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Old 03-24-2009, 07:42 AM
 
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Why doesn't this girl attend a university that mirrors her political leanings? She'll be surrounded by people who agree with her and she'll feel more comfortable. I'm assuming she is a religious conservative. There are more than a few universities in this large country where she'll feel comfy.

It doesn't sound like she's cut out for a traditional liberal arts education.
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Old 03-24-2009, 07:55 AM
 
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
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Why doesn't this girl attend a university that mirrors her political leanings?
>> Would this not stunt her growth? I was at my most intellectually productive in more "hostile" environs. Such conditions provided for great stimulation and necesitated sound argumentation for each and every point.
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Old 03-24-2009, 09:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Sandpointian View Post
Hi Eee,
This is a follow-up to our earlier dialogue on another thread.

As a former university professor, let me assure you that the battle is two ways. The vast majority of students have an axe to grind, want nothing but to preach to the choir, and are insufferably thin-skinned when it comes to constructive criticism. Therefore, recommendation #1 is to prepare your child on the difference between logic and opinion BEFORE entering university. If you don't, there is a better than 50-50 chance that your child will never learn to differentiate over the four years, unless they wish to plunge into the crucible.

Recommendation #2: Teach your daughter the difference between the empirical school of thought and the school of a priori reasoning. The former is rooted in testable logic and assumptions which must stand the test of scrutiny. Professors in this category are scientists who tirelessly and humbly pursue truth via scientific revelation. The latter is all about arguing a tautology. Professors in this category are not interested in truth but by assuming the predominance of their truth and then "proving" it. Their "research" and "debates" are faits accomplis, and were over before they began.

Recommendation #3 is to actively deconstruct fields like law and the social sciences (econ, poly sci, etc.) into four components. Framing, logic/reason, interpretation, and application.

On Framing: most debates are over soon after they begin because one side seizes the advantage by framing the debate on their terms. Professors will do this, too. Recommendation #3a:Teach your daughter not to give up the initial advantage.

On Logic/Reason, this should be black and white. Cold-hearted analysis. In economics, this is where we bring in the heavy, physics & mathematics-based machinery or econometrics. Get your daughter to master these. Note, women are notoriously weak in this area. Larry Summers pointed this out and got body slammed by the politically correct...but he was spot on. Now, note what I am saying and what I am not saying. I am not saying that women are inherently weak in this area. They are not. My daughter just turned 11 and has learned the apply quadratic formula and complex numbers. She is not weak in math because we have made a conscious choice to make sure he is "strong enough" (beyond that it is up to her). Most women simply bail on the more logically rigourous fields. Recommendation #3b: make sure your daughter presses the professors focus on training her in technical/logical skills and to back off the political baloney.

Interpretation: This must be done with respect to the parameters established by the framing and by the logical analysis. Here is where the emotive types go nutty and cross the lines. They interpret not according to what they are "permitted" to say vis-a-vis their analysis but according to their own biases and convictions. I once attended a lecture at Harvard where one professor was trying to "prove" via hand-waving and graphs how the Reagan-Bush41 years were horrible. If anything, the lameness of his attempts made me question his overall approach and ability to do objective analysis. Recommendation #3c: Teach your daughter to keep her own logic tight. Once she is good enough, she will be able to better recognize the morons out there, left or right.

Application: No two situations, countries, problems, etc. are the same. Yet, those who are blind about their own convictions see universality everywhere. Recommendation #3d: make sure your daughter can fit the framing to the empirics on the ground. Takes work and is not easy. Many professionals cannot.

These recs are back of the envelope and off the top of my head. However, if your daughter follows these recommendations, she will be be free to utilize the university and set her own agenda...

S
Thank you for the well-thought-out response. I am surprised to hear you say most students have an axe to grind. I would have thought most would go along to get along.

It is great advice to teach kids to hold their advantage early when the debate is framed. I would bet most 18-year-olds wouldn't have the confidence to stand up and do that.

This thread was not for daughter, but for my daughter's friend. I don't worry as much for my daughter entering the school of business. It's more cut and dried, and the loonies don't really gravitate there.
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Old 03-24-2009, 09:46 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ben52284 View Post
And for homework, some logic:
[Students who die/drop out or otherwise suffer from binge drinking] is a subset of [students]; and I would hazard that it is a much greater subset than the one you described. Just a guess though... Describing a group as a subset of a larger group in no way proves the existence of the subset, nor does it give any indication of the size of that subset. There are many more prevalent concerns to worry about at college.
The only "proof" my daughter's friend needs are incidents reported by her friends who have been through it already.

But really, the bias can be benign and inconspicuous. The teacher may even be unwitting. Sample questions on an exam.

Q: List the programs FDR used which got America out of the Depression.

A conservative student might say:

A. What the hell are you talking about? FDR's massive social spending spree PROLONGED and WORSENED the Great Depression, and set into motion the entitlement mentality which pulls down our nation today.

or

Q: List the measures taken by George W. Bush to protect our country from terrorism.

A liberal student might say:

A. What the hell are you talking about? Bush's war against Iraq created terrorists where there were none before. We are in greater danger now than we were before 9-11.


I had a college history teacher who taught the stuff I'd learned from grade school through high school. FDR was great, Hoover was a failure, JFK was magical, and Nixon was a crook. Since I was apolitical then, it never occurred to me history class had had been a decidedly liberal take all the way through. It may not have occurred to the professor that his was a one-sided analysis. On the tests, I regurgitated this bias without batting an eye.

I don't know if this teacher was an activist or not. I didn't think about it then. He may have been teaching the default liberal worldview without thinking it through, a prospect which is even more alarming. Institutional activism is much harder to get around than is one activist teacher.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:08 AM
 
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As a college teacher I would also agree that a lot of students have an axe to grind: they've been told by their parents that their professors, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences, are going to try to indoctrinate them and punish them for giving the "wrong" answers in papers. So they expect a fight and go into the classroom very defensive: because I teach in Humanities, and because I'm female, I must be a certain type of person who's going to expect them to be a certain kind of person.

I teach plenty of freshmen and I see the hostile attitude many times; I have no interest in what a student's political opinions are, but rather whether they can articulate with good reasoning their point. The problem I encounter most often is that students don't know what their point is. Most fall back on time-tested strategies: "as a liberal, I believe..." or "as a conservative, I believe...." Their political alignment isn't relevant to the assignment, but they put it in anyway because they think it strengthens their point. It doesn't.

I'd be really happy if my students could just focus on coherence in their own argument rather than regurgitation of their parents' ideas, whatever their parents' ideas may be. That's the major struggle students face; they've grown up for 18 years hearing their parents' perspectives and don't necessarily have many of their own. Finding their own voice can be made harder by instructors who try to convince them one way or another, but I think that's the vast minority of professors. I believe the activist professor is largely a myth, as I've come across maybe 3 in my life. I also think that few high schools teach critical thinking, so students confuse indoctrination with a critical and deconstructive approach to a text or a subject. You should make sure that this young woman understands the difference and recognizes what a critical deconstruction looks like. She's going to have to do a lot of that, and if she can do it well, she'll succeed in class.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:11 AM
 
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
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axe to grind
>> Pop culture and pop media have made for a fast-food culture in ideas. Students on the left & right have bought into propaganda that pushes a priori simplicity over empiricism and rigour. The few that come in truly open minded and malleable are rarer than you can ever imagine.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:19 AM
 
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
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Violent Cello,

In my last term I had a female student who is truly brilliant. It is hard for me to believe she was only 18. She was wise to the world, a product of a fractured international marriage. Incredibly incisive. Great critical thinking skills in text and in voice. She is the type of student without whom I would have left years earlier.

I could not agree more with the notion that it is the institutionalized dimensions we face that are the hardest to overcome.
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Old 03-24-2009, 12:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sandpointian View Post
Violent Cello,

In my last term I had a female student who is truly brilliant. It is hard for me to believe she was only 18. She was wise to the world, a product of a fractured international marriage. Incredibly incisive. Great critical thinking skills in text and in voice. She is the type of student without whom I would have left years earlier.

I could not agree more with the notion that it is the institutionalized dimensions we face that are the hardest to overcome.
I love students like this! I can count, on one hand, the number of those I've had in 7 years of teaching. But they're always such a joy they can almost make teaching worth it. I don't think people realize how hard college teaching can be when you've got hostility coming from so many places.
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Old 03-24-2009, 12:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by violent cello View Post
As a college teacher I would also agree that a lot of students have an axe to grind: they've been told by their parents that their professors, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences, are going to try to indoctrinate them and punish them for giving the "wrong" answers in papers. So they expect a fight and go into the classroom very defensive: because I teach in Humanities, and because I'm female, I must be a certain type of person who's going to expect them to be a certain kind of person.

I teach plenty of freshmen and I see the hostile attitude many times; I have no interest in what a student's political opinions are, but rather whether they can articulate with good reasoning their point. The problem I encounter most often is that students don't know what their point is. Most fall back on time-tested strategies: "as a liberal, I believe..." or "as a conservative, I believe...." Their political alignment isn't relevant to the assignment, but they put it in anyway because they think it strengthens their point. It doesn't.

I'd be really happy if my students could just focus on coherence in their own argument rather than regurgitation of their parents' ideas, whatever their parents' ideas may be. That's the major struggle students face; they've grown up for 18 years hearing their parents' perspectives and don't necessarily have many of their own. Finding their own voice can be made harder by instructors who try to convince them one way or another, but I think that's the vast minority of professors. I believe the activist professor is largely a myth, as I've come across maybe 3 in my life. I also think that few high schools teach critical thinking, so students confuse indoctrination with a critical and deconstructive approach to a text or a subject. You should make sure that this young woman understands the difference and recognizes what a critical deconstruction looks like. She's going to have to do a lot of that, and if she can do it well, she'll succeed in class.

A couple of things:

Dan Rather scoffed at Bernard Goldberg's suggestion that CBS was in any way biased. Rather further said the NYT opinion pagee was "straight down the middle". I would bet a doughnut you have what most would consider partisan political views, and as such, you view professors pf the same mind as you as "middle of the road". This could explain how you've seen so few "activist" teachers. As I said, at least 20 Virginia Tech faculty members have written to the Roanoke Times expressing ideas associated with one end of the spectrum. All of them are activists by definition. And this is at one university.

I would guess you see many things in political terms and view any questioning as "students spoiling for a fight". I suspect most kids are completely apolitical as I was at 18. Of course you would see yourself as reasonable and non-activist. How many teachers would say about themselves they are unfair and allow their ideology to influence how they evaluate students? This is not a criticism, although it may sound that way.
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Old 03-24-2009, 01:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by DonnaReed View Post
It isn't self-evident at all.

But thanks for YOUR "interpretation".
What's your definition of an activist if you don't like mine?
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