There is a Chronicle of Higher Ed article on plagiarism among regular professors. I knew this existed, long before I went into academia, because my uncle never finished his MS because his prof used my uncle’s thesis as his dissertation.

But I didn’t realize it was quite this widespread.

I understand why it happens. Publish or perish convinces lots of people that they need to get stuff out, no matter what.

But this is cheating, lying, fraud, theft… All things our schools will flunk students for or even expel them. Why is there a double standard for the profs? I don’t think that is right.

Conservatives in Higher Ed

This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education makes an argument for intellectual diversity on campus: group think and tunnel vision rob the left of its ability to impact the mainstream and to argue with anyone. It is an interesting argument. However, in the next to the last paragraph he states that there are no “professional reasons” for allowing conservatives to enter the academy. A professional reason for doing so would be to balance out the academy. If higher education is indeed a closed circle of liberals, as the article and many studies have shown, then it is not teaching critical thinking. I have always considered that to be one of the goals of college level education.

I have taught at four colleges (three universities and one community college). Of those two were conservative bastions, not liberal, and two were much more balanced, though still leaning left. The two conservative schools were conservative because of the populations they served: evangelical Christians and a whole neighborhood/area of Republicans.

BTW, I teach at a mostly conservative school now. (That means the students are but the faculty aren’t.) But when I assign controversial topics for research papers (all freshmen classes in English), I require that my students write first the paper for the side which they disagree with. This makes sure that they know what the other side’s arguments are and that they can identify the other side’s best arguments. As a teacher, I want you to be able to argue well. If you can argue for the side you don’t agree with, you’re doing well.

Free speech is not free.

I have seen too much from FIRE recently, and heard things like it from academics, to not believe that America’s universities are turning into PC factories which allow only one side of a debate. It happened at UT while we were in Austin. I don’t recall this particular problem at Purdue when I was there, but, alas, that was almost twenty years ago.

Dr. Phyllis Chesler writes about Anti-Semitism on US campuses. This anti-Semiticism is directed wholly against Jews, not Arabs, and is supported by state and student funds. That’s wrong.

When the US offers taxpayer funds to one speaker, they ought to give it to the other. Yes, I know. Under that rule people I don’t like will be allowed to speak. Well, I think it is better to have both sides than only one. Right now, the colleges across the US are only showing one. What happened to intellectual freedom?

College Admissions

Plastic has an interesting argument about college admissions. A caveat to this, before I go on, is that I have considered dropping Plastic because of the vicious response a particular author gave to remarks based on his article. I found the remarks totally reasonable and his response totally unreasonable. This is not the author, but beware…

Anyway, the article is about a proposed new admissions standard. Just the GPA and the SAT. I’m totally opposed to that.

First of all, have you seen what the SAT is doing? In November they changed the test without telling people they were going to and the changes counted in the scores. The SAT is supposedly moving more towards the ACT. Well, then why not use the ACT and get it over with?

Second, have you been to more than one school system? I have. The A’s at the public school in Charlotte, NC were worth about half what the A’s at the public school in Armonk, NY were worth. A’s earned in Austin’s east side schools are much more difficult than other areas, not because the schools are harder, but because the culture is different. A’s aren’t a thing to be proud of there.

No, I don’t want people to be able to buy their kids a position, but you know, they can. It helps the schools stay financially solvent if JJ spends $2 mill on the college and then his daughter applies there. There aren’t that many rich people who are willing to pay that much for their kids to go there. It keeps the tuition down and the quality of the professors and classrooms up.

I think that the essay is essential. Being an English teacher, you would probably expect that of me. But if you can’t write well and coherently on an interesting topic, do you need to be at the better colleges?

I think that outside work, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities should be considered. This from someone who didn’t work, didn’t volunteer, and was only involved with the school paper. I didn’t have fifty things on my application. But I think it is important to see them. I don’t necessarily think the number of things matters. If you were in 17 clubs, I’d want to know what you did in those clubs. If you were on all the teams, I’d assume you at least made it to practice, but I’d want specifics.

Colleges now give college credit for “life experience portfolios.” I think the admissions process should use the same type of thing, along with the GPA and a standardized test.

Teacher Learning

Found the following info on a teacher at a California college.

Kuro5hin says, “A speech class professor, Rosalyn Kahn, told students they could get extra credit for writing an anti-war letter to President Bush. To receive credit, the letter had to protest the war, and the letter had to be mailed to President Bush. (I would find this just as worthy of mention if she had required students to write a pro-war letter.) Then, according to a press release, “One week later, Kahn again required students to write letters with a specific political viewpoint, this time to California State Senator Jack Scott. Professor Kahn collected the letters from the class and personally delivered them to Scott.”

When the administration found out, they took care of the problem. This letter was from the president of the college to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

I found this interesting for a number of reasons.

One is that I am a college teacher.

As a college teacher, I have given extra credit for writing letters. Those were to members of the armed forces during the Gulf War and to missionaries (when I taught at a Christian college). I did not ask to see the letters. I did ask for them to be turned in inside an envelope that was addressed and stamped. However, I was an ENGLISH teacher. The students were getting extra credit for doing a writing assignment. Writing assignments are normally the pervue of an English teacher.

I was a bit dismayed by the fact that this teacher picked which side the letters were to agree with. (Although I hope none of the students wrote the servicemen and women and told them they were baby killers!) But I have had assignments which weren’;t made with the best judgement. Unfortunately, teachers are human too and make mistakes.

I thought the administration did a good job of taking care of the problem. I was amazed. I have worked under an administration in which the whistleblower gets in trouble, not the person doing the wrong thing.

Less Work, Higher Grades

As a college teacher, I found this article interesting. It said people are learning to work the system to get the grades. It also said that freshman are drinking less.

However, the more interesting section was the comments. Lots and lots of comments.

My favorites were the ones about going through the quizzes afterwards (Which students were complaining about that?) and the curve (I gave that same lecture.). The ones on drinking were also interesting though.

Wow, there were a lot of comments. I even made one.

Poverty and Education

Found an interesting entry at brad’s blog on blog-city. He was talking about the Michigan U affirmative action policy. He had a good argument for something else, instead. A poverty-based initiative. I thought his arguments were cogent and interesting, as were his comments afterwards.

Poverty is not inherently a negative factor in education. It is the culture of poverty that makes for poor education.

My family was far below the poverty line when I was growing up, but my parents always read to us, took us to the library as often as we finished our books, and emphasized school to us. I have a PhD. My brother has a LlD. My baby sister is working on her MA.

My father's family were farmers and often below the poverty line for income, although they always had food to eat. He has a LlD. One sister has a PhD. One sister is a CPA. They all have good educations. Because those were emphasized.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. It is essentially a description of why it is hard for the poor to get a good education. It is because their culture is against it.

This entry is no longer available, because the author took it down. I have a copy of the information sitting on my computer, though. But I don’t want to publish it, because it isn’t mine.

Community Colleges

Plastic: Community Colleges talks about community colleges adding honors programs.

Then it goes on to discuss the fact that more private and public universities are accepting community college transfer students. It mentions that community colleges cost a LOT less than others.

Then it talks about how community colleges aren’t fair to the urban poor who come there if they have honors programs. It says the urban poor aren’t transferring.

Then it ends with a quote, “Even the students who say they want to transfer aren’t really doing so.”

A couple of comments on that:

The urban poor can get in the honors programs. It’s not like they’re restrictive. “Sorry, if you’re from around here and make less than $25K you can’t enter.”

Second, the academics/scholastics who are pooh-poohing the job the community colleges are doing are NOT urban poor. They don’t understand the culture of the urban poor.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. (Unfortunately it is no longer available. Follow the low SES tags to posts on the topic.) It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. If you don't understand that the lower class students getting an education at the community college are already breaking away from their culture just to do that, you need to read this site.

And, for my personal opinion, a lot of students who say they want to do a lot of things aren't doing so. Ask anyone on campus. They'll say they want to make As. What if they're not. Why not? Because they aren’t trying to make As. They’re not doing what it takes to make As. They just “want” to make As.

Well, I want to win a million dollars. But I’m not buying lottery tickets. So, while I say I want to win a million dollars, I’m not really doing anything about it. Is that the fault of the lottery? No.

If a student says they want to transfer and don’t, is that the fault of the community college? No.

What is wrong with this?

The Chronicle of Higher Ed, in an article I cannot read, since it is subscription only, talks about a donor to a college. In the email alert they send out it says the donor has “deep financial ties to several trustees and a long track record of giving to conservative causes.”

What is wrong with that?

So what if he has deep financial ties to the trustees? Who ELSE do you think is going to give? Folks with deep ties to the college. Which he has. Through the trustees.

But The Chronicle wrote that as if it were a problem. So, he should give to someone he doesn’t have ties with? Good luck with that.

Also, what is the problem with giving to conservative causes? People should only give to causes that match? Well, surprise! Conservatives believe in education.

I think the real problem, though I haven’t read the article to know, is that The Chronicle doesn’t want conservatives in education. They think his giving indicates a movement on the part of the college. Folks, if he already had ties to the trustees, then there was ALREADY a movement at the college.

There is NOT a problem with anyone supporting the college of his choice. The only problem is that The Chronicle thinks there is a problem. Which says a lot about the paper and its own issues.