Why This Supreme Court Ruling on Affirmative Action Is as Dubious as the Roberts’ Court’s Previous Rulings on Race-Related Issues

In contemporary America, income inequality is indisputably increasing and indisputably limiting the potential and the upward mobility of the ever-increasing percentage of Americans slipping into the have-not category.

In the absence of significant upward pressure on wages exerted by the large industrial unions and in the absence of a large industrial workforce because of the automation of plants in this country and because of overseas competition in labor-intensive manufacturing, higher education is the major factor again differentiating the working class from the middle class.

Some African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and other people of color have undoubtedly achieved great entrepreneurial and professional success. And some White Americans live in rural areas in which poverty is endemic. But the greatest concentrations of poverty are more than ever in urban districts with heavy concentrations of people of color.

The schools in those urban districts have become illustrations of our “under-performing public schools,” in the phrasing used by so-called “reformers,” either because the system is broken and poor teachers are protected by unions or because education cannot be separated from the other very challenging socio-economic realities that result from desperate impoverishment. Whatever the reason, the students in those school districts clearly have a much lower chance at academic achievement and then a much lower chance at translating their academic achievement into a university education that is their best means of transcending poverty.

At the same time as income inequality has been becoming more entrenched, American politics has been becoming more vehemently partisan, with the GOP representing largely White rural and affluent suburban districts and the Democratic party representing more racially diverse urban districts. Indeed, in many states, gerrymandering has exaggerated those distinctions–the close correlation of racial, socio-economic, and political identifications–well beyond what has previously been the case.

So, the Supreme Court decision seems based on two very flawed premises. Continue reading

A New Far-Right Proposal for Financing College “Innovatively”: Or, How to Graduate from College as an Indentured Corporate Servant

In “Here’s a New Way to Pay for College,” an article published in USA Today [http://college.usatoday.com/2014/04/17/heres-a-new-way-to-pay-for-college/], Daniel Wheaton reports on a new Far-Right proposal to address the student-debt crisis. In a bill that they have called “The Student Success Act,” Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, and Jim Petri, a Republican House member from Wisconsin, are proposing private financing of college educations with money pooled from corporate sources.

So, how is this different than student loans secured through private banks? Well, the funding would be framed or defined more as a long-term investment. The recipients would agree to pay back a portion of their incomes for 30 years as a sort of dividend to those who have made the investments in their educations. Rubio and Petri call these contracts “income-share agreements,” and the percentage of the participating student’s income that he or she will owe the investors will increase as his or her income increases.

In its broad shape, the proposal seems comparable to what some entertainers, such as David Bowie, and some athletes, such as Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, are now doing in creating “celebrity bonds.” But since students have a much less certain basis for projecting future earnings, I almost immediately suspected that for students this sort of deal would amount to a sort of indentured servitude. Continue reading

A Special Anniversary That You May Have Missed

This year, the National Security Agency (NSA) is celebrating its 60th year in existence.

To commemorate the anniversary, the agency has produced a book that is in some places referred to simply as an “Anniversary Book” but in other places referred to as a “Memory Book,” which sounds a great deal more sentimental.

The book is available digitally here: http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/60th/book/NSA_60th_Anniversary.pdf

My favorite photo is this one:

Continue reading

In an Era of Increasing Fiscal Constraints, an Inexplicable Shift in Hiring Patterns in Higher Education

In this past week’s issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, there is a very revealing graph representing the changes in employment in colleges and universities from 1976 to 2011. The graph is based on an analysis of IPEDs data by AAUP’s John Curtis.

 

Full-Time Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

1976 – 353,681

2011 – 436,293

Increase – 23%

 

Graduate Student Employees

1976 – 160.086

2011 – 358,743

Increase – 123%

 

Continue reading

Today Is the Centennial Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, One of the Pivotal Events in U.S. Labor History

What follows is taken from the United Mine Workers website.

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The Ludlow Massacre

The date April 20, 1914 will forever be a day of infamy for American workers. On that day, 19 innocent men, women and children were killed in the Ludlow Massacre. The coal miners in Colorado and other western states had been trying to join the UMWA for many years. They were bitterly opposed by the coal operators, led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Upon striking, the miners and their families had been evicted from their company-owned houses and had set up a tent colony on public property. The massacre occurred in a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers. They shot and burned to death 18 striking miners and their families and one company man.  Four women and 11 small children died holding each other under burning tents. Later investigations revealed that kerosene had intentionally been poured on the tents to set them ablaze. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their tents. . . .

The rest of the article can be found at: http://www.umwa.org/?q=content/ludlow-massacre

A thorough listing and discussion of commemorative events is available at: https://www.facebook.com/Ludlow100

 

 

A Postscript to One-Word Poems: A Poem without Words—from the Academe Archives No Less

In one of my posts yesterday, I reposted an item from Futility Closet. Titled “Taking Literary Minimalism to Its Endpoint” [http://academeblog.org/2014/04/19/6702/] it included this lead:

“In 1965 poet Aram Saroyan wrote a poem consisting of a single word, lighght. George Plimpton included it in the American Literary Anthology, and Saroyan received a $500 cash award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Perhaps to mock this, in 1972 Dave Morice published Matchbook, a literary magazine whose inch-square pages were stapled inside working matchbooks. Edited by the fictional Joyce Holland, each issue featured nine one-word poems submitted by contributors.”

That post then provided a sample list of those Matchbook issues.

This item, also uncovered by Futility Closet, takes that item one step further—to a poem without any words, at least beyond its title. And the extra attraction for the readers of this blog is that the item was originally published in Academe.

Continue reading

More Far-Right Propaganda Posing as Scholarly Research

In this case, ALEC has not even bothered to use an academic think tank as a front. This map purports to show the economic outlook for the states. What it actually shows, of course, is simply the degree to which business policies in the states align with ALEC’s vision of an America with no corporate taxation, no collective bargaining, and no financial or environmental regulations.

Map of ALEC Study Continue reading

Taking Literary Minimalism to Its Endpoint

This is another item that I am re-posting from Futility Closet (www.futilitycloset.com). It is re-posted with the permission of Greg Ross, who maintains the site. You can have daily updates from the site delivered to your e-mail each morning.

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In a Word:

opuscule

n. a musical or literary work of small size

In 1965 poet Aram Saroyan wrote a poem consisting of a single word, lighght. George Plimpton included it in the American Literary Anthology, and Saroyan received a $500 cash award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Perhaps to mock this, in 1972 Dave Morice published Matchbook, a literary magazine whose inch-square pages were stapled inside working matchbooks. Edited by the fictional Joyce Holland, each issue featured nine one-word poems submitted by contributors. Continue reading

Crises Connected like Spokes of a Wheel—or the Pockets on a Roulette Wheel

Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial, signed by the editorial board, titled “The College Faculty Crisis” [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/the-college-faculty-crisis.html].

In many ways, the editorial does not say much that should be new to anyone in higher education, but it is certainly significant that the most highly regarded newspaper in the country is highlighting the issues related to the declining state support for public colleges and universities and the effects of the increasing contingency among faculty.

Citing a new study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, a research center at the University of Texas at Austin, a study that is based on the responses of some 71,000 faculty about their working conditions, the editorial writer emphasizes four major points, which I not only will summarize but will also elaborate on to some degree. Continue reading