Thursday, March 12, 2015


Friday Fragments

Arizona’s move to eliminate all operating funding support for community colleges was both shocking and not.  It’s the logical conclusion of a longstanding trend, surprising mostly in its speed and clarity.  And it even makes a kind of cynical sense.

My understanding of Arizona’s system -- admittedly, from an outside perspective -- is that it includes some local funding, so the colleges haven’t been entirely privatized.  But that’s obviously the direction they’re moving.  To the extent that they go from subsidized to self-supporting, they come to resemble private colleges, or even for-profits.

For-profits have a large presence in Arizona, including the headquarters (and football stadium) of the University of Phoenix.  Such outsize for-profit presence may signal to legislators that public higher education is relatively expendable, since they already have people for that sort of thing.  Yes, for-profits are far more expensive for students than community colleges, but from a legislative perspective, there’s a key difference.  Community college funding comes from local and/or state taxes.  Title IV federal aid plays an important, but supporting, role.  By contrast, for-profit funding comes almost entirely (just under 90 percent) from federal aid. In other words, while for-profits are more expensive, those higher costs are paid for by other people.  Yes, residents of Arizona pay federal taxes, but there’s no direct connection between how much federal tax they pay and how much Title IV money for-profits there can receive.  If the choice is between paying a small bill yourself and having someone else pick up a large one, I can see the appeal of the latter.

Of course, nearly every state could make a similar calculation if it wanted to.  To some degree, they already do; flagship state universities taking more out-of-state students for the sake of their higher tuition is a variation on the same logic.

The perverse upside of Arizona’s decision -- maybe this is just how my mind works -- is that it liberates the community colleges from wondering any more what the state will do.  A major variable has been eliminated from the equation.  Over time, that could lead to greater predictability.  After the bleeding stops, they’ll have more room to tinker with their own business models, without having to worry about the next round of legislative cuts.  

Forcing community colleges to become more like private colleges undermines community colleges’ reason to exist.  I suspect that for some legislators, that’s exactly the point.  Arizona has also effectively exempted itself from any future maintenance-of-effort requirements from the feds.  Maintain zero effort?  Sure...

From a longer-term, big-picture perspective, Arizona is eating its seed corn.  But as with eating seed corn, there’s a discernible short-term logic to it.    


The Boy: What’s sound?

Me: It’s a wave.

TB: So if time stopped, there wouldn’t be any sound, right?

Me: Probably not, since it couldn’t move.  

TB: But there could still be light, because that’s a particle!

Me: It’s a particle and a wave.

TB: It’s both?

Me: Yup.

TB: So if time stopped, it would just be...dimmer?  Because the wave couldn’t move, but the particle would still be there?

I didn’t have an answer for that.

The only thing that astonishes me about Arizona is that anyone lives or tries to raise a family there. Those state lines don't require passports.

This comment has been removed by the author.
If time stopped, particles couldn't move either.
If you want to stretch some young minds, play this with them:

A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments. Custom-built, open-source relativistic graphics code allows the speed of light in the game to approach the player’s own maximum walking speed. Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay. These effects, rendered in realtime to vertex accuracy, include the Doppler effect (red- and blue-shifting of visible light, and the shifting of infrared and ultraviolet light into the visible spectrum); the searchlight effect (increased brightness in the direction of travel); time dilation (differences in the perceived passage of time from the player and the outside world); Lorentz transformation (warping of space at near-light speeds); and the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light). Players can choose to share their mastery and experience of the game through Twitter. A Slower Speed of Light combines accessible gameplay and a fantasy setting with theoretical and computational physics research to deliver an engaging and pedagogically rich experience.
Another astonishing thing about Arizona is how many Californians are moving there:
The "freeing" of the Arizona ccs sounds like a component of Governor Ducey's evident intention of balancing the budget by slashing overall funding to education; my alma mater, ASU, is facing particularly drastic cuts. Not good times for my old compadres down there. Your seed corn analogy is apt.
Edmund: Those data might explain the new law. They raise their kids in CA and then move to AZ so they can stop paying any taxes.

Great question, TB!

Remind TB that light is a MASSLESS particle, so it only has energy when it is moving. This is consistent with Maxwell's equations, which do not allow for a stationary wave. The coupled electromagnetic fields that we call light or radio only happen if the fields vary with time.

So one could argue that time cannot stop if Maxwell's equations are valid, and without Maxwell's equations we would just fall apart. There would be no electromagnetic forces required to have atoms and molecules.

Or one could argue that it can stop while those equations remain valid, but you wouldn't see anything because ... time was stopped. Signals in your nervous system would not be moving either.

Finally, quantum mechanics would be very unhappy if particles stopped and had known locations and zero velocity. Electrons frozen in particular places around protons? Bzzzzt.

Side comments:
A photon's total energy is purely kinetic. Technically, the relativistic relationship says E^2 = (mc^2)^2 + (pc)^2 so E = pc for light. Here E is the total energy (kinetic plus mc^2), p is momentum (which is not mv for highly relativistic particles) and m is the invariant mass (which is zero for a photon).
Tell the boy that if a particle isn't moving it will be pitch black because we see when light hits our eye and if nothing is moving, nothing will hit our eye. That’s why you can look at a laser beam and not see it unless it is scattered (by fog or mist) or pointing right at you. The light is so coherent in a laser that from the side, none escapes to hit your retina and you don’t see it.

Does "brightness" exist if we can't perceive it? If you answer yes, than the level of light wouldn’t decrease if time stopped – we just wouldn’t be able to see it. If our perception determines if “brightness” exists you could say that it would be completely dark because light wouldn’t be hitting anything and you wouldn’t be able to see it.

Another related thing to think about - invisible men should be blind. If their retina is clear and light passes through it, they shouldn’t be able to see. Light is either bending around them or passing unencumbered through them making it impossible for them to perceive light. This is addressed as a drawback of invisibility in some science fiction and fantasy novels.

AZ has established itself as THE destination for crackers, so the folks who are getting a little tired of Cali being a functioning multicultural polity would view that as a positive.

It's a double-win; first the racists leave Cali, and then the racists get the fuck out of Cali.

Arizona has the largest "cultural generation gap" of any state. As a recent article from the Tucson Sentinel stated:

"The median age for non-Hispanic whites in Arizona is 45; for Latinos, who comprise 30 percent of the state’s population, the median age is 25. (The median age for African Americans is 30.) The state has passed some of the country’s most restrictive immigration laws. It also spends the least per child on education. (Vermont, which has the second-lowest racial age gap, spends the most per student, and has the lowest student-teacher ratio, according to the National Education Association.) When it comes to the number of children enrolled in preschool, Arizona is ranked 49th in the country. Twenty-six percent of the state’s children live in poverty."

Arizona's 18-and-under population was only 43% non-Hispanic white (Anglo) in the 2010 census, and that is likely to be lower now. Arizona's 65-and-over population, who vote in great numbers (mostly Republican; the Tea Party is big among this group) was 83% white in the 2010 census. That 40% difference is the "cultural generation gap."

In recent days The Arizona Republic has featured letters like this one:

"I keep hearing about the complaints regarding higher education and how Arizona State University is getting short changed on money. It is very similar to the complaints about public education.

How come nobody ever looks at the for-profit model at Grand Canyon University? Not only do they get no funding from the state taxpayer, but they are paying taxes! If you think it doesn't work, you may want to stop by and look at the growth of the campus. Not only has the school continued to grow, but at a fantastic rate at costs that compare to ASU (if not lower when adding in housing).

Maybe it is time to rethink our educational system and give credit to other schools for creating well-educated adults. There are many private universities and colleges in this town that don't rely on our tax dollars that produce exceptional education for the populace.

It's time to start giving them some credit too.

— Francis Fritz, Phoenix"

"With all the furor over the new state budget "short changing" the three state universities, it was refreshing to read what Grand Canyon University has committed to do for its surrounding neighborhool.

Somehow, in addition to paying taxes as a "for-profit" educational institution, GCU has committed to investing $700,000 to improve 700 homes in its immediate area. Perhaps it's that kind of free enterprise experience Gov. Doug Ducy is introducing to state government.

Len Huck, Scottsdale"

Apparently they haven't read the Arizona Republic articles about Grand Canyon University becoming a non-profit school.

Last week in Apache Junction, a Phoenix suburb, the school board, unable to get voters to pay more in taxes, voted to go to a 4-day school week next year and high school classes with 40 students each. A much larger suburb, Peoria, is considering the same thing, as are other suburbs where voters don't want to support local K-12 schools with their taxes.

Is it that their children and grandchildren are in other states or grown that they don't care? Is it that the current K-12 students, and increasingly, Arizona's undergraduates, don't look like these older voters?

Draw your own conclusions.
I have!

"My understanding of Arizona’s system -- admittedly, from an outside perspective -- is that it includes some local funding"

The Maricopa County district (which is the one I am most familiar with) for FY 14-15 had a revenue budget of
$774,136,932. Of that, $445,978,584 was from tax levy support (this includes the state appropriation). The state portion of that was only $7,409,500 or 1.66% of the total tax levy support and only .96% of their total revenue.

Now, a 2% cut to your appropriations budget is a big deal, don't get me wrong - I work at ASU and we're facing something similar - but tuition/fees/etc revenue still represents less than 40% of the total funding for that FY.
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