The AG Testifies, Higher Education, and a Report Card

Welp, I was going to talk about the Attorney General’s testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, but I couldn’t manage to keep my mind on the nonsense being spewed about. Lucky for us that Toni Williams could.

Today, Trump Administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss colluding with Russians or Russian interference in the 2016 Election or whatever whale excrement the Democrats are trying to peddle this news cycle. The Senators, especially Ron Wyden (Moron-OR) and Kamala Harris (Fool-CA), showed themselves to be disrespectful, small and bitter. It was so sad.

Although the Senate sees itself as “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”, it has long been the home of gassy, windbags, pompous dolts, and unctuous twits. Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Patrick Moynihan may have been great Senators, but you wouldn’t want to live with them. Joe Biden and, not to speak ill of the dead, but they know it’s true, Arlen Specter and Ted Kennedy, pompous dolts.

Today, we have John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden as Senators on the Intelligence Committee. Dear God, I pray for our Republic. …

Yeah, me too. If you’d like a serious summary, not that Toni is wrong, mind, how about from John Hinderaker. Here is his final paragraph.

The Democrats are making fools of themselves. But that is what their base–black-masked “antifa” hoodlums, the New York Times, the Washington Post–wants, so no doubt it will continue for a while. Eventually, though, they will have to admit that their Russia investigation, an attempt to smear the Trump administration with whatever the Russian government may or may not have done, has come to nothing.

An excellent summary of how our tax money is being wasted on this nonsense. Best quote of the day, from AG Sessions.

This I’m afraid will result has already resulted in investigations and I fear that some people may find that they’ll wish they hadn’t leaked.

I certainly hope so.


A couple of things from the world of higher (?) education. From Chris Queen.

Oxford University – long held as one of the premier educational institutions in the world – is changing one of its core history exams in order to ensure that more women get the highest possible grade on the test.

One of Oxford’s five final-year history exams will be replaced by a paper that can be done at home to try to improve results for female students.

The move, which begins in the next academic year, comes as statistics showed 32% of women achieved a first in history at Oxford, compared with 37% of men.

Under the new exam structure, students most likely will be given similar questions to the existing exam, but rather than completing the test within a specifically designated time frame, students will have several days at home to finish.

University officials say that the “gender gap” was a major factor in considering the new exam, along with the fact that the new format would “reward research skills rather than memorisation, or performance under pressure.”

The decision isn’t without its controversy, however. Even the university admits that the risk of plagiarism grows with a take-home test. There’s no guarantee that students won’t collaborate, cheat, or seek outside help with the exam.

I’m very sure that my friends, including my co-blogger whose history degree is from Oxford, are thrilled with the University cheapening their accomplishment. But as all good leftists know, girls aren’t the equal of boys they need special help, only nasty conservatives think they can do the work without special consideration.

Then there is this, from Steven Hayward.

Colleges are all about teaching “critical thinking,” though in most places that is a mere euphemism for teaching “critical theory,” which is not the same thing. Quite the opposite: “critical theory” is the highly ideologized core of the academic left. And it shows.

News item:

Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

By Douglas Belkin

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. . .

For prospective students and their parents looking to pick a college, it is almost impossible to figure out which schools help students learn critical thinking, because full results of the standardized test, called the College Learning Assessment Plus, or CLA+, are seldom disclosed to the public. This is true, too, of similar tests.

Wonder why I am not surprised.


Just to finish off, a little short one from Ace’s on how a town in Ohio thinks Trump is doing. Follow the link and read the comments,  they’re the best part of AoSHQ.

Interestingly, the conservatives I speak with do not really consider Trump one of them. Rank-and-file Republicans tend to view Trump more as an independent who ran under the Republican banner.

But for the most part, they’re still with him. They appreciate Trump’s “America first” agenda, not because they believe in isolationism, but because they believe the U.S. and its citizens should be the government’s top priority.

The president’s tweets can be as annoying to his supporters as to his opponents, and if there is a common criticism it is that he should tweet less. But his inability so far to overhaul health care, enact tax reform, destroy the Islamic State or “drain the swamp” is largely blamed on overreaching courts and the open “resistance” that appears dedicated to opposing anything Trump wants.

For the record, I agree with the townspeople, and I’m getting very tired of the nonstop nonsense, both from the Democrats and the never-Trumpers, both of whom are beneath contempt.

A Conversion Story

Sadly, not Bookworm, as far as I know.

Bookworm takes a look in the mirror:

Cultural appropriation be damned.  I am finally coming out of the closet as a trans-cultural Redneck and proud of it.  Allow me to explain.

I was raised in the belly of the beast, San Francisco, by European immigrant parents who fully embraced upper class, European culture in all of its arrogant glory.  We didn’t have the money, but I was taught to have all the right attitudes.  They were drilled into me from the cradle: imported cheese, classical music, foreign movies, and a sneering disdain for the ordinary Americans who liked working with their hands, watching fights and drinking beer.

Still, despite this pressure to be an American elite, I kept slipping up. While the family was cooing over a nice runny Brie, I was in my room, squirting quick hits of canned Velveeta in my mouth, hoping no one would catch the tell-tale orange stain around my lips. Instead of being grateful for my Mom’s carefully packed school lunches, complete with brown bread and vegetables, I was desperate to get my hands on my schoolmates’ Wonderbread™ sandwiches and Hostess Twinkie™ snack cakes.

Music was an issue too. I kept my face politely bright when I was dragged to the symphony or the opera, feigning interest in Mozart’s Requiem or Verdi’s Madama Butterfly, but my heart wasn’t in it. Even as the musicians played and the singers sang, I had a separate track in my head playing Slim Whitman, Hoyt Axton, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Cash. I wasn’t a purist, by any means, of course. There was plenty of room throughout my school years for Top 40s music, but opera made me wish I could break out in hives as an excuse to leave the room.

Things got worse when I hit my hard-Left, highly-ranked college. With every passing year, it became harder to feign respect for the professors who droned on at the front of the room, reading off of stale old notes. As they preached Marxism in the classroom, either directly or indirectly, I couldn’t get past the fact that they lived in expensive homes, complete with Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners, dined out at fine restaurants (organic before it was in), and regularly traveled to (of course) Europe. My classmates revered them; I thought they were pompous, hypocritical windbags, and the fact that I got good grades from parroting their cant back to them only increased my disdain.

It was at college that, for the first time, I grappled with the fact that, despite my upbringing and credentials, I was living a lie. I hated to be something I wasn’t, but I didn’t yet know enough to express what I was. As far as I and everyone else knew, I was just your usual slightly weird Euro-immigrant, Jewish-Liberal Bay Area Democrat.

My years at law school in Texas were the first time in my life that I felt I fit in. Sure, I had still had whole grain brown bread cravings, but saying “y’all” just felt right. It rolled off my tongue, if you know what I mean. And being friendly to people — saying “howdy” to everyone — that felt right too. It was a world away from college’s snide cliques and studied rudeness. I loved hanging out in dives and dancing all night long to the live blues and country bands.

Still, the pull of my upbringing was strong. Instead of giving in to what felt was right for me, I forced myself to return to the rarefied world in which I grew up. It was still too painful to admit to what I really was and I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to face the backlash from family and old friends.

And so for the next two decades, I hid my true self. I listened to NPR, voted Democrat, called myself a feminist, ate at restaurants that served food with names I couldn’t pronounce, periodically went to the symphony, had my collection of gay friends (who always made nasty remarks about women), and pretended I had black friends (in fact, as a young professional in San Francisco, I only knew one black person and, while I liked her, she wasn’t really a friend….). At the same time, I became a cynical, embittered, contrarian person, always pushing back at chimeras. I knew my life was wrong, but I didn’t know what was right.

What changed all this was 9/11. In the subsequent years, I realized I wasn’t a Democrat at all. I was a conservative! Oh. My. God! That was incredibly liberating. Even more liberating was writing a blog that (a) allowed me to express my thoughts without being socially ostracized and (b) put me in contact with people who didn’t sneer at Velveeta in cans, disliked opera, wanted to shoot guns, listened to country and pop music, watched MMA fighting, and thought traveling within America on vacation was cool, not pathetic.

Keep reading, it’s good all the way through A fair amount of it parallels things in mine, although I was never politically liberal, even as a kid it didn’t make sense to me. Yep, one of the few thing dad and I argued about occasionally, he was conservative, but a New Dealer, well I understand why, but don’t condone such contradictions. Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for Tories, and in fact, anyone who reads too much Burke, and not enough Locke.

I certainly do approve of Daisy Dukes, though! 🙂

Fixing Education

We return today to one of the subjects that have continued here since we began: education. What’s wrong with it, and sometimes: how to fix it. Peter W. Wood had a very good (and quite long) article yesterday in The Federalist on this subject. I found it very good, both in identifying problems and proposing cures. See what you think.

How much would it cost to fix American higher education? Think big. In 2015, colleges and universities spent about $532 billion to teach 20.5 million students enrolled in two-year and four-year colleges.

That $532 billion figure is the lowest estimate in circulation. The National Center for Education Statistics gives the figure as $605 billion for 2013-14. But let’s stick with the humble $532 billion.

So how much would it cost to fix our $532 billion worth of colleges and universities? The answer depends, of course, on what you think is wrong with them and which of the possible repairs you favor. But let’s not get overly complicated.

Here’s What’s Wrong with Higher Education

American higher education is subject to five broad categories of complaint.

The progressive left criticizes it for reinforcing oppression based on race, class, and sex. American higher education favors the rich and abets unjust capitalism.

Pro-market and libertarian observers criticize its dependence on public funding; guild-like stifling of innovation; and hostility to capitalism. American higher education privileges itself.

Liberals, moderates, and conservatives criticize it for putting identity politics at the center of curriculum and student life. It fosters inter-group hostility, a grievance culture, psychological fragility, incivility, and contempt for free expression. American higher education is illiberal.

Those who support the classical liberal arts criticize it for trivializing higher education, turning the curriculum into a shopping cart, neglecting the formation of mind and character in favor of political advocacy, and estranging students from their civilization by elevating the false ideal of multiculturalism. American higher education is culturally corrosive.

A wide variety of people criticize its high price, frivolous expenditures, and increasingly uncertain rewards for graduates. The gigantic growth in the number of campus administrative positions relative to the faculty comes under this heading too. American higher education is too expensive.

It would be easy to add more items or expand any of these into a whole book. Many have done just that. But my goal here is to cut a path through the forest, not to linger over the variety of trees.

When I speak of fixing higher education, I discard the first category, the criticisms of the university as a font of capitalist oppression. It simply has no basis in reality. Each of the other four categories is cogent, and any real repair would have to address all of them. Moreover, they are deeply connected.

I won’t linger over their interconnections either, but it is important to keep in mind that the guild-like or oligarchic aspects of higher education undergird its illiberalism, incoherence, and excessive expense; and its culturally corrosive quality licenses its voracious appetite for public funding, suppression of intellectual freedom, and frivolity.

Four Proposed Repairs to Higher Education

Corresponding to the four legitimate categories of complaint are four broad categories of possible repair:

Fix the financial model. Reduce and restructure federal and state support for colleges and universities. Eliminate the regulations that favor the guild and prop up oligarchy. Unleash the marketplace, including for-profit, online, and other entrepreneurial alternatives to the dominant model of two and four-year colleges. Steer Americans away from the idea that a college degree is necessary for a prosperous career. Find new and better ways to credential people as competent in specific endeavors. The general-purpose undergraduate degree should face competition from alternative credentialing.

Dismantle the infrastructure of campus illiberalism. Eliminate grievance deans and programs; rescind all government programs that subsidize identity politics; insist that colleges and universities punish those who disrupt events or otherwise undermine free expression. Some call for eliminating tenure because it has become a bulwark for the faculty members most intent on redirecting higher education into political activism.

Restore a meaningful core curriculum. This repair has three varieties: create an optional core curriculum at existing colleges, leaving everything else alone; create a mandatory core curriculum for all the students at a college; create new colleges that start out with their own core curricula. Reversing the cultural corrosion of American higher education will take more than reviving core curricula, but by common consent, that is the first step.

Restructure federal student loans. This is, of course, part of fixing the financial model, but it is crucial if the goal is to reduce the ballooning costs of higher education. Colleges and universities are expensive for several reasons, including their very high labor costs and tendency to compete with one another by increasing their amenities (e.g., rock-climbing walls), but the underlying cost-driver is their ability to rely on federal student loans to subsidize their ever-expanding budgets. […]

Continue reading How To Start Fixing America’s Higher Education Crisis

I found it all very good, and some of it outstanding. Part of what I like is that he recognizes that not everybody needs a to go to a four-year college. In truth, most don’t. College (except perhaps engineering) is not supposed to be a trade school. And when you make it one you end up with BA degree holders flipping burgers, a very silly outcome, particularly since in our setup they owe impossible amounts of money.

Part of the problem that I see is that our secondary (and primary) schools are no longer fit for purpose, graduates are far too often both illiterate and innumerate, and so the private sector, pragmatic as always, simply requires a degree, thinking they will at least get a candidate that can read at some level and maybe do arithmetic. It’s not a solution really, but in reality, their problem is to do whatever they do with whatever widget they do it with and make a profit, not to fix the education system.

At some point, it may become bad enough for them to find it cheaper to fix the problem than to use avoidance strategies like degrees, but we aren’t there yet. If we get to that point – well we’ll pretty much have failed as a country so it won’t really matter all that much.

Don’t do this at home (or at work)!

Time to lighten up a bit, thanks to Oyia Brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This safety meeting is adjourned.

Losses, and Despair

This blogging is a funny thing, often. We end up considering people that we’ve never spoken to as friends and colleagues. One of the people I most enjoyed reading, although only a few times have I referenced his blog was Kevin O’Brien, who went by the screen name of Hognose. He wrote mostly about guns, and their role in our society and his posts were excellent. He was an expert on Czech weapons and made them fascinating. Quite a trick with a guy like me, that tends to think the world begins and ends with Colt. In any case, the last post on his blog was by his brother

I’m sorry to have to tell you all that my brother Kevin O’Brien, host of this blog, passed away peacefully this morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. […]

Now I’d like to tell you more about Kevin and how he lived and died.  He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien.  We grew up in Westborough, Mass.  Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979.  He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army.  He loved the service and was deeply committed to it.  We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret.  He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.  He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

He was the best of us, and I’ll miss him, always. Rest in peace, my friend, whom I never interacted with at all.

Also, and even sadder, Bob Owens of Bearing Arms, died yesterday. Preliminary indications are that it was suicide. Bob was an expert on all thing connected with the 2d Amendment. As far as I recall, he only appeared here once, but there are many drafts here for things that for one reason or another didn’t get published. The one that did was from that very dark period following the 2012 election, when it looked like the wheels were really coming off. He said then:

When I wrote What you’ll seen in the rebellion, I had no idea how widely read an article warning of the dangers of second Revolutionary War could become. It has been “shared” thousands of times in social media, and new readers and comments are pouring in constantly.

Since the time it was written, state legislators in Illinois and New York have formally pressed for crushing gun control measures that would outlaw standard-capacity magazines, all semi-automatic handguns, rifles, and pistols, and even pump shotguns. There would be no grandfathering in these proposals, and no inheritance rights. A complete confiscation of these arms, “liberty’s teeth” as other have termed them, are the goal of these totalitarian governments. Legislators in other states are plotting similar measures.

In Washington, DC, federal Democrats—goaded by figures in the poli-media calling for the murders of gun owners and politicians that would oppose their “common sense” statism—have pushed for a similar raft of legislation, supporting the criminalization and confiscation of the most common firearms in the United States and various accessories. The Vice President of the United States has signaled to the mayor of Boston (how historically apt) that the White House itself may attempt to circumvent Congress and attempt to outlaw these common firearms with an executive order.

The people have responded to these threats by not merely buying up the firearms, magazines, and ammunition that might be affected by these proposed bans as they did in 1993/94 before the Clinton-era ban was pushed through, but by purchasing nearly every firearm of military utility of the past 100+ years. Ruger 10/22s and other common .22LR rifles have doubled in price when they can be found at all. Inexpensive Mosin-Nagants, originally designed in 1891 and typically found by the dozen in your average neighborhoodgun shops, are nowhere to be found, and their ammunition is gone as well. U.S. citizens are preparing for war against their government by the millions. Americans aren’t “going Galt” in response to the push by would-be elites to surging statism. We’re on the cusp ofgoing Häyhä. […]

Most of the downtown shops, in fact, weren’t doing much business except the two gun stores. I’d been in one several days ago to pick a .22LR for an article I’d be writing forShooting Illustrated, and decided to stop in at the other to see what the current political environment had left behind.

There were no less than six clerks working feverishly with the dozen or so customers, so I simply stepped to the side and walked the aisles. The cases of ammunition that typically lined the far wall were picked to pieces. There was a 100-round case of .50 BMG, and cases of European shotshells suitable for small game. The .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, 7.62×39, 7.62 NATO, and 7.62x54R had sold out long ago, along with the bulk 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

A few pump shotguns remained along with a smattering of deer rifles, single-shots, and longer double-barreled shotguns suitable only for trap or skeet. Even the semi-automatic .22LR rifles like Ruger 10/22s were gone, along with all but one BX-25 magazine.

The customers in the shop were picking through what remained; lever-action rifles, oddball shotguns, and the smattering of name-brand centerfire pistols. One man was attempting to trade in an antique double-barrel shotgun for something more current.

I did speak to one harried clerk, briefly.

They didn’t know when they’d be getting anything back in stock, from magazines to rifles to pistols. Manufacturers were running full-bore, but couldn’t come close to keeping up with market demand.It wasn’t just the AR-15s, the AK-pattern rifles, the M1As, and the FALs that were sold out. It really hit me when I realized that the World War-era M1 Garands , M1 carbines, and Enfield .303s were gone, along with every last shell. Ubiquitous Mosin-Nagants—of which every gun store always seems to have 10-20—were gone. So was their ammo. Only a dust free space marked their passing. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Every weapon of military utility designed within the past 100+ years was gone. This isn’t a society stocking up on certain guns because they fear they may be banned. This is a society preparing for war.

He was one of those men who could easily read between the lines, the ones we need to help us all.

From the reports I’ve read, it sounds to me like he suffered from depression, and it’s not uncommon. I’ve dealt with it on a more minor scale, and even there it is an insidious disease, affecting us in ways we simply do not understand, and sometimes cannot even explain to those who want to help. Sometimes nothing at all helps, and even the good things, like the relaxation of the pressure on the Amendment in the last few months, can make things even worse. Yesterday, Nina Bookout at Victory Girls Blog said this

We were shocked and saddened to hear the news that Bob Owens died yesterday of an apparent suicide. Bob Owens deeply loved his family, this country, our Constitution, and was a fierce advocate for our 2nd Amendment rights. One only has to go back through his many blog posts at Bob Owens, his work with PJ Media or as the editor of Bearing Arms, to get a sense of who this man was. I myself first learned of him through his original blog, Confederate Yankee.

I too first read him at Confederate Yankee, and I agree with all she says here. There is a Go-Fund-Me for Bob’s family that you can access here.

God rest his soul, and give his family peace.

Once when she was having a bad spot, Jess wrote to me, ending with this,  “I guess I just have to ride this out and not give in to despair.” I guess she was right for all of us.

Literally: The Bible

And here is that question we’ve all had asked us, “Do you believe the Earth was created 6000 years ago?” Give or take for whatever smug resource our questioner is using. And the question is always a gotcha question, no matter what you say, the one asking it will ridicule you. Not that that matters, we should expect little else from unbelievers, although we should engage them, always trying to help them to see. But Glenn T. Stanton, in yesterday’s Federalist, went through the whole thing, and very well too.

[…]

Why? It’s quite simple: Literally no one takes the Bible literally. NO ONE. But otherwise intelligent pollsters and journalists continue to ask the question as a gauge for who really takes the Bible seriously—or too seriously. And Christians continue to play along.

Here, here and here are just a few examples of this. It all shows an embarrassing ignorance of how billions of Christians and Jews approach this important and world-changing book hermeneutically. This is unacceptable.

I’ll Prove It in Ten Seconds

All one need do is open a Bible to any random page. I’ve just slipped my thumb into my closed Bible as I write this and aimlessly opened to Ecclesiastes 10:2, where we read: “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.”

If I say I take Scripture literally, then I must believe my heart—this four-chambered, muscular organ beating in my chest—physically inclines to the left part of my chest cavity because I’m a fool. If I were ever to become wise, it will physically shift toward the right side. My cardiologist would be amazed.

However, if I take these words as true, authoritative, and reliable, rather than literally, they mean my internal self—who I really am—is inclined in a direction exactly opposite of one who is wise. Scripture’s lesson for me? Being wise or a fool has dramatic and polar opposite consequences and affects us internally and externally, right down to our deepest depths.

Let’s do it again for confirmation. I randomly flip over a few books and find myself in Psalm 62. I read here, in verse two, that God is my rock, my salvation, and my fortress. This is good news indeed.

Taken literally, it raises the question as to what kind of rock God is: igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic? God says he’s my fortress. Is he stone, wooden, or steel? How tall are his walls? What’s his configuration? Am I being disrespectful with such questions?  It seems like it, and that’s the point. If anyone actually took the Bible literally, these would be perfectly reasonable questions for any serious student.

What People Really Mean by the Question

Of course, when we answer “Do you take the Bible literally?” we are simply taking it as short-hand for “Do you take the Bible as truth?” But the faithful student should have long ago dispelled such misinformed assumptions, correcting the questioner with, “You don’t really understand much about Christianity or the Bible, do you?” The serious student of Dante or Shakespeare wouldn’t tolerate such ignorance of their beloved texts. We shouldn’t either.

And that is the right answer, as it always has been. And one thing you’ll usually find is that the question wasn’t asked in good faith, anyway. That is sad, but it is.

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