Won’t fascists just go away if we ignore them?

Image result for nazi rally

From Joe Messina, a local Republican Party chairman, in the Santa Clarita Signal:

“Chairman Messina argued that if counter protesters hadn’t shown up in the first place, nothing would have happened and the white supremacist message, which he and his fellow 38th District Republicans strongly oppose, would not have been broadcast on an international level . . . ‘You let those idiots over there go do their thing, leave them alone, don’t give them any attention and they burn themselves out,’ Messina said” (A5).

No, they don’t. They don’t stamp and scream for attention and tucker themselves out unheeded. They’re not toddlers. They’re ideologues. It’s ignorant and shortsighted to suggest that the best strategy is to simply ignore them until they go away.

White supremacists are dedicated to white power. Their “great cause” carries quasi-religious tones. They will no more starve from lack of attention than will ISIS. They imagine their culture, their way of life, and their very bodies are threatened. When you believe you’re threatened this way, do you just quiet down because no one’s paying attention? No: you yell louder.

Fascism will be a danger for as long as the United States exists. As long as there are people frustrated with the political process who are willing to justify violence to get their way, fascism will be a threat. Fascism will be a threat as long as anyone buys the myth of racial superiority.

Evil must be called out for what it is, because evil does not die in the dark. It festers.

 

 

Citation:
Ender, G. and Monterrosa, C. (2017, August 15). SCV reacts to Charlottesville events. The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, pp. A3, A5.
Advertisements

Why do 41% of college students quit? You might be surprised . . .

[8-minute read]

dropoutAre U.S. students quitting college en masse because their unprepared, fragile little minds can’t handle cramming college courses between all-night parties and posting on Instagram? Or because they’re so pampered by their helicopter parents that they can’t function without their caregivers meeting their every need? Or because they’re entitled, spoiled, lazy narcissists whose delicate egos can’t handle less than an A? Actually, despite what TIME Magazine, The Atlantic, Business Insider, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Psychology Today, Forbes, the New York Post, National Review, The Guardian, and others would claim, all the above is far from the truth.

41% of college students quit without finishing their degree. What’s the biggest reason for this? Believe it or not, it’s because they’re poor—so poor, in fact, that their parents and financial aid packages can’t pay enough to free them from the need to work. These students aren’t working so they can afford iPhones, slick cars, restaurants, travel, and party supplies: these students are working to pay for food and housing for themselves and their families. For many of them, the stress of balancing work and school becomes too much.

So they quit. They work full-time at lower-wage jobs because the landlord and grocery store won’t accept “I have to pay for school” and an IOU. Sure, that bright future of earning more with a college degree looks shiny and promising (though less promising now than previously), but the cost to get there is just too steep.

According to research by Public Agenda (sponsored by the Gates Foundation), just 11% of college dropouts said a “major reason” they quit school was they “didn’t like sitting in class,” and only 14% said it was because “many of the classes were boring” (Johnson 7).

By contrast, 71% of college dropouts said they left school because they “needed to go to work and make money”, and 52% said they “just couldn’t afford the tuition and fees” (ibid.). The same source also found these students “were often assuming responsibilities and financial burdens that traditional full-time college students do not have to shoulder,” such as caring for dependent children and family members (6).

These conclusions are also supported by Dēmos, a public policy research center, which reported, “Surveys of students who have left college without earning a credential routinely cite employment and finances as the main reasons for student departure” (Orozco 1).

The cost of college

Is it truly surprising that the lowest earners can’t afford school, given the enormous increase in college costs?

If we really need a citation to say school’s gotten more expensive, citations are widely available. According to the College Board, inflation-adjusted tuition and fees at public four-year institutions have risen 270% over the last 40 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, from 1978 to 2011 (33 years), tuition rose three and a half times more than the Consumer Price Index and the average hourly wage (Clemmons). In contrast, in the 30 years from 1982 to 2012, inflation-adjusted average family income rose only 16% (WhiteHouse.gov). Furthermore, from 1980 to 2000, the ratio of cost of education to income doubled for the lowest-income families, i.e., those most likely to quit college (National Center 5).

Why is school so expensive?

Culprits include administrative costs, regulation, and the rise of the luxury campus:

Administration

According to Paul Campos, law professor and author, the number of administrators in the California State University system grew 221% from 1975 to 2008 (n.p.). And what was the increase in full-time faculty during the same time? Three and a half percent.

Campos goes on: it’s not just the CSU system. “According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.”

Regulation

Colleges and universities are broadly treated as state agencies. In the words of Dr. Lyall, this subjects them to “mandatory participation in state health insurance and pension programs,” and they don’t get to “manage their own capital bonds and building projects” or “their own human resources (hiring and pay) policies” (ibid.). This is repeated by Robert C. Dickeson in a report for the Secretary of Education: “Federal regulations impose additional costs on college budgets . . . as many as 12 different federal agencies impose regulations on colleges, and most of the requirements are neither coordinated nor paid for” (2).

Bureaucracy is inherently inefficient, compounding costs of compliance, not to mention requiring ever-growing administrative staffs to keep up with regulations.

Luxury campuses and athletics

Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor and president of the American Association of University Professors, pins blame for college costs on many universities that “have borrowed millions to build luxury dorms, new dining halls and rock-climbing walls” as well as “[subsidize] intercollegiate athletics” (ibid.). This compounds the regulatory burden as many of these facilities, including healthcare clinics, daycare centers, sports centers, dining halls, and dorms are all subject to their own sets of laws and reporting requirements.

What do we do?

In the face of all these factors, how can we cut the cost of education so our poorer students can stay in school?

Cut administration

Cut administrative staff. Or, in the event university presidents and boards of directors aren’t willing to slash their own salaries and support staff, students will have to take action to pressure their schools to cut costs.

Reduce regulation

State and federal governments need to work with schools to coordinate and reduce regulatory demands, treating them less like state agencies and more like businesses. They should be able to make their own bottom-up decisions on pay, benefits, construction, bonds, and maintenance, rather than contort to top-down regulations.

Take learning online

Massively-open online courses are already giving first-rate professors the opportunity to reach thousands of students at a time. Courses from venues like Coursera, Udacity, edX, StraighterLine, the Saylor Foundation, and Khan Academy provide highly affordable (or even free) channels for students to learn the fundamentals of a given discipline at their own pace. If colleges want to reduce costs and retain students, they should make agreements with these providers to accept their coursework for credit (as hundreds of schools have already done).

Simplify campus and work to learn

Maybe we don’t need more schools with luxury housing and glitzy athletics. Maybe we want more places like the College of the Ozarks, nicknamed “Hard Work U” because students live simply, work on campus, and pay no tuition.

Towards an idea

There is no easy or single answer to the rising problem of college costs, but while it remains, the poorest (as usual) are the ones most affected. While it persists, it’s not an economic problem, it’s a social problem, and if universities and governments want to get serious about the ideals they preach of liberality and equity, they need to get serious about cutting costs of education, even at the expense of tradition, comfort, administrative jobs, and athletics.

Simply put, a school should have willing students, great teachers, and the absolute minimum of everything else. No more luxury campuses, no more administrative bloat, no more fanciest newest everything. The idea of the university is to build the mind: let’s make that the first priority.

 

 

Works Cited

Belkin, Douglas. “How to Get College Tuition under Control: Three economists debate the causes and possible solutions for the high cost of college.” The Wall Street Journal. 2013. <https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324549004579068992834736138&gt; Retrieved 14 Feb 2017.

Campos, Paul. “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs so Much.” The New York Times. 2015. <https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/the-real-reason-college-tuition-costs-so-much.html&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

Clemmons, Courtney. “Weighing the Cost and Value of a College Decision.” U.S. Department of Education. 2013. <https://sites.ed.gov/ous/2013/07/weighing-the-cost-and-value-of-a-college-decision/&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

College Board. Annual Survey of Colleges. <https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-and-room-and-board-over-time-1976-77_2016-17-selected-years&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

Dickeson, Robert. 2006. A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, Issue Paper, “Frequently Asked Questions About College Costs.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. <http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/reports/dickeson2.pdf&gt; Retrieved 14 Feb 2017.

Johnson, Jean, et al. With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them: Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College. Public Agenda, 2010. <http://www.publicagenda.org/files/theirwholelivesaheadofthem.pdf&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Losing Ground: A National Status Report on the Affordability of American Higher Education. 2002. <http://www.highereducation.org/reports/losing_ground/affordability_report_final.pdf&gt; Retrieved 14 Feb 2017.

Orozco, Viany, and Nancy Cauthen. Work Less, Study More, and Succeed: How Financial Supports Can Improve Postsecondary Success. Demos, 2009. <http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/WorkLessStudyMore_Demos.pdf&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

WhiteHouse.gov. “An affordable college education is a cornerstone of middle class security.” <https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/share/college-affordability&gt; Retrieved 10 Feb 2017.

 

[This essay was composed for a scholarship provided by Transtutors]

 

Did you like my essay? Vote for it here!

I had a dream: I must master kung fu

Lightning Storm at Beach Over the Atlantic Ocean

I had a dream that said I’m destined to master kung fu. I’m doing it.

I was in a videogame, watching myself, not sure I was controlling my actions. The action climaxed on a tropical beach. The clouds turned crimson and thundered, and from the lightning over the water a giant rubber ducky appeared. This monstrosity shot lightning bolts at me; I found myself dodging at incredible speed with martial mastery. Then I woke up.

So kung fu? Essentially, it’s not a martial art, but “skill gained through long effort and application of prolonged practice” (according to Victor Mair of UPenn).

As a citizen, debater, employee, speaker, and soon-to-be teacher, the skill I’m destined to master is kung fu of the mind.

Here’s how I read the dream: whether real life is illusion (videogame or otherwise), whether I really have agency over my actions, whether this dream was a sign or subconscious gibberish, whatever horrors strange or mundane may come, I must do the best I can with my abilities and circumstances. So I’m learning to ground myself and discern and interpret all things nimbly and skillfully, whatever their source: to engage with information and argument, take it all in, take it apart, critique it, digest, and apply it, whether in the realm of literature, teaching, science, business, or anything — to see the lightning coming, dodge, and (eventually) learn to redirect it back.

I know kung fu. And it will empower everything I do in life, for building my students, others, and myself.

 

This short and somewhat silly (but mostly serious) submission was created for Unigo’s I Have a Dream scholarship.

[Photo cred Kim Seng via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0]

How to break up and still get along: some tips

Broken heart

Disclaimer #1: I’ll say up front that I can’t claim credit for any of the practices or attitudes I’m going to recommend: all I did was take what others had taught me and applied it.

Disclaimer #2: I am not presenting this as a 10-point guide to a painless breakup. There are no guarantees; these are just things that worked for my former girlfriend and I, and I hope they’ll work for you too.

That said, here’s the short story: about ten months ago, while I was at Dodger Stadium with a lovely young lady I’d been seeing for a few weeks, I asked her to be my girlfriend. Four months ago, as we sat down for coffee, she looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t think we’re going to work out.” When she’d given her reasons, I couldn’t help but agree. We agreed to still be friends, walked out, and that was that.

Today, we’re as amiable as though nothing ever happened, if not more so. Aside from mutually giving some space for the first month or so after the breakup, we haven’t avoided each other; neither of us have quit the Bible study we both attend, glared daggers, or badmouthed each other. We still respect and admire each other.

Nathan, why are you saying this?

The only reason I think anything in this post is worth sharing is because a lot of people have been surprised by this story—surprised that the two of us even still speak to each other, still more remain friends. Some have expressed regret that their own relationships didn’t turn our like this; others have asked me how we did it.

Our friendship is what it is today because of certain attitudes we took into our relationship. We broke up well because we dated well. I hope these will help you too:

1. Our purpose was clear

When I asked her to be my girlfriend and she accepted, we agreed that the reason we were doing was to figure out, over time, with prayer, whether we should get married or not. We understood that this exploration, and no more, was what we were committing to at this stage. We agreed that “success” meant reaching a definite answer, whether that was yes or no. We certainly knew that “no” would be painful, but we also knew that “no” would be much better than saying “yes” when we shouldn’t have.

I really think this is the only good reason to enter this kind of relationship, but if you think differently, at least make sure you’re on the same page as your S.O. Being clear on your purpose will save you from being surprised later.

2. We both knew what we needed

To start with, it wasn’t each other. I’m convinced this is one of the biggest things that stifles relationships (and leads to awful breakups).

We also both knew that we were complete single people in Christ and we didn’t need to find “our better half” or “soul-mate.” We did know, however, that if we were to marry, we would need to agree on:

  • spiritual values
  • family style
  • expected lifestyle
  • careers
  • gender roles

We also both knew that each of our future spouses would need to have strong faith, godly character, and interests we could share. This doesn’t mean we fully articulated all of these to each other at the outset, but we each knew for ourselves and knew we’d discuss them at some point.

3. We both knew what we wanted

And we knew this was different from what we needed. I might have wanted a fellow literati who’d obsess over John Milton and Beowulf with me, but I knew this wasn’t crucial. She might have wanted a man who shared her love for Disney, but she knew it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

The other great things about our wants was that we were both open to them changing. Dating a real person can really make you change what you want (I mean that in a good way).

I’d especially caution: don’t let your “wants” grow into a six-page list that maybe three people on earth could fulfill. At least, if you do that, don’t wonder years later why you’re still single.

4. We weren’t the world to each other

Neither of us staked our hopes, dreams, or self-worth on the other. Six months in, we weren’t writing out our names together or planning our wedding (at least I can vouch I wasn’t). We both had an established identity apart from each other, rooted in Christ.

In this sense, it’s essential not to need each other. If her approval had made the difference between my life being whole or hell, I never could have let go of her. If her self-worth had hung on my affection, she never could have let go of me. If you feel you need someone to complete you, I suggest you read the Gospel of John and pray, because you need an identity, and it has to be much bigger than another person.

5. We knew it wasn’t personal

—in a certain sense. We both knew this relationship was one part experiment, one part adventure to see whether we were a good fit for marriage. There are a lot of factors to that, some of which are always beyond our control. We both knew that, if we weren’t a good fit, it was nothing personal.

This left no room for any bitterness or lasting hurt if one of us broke off the relationship while the other wanted to keep it. We both realized that, if one person doesn’t want it, it’s not a good fit. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) marry someone who doesn’t want to marry you. (If you married someone who wanted to marry you, and they feel they no longer want to be married to you, or vice versa, that’s a completely different issue).

Side-note: if someone breaks up with you because of some character flaw that you have, don’t get mad at them or say that’s not fair. Instead, own it! This is someone you’ve let see into your life in a very intimate way, and now they’re telling you: this is what they’ve seen. Take that seriously and work on it.

6. We committed to honor

We committed to treat one another, by God’s strength and grace, with respect and honor, as members together of Christ’s family. This included being up-front and honest, not false or double-dealing. This included making sure (in time, appropriately) the other person knew things about us that might make them say “no.” This meant not taking advantage of each other. This meant relating with kindness, understanding, and patience.

7. We dated human beings

—as opposed to our idealized, daydream versions of each other. What I mean is that we listened to each other and ditched our preconceived notions of what the other would be. I stress this because, when you’re talking about family and life aspirations with someone you’re thinking of marrying, it’s deceptively easy to hear what you want to hear. Study your significant other and find out who they really are.

This also meant we realized the other person might hurt us. It was a risk we chose to take, and we were ready to meet that with God’s grace, not with bitterness, indignation, or acrimony.

Any breakup is bound to be painful if the relationship meant anything—but hopefully, if your hearts are in the right place, it doesn’t have to be bitter.

For more on dating gracefully and with purpose, I’d highly recommend Lisa Anderson’s The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose, as well as The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas.

Two servers: a short, simple story

CafeOne day in a little café, a man ate a sandwich, paid his tab, and left. As the server moved to clear the table, he was astonished to find $1,000 in cash left there by the man. He ran outside to find the customer, but he was gone. Trembling, he told the other servers, the cook, and the owner of the cafe. The owner advised him to keep it, since the man had obviously left it there on purpose. The server tried to distribute it among the other workers, but they were afraid and wouldn’t accept.

Having waited on him, the server felt sure there was no harm in the man. He’d been gracious and quiet, and strangest of all, after the server had taken his order, he had looked up in his face and asked, “And is there anything I can do for you?” The way he had looked and the tone of his voice had made the server feel as though the man meant what he said—but he had averted his eyes, embarrassed, and answered, “No, thank you.”

The server thought he had given decent service, but knew that even his best could never have earned this. From that day forward, he served every customer, no matter how rude, as though they were that man again.

The next day, the server was not there, so no one recognized the man when he came in again.

He did just as he’d done the day before. This time, he had a different server: one who took the question, “Is there anything I can do for you?” as a subtle sarcasm, a snare to see if he’d presume on the man’s kindness.

The man again left a $1,000 tip. His server was just as shocked as the first one had been, but decided it would be better not to make a fuss and slipped the money in his pocket without a word to anyone. All that day and the next, he could think of nothing but the tip.

He began to think this man must have recognized how great a server he was, and had rewarded him appropriately. How gracious, he thought, how discreet, how friendly, how professional and crisp! Why, anyone in the world would be lucky to be served by him.

He went to work from then on confident that he was the best server in the world, even, he thought, if his self-centered, ungracious customers lacked the discernment to see it. This made such a change in his conduct that he was fired in short order.

The hundred things I’d rather do than achieve my dreams

Alright, finally sitting down for another installment of chasing my calling with hard mental labor, in the form of studying for the GRE. And then the malaise hits. Suddenly playing Bejeweled, scrolling through Facebook/Twitter, calling a friend, getting a donut, cleaning my desk, or hacking through my ever-expanding reading list all sound way better than studying.

I know what will happen if I don’t: I won’t score high on the GRE or won’t take it in time, and if those don’t happen, I (most likely) won’t get into any of the grad schools I want and I’ll have to wait another year to apply again, which means putting off another year my dream of becoming a full-time English professor with benefits (yes, in this economy. I know the odds I’m up against.)

Every time I finally sit down to study (or do anything else productive), that stupid little mind-goblin is at the back of my thoughts, whispering that hey, it’s been a long week and I deserve a break, and I’ll have plenty of time next week.

Beating off that stupid little goblin is one reason I’m rushing through this blog post and not taking time to edit, so I can start afresh on the business of chasing down my dream, wrestling it to the ground, and riding it like a majestic ostrich across the sun-kissed plains of the savanna.

Totally yes.

Using Snagit to instantly let all your friends know about the “double-decker couch”

Say you’re watching a “trailer” for a “movie” (that hasn’t come out yet at the time of this publication) and the phrase/image “double-decker couch” appears (this could really be any movie). By the time you’re done peeling yourself off the carpet after falling out of your chair because you’re laughing so hard, you know you have to share this momentary comedic masterpiece with absolutely all your Facebook friends, from your most treasured comrades to those people from high school that you haven’t talked to in years and with whom you only remain connected through mutual negligence.

What do you do? Post a link to the video with directions to “omg watch this hilarious vid to 1:53 #waitforit #dyingoflaughter #rofl #rollingonthefloorlaughing #incaseyoudidntgettheacronym #goonwithoutme #mywillisintheorangecrateinthegarage”? That might be what you’d do if you didn’t have Snagit©® (and were a 15-year-old girl). With Snagit©®, you can use ©®Snagit to take that video, pause it at the exact moment of the pièce de résistance, and Snag©® It©®!

Now, you can post that photo to Facebook — or, if you’re a really smart monkey, you won’t have to, because you’ll already have set up ©®Snagit®© to automatically post it for you (which is totally a thing that it can do)! Now you can have all your friends laugh alongside you from the comfort of their electronic device of choice so you can all be buddies together!

If nothing else, it’ll be a great way to remind all those high-school people that you’re still Facebook friends so they can delete you and save you the trouble.

* * *

[This has been an exercise in comedy advertising, and the blame for its existence may be squarely laid upon this man. The next 10 seconds of history will long remember what hath been visited upon the Internet at his behest].

SnagIt screen-capture software: a review

Snagit is a powerful tool for easily capturing, editing, exporting, and sharing images and video. Here’s a quick rundown of what it can do:

  • Capture anything you see on your screen into an image or video file
  • Edit what you’ve captured using a suite of tools
  • Upload to Google Drive, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, and a bunch of other services
  • Combine images into a single, large image or document file
  • Send images straight to the printer

If you’ve ever needed to show something on your computer screen, exactly the way it appeared to you, to someone who wasn’t sitting right there next to you — say, walking them through how to do something, or reporting a bug — image-capture software is the solution. Whether that means buying this particular product will depend on your needs.

First, I’ll cover the basic image, video, and text-capturing abilities and what you can do with them. Then, we’ll look at some of the cool media-sharing capabilites.

(more…)

Passing the Military Justice Improvement Act

american flag

Flickr photo credit: Kara Huff (cavecreek4)

This is about bringing justice for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the U.S. military. In all branches of the armed forces, all personnel are required to report any crimes or misconduct to the chain of command. The commanders have sole discretion in deciding whether a case is investigated or prosecuted.

However, in cases of sexual harassment and assault, the offender often is a member of the victim’s chain of command. Even when this isn’t the case, victims typically face backlash from those above and around them for reporting.

The Military Justice Improvement Act (S.1752/S.967), sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and currently under consideration in the Senate, would transfer the power of investigation and prosecution from the chain of command to an independent judiciary.

(more…)

Getting Things Done for Dummies (like me)

So that “Getting Things Done” system I’ve been harping on? I’ve finally done it. I just blazed through four chapters of the book and took two and a half days to put everything into place.

My final result:

A clear head and a sense of control. I’m continually free to have ideas instead of hold them: my brain is free to creatively develop projects instead of continually remind me that they exist.

Sounds nice, yeah? Well, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial salesguy (and I’m a terrible salesman), here’s how you too can revamp your to-do list and gain control over every single thing you have to do, from the right-nows to the someday-maybes to the total surprises:

(more…)

%d bloggers like this: