Later On

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U of Iowa embraces gender discrimination, big time

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Annie Brown reports how blatant discrimination against women in coaching positions has become the rule at the University of Iowa, with big rewards given to those who promote the discrimination. One gets so tired of this sort of outright unethical (and unpunished) behavior, which indeed happens to be illegal. Perhaps the Department of Justice can take some action. It’s already clear that the University will not.

On a spring afternoon in 2014, University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta called field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum into his office. She arrived early as always and settled into a black swivel chair at the conference table.

The way Griesbaum remembers it, one of Barta’s associates slid a stapled packet across the table that read: “University of Iowa Anti-Harassment Policy.” A player had come forward, Barta told her, and accused Griesbaum of being verbally abusive. The university was launching an investigation.

Over three meetings in a windowless conference room, investigators asked Griesbaum questions such as, “Did you ever drop the F-bomb in front of your athletes?” and “Did you ever tell a student athlete: ‘Watching you play field hockey makes me physically ill?’”

The accusations shocked the campus. Griesbaum had been the head coach at Iowa for 14 years and spent another eight years as assistant. During her years as head coach, Griesbaum led the team to four Big Ten titles and 12 winning seasons. The claims didn’t match her spotless reputation. This was a woman, after all, who had earned the nickname “Tidy” because of her PG language and sobriety.

In the course of the probe, investigators gathered more accusations. Among them: Griesbaum called a player stupid, pressured a student to play injured and once told a team member, “If I were you, I would kill myself.” Players said they had to go to therapy after playing field hockey under her, according to the investigators’ report.

In the end, the investigators said, “It is very concerning that several (student athletes) consistently described a team environment of fear, intimidation, and/or mistreatment by Coach Griesbaum.” But the report concluded: “There was insufficient evidence presented to substantiate a violation of university policy.”

Griesbaum was relieved. She met with Barta to discuss plans moving forward, and she returned to preparing for the season, which was just weeks away.

Three days later, Barta called Griesbaum back into his office. She was fired. Griesbaum says she never got an explanation. The university dismissed her without cause and paid her $200,000 for the termination of her contract. A university spokesman later said on Iowa Public Radiothat Barta fired Griesbaum to protect the students.

In response, the field hockey team published an open letter to the university asking for Griesbaum’s reinstatement. The team printed T-shirts that read, “We support our coach.” Alumni showed up to games with signs that read: “We apologize for Barta’s behavior! Help us reinstate #TG.”

Fueling this outcry was a growing concern that at Iowa, female coaches were losing ground. Barta had forced out five female coaches in six years. The place that was once a model for gender equity was starting to look a lot like the rest of the country. . .

Continue reading. It gets worse. And the University totally backs Barta because, after all, he’s firing women…

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2016 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Education, Law

Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away

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As I describe in this post, I was able to switch to italic handwriting by using it to take course notes, focusing on each letter in turn until I could write that letter well—writing at speed, and then (initially) taking care whenever I came to an “a” to make sure it was shaped well. Then, once I could easily make a very good “a,” I started paying attention whenever I encountered a “b.” And so on.

And it turns out that it wasn’t just my handwriting that was improved through taking notes by hand: my grasp of course material was also better than if I had used a computer. James Doubek reports at NPR:

As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there’s a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.

For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it’s so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.

In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how note-taking by hand or by computer affects learning.

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” Mueller tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that note-taking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative note-taking pertains to “summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping,” while nongenerative note-taking involves copying something verbatim.

And there are two hypotheses to why note-taking is beneficial in the first place. The first idea is . . .

Continue reading. The results described in the article are quite striking, and those who tend to trust science as a way to gain knowledge might well put away their laptops and bring out their notebooks for taking notes in courses.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2016 at 1:25 pm

Attorneys General Come Down on Accreditor of For-profit Colleges

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Annie Waldman reports for ProPublica:

Twelve state attorneys general have asked the federal Department of Education to revoke the recognition of the much-criticized Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

If ACICS loses recognition, the many for-profit schools that it accredits could be cut off from the federal student aid that makes up the majority of their income.

The letter cited reporting from ProPublica that found that students at schools accredited by ACICS were worse off than students at other schools. At a typical ACICS-accredited college, only 35 percent of students graduate, the lowest rate of any accreditor. The national graduation rate is around 59 percent.

“Even in the crowded field of accrediting failures, ACICS deserves special opprobrium,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter released on Friday, saying that the actions of the accreditor had “ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable students whom it was charged to protect.”

The letter comes in advance of a Department of Education review of the accreditor, scheduled for June.

Asked about the letter, ACICS released a statement saying they had not received it. They added that ACICS “looks forward to reviewing all public comments and defending its merits” before the review.

ProPublica’s analysis also found that even after leaving college, students at ACICS-accredited schools face greater struggles in paying off their loans. Within three years of leaving school, one out of five students defaulted on their loans. About 60 percent of students could not even pay down one dollar of their loan principal.

Accreditors are nonprofit agencies that are supposed to ensure college quality. To qualify for the government’s student aid programs, colleges are required to get an accreditor’s stamp of approval. For the many for-profit schools that rely on federal loans for revenue, losing accreditation would a deathblow.

But the agencies rarely revoke a school’s accreditation, even when a college is facing serious allegations. ACICS, for example, allowed Corinthian Colleges to keep its accreditation until the day the college chain declared bankruptcy. Under ACICS’ watch, the school received $3.5 billion in federal aid, despite investigations from more than twenty state attorneys general, the Department of Education’s inspector general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The attorneys general letter also stated that the membership of ACICS’ board and committees raised “serious questions about potential conflicts of interests and therefore ACICS’ ability to impartially evaluate those and other schools.”

As ProPublica has reported, two-thirds of ACICS’ commissioners since 2010 have worked as executives at for-profit schools while sitting on the council. And one third of the council’s commissioners came from highly scrutinized schools that had been subject to consumer-protection lawsuits, investigations by state attorneys general, or federal financial monitoring.

Corinthian executive Beth Wilson, for instance, joined the council a few months after the California attorney general filed suit against the college chain for deceptive advertising and misleading job placement stats. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 April 2016 at 1:45 pm

Pre-schools set in (and based upon) natural surroundings

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Fascinating idea—and apparently it works well, as indeed it should, given our evolutionary background.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2016 at 10:17 am

Posted in Education

The rise of the professional class and how it undermined the Democratic party

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A very interesting interview with Thomas Frank that explains a lot. The interviewer is Kathy Kiehly, and the interview appears at BillMoyers.com:

In his books What’s the Matter with Kansas? and The Wrecking Crew, writer Thomas Frank made a name for himself with his critiques of Republican politics. Now, he’s turning his eviscerating anthropological technique on the tribe of which he considers himself a member.

While the battle rages for the soul of the Republican Party, Frank sees Democrats in the throes of their own identity crisis. The one-time party of the working class has been co-opted by a hyper-educated elite, he argues in his just-published Listen Liberal. The book can be read as an argument that the anger propelling Donald Trump’s campaign is the product of short-sighted policy decisions made by Democratic technocrats.

By inveighing against the “professional class,” a meritocracy that, by his lights, is as rigidly status-driven and as averse to outsider voices as class based upon wealth, Frank is casting himself in the role of heretic. The author is from a family of Ph.Ds (his is from the University of Chicago in 20th century history and culture), and he’s a resident of Montgomery County, Maryland, a leafy Washington bedroom community where nearly 60 percent of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — twice the national average.

On Sunday afternoon, just before leaving on a book tour that will cross the country (including a few stops in his native Kansas), Frank took a break from weekend housecleaning with his family to discuss his book, his favorite (and least favorite) politicians, the pluses and minuses of higher education and his vote in Maryland’s April 23 presidential primary. The conversation has been edited for length.

Kathy Kiely: Your last couple of books took aim at the Republicans. This one takes aim at folks more ideologically of your ilk.

Tom Frank: It’s the Democrats.

Why?

Oh I think it’s just as interesting a story with all the paradoxes and ironies. All the things that make for a compelling political story. And there’s also a great question, that we’re all wondering in year eight of, you know, the “hope presidency,” which is why has inequality gotten worse? Why has it gotten worse under a Democratic president whom everyone assures us is the most liberal of all possible presidents, if not a socialist or a Kenyan communist, you know?

It raises the obvious question with this wonderful liberal president in office, why has inequality continued to surge? Why have the gains of the recovery been monopolized by the top 10 percent or so of the income distribution?

Are you being facetious when you say Obama is such a liberal?

Oh I’m sort of joking. But I think he is a liberal. What I’m getting at is that liberalism itself has changed and that the Democrats aren’t who we think they are. That’s the answer to basically every question you want to raise about them for the last 30 or so years. They aren’t who you think they are. Their unofficial motto is that they’re the party of the people. That goes back to Jefferson and Jackson. And it’s just not so. This is a class party. I think the Republicans are as well. The Democrats are a class party; it’s just that the class in question is not the one we think it is. It’s not working people, you know, middle class. It’s the professional class. It’s people with advanced degrees. They use that phrase themselves, all the time: the professional class.

What is the professional class?

The advanced degrees is an important part of it. Having a college education is obviously essential to it. These are careers based on educational achievement. There’s the sort of core professions going back to the 19th century like doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, but nowadays there’s many, many, many more and it’s a part of the population that’s expanded. It’s a much larger group of people now than it was 50 or 60 years ago thanks to the post-industrial economy. You know math Ph.Ds that would write calculations on Wall Street for derivative securities or like biochemists who work in pharmaceutical companies. There’s hundreds of these occupations now, thousands of them. It’s a much larger part of the population now than it used to be. But it still tends to be very prosperous people.

And how does that differ from who the Republicans are going after?

What I decided after researching this problem and reading a lot of the sociological literature on professionalism is that there’s basically two hierarchies in America. One is the hierarchy of money and big business and that’s really where the Republicans are at: the one percent, the Koch brothers, that sort of thing. The hierarchy of status is a different one. The professionals are the apex of that hierarchy. And these two hierarchies live side by side. They share a lot of the same assumptions about the world and a lot of the same attitudes, but they also differ in important ways. So I’m not one of these people who says the Democrats and the Republicans are the same. I don’t think they are. But there are sometimes similarities between these two groups.

Among other things, professionals tend to be very liberal on essentially any issue other than workplaces issues. So on every matter of cultural issues, culture war issues, all the things that have been so prominent in the past, they can be very liberal. On economic questions, however, they tend not to be. (dishes clattering) They tend to be much more conservative. And their attitudes towards working-class people in general and organized labor specifically is very contemptuous.

Where do you see evidence of that? . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the interview:

So what’s wrong with picking your cabinet from the top universities?

The problem is orthodoxy. One of the things we know about disciplines and especially academic disciplines is that they enforce a certain orthodoxy. And when you’re Barack Obama, choosing every single cabinet member from Harvard — you’re getting guys like Larry Summers, president of Harvard, to run your economic strategy, you are getting advice from a very limited slice of what’s available out there. But Obama always chooses orthodoxy. And so one of the points I make about the meritocracy — meritocracy being the ideology of the professional class — the idea that people who are on top are there because they deserve to be, because they’re the smartest, because they’re the best. One of the chronic failings of meritocracy is orthodoxy. You get people who don’t listen to voices outside their discipline. Economists are the most flagrant example of this. The economics profession, which treats other ways of understanding the world with utter contempt. And in fact they treat a lot of their fellow economists with utter contempt.

One of the things about a meritocracy, and this is a line I repeat many times in the book, there’s no solidarity in a meritocracy. The guys at the top of the profession have very little sympathy for the people at the bottom. When one of their colleagues gets fired, they don’t go out on strike. They don’t do that. This comes from personal experience. When academic labor force is becoming adjunctified, Uber-ized, whatever you want to call it, there’s no real protest from on high, from the leaders of academia. Here and there, yes people are very sympathetic and they feel bad about it but there’s no organized counter-effort. There’s no solidarity in this group, but there is this amazing deference between the people at the top. And that’s what you see with Obama. He’s choosing those guys.

I’m all in favor of government by expert. That’s very clear. You should have someone running something like the Department of Labor or the EPA or whatever, you should have someone who knows what they’re doing and knows what they’re talking about. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. But if you look at the Obama years at this meritocracy of failure — you know, with these guys at the Justice Department, they can’t figure out how to prosecute a Wall Street executive. They can’t figure out how to enforce antitrust. Or you look at the guys at the Treasury Department who are bailing out banks. This has been a disaster and it has been the best and the brightest who have done it. So you look at that and you start to wonder, maybe expertise is a problem.

But I don’t think so. I think it’s a number of things. The first is orthodoxy which I mentioned. The second is that a lot of the professions have been corrupted. This is a very interesting part of the book, which I don’t explore at length. I wish I had explored it more. The professions across the board have been corrupted — accounting, real estate appraisers, you just go down the list. But the third thing is this. You go back and look at when government by expert has worked, because it has worked. It worked in the Roosevelt administration, very famously. They called it the Brains Trust. These guys were excellent.

They gave us the best administration we’ve ever had, as far as I’m concerned. They were all highly educated, very intelligent people. They weren’t all from Harvard. Now Roosevelt himself went to Harvard and he had a number of advisers who did but his top advisers were drawn from all sorts of different places in American life. His attorney general, Robert Jackson, who he put on the Supreme Court — was a prosecutor at Nuremberg as a matter of fact — was a lawyer with no law degree. Harry Truman never went to college. Marriner Eccles ran the Federal Reserve — brilliant man, kind of a visionary; he was a small-town banker from Utah. Henry Wallace went to Iowa State, ran a magazine for farmers. Harry Hopkins, his right-hand man, was a social worker from Iowa. These were not the cream of the intellectual crop. Now he did have some Harvard- and Yale-certified brains but even these were guys who were sort of in protest. Galbraith: This is a man who spent his entire career at war with economic orthodoxy. I mean, I love that guy. You go right on down the list. Its amazing the people he chose. They weren’t all from this one part of American life.

By all means, read the entire interview. He’s got a very good take on the situation, IMO.

Here’s another passage, on why he’s voting for Bernie Sanders:

But yes, Bernie Sanders because he has raised the issues that I think are really critical. He’s a voice of discontent which we really need in the Democratic party. I’m so tired of this smug professional class satisfaction. I’ve just had enough of it. He’s talking about what happens to the millennials. That’s really important. He’s talking about the out-of-control price of college. He’s even talking about monopoly and anti-trust. He’s talking about health care. As far as I’m concerned, he’s hitting all the right notes. Now, Hillary, she’s not so bad, right? I mean she’s saying the same things. Usually after a short delay. But he’s also talking about trade. That’s critical. He’s really raising all of the issues, or most of the issues that I think really need to be raised.

The comments to the interview are also interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2016 at 12:23 pm

“Miles’ Styles”: Part 1 of the Miles Davis program by Nancy Wilson

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Also well worth a listen.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2016 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Education, Jazz

Creating cuisine from indigenous foods in Bolivia

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Carolyn Kormann has a New Yorker article that is fascinating reading for a foodie:

Look out the windows of Gustu, the most ambitious restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia, and you’ll see the city climbing up toward the looming peaks of the Andes in a lumpy, shimmering mosaic. You might experience a momentary dread, like the one that hits before a steep hike: you’re at the bottom of the bowl. But in La Paz the lower the elevation the better you feel. The city’s average altitude is twelve thousand feet above sea level, which means about a third less oxygen per breath. The lowest-altitude neighborhoods are the most desirable. In the one called Calacoto—where Gustu is situated, at 10,993 feet—quiet cobblestone streets are lined with embassies and the offices of N.G.O.s. Local kids pronounce rico, meaning rich or delicious, as an American would, without rolling the “r”—a Bolivian version of a Brahmin lockjaw. “In the U.S. you pay for the view,” a resident told me. “Here you pay for the oxygen.”

Gustu, housed in an imposing gray concrete cube with a bank of protruding windows, is both a restaurant and an experiment in social uplift. It was opened in 2013 by the Danish food entrepreneur Claus Meyer. At the time, his most widely known venture, Noma, in Copenhagen, had been named the world’s best restaurant for the third year in a row by a jury of international chefs, critics, and restaurateurs. Meyer’s sprawling food company had come to include an apple orchard, a vinegar factory, a coffee roaster, and a salmon smokehouse. “The total group suddenly went from earning a hundred thousand dollars a year to four million a year,” he told me recently. He was surprised, and a little uncomfortable. He had always been more concerned with things like finding “an unseen vinegar-flavor balance” or harvesting the uniquely succulent turnips of the Faeroe Islands.
In recent years, Meyer and René Redzepi, Noma’s head chef, have promoted an influential declaration of gastronomic principles: the “New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto.” The document has ten points, including pleas for using local ingredients (often highly obscure ones) and a call for “purity, freshness, simplicity, and ethics.” Making millions of dollars is not one of the points. “I got to thinking I could give a little bit away, in a nice way, without feeling poor afterwards,” Meyer said. He started a foundation called Melting Pot, which taught prisoners in Denmark how to cook, but that came to seem insufficiently ambitious. He wanted to fight against “McDonaldization,” and see if his philosophy of food could help lift people out of poverty. Maybe, he thought, eating sea buckthorn and gooseberries had “something in it for mankind.”
His first idea was to open an outpost in one of the troubled countries of southeastern Europe—Bulgaria, Greece, Romania—or possibly in Kazakhstan. He wrote to the European commissioner of agriculture to ask “if she thought there would be a poor country in Europe that would maybe benefit.” When she didn’t answer, he started researching other possibilities, looking for a poor (but not too poor) place with exceptional biodiversity and relatively little crime. He developed a ranked list and considered Ghana, Vietnam, and Nepal. Vietnamese cuisine was already too good, Meyer decided; all the great combinations of ingredients had been discovered. Then he hit on Bolivia. Though it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, it has, Meyer said, “a great undiscovered larder of fantastic products that people could be seduced by.”
Yet when Meyer visited La Paz, he recalled, he was “frustrated and depressed.” The altitude made him so sick that he brought an oxygen tank to meetings. “I would never take my family to live there,” he concluded. “You can’t even drink the water.” The average monthly wage was less than two hundred dollars, and most locals preferred to eat traditional Bolivian dishes sold at sidewalk stalls and markets; soups made with dehydrated potatoes or beef kidneys were popular. The tourist trade catered largely to backpackers looking for cheap hostels and coca tea. Meyer remembered thinking, “This can never happen. There is no market for this. We will have forty employees but no clients.” Then he descended to Calacoto and began to feel better. “We found a place in La Paz that looked as if it had some well-dressed people.”
He began planning a Bolivian equivalent of Noma: a “fine-dining temple” with an avant-garde tasting menu, composed entirely from indigenous ingredients. To advance his goal of “fighting poverty through deliciousness,” he would create a culinary school for disadvantaged youths. Meyer wanted to train a generation of cooks who would educate their communities and redefine the way Bolivians perceive traditional ingredients. “When you see kids in the slums growing up on white rice, potatoes, and white flour, all imported from another country, then getting diabetes before they turn twenty, something is wrong,” Meyer said. He formed a partnership with a Danish N.G.O. called IBIS, which had been working in Bolivia for decades, and started a Bolivian offshoot of Melting Pot. Each organization agreed to an initial investment of five hundred thousand dollars. To his critics, especially in Bolivia, the idea smelled like a Viking in need of a shower. Meyer shrugged them off
The cooks for his restaurant could come from the culinary school, he decided. But he needed a chef to lead the kitchen. He approached Kamilla Seidler, a thirty-two-year-old Dane who had worked in some of Europe’s top restaurants, including Mugaritz, a two-Michelin-star establishment in northern Spain that is known for such whimsical experiments as edible cutlery. To interview for the job, Seidler went to Meyer’s house and cooked for his family: four courses, she recalls, with a dessert built around passion fruit (“giving it the Latin touch”) and sorrel (“for some acidity”). She got the job, and in the next three years she was joined by staff members from Bolivia and half a dozen other countries. Her friend Michelangelo Cestari, an Italian-Venezuelan chef, was hired as Gustu’s C.E.O. “I’m extremely impressed with what they are doing down there,” Meyer told me. “And the fact that they have found—what do you call it?—peace. I think it changed their lives in a good way and not a strange way.”
Seidler might disagree about the strange part. To bring prosperity to the restaurant, she participated in a sacrifice of a llama fetus. She helped craft a recipe for quinoa Communion wafers and had them delivered to Pope Francis when he passed through La Paz. She hosted a lunch for families of Amazonian reptile hunters. Although she went to Bolivia planning to stay for a year, she recently bought a house next to a tourist attraction called the Valley of the Moon—an expanse of sandstone and clay that resembles a colossal sea sponge. “I feel like I’m in a Tarantino movie every time I drive home,” she said.

Seidler grew up in Copenhagen, cooking with her grandmothers, and got her first food job, in a bakery, at fifteen. From the start, she was implacable in the kitchen. When burglars broke into the bakery one day, she chased them off with a bread knife. At Gustu, she has the attentive look of a goalkeeper surveying the field; the anxieties of the job show only in her hands, which fidget constantly. She spends most of her time at work, but during off hours she reads about the local cuisine or flips through Danish thrillers or goes to the movies, occasionally by herself. One evening in La Paz, when a ticket-seller asked if she was alone, she retorted, “Would you like to accompany me?”

On a recent Saturday morning, Seidler drove her black Suzuki to a market in central La Paz. It was the day before a national referendum that would shut down the city, and shoppers jostled along the steep street, hurrying to gather provisions. Venders—mostly fierce-looking women with long braids and bowler hats—sat in stalls between heaps of Andean produce: watermelons as big as a bulldog’s belly, purple corn with kernels like gumballs, plantains the color of paprika. Seidler, dressed all in black, had her blond hair tied in a messy bun. She gestured at a stall where silvery trout were arrayed, without ice, in the hot sun. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” she said. “Or terrifying.” The vender smiled and started sharpening her knives.
When Seidler moved to Bolivia, in October, 2012, the street food made her sick, but she visited the market every day. Occasionally, she was reminded of something that Meyer had told her: “This could be the biggest career shortcut you’ve ever made, or the biggest mistake.” As she began to create Gustu’s first menu, Meyer gave her complete freedom. “He was just, like, ‘Make sure there’s a lot of acidity in the food,’ ” she said. Although she had prepared for her move by reading about Bolivian history, politics, and economics, she didn’t want to know anything about the food until she could see and taste for herself. She discovered a cornucopia. Bolivia, two-thirds the size of Alaska, is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, with more than twenty thousand documented species of plants. It contains an extraordinary range of ecosystems, from the alpine valleys and salt flats of the western highlands to the rain forest and wetlands of the eastern lowlands. La Paz, in the west, sits on the altiplano, a vast plateau whose altitude prevents many trees from growing there, leaving the wind free to rip across its expanse. Yet even the altiplano supports some hardy nutritious plants, including quinoa, amaranth, and cañahua, which Seidler describes as “quinoa’s little brother.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2016 at 5:17 pm

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