Thursday, October 25, 2012

Friday Fragments

This piece on the implications for higher ed in the election is well worth a read.  Among other things, it helps to explain the thinking behind the abrupt cut in student lifetime Pell grant eligibility from 18 semesters to 12.  Apparently, Republicans wanted to cut funding for the program, and Democrats wanted to preserve the maximum value of a grant, so the compromise was to keep the dollar cap but reduce the number of students eligible.  


The Wife: You can be anything you want to be.

The Girl: Except a bird!


Workforce training matters, but the first order of business is getting the economy rolling.  When people go through programs with no job waiting for them on the other end, it doesn’t help much.  

In my darker moments, I wonder if some of the political consensus on training as the answer is a function of a sort of venn diagram; it’s one of the few areas of overlap between the parties.  The conservatives don’t want to stimulate aggregate demand, since that might involve a short-term sacrifice by their base.  And the liberals are too timid to push the full Keynesian treatment.  So we pretend that the employment freefall from 2007 to 2009 was a function of tectonic shifts in job skills, rather than the inevitable collapse of what amounted to a Ponzi scheme.  If the problem is unskilled workers, then we all know, more or less, what needs to be done.  If the problem is unregulated finance capital, then the political consensus evaporates.

I’m glad to support training programs in fields with genuine prospects for graduates.  But in fields with limited or negative demand, it’s hard to argue that the obstacle to prosperity is a lack of workers.  Any long-suffering adjunct knows that.


Since The Wife started working in the local elementary school, she has been coming home with stories about the things the kids there say and do.  

Yesterday at dinner she shared with us the way she says the Pledge of Allegiance in class.

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Ryan, look at the flag!
of the United States of America
Look at the flag! Over there!
And to the republic for which it stands
Get your hands out of your pants!
One nation, under God
Put that down!  
Indivisible, with liberty
Madison!  Hailey!  MADISON!!
And justice for all
Sit down, Tyler.  Sit down, Tyler.  Tyler?  Tyler!

There’s the pledge as written, and there’s the pledge as performed by a roomful of squirmy first graders.  

Somehow, the latter is more reassuring.  Any lit critters looking for a “reader response” exercise in its rawest form should watch some first graders in action sometime.