the best hagwon. This gives other parents yet another incentive to have fewer children.

Since 1960 the fertility rate in Korea has fallen faster than nearly anywhere on earth, from six children per woman to 1.15 in 2009. That is a recipe for demographic collapse. If each Korean woman has only one baby, each generation will be half as large as the one that came before. Korea will age and shrink into global irrelevance.

Small wonder the government is worried. President Lee Myung-bak talks of the need to create a “fair society”. That means, among other things, changing attitudes to educational qualifications. He says he wants employers to start judging potential employees by criteria other than their alma mater. In September he promised that the government would start hiring more non-graduates. “Merit should count more than academic background,” he said.

The forces for change

The president is also urging Korean firms to recruit people with a wider range of experiences. Some have agreed to do so. In September, for example, Daewoo Shipbuilding said it would start hiring high-school graduates and set up an institution to train them. But the managers who run big Korean companies are mostly from the generation in which academic background was everything, so they may be reluctant to change.

The government is trying to reduce the leg-up that private tuition gives to the children of the well-off. Since 2008 local authorities have been allowed to limit hagwon hours and fees. Freelance snoops, known as hagparazzi, visit hagwon with hidden cameras to catch them charging too much or breaking a local curfew. The hagparazzi are rewarded with a share of any fines imposed on errant educational establishments. Yet still the hagwon proliferate. By the government’s count, there are nearly 100,000.

The other force for change is Korea’s young people. Many are questioning whether the old rules about how to live one’s life will make them happy. Kang Jeong-im, a musician, puts it bluntly: “I think it’s difficult to live the way you want to in South Korea.” High school was the worst, she recalls: “We were like memorising machines. Almost every day, I’d fall asleep at my desk. The teacher would shout at me or throw chalk.”

Ms Kang made her parents proud by getting into Yonsei, one of Korea’s leading universities. But once there, she rebelled. She hung out with radicals and read Marx and Foucault. She went on protest marches, waving a placard, inhaling tear gas and almost getting herself arrested. “I kinda enjoyed it,” she says, “I felt I was doing something really important.”

She learned to play the guitar. She wrote a thesis on female Korean rock musicians that involved a lot of “field studies”: ie, going to concerts and talking to cool people. She even interviewed the singer of 3rd Line Butterfly, a group she loved.

She formed a band with a male friend. They played some gigs in small venues, but eventually he took a full-time job at a news agency and no longer had time for rocking. So Ms Kang started a solo career, writing songs and performing them herself, using the stage name “Flowing”. She is working on an album, she says, and performing in clubs. Her parents are not exactly thrilled; they want her to find a respectable job and get married. Their friends and relatives ask: “What is your daughter doing?” and “Why do you let her live like this?”

Ms Kang cannot live on what she makes as a musician, so she takes temporary jobs. She is one of many. Among the young, the proportion of jobs that are part-time has exploded from 8% in 2000 to 23% in 2010; the proportion of workers under 25 on temporary contracts has leapt from zero to 28%. This is partly because cash-strapped companies are backing away from the old tradition of lifetime employment, but also because many young people do not want to be chained to the same desk for 30 years.

According to TNS, a market-research firm, Koreans are markedly more fed up with the companies they work for than people in other countries. Only half would recommend them as a good place to work, compared to three-quarters of TNS’s global sample. Only 48% think they receive suitable recognition, as individuals, for their work, compared with 68% of workers in supposedly collectivist China. Only Japanese workers are more disgruntled.

Despite these gripes, 79% of Korean workers expect still to be working for the same employer in a year’s time. TNS speculates that this attitude reflects the difficulty of switching employers rather than genuine loyalty; it talks of “captive” employees.

Such averages mask wide variation, of course. Some highflying Korean salarymen feel intensely loyal to their employers and are prepared to slave long hours to help them conquer new markets. But this inner circle is quite small: the chaebol employ only 10% of the workforce. And the rigid way that chaebol tend to seek talent—recruiting only from prestigious universities and promoting only from within—means that, as well as failing to get the best out of Korean women, they miss clever people who are not much good at exams and late developers whose talents blossom in their 20s or 30s. They also shunt older people into retirement when they still have much to offer. (The chaebol tend to promote by seniority, which sounds good for older employees but isn’t. There are only a few jobs at the top, so when you reach the age at which you might become a senior manager, you are either promoted or pensioned off.)


 Parents praying for their children’s success in exams


It is still rare for a Korean who is clever enough to reach the top by the conventional route to choose a different one; but it is becoming less so. One fertile source of subversion is the Koreans who have studied overseas. Some 13% of Korean tertiary students study abroad, according to the OECD, a higher proportion than in any other rich country. In recent years, many have come home, not least because the American government, in a fit of self-destructive foolishness, made it much harder after September 11th 2001 for foreign students to work in America after they graduate. A survey by Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University found that most foreign students at American universities feared they would not be able to obtain a work visa. And since the application process is long and humiliating, many do not even bother to try. America’s loss is Korea’s (and India’s, and China’s) gain.

Returnees are typically bright, and less beholden to tradition than their stay-at-home peers. For example, Richard Choi, whose father was a globe-trotting manager for a chaebol, attended a British school in Hong Kong and learned about America’s start-up culture while studying biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Having returned to Korea, he has devised a business model in which customers receive store credits from merchants for recommending their products to their friends. “Let’s say you think this pie is good,” says Mr Choi, pointing at a chocolate confection your correspondent has just bought. “And you tell your friends about it [via a smartphone app developed by Mr Choi’s company, Spoqa]. And they come to this café and spend money. Then you get store credits.”

If this model will work anywhere, it will work in Seoul, figures Mr Choi. The Korean capital is densely populated and splendidly connected: nearly everyone with spare cash has a smartphone. And if it does not, he can probably get a good job, he thinks. But he has to hurry. Even with his skills, he reckons that no chaebol would hire him once he is over 30.

A few locally educated Koreans are also challenging the system. Charles Pyo, a young internet entrepreneur, borrowed his mother’s credit card when he was 14 and started a business helping people set up websites. His parents did not approve; they thought he should be studying instead. But then they saw all the money coming in, and relented. He made $200,000 in three years.

He then won a place at Yonsei University. He took the exam like anyone else, but what really counted was his interview, in which he argued that he had exceptional talents. Korean universities have traditionally spurned interviews, but the government is now urging them to select many more of their students this way.


 On the ladder to prosperity .
While at university, Mr Pyo teamed up with a former hacker, Kim Hyun-chul. (In his teens, Mr Kim set off cyber-terror alarm bells by infecting hundreds of thousands of computers with a virus that deleted files on his birthday. He was caught, but he was too young to send to prison.) Now a reformed character, he helped Mr Pyo start another company, Wizard Works, that supplies “widgets”—little packets of software that make corporate websites work better—and is about to start selling “cloud computing” apps for smartphones. Still only 25, Mr Pyo has now started yet another company, Rubicon Games, that designs online social games.

Mr Pyo says that what he does is much more fun than being a salaryman. But it is hard for him to recruit good staff. People assume that if you don’t work for a chaebol, it must be because you are not bright enough, he gripes. “They say: ‘Why should I work for you? You’re not Samsung.’”

Mr Choi has the same problem. “Older people look at my business card and say: ‘What’s this?’ Younger people admire the fact that I am doing something no one else is doing. But given the choice of working for me or Samsung, people are naturally inclined to go with a big company.”

Mr Pyo believes that Korea would be a happier place if more people had the courage to strike out on their own. But talented students “care too much about other people’s expectations,” he sighs. “They don’t want to fall behind their friends. They fear that if they do something different they might be viewed as a failure.”

The Land of Miracles must loosen up

The Korean economic boom was built on hard work, benign demography (a bulge of working-age Koreans between 1970 and 1990) and plenty of opportunities to catch up with richer countries. But the world, and Korea, have changed.

Korea is rich, so it can no longer grow fast by copying others. It cannot remain dynamic with an ageing, shrinking workforce. It cannot become creative with a school system that stresses rote learning above thinking. And its people cannot realise their full potential in a society where they get only one shot at doing well in life, and it comes when they are still teenagers. To remain what one writer called “The Land of Miracles”, Korea will have to loosen up, and allow many routes to success.

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« Reply #149 on: December 19, 2011, 06:04:02 PM »

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/12/19/the-ax-is-laid-to-the-root-of-the-tree/

December 19, 2011


The Ax Is Laid To The Root of the Tree

 Walter Russell Mead


From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes a story that should make every mediocre academic in this country shudder in fear.  Mark Bauerlein has looked under the hood of the “research” that professors in English literature conduct and he has documented what many of us know but few want to think about: nobody reads much of this stuff.
 
Nobody.  Not even the other scholars in the field.
 
Much, perhaps most, of the research that American university professors do could be dumped into the ocean rather than published — and nobody, not even the other professors, would notice.  Looking at two universities and what happened to the articles their literature professors published in peer-reviewed journals, Bauerlein reports:
 

Of 13 research articles published by current SUNY-Buffalo professors in 2004, 11 of them received zero to two citations, one had five, one 12. Of 23 articles by Georgia professors in 2004, 16 received zero to two citations, four of them three to six, one eight, one 11, and one 16.
 
Measuring the impact of research by counting citations to some degree tends to overstate the actual value of the research.  Scholars writing articles for peer-reviewed journals are expected to show a thorough command of the research in the field; many articles are cited less because they provide valuable help to a scholar writing something new than because literature reviews complete with multiple citations are part of the game.  Many, and sometimes most of the cited articles are more listed than used.  If no one even cites an article in literature reviews, then the tree has truly fallen in a forest where nobody heard.
 
Bauerlein responds to some possible objections to his depressing findings:
 

Research makes professors better teachers and colleagues. Agreed, but not at the current pace. We want teachers to be engaged in inquiry, but we don’t need them to publish a book and six articles before we give them tenure. We shouldn’t set a publication schedule that turns them into nervous, isolated beings who end up regarding an inquisitive student in office hours as an infringement. Let’s allow 10 years for a book, and let’s tenure people for three strong essays. The rush to print makes them worse teachers and colleagues.
 
So some works get overlooked—so what? We need lots of research activity to produce those few works of significance. Agreed, but how much, and at what cost? If a professor who makes $75,000 a year spends five years on a book on Charles Dickens (which sold 43 copies to individuals and 250 copies to libraries, the library copies averaging only two checkouts in the six years after its publication), the university paid $125,000 for its production. Certainly that money could have gone toward a more effective appreciation of that professor’s expertise and talent. We can no longer pretend, too, that studies of Emily Dickinson are as needed today, after three decades have produced 2,007 items on the poet, as they were in 1965, when the previous three decades had produced only 233.
 
The real problem, and if the state and federal fiscal crunches go on for much longer it will be upon us very soon, is that our society is less and less willing and able to pay for research that nobody really wants or needs.
 
Our universities today look a lot like the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII: vulnerable targets for a hungry state.  State legislators are going to be wrestling with questions like whether to cut the pensions of retired state workers, cut services for voters, or raise taxes.  In this atmosphere, the research university model (in the humanities and, economics and management excepted, the social sciences) may not long survive, at least in the public sector.  (Highly endowed private universities may keep the old model alive.)
 



The campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
 




Bauerlein, who for all the radical implications of his work remains a fairly conservative reformer looking to prune the hedge rather than burn the building, underestimates the costs of “research”.  If college teachers were paid to teach rather than research, they would also need to be trained less expensively.  We would need (and probably do need) many fewer Ph.D programs and degrees than we now have.
 
Imagine the (not unlikely) scenario in which more and more state universities shift to a two and two model: almost all undergraduates spend two years in low cost community colleges and then the best of them go on to two more years at a university.  It is hard to see why the humanities departments in the community colleges would need to be staffed with holders of Ph.D degrees — in part because it is overwhelmingly clear that most students need basic skills in community colleges rather than advanced courses.  There might be a small “honors college” with something like the traditional structure of a 20th century university faculty, but demand for Ph.D’s would drop precipitously and the majority, possibly a very large majority of existing doctoral programs would close their doors.  That would further diminish the demand for Ph.D’s, and would lead to another round of cutbacks in doctoral programs.  In the end we might have a small number of excellent programs, producing a relatively small number of top scholars capable of doing important work — as opposed to large number of mediocre scholars most of whom don’t produce anything that even their fellow specialists and academic colleagues value.
 
This would be a distressing thing for a number of people, but would our society really suffer from the closure of dozens of mediocre programs turning out intellectual drones who publish research that nobody, even the other drones, really wants to follow?
 
Via Meadia thinks that the republic might survive even this.
 
Bauerlein is a cautious thinker; his research cuts the ground out from under the existing US university model but he does his best to limit the damage.  He is thinking about tweaks and incremental reforms — though the confederacy of dunces that makes up the majority of every academic field in the country will do its best to do him in even so.
 
From the Via Meadia point of view, the problem lies precisely in the statement that Bauerlein accepts: “Research makes professors better teachers and colleagues”.  Wrong.  What makes better teachers and colleagues is a love of the beauty and truth found in a particular discipline, and a deep personal commitment to follow that love and share it with others.  A professor who inspires her students with a lifelong love of Shakespeare is infinitely preferable to the industrious drone who publishes two unread and unreadable journal articles a year, an equally pointless book every four years, and bores students to tears.  The first is an asset of the first order; the second is a danger to literature and makes America stupider and less cultured every year he grubs on.
 
In the humanities and most of the social “sciences”, the Ph.D and peer review machine as it now exists is a vastly expensive mediocrity factory.  It makes education both more expensive and less effective than it needs to be.  There are islands and even archipelagos of excellence in the sea of sludge but we needn’t subsidize the sea to preserve them.
 
We need college faculty who inspire as they teach: who infect their students with the love of knowledge and give them the skills to pursue that love on their own once they leave school.  Our Shakespeare teachers shouldn’t worry about making sure their students know the latest hot craze in Shakespeare studies — but they should make sure that as many of their students as possible become lifelong fans of the Swan of Avon.  A deep grounding in the twists and turns of contemporary literary theory may support that vocation — but it often does not, and the resources of a college ought to go towards the promotion of the core mission (leading students to fall in love with the life of the mind while giving them a set of skills that enable them not only to pursue that love but to function effectively in the adult world) not to subsidize academic hackery.



A classroom of empty chairs
 




Worse, our current system encourages students to think that if you really love a subject, you should become a hack: a “serious” student of literature in our perverted world is someone who scribbles unreadable and unread treatises about minutiae rather than someone who takes that love into the public arena and encourages new generations to love, revere and, who knows, expand the literary heritage with which we are blessed.
 
Teachers must be evangelists for knowledge.  We have a society that produces an ever growing torrent of unread “research” while fewer and fewer people know or care anything about the cultural heritage that the “research” ostensibly aims to examine.  This is idiocy and it is madness, and the expense can no longer be borne.  It will change.
 
There is one ray of light in the Bauerlein study.  We can applaud the common good sense of a nation that would still rather read Emily Dickinson than squint over peer reviewed articles about her.  However few people read her today, even fewer read the tedious pablum the hacks write about her.  (I emphasize again that it isn’t all hackery; literary scholarship at its best matters.  It is the mediocrity and worse in the field that needs no encouragement.)
 
It is a good sign, not a bad one, that most of this research goes unread. As long as most Americans continue resolutely to ignore this tripe, hope remains.
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