Category Archives: Higher Education

More Lies about Education

The President of Arizona State University seems to be more interested in publicity than education or the truth.  Michael Crow landed media attention by forming a 21st-century Axis alliance with Starbucks.  The cover story consisted of this narrative: people who cannot afford a college education on the low salaries paid at Starbucks would be helped out by Starbucks and ASU, and they could obtain university degrees that might not have been available otherwise.  “It turns out Starbucks isn’t contributing any upfront scholarship money to an online college degree program it introduced this week.”

Let’s imagine what might have happened. Michael Crow, whose last name tells you a great deal, wanted to bolster ASU’s profile again.  The usual means of becoming, over the course of the years, a great university were rejected in favor of a quick hit, a parasitical publicity release that would gain immediate attention. Crow perhaps needed a name to attach to the scheme.  Maybe Google was busy or Gucci executives were focusing on the World Cup in Brazil.  Starbucks came through, offering its name recognition and global clout.  That’s what ASU needed, not the truth.  No one wanted to say that Crow had prostituted ASU in a deal where the partner did not even have to put out (a dime, i.e., the hourly wage of Starbucks’ employees).  Oh, wait — that last parenthetical statement is a lie, but now you are accustomed to those, thanks, according to the news report, to Michael Crow and Starbucks. At a great university, you would learn that “lying” is a synonym for “entrepreneurial.”

Creative Commons photo provided by Noel WorliThe genuine narrative (four paragraphs from the bottom of the AP story) uttered by Starbucks’ spokesperson Laurel Harper is that Starbucks would simply encourage employees interested in higher education to go into debt (Pell grants) to achieve their goal.

Prestigious Institutions where Education is second to Revenue

You’re not there to get an education, though they tell you that. You’re there to make revenue for the college. You’re there to put fans in the seats. You’re there to bring prestige to the university by winning games.
—  Rashad McCants, former UNC – Chapel Hill basketball player

Yes, “they” will tell you that. “They” are the people at universities who will not acknowledge the truth that revenue drives decisions, not whether students receive an education.  I do not know where on the list education is, but it is unlikely in the top four or five. Prestige, as in the film by that title, is a magic show.  You think you are seeing education at public universities, but it’s a trick, sleight of hand, maybe mirrors, illusion. Prestige is like “The Mansion” section of The Wall Street Journal, where people define themselves, their success, by whether they have a private plane in their garage instead of a car. It looks like a tangible thing. Others see it. “They” tell you owning a private jet means you’ve made it.  They say you’re winning the game of life, as if the sayings of Charlie Sheen were part of a philosophical guidebook.

Eton College

Eton College

In Louie C.K.’s television show, he has written a scene between himself and his daughter. It’s a scene you won’t find mentioned in The Wall Street Journal or quoted by a public university president or chancellor.

Daughter (D): Why does she get one and not me? It’s not fair.

Louis (L): You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen ever in your life, so you must learn that now, okay?
Listen — the only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.

Oprah wins in Texas

A few years back, in the infamous beef defamation case, Oprah was accused of taking the meat out of Texas, but now Texas has done that all by itself. Texas is taking the meat out of its educational system.  How to improve those graduation rates?  Take the hard stuff out of the curriculum and reduce the number of those mandatory tests.

Image from Idiocracy

STEM Researchers Love “My Cousin Vinny”

This in from the Moö State U blog run by a philosopher intent on showing the lack of standards in what are supposed to be the top disciplines at many universities, the so-called STEM disciplines.  Someone could get credit for a rigorously peer-reviewed article that is utter nonsense. Who needs David Lodge?

  • Paragraph #2 of the introduction, on the first page itself, says: You should read any paragraph that starts with the first 4 words in bold and italics – those have been written by the author in painstaking detail. However, if a paragraph does not start with bold and italics, feel free to skip it because it is gibberish auto-generated by the good folks at SCIGen.
  • One section of the paper consists entirely of dialogues from the movie “My Cousin Vinny.”
  • And the conclusion section of the paper actually has this: And we’ve managed to reference Hilbert, HHGTTG, Sholay, My Cousin Vinny, Jeff Naughton, the Wisconsin Database Performance Paper, Xeno’s paradox, Meeta Kabra and the wogma.com website, and we even referenced the Sokal Affair in the heading of the paper (actually in the name of the institute that the authors are from, but you get what I mean, right?) proving once and for all that nobody has read this paper.

photo from My Cousin Vinny

The Funniest Line of the Day

The university says the blame rests firmly and exclusively with two people.
The New York Times reports on fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill

Although this blog can have nothing to do with my life as an administrator, I would like to suggest a new life goal: to become an “inattentive administrator.”

I present to you below a documentary about the fraud described in The New York Times article.

Photo from South Park

Thought-coins in the Fountain of Non-Edification

What the Customers Want

“I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”

From a report cited in the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Cornell West photo