Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Friday, October 23, 2009

The Maryland Model

For a progressive journal and blog, the Washington Monthly has had a pretty shitty record on higher ed issues of late. They jump on every available corporate bandwagon and boondoggle to rant about the "failures" of higher ed in America. Luckily, if we all just become the University of Phoenix (whose 6-year grad rate for on-line degrees is 4%!), students will magically get better education for the cost of a couple of Big Macs.

Their most recent effort is better, but consider me skeptical that Maryland provides a reform model for the rest of the nation. The basic idea is that the MD public university system agreed to undergo large scale efficiency reforms under a GOP governor who also slashed state funding and allowed big tuition increases to cover the difference. That made higher ed a salient enough issue in gubernatorial politics that the next gov, a Dem, could impose a tuition freeze while massively boosting state support. So MD got the best of all worlds: cost controls, greater efficiency, better service (from profs), and increased public sector funding. Quite a bank shot. The political stars align so that elephants and donkeys compete to accomplish the right thing while advocating opposite things. Is that really replicable?

More worrisome from ground zero in TN is that none of the supposed inefficiencies in the MD system actually seem to apply to us. Profs at comprehensive unis had to go from teaching 7 courses a year to 7.5 (I, not atypically for here, have taught 9 every year). They're also expected to be on campus five days a week rather than just two. Once again, I appear to be well ahead of the curve. The budget cuts in play are also quite different: $40 million in the entire MD system vs a projected $25-30 million/year for my school alone. This after years of lean. My department, like most others, has already given up almost all of its travel budget, release time, and discretionary funds. Something like 95% of our departmental budget is faculty pay, wages which are moderately low compared to peer institutions and have not increased in a couple of years (nor will they for at least a few more). Meanwhile, despite our size, we've never really trafficked in the huge freshman lecture courses that MD has replaced with on-line and undergrad-led courses. When making draconian cuts in preparation for the expiration of stimulus funds, we'll have little choice but to fire untenured faculty, decrease course availability, and boost class sizes, though, unlike MD, we don't actually have existing classroom space to do so.

I'd like to blame our sorry-ass Dem governor for this mess, but it is a national problem to which no one (save MD) seems to be responding well. I am curious, however, as to the view on the ground up at College Park. If only I knew someone up there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Children's Lit

Monday, October 12, 2009

On the Parenting Kick

While I'm on the parenting kick . . . let me just say that this is . . . I'm trying to find a family-friendly way to say it . . . the WORST thing I've ever read on the Intertubes. Surprise, it was on Slate!

So this guy doesn't like Eric Carle. For the non-parents out there, that's a bit like dissing Dr. Seuss. Carle has a much bigger posse than some Slate d-bag . . . and the best part is that d-bag's wife, who teaches youth reading, disagrees with him, and . . . he persists in his d-baggery.

"Um, I really don't know very much, and, um, I pretty much disagree with almost everyone, but, I hate some of the most loved children's books . . . ."

I just add: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?"

Brown Bear: "I see a d-bag looking at me. But don't worry, I mauled his hipster contrarian ass. I think he's dead."


Parenting Is a Walk in the Park

Sometimes it is.

Tiger Grrl

Sunday, October 11, 2009

GFW Channels Brooks, Lameness Ensues

Seriously, does George F. Will even effin' care any more? My guess is no. If you read his column this morning, which had something to do with how angry liberals are about speed "humps" and how that shows that . . . liberalism is a failure. OK. And he mocks liberals for liking "heirloom tomatoes," TWICE in the same column.

I guess Will decided to be like Brooks, visit Whole Foods, and write about his sociological observations. But he doesn't need to observe new events to know what he's known since the Ford administration, at least. So yet another GFW FAIL. Or GFWF.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

For Whom Nobel Tolls

It tolls for thee. (America, F*@ Yeah!)

Didn't see this one coming. Guess no one else did either. Not much original to say here. I had a number of spontaneous, pre-commentariat reactions all of which were covered in the commentariat reactions: really?!?; ok, cool; isn't this a little premature? oh, I get it, this is a "thank you for saving the world from George W. McCain"; hmmm. . . maybe it's deserved after all. What's most disconcerting is that Obama hasn't really had to suffer--in either chains, obscurity, or anticipation--for the prize. Just a normal day in the Obama household. "Good morning daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it's our dog's birthday." Who lives that life?

Then again, despite what the press tells us, his early accomplishments are pretty damned impressive: saved world capitalism, funded record investment in infrastructure and the environment, and restored rule of law in the world's most powerful nation by ending torture, secret prisons, and a lawless Justice Dept. He has done more to discredit global jihadist terror in just nine months than anyone alive. He has engaged friend and foe in diplomacy and renounced preemptive war. And, if you consider health care a human rights issue, he's on the verge of signing landmark legislation to extend and improve care to tens of millions. Not bad, even if we're not out of the woods on any of these issues. Rush said today that the world sees Obama as a "joke." True. On Rush.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'm Coming Up for Air

Soon. It has been a long month since I last posted. Nothing bad, just a lot going on, from APSA, to the beginning of the semester, to F getting sick, and on and on. Oh, also a major project at work.

Plus, I have grown weary of politics. The 'debate' today is so stupid that I feel that it, literally, a waste of time. I have been reading, even some good things.

So I am coming back. Soon.