Praise to thee, our Alma Mater

4 02 2015

I loathe Scott Walker.

That his politics are not my own should not, of course, surprise you, but that’s not what’s loathe-inducing about him.

No, what I hate about him is not so much that he’s conservative (whatever the hell that means, these days), but that he’s successful: he wants to wreck shit, and he does.

He wanted to destroy public unions in the state, and has pretty much done so.

He wanted to open up the great north woods of Wisconsin to mining interests, and has pretty much done so.

He wanted to slash Planned Parenthood’s presence in the state, and has done so.

He wanted to make a point about Obamacare, and has thus deprived poor Wisconsinites access to the expanded Medicaid program within the ACA.

And now he’s aiming for the University of Wisconsin system, seeking to further the process of privatization (which began decades ago) not just by further cutting state aid—$300 million in his latest budget—but by attacking the very collegiality of university governance itself.

Oh, and the swipe that professors don’t work hard enough? That’s a freebie.

The University of Wisconsin system, which has existed in various forms for almost 170 years. Compared to the University of Bologna or the University of Paris, each established in the Middle Ages, that’s nothing, but it is as old as the state itself (both were established in 1848), and has arguable played a key role in the growth of that state.

Not just in terms of economics and industry, but in terms of an ideal and a promise, a public institution in the best sense of the term.

And now Walker wants to cut it down to size, to cut it loose from both the citizens of the state and the citizens of the university, to turn it into a giant work-training facility.

And I loathe him because he might just succeed in bringing my beloved alma mater to its knees.

There is one bright spot: an early draft of a bill had deleted the phrase that “the search for truth” is “basic to the purpose of the sytem”, but apparently that was “a drafting error”, and the search for truth remains.

I doubt very much that it was a drafting error, and has only been re-inserted after its deletion was publicized. Perhaps this means that this terrible idea can be stopped.

But I had thought all of those previous terrible ideas would be stopped, and they weren’t. In fact, they were either popular enough to get him/not-unpopular enough to prevent him from being re-elected.

So, yes, I admit it: I loathe him because he’s effective. He’s good at wrecking what I believe makes Wisconsin a decent place to live, to work, to learn, and to wonder, to think that there could be something more, something better.

~~~

At least he’s given me a theme to use for his presidential campaign: Walker—Wrecking Ball 2016.





I have no opinion about that

4 09 2011

Riddle me this how do we decide how much info/understanding should we have about a topic before we feel justified in having an opinion that is more than a gut hunch? —dmf

I once introduced myself to colleague as someone who “has lunch and opinions”, so I can’t say that it ever occurred to me that I needed to justify the having of an opinion. As far back as I can remember, I have had opinions about something or another, from the superiority of homemade jello pops over store-bought popsicles to the belief that swimming was the summer activity, to the obviousness that racism was stupid and girls were equal to boys, and on and on about cars and music and food and friendship and clothes and alcohol and sex and money and liberty and justice for all.

No, for me, the corker was justifying not having an opinion.

I do, in fact, now qualify my opinions in ways I didn’t when younger, and I do justify not having opinions about a whole range of topics, based on 1) lack of information and 2) lack of interest. “Don’t know/don’t care” is a pretty damned effective gate to conversations which would otherwise drive me off a cliff.

Still, I don’t regret my previous opinion libertinism, and I don’t begrudge anyone else their expressive needs. I learned a lot in spouting off, both in how to put together an argument and in prompting others to take issue with me. I hate hate hate to be wrong, but I hate even more the persistence of error. I could—and can—also be sloppy in my pronunciamentos, so getting smacked (or wanting to avoid getting smacked) for spilling too many words has forced me to steady my tongue.

(There’s the additional question of credentialism and the desire not to want to make a fool of oneself in front of one’s colleagues which may lead to a crippling reticence, i.e., in not challenging a majority view for fear that the mere expression of a minority opinion marks one as untrustworthy—but that’s a separate issue.)

Given my own history, then, I’m more likely to indulge than shut down opinionists, especially if they’re willing to go back and forth on an issue. Shooting the shit can be an highly enjoyable way of passing the time.

What I do narrow my eyes at are those who state their opinions as fact and who substitute their subjective experiences for objective certainty. That you have a right to an opinion doesn’t mean you have the right to trump all other opinions. Oh, and shouting doesn’t make you right. (*Full disclosure: I have shouted. More than once.)

So anyone can have any opinion about anything. If, however, you want that opinion to have any weight with anyone else, you gotta do the work—the (self-)education, the reflection, the reasoning—to convince them. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones got it right when she admonished: Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflict.

Educate yourself. Quite so.





Bam! Bam! Bam!

12 07 2011

Hellooooooo! Anyone hooooooomme? Democrats, are you theeeeere?

“We think public schools should go away,’’ says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — of passage of school voucher bills. The tea party operates in those two states and Delaware. They should “go away,” she says, because “they are hurting our children.’’ […] Adams says the current voucher program “discriminates” against wealthier students by providing public subsidies only to inner-city children in allegedly failing schools. Her group’s e-mails pushing vouchers caught the attention of James Kovalcin of South Brunswick, a retired public school teacher who asked Adams for clarification. She responded via email: “Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it.” [emph. in original]

Can you do something with this? Or how about this—Orrin Hatch on taxation:

No matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation’s tax burden and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes,” Hatch fumed before lambasting the entire system.

“Furthermore, because of this perverse distribution of federal income taxes, there is no way to fix our deficit hole and start paying down the debt by increasing taxes only on the so-called rich,” he said.

And here’s Senator Hatch again, on aid for workers displaced by trade deals (TAA):

I hope we can find a better path forward and the president will now act quickly and submit these agreements for congressional consideration, without including the TAA poison pill.

That’s right, help for workers thrown overboard on the rough seas of  ‘free’ trade is a poison pill.

You can’t do anything with that?

How about Eric Cantor’s proposal to make students begin paying interest as soon as they take out student loans? Republican resistance to corporate tax breaks?

Go after them, all of them. Go into their districts and raise hell, force them to deal with constituents who’d be burned by their policies, make them all answer for the worst of them.

Let the president play nice.

The party, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair of titanium tits and fight! fight! fight!

_____

h/t Zaid Jilani, Think Progress; Michael McAuliff, HuffPo; Pat Garofalo, Think Progress/Doug Palmer and David Lawder, Reuters





We don’t need no education

24 05 2011

Pretty much says it all:

Tests for Pupils, But the Grades Go to Teachers

By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: May 23, 2011

New York City education officials are developing more than a dozen new standardized tests, but in a sign of the times, their main purpose will be to grade teachers, not the students who take them.

New York Times





No comment: a roundup

25 09 2010

The Texas State Board of Education adopted a resolution Friday that seeks to curtail references to Islam in Texas textbooks, as social conservative board members warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.

Huffington Post

***

“Thai women are a lot like women in America were 50 years ago,” said Mr. Davis, before they discovered their rights and became “strong-headed and opinionated.”

“The women now know they are equal,” said Mr. Davis, a retired Naval officer who has been divorced twice, “so the situation is not as relaxed and peaceful as it is between an American and a Thai lady.”

New York Times

***

The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.

The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.

Washington Post

***

Mr. Dooley said the F.B.I. broke down Mr. Kelly’s door around 7 a.m. and gave a search warrant to his companion. The warrant said agents were gathering evidence related to people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to terrorist organizations, and listed Hezbollah, the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The warrant also authorized the agents to look for information connected to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and to unnamed “co-conspirators” and allowed them to seize items including electronics, photographs, address books and letters.

Mr. Kelly is known in Minnesota as a prominent organizer of the Anti-War Committee, a group that has protested United States military aid to Colombia and called for the removal of American soldiers from Afghanistan.

During the Republican gathering in 2008 he was a primary organizer of a march that drew thousands of participants.

Mr. Kelly was also served with a summons to appear before a grand jury on Oct. 19 in Chicago. The order directed him to bring along pictures or videos related to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian territories or Israel, as well as correspondence with anyone in those places.

New York Times





Teacher tells you stop your playing get on with your work

29 12 2008

I hate grading. I’d rather do laundry than grade, and I hate doing laundry. Empty the cat box. Clean windows. Shovel after a blizzard.

Did I mention that I hate grading?

It is, alas, necessary in the corporate academic complex. (I almost managed to write that with a straight face.) No, I actually do see the point of it, I just hate doing it.

What would happen if I were to tell my students, on the first day of class, that they would all get B-‘s or C+’s, no questions asked. If they wanted a better grade, they’d have to do the work—and still no guarantees of a A. How many would would show up for class? How many would do the reading?

How many would actually care to learn about the subject?

Ha. I know. Perhaps I lay on one condition: You get a C+ if you show up regularly, a B- if you participate. If the class isn’t too early or too late in the day, I’d probably get a decent turnout.

And almost no grading. ‘Almost no’ because there would always be those few students who want the A and/or would feel too guilty not to do any work.

Of course, there’d also be those students who would be so offended by my mockery of the Purpose of Education that they’d narc on me. ‘How dare she not force us through flaming hoops for meaningless letters on a transcript no one will ever look at?’

Don’t worry, I lack the guts/foolishness to try this. Gotta pay the rent.