The Partisan and the Political

The Partisan and the Political

This is right, mostly:

But by conflating partisanship and ideology, elite discourse tends to discredit the latter; thus, just as elites tend to cloak their ideological program in the veil of post-partisanship, contemporary popular movements sometimes attempt to do the same. But they, too, are ideological whether they want to be or not. Some of this is on display in the Occupy Wall Street protests: these have been characterized by an almost obsessive desire to avoid specific ideologies or even specific demands, in a way that tends to grate on those of us with more traditional leftist sensibilities. Doug Henwood recently commented on this in a post where he lamented the ideological confusion of the protesters, and quoted a 25-year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

The uncharitable reading of this is that it reflects a naive avoidance of politics and the worldview of, as Doug puts it, bourgeois individualism. But a more generous reading is that this man is simply partaking of the same collapsing of ideology and partisanship that pervades the society he grew up in. If you’re 25 years old, there’s a good chance you haven’t had much or any contact with what remains of an actual “left” in this country; instead, your experience of politics will be one in which “left versus right” is used interchangeably with “Democrats versus Republicans”. In other words, a discourse in which ideology is reduced to an empty, symbolic partisanship.

Rather than an attempt to deny ideology and politics, we can see statements like the one I quoted as an attempt, however confused, to reclaim them from the clutches of the major parties and their hack apologists. Because whatever they might say, Occupy Wall Street has an ideology, even if it is still an inchoate and jumbled one.

NH to make $35 million in state agency cuts [Healthcare vs. Higher Ed., Again]

NH to make $35 million in state agency cuts [Healthcare vs. Higher Ed., Again]

After last Spring’s cuts, the State of New Hampshire provides only 5% of our operational budget at Keene State College. The word on the street is this new round of cuts will reduce it to 3%. 

A lot of this is just due to garden variety political nuttery, but even so it is interesting that in every round the spending questions have pitted the state’s higher education system against health care cost pressures. 

The current crop of politicians may go soon, but the health care disaster has just started, and when it comes to paying for education vs. helping someone in medical need, medical need [quite rightly] tends to win.

No matter what happens politically, doing more with less is going to be part of the educational landscape until health care costs stabilize. 

Scholarships Go Disproportionately To White Students

Scholarships Go Disproportionately To White Students

From Yglesias, today:

The issue here isn’t racial discrimination, it’s a symptom of the fact that the incentive structure of American higher education is totally screwy. Schools want to produce two things. One is rich alumni who give them money, and the other is high ratings from US News and World Report. Both goals can be pursued either by investing resources in recruiting better inputs or else by investing resources in doing a better job of teaching. It turns out to be more cost-effective to invest in recruiting better inputs.

Healthcare swallows everything

Healthcare swallows everything

Government spending as a percentage of GDP

This is basically the story all over America:

John Arnold, director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, said that Medicaid and other health-care expenses are predicted to grow to as much as 40 percent of the state budget by 2015. That will force the state to cut higher education funding because there are few other options, he said.

And that’s just at the state level. Take a look at the chart at the top if you want to know where Pell Grants are going to go…

It’s maybe fun to talk about why costs of college went up, and about whether we are bloated or starved to death. It’s fun to take a stand and say — look, we should just hold out for the money we need to keep things operating this way, there is no problem.

But it’s all pretty irrelevant. I’m about as progressive a person as one gets, and I’ve been in the trenches fighting for change. But the economic dynamics of the coming health care crisis mean we will have to spend less per student in the very near future, period. There’s not a believable scenario where that doesn’t happen. The question is only how fast and what the change looks like.

A while back, the meme that Broadband Swallows Everything was floating around the ed-tech world — I think that’s looking the wrong direction. It’s healthcare and an aging population that’s going to bring state-funded education to its knees in the next 10 years; every other influence is trivial by comparison.

Increased Course Structure Improves Performance in Introductory Biology

Increased Course Structure Improves Performance in Introductory Biology

Lots of interesting (and maybe dubious?) methodological stuff in this. Its primary value for me was articulating a complex structured design fully, and testing that full design (rather than one or two smaller interventions). If you want to restructure your class like this, you could do it directly from the descriptions in this article, which is normally not the case with these things.

Of more immediate use to my own work is this: 

Without reading quizzes or other structured exercises that focus on acquiring information, it is not likely that informal-group, in-class activities or peer instruction with clickers will be maximally effective. This is because Bloom’s taxonomy is hierarchical (Bloom et al., 1956 blue right-pointing triangle). It is not possible to work at the application or analysis level without knowing the basic vocabulary and concepts. We see reading quizzes as an essential component of successful, highly structured course designs.

Hattie’s Table of Effect Sizes

Hattie’s Table of Effect Sizes

I need more information to make this table meaningful — and meta-analyses are always tricky things. But I think tables like this (and Hattie is just a follower here of Bloom and others) help people think about prioritizing changes to pedagogy.

What Hattie finds, of course, is unsurprising — feedback rules the roost when it comes to results. What would make this stuff meaningful of course is in-depth descriptions of how each attribute was defined and tested, but I guess for that you need the book

Worker=Hipster Redux

Worker=Hipster Redux

I read You Are Not a Gadget, and was pleasantly surprised with its style and presentation. Of the hivemind backlash posse, I’d be happy to hang out with Lanier any day, and maybe along with Nick Carr we could go play Ding-Dong-Dash on Bauerlein. 

On the whole, though, Lanier is wrong, and this article touches on why. Lanier believes the World-As-We-Have-It comes about primarily through the internet. In his most recent formulation, he has kids eschewing building careers for themselves because it’s too attractive to build reputation networks and live at home with Mom.

The naivete of this is bizarre, given we are sitting in the Great Recession and youth unemployment is well north of 20% in America and god knows what elsewhere. 

I noticed throughout the book, Lanier consistently makes the same mistake. He wonders why the radio has so little experimental music these days, and presto — the answer is file-sharing. Me, I would have thought the following factors all came ahead of file-sharing:

  • Domination of radio market by single company (Clear Channel)
  • Rise of the Disney Artist market (Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Demi Levato)
  • Maturation of the rock medium (most styles and instruments had been assimilated into rock by the late 1980s)
  • Moving of the economic center of the market from late teens, early 20s to tweens and early teens (due to economic shifts in disposable cash). 
  • Recovery of the major labels from temporary disruption of the indies in the early 90s

I could go on. Most big things in life are not driven by technological innovation, but by economic and demographic shifts. That’s why the internet didn’t kill higher education, but Medicare will. Talking about how a bunch of 20-somethings have “chosen” to drop out of a money-go-round that saved no seats for them in the first place is bizarre.