Category Archives: Rhetoric

The Nate Silver Generation?

He said he wanted his attack to be more effective than Adam Lanza‘s shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary.

photo of Foster the People album

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.

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

Sprezzatura

After transferring to Magdalen College, Oxford, in the autumn of 1874, Wilde scored highest marks on his entrance exams, and finished by taking a prestigious double first in “Greats,” the relatively recent, classics-based curriculum officially known as literae humaniores. Always attentive to his image, he liked to imply that these successes came easily — “he liked to pose as a dilettante trifling with his books,” Hunter Blair recalled — but in fact put in “hours of assiduous and laborious reading, often into the small hours of the morning.” Whatever his taste for lilies and Sèvres, he was a grind.
— Daniel Mendelsohn, “Oscar Wilde, Classics Scholar” in Waiting for the Barbarians

Educators More Important Than Wall Street Execs

photo of crime signSometimes those of us in education grow weary of the escalation of Wall Street compensation while educators’ pay remains stagnant or declines. One might draw the conclusion that the world values Wall Street types more than academic types, and we know that cannot be so. Now we have the evidence from The New York Times. Beverly L. Hall, a district superintendent in the Atlanta school system, drew the attention of prosecutors who decided she is worth a $7.5 million bond, while back in New York City Michael S. Steinberg, worker at SACS Capital Advisors who made tens of millions trading “investments,” was released from custody on a mere $3 million bail.  Now Ms. Hall allegedly hauled in over half a million dollars over several years from her activities, and prosecutors consider her worth (by bail and bond standards) over twice as much as Mr. Steinberg. Let’s not miss this chance to highlight a shift in society’s appreciation of what educators do.

P.S. Note that neither of these people has seen her or his day in court, and it might be time to roll out the bromide: each is innocent until proven guilty.

The Power of Non-Smoking Guns

Sarah Palin holding Big GulpIn discussing the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek with others, it is often difficult to convey what each of these figures means by the real, since the real does not exist. The real is not to be confused with what most of us would call reality — see how the confusion begins? Sometimes it helps to come at the topic from a different angle. Today’s angle: fast food. We can imagine that many people, if asked, would confess that fast food puts us on the fast track to illness and other problems, problems food and beverage manufacturers build into their products. The manufacturers used to go to great lengths to keep that fact hidden.

Like the executives of tobacco companies, some of the food and beverage manufacturers have realized that non-hidden-ness can function as successfully as hiding the facts/toxins. Literary people have known this since Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” People tend not to see what is right in front of them. It’s frequently the best place to hide things. Jeffrey Dunn, former Coca-Cola executive sums it up: “It’s not like there’s a smoking gun. The gun is right there. It’s not hidden.” Some fast foodies take their knowledge of self-destructiveness as a badge of honor by proclaiming things like, “At least I know what’s killing me,” demonstrating that empowering knowledge = a deeper level of denial, or non-seeing. “I see that I do not see, so stop trying to make me see.” This is the starting place of almost all education. What happens after that is a version of the story of Anne Sullivan.

“People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.”
— Anne Sullivan