Archive for the 'Academia' Category

In Defense Of For-Profit Colleges

One of the biggest blind spots of policymakers and pundits is the inability to take target market into account. For example, you can’t just compare the wages of employees at Hilton Hotels vs Motel 6’s and conclude that Hilton Hotels are superior because the employees are paid more. You have to take the companies vastly different target market into account. Motel 6’s target a much poorer and cost sensitive segment of the economy, and so it’s understandable that they pay their employees less. In addition, Motel 6’s also hire from a lower socioeconomic level than does Hilton Hotels, so again you’d expect their pay to be lower (in exchange for lower productivity, ie education, ability to speak English, etc). What seemed like a bad wrap for the poor without taking target market into account, turns out to be an overall net gain when it’s included (who doubts that from the poor’s perspective, Motel 6’s are better than Hilton hotels?).

The same blind spot is apparent in the Wal-Mart vs union run grocery stores debate. Wal-Mart caters to a lower socioeconomic class, by hiring and providing cheaper products to those at the lower end of the income distribution. So it makes sense that their employees are paid less than their union run grocery stores counterparts, who cater to a higher socioeconomic class. Seen in that aspect, Wal-Mart is no different than the Motel 6. And since it’s our ghettos and poor areas that are plagued by unemployment, empty lots and general lack of opportunities, the Wal-Mart model is a superior model for the ghettos and poor areas.

The same blind spot resurfaces when talking about for-profit colleges. When comparing for-profit colleges to non-profits, critics will primarily focus on graduation rates and default rates, taking nothing else into account. But what happens when you take target market into account?

For-profit colleges tend to cater primarily to the marginalized segments of society: working mothers, high school drop outs, older people trying to change careers, and people who are in a rush to graduate. In other words, the riskier segment of society. The very same people that the non-profit education system often ignores.

Seen from this perspective, it’s expected that for-profit schools will be worse than non-profits when it comes to student debt. It’s expected because they cater to riskier students, so they are going to have a larger variance of outcome – whether that is graduation rates, or student loan repayment. But catering to a riskier segment of the population is not something that should be punished, it should be encouraged. Lets remember, for-profits are actually doing what we berate businesses to do – serve those at the bottom, often forgotten by others. They are a lot better at helping students who may have messed up through high school and want to change their lives around.

And this is without even mentioning all of the other benefits that come from for-profit colleges vs traditional colleges. For example, a significantly shorter time to graduation (averaging 3 years, when non-profits are getting closer to 6 years – a huge gain in opportunity cost), more income oriented majors (even the worst of the for-profit colleges will never have such time wasted majors like Chicano Studies, for example) and a clear path towards graduation. All benefits that primarily help the marginalized segments of society.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I graduated from a for-profit institution. I got my BS in 3 years. Before that I was a high school drop out (in 10th grade) with about a 2.0 GPA. I had only a GED and no community college credits. I was also the child of a poor single mother, living in Compton, Ca. The group of friends I currently run with all have similar stories – all of us grew up poor, are minorities and graduated from the same for-profit college. None of us received any grants (my mom refused to fill out the FAFSA – she always hated anybody knowing how much she made and was convinced I would find out). More importantly, in the for-profit college I went to there were others – not a majority, but certainly a strong minority – in the same situation I grew up in. It’s the privileged kids that were the exception at the for-profit college, not the the poor minorities.

All of us, also, are currently successful engineers. We all make around 6 figures a year or more. All of us with just the bachelors degree from the for-profit college (I have some undergraduate and graduate work at UCSD, but never completed a full degree there). Without a doubt, graduating from that for-profit college was the single best thing I could have done for my life. Without it, my life would have been very different.

Update: Matt Rognlie makes a similar point here.

Comencement Advice Worth Giving

P.J. O’Rourke, author of Eat The Rich, gives commencement advice worth giving:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world’s most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, “Go out and make a bunch of money.” Instead, they tell you that money can’t buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There’s nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino’s box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don’t be an idealist!

Don’t chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you’ll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That’s $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You’ll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, “I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I’m a better person. And because I’m the better person, I have the right to boss you around.”

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway — the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the “Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company” and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don’t be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I’d be standing here with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I’ve got three kids and three dogs in my family. We’d be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation’s problems will be solved.

But the problem isn’t politicians — it’s politics. Politics won’t allow for the truth. And we can’t blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today’s campaign trail:

“No, I can’t fix public education. The problem isn’t the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment The problem is your kids!”

4. Forget about fairness!

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, “I’d better not be poor. I’d better get rich. I’d better make more money than other people.” Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, “Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We’d better close that ‘income disparity gap.’ It’s not fair!”

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I’ve got a 10-year-old at home. She’s always saying, “That’s not fair.” When she says this, I say, “Honey, you’re cute. That’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That’s not fair. You were born in America. That’s not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.” What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

Continue reading ‘Comencement Advice Worth Giving’

Quote Of The Day

“I have never quite encountered an intrinsically less fair institution than the university, at least in liberal terms of egalitarianism and respect for the underclass. A full professor may damn Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart would never get away with the two-tier system that the university in built upon: the PhD part-timer has no job security, sometimes no benefits, no privileges, and earns usually about 25% of the compensation that is paid to the full professor to teach the identical class. When one factors in the use of graduate assistants not merely to TA courses, but to teach them in their entirety, then you can appreciate the level of exploitation that the university is built on. And add to the notion that tuition has climbed higher than the annual rate of inflation, and the picture is complete of an institution that is entirely immune from public scrutiny.” –Victor Davis Hanson

Quote Of The Day

“Question to think about: If right-wingers are underrepresented in universities relative to the population and discriminated against by the left-wing majority, as Larry suggests, should there be affirmative action for right-leaning academics? It seems that, on principle, those on the left (who favor affirmative action to promote diversity and correct past injustice) should endorse such a university policy, and those on the right (who more often oppose affirmative action) would be against.” –Greg Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard University

Quote Of The Day

“[Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas was talking about how surprisingly positively he has been received in campuses around the country over the past two decades. It is mostly the faculty, not the students or the public that are tough on him. Of course, there are some law schools he does not expect an invitation from. “About the only way I would get invited to Columbia is if I was a Middle East dictator with nuclear weapons.”” — Richard Miniter, writing about his Dinner With Clarence Thomas and Thomas’s new book, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir

Quote Of The Day

“The two chief enemies of the free society or free enterprise are intellectuals on the one hand and businessmen on the other, for opposite reasons. Every intellectual believes in freedom for himself, but he’s opposed to freedom for others.…He thinks…there ought to be a central planning board that will establish social priorities.…The businessmen are just the opposite—every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that’s a different question. He’s always the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing…” — Milton Friedman

Quote Of The Day

“Many campuses have speech codes where it is called creating a “hostile environment” if you say things that make various racial, sexual, or other protected groups unhappy. Young people educated at our most prestigious colleges and universities are learning the lesson that storm trooper tactics can silence those who are not in vogue on campus, and honest expressions of opinion about issues involving anything from affirmative action to women in the military can get you suspended if you refuse the humiliation and hypocrisy of being “re-educated.” –Thomas Sowell

Quote Of The Day

“The voices of appeasement are familiar to historians, for we have heard them loudly, especially within the twentieth century. Intellectuals have done more than their share to convince others that standing up to aggression is a practical and moral mistake. Be nice, thoughtful, and considerate, the argument goes, and the murderers, thugs, and bullies will respond in kind; war is about misunderstanding–and a failure to ban all guns. In this framework of reality, the Romans were responsible for their own downfall for failing to be reasonable and kindly toward the Huns. Four centuries of Muslim jihad preceded the crusades, but it was the crusaders who were to blame for poor relations with Islam. If we had been more considerate of Hitler, the argument often continues, he would have been reasonable and gentle toward us. No doubt FDR was the father of Japanese kamikaze attacks, for he had made the Japanese military even angrier by resisting their military actions. If only we had only placated Stalin; Truman was responsible for the Cold War because he stood up to the kindly leader, making the Soviet Union more aggressive. As I said in an earlier piece (“Appeasement 101”), the major failure here involves a misunderstanding of human nature. It is not a problem for most people; it is apparently a response in large part of those raised in permissive, affluent, and secular households who simply cannot understand the violence and rebellion that lurks in all our hearts. –Thomas C. Reeves, historian writing in the History News Network

Quote Of The Day

“Again, one reason why intellectuals are so much more obsessed with Nazi crimes than Soviet crimes – even though in terms of human lives lost the Soviets way exceeded the Nazis – is that intellectuals, by the very nature of their professions, grant enormous attention to words and ideas. And they are attracted by socialist ideas. They find that the ideas of communism are praiseworthy and attractive; that, to them, is more important than the practice of communism. Now, Nazi ideals, on the other hand, were pure barbarism; nothing more could be said in favor of them. In the case of the Soviet Union, [intellectuals] could say, “Well, yes, the practice of Soviet communism was perhaps quite bad, but the ideas are wonderful; and if we did not disturb the Soviets and did not fight them or resist them but, instead, helped them, they might have realized these ideas.”” –Dr. Richard Pipes, acclaimed Russian historian and Harvard professor of Sovietology

Where Historians Often Go Wrong

Historian Thomas C. Reeves gives us the details of a talk that Alan Charles Kors, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, gave on the often incorrect paradigm of historians:

Secondly, Kors contends, ideologically driven historians misunderstand reality. They “imagine that goodness, wisdom, order, justice, peace, freedom, legal equality, mutual forbearance, and kindness are the default state of things in human affairs, and that it is malice, folly, disorder, war, coercion, legal inequality, intolerance, and cruelty that stand in need of purely historical explanation.” This is, of course, a misreading of human nature and of history that also sets the agenda for most journalists, which is why newspapers and television news programs dwell almost exclusively upon horror, evil, and insanity. The upshot of this misunderstanding is a history that focuses upon the worst that can be found or imagined, especially within the West.

Kors writes, “It is the existence and agency of Western values by which…injustice has been and is being progressively overcome that truly should excite our curiosity and awe. Anti-Semitism is not surprising; the opening of Christian America to Jews is what should amaze. Racial aversion and injustice are not the source of wonderment; the Fourteenth Amendment and its gradual implementation are what should astonish. It is not the abuse of power that requires explanation—that is surely the human condition—but the Western rule of law. Similarly, it is not coerced religious conformity that should leave us groping for understanding, but the forging of the values and institutions of religious toleration.”

Kors continues, “Most dramatically, of course, it is not slavery that requires explanation—slavery is one of the most universal of all human institutions—but, rather, the values and agency by which the West identified slavery as an evil, and, astonishment of astonishments, abolished it.” The existence of poverty, the author argues, should not be an occasion of wonder; hunger has always haunted humanity. “What we ignore are the values, institutions, knowledge, risk, ethics, and liberties that created prosperity to such a degree that pockets of poverty now draw public attention and the impulse to remediate them.”

Historians, in short, focus upon the wrong things, emphasizing the problems without acknowledging the accomplishments and aspirations of a civilization that produced more freedom and prosperity than any other has. Kors calls this “a failure of intellectual analysis,” which it clearly is.

The historians very often see only what they want to see, and the picture is often bleak. “In the midst of unparalleled social mobility in the West, they cry ‘caste,’ In a society of munificent goods and services, they cry either ‘poverty’ or ‘consumerism.’ In a society of ever richer, more varied, more productive, more self-defined, and more satisfying lives, they cry alienation. In a society that has liberated women, racial minorities, religious minorities, and gays and lesbians to an extent that no one could have dreamed possible just fifty years ago, they cry ‘oppression.’ In a society of boundless private charity, they cry ‘avarice.’ In a society in which hundreds of millions have been free riders upon the risk, knowledge, and capital of others, they cry ‘exploitation.’ In a society that broke, on behalf of merit, the seemingly eternal chains of station by birth, they cry ‘injustice.’”

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“The feminists at Harvard seek to remove every vestige of patriarchy in America, but they have said almost nothing about the complete dismissal of women’s rights by radical Islam. To do so would be to attack Islamic culture, and according to multiculturalism, every culture is equal and none is evil. They forsake women in societies that repudiate women’s rights and direct their complaints to societies that believe in women’s rights. Of course it’s easier to complain to someone who listens to you and doesn’t immediately proceed to slit your throat. No sign of any rethinking of feminism has appeared in the universities where it flourishes”. — Harvey Mansfield, Harvard government professor writing in the Boston Globe.

Quote Of The Day

“Harvard has just welcomed the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to give a little talk. Harvard thinks this is free speech, but in fact the university has allowed itself to be used as a platform for sweet-talk in the service of a regime that hates, and wants to bamboozle, America. Note, too, that Harvard professor Stephen Walt and a Chicago professor have just written an exposé of the Israeli lobby’s influence on American politics. They encourage the belief that Israel is the main problem we face . Nor has Harvard relaxed its hostility to ROTC on the campus. The pretext is the military’s policy discriminating against gays by requiring them to keep silent about being gay. Never mind what would happen to gays or defenders of gays if the Islamic fascists took over. These are not isolated incidents but signs of the prevailing attitude at Harvard and other elite universities”. — Harvey Mansfield, Harvard government professor writing in the Boston Globe.

Quote Of The Day

“Most people agree that Marx’s predictions about capitalism turned out to be dead wrong. What most people don’t know is that Marx was an out and out racist and anti-Semite. He didn’t think much of Mexicans. Concerning the annexation of California after the Mexican-American War, Marx wrote: “Without violence nothing is ever accomplished in history.” Then he asks, “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?” Friedrich Engels, Marx’s co-author of the “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” added, “In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States.” Much of Marx’s ideas can be found in a book written by former communist Nathaniel Weyl, titled “Karl Marx, Racist” (1979)”. –Walter Williams, Professor of economics at George Mason University

I Can’t Stand Radical Chicanoism

I can’t stand radical, and even most forms of moderate, Chicanoism. A case in point is Marcos Aguilar, most known for assisting in occupying (and laying to waste) the Faculty Center at UCLA in 1993 that resulted in the creation of the Chicano Studies major dept.

Aguilar is back in the spotlight, as founder and principal of La Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a charter school in El Sereno. Recently, he gave an interview in which he states:

TCLA: Finally, what do you see as the legacy of the Brown decision?

MA: If Brown was just about letting Black people into a White school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching. We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested in what they have because we have so much more and because the world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as human beings, to surpass the barrier.

So please, dear readers, know that most Mexican-Americans don’t believe in any of this crap, we are smart enough to see it for the bullshit that it is. These are only the views of a small fringe of radicals, people who took their Chicano Studies major much too seriously, and who are mad at the fact that a Chicano Studies degree (rightly!) gets you no more than a job at Mc Donalds flipping cheeseburgers.

Quote Of The Day

“Today, the United States is more security conscious — 9-11 did that. New security concerns have a subsidiary effect: an increased emphasis on immigrant assimilation. Most new Americans learn English and salute the flag. However, radical “multiculturalists” (many drawing paychecks at U.S. universities) urge separatism. Their abrasive identity politics lacks political traction, but they have media pizzazz. One suspects they want to exacerbate existing problems”. –Austin Bay, writing in Tech Central Station

Quote Of The Day

“Perhaps the ugliest side of professors is the conviction that specialized knowledge about a few narrow subjects confers intellectual and moral authority on matters about which one knows almost nothing. How is it possible, we wonder, that students who do not share our fascination with the English Civil War and Marxism can somehow also be intelligent and ethical people? How is it that we are not consulted in matters of grave national importance? If the world will not come to us for wisdom, then we will stand aloof and make a world for ourselves where we can torment each other, like Milton’s vision of hell, while the rest of the world goes about the business of living, unconcerned with the petty disputes that cost many of us any possibility of happiness”.–Thomas H. Benton, pseudonym of a soon-to-be associate professor of English at a Midwestern liberal-arts college, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education in an article titled, The 7 Deadly Sins of Professors