September 6, 2012

"The students who make it to us (and especially the ones who end up in schools like Harvard) have learned exactly what they have to do to succeed..."

"... and sadly, that often has very little to do with becoming educated.... Instead, it’s almost solely about figuring out what will be asked (in papers, tests, and other assessments), learning that material long enough to produce it when necessary, and then moving on to the next thing."

That's an article about the cheating scandal at Harvard. It made me think back to this statement from University of Wisconsin historian Bill Cronin, that "he felt his job as a professor was to make his students 'fall in love with the world.'"

What I like about about Cronin's statement, as opposed to the quote from the Harvard-cheating-scandal article, is that it's the professor taking responsibility and not putting the blame on the students. There's also something wistful and weird about what Cronin said. It's wistful, because it's a vision of a job that can't really be accomplished, even as you might admire the prof for thinking of himself that way. It's also weird because... fall in love... and with the world.... Why the romantic/sexual metaphor? (I know there are forms of love other than eros, but you don't fall into them.) And why is the love object the world, rather than the subject matter?

Cronin's a historian, so maybe the world is the subject matter for him, and in that understanding, the lawprof's job is to make students fall in love with the law.

Or is it: fall in love with criticizing the legal system? I've got a lawprof right here: Elizabeth Warren, the lawprof Senate candidate who spoke at the DNC last night and told the world that the system is rigged:
People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.
Not love. Anger.

She's a professor at Harvard, that place where the students have figured out what will be asked and learned just enough to produce it when necessary and then move on to the next thing. Which is to say: politics. Do you love it? It's the world and if it's rigged, is it possible that the professors and politicos are outside of the rigging?

63 comments:

hawkeyedjb said...

A Harvard professor who spouts the rhetoric of a sophomore. The Democratic party isn't for the children, it is of the children.

MadisonMan said...

The difficulty with students is that the quest for knowing beforehand just what is needed to know is so ingrained that it's hard to get them to learn something just for learning's sake! I teach an online class, and they ask me direct questions via email, and it would have been so much quicker and better for the student as a whole just to look things up themselves, but somehow there's this notion that they have to be told what they have to know.

So I understand Cronin's meaning exactly. A professor has to teach the kid to figure out how to look things up, and to discover the pleasure of learning things by accident when they're looking for something.

My inclination is that Elizabeth Warren is all about teaching the shortcuts.

Shouting Thomas said...

Thank God, you finally got around to that lying scumbag, Warren.

I only heard bits of her speech on the radio as I drove home from rehearsal last night, but I instantly thought...

Elmer Gantry!

Yes, the system is rigged. And Warren, the Injun imposter ought to know. She's one of the riggers!

The con artist who works herself into a lather condemning the other con artist is probably the most deplorable of liars.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

With regards to the cheating at Harvard, the students were cheating for their own personal benefit. The course was Introduction to Congress

In their defense, maybe they thought it was supposed to be a how-to course.

Methadras said...

Watching Clinton give his speech last night only in his awww shucks, good ol` boy on how Urkel save the universe by being the great compromiser only cemented the total lie of omission that Elizabeth Warren never told, that the system is rigged because government set up the system that way to be taken advantage of. That people in their ever increasing capacity to thwart the rules and find loopholes large and small, will exploit them because they see and know the inherent advantage to do so.

Expat(ish) said...

Funny, I had a prof who made me fall in love with the economics of public financing of bridges. A good prof can do that.

I had another one who spent the whole semester talking with us about the history of the meaning of literacy. Changed my world view.

They're rare, but I hope my kids seek them out. I want to take a history class from that guy!

_XC

AJ Lynch said...

Ugly angry jealous resentful describes the typical Dem voter's worldview and Warren and Obama.

Scott said...

"Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries."

Nobody in the United States calls them secretaries anymore. They're admins.

The rest of Warren's imagery is more than a little naff too. But that's the way progressives see the world. Maybe as a college professor she sees her role as teaching students to fall in love with the idea of being slaves.

ricpic said...

...make his students 'fall in love with the world.'

I'm hard pressed to decide who is more dangerous, a romantic artist or a romantic educator.

Nonapod said...

Rational human beings tend to take the path of least resistance. Ask yourself: What is the point of taking any college course? Is it just another task in a series of tasks to be completed to acquire a degree that will and hopefully lead to employment? I'm sure there are plenty of professors who would like to believe it's something more than that.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Rigged invidious-ism

A little different than yesterday's rouged individualism.

Tim said...

"It's the world and if it's rigged, is it possible that the professors and politicos are outside of the rigging?"

No, of course it isn't possible.

At the scene of the crime, of all the perpetrators, among the first set of fingerprints found are professors and politicos.

Even worse, in saying they'll fix the problem, they'll make it worse. Their rules don't work; it's why there are lobbyists in the first place: not to seek rents (to be sure, they do that too) but to keep the Gov't's d!ck out of their ass.

Marshal said...

The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.Not love. Anger.

And her solution to these subsidies and cronyism: we should create an all powerful agency to rule on what is allowable. Note the subsidies and cronyism remain, and when industry inevitably captures her agency the result will be worse.

The key to understanding bureaucrats, including wannabes like Warren, is this:

still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.

They don't have a problem with any of the cronyism, except who does the demanding. Her goal isn't to protect consumers. It's to flip the power arrangement so the politicians and bureaucrats can claim a larger share of cronyism's benefits.

Hagar said...

I do not understand why oil companies get "subsidies." It ought to be all one to them if we pay them at the pump or by tax breaks.
The only thing I can think of is that it makes oil artificially cheaper in the marketplace so that oil could look cheaper than alternative fuels to, say, the railroads and so encourage them to buy GE diesel-electric locomotives rather than coal burners, but then I think Congress gives compensatory "subsidies" and tax breaks to the coal industry too, so all this gets very confusing for me.
No doubt the lawyers of K-Street make money though.

The Crack Emcee said...

"The students who make it to us (and especially the ones who end up in schools like Harvard) have learned exactly what they have to do to succeed, and sadly, that often has very little to do with becoming educated....

Oh, baby, ain't THAT the truth,...

EDH said...

From Warren's words, you'd think there needs to be a change in administration.

hawkeyedjb said...

Do oil companies get subsidies? If they do, I'd like to write my congresspersons and express my disapproval. Could someone list the subsidies oil companies are receiving, so I can sound knowledgeable when I write to my elected officials?

dreams said...

Its looking to me like the USA could be on the downhill slide to a Roman Empire like fall. The whole culture seems to be sick and decadent and I heard one of the pundits say if we don't do something about the debt, the interest on it will be more than our current cost for all government provided services. The government is currently getting almost free interest rate loans because rates are so low, if interest rates rise before we get the economy growing we really going to be in trouble.
Some people who I respect are worried about a worldwide financial collapse.

CWJ said...

Ah yes, Wall Street CEO's. The all purpose boogyman. Which is more culpable, the executives who responded to economic incentive under threat from congress to keep lending beyond the point of reason, or the former politician who even after Wall street "reform" may have pissed away over a billion dollars of customers' money?

Yep the system is rigged all right, but by congress more than by the market. And Warren wants to be voted in to that club.

Christopher in MA said...

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.

And just how much did you pay in taxes last year, Fauxcahontas? Did you choose the line on the Massachusetts tax forms that allows "fair share" whiners such as yourself to pay a higher rate to that government you so worship? Or did you find a smart CPA to squeeze every last dime out of your refund?

Darrell said...

The can deduct expenses--like every company can do. Rules about depletion allowances and such were approved a long time ago and apply to all businesses that deplete their mineral reserves/stocks.

dreams said...

Plus, the students are just gaming the system as people do. People learn the unwritten rules so why wouldn't "The Best and Brightest" do the same and why would anyone be surprise. I blame the system, the whole culture.

rhhardin said...

Somewhere Kenneth Burke analyzes the eros of teaching.

I don't find it offhand. I would have guessed The Rhetoric of Motives.

Matthew Sablan said...

Oh, the many times during a college group study question that I was told: "We don't need to know that, it won't be on the test," and the part inside me that loved learning for learning's sake died a little.

Shouting Thomas said...

Do oil companies get subsidies?

I don't know.

When I speak to lefties, they seem to be pissed off about oil companies writing off the normal costs of doing business and buying equipment.

John Lynch said...

It seems the Harvard course was badly taught.

When a mutiny happens, it's the fault of the officers. When a cheating scandal of this magnitude occurs, one has to wonder what the professor was doing with his time.

traditionalguy said...

Warren is a poor excuse for a politician. She has risen to her level of incompetance teaching lies over at the Harvard Affirmative Lying School.

Politics today rewards blunt truth and not her brand of sweet loving,but obvious, lies.

X said...

I find it amazing that this fraud wants to regulate everyone but herself. Where is her accountability?

John Lynch said...

And yes, Elizabeth Warren is a hypocrite.

If she felt the system was rigged against her because of affirmative action then she should advocate abolishing it now that she has the power to do so.

Otherwise, she's a coward.

cubanbob said...

Warren's entire career and personal wealth is predicated on gaming the system. As for Harvard, billions in endowment that pay no taxes so the privilidged few like Warren can earn hefty bucks and benefits. It's time to tax Harvard.
Oil companies provide a needed and indispensable product.
Warren and Harvard,not so much.

cubanbob said...

Warren's entire career and personal wealth is predicated on gaming the system. As for Harvard, billions in endowment that pay no taxes so the privilidged few like Warren can earn hefty bucks and benefits. It's time to tax Harvard.
Oil companies provide a needed and indispensable product.
Warren and Harvard,not so much.

edutcher said...

The initial quote merely describes the learning curve. If students are improperly socialized so they're unwilling to do the work and would rather cheat, it would seem to be the fault of both the parents and the educational system.

As for falling in love with the subject matter, a good teacher will make it interesting and accessible. There are many "teachers" who are anything but good.

Finally, in the matter of the Loathsome Dove, she made a point of hitting all the demo talking points. I don't doubt for a minute she's one of Zero's mentors now that Frank Marshall Davis is gone.

SteveR said...

Well if there's "rigging" going on its far more likely to involve something with the government. So a bigger government role in society means more rigging. Its learned behavior.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I know there are forms of love other than eros, but you don't fall into them.

Another post begging for the nonexistent-but-needed "Althouse puzzled by common parlance" tag.

bagoh20 said...

What needs to change is the idea that getting credentialed is "success".

At best it means you put your shoes on, but you still haven't done anything yet. The degree is only for your self-aggrandizement. Getting it doesn't require doing anything for anybody else. You haven't created anything useful, or hired anyone, or advanced your community. If people thought more about what they will do of value after school, they might take learning more serious. Employers should care what you know, not what papers you have been handed, and that's not all hard to discerning, but you can't get it from transcripts. You need to test them yourself. You can't trust a system rewarded for volume over quality.

Ken Green said...

I certainly disapprove of outright cheating, but this quote from the article simply reflects incentives of graduate programs that lead to any meaningful career prospects:

“Instead, it’s almost solely about figuring out what will be asked (in papers, tests, and other assessments), learning that material long enough to produce it when necessary, and then moving on to the next thing.”

I was pre-med at UCLA for a while, and I can guarantee you that everyone there knew that to succeed, they had to be ruthlessly grade-seeking missiles.

After awhile, I found I didn't have the fire in the belly for medicine, and was, frankly, too interested in subjects that were tangential to the pre-med curriculum, so after the undergrad, I went into biology / environmental science & policy instead of pursuing medicine.

But there was no question at all about what you had to do if you wanted to get into med-school: you had to grind, beg, wheedle, and argue every single point you lost on every single assignment in every single class.

As detrimental as that was to one's education, it was also degrading, I think, to the human spirit, and selected for people who elevated ruthlessness over scholarship or classroom-camaraderie. Which might explain why so many of our physicians seem to lack humanity, but that's another discussion.

carrie said...

I would love to see how she grades her law school exams.

carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elkh1 said...

"Harvard, that place where the students have figured out what will be asked and learned just enough to produce it when necessary..."

That was how law student Obama passed thru law school, and was unable to hold a decent job or made a real decision.

"Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies."

Was Solyndra an oil company? Petrobra? BP?

Wall Street CEOs like Goldman Sachs' Corzine, Geithner?

"no shame" Yes, from the mouth of the self proclaimed 1/32 Cherokee woman, lately crowned the Most Dishonest Injune in Harvard.

Suckers, I mean parents, fork over their entire life savings to let that Injune woman and her ilk brain wash their young. Indecent.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

In my first college career, I was within two quarters of a Comp.Lit. degree when I melted down. All the prospects of a career based on that degree were at best unattractive. I came to the painful conclusion that my degree would be based on an ability to bullshit, and nothing more. I dropped out.

Some years later I began to pursue an engineering degree. What a difference-- you cannot bullshit your way through an engineering degree. If it's in the book, it's on the test.

Because of my experiences I have come to regard the typical humanities education as trivial, better suited for a hobby than a career.

I have no doubt that Teddi Fishman's conclusions apply to a school like Harvard, whose aim is to select and favor the cream of the bullshitters. I would suggest Fishman must come to a different conclusion about, say, MIT.

PatCA said...

The statement about the system being rigged -- breathtakingly cynical. This from the woman who is all in with the Stimulus slush fund, the Solyndra rent seekers.

I was stunned when I heard it. I thought she was just a dim do-gooder. She's kinda evil.

Freeman Hunt said...

This and the emphasis on teaching approval seeking, are the biggest reasons that we homeschool. Institutional schooling so inculcates these habits that they are very difficult to escape later.

They have eaten away some potentially great intellects I knew in school.

dbp said...

You hear this kind of thing from leftists all the time, but when you question the claim they really have nothing to back it up.

"Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies."

--These claims always boil down to the fact that oil companies (just like every business)calculate income after expenses.

"Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries."

Sure, that is because we don't tax wealth, we tax income. Billionares make most of their income from long term cap gains which are taxed at 15% The rate is lower than normal income because there is the risk of loosing value and any gains are taxed first at the corporate rate of 35%.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

dbp said...


"Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries."


When I heard Warren say that, I went back to Netflix. This dictum was promulgated by Obamite and crony capitalist Warren Buffett. IIRC, neither Buffett nor his secretary released their tax information so this could be verified. The truth is as dpb has it.

rehajm said...

I do not understand why oil companies get "subsidies."

Like Darrell said, many of these 'subsidies' are tax expenditures (tax 'breaks') most every other type of businesses receive- write down of capital equipment, salaries, lease expenses, R&D (exploration), etc. Ironically, many of the tax breaks they receive are for developing and manufacturing alternative fuels like ethanol.

Moreover, oil company margins are relatively small compared to other types of manufacturing- 5-6%, or even less. And since the US has a national security interest in producing it's own sources, and since oil is a globally produced product, oil companies may chose to invest in drilling and exploration elsewhere should the profit math works better somewhere else. It gets complicated, and it's not as easy as Warren and the Dems make it out to be. Chalk it up to more ignorance about how market economies work...

rehajm said...

"Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries."

Only if you don't count the corporate tax said billionaire paid before considering his personal return. Which you can't do.

Or, if said billionaire believes it shouldn't count, then we shouldn't be collecting the corporate tax in the first place.

Hagar said...

Someone above here is on to it:
Elizabeth Warren's beeef is that she wants to be the one to do the rigging.

Peter said...

"students have figured out what will be asked and learned just enough to produce it when necessary"

I don't understand why anyone should be surprised that students (just like everyone else) respond to incentive systems. Or that the smartest students tend to be better at this then dullards.

If you are teaching and you want your students to behave differently then change the incentive system so it aligns better with learning.

But, please, don't complain that students did what you rewarded them for doing. What did you expect?
____________________________________

As for cheating, the instructor has some responsibility to make it reasonably difficult to cheat. That doesn't excuse cheating, BUT if you leave valuables visible and unlocked on the street you shouldn't be surprised if someone takes them.

And, you're likely to find that if you make it reasonably difficult to cheat then those who do cheat will be suckers, as the reward for cheating is likely to be less than the reward for spending the same amount of effort on learning.

At least, my experience in school was that successful cheaters might win a few points here and there, but overall cheating was not enough to prevent them from flunking out.

Peter said...

"students have figured out what will be asked and learned just enough to produce it when necessary"

I don't understand why anyone should be surprised that students (just like everyone else) respond to incentive systems. Or that the smartest students tend to be better at this then dullards.

If you are teaching and you want your students to behave differently then change the incentive system so it aligns better with learning.

But, please, don't complain that students did what you rewarded them for doing. What did you expect?
____________________________________

As for cheating, the instructor has some responsibility to make it reasonably difficult to cheat. That doesn't excuse cheating, BUT if you leave valuables visible and unlocked on the street you shouldn't be surprised if someone takes them.

And, you're likely to find that if you make it reasonably difficult to cheat then those who do cheat will be suckers, as the reward for cheating is likely to be less than the reward for spending the same amount of effort on learning.

At least, my experience in school was that successful cheaters might win a few points here and there, but overall cheating was not enough to prevent them from flunking out.

SJL said...

A well-known self-destructive cycle of democratic behavior has been attributed to an eighteenth century historian by the name of Alexander Tytler. Whether Tytler is the original author or not, the concept of democratic self-destruction has been proven accurate, right here in America.

“From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”

Methadras said...

Does no one realize that Warren Buffet's secretary, oh, uh, sorry, personal assistant, makes $500k a year? Also, since when does Buffet pay less as a percentage of his income than his secretary that makes $500k a year. He may pay a lower percentage, but I assure you that it far exceeds her total income by an order of magnitude at the least.

Clyde said...

"The system is rigged" in favor of affirmative action frauds like Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren, who got her job at Harvard (and previous academic jobs as well) because of spurious claims to American Indian ancestry. This woman is a FRAUD, and she was a prime-time face of the Democrat party last night. Some people (and some parties) have no shame!

'Nuff said.

John Lynch said...

Freeman Hunt-

Total agreement. I get kids at the restaurant who don't have the initiative to drive pizzas around on their own. They spend time asking the managers what to do, and when not directly supervised instantly start fooling with their phones. They can't work for more than two hours before they ask to go home. They've learned how to survive boredom and conformity, but not how to overcome them.

It's... sad.

PatCA said...

Well, universities and young students have been at odds for centuries. It's in the inescapable nature of both.

David said...

Cronin is a brilliant geographer-historian, an original thinker who has found ways of seeing and explaining the past that are quite original and striking. There is no PC bullshit in his best books. He's not trying to make contemporary political points. He has respect for his audience and his subject matter.

Warren's "scholarship" is nothing without its political content and message. She has not only used PC affirmative action to get ahead, her entire world is based on a political narrative that feeds the predilections of her audiences.

She's third rate, Cronin is first rate.

Lindsey Meadows said...

Shouting Thomas said...
"When I speak to lefties, they seem to be pissed off about oil companies writing off the normal costs of doing business and buying equipment."

....with specially designed depreciation rates, depletion rates applying to their reserves, pass ons so that refinning is a money "loser" although we are at capacity and of course the $10-52 billion in direct subsidies, special tax breaks, etc. might account for something...whadda think? just maybe?

just guessing here.

cokaygne said...

By now, i'm sure lots of people have told you it is Cronon, not Cronin.

He is one of the greatest historians. His "Changes in the Land" really changed my views about the history of my native New England.

Europeans and Native Americans had totally different views of the land and how it should be used, and both did use it. New England was not a pristine wilderness in 1620 as Cronon makes clear, but without strident rhetoric or demonizing anyone.

Cronon's history of Chicago and its impact on the landscape of the midwest, a region that I do not know at all was another masterpiece.

Every New Englander should read Changes in the Land and every midwesterner should read Cronon's history of Chicago. Every American should read both not only for the history but also for Cronon's non-judgemental and non-pedantic writing of history.

cokaygne said...

By now, i'm sure lots of people have told you it is Cronon, not Cronin.

He is one of the greatest historians. His "Changes in the Land" really changed my views about the history of my native New England.

Europeans and Native Americans had totally different views of the land and how it should be used, and both did use it. New England was not a pristine wilderness in 1620 as Cronon makes clear, but without strident rhetoric or demonizing anyone.

Cronon's history of Chicago and its impact on the landscape of the midwest, a region that I do not know at all was another masterpiece.

Every New Englander should read Changes in the Land and every midwesterner should read Cronon's history of Chicago. Every American should read both not only for the history but also for Cronon's non-judgemental and non-pedantic writing of history.

hawkeyedjb said...

Lindsey, could you specify those " $10-52 billion in direct subsidies, special tax breaks" so I can complain appropriately to my elected officials? I don't want to sound stupid and just throw out big numbers in large ranges. I'd like to tell them exactly which subsidies and special tax breaks I want to get rid of. Can you list them for me?

bgates said...

the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them

Annotated that for you, Fauxcahontas.

Kirk Parker said...

"Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies."

Althouse needs a new mega-bullshit label for this nonsense that Fauxcahontas is peddling.

The Godfather said...

I find the Harvard cheating scandal very sad, and I hope it's not true. I particularly hope that it's not true that new Harvard students enter with the cynical view that they are there to get their ticket punched and not to learn. So it doesn't matter if you cheat.

I went to Harvard, Class of 1965. Everyone I knew was a naif like me. We wanted to learn something, or a lot of somethings -- or we wanted to drink and whore around and have a good time. But I don't remember anyone who was as cynical and as OLD as the cheaters that are described in that article.

I didn't see people like THAT until I graduated from law school and moved to Washington.

jeff said...

The oil companies, as others have stated, are subjected to the same tax rules as other businesses. Now back under either carter or clinton, I forget which, we decided the oil companies didnt need those deductions, cause they had so much money and were evil and all. It then became cheaper to import oil rather than to produce it domestically so the percentage of imported oil, and our dependence on outside producers increased. Which is the reason they got those deductions again. The so called subsidies, much like the yacht tax that also was only going to hit the super rich, had unintended side effects that were far worse than what those taxes were to cure. For some people though, taxing rich people and oil companies far outweigh the actual results. If you could guarantee full employment at good wages, but in return billionaires wouldn't pay a dime in tax, some would still rather tax them. (not saying that not taxing rich people would give us full employment, just saying that if that was the trade, some would still rather tax.) I fully expect some sort of luxury tax on big ticket items to pop up again. Maybe on the personal jets. See if we cant kill those domestic manufacturers.