Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Conservatism Means, a la Wm. F. Buckley

The American Spectator : Knight Errant With a Clipboard:

"[It is] a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of PhDs in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town."

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

REPOST: "Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."

[FALL 2010 UPDATE: First Exam Weekend has come and gone in these parts. Oog... This was not a Happy Fun Time for a lot of my students. Scores were down across the board. Of course, the ones who failed almost all failed to do the main essay. Sadder but wiser... At least I didn't bust anyone for plagiarism, I think I got that point across loud and clear. Yet now I will be dealing with the inevitable ones who didn't listen to instructions, and who are in Deep Trouble over Things Which Have Incurred The Wrath of Professor Mojo. As is tradition, here is this post marking the occasion:]

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: his students look like they've been gut-shot."

I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring --oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen.

And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18. Welcome to the world of Community College Education.

For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw. It makes me sad.

But I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a war elephant (with howdah) to chase down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Learning ("Study! Read! Think!").

The really sad part is that many of them will "shop around" for an "easier" prof next semester, and then end up failing again when they don't bother to study. This is college: I'm not doing any favors by reinforcing the bad habits they picked up in high school. And yes, I can throw stones at high schools, I used to teach high school, and I do know what it's like.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CARPE DIEM: U.S. Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2009 --plus discussion questions!

CARPE DIEM: U.S. Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2009:


"So, the Great Society programs began around 1965, students. What effect did they have on the poverty rate?"

"Examine the periods when poverty rates were in decline. What correlation was there to the price of oil?"

"Compare this graph with the graphs on government spending (absolute, inflation-adjusted, and as % GNP/GDP. What correlations do you find?"

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Friday, September 17, 2010

And While You're At It, Harrisburg...

Teachable Moments from Facebook :: Accuracy In Academia: but the Internet per se will still be operative. And so will the phone lines and cell phone access. As will public transportation, which can quickly and easily move people to pretty much anywhere else where Luddites aren't running the show, such as the local Starbucks.

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Happy Constitution Day! --and a warning

Today marks the anniversary of the formal signing of the U.S. Constitution. As my classes do read the document line-by-line later in the semester (and since I don't have lecture today), we are not part of any formal observance. But I do bring it to everyone's attention, and remind them that to understand everything else that goes on, you need to know the framework on which everything hangs.

Go read it.

But a warning: you may not like everything you see. You may conclude that some parts are just plain stupid. You may think that the government has gone far beyond anything the Philly Fathers envisioned. And you may be right.

I keep a copy of Herbert Storing's What the Anti-Federalists Were For handy. You may want to sit down and read it sometime after you've read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Those Anti's weren't all paranoid loonies, and many of their most important objections could be literally inserted into today's write-ups of Tea Party quotes.

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