Category Archives: Education

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  Building the New Dark Age Mind.  Excerpt:

We can all but write off today’s university as a place of free expression. In the age of Obama, zealots in the university have clamped down on any thought deemed reactionary. “Trigger warning” is a euphemism for trying either to censure literature or to denigrate it. “Safe space” is another term for the segregation of campus areas by race, class, or ideology. “Hate speech” has become a pejorative for uncomfortable truth.

So try a thought experiment. If Professor A in various fora — before the academic senate, at the “free speech” area of the quad, during student advising, in a faculty meeting, or during class — announced that on-campus, Christian student groups practiced hate speech and thus should be monitored or silenced, or he declared that due to white privilege he was holding private tutoring sessions only for people of color, or he urged that global warming deniers should not be allowed to spread their heresies in class, or he insisted that the nature and propriety of sexual intercourse should be post facto defined only by the female participant, he would be hailed, and many of those proposals would be taken seriously if they were not already part of campus protocol.

Stephen Fry said it best.
Stephen Fry said it best.

But if a bookend Professor B in the same venues announced that he found Muslim groups equally suspect, or that, due to constant deprecation of white males, he was holding tutoring sessions only for his European-American students, or that he was hosting a campus conference on the unscientific nature of the global warming movement, or if he urged the university to insist that any allegations of rape follow strictly the rules of evidence and procedures as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and state laws of criminal jurisprudence, he would find himself in a great deal of trouble, if not fired.

What the hell ever happened to “sticks and stones?”

Have so many Americans grown so hypersensitive, so puerile, so weak, that they need “trigger warnings” lest they hear something that might disturb their poor sensitive little minds?

It appears the answer to that is “yes.”  There’s a tiny little sliver of silver lining to this; only in a wealthy, safe country could a significant segment of the populace (mostly college students, it seems) grow so soft and pampered that these kinds of things even exist.

Most of the world is a harsh, brutal place; ask any soldier, airman or Marine that has deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.  And that veneer of civilization is awfully thin; there exist plenty of people that would love nothing more than to import that brutality into the United States.  And yet our institutions of “higher learning” are producing a generation of coddled nitwits who can’t stand even the hint of dissent from their carefully inculcated orthodoxies.  Dr. Hanson fears a new Dark Age is starting now; he concludes:

The country is terrified about having a rational and logical discussion about almost every great issue of our times: unsustainable national debts and deficits, the new nexus between leftwing plutocracy and populism, the viability of Social Security and Medicare, deteriorating race relations, the Soviet-style American campus, global warming, and the deterioration of medical care. Instead, to preclude honest talk, we offer perfunctory charges of sexism and racism, and seek cover in “fairness” and “equality.”

Sad-BearThe redistributionist, equality-of-result state — fueled by a national progressive ideology — is the new deity that determines what is free expression. Blasphemy is now defined as daring to use logic and evidence to expose the state’s failed, deductive tenets.

This descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past.

I’d like to be more optimistic than that, but Dr. Hanson’s qualifications in the area of the history of Western civilization demand that his words be taken seriously.

Rule Five Commencement Speech Friday

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (1)It’s a bit past the usual graduation season, but here in the blogosphere you still occasionally see the usual posts on “what would I say to the graduating class of My Olde University, were I invited to give the commencement address.” So, in the unlikely event my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa (yes, really) ever was incautious enough to offer me this chance, here’s what I might say:

“Graduates of the Class of 2015, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (1)Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up.  Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (2)Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (3)If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation.  It’s not anybody else’s fault.  Nobody else is responsible.  You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (4)But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction.  In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

  1. Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
  2. Work a little harder than the other guy,
  3. Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (1)Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned.  You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors.  You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do.  Suck it up.  There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people.  Any work that produces value is worth doing.  How do you know if your work is producing value?  The answer to that is trivially easy:  If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value.  Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations?  Better yet, how do  you exceed them?  When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (1)Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility.  If you take on a task, finish it.  If you commit to a timeline, meet it.  If you accept responsibility for something, own it.  It’s yours.  Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you.  Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (2)Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work.  Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (3)In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle.  These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (6)

Rule Five Friday

2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (1)How many American universities are offering crap classes and crap degrees? As it turns out, quite a few.

Appalachian State University offers a class titled “What If Harry Potter Was Real?

UC San Diego offers “Billy Strayhorn and Billie Holiday: Jazz, Race and Sexuality.

The University of South Carolina offers “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.”

The University of Washington is offering “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur.

Seriously, what the fuck?   From Collegedata.com:

2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (2)2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (3)In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college for the 2014–2015 academic year averaged $23,410. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $46,272. But what goes into these costs?

What goes into those costs?  The linked article continues by listing tuition, books, housing, and so on – all accurate, of course.  But at what cost do parents and taxpayers get soaked to offer useless crap courses that lead to useless crap degrees?  Useless degrees offered by taxpayer-subsidized universities include such stupidity as:

  • 2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (4)Women’s studies.
  • Secularism.
  • LGBT studies.
  • Black studies.
  • Hispanic studies.
  • Puppetry.
  • Music Therapy.
  • Dance.
  • Surf Science and Technology.
  • Golf Management.
  • Ethnic studies.
  • Islamic studies

Granted that linked list from Conservapedia also lists some useful degrees, such as Human Resources (my sister had a long career as a Human Resources professional in the private sector and is now enjoying a comfortable retirement) and Evolutionary Biology (I trained as a biologist myself, which led to a lucrative career in medical technology and biotech.)  But that doesn’t reduce the 2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (5)outright fraud involved in major universities actually charging tuition for the bullshit listed here.

A major talking point among pols of both major parties is the rising cost of education.  How much of that rising cost is due to the offering of bullshit degrees?  How much student loan debt is from young skulls-fulla-mush taking bullshit classes and earning bullshit degrees?  How can anyone earn a living with a degree in LGBT studies?

Let me answer that:  You can’t.  Not unless that living involves repeatedly asking “do you want fries with that?”

Universities are charged with producing a product:  Young people with marketable skills.  In this the university system is failing, catastrophically, when they offer bullshit degrees like these.

2015_05_29_Rule Five Friday (6)