Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What the Cal State Gambit Says about Public Education Costs

Recently the California State University announced that unless a referendum passes that will partly restore their funding levels, they cannot afford to admit more students. So they won't. They're going to freeze admissions.

Think about what that says. Populist rhetoric would have you believe that the reason the costs of education are rising because universities are gauging students. I often hear my students complain about the costs of their education (the university I work at has the lowest tuition in its peer group). They believe that these costs are simply a result of feckless professors and administration gauging the students because they can. But in a world where state support for public education is dropping fast, in large part because the same politicians who use and encourage this populist view are arguing that they have to punish the professors and administrators for the rising costs by cutting funding further.

In response public universities have tried to keep tuition costs down. But the result is now that every new student that comes in the door of the universities represents a loss. That is, it costs more to educate that student (especially in a Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) than their tuition covers. I've talked to lots of professors in various colleges, disciplines etc and they all tell the same story. Tuition doesn't even cover half of the costs of operating the program. The populists will tell you that is because professors costs more. But here's a secret. Tuition never covered costs - ever. Public education was always subsidized by tax money and private education was subsidized by charitable donations and endowments.

That the CSU system sees freezing enrollment as a viable budgetary strategy tells you that cuts to public education have gotten so bad that the universities can no longer afford to keep operating unless they get more money from the state or dramatically increase tuition to the point where most of their students couldn't afford to attend.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Terrorism in Toulouse

While the French media ask how a man who was under surveillance managed to amase a weapons cache, I have a bigger question, one that I am sure the French will be asking themselves once the memorals are over and the bodies burried: What social forces push these people toward delinquency that would land them in jail to be radicalized? Did this young man, and his brother who seems to also be radicalized, feel marinalized? These are questions we ask every thime there is an attack.

Toulouse is heavily populated with Pieds Noirs, North African born French who are often resented in France, or at least noted as something “Other”. Mohamed Merha was French, born of Algerian immigrants. This also made him an “other”. And being "other" in France means exclusion. The French media focuses on his troubled teen years, his delinquency, and even refers to him as the “madman”, but that is just too easy. Madmen aren't born. They are made. They are products of their homes and communities.

Toulouse is a agriculture region that, true to form, votes conservative. Le Pen or his party reps usually do pretty well in conservative Southern France. However, in the last elections, the socialists took the Midi-Pyrenees, the department where Toulouse dominates. This is in large part because Muslim voters, who made up about 5%of voters in the 2007 election, went socialist. That doesn't sound like a large share, but made a huge difference. Sarko’s get-tough on immigrants talks scared many of them away. Toulouse is a first and foremost, a city of immigrants.

Today on the streets of Toulouse there was a “million person march” in honor of the victims. And this weekend, there will be another silent march to the Jewish school where the students and teachers were shot. Among the banners being unfurled in Toulouse today were two in particular that were noted in the Depeche Du Midi, the regional daily newspaper. The two were written in French, Arabic, Hebrew, and Occitan (regional dialect). One said: “Live Together: equality, solidarity, dignity” and the second said: “Jews, Christians, Muslims, same God:Love”. The meta message beyond the multilingualism is clear and strikes me as a changed attitude. In my days in Toulouse, in the late 1990s, such a thing would not have been seen. Let's hope it will continue.