Annals of Snobbery

“There are a lot of mediocre students at Yale who were superstars in their little county fairs, and now they’re in the Kentucky Derby and they’re not winning their races and they feel like it’s unfair because other students are doing better,” says one [Yale law school] faculty member…

One for the ages.

Gingrich is proposing a replacement course that he will teach: How to Throw Over Your Wives While They Are Grappling with Various Life-Threatening Diseases

Instead of a crazy course like How to Overthrow the State, choose Newt’s How to Throw Over Your Wives, which draws on his personal experience to offer students a comprehensive account of open marriage, adultery, and depraved indifference.

Finally an answer to what $40,000+ in yearly tuition …

gets you.

Teaching Evolution at the University of Kentucky

During one lecture, a student asked a question I’ve heard many times: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” My response was and is always the same: We didn’t evolve from monkeys. Humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. One ancestral population evolved in one direction toward modern-day monkeys, while another evolved toward humans. The explanation clicked for most students, but not all, so I tried another. I asked the students to consider this: Catholics are the oldest Christian denomination, so if Protestants evolved from Catholics, why are there still Catholics?

“How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to

… Bless Your Business” is the title of the only text in a proposed course at Iowa State.

Faculty seem to have shot it down. Maybe if the professor had required more reading. There are certainly other books out there.

The University of Alabama deals with…

… the aftermath of massive tornadoes through Tuscaloosa.

The Leadership Racket

Leadership is bogus.  You know it.  I know it.

No, no.  Not actually leading people.  Leading people is great.  Churchill, etc.  That’s great.

Teaching leadership is bogus.  It’s done in a million different ways.  Mainly it’s psychobabble for big boys in beauteous locales.

And it’s really, really, really, reallllllly lucrative.  Like, read The Economist magazine and you’ll see these two-page amazing ads for Give us thirty thousands dollars for three days in Majorca and we’ll send you back a leader … And you think huh?  What dumbshit corporation pays for that?

But okay.  I mean, Goldman Sachs makes all kinds of money, and they’re a private firm, so okay.

[Update:  Marilyn, a reader, points out that Goldman is publicly held.]


When the federal government’s paying for it, though, it’s a little annoying, isn’t it?  Isn’t it just a slight piss-off to realize that your taxes are paying for…

Well, let’s get precise, shall we?  How much does the federal government ask us to pay in order to turn some of its higher ranking civil  servants into (drum roll) leaders?


As always, Senator Grassley, head of the Where Do Your Taxes Go committee, has been looking into the matter. He is rather staggered by what he has found.  He has written some letters to people who run organizations that charge the federal government for leadership seminars.  He has asked them to explain their charges.  Here are some of those organizations.

The Center for Creative Leadership doesn’t just have a great name.  It’s located on ONE LEADERSHIP PLACE, Greensboro, North Carolina.  Its street is a leader. This alone perhaps warrants a certain premium for leadership trainees who, even as their rented cars pull up to CCL headquarters, can sense that the very ground upon which they motor is imbued with leadership.

A five-day leadership course at the CCL will cost you between $6200 and $10,600.

This puts those three-day Harvard alumni boat trips down the Nile to shame, kiddies.

And speaking of Harvard, let’s look at what the Kennedy School is charging these days for their Senior Executive whatever — all of it paid by the government.  The school has just raised the tuition.  It now costs almost $20,000 for four weeks of what must be one HELL of a leadership initiation.  Some really amazing shit must be going down, like say very ancient and secret mystical leadership rituals.  We’ll see.

The costs for this and similar four-week courses offered by other outfits the Office of Personnel Management uses are 460% higher than all costs for one month at an average private American university.

Public university?  1000% greater.

Senator Grassley has some questions for the Office of Personnel Management.  He notes the expansion of online university courses of all sorts and wonders why at least some portion of OPM-sponsored leadership training couldn’t get done more cheaply that way.  (As you know, UD reviles distance education, but given the largely bogus content of leadership studies, this technology would work beautifully.)  He also, of course, wants to know, as do we all, just what these people are learning.

The Vacuity of Education Research

From an article in Newsweek on efforts to understand how to improve education in primary and secondary schools:

…[T]he scientific basis for [the choice of] specific curricular materials, and even for general approaches such as how science should be taught, is so flimsy as to be a national scandal… “There is a dearth of carefully crafted, quantitative studies on what works,” says William Cobern of Western Michigan University. “It’s a crazy situation.”

… [T]he scientific vacuity of education research [into what should be taught in science classes] is …exasperating.

… Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote that when one compares the importance of education with “the frivolous inertia with which it is treated,” it is “difficult to restrain within oneself a savage rage.” That was 80 years ago.

The Unbearable Bullshit…

… of the large lecture course.


To a university classroom near you.

UD Reads a Confusing Letter, and then Does Some Research.

Since I’m following the faculty plagiarism case at Central Michigan University, I’m checking the local paper, where I just found this letter, from an ed student there:

Having been a student involved in the secondary education math program, I feel as though I should express my frustrations with those leading me in my schooling.

To graduate with a degree in secondary mathematics, one must take a series of cohorts that covers various math topics. While one going into the teaching field would expect to be taught various strategies and approaches to teaching math, this was not the case in several of these classes.

Throughout my course of study, I learned how to use the N-Spire, an expensive calculator that my professors expect administrators and math teachers to incorporate into the curriculum. I felt as though I was being taught to use an expensive piece of equipment to market to my future employers.

While I was not pleased with the education I was paying for, I kept my mouth shut because my professors stressed the importance of students being able to explore mathematics using tools such as the N-Spire.

They constantly reassured us that what we were learning was based on research that proved that this calculator is a crucial tool for learning through exploration…

The student concludes by complaining about the faculty plagiarists… I think. It’s a badly written letter. Very confusing. But it’s obviously got something to do with the multiple, still-anonymous plagiarists on the math faculty.

As UD scrutinized the letter, it seemed to her that the student was complaining about the commercialization of CMU’s classrooms. She seemed to be saying that, like medical school professors who in various ways hawk pharma’s newest pills to their students, some education school professors at her university turn their classrooms into extended advertising for devices a corporation is hoping Michigan’s teachers will buy for their classrooms.

So UD went here, to a page featuring Dennis St. John, one of the math professors listed on the plagiarized NSF grant.

This page, announcing a course featuring N-Spire and sponsored by its maker, Texas Instruments (you can register for the course through TI’s website), is offered at an off-campus location, but is a CMU course… St. John is pretty much described as a TI salesman:

He has presented workshops and institutes for Texas Instruments for the past twelve years. He … has published numerous activities and one book with Texas Instruments…

What’s going on?

Sikhs with Swords

University Diaries follows with interest the now-global university controversy involving burqas and guns and other things students might wear and carry in classrooms.

Right now, there’s serious trouble in Mangalore. The men there are so “lecherous,” explains a woman thrown out of class when she insisted on wearing the burqa, that it’s only wise to wrap yourself in a full-body blanket in what her interviewer notes is a city with “stifling heat.”

No question but that a damp sheet with a vitamin deficiency is a turn-off, so UD won’t quibble there. The question — since this behavior is either a pathology (“[I]t’s hard to explain why someone might willingly cloak themselves in a black covering in an area dominated by hot deserts and put themselves at high risk for a variety of serious illnesses caused by vitamin D deficiency.”) or a crime against women — is whether Mangalore’s universities are within their rights to forbid it. So far they are maintaining their policy, but there’s growing civil unrest about it. Protesters insist that women must continue to be made so off-putting that the panting men of Mangalore will decide to keep their wicks dry.

And then there’s the kirpan problem. Sikhs will wear this pretty big curved sword to class, and if their professors are wary, too bad for them.

UD wonders: Will the same students and professors militating against guns on campus in America also be willing to militate against the sword?

Linguistics at Sussex

It’s unclear to UD why Sussex University without any consultation has shut down its linguistics program.

Usually UD doesn’t blog about such things, not having the time to explore in depth particular – and perhaps complicated – decisions of this sort at any given university. But in this case she makes an exception, since this seems an uncontroversially strong program in a crucial academic field.

Latest UD posts at IHE