Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Viewer Mail

I’ve received a number of thoughtful comments and emails recently. They’re good enough that they deserve a full response, rather than just a passing comment.

In response to my piece about shooting the hostage, Dictyranger astutely encapsulated the cross-purposes at which my college (and many community colleges) is working. We want to be low-tuition and high quality, open to all, with every program available to every student, without differential pricing by program, without plunging students into debt, without either flooding the market with graduates or leaving gaping holes in the labor supply, and without unduly burdening the taxpayers. No wonder we’re struggling!

As she points out, some schools abandon the low-tuition principle, some abandon the ‘every program’ principle, and some simply ignore the labor market (Ph.D. programs, I’m looking at you…). Assuming that the taxpayers aren’t exactly itching to pony up more money, and assuming that fundraising among alumni continues to lag (an annoying truth at the two-year level), my personal choice would be to abandon the goal of ‘comprehensiveness.’ I’ve made this argument before about midtier four-year schools; it’s only fair that I apply it to my own. Being all things to all people just isn’t tenable; better that we focus on the main goals, even if that means letting some of the smaller ‘nice to have’ programs fade away. Of course, implementing that is the hard part. The last time my college eliminated a program was in the 1980’s; the last time before that was never.

In response to my piece about a draft and its impact on colleges, RTO Trainer corrected a mistaken assumption of mine about stop-loss orders. Apparently, they can’t be repeated. He also asserted that a draft would require a complete retooling of the DOD, and would therefore be untenable. I’m not so sure. Yes, it would be politically unpopular, and yes, it would flood the forces with untrained and unwilling recruits. But I haven’t yet seen the Bush administration deterred from a bad idea simply because it was impractical.

Jo(e) mentioned that the teenagers in his/her world are obsessed with the possibility of a draft. A friend of mine recently asked me how I would react if, when he’s old enough, The Boy were to be drafted under similar circumstances. I didn’t sleep much that night.

Jubal Harshaw suggested using market mechanisms to fix the military recruitment shortage – if you pay them, they will come. Maybe. That’s already being tried, and it isn’t working yet. (It also, at least implicitly, worsens the class gap in military service, and relies on tax increases.) I think Jubal is on the right track, but I’d suggest a different angle. Using market logic, the younger generation simply isn’t buying the war. Perhaps we should stop producing it.

(And maybe, just maybe, if the military manpower shortage is so bad, we could stop kicking career soldiers out just for being gay. Just a thought…)

In response to the piece about The Girl’s birthday party, Russian Violets and The Wife left lovely comments. Thanks to both.

Honesty compels me to admit that Cold Spring Shops posted quite a snark about my piece on scheduling meetings in the summer. You make the call.

As always, thoughtful comments and emails are highly welcome. One of my purposes in blogging is to air out what ideas I have, and to glean ideas from other people. Feedback makes the whole thing worthwhile.