Bits to Remind Us – The Election Nears

1)  I, for one, am glad Americans fit my assumptions better than those of snarky reporters:  that’s the subtext of the Great Aggregator’s aggregation.  And we wonder yet again at the power of transference.

2)  From a friend:  Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Family Tradition” with lyrics for a Palin rally.  (Studio version.)

3)  To help us define racism:  Reynolds links often to the Knoxville writer Granju (many of us have loyalties to place).  She contends “Sarah Palin has wrapped ACORN and Ayers inside a particularly nasty package of racist and religious hate mongering that turns off all but the most rabid nutters.”  Commentors press her until she comes up with a truncated quote that is then filled out by another commentor:

“Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”

The commentor continues:

Could you identify for those of us who don’t have the code book what, exactly, is either “racist” or “religious” “hate mongering” in that statement? How would that statement read differently if applied to Dennis Kucinich or John Kerry or Bernie Sanders instead of Barack Obama? Because it escapes me. And really, is it debatable that Barack Obama does not see America the way that Sarah Palin and most conservatives see it? That’s not race, that’s ideology.

4)  Speaking of pride of place, what makes UNL think Bill Ayers is the appropriate keynote speaker for the century anniversary of the teacher’s college?  Of course, I do feel a mean and petty satisfaction: my long-held prejudice against teacher’s colleges is proven yet again to have substance; I will also feel completely guiltless hanging up on those irritting and persistent fundraisers. 


5)   Axelrod depresses in more ways than one; I envy his confidences:

McCain is doomed. . . . [his] problem is fundamental, which is: he’s got a bad argument. He’s essentially on the wrong side of history,” Axelrod said.

Along with the “spread the wealth” meme, the party of change seems to be recycling some pretty old ideas; we might say they are rediscovering the wheel, but, the major difference is that the wheel works.

2nd Update:

Nebraska (whether out of fear of threats, political pressure, or, one doubts but hopes, a dose of common sense) has rescinded its invitation to Ayers.

10 thoughts on “Bits to Remind Us – The Election Nears”

  1. “Of course, I do feel a mean and petty satisfaction: my long-held prejudice against teacher’s colleges is proven yet again to have substance; I will also feel completely guiltless hanging up on those irritting and persistent fundraisers.”

    Sorry for going off topic, Ginny, but I’m rather curious. Not being an academic, I’m hazy on the different types of colleges. And, of the different breeds in this kennel, what is it about teacher’s colleges that invites your ire?


  2. James, I’m not an expert and I am a bigot about this. so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt.

    Here’s an old post I wrote after a critic of the current system gave a kind of book talk at our junior college: “Fine tuning the rabbit ears.”

    Diane Ravitch has written much on the subject ( Her The Language Police describes a world increasingy Orwellian.

    Teachers colleges are famous for their relatively contentless courses (such as how to use an overhead projector). The unionization of teaching has not been helpful. For instance, over forty years ago, when I was a freshman, the girls next door memorized teacher’s salaries across the country for a test. The education majors tended to take 100 level classes when given a choice; the neurotic arts/craftsy Liberal Arts group always took the 200 level. Sure we were snobs, but few if any teachers’ college students stayed after the first day of Mr. Gaffney’s course, when they found they’d have to hand in a paper every Monday, spend the next weekend rewriting that paper and hand in a new one. (Along with a term paper and plenty of reading.) Perhaps those of us that stuck it out were neurotic, but we were willing to work.

    The long downward slide in education departments began, people who know what they are talking about say, with John Dewey. He has his defenders, but the emphasis became increasingly on how and not on what would be taught. I wrote up some distance learning classes for college level education courses a few years ago. The texts were full of questionable assumptions, but more disturbing was a disdain for mastering knowledge. Perhaps another way to put it is that many education classes are more fuzzy and politicized and contentless than those in the social sciences.

    Teachers’ admittance grades & SAT scores are uniformly one of the lowest if not the lowest at any university; the same goes at the grad level in terms of college grades or GRE scores. The argument was that was because teachers are paid so poorly. This is not all that true – especially considering the 9-month school year and gemeally raised salaries during the last decades. Even in my time, those of us with liberal arts degrees were paid less right out of college than were beginning teachers. That department locally shows a disproportionate (and unhealthy) respect for Michael Moore, recycling, and the Democratic party.

    It is true teaching is hard work; students are not as motivated as they once were; parents are more litigious. I’ll admit I don’t have the patience or stamina to work where the decibel level is as loud as it is at the local high school (one generally considered exceptionally good – I can’t imagine life at the school in the adjoining town which is riven by gangs, etc.). Many teachers are quite good, but despite their training as much as because of it: stubborn, smart, industrious, they haven’t bought into the dismissal of subject matter.

  3. > Not being an academic, I’m hazy on the different types of colleges.

    I’m not one either, but there tend to be two different types of schools, as I understand it.

    One is teaching colleges — the notion being (gasp!) that universities exist to teach.

    The other is research colleges — the notion being that universities exist to do research… teaching is just a side job that provides grunt labor (i.e., research assistants) to do the heavy lifting.

    There is far more prestige in working at a research institution. Teaching colleges are generally not thought well of.

    As to whether this is The Way Things Should Be, I dunno. I will, however, cite the view of them expressed by Robert Persig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

    …the school was what could emphatically be called a ‘teaching college’. At a teaching college you teach and you teach and you teach with no time for research, no time for contemplation, no time for participation in outside affairs. Just teach and teach and teach until your mind grows dull and your creativity vanishes and you become an automaton saying the same dull things over and over to endless waves of innocent students who cannot understand why you are so dull, lose respect, and fan this disrespect out into the community. The reason you teach and teach and teach is that this is a clever way of running a college on the cheap while giving the appearance of genuine education.

    Since he has taught at them, I am left to assume he knew what he was talking about.

    Things may have changed since that was written back in the 60s, however, I’d note as a possibility.

  4. Jim Miller (as often in the past) thank you. Last night I kept going through Amazon hunting for that book. I’d read a friend’s a long time ago and didn’t remember author or title, but the whole thing is a great example of careful comparisons – going to all kinds of schools, small, large, prestigious, open admissions, geographic regions, etc. What she found was that the teacher’s colleges – either as separate schools or as a college within a larger university – were pretty dismal. The more prestigious schools had a higher level of bull & theory; the less prestigious ones did more of the no-mind “how to use an overhead” classes. But there wasn’t much difference. The book has all 5 star ratings.

    Obloodyhell: This remains a difference between the heavier load at separate teacher’s colleges than at research institutions. The heavy teaching load, though, of lower level courses is more and more the province of schools like the one in which I teach – junior colleges or community colleges. At least some of the research institutions are developing symbiotic relations with places like ours, where the first two years and basic core curriculum is taught. {Partly a weeding out, partially a place where the smaller classes can facilitate the usual culture shock.) That means the research school is mainly handling upper level and grad students, which means the teachers no longer do broad courses but instead the ones closer to their research interests. Schools like ours (we teach 5 classes a semester) keep the small size by having minimal facilities & bureaucracy, relatively low pay for the faculty. They don’t expect research though they do expect some conference going, etc. to stay abreast of the field in a general way. At the university, these core classes are taught in auditoriums and may have several hundred students; the work is graded by grad students.

    In the old days, separate colleges were called “teacher’s colleges” and were mainly used to train teachers. These remain but have become more ambitious. Some excel in certain areas – North Texas’s jazz bands and general music is well respected. Some have expanded.

    Teaching degrees were granted through these teacher colleges (smaller than the Land Grant ones, spread around most states)or from a teaching college within a university. Teaching has become more theoretical – witness Ayers as a major guru in the field. Those at a university are expected to publish for tenure and promotion.

    Theory has gone through many enthusiasms. Because they have the methods of the softer sciences and because teaching is personal as is reaction to it, these enthusiasms are seldom tested rigorously before they are applied. Witness the “new math” and the “whole word” reading methods.

  5. “Teachers colleges are famous for their relatively contentless courses”

    Back when I was in university in the 70’s, contempt for the Department of Education was widespread. It was a commonplace advice that if you were taking an extremely heavy course load–say Organic Chemistry II, Physical Chemistry, and Differential Equations–that you make your fourth course something from the Department of Education, because you’d be able to get a B or even an A without doing any work, leaving more time for classes that really mattered.

  6. Ginny – You are more than welcome. I get a kick out of sharing good books. (And now back to reading Freddoso’s book on Obama — which is pretty good too, so far.)

  7. See “Ed School Follies” written in early or mid-1990s by (if memory serves and it may not) one Rita Kramer. Written long before the conscious poisoning sponsored by Bill Ayers seeped into the system, but you can see how ready they were to accept Ayers’s line.

    Basically, the Worst and the Dumbest, to transform a phrase.

    Ed Schools are the only thing that may be more worthless than J-Scholls.


  8. > Witness the “new math” and the “whole word” reading methods.

    Well, having a strong background in math, I developed, after-its-demise, an understanding in what “The New Math” was about. Nominally, it might have worked, if it had been handled correctly. Yes, I probably share with you an opinion on what the chances of that at any government institution is.

    With Math, it is possible to show how innate, basic concepts of sets lead to the notion of counting numbers, from there, to integers, from there, to rational numbers, and so on up the chain. The operations involved are also a part of the notions.

    The problem is, of course, that they threw this “idea” at teachers, parents, and kids without adequate training for the teachers involved, so, duh, they don’t have any clue what the answer to a question is when the student or parent asks, etc., etc. The concepts in question are straightforward (i.e., easily followed and understood) but not inherently obvious — they are derived from developed understanding of set theory over the last few centuries.

    In short, if it had been handled correctly, with proper training, it might have worked. As it was done, it was a stupid, idiotic idea and poorly handled. Perfect, in other words, for modern Youth Indoctrination Camps.



  9. > Ed Schools are the only thing that may be more worthless than J-Scholls.

    And yet both fall to their knees, in trembling defeat, at the worthlessness which manifests itself as “Congress”.

    Scary thought, innit?

    Suppose you were an idiot. And Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself…
    – Mark Twain –

Comments are closed.