August 24, 2018
Dead Poets

Some thirty years ago I warned one of my classes at Harvard not to put off something or other, since "at my back I always hear time's wingèd chariot hurrying near."

They looked puzzled, as if I had broken into demotic Greek. Did what I just said sound like me? I asked. No. Did you think it might have been a quotation? Probably. Has anyone ever heard of a poem called "To His Coy Mistress?" Of Andrew Marvell? No and no.

The next day I handed out the easiest poetry quiz I had been able to put together. The students were to fill in the missing word or words from lines that I figured every high school over-achiever would surely know…

I figured wrong. None of the freshmen got, "The boy stood on the burning _____." None got, "Half a league, half a league, half a league _____." One got, "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village _____ _____." One got, "I met a traveler from an antique _____." Only one got, "You're a better man than I am, _____ _____." (Two others guessed, "Charlie Brown.") The highest score was 14 right out of 20 questions; the lowest was two right; the average was seven.

The only question everybody got right was a freebie I had thrown in: "This Bud's for _____." Actually I thought I had thrown in another freebie, "Winstons taste good, like a _____ _____," but only four students got it. Cigarette ads, I remembered too late, had disappeared from TV when they were barely out of diapers. Nor was my class an exception. When a colleague, the poet Felicia Lamport, gave the same quiz to her students, they did no better.

Stupidity can hardly have been the reason. Harvard undergraduates are by no means as brilliant as the world imagines, but most of them are above average and a few are very bright indeed.

Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.


This turned out to be the case. One or two of the students said they had been made to memorize a passage from Shakespeare in high school, that was all. Most had been required to read a handful of poems; none had ever been moved to memorize one on his or her own. When I told them I had done that very thing as a schoolboy, and more than once too, they couldn't see the sense in it.

There they were then, poetry aliterates but no more to be blamed for that than a glass is to blame for being empty. Nobody had bothered to fill them, as a wonderful high school teacher named Jack McGiffert had once tried to fill me.

To see whether Mr. McGiffert had been an exception, though, I gave my quiz to the other writing teachers in the department. The older they were, the better they did. The youngest teacher, who was working on his doctoral dissertation in English Literature and is now a tenured professor, scored as poorly as my class had.

Well, what does all this mean except that each generation has its own language, its own poetry? After Felicia Lamport gave my test to her students they made up a test for her, with questions like, "We all live in a yellow _____." She only got two right.

This misses the point, though. I might have expected my father to be ignorant of Doonesbury, for instance, and he was. He might have expected me to be ignorant of Krazy Kat, and I was. But neither of us was ignorant of Poe and Whitman, Keats and Shelley, as Harvard's freshmen were and no doubt still are.

Still, what's the difference? Poetry is just the latest thing to have dropped off our cultural radar, after all; it joins mythology, the classics and the King James Bible below the horizon. And who cares, anyway?

Margaret are you grieving over golden oldies leaving? Of course you’re not. Who needs artifacts from the primitive dawn of communications technology when there’s a reality show right up there on the plasma screen?

So, yo, Margaret — This crud's for you.


The whole quiz:

1. I think that I shall never see a poem lovely _________. (three words)
2. But there is no joy in Mudville, mighty Casey ________. (three words)
3. This Bud’s for _____. (one word)
4. Beneath the spreading chestnut tree, the village _______. (two words)
5. You’re a better man than I am, _______. (two words)
6. Good fences make ______. (two words)
7. East is east and west is west, and never the twain ______. (two words)
8. When lilacs last in the dooryard _____. (one word)
9. A little knowledge is a ______. (two words)
10. The boy stood on the burning ______. (one word)
11. In Xanadu did ______. (two words)
12. I met a traveler from an antique _____. (one word)
13. Water, water everywheere, nor any drop ______. (two words)
14. Quoth the raven, _____. (one word)
15. A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and _____. (one word)
16. Winstons taste good, like a ______. (two words)
17. Half a league, half a league, half a league ______. (one word)
18. The fog comes in on little _______. (two words)
19. But ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends it gives a lovely ______. (one word)
20. In the room the women come and go, talking of ______. (one word)


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:06 PM
June 24, 2017
Writ by Hand

A while ago Politico ran a collection of handwritten notes sent by the so-called “president” to various members of the so-called “fake media.” Little Donnie must have slept through his cursive writing classes; all the notes are printed except for the signatures, which are merely jagged designs. The “Donald” portion might, with some imagination, be read as “Amahl.” The rest cannot even be misread.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:29 PM
June 14, 2017
Me and Breet Go Way Back…

You know Preet Bharara, right? Yeah, that Preet Bharara. The scourge of Wall Street and now of our so-called “president.” Turns out I know him too, or did in 1986 when he was a Harvard freshman. Back then Breet and I were on a first name basis, at least on my side. You might say I made him what he is today. Or not.

Anyway last week my son Ted asked me if I knew Bharara and I said no and he said yes you did too, directing me to Google and this 1986 article from The Harvard Crimson:

Doolittle teaches two sections of Social and Ethical Issues: “all political issues are ethical issues at heart,” he says. Students in his sections say that Doolittle’s anecdotes make class entertaining and interesting. “His sense of humor really helps,” says Preetinder Bharara ’90. “He doesn’t care about the excess stuff — just the writing,” Bharara says.
And all these years, those early lessons stuck with him. Take a look:
But Kaling’s commencement speech wasn’t the only entertaining one delivered at Harvard Law School — or even the best one, in some people’s estimation. Another speaker, Preet Bharara, managed to combine humor and wisdom, in magnificent fashion…

“A few months ago, my dad calls when he sees the announcement about the Harvard Class Day program and tells me that he and mom would come up for it. I say, ‘Dad, I am really touched. But you don’t have to drive all the way up from New Jersey. You just had knee surgery; it’s a long haul. Really, Dad, don’t worry about it.’

“And so my Dad gets all serious and says to me: ‘Preet, how could we NOT come? And miss a once-in-lifetime chance — once in LIFETIME chance — to see the Mindy Kaling?’

“Yes, the Mindy Kaling — the definite article is what makes the joke. That, and Bharara’s killer Indian accent (click here and go to around the 12:55 mark). Given his acting talent, maybe Bharara should make a guest appearance on The Mindy Project.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:51 PM
August 02, 2016
Reading and Writing and Politics…

From The Los Angeles Times:

A school-age child at a Donald Trump rally on Tuesday stood up and yelled “Take the bitch down” after the candidate mentioned Hillary Clinton…

The child, who looked no more than 10, was sitting next to his mother in the media section. The mother identified herself in a brief interview with a small group of reporters as Pam Kohler of Mount Vernon, Va., but she would not name her son or say how old he is … Asked where he learned to speak that way, she answered, “Democratic schools.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:18 PM
March 28, 2016
The Result Achieved is…

…more often than we think the result desired. Here’s Professor Wolff:

So at 4 a.m. this morning I got up and did a little Googling [this will give you some idea of the depths of my obsessions.] In-state tuition at Berkeley is currently $14,460 [this may be a trifle off, as I think this figure is a year or two old.] In 1968, it was $300, which in 2016 dollars is $2044. Although $2044 is not free, it is an amount that a serious student could earn with part time jobs. If California establishes a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage, as it appears poised to do, that would work out to about five hours of burger flipping a week during term time. That still leaves room and board, of course, and also books and lab fees, but the point is that it would be possible, as we used to say when I was young, to “work your way through college.”

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the reasons for the soaring costs of college. I believe it is no accident [the favorite line of old-time Marxists] that costs began to rise exponentially roughly during the tumultuous Sixties [i.e., in the early Seventies.] The social function of student debt is to compel college graduates to take safe, trouble-free jobs in order to pay off their debts, rather than opting for community organizing or other forms of social disruption.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:57 PM
November 09, 2015
Who’s in Charge Here…

Further evidence of where the real power lies in higher education. Next thing you know the jocks will go on strike till the adjunct faculty gets paid a living wage. Oh, sorry. Next time wake me up when I drift off dreaming.

The president of University of Missouri resigned Monday amid criticism over his handling of complaints regarding racial bias and racist slurs on campus, acknowledging “the frustration and anger” that he saw among students “is real.”

Tim Wolfe said the termination of his position would be effective immediately. The announcement came at a special meeting of the university system’s governing body, the Board of Curators.

For months, black student groups have complained about racial slurs and bias within the system’s overwhelmingly white flagship campus in Columbia. Their efforts got a boost over the weekend when more than 30 black football players announced they wouldn’t participate in team activities until Wolfe was removed.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:44 PM
August 10, 2015
America’s Race-mixing Capital

Guess which state this school is in:

East Anchorage High, a school of 2,200 students, serves Mountain View. The principal, Sam Spinella, began his career in education in a New Jersey classroom where most students were white. At East, 80 percent of the student body is nonwhite, he said. After English, the most common languages spoken are Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Tagalog, Somali and Yup’ik.

Sometimes students will isolate themselves, he said, hanging out only with people like them who speak their language. But no one group ranks higher in terms of achievement or involvement at East. Classes and sports, like soccer, create inspiring cultural mixing grounds. The students don’t know any different, but there are moments, like some mornings when he walks into the common area, that he is still moved by it.

“I look out there,” he said, “and I see the world.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:32 PM
August 01, 2015
How to Tame a Prole

The excerpt below is from a 1961 book by the late John Schaar called Escape from Authority. Professor Schaar was an army buddy of mine at Ft. Bragg in the mid-1950s, before our rulers figured out that it would be easier to go to war if they didn’t draft Ph.Ds (or even college freshmen). James Carville once described the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as “two big cities with Alabama in between.” Jack Schaar was from the Alabama part, where you went to work on the farm when you got through with high school. He had heard, though, that you could go to college in California for free, so he stuck out his thumb and headed west.

That was before our rulers figured out that ambitious poor white trash could be kept in their place with crippling loans if you just did away with that free tuition thing. Risk-free loans, of course, backed by the suckers themselves in their role as tax payers. Loans that could never be discharged in bankruptcy the way they could if the suckers had only been corporation-people instead of just people-people.

Anyway, Jack was lucky enough to be able work his way through to a doctorate and become a hugely-admired professor of political science at Berkeley and U.C. Santa Cruz. And here he is, or was in 1961. It wasn’t yet clear that limitless consumption was just the first step in the taming of the proles. Properly managed, it would turn them into obedient debt slaves, voting for massa.

Under present conditions, co-management and workers’ participation would most probably mean only an acceleration of the present powerful tendencies toward materialism and what Fromm calls alienated consumption, for the workers have no conception of any moral or aesthetic order beyond the present one. What has to be recognized is that the workers have been all “corrupted,” tamed. And they have been tamed to the harness of meaningless work not by the stick of hunger but by the carrot of limitless consumption, by the vision of utopia offered by the ad-men and sold on the installment plan.

Only if this is kept in mind can one explain the astonishing fact that organized business and organized labor have combined to make productivity, profit, and “full” employment — that is, work in its inescapable modern meaninglessness — the dominant and almost the sole aim and function of the communities’ internal political life. The principal feature of our political life is the use of truly prodigious means for paltry ends. After all, the expenditure of a very small proportion (the Goodmans estimate 1/7) of our available resources of labor, time, money, and materials would provide all Americans with a very solid “subsistence.” The remainder goes for luxury and emulative consumption goods — as though we had already thought through to a solution the profound moral and political question of the relation between standard of living and quality of life.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:34 PM
June 04, 2015
Presented Without Comment

From the New York Times:

In an affidavit filed in Tate County Justice Court last month, one woman, Ursula Miller, was charged for “yelling and clapping while inside the building after announcement had been made for all to hold their applause and celebrating until after the end of the [high school graduation] ceremony.”

Her “loud, boisterous noise,” the affidavit said, was “against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:24 PM
It’s Not as Bad as You Thought…

…it’s worse. From The Hightower Lowdown:

Meanwhile, the $1.3 trillion mountain of debt rung up by students at all types of U.S. colleges is endangering our entire economy. It is more than people owe on credit cards or auto loans, and second only to home-related borrowing. Student debt will soon surpass the subprime home mortgage debt that crashed the economy in 2008.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:04 PM
April 16, 2015
Living Down to Expectations

Apparently the following is old stuff, but it was new to me. I therefore assume it will be to you, too, since how could you be better informed than I am? The excerpt gives the rough outline; for more background, go to Professor Wolff’s fascinating blog, which ought to be on your daily checklist if it isn’t already.

The UMass Afro-Am doctoral students dominate the annual conventions and have assembled a brilliant record of publication. The applicants, most of whom apply to several doctoral programs, still have appallingly low GRE scores. What’s up?

A good many years ago, a brilliant African-American psychologist named Claude Steele asked the same question, and launched a fascinating series of experiments to find out. [When I had dinner with Steele in Amherst, MA many years ago, he was the Chair of the Stanford Psychology Department. He is currently the Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost of UC Berkeley.] Steele formulated the hypothesis that Black students are well aware of the widely-held view that they are dumber than White students, and this awareness, which Steele labeled “stereotype threat,” undermines their ability to do well on the sorts of “intelligence tests” that the White world expects them to do badly on.

Steele devised a variety of experimental protocols to test this hypothesis, and again and again, the data proved him correct. For example, Steele would put together a multiple-choice test, and give it to two groups of college students [mixed White and Black.] The first group would be told that they were being tested for intelligence; the second group, given the identical test in identical testing circumstances, would be told that they were being tested on their general knowledge. Sure enough, the first group of Black students did markedly worse than the second.

Steele then broadened his investigation to other stereotypes. Women are commonly thought not to be able to do math, so Steele tested two groups of women on the same math exam. Each group was asked to fill out a little personal data form before taking the test -- name, address, age, college class, etc. The last question on the first form, answered just before taking the test, was “gender.” The second form omitted that item. Lo and behold, the women who were called on to identify themselves as women just before taking the test did worse than those who were not so asked! Steele was even able to replicate the result by putting the gender question first on the form in one case and last in the other.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:31 PM
April 15, 2015
A Prick in a Robe

Undernews reports:

A Fulton County superior court judge handed down severe prison sentences to 10 former school administrators, principals and elementary school teachers for their role in a citywide test cheating scandal at the Atlanta Public Schools.

The educators and one other teacher were convicted April 1 for inflating test scores in 2009...

The case was brought by county prosecutors in what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — which backs the vendetta — called a “novel use” of state racketeering laws normally reserved for organized crime activities such as such as prostitution, counterfeiting or illegal drugs and weapons trafficking.

To the gasps of courtroom onlookers on Tuesday morning, Judge Jerry Baxter announced maximum 20-year sentences for three former school administrators — Tamara Cotman, 44; Sharon Davis-Williams, 59; and Michael Pitts, 59 — that include seven years in prison, 13 years on probation, fines of $25,000 each and 2,000 hours of community service.…

Judge Baxter was visibly enraged by the public sympathy for the educators whose families and friends packed the courtroom Monday to demand leniency. When spectators reacted with horror to his sentencing, the judge angrily blurted,
“Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime … When you are passed and you can’t read, you are passed and passed on, there are victims that are in the jail that I have sentenced, kids…”

After prosecutors sought to blackmail the educators with promises of lighter sentences if they accepted guilt and waived the right to appeal their convictions, Baxter reacted angrily, saying, “I’ve got a fair sentence in mind and it involves going to jail. Everybody.”

All involved are black except the judge, who is a vicious, ignorant bully who disgraces his race and his robe.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:13 PM
February 17, 2015
Thinking Good Thoughts

Unlike Wisconsin, Montana welcomes critical thinking, just so the kiddies are are taught to criticize the right thing:

“Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom” is the title of HB 321. The preamble of this legislation says, “The scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe.” It would give public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:18 PM
January 22, 2015

From Undernews:

They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word “privatization” derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich’s policy of winning businessmen’s loyalty by handing over state property to them.

In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis) — and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused “I think we ought to sell the TVA”— referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast — it helped seal his campaign’s doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites — including a rightward tending Democratic Party.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:53 PM
November 18, 2014
Character Building

Waterboarding is in the grand old High WASP tradition, it seems. My son Mike came across this excerpt from George Biddle’s autobiography in a 1939 edition of Harper’s Magazine. The Reverend Endicott Peabody founded Groton School in 1884, with the object of shaping the moral character of rich kids.

For Peabody, the primary method of instilling a “manly, Christian character” was through athletics, primarily football. Sports taught cooperation, teamwork, along with a respect for following rules and sportsmanship. Everyone had to play. A letter from 1909 conveys the importance that Peabody placed on football. “In my work at Groton I am convinced that football is of profound importance for the moral even more than the physical development of the boys. In these days of exceeding comfort, the boys need an opportunity to endure hardness, and, it may be, suffering.”

Discipline was administered in a hierarchical manner by the faculty and older boys. George Biddle, who went on to become a well known artist, recounts going to a secluded basement bathroom and watching a dozen third form boys punishing a new boy, “little Teddy Roosevelt”, then 14 and the son of Theodore Roosevelt, who had violated some unspoken rule.

One boy held a stopwatch as the others held the offender under a faucet where the water “came from the open spigot with tremendous force and the stream could be concentrated in violence by thumb and forefinger. Besides the culprit was winded and frightened and held upside down during the pumping. He was being forcibly drowned for eight or ten seconds…” He recounts how they water boarded “little Teddy Roosevelt”, not for a specific transgression, but to send a message to the whole second form whose “tone … we disapproved of.” Amazingly, Teddy “was very plucky and began answering back. Shouts arose: ‘Shut up! Under again. Shut him up!” So they waterboarded him twice.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:45 PM
October 02, 2014
The Short Form Generation

Want to be really frightened for the future? Check this out. Warning, though: It’s really really long. Seven paragraphs. Not words. Paragraphs.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:51 PM
August 05, 2014
School for Warmongers?

From Sam Smith. What think?

Places like Harvard and Oxford — and their after-school programs such as the Washington think tanks — teach the few how to control the many and it is impossible to do this without various forms of abuse ranging from sophism to corporate control systems to napalm. It is no accident that a large number of advocates of this war — in government and the media — are the products of elite educations where they were taught both the inevitability of their hegemony and the tools with which to enforce it.

It will be some time before places such as Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations are seen for what they are: the White Citizens Councils of state violence. Still, in a little gift of history, one of their lesser offspring, George W. Bush, may speed things up a bit as he brags and blithers about, gleefully brutalizes, perversely exaggerates, and cynically promotes cruel and authoritarian ideas his brighter colleagues have worked so hard to wrap in the costume of decency and democracy. He is the Council on Foreign Relations out of the closet, the carefully contrived paradigm run amuck, the great man of history turned dangerous fool, real politik turned into absurdist caricature. For that at least, we should thank him: he has shown us the true nature of a great lie.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:06 PM
July 20, 2014
A Classroom Visit

Excerpted from Undernews:

The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.

This was not a special-needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.

We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance...

Why am I not surprised? But, once again, saddened at the nation of sniveling, fearful cowards that we have become. Zero-sum thinking is not the prudent, responsible attitude toward the normal risks of childhood; it is pathological. It is paranoid. Carried far enough it leads to Cheney land.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:13 PM
May 10, 2014
Education by Algorithm

MIT professor Les Perelman wondered how computers would score at scoring student papers:

“As our government agencies and various reform efforts seek to shift high stakes testing away from multiple choice questions, there is growing interest in computer programs that can read and score student essays. But questions persist, given the limitations of the algorithms these programs use.

“So Mr. Perelman has done an experiment. He created something he calls the Basic Automatic BS Essay Language Generator, BABEL for short. During his interview with Carol Off, Perelman fed his machine a topic she suggested, ‘Fair Elections Act.’”

Here is what the BABEL machine provided in response:

Fun fair for adherents and presumably will never be altruistic in the extent to which we purloin the analysis. Fair is the most fundamental postulate of humankind. Whiner to act in the study of semiotics in addition to the search for reality. Act is intrepidly and clandestinely axiomatic by most of the scenarios. As I have learned in my semiotics class, act is the most fundamental exposition of humanity.
“Mr. Perelman then submits this essay for grading. The result, a score of 5.4 out of 6, placing this essay in the 90th percentile.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:21 PM
May 09, 2014
We’re #1 in Student Poverty!

Here is Diane Ravitch who, unlike me and probably you, actually understands what the Common Core does and doesn’t do. First the good news. Read this taste and then go to the whole essay.

Are our kids left behind by China, South Korea and Germany? Not really. Maybe not at all. It is true that we get mediocre scores on international tests, but we have been getting mediocre scores on international tests since the first such test was offered in 1964. We were never a world leader on the international tests. Most years, our scores were at the median or even in the bottom quartile.

Yet in the intervening fifty years, we have far surpassed all those nations — economically, technologically, and on every other dimension — whose students got higher test scores. Basically, the test scores don’t predict anything about the future of the economy. Should we worry that Estonia might surpass us? The fact is that our international scores reflect the very high proportion of kids who live in poverty, whose scores are lowest. We are No. 1 among the rich nations of the world in child poverty; nearly one-quarter of our children live in poverty. Our kids who live in affluent communities do very well indeed on the international tests. If we reduced the proportion of children living in poverty, our international test scores would go up.

But in the end, as I said, the international scores don’t predict anything other than an emphasis on test-taking in the schools or the general socio-economic well-being of the society. We would be far better off investing more money in providing direct services to children — small classes for struggling students, experienced teachers, social workers, counselors, psychologists, and a full curriculum — rather than investing in more test preparation…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:24 PM
April 10, 2014
Non-profit Profiteers

The excerpt below comes from a Bill Moyers interview with Diane Ravitch, the former advocate of both Bush’s educational policies who changed her mind upon further reflection. Presently she sees those policies as part of a drive by the 1% to destroy our public schools. Read the whole scary transcript.

They’re not all bad. The worst thing about the charters is the profit motive. And I want to reiterate that most charters are not for-profit. Although many of the non-profits are run by for-profit organizations. For instance, in Ohio, where they’re overrun with for-profit operations, they’re actually not for-profit charters. It’s just they’re run by a company, in one case, called the White Hat company. Which has extracted about a billion dollars in taxpayer funds since 1999.

In Florida where there are some nearly 600 charter schools, they’re overrun with for-profit schools. There’s a charter empire in Southern Florida where the brother-in-law of the guy who runs the charter empire, which is worth more than $100 million, is in the state legislature and is in charge of education appropriations. And he never recuses himself. And the charter industry has basically taken over the legislature of Florida.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:15 PM
March 06, 2014
Something Else I Never Knew…

…or more likely forgot. From Undernews:

Armed with Friedman’s ideas, President Reagan began calling for vouchers. In 1983, his National Commission on Excellence in Education issued “A Nation At Risk,” a report that declared, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

It also said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

For a document that’s had such lasting impact, “A Nation At Risk” is remarkably free of facts and solid data. Not so the Sandia Report, a little-known follow-up study commissioned by Admiral James Watkins, Reagan’s secretary of energy; it discovered that the falling test scores which caused such an uproar were really a matter of an expansion in the number of students taking the tests. In truth, standardized-test scores were going up for every economic and ethnic segment of students — it’s just that, as more and more students began taking these tests over the 20-year period of the study, this more representative sample of America’s youth better reflected the true national average. It wasn’t a teacher problem. It was a statistical misread....



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:11 PM
February 05, 2014
Inequality = Opportunity

Did you happen to notice that Democrats, except for Senator Elizabeth Warren at least, have stopped talking about “income inequality” and starting talking about “the opportunity gap”? It seems the party’s donors get worried that people talking about income inequality might get the idea that you should — horror of horrors! — redistribute some income from them to the people who need it. If we talk about an opportunity gap, we simply plan on providing some additional pseudo-opportunities to the less fortunate but they will have to man up and accept responsibility for their own economic fate.

No less a conservative icon than David Brooks wrote a column on the opportunity gap where he talked about the uncomfortable decisions that “liberals” would need to take to address it. According to Brooks, to address an opportunity gap you must champion traditional marriage and stop trying to exploit class divisions.

If you have trouble making that connection, it seems that single parents or gay parents are unlikely to spend enough time reading Goodnight Moon to their kids, and pointing out the incessant class warfare against working people is just going to get them all upset and they’ll start demanding things instead of taking advantage of whatever opportunities their betters choose to hand them.

Of course, Democrats aren’t really going to be that successful in creating new “opportunities”, but they might sneak a couple of them through the Neanderthals in the House in an election year. My senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is on a PR tour for her “American Opportunity Agenda” which represents the Democrat’s best hope for addressing “income inequality,” er, the opportunity gap.

Here are her proposals:


1. Set up a dedicated Paid Family and Medical Leave trust fund within the Social Security Administration supported by a .2% increase in the employee and employer SS payroll tax. So we are taxing working people to pay for this and creating another bureaucracy to determine who is eligible and not eligible and how much they can get, and of course, no one is saying whether their job will exist when they return from taking advantage of this opportunity.

2. Increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next 3 years (by which time that will be an even more inadequate wage) and index future increases to inflation (Obviously this will be sacrificed to get the horrid Republicans to agree).

3. Expand the Dependent and Child Care Tax Credits and make them refundable — not a bad idea, just an inadequate one. Also she wants to create some kind of incentive for college students to work in child care through loan payoffs or tax credits — something other than making the work pay enough to be attractive to college grads.

4. Create a federal-state partnership to increase the availability of Pre-K programs — which might work in New York but don’t bother dressing little Johnny in the morning if you live in Mississippi or Texas.

5. Pass a Paycheck Fairness Act to require employers to demonstrate a business justification for wage gaps between men and women doing the same work. She’s obviously pandering with this one since even those who support the concept would realize that this would be difficult and expensive to enforce so will be opposed by the donor class with a vengeance.

This is what we have come to expect from our “liberal” party: half-baked halfway measures that don’t even pretend to address the underlying systemic problem and have little chance of being enacted into law. Even if some parts manage to get through Congress, you can be sure they will be distorted into a kind of Obamacare of opportunity. When you’re a Democrat, even when you win — you lose.


Posted by Charles Dunaway at 02:10 PM
December 16, 2013
Closing Gates

Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:

Only slightly more than thirty percent of Americans over the age of 25 have earned the B.A. or its equivalent. It is important to pause for a moment to reflect on the significance of that statistic. Seventy per cent of the adults in this country are simply ineligible for almost every decent job because they lack the appropriate educational credentials.

To be sure, you need a college degree to be a professor, a doctor, or a lawyer. Indeed, you need several. But you also need a college degree to be a high school teacher, to be an elementary school teacher, to get into a corporate management training program, to work for a business consulting firm, to be an architect, a Registered Nurse, an FBI agent, to have any hope of working for a non-profit. If the Walmart website is to be believed, your chances of becoming a Walmart store manager without a college degree are minimal. So seventy percent of Americans can kiss all of those jobs goodbye.

Since virtually everyone who talks or writes about education and the American economy is in that thirty percent — and most are in the very much tinier segment of graduates of top colleges and universities (counting UMass and its equivalents as part of the “top”), the talk is all about how hard it is to get into the elite handful of Ivy League schools and their equivalents, as though that were the only question worth discussing.

Save when the conversation turns to African-Americans and Latinos, no one really acknowledges that most Americans do not have college degrees. Now, to be sure, a larger share of each age cohort gets some post-secondary education. After all, those 2774 four-year schools manage, on average, to graduate within six years only about 55% of the students who enroll. But the fact remains that even now, not having a college degree is the norm. By the way, when I was an undergraduate, only about six or seven percent of Americans had a college degree!

Education in America has been transformed from a pathway to prosperity into a barrier across the road. Through underfunding and overcharging, colleges have become important tools in our pursuit of inequality. I served in the army with a fellow draftee named John Schaar, a poor kid from the rural slums of western Pennsylvania. He had heard that a college education was essentially free in California, and so he hitchhiked out.

By the time I knew him he had his Ph.D. in political science. After the government got through with wasting his time at Fort Bragg, he went back to the California and became a legendary scholar and teacher in the state university system that Reagan later did his best to destroy. Today Jack would never have made it out of Pennsylvania.

For today ballooning tuition and crushing student loans effectively wall off most Americans from a college degree. And that wall itself is in large measure artificial. Law schools do little or nothing to prepare graduates for the actual practice of law. The skills required to be successful on the floor of the Stock Exchange are difficult to distinguish from those of a retiree who can keep track of a dozen cards at once at the Bingo parlor. Any good watchmaker or taxidermist or seamstress could become an equally good surgeon after an apprenticeship in the operating room. It is, after all, a manual skill.

By the time I started out as a reporter in the 1950s some of the major papers and a few of the smaller ones had begun to require a bachelor's degree. But the two best writers at the Washington Post in my time there were veterans who had started out as copyboys.

The same barriers were going up in other businesses, with even less justification. At least newspaper work required crude reading and writing skills, but what reason could there be for demanding a college degree from would-be bond salesmen, bankers, advertising men, and insurance adjusters?

Over and over universities have tried to demonstrate the relevance of a college education to job performance. Over and over they have failed, because no such relevance exists. The best argument the academy can come up with is entirely circular: college graduates make more money than nongraduates. Well, duh. People with enough money to buy into the game wind up richer than people who don’t? Is that the best you got? Post hoc is not propter hoc, as the academy should have learned in college.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:48 PM
October 24, 2013
The News from Lake Wobegon

From the New York Times:

Amid growing alarm over the slipping international competitiveness of American students, a report comparing math and science test scores of eighth graders in individual states to those in other countries has found that a majority outperformed the international average…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:42 PM
September 06, 2013
You Can Always Sell a Harvard Man

From the Los Angeles Times

According to an email survey of more than 1,300 incoming Harvard students, The Harvard Crimson reports, 10 percent of the campus' new freshman class have cheated on tests and 42 percent have cheated on homework…
And in a possibly unrelated development:
A university spokesman did not immediately reply after-hours on Thursday to a request for comment on the Crimson's survey, which also reported that 80 percent of the incoming class expected to get jobs in the finance industry.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:38 PM
July 10, 2013
Congress Throws Anchor to Drowning Grads

Les Leopold asks a question that has never occurred to most Americans. Been down so long it seems like up to us. Luckily Congress has spotted the problem and is moving swiftly to make it worse.

Why are high schools free but colleges aren’t? For over 150 years, our nation has recognized that tuition-free primary and secondary schools were absolutely vital to the growth and functioning of our commonwealth.

By the middle of the 19th century, New York City also provided free higher education through what would become the City College of New York. Hunter and Brooklyn colleges also were tuition-free, as was California’s rapidly growing post-WWII state college and university system. The GI Bill of Rights after WWII provided significant resources to over three million returning veterans to go to school tuition-free, which in no small part, helped to build American prosperity for the next generation. (Tuition was even provided if GIs attended private colleges and universities.) A further impetus to free higher education came as America fell behind the USSR during the Sputnik-era space race.

But the spread of free higher education stalled and then retreated precisely as Wall Street began to grab more and more of the nation’s wealth. As financialization transformed the economy starting in the late 1970s, average wages flattened while Wall Street incomes shot through the roof. At the same time taxes on the super-rich collapsed placing more and more of the burden on working people. Lo and behold, free higher education rapidly became “unaffordable.” Wall Street then swooped in with loans as students and their families loaded up on debt in order to gain access to higher education. This is the very definition of financialization.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:37 PM
April 11, 2013
An Idea is Born

From the New York Times:

“Having condoms distributed on campus is the university kind of validating hookup culture,” said Katelyn Conroy, a junior who leads the college’s Pro-Life Club. “The argument is that condoms prevent the spread of S.T.D.’s, but, really, if you hand out condoms on campus, it puts an idea in their head.”

An idea such as, “Holy Mackerel, maybe this weird balloon-type thing is one of those things all the other kids are always talking about that you can supposedly use to do that other thing that they’re always talking about. Whatever that thing is. Hey, Katelyn…”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:05 PM
April 08, 2013
Guilty Bystanders

To refresh your memory, here’s the Cliff Notes version of the Atlanta test-rigging scandal:

In the two and a half years since, the state’s investigation reached from Ms. Parks’s third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.

Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.

Sadly for Dr. Hall she is not — unlike Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Paulson, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, et cetera and ad nauseam — too big to jail. As are also the massed forces of the Republican Party working so effectively to destroy our public school system. Dr. Hall and her teachers were just caught up in the process. Jay Bookman explains:

After all, Hall and other education leaders operate within a structure of reward and punishment every bit as real as that within APS. And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets have reported, similar cheating problems have popped up in school districts around the country. Most have occurred in poverty-stricken districts where the educational challenges can be overwhelming, the pressure to improve is immense and the needle is very hard to move.

Hall did not enact the federal No Child Left Behind policy mandating a strict regimen of testing, including a menu of rewards for success and harsh punishment for failure. She did not wave hundreds of millions of dollars in private foundation money in front of school districts to encourage them to hire, fire, promote and pay almost exclusively on the basis of standardized testing. Hall didn’t treat academic progress as an economic development tool too useful to Atlanta’s “brand” to be questioned, as some in the business community did. Like her APS underlings, Hall merely responded, somewhat rationally, to a system that was designed by others and that demanded results too good to be true too quickly.

That is an underappreciated aspect of this tragedy. By other standards, including untainted National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Atlanta public schools did make measurable, sustained progress during the Hall era. But in an environment that demands a scale of improvement that only charlatans can deliver, it wasn’t enough.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:52 AM
March 21, 2013
Sex Ed

Jim Hightower writes:

In 2009, an interim Texas school superintendent declared that sex-education classes were unnecessary in his rural district. Most of the area’s school kids live on farms, he explained, therefore: “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”

It’s this kind of thinking that makes Texas so special… (To continue with Hightower, go here.)

Maybe you’ve heard the old joke about the farm boy showing a girl around the ranch when they come across a bull mounting a cow and stop to watch.

Boy: I wouldn’t mind doing that, would you?

Girl: Go ahead, she’s your cow.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:17 AM
December 30, 2012
Playing by the Rules

Here’s Noam Chomsky, musing about, among other things, baseball:

I remember when my grandson was about ten and he was very interested in sports, he was always playing for teams for the town. Once we were over at his mother’s house and he came back pretty disconsolate because there was supposed to be a baseball game but the other team that they were playing only had eight players. I don’t know if you know how baseball works but everybody’s sitting all the time, there’s about three people actually doing anything, everybody else is just sitting around. But his team simply couldn’t give the other team an extra player so that the kids could have fun because you have to keep by the league rules.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:42 AM
November 13, 2012
Hectographic Memory

Albert Jay Nock:

Concerning culture as a process, one would say that it means learning a great many things and then forgetting them; and the forgetting is as necessary as the learning. Diligent as one must be in learning, one must be as diligent in forgetting; otherwise the process is one of pedantry, not culture. The trouble with the pedant is not that be has learned too much, for one can never do that, but that he has not forgotten enough. In the view of culture, the human spirit is somewhat like the oldfashioned hectograph which had to be laid aside for a day or so after each use, to let the surface impression sink down into the gelatine pad. The pedant’s learning remains too long on the surface of his mind; it confuses and distorts succeeding impressions, thus aiding him only to give himself a conventional account of things, rather than leaving his consciousness free to penetrate as close as possible to their reality, and to see them as they actually are.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:58 PM
Presented Without Comment



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:36 PM
October 30, 2012
Notes From a WASP Boyhood

This is from our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:

LAKEVILLE — Diplomat John L. Loeb shared a startling memory with students at The Hotchkiss School in a talk on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

It was the fall of 1945 and Loeb was one of a handful of Jewish students at the school.

During movie night, the students saw newsreel footage of Nazi concentration camps.

Far from being horrified, Loeb said his fellow students “cheered and hooted.”

Afterward, one young man told Loeb, “We don’t like Hitler but at least he killed Jews.”

I didn’t know Ambassador Loeb, who was an upperclassman and, if I remember right, editor of the school newspaper. But one of my classmates was Jewish, as well as being musical, intelligent, small, and unathletic. He was, that is to say, asking for it.

So he was taken to the woods alongside the golf course, depantsed, and made to mimic masturbation. Photos of this were circulated. The following year he was expelled for stealing a watch that one of his tormentors had planted in his bureau drawer.

This was long ago and I’m told by people familiar with the school today that sadism and hate crimes are no longer condoned and tacitly approved at Hotchkiss. This may well be, as a fish rots from the top. In my day the headmaster turned a blind and benign eye on this sort of thing. His successors, I understand, have not.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:20 PM
June 25, 2012
Speaking Up For Illiteracy

From Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Harper & Brothers, 1943:

Universal literacy helps business by extending the reach of advertising, and increasing its force; and also in other ways. Beyond that, I see nothing on the credit side. On the debit side, it enables scoundrels to beset, dishevel and debauch such intelligence as is in the power of the vast majority of mankind to exercise.

There can be no doubt of this, for the evidence of it is daily spread far and wide before us on all sides. More than this, it makes many articulate who should not be so, and otherwise would not be so. It enables mediocrity and submediocrity to run rampant, to the detriment of both intelligence and taste. In a word, it puts into people’s hands an instrument which very few can use, but which everyone supposes himself fully able to use; and the mischief thus wrought is very great.

What about this? Is Nock right on the money? Half right? Provocative at least? Crazy as a loon?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:31 PM
May 17, 2012
Austerity, Canadian-style

Eat your heart out, American students. This from the New York Times:

As is the case throughout Canada, Quebec’s colleges and universities are mostly publicly supported, and their tuition rates are set by the provincial government. Quebec residents pay the lowest rates in Canada.

The government wants to increase the annual university tuition of $2,144 by $321 a year for five years.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:04 AM
April 05, 2012
A Meme is Born

While the rest of us were giggling over Rick Santorum’s fact-free attack in California’s university system, Sara Robinson wasn’t. I’d bet ten thousand Romney dollars that her decoding of Santorum’s babble is right on target.

Santorum was setting the stage. He warned us, very clearly: Following the War on Public Employees and the War on Women, this will be the summer of the War on Public Universities. Whether the proposals will be to revoke their charters, close campuses, or sell off their facilities to for-profit colleges, you can bet that ALEC already has the bills in the can, and will be introducing them in state legislatures presently.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:17 AM
March 31, 2012
Contempt for Excellence

Bertrand Russell in Education and the Good Life, 1926:

In so far as the schools can rely upon the genuine merits of America, there is no need to associate the teaching of American patriotism with the inculcation of false standards. But where the Old World is superior to the New, it becomes necessary to instill a contempt for genuine excellence. The intellectual level in Western Europe and the artistic level in Eastern Europe are, on the whole, higher than in America. Throughout Western Europe, except in Spain and Portugal, there is less theological superstition than in America. In almost all European countries the individual is less subject to herd domination than in America: his inner freedom is greater even where his political freedom is less. In these respects, the American public schools do harm. The harm is essential to the teaching of an exclusive American patriotism. The harm, as with the Japanese and the Jesuits, comes from regarding the pupil as a means to an end, not as ends in themselves. The teacher should love his children better than his State or his Church; otherwise he is not an ideal teacher.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:52 PM
February 17, 2012
Where Do They Find These Guys?

Sure, it’s Alabama. But still

Alabama legislators were given a 62 percent raise in 2007, and State Senator Shadrack McGill (R-AL) says the raise discourages corruption among lawmakers. The previous low salaries “played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he says. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting.” By paying lawmakers more up front, he says, they are less susceptible to taking bribes: “He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation.”

However, if teachers were given pay raises, then people who are not “called” to teach would begin joining the profession, he says. “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys. It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:27 PM
August 26, 2011
Proud to Be an American?

From a New York Times op-ed by Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff of Columbia University’s Teachers College:

Many schools that have already reduced hours, increased class sizes and eliminated electives are also now charging fees for workbooks, use of lab equipment and other basic instructional materials; extracurricular activities long considered essential are now available only to students who can afford them.

In Medina, Ohio, The Wall Street Journal reported, it now costs $660 for a child to play on a high school sports team, $200 to join the concert choir and $50 to act in the school play. High school students in Overland Park, Kan., pay a $120 “activity programming fee” and a $100 “learning resources fee.” In Naperville, Ill., they are charged textbook and workbook fees, even for basic requirements like English and French, according to The Chicago Tribune.

What America needs is a little nation-building to rescue us from the Third World into which we seem to be determined to sink. If we would only listen to them, teams of education experts from Finland and Singapore could do us a world of good.

And pigs would fly, except they don’t have wings.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:16 PM