A Modest Educational Proposal

Over at Reason (which, by the way, is hiring), there’s a blog post about an assortment of budget cuts former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has made at Purdue, where he is now president. I offer no comment as to the goodness or badness of such measures in this case, although the fact that the school’s administration had grown by nearly 75% over the prior 13 years may be of interest.

What got my attention was the following comment from reader “Don’tShootMe”:

The ACA requires insurance companies to spend at least 85% of premium revenue on medical care. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. Require any institution that has students that are getting federal loans to spend 85% on “instruction.” Otherwise, no student loans. Since the administrative elites think that is such a good solution for medical care, see how they like it for education.

Obviously this would be over the top at a place like Mondoville; buildings must be maintained, for example, and because we’re so small (even crying poverty in the opening of our alma mater: “Though small, nor rich in worldly goods…”), just keeping the physical plant running might well be more than 15% of our income. Furthermore, a significant portion of administrative jobs are created as a result of the tangles of laws, regulations, and accreditation standards that act as what would elsewhere be called “unfunded mandates.” Even so, one wonders if the commenter may be on to something.

Posted in Education, Politics | 2 Comments

“Terry Ted Is Really Sweet”

Terry Bozzio is a drummer with a remarkable resume, ranging from Frank Zappa’s band to new wavers Missing Persons and prog supergroup U.K.. He combines technical skill with musicality in a manner too often overlooked in a world of “drum performance as athletic event.”

Here’s a performance he did recently on a rather unusual kit, made by the Sabian cymbal company. Yes, it’s a stunt and a gimmick, but I think it’s an interesting example of both. Enjoy.

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QotD: Paid-by-the-Chapter Edition

I have never liked Dickens. Well, that’s probably not fair — I never met the guy, but then I never met Samuel Johnson either, and that hasn’t quelled my affection. But I do not like — and never have liked — his novels. Yes, I know, social import, memorable characters that have become art of the cultural inheritance, insight into the passions of the common readers of the era, voice for reform, blah, rah, woof.

No dice. I won’t say his work is spinach, but I won’t put it above lima beans. He, and the 19th-C. novelists in general (excluding Twain and sometimes Scott, and I guess MacDonald, though I prefer his shorter stuff — Hardy doesn’t count, as I think of him as ahead of his time.) just bore the heck out of me. I find Dickens insufferably prolix and hamhanded, and remember that I’m saying this as someone who likes Paradise Lost. I normally just say that it’s far too obvious he was paid by the chapter and could have used a stern editor.

All this came to mind a couple of days ago as I was having lunch with a former student who is gearing up for his Ph.D. comprehensive exams (the step before the drive to the dissertation.) He’s in the process of becoming a Victorianist, and he mentioned that he and a few of his classmates have formed a reading circle — this week, they’re doing Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? I offered my condolences, but I guess it’s an occupational hazard.

(As an aside, my distaste for this stuff didn’t stop me from using Fagin as the subject of an essay on the AP exam 31 years back. I was rhetorically savvy enough to know that my disdain for Dickens wouldn’t cut much ice with the graders. Hurrah for the canon.)

Well, my dislike for the original Chuck D. popped up again today, when I turned to James Lileks’s daily Bleat. He’s listening to an audiobook version of Edwin Drood, and offers the following, which is QotD material:

[T]here’s something about those 19th century novels that just wears on the heart like a dull stone pressing against a ventricle. The courtship rituals are tiresome and boring. All these protestations and fluttery words and fevered attempts to hold someone’s right pinky-finger. The conversations between anyone of the same class seem to take as their motto that one word shall not suffice when 75 may do, and the general effect is like being smothered with fresh bread.

And what are you reading this weekend? Me, I’m taking a crack at The Blue Star, by Fletcher Pratt. I’ll let you know what I think… eventually. In the meantime, here’s a song from a Detroit band named after Mr. Pratt:

See you soon!

Posted in Culture, Education, Literature, Music | 4 Comments


The Federal Register (the compendium of U.S. regulations — call it the footprint of bureaucracy) weighed in at 78,961 pages in 2012. There is no reason to assume that number has declined since then. The U.S. tax code came in at 73,954 pages in 2013.

That brings us to a slight departure from my usual practice. Here’s the Cartoon of the Day:

Wondermark 1049

I hope you’ll join me in a resounding…


Posted in Pixel-stained Wretchery, Politics | Leave a comment

A Contrapuntal Hypothesis

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a February article from Americans Against the Tea Party, contending that the heaviest users of food stamps are white folks from Red States, and cites Kentucky’s Owsley County as an example. Now, the article seems to want to make a “What’s the matter with Kansas” argument, suggesting that by opposing the welfare state, these lumpenproles are voting against their own self-interest, but I can’t help but wonder if the very phenomenon under discussion is in fact a contributing factor to the disdain many Red Staters have for these programs.

If you live in an area like the ones under discussion, and you’ve seen (along with people whose needs genuinely require meeting) your various “no-account” in-laws/cousins/folks with the cars on the lawns and the kids running around at all hours who take advantage (in the cynical sense) of such programs, mightn’t that actually build distaste for the benefits they use as support, along with resentment of the beneficiaries?

This is not to say that the position of distaste/resentment is a good one — indeed, the holders of that position may be working from an insufficient sample (remember: anecdotes ain’t data), but this may be a more productive thing to consider than either claims of “false consciousness” or the triumphalist screech of “Hypocrite!” that often attends these exercises.

But it probably wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Forget I said anything.

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Grinding Sausage

One of the reasons I got into the higher ed racket (besides the fact that it suits my peculiar skill set) was because it was a way to make sure the Spawn would have at least one college she could attend without a brutal price tag. Of course, since man proposes but God disposes, her current direction is sending her toward Flagship U down the road in Real City. That’s okay — it’s a state school and we’ll manage.

But even had she wanted to attend one of the schools in our tuition-exchange consortium, the schools typically would have been places much like Mondoville: small, non-elite institutions that may not be well known outside their regions, if at all. Not terribly selective, but at least making an effort to nod to the liberal arts in most cases.

And that’s fine as well — the Spawn isn’t one of those kids who calculates her GPA and class rank on the way back to her desk after receiving a graded paper. She’s smart, funny, insightful, and inclined to pursue her own interests, even at the expense of more widely recognized achievements — not unlike her dad or mine, both of whom seem have done pretty well. She’ll be a good fit at Flagship, I think, and would be a good fit at the smaller schools I mentioned. I think these are environments in which the Spawn will be able to be herself, where she won’t be groomed to be an Alpha-Plus.

There doesn’t seem to be much room for folks like the Spawn (or her dad, or his) in places like the Ivies these days — but what does that mean, and what happens to the kids who do fill up the classes at those schools? At The New Republic, William Deresiewicz has some thoughts. Essentially, he suggests, those kids are ground into sausage. Now I like sausage, but whether it’s a link or a patty, it’s going to look and taste like sausage, rather than whatever cuts of meat made up the raw materials. Considering what urban legend says goes into sausage, that may not be bad, but when it’s your kid, you don’t necessarily want him or her to take a turn for the wurst.

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to friend and colleague Susan Epting, via Facebook.

Posted in Culture, Education, Family | 3 Comments

Some Florentine News…

I went to high school in Florence, KY, about fifteen miles from Cincinnati. Florence is also the home of the Florence Freedom, an independent minor-league baseball team.

Minor-league baseball (and especially the low minors, and especially especially the low minors in a major-league market) is not necessarily an easy sell. Consequently, it’s an area where the spirit of Bill Veeck can thrive, and where promotional gimmicks can thrive as well.

This brings us to the latest news from the Freedom. Seizing on the current revival of pop culture interest in Sherlockiana, the Freedom has decided to host a “Sherlock Holmes Night.” A local theater troupe will perform a Murder Mystery Theater performance throughout the night, but the real highlight will be the debut of the team’s deerstalker-look baseball caps.


Obviously, the game will be on the field — but it will be afoot as well.


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