Monday, November 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened to Me Today...

I had a student tell me "I lost respect for you a long time ago." Thankfully this had nothing to do with my mastery of the material. It had everything to do with interpersonal issues. I will not violate FERPA here and now; suffice to say there was an issue and the student did not feel I was being "appropriate" in my response.

Still, the idea of a student losing respect for me... Should I care? In this one case, the answer is definitively "NO." But in general, I do want to be seen at the minimum as someone who is consistent. No one will accuse me of favoritism. In that, at least, my conscience is clear in the present circumstances.

Oh, and no good turn goes unpunished, I have learned.

[Post redacted from earlier version out of concern for FERPA. I never use names, ever; still, no sense being any more than appropriately vague on the specifics]

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Johnny Can't Add

Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? by Sandra Stotsky, City Journal 13 November 2009: read all of it. When education professors tsk-tsk me for being so instructor-centered, I silently resist the urge to find a more appropriate use for the paper on which their diplomas are printed. Constructivist approaches have their uses, but they never should have been allowed to take center-stage. Long live Ausubel! (oh just go look it up already...)

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Monday, November 16, 2009

'Equalizer' star Edward Woodward dies at 79

'Equalizer' star Edward Woodward dies at 79

"The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering Communism

Paul Hollander - Remembering communism -

In the aftermath of the fall of Soviet communism, many Western intellectuals remain convinced that capitalism is the root of all evil. There has been a long tradition of such animosity among Western intellectuals who gave the benefit of doubt or outright sympathy to political systems that denounced the profit motive and proclaimed their commitment to create a more humane and egalitarian society, and unselfish human beings.

We could go all the way back to Lord Chesterfield, if we wished, to see the source of this emotion. I see many of my colleagues as his misbegotten intellectual children: railing not for progress but to a return to a sometimes-idealized-sometimes-actualized past where an oligarchic few exerted control over what they feared to be an over-energentic and far-too-clever-for-their-own-good movement of entrepreneurs and optimists --in other words, a form of aristocracy is what they wanted to perpetuate. Dress it up in whatever language you wish: communism, socialism, progressivism, they all inevitably have at the root a small group of people who really want to control a much larger group of people, weal or woe being beside the point.

I will not mourn the fall of the Soviet Union, and I hope to live long enough to see the history community join me whole-heartedly in that.


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sweet Jeebers! Is This Person Secretly Enrolled In My Class? - The Ghosts Of '38: discussing the impact of the New Deal agenda on the actual Depression, the author makes three points:

  1. Amity Schlaes in The Forgotten Man demonstrates FDR's own version of "trickle-down" economics centered on giving union workers higher wages to stimulate consumer spending, which did not work.

  2. Recent scholarship, led by Cole and Ohanian strongly suggests the New Deal actually prolonged the Depression; and

  3. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy argues that the Fed's actions made the Depression worse, not better, particularly in regard to the "depression-within-the-Depression" of 1937-38.

I discuss every single one of these points in my New Deal lectures. Man I'm good!!!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Views: Is Tenure Conservative? - Inside Higher Ed

Views: Is Tenure Conservative? - Inside Higher Ed: while nodding my head in agreement (even though I'm at an essentially non-tenure institution), I had to laugh out loud at this, because it's so true:

[M]ore slyly, what possible objection could there be to speaking frankly about topics in which most people have utterly no interest? Most academic work, especially in the humanities, is published for an audience smaller than a successful cocktail party..."

[Emphasis added, because it's so true...]

Again: Everything You Know About The Great Depression Is Wrong!

Hu versus Sarkozy | Steve H. Hanke | Cato Institute: Commentary:

"There is no more reliable rule than the 95% rule: 95% of what you read about economics and finance is either wrong or irrelevant. Just reflect for a moment on the most frequently repeated lessons drawn from the Great Depression (1929-33). According to most accounts, the stock market crash of October 1929 was the spark that sent the economy spiraling downward.

"How could this be? After all, by November 1929, the stock market had started to recover, and by mid-April 1930, it had reached its pre-crash level. Contrary to the received wisdom, massive government failure — not the stock market crash — pushed the United States into the Great Depression. It was the Federal Reserve that ushered in that terrible nightmare. During the course of the Great Depression, the money supply contracted by 25%. This sent the economy into a deflationary death spiral, with the price level falling 25%."

Read all of it --it's not that long.

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Charter Schools Help PUBLIC School Students!? Wow!

Charter Schools Help Public School Students - wherein we read about something that, if causation were firmly established, completely obliterate one of the strongest arguments against charter schools --that they take away bright students from struggling public schools and make those schools look worse. To the contrary, charter schools may actually help local non-charter public schools! Again, I would like to examine this more closely; correlation does not necessarily indicate causality. Still, wow....

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