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“The Great College Coddling”: Reasoning With A Three Year-Old Is Pretty Much Like Bargaining With A Cat

It’s been twenty years since I started hearing alarming tales from a friend who supervised a day care for hospital employees’ children. She said that for the first time in her considerable experience, the pre-school children of medical professionals were pitching full-scale hissy fits — hitting, kicking and even biting their parents, without being effectively disciplined.

She said it was common to see grown men and women — doctors, nurses and technicians — on their knees reasoning with three and four year-olds going ape over stuff like juice boxes and peanut butter sandwiches. My friend said the same kids most often settled down and behaved as soon as their parents were out of sight. When it’s nap time, it’s nap time.

Now reasoning with a three year-old is pretty much like bargaining with a cat. If you’re lucky you might eventually bore the little scamp into submission. Thankfully, this particular folly has been largely confined to the educated classes. Truck drivers and short-order cooks know better.

More recently, however, police in posh communities have begun arresting parents for crimes like allowing their children to frequent playgrounds on their own. Apparently my entire childhood, and that of my forty-something sons, was one long serial crime. I used to cross them at the corner and let them walk several blocks to the Billy Mitchell Boys Club on their own. They learned a lot down there, not all of it on the day care curriculum.

Judging by the popular press, it appears that many of those toddlers, coddled and cosseted all their lives, have now enrolled in college, where confusion reigns. It appears that the faculty and administration of some of our most esteemed institutions of higher education have found themselves pleading with the little beggars on their knees.

Item: At Brown University last year, administrators fearful that student anxieties might be “triggered” by a debate about campus “rape culture” set up a “safe space” to recuperate from the stress of hearing heterodox opinions. According to Judith Shulevitz in the New York Times, “the room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.”

Evidently a couple of dozen students hid out there during the debate — the wonder, I suppose, being that the event took place at all.

Item: At Emory University, students pronounced themselves traumatized by “TRUMP 2016” chalked on campus sidewalks. Demonstrators chanted “Come speak to us, we are in pain!” until the university president agreed. Emory, incidentally, is located in Atlanta, GA, a state likely to be carried by Trump come November.

Item: English literature majors at Yale University objected that a required class in “Major English Poets…creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.” Reading Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and T.S. Eliot was deemed oppressive.

“We have spoken,” they demanded. “We are speaking. Pay attention.”

My response would be simple: You don’t want to read Shakespeare, then find another major. What did you think English Literature was going to be?

No snarky newspaper column, however, could possibly prepare you for Oberlin College as depicted in a fascinating piece of long-form journalism by Nathan Heller of the New Yorker.  

Displaying more patience and curiosity than a person of my inclinations could muster, Heller depicts a campus with an admirable history of social activism in perpetual turmoil from ethnic and sexual controversies so arcane and self-referential as to defy parody.

A sophomore demands a trigger warning on Sophocles “Antigone.” (Suicide) Asian students object that the Chinese food is “inauthentic.” (Imagine that. Second rate Sichuan cuisine in small town Ohio!)

Among black students’ fifty “non-negotiable demands” is instant tenure for a writing instructor who says that Jews are responsible for 9/11; also that the college free itself of all remnants of “imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.”

Ain’t that a mouthful?

I think what it means is that most of these kids would be better served at a school with cute cheerleaders and a decent basketball team.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Colleges and Universities, Higher Education, Social Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Dems Can Peel Off GOP Voters”: The Birth Of The Left-Wing Wedge Issue

Here’s a little datum that may have slid by you: Gallup has just found that on social issues, the country is now equally split between liberals and conservatives. The question was: “Thinking about social issues, would you say your views are” very conservative, conservative, liberal, or very liberal?

And the answer came back: Grouping the first two into one category and the last two into another, it was a dead heat at 31 percent each. This is pretty close to seismic. Just five years ago, the conservative edge on social issues was 39 to 22 percent. Now it’s totally wiped out. The implications for our electoral politics are obvious and enormous, and I mean good-enormous.

I’m not sure when people started using the phrase “wedge issue.” But we’re all sure what wedge issues are: They’re cultural politics issues used in elections by the right—and always only the right—to drive a wedge into the liberal coalition. Nixon did it expertly, even though the phrase wasn’t in use back then. Reagan did it well, cleaving so many working-class white ethnics away from the Democratic Party. George H.W. Bush and Jim Baker did it—remember Willie Horton (race was the original wedge issue). And Bush the younger and Karl Rove expanded it out to include guns and gays.

And now, Gallup is suggesting to us, the era of the wedge issue may be over.

But wait! Why should it be over? Maybe it’s time for some liberal wedge issues! I like the sound of that a lot.

Gay marriage was a great wedge issue for Dubya and Rove in 2004, as you’ll recall. They got anti-gay marriage initiatives on the ballot in 11 states, many of them key swing states; studies have tended to find that in Ohio, which Bush carried and which was the difference between victory and defeat in the Electoral College, the initiative did goose evangelical turnout a bit (and remember, Bush won the state by just 118,000 votes out of around 5.6 million cast). It may have also helped him win more African Americans than he would have otherwise, hence the wedge.

Well, in 2016, same-sex marriage can be a wedge issue again, but this time, for our team. The numbers are now so decisive that surely in the key swing states with the bushels of electoral votes, the likely Democratic candidate can cast shame upon the head of her opponent. In Florida, support for gay marriage was 57 percent a year ago, and it’s probably a little higher now. In Ohio, support-to-opposition was 52-37 in 2012, and that’s surely higher now. In Virginia in 2013, support registered at 56 percent. The issue isn’t a loser in any important swing state, with the possible exception of North Carolina, which of course is just icing for the Democrats anyway.

How could Hillary Clinton and her party use this, exactly? That gets a little harder to say. The thing that makes a wedge issue a wedge issue is that, historically anyway, it’s been about fear. The blacks are coming. The gays are coming. The anti-gun nuts are going to be pounding on your door, warrant in hand. As has often been said, it’s the best motivator in politics.

The crucial psychic element of fear-mongering is that you have to persuade the majority that some minority is “taking over” and they, your majority, will soon be the trampled minority unless they act. That’s what gets the blood cooking in the old amygdala. (What?! Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize amygdala?!) Conservatives are much better at this than liberals are, and in any case, if liberals tried this it just wouldn’t make sense or work. Everybody knows that the anti-same-sex-marriage side is losing fast, so fear is a non-starter here.

No, the psychic ingredient of the liberal wedge campaign has to be something else. And of course it has to resonate with people on some level, be in tune with what they’re actually thinking. So, what are people (not just liberals, but average, quasi-informed people) thinking about conservatives right now? I’d suggest it’s that they’re just out of it. Out of touch with the times. Holding us back.

Certainly this is so with respect to same-sex marriage, although the problem is hardly limited to that by a long shot. One issue I’d really love to see Clinton and the Democrats plop down smack in the middle of the table this election is the way conservatism today just strangles opportunity for middle-class people, and for young people in particular, in the name of their messianic tax-cutting.

TPM ran a great piece Friday on how the Republican governors who are running for president are destroying their higher-education systems in the name of cutting state income taxes and never, ever raising another tax of any kind. Bobby Jindal has cut taxes six times in Louisiana, which has produced a $1.6 billion shortfall. To plug the gap, he’s cutting higher-ed funding by as much as $600 million, which is 82 percent of state higher-ed aid. Scott Walker’s half-a-billion dollars in tax cuts in Wisconsin have led to a $2 billion shortfall, so he’s slashing higher ed by $300 million.

These, too, are wedge issues, if you ask me. Republicans send their kids to college too. Yes, they like their tax cuts. But I would assume that they don’t like whopping tuition hikes, or their kids having to drop out of college altogether, any more than Democrats or independents do. If the Democrats can connect these dots in the right way—on this and a whole range of Warrenesque “household economics” issues—they can peel off a decent chunk of voters who have been traditionally Republican.

Republicans will still roll out their wedge issues, but it seems that the pickings are pretty slim. Fear just isn’t selling. To borrow from A.J. Liebling’s nice line about sweet Louisiana corn, fear just doesn’t travel well anymore outside the right-wing base. Muslim-bashing may be the exception to that, but even that won’t work without a triggering event of some kind. Republicans might actually have to talk about issues. Which of course is even worse for them.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 26, 2015

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Higher Education, Wedge Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Juicy Target For Budget Cutters”: To Balance Budgets, Governors Seek Higher Education Cuts

Governors in nearly a half-dozen states want to cut state spending on colleges and universities to help close budget shortfalls, often sparking vehement opposition among state lawmakers of both parties.

Republican governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the coming fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

But students and their families already are being squeezed by steadily rising college costs. In fiscal year 2013, schools got about 47 percent of their revenue from tuition, up from about 24 percent in fiscal year 1988, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has suggested a tuition hike to compensate for the cuts, but the Republican governors are urging the schools in their states to find the necessary savings by trimming bureaucracy and consolidating campuses.

University officials argue that past budget cuts have pushed them to the breaking point, forcing them, for example, to rely heavily on adjunct professors and teaching assistants instead of full professors. During the recession, 48 states cut higher education spending. Alaska and North Dakota didn’t. They are the only two states spending as much or more on higher education than they did before the recession, when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

Some critics have urged the Republican governors to roll back recent tax cuts to spare the colleges and universities. But so far the governors have balked, arguing that lower taxes have helped working families and attracted businesses.

Nowhere is the controversy greater than in Louisiana, which has a complicated higher education system and a Republican governor who is considering running for president.

Governor Bobby Jindal proposed a budget that would reduce higher education spending by $141 million in fiscal 2016. In recent weeks, he has proposed offsetting some of the cuts by getting rid of some refundable business tax credits, which have a total value of $526 million. But the business community is strongly opposing that idea. That leaves the Republican-dominated legislature in a bind, forcing members to choose between education and low taxes, two priorities they generally support.

State Senator Conrad Appel, a Republican, said in an interview that if the higher education cuts Jindal proposed all go into effect “it would be really serious” and a big blow to colleges and universities. He said he wants to scale back the proposed cuts, but wasn’t prepared to say exactly how.

“If we vote to replenish, some of the cuts will be mitigated to some extent,” he said. But, he noted that the Louisiana public university system has “structural inefficiencies” that will mean more budget cuts in the future. He said he told college administrators last week that they should take steps to cut their budgets, whether that means consolidation of campuses or other methods.

“What I don’t recommend is for higher education to ignore the opportunity to fix the problem,” he said. “Either they are going to fix it or we are going to fix it for them and they won’t like it.”

Robert Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, said that since Jindal became governor in 2008, the number of full-time employees at state colleges and universities has decreased 23 percent due to budget cuts, and that schools have been raising tuition along the way. But now, he said, “they are about to price themselves out of the market.” He said the flagship school, Louisiana State University, “still has some headroom” to continue tuition increases, but most of the small schools in the state system don’t have that luxury.

John Griswold, a fine arts professor at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, said his state is a test case for cuts to higher education.

“The conditions in Louisiana were perfect for testing an assault on state-funded higher education,” Griswold said. He noted the state has a conservative governor, legislative rules that preclude cuts in most spending except for higher education and health care, and an economic downturn prompted by the drop in oil prices.

“Similar conditions exist in other states, so conservative politicians elsewhere can also demand deep cuts to higher ed, based on populist appeals to ‘good business’ and an end to ‘welfare mentality,’” he said.

Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a potential presidential candidate who has cut state income and property taxes by $541 million during his tenure, has proposed cutting $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system.

According to Walker, that amounts to a 2.5 percent cut, but other analysts have put the figure as high as 13 percent. The fact-checking service PolitiFact split the difference, assessing the reduction at about 6 percent. The cut would be exacerbated by the fact that there is a tuition freeze in place.

“Through flexibility and empowering current leaders from across the system, (University of Wisconsin) System and campus leadership will have the tools necessary to deliver a high quality education in a strategic manner while saving taxpayers $150 million a year,” Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said.

Meanwhile, two Republican state lawmakers have called for changes in the governor’s budget that would lessen the cut, including raising out-of-state tuition and requiring the university to spend down reserve funds.

“We will work toward a smaller, more manageable cut instead of the $300 million cut proposed in the governor’s budget,” the two, Reps. Dean Knudson and John Nygren, said in a press release last week.

In Illinois, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner recommended a reduction of nearly 6 percent in direct spending on state colleges and universities. Despite the cut, Rauner argues that “this budget proposal continues to offer state support to our public universities” through contributions to the universities’ retirement system and insurance benefits for university employees.

But Rauner faces strong opposition from the Democratic-controlled legislature and from the state’s universities.

Senate President John Cullerton said on his Facebook page that the governor’s budget cuts will “undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families” and vowed that the legislature will amend it. While Rauner has proposed cuts in a range of areas, the education chunk is drawing the most attention.

In Arizona, the Republican-led legislature went further than Republican Governor Doug Ducey in cutting higher education, agreeing to a $99 million cut, down from an earlier legislative proposal of $104 million. Ducey had proposed a $75 million reduction as a way to pay for business tax cuts. Universities and proponents of higher education fought the governor’s cuts so doggedly that they prompted a backlash in the legislature, which upped them.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow called the action a “drastic remedy to the state’s budget troubles” and one that will come back to haunt the state when it has fewer college graduates contributing to the state’s economy.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy proposed cutting $10.6 million from the University of Connecticut system and an additional $20.6 million from the state’s regional universities. Malloy has expressed support for tuition hikes, after several years of urging that tuition merely keep pace with inflation.

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback since 2011 has pushed through a 25 percent reduction in the state’s top income tax rate, lowered sales taxes and eliminated a tax on small-business income. As a result, state revenue has declined by $685 million. Brownback now is looking to make cuts in education and elsewhere in an effort to balance the books.

Walter McMahon, professor emeritus of economics and education at the University of Illinois said cutting higher education to close budget gaps is “very, very shortsighted.”

“Spending on education is really an investment,” McMahon said. “As money is invested in human capital formation, each graduate is in the labor force for over 45 years and contributes increased earnings and tax revenue to state coffers.”

He added that statistics show that more educated people live longer, healthier lives and commit fewer crimes, allowing states to spend less on health care and prison costs.

 

By: Elaine S. Povich, The National Memo, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Governors, Higher Education, State Budgets | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lifetime Framework”: The Devastating, Lifelong Consequences Of Student Debt

America has gone through a rapid social experiment over the last 20 years. We have created a system, in large part through public disinvestment, where our young people take on large amounts of student debt in order to achieve a college degree. The sea change has been so quick it’s been difficult to gather even basic, solid numbers on it, making the consequences of such massive student debt subject to intense debate.

A new report from Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution has further fueled that debate, arguing that the conventional story of escalating debt burdens due to student loans are overstated. Even though the number of young households with debt has increased from 14 percent to 36 percent between 1989 and 2010, the percentage of monthly income those people put toward their student debt payments is largely the same. Even though student loan debts are going up, they’ve been accompanied by rising incomes, largely balancing out the burden. The focus shouldn’t be on student loans broadly, and instead on more targeted solutions like focusing on those who drop out of college but still have debt.

But this study, like many arguments along these lines, suffers from a major problem: It focuses on a month-to-month comparison. When we look at the effects of a major economic changewhether it’s government debt, taxes, or replacing a system of publicly funded free colleges with a system of debt for a diplomawe can’t just look at what immediately happens. We need to also consider how people behave in the long run. And when we look at student loans from the point of view of a lifetime, the results are more worrisome.

How could this matter? An infamous study on student debt by Jesse Rothstein of the University of California, Berkeley, and Cecilia Elena Rouse of Princeton looked at the results of a highly selective university replacing loans with grants. It concluded “that debt causes graduates to choose substantially higher-salary jobs and reduces the probability that students choose low-paid ‘public interest’ jobs.”

Let’s imagine two scenarios. In the first you have high student loans, so you work for a corporation in the private sector for high wages. And in the second you have virtually no student loans, and you work for less wages in a job focused on the public interest, say as an educator or at a nonprofit. In both cases your student loan payment would be the same as a percentage of your income. The Brookings result would hold. However your lifetime choices will have radically changed as a result.

We see this with other lifetime measures, such as how entrepreneurial people are. A recent study by Brent W. Ambrose of Pennsylvania State University, and Larry Cordell and Shuwei Ma of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, found “a significant and economically meaningful negative correlation between changes in student loan debt and net business formation for the smallest group of small businesses.” This makes sense. You can keep your high student loan burdens low if you stay with an established employer. But if you strike out on your own, you’ll have less and more volatile income when you start. This is harder to manage with student loans, which also impacts your credit rating. Again, we can see the short-term student loan burdens staying the same, even though lifetime choices are much more limited as a result.

The lifetime framework also puts front and center something the Brookings study largely hand-waves: the rapid increase in how long people are paying off their student debt. Though the percentage of income that student-loan debtors pay stays the same, the length they are paying those loans is up 80 percent. What was once an average length of 7.4 years in repayment in 1992 is now 13.4 years. All things equal, a large increase in the length you will be paying student loans means you will dedicate a larger portion of your lifetime income to student loans. This burden goes missing by narrowly looking at a month-to-month basis.

This has major consequences for people’s ability to build wealth. Indeed, much of the current energy in analyzing student loan burdens are looking at this longer dynamic, and how it interplays with the ability for people to amass savings. As Richard Fry of Pew found, using the same data set as Brookings, “households headed by a young, college-educated adult without any student debt obligations have about seven times the typical net worth ($64,700) of households headed by a young, college-educated adult with student debt ($8,700).” Fry also finds that those who took out loans are less satisfied with their financial situation compared to people without loans. Similar results have been investigated and found by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

This, in turn, has major consequences for how young people will ultimately transition into adulthood. According to Dora Gicheva of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, student debt decreases the long-term probability of marriage by a significant amount. In a result that should make social conservatives gasp, Gicheva found that an additional $10,000 in loans decreases the probability of marriage by at least 7 percentage points. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that young student debtors are retreating from those traditional markers of adulthood, homeownership and owning a car. These effects reflect the long-term consequences of student debt on a young person’s economic security just as much, if not more, than their monthly bill.

This system of student debt has happened so fast that proper analysis is hard to do. But what’s most interesting is research showing how student debt threatens fundamentally American ways of life. Student debt chips away at the ability to be a risk-taking entrepreneur, a homesteader who has amassed enough wealth to be self-sufficient, or someone who has dedicated their craft to working in our rich civil society. These are three very real versions of the American Dream, and contrary to what studies like Brookings’s might show over the short term, they are all being weakened by the way we saddle young people with student debt burdens.

 

By: Mike Konczal, a Fellow with The Roosevelt Institute; The New Republic, June 24, 2014

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Higher Education, Student Debt | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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