Saturday, January 7, 2006

The SOCCCD Match Game

by Red Emma
he recent spectacle of a right-wing born-again Christian Indian-American former Chemistry professor turned community college district Chancellor dressing up as the whimsically racist Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” seer “Carnac the Magnificent” offers to the willing seat-warmer in our stuffy Theater of the Absurd yet another opportunity to mine previously unexplored strata of irony, mystery and horror. As if having a Holocaust denier on the board, Creationists and homophobes in positions of policy-making, and a low-level dean who proposed (all on his own, bless his tiny little head) construction of a 700 million dollar entertainment complex on the campus (See) were not, well, enough already.

One weeps with despair and delight, as if peeling the world’s largest onion, a fragrant and generous bulb of paradox and incongruity, an organic life force. It is an impossible and rotten fruit. While trying to find its center one laughs and cries at the same time, simply overwhelmed at the fecundity and awesome pungency of it even as it disappears in one’s hand.

Hell, it’s like watching those people who, genuinely awed by M.C. Escher drawings, can be tricked into giving you their credit cards, cars, and young children. “Neat,” they marvel, “the way the fish becomes the chicken and then a gull. Neat-o!”

o, kids, here’s a fun game. In light of Chancellor Raghu Mathur’s unlikely moment of inspired or simply insane vaudevillian performance art, we know you’ll enjoy playing a game of modest subliminal political association and speculation, all for entertainment and more of the jolly sado-masochism so darn available here at Dissent the Blog.

Match the real-life district personality with the fictional, literary, or historical character you’d expect them most likely (and by that we mean least likely) to dress up as in, say, an official college function, e.g., the Chancellor's Opening Session.

Choose as many as you can stand.

Extra points for an essay answer in which you use the phrase “laser beam” or “fiscal conservative.”

Oh, and remember to bring your camera!

Warning: Any resemblance to characters living, dead or in administration is simply a realistic audio-video simulacrum powered by the work of the little hamster. You know, the one trapped on that treadmill now installed in your head courtesy of Human Resources.

Steven Frogue: Franz Liebkind, Aloys Shicklgruber, Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, Marshal Philippe Petain, Vidkun Quisling.

Dave Lang: Inspector Clouseau, Elmer Fudd, Polonious, Super Mario.

Don Wagner: Hamilton Burger, Newt Gingrich, Whittaker Chambers, Donald Segretti.

John Williams: Officer Krupke, Major-General Stanley, Sergeant Joe Friday, J. Edgar Hoover, Barney Fife.

Howard Gensler: Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Speer, Howard Roark, Conrad Hilton, Dagwood Bumpstead, Alfred E. Neuman, or Randall from “Monster’s Inc.”

Thomas Fuentes: Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Roy Cohn, Spiro Agnew, Tom DeLay, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Robert Schuller.

Dennis White: Betty White, Barry White, Macy’s parade balloon of Snow White, Dennis Mitchell.

Glenn Roquemore: Raghu Mathur, Thomas Fuentes, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd, the Horta, Ruff the Dog, Jackie Battley Gingrich.

Voting No Confidence with Confidence

he most recent edition of the State Academic Senate’s publication Senate Rostrum (this is a pdf file) contains some interesting articles, including

1. Critiques of the Accrediting Agency’s decision to pull Compton Community College’s accreditation. (The issue: most of the college was willing and able to function properly; the problem involved but a few administrators and trustees.)

2. A discussion of threats to Academic Freedom, referring to a recent address by the AAUP’s Marcus Harvey. (Harvey spoke at IVC regarding the same topic two years ago.)

3. An article about (California) Senate Bill 55.

You’ll recall that, in early December, Dissent reported that the IVC Academic Senate had voted to endorse this bill. (Legislating From the Stench)

But just what is SB 55?

Here are excerpts from an article in Senate Rostrum that explains the bill. The larger issue: in the late 80s, California legislators passed legislation (AB 1725, etc.) to empower faculty in the manner typical in colleges and universities, but they failed adequately to provide for implementation and enforcement. Hence, Boards of Trustees have been largely free to flout the law with impunity.

Our district's academic senates have been crucial in this regard, for they have taken our lawless board to court and have prevailed, forcing the BOT to give faculty its rightful role.

Creating a Uniform Response to Academic Senate Motions of No Confidence

by Jonathan Lightman, Executive Director, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges
_
… The …[community college system] has almost no ability to assure that the best, or even good practices for that matter, are met…[W]e’re left with 72 ma and pa shops (districts), each invariably sweet or sour depending upon their moods. Now it’s not that I have anything against small family businesses…but running large public agencies, like community college districts requires a different level of commitment. Management cannot pick and choose which laws to follow, and which to ignore….

[F]or over a decade, faculty members from across the state have justifiably complained that their districts have been summarily ignoring the prescriptions contained in title 5 §53200—the regulation defining local academic senates, and obligating boards to “consult collegially” with them through primary reliance or mutual agreement….

[W]hat’s to be done with a campus or district environment whose management-faculty relations have deteriorated? …[H]ere’s the rub: the very academic senates that have complained about being shut out of the participatory governance process, have also been foreclosed the opportunity to resolve tensions through further discussion. It’s a classic scenario—one side offers to talk, while the other states that “when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” …A motion of no confidence may be the only option on the table.

According to a CCLC study, between January 1994 and August 2003, there were at least 35 no confidence votes across the state. About 40% of these votes occurred because faculty did not have an appropriate voice in the decision making process.
…..
What’s occurring is painfully obvious. AB 1725 [(Vasconcellos) of 1988)] established clearly defined functions for local academic senates in the context of a complex higher education governance structure. While the mandates on the local senates are clear, the remedies for a district’s non-compliance don’t exist.

A complaint at a public or private meeting is only as good as the audience receiving the message. Going to court might compel a district to act, but it requires a lot of money and could be risky. The no confidence motion may be the only option.

That leads us to the most challenging question—once the motion of no confidence has been approved, now what?
…..
That’s why FACCC introduced SB 55 (Lowenthal)—legislation implementing a uniform process across all districts about how local governing boards must respond to motions of no confidence. When a local academic senate notifies a local governing board that a successful motion of no confidence in a campus or district administrator has occurred, SB 55 would require the local governing board to place the matter on its agenda at two meetings within a specified time frame. At the first meeting, the board would be required to inquire what happened to initiate the motion; and at the second, to determine whether there has been a resolution to the underlying problem, and whether technical assistance is needed.

…SB 55 is the first effort in recent history to provide local academic senates with the voice that was intended with the passing of AB 1725. Under the current structure, local governing boards can ignore motions of no confidence, preferring a deteriorated campus environment over the hard task of insisting that communication and dialogue occur to resolve underlying problems.
…..
SB 55 will come for a hearing in the senate education committee in January. Our legislative author, senator Alan Lowenthal (D – Long Beach), is committed to assisting FACCC with the measure. He is a former faculty member at California State University Long Beach who completely understands and agrees with the aims of the bill.

Phone calls and letters of support are needed to senator Jack Scott, c/o State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 445-5976. Please send copies to Senator Alan Lowenthal, and to FACCC at 1823 11th street, Sacramento 95814.

[All emphases are my own. --CW]

Note: Lightman may be correct that SB 55 is the first legislative effort "in recent history to provide local academic senates with the voice that was intended with the passing of AB 1725," but it certainly is not the first effort.

Perhaps that honor goes to our district's two Academic Senates, who took our lawless board to court and forced them to include faculty, as an equal partner, in developing a hiring policy. --CW

Friday, January 6, 2006

Friday wrap-up

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”

—Frank Zappa

1. DIVINE RETRIBUTION.
From the latest edition of Bob Park's "What's New?"

...Television evangelist Pat Robertson had previously called for hurricanes to be unleashed on sinful Florida, and told residents of Dover, after they voted out the school board, not to bother turning to God if disaster strikes, because "you just ejected him from your city."

Yesterday, Robertson suggested to his audience that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's Land." Meanwhile, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had already declared that the holocaust never happened and Israel should be wiped off the map, told a group of Muslim clerics that he hopes Sharon perishes.

[re a new & effective HPV vaccine:] ...[H]uman papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection in the U.S., and the cause of almost all cervical cancers. At least half of U.S. adults have been infected....

Nevertheless, New Scientist magazine quotes Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group: "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex."


2. THE MOLD MONSTER.
Reportedly, the private company that tested the environment of building A200 at Irvine Valley College has submitted its report to the college.

You'll recall that, a month or two ago, some biologist denizens of A200 tested the air in that building and found some truly nasty spores. Not long after, administration had the air tested and declared (reportedly) that the building (or just it's air?) is clean. The biologists, however, noted that tests of the air mean little re health threat. You've gotta test the surfaces too. These bio people are pretty good about things biological. Not so good on fashion.

Evidently, subsequently, another company (?) did more thorough testing--not just of the air, but of various surfaces, including A/C units--and its report is in (as of Dec. 5). Those who have read the report tell me that its results are "eye opening." No doubt, by next week, I'll be able to tell you exactly what the report found.

3. HALF OF THE HIGHLY-EDUCATED ARE, UM, BONEHEADS
Have you heard about the literacy study that was conducted by the "National Center for Education Statistics" (of the Department of Education)? The L.A. Times reported its findings:

When adults with higher-education degrees were asked to compare the viewpoints in two newspaper editorials...or interpret a table about blood pressure, less than half could do it successfully...Among the most significant findings is that among adults who have taken graduate courses or have graduate degrees, 41% scored as proficient, compared with 51% a decade ago." (12/16/05)

4. WHAT'S GOOD FOR GENERAL MOTORS....
My report on the "Chancellor's Opening Session" (Tuesday) did not include mention of the rest of that presentation, i.e., beyond Raghu's curious performance. So here's a little catch-up.

The keynote speaker was an economist from northern Idaho who makes his living assessing the impact of community colleges on local economies. Evidently, the results of his studies--which were instigated by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)--have consistently shown that community colleges are great for the local economy. The Spudster's company was asked to study OC in particular, and, as you know, the resulting report has been much balyhooed by Raghu and Co., who seem to think that it proves that our colleges are even better for the economy than are tax-breaks for George Argyros.

This expert--one Kjell Christophersen of CCbenefits, Inc.--sounded competent and knowledgeable. I'm in no position to assess the worth of his study. But isn't it a tad hinky for trustees nationwide to rely on the results of one research organization? And from friggin' northern Idaho? (They've got potatoes and that's it; I checked.) An organization that has much to gain by providing consistently rosy findings?

I have no reason to doubt Christophersen's conclusions or methods. But have none of the leaders of community colleges heard of the need for replication? What's the difference between Bushian "cherry picking" and the community of CC trustees relying on only one research entity? Tell me that! (I'm sure some of you will set me straight. Please do.)

Plus Dr. Christophersen's report and approach seem uncomfortably simpatico with that retrograde right-wing philosophy according to which students--conservative students, anyway--are consumers and colleges should give the consumer what he or she wants.

You might wanna check out the ACCT's website. (ACCT) There, the words "corporate" and "business" come up a lot.


5. WE'RE EVEN STUPIDER THAN WE THOUGHT
On Tuesday, Jim Gaston gave a fine presentation called "Reading & Teaching the iPod Generation." Essentially, he explained that we teachers are mostly in the Stone Age while our students live and breath all things digital. As Gaston put it, students are digital "natives" and we teachers tend to be digital "immigrants" at best.

He recommended that we teachers increase student "interaction"--online and in person. Plus we've gotta satisfy students' desire for "customization" and "personalization." This Gaston fella is a good speaker.

One thing though. What's an iPod?

6. HERE'S YOUR PRIZE
On Tuesday, I forgot to mention that about half of the audience (for the Chancellor's Opening Session) was asked to climb up to the stage to receive a prize. At one point, I do believe I was nearly the only person left in the audience. I waved.

7. FACULTY ASSOCIATION FEED-BAGGERY
I attended the FACULTY ASSOCIATION luncheon too. Highlights:

Lewis explained about some MOUs that dangle hideously from the rear end of the recently approved faculty contract. One MOU concerned the form used to evaluate instructors. The new one will be a big improvement, said Lewis.

The President of CCA (that's the higher ed part of CTA), Carolyn Inmon, gave a nice little speech about the "challenges" faced by the California community college system. She mentioned a "hidden tidal wave" of about 100K extra students who will be in need of remedial instruction. Evidently, these students won't be awarded High School diplomas owing to their failing a (very simple) exit exam. At the same time, the CFU system is giving to community colleges an increased roll (more specifically, a large cinnamon roll) in educating their students. So, as usual, the mission of the CCs is expanding in all directions.

Inmon, who resides in Irvine, inspired laughter when she engaged in snidery, as when she referred to the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Untested" program.

Later, Lewis underscored the importance of the next election, which includes races for trustee seats now held by Wagner, Milchiker, and Padberg. (Word on the street is that the FA PAC will recommend supporting Milchiker and Padberg and going after Wagner. That's little more than a rumor, but I hope it's true!)

Lewis also noted the agedness of faculty leadership and the importance of encouraging young faculty to step up to the plate. And, sure enough, I looked around the room, and it appears that, with few exceptions, denizens of the chow hall on that day had all received applications from the American Association of Retired Persons. --CW

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

THE CHANCELLOR’S OPENING SESSION: stinkeroo


"A little song, a little dance,
a little seltzer down my pants."


drove to Saddleback College this morning to attend the “Chancellor’s Opening Session,” which was held, as always, in the William McKinley Theater, just down wind from the Spiro T. Agnew Memorial Library.

“Where the hell is everybody?” thought I, as I drove into the nearly-empty parking lot and then trudged up to Fine Arts. I was relieved to find about sixty or seventy people drinking coffee and eating muffins. I spotted Dennis White and talked to him a bit. He said, “Where’s your camera?”

“D’oh!”

I spotted Howard Gensler too. I saw a rat turd.

After a while, we all took our coffee and muffins and walked past the “no food or drink” sign to enter the Theater and find a seat. I do believe that this was the most poorly attended “Chancellor’s Opening” ever—I don’t think there were even one hundred people in that big room. I shouted a coupla times to hear my echo. Walter spun around in confusion, and I snickered.

Soon, things got rolling. A woman named Cindy came up to the microphone to tell us that she was an IVC student and mother. Apparently, she was there just to introduce a speaker, and, judging by all her superlatives, I figured she was talking about somebody like the Pope or maybe Jesus. But no. Turns out she was talking about the Chancellor, an unaccomplished fellow who recently gave Trustee Lang a prize, evidently on the grounds that he, Lang, had spotted Raghu’s “excellence.”

It was a classic Raghu moment.

Right from the start there were technical snafus, e.g., somebody was shining a spotlight on Mr. Goo’s head, leaving everybody else in the pitch dark, but that was no good, ‘cause Raghu sought to identify all dignitaries in the audience, like he always does. He identified Trustees Lang, Padberg, and Milchiker, among others. Applause. Tedium. Raghuian baskage.

With Raghu, everything that seems to be about somebody else, is really about him. Remember all the fuss he made about the “One year tuition waiver” he would provide for victims of Hurricane Katrina? He was Johnny-on-the-spot, boy. In the district’s press release (Raghu rescues hurricane victims), Raghu proclaimed, “We are pledging to work with the Governor and legislators to make educational provisions for victims of this terrible disaster. The colleges want to make sure our fellow citizens can continue their education during the emergency.” Hmmm.

See me. Hear me. Feel me.

I made some inquiries. To date, a grand total of two students have applied for the waiver. But of course! This waiver thing wasn’t about them! It was about the Gooster!

Raghu next led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a pledge, he said, to “the flag of the greatest nation on earth.” Garsh. Anybody leading a pledge to that must be mighty important.

Dave Lang said a few words. He talked about the Board’s goals, especially “avoiding micromanagement.” He mentioned various spiffy construction projects, including the new IVC “Police Maintenance Annex” plus the Ronald C. Caspers memorial Mold Depository.

Lang briefly explained our district’s “basic aid” funding, which skims from local property taxes. The latter are kinda high, owing to high home prices (and County law-breaking) and so we’re swimmin’ in dough, but, said the Langster, we’ve gotta spend the extra moola on “one-time” projects. We don’t wanna grow dependent on this money, which might dry up real soon.

Dave was counting beans mostly, but he also talked about the need to avoid the “perception and instances” of micromanagement. He asked for our assistance in that regard. I think he said that we can call him any time. Or maybe he said we better not call him. It was one of those.

Raghu then popped up again in his spiffy new grey suit and snazzy tie. He did some more introductions. Apparently, Beth Mueller is now the district fiscal services person, replacing Katie Slavin.

Sheesh. Somebody better buy a calculator.

Raghu ploughed on. “I compensate for being short by giving long speeches,” he said, waiting for laughter. The audience laughed, but it laughed a tad too much, know what I mean? I spun around and looked at the people in the room. It was a friendly crowd all right. They glared at me. I glared back.

Do you remember when Raghu received 6.5% “confidence” from faculty back in 2004? Well, all 12 of those people were in the William McKinley Theater, laughing like hell.

Pretty soon, Raghu said something about Johnnny Carson and “Carnac the Magnificent.” Huh? What?

He then disappeared behind the curtain, and then, all of a sudden, the big screen displayed the opening of the old Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson. (Remember that music?) Then we saw a minute of Carson’s “Carnac the Magnificent” routine—you know, the one in which he held an envelope to his head and divined the answer to the question the envelope contains. The joke came when he read the question in the envelope:

Carnac (holding the envelope by his head, divining the answer to its question): “Piggly Wiggly.”

Ed McMahon: “Piggly Wiggly!”

(Carnac now opens the envelope and reads the question:) “Describe Kermit the Frog’s wedding night.”

Har har har!

OK, while that was projected on the screen, some guy—Ken Patton, I think—came out and proceeded to make like Ed McMahon, addressing the audience with his best “announcer” voice. Only there was a problem: his mike wasn’t turned on. (D’oh!) Plus: the volume of the video was too high. (D’oh!!) I cringed.

After Ken was clued in to all that, he spouted his lines again. “Welcome to the Tonight Show,” he boomed. He then introduced the “all-seeing, all-knowing…Carnac the Raghubansh!” (That flashed on the screen.)

With that, Raghu, wearing a fey powder-blue cape and some kind of swami headdress, emerged from behind the drapes and danced across the stage! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

But wait! It gets better! I was, like, the only guy in the room who wasn’t sitting up against the back wall. There I was, by myself, in front, near the right side of the stage. And so, to the accompaniment of hip hop music, Raghu danced across the stage and right up to me and—I swear—the fellow proceeded to flirt!

Good Lord!

I think he was waiting for me to stick a $5 bill in his pants, but I wasn’t goin’ there nohow. I very nearly bolted. Luckily, he soon turned around and headed for a chair behind a desk, while “Ed” sat over to his right, a la Ed McMahon. “You have come to the right place!” announced Carnac the Raghubansh.

Now, the idea was that Ed/Ken would introduce each of the district’s goals and then he and Carnac/Goo would go through one of these “Carnac” routines, and hilarity would ensue. That was the plan, anyway.

Raghu Carnac held the first envelope to his head. He pondered it and then gave the answer: “Just say ‘yes.’”

“Just say yes,” repeated Ed.

Carnac then tore open the envelope and read the question: “How can the board avoid micromanagement?”

Har har!

They continued:

The Answer: “Who knows? Who cares?

The Question (rip, rip): “Who will be the first ATEP president to greet the students?”

Hardy har har har!

The answer: “Limit TV to watching Board of Trustee reruns.”

The question (rip, tear): “What is the most effective behavior modification for children?”

D’oh! You’re killing me!

The answer: “At least two.”

The question (rip, rip, tear, tear): “How many Vice Chancellors does it take to plug in a light bulb?”

Stop it, I’m dyin’! Guffaw!!!

—Well, this went on for a while, and, like I said, the audience was pretty friendly, so there was laughter, but mostly, I think, people laughed ‘cause they couldn’t believe their friggin’ eyes and ears.

To Raghu’s credit (I guess), one of the routines poked fun at his inability to pronounce some letters. (It’s a good thing I’ve never attempted such pokage. Imagine!) Another one alluded to high employee salaries, and another spoofed the Board’s disinterest in planning. Plus, the envelopes were sealed, said Raghu Carnac, by “the Faculty Association.” Yuk Yuk.

Raghu and Ken did their best, but the jokes were lame, and, on several occasions, the order of questions and answers was reversed, or an answer went without a question. Sometimes, both the question and the answer were flashed on the screen before the routine started. And so on.

It was pretty bad. It was strictly stinkeroo.

As soon as that became clear, Tracy jumped up to take a snap! Then, with music blaring, Raghu danced back behind the curtain, and hilarity again ensued.

Soon, an almost sullen Raghu reemerged, sans costume. “I hope you liked that,” he said, sounding exactly like Elmer Fudd.

Well, speaking for myself, I’ve just gotta say “yes!” --CW

Sunday, January 1, 2006

CHOMSKY on Academic Freedom--an interview


ecently, I mentioned an interview of linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (M.I.T.) that appeared in an edition of the journal Thought & Action. (Chomsky interview Note: a pdf file)

Below, I offer a few brief excerpts of that interview. The headings and edits are my own (CW).

I have appended some related links. (I cannot resist highlighting one of them here:

On the stunning ignorance of Bush voters:
U of Maryland poll)

* * * * *
A NEW OPENNESS:

THOUGHT AND ACTION [T&A]: How would you describe the intellectual climate on the nation’s campuses…[especially after 9/11]?

CHOMSKY: In general, I think the campuses are like the country as a whole. [Ours]…is a very insular society. Most people don’t pay much attention to anything beyond…[our] borders.

But one effect of 9/11, which was very striking, was that there was enormous increase in people’s interest…in learning something about the outside world….

...People like me, who are giving talks all the time, can see it very dramatically. The number of invitations to give talks—political talks—shot up after 9/11. And audiences became much larger than they were before, all over the country. And the same is true of books…And that reflected itself on college campuses too….

THE EXTREMIST RIGHT-WING:

T & A: Were there other, perhaps different, reactions to 9/11?

CHOMSKY: There is an effect in the opposite direction, coming from an extremist, right wing that is trying to stifle discussion on campuses by imposing standards on what people are allowed to talk about. I think maybe 20 or so state legislatures are considering legislation—maybe some have passed it—…organizing students to monitor whether things that happen in the classroom meet the doctrinal standards of the right-wing extremists. A lot of this is focused on the Middle East departments…They’ve been more under attack than anyone, with the demand that they satisfy the orthodoxy of the doctrinaire right-wingers. [See The New McCarthyism in Academe (warning: this is a pdf file)]

These [right-wing] groups say they’re concerned about academic freedom, but it has nothing to do with academic freedom. It has to do with shutting down discussion…You can see that at Columbia right now, which is a striking case…. [See Debate on Academic Freedom]

WHO IS ACTUALLY HARASSED AT COLLEGES?:

T & A: What about the argument that conservatives are being discriminated against on the nation’s campuses?...

CHOMSKY: …[Conservatives] have not one particle of evidence for that. In fact, what they call “conservative”…[is really] “far right.” And it’s the far right that wants to discriminate….

Take one of the issues the right wing is focusing on, the claim that Israel’s right to exist is being threatened. [C. the recent right-wing worry that Christmas is under attack!] Is the right wing arguing that students and faculty who claim that Israel should have the rights of all other states are being silenced on campus? There’s an easy way to test that. And they don’t test it, because they know what the answer is going to be. Just do a poll of college faculty and see if more than .001 percent disagree with the simple proposition that Israel should have all the rights of any state in the international system. Everybody agrees with it.

The harassment on the nation’s campuses goes…[against leftists & radicals, not conservatives], and it is massive. Take Columbia University again. Edward Said, whom the right wing…hated, was subjected to ongoing harassment. He had to have police protection at his office, at his home. He had to have a buzzer in his home so he could call the police station. That went on all the time. I’ve been under police protection when I gave a talk on college campuses about the Middle East. But nobody’s complaining about that…. [See Wiki on Edward Said]

THE “THIEF! THIEF!” STRATEGY:

Actually, there’s a name for what the right wing is doing. It’s called the “’thief, thief!’ technique.” The idea is [that,] when you’re caught with your hand in somebody’s pocket, you point to someone else and…[shout], “Thief, thief!”...

The fact is, there has been extreme discrimination on campus, and very serious harassment, but it’s of anyone who questions the orthodoxy. [It’s] not against conservatives.

T & A: What is the orthodox consensus, what does it mean to deviate from it, and what are the costs of deviating?

CHOMSKY: The orthodoxy, as is usually the case, supports the U.S. government position. And the U.S. government position happens to be extremely rejectionist in the case of the Middle East. Since the mid-1970s, the U.S. alone has blocked the overwhelming international consensus that there should be a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question. And anyone who points out this rejectionist stance or wants to discuss it often faces serious harassment.

…The nation’s intellectual leaders are intimidated.

…I’ve gotten to know a fair number of the police on campus and…[in Cambridge] because they’re often present when there’s a talk on campus. And it’s not just me. It is anyone who deviates marginally from the overwhelming orthodox consensus.


IS OUR FEAR OF TERRORISM UNREASONABLE?
WHY ARE WE A TARGET OF TERRORISTS?


T & A: …[M]any Americans, including large numbers of our students, are afraid of the possibility of terrorist attacks being carried out against civilian targets—

CHOMSKY: I’m a lot more afraid than they are, because I’ve been reading and writing about it for many years before 9/11….

…What students ought to be taught is what the reasons are for…[the very real threats we face]. For example, they ought to focus on the fact that…[U.S.] government policy is…increasing that threat….

[T]ake the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. intelligence services…informed the President a few weeks before the invasion that the invasion was likely to increase the threat of terror. It wasn’t unique to U.S. intelligence; this was being pointed out by intelligence agencies everywhere. And…that turned out to be correct. It did substantially increase the threat of terror….

T & A: Aren’t a lot of institutions, even the government, using that fear to chill debate on these issues?

CHOMSKY: …[T]hat’s not just true of the U.S. government. In the first interviews I had after 9/11,which were a couple of hours after the terrorist attacks took place, one thing I pointed out…is that every power system in the world is going to use this as an excuse to increase repression if they’re carrying out repression, or to control their own populations…So the Russians used it to step up their atrocities in Chechnya, and Israel used it to step up its repression in the West Bank….

[O]ther governments that weren’t carrying out violent repression used it to institute things that they call “protection against terrorism acts,” or something like that, to discipline and control their own populations. That’s the way power systems react….

…But, as I mentioned at the outset, another of the effects—and a major effect—of 9/11 in the United States, was quite the opposite. It was to open people’s minds, to make them think they’d better raise questions about what’s going on in the world….

DEMOCRACY AND FREE INQUIRY:

T & A: You’ve written about how institutions like the press—and presumably the academy—are used to control the population and to thwart democracy. But you’ve also paraphrased [early 20th-Century philosopher] John Dewey as saying that education is one means of combating the undermining of democracy. [See "Media Control" (Chomsky on Dewey, Lippman, and Democracy)]

CHOMSKY: That’s what John Dewey was hoping: that education would promote democracy. So, yes, in a free society, universities ought to be, schools too, for that matter, should be places where…faculty and students are encouraged to challenge, question, press the borders of inquiry, to be completely open to challenging received and accepted ideas. In fact, that’s the way the sciences work. The sciences wouldn’t survive if that wasn’t the atmosphere. And it should be the atmosphere throughout education.

But when you get to areas that reflect public policy, the hammer comes down and you get repression of challenges to authority. As in the cases we were discussing.

T & A: What can concerned faculty and staff do to further democracy and the open debate that you’re talking about?

CHOMSKY: Our colleges and universities can do exactly what is done necessarily in the sciences, [namely,] encourage faculty and students to question, to challenge, to press the borders of inquiry, to be quite open to asking questions about established doctrines.

I’m not suggesting that nobody does this. Many people do it. But there is pressure to conform. Sometimes it’s extreme, as in the…attacks on the colleges that we were talking about before. But it’s always there, more or less.

I can give you plenty of cases from personal experience…where dissident questioning faculty were essentially informed that they’d better shape up and keep to doctrinal orthodoxy or they’ll be out. Anyone in most universities can tell you about this—and it’s done in subtle ways…. It’s not, “I’m going to kick you out,” but, “You’re lacking in collegiality,” or something like this….

T & A: Is the intellectual community on college campuses challenging orthodoxy and promoting open discussion?

CHOMSKY: It varies with the institutions. In the sciences, I think it’s done very well, as far as I can see…In the sciences, you have to…[challenge orthodoxy], or the sciences will die….

FOCUSING ON OUR OWN ACTIONS:

…All of us are responsible for our own actions. That’s the most elementary moral principle you can imagine. So therefore there should be a focus on our own actions—what they were, what they have been, what we can do about them, and so on. But, on the contrary, overwhelmingly…[examination and criticism of our own nation’s actions] is marginalized, put to the side, and when it’s brought up it does elicit considerable hysteria….

T & A: …[A]re you worried that the national security state will curtail freedom of expression?

CHOMSKY: Well, it’s going in both directions. There is greater and greater success in marginalizing people and in reducing the formal democratic system to empty forms. The November election was an example. Very few people even had an idea what the stand of the candidates was on issues. For example, a majority of Bush voters thought that he supported the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which is overwhelmingly supported by the U.S. population. [See U of Maryland poll]

That’s true in case after case, as careful studies have shown. All of that shows that the United States is becoming a kind of a failed state in which it has democratic forms but many pressures that converge to ensure its orderly function. That’s one tendency.

On the other hand, there are opposite tendencies: concern, engagement, openness on the part of the general public, and very surprising attitudes when you look at the polling results….

USEFUL & RELATED LINKS:

On Chomsky:
Wikipedia on Chomsky

On Academic Freedom and the so-called “Academic Bill of Rights”:
Wiki on Academic Freedom
Wiki on AAUP/Academic Freedom
Debate on Academic Freedom

On Edward Said:
Wiki on Edward Said

On the stunning ignorance of (Bush) voters:
U of Maryland poll

On Columbia U and attacks on its “Middle East” department:
The New McCarthyism in Academe (warning: this is a pdf file)

On Dewey and Democracy:
"Media Control" (Chomsky on Dewey, Lippman, and Democracy)

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary