The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

University of Wisconsin kills liberal education

Wisconsin, founded in a tradition of liberalism, is shifting its world-class university away from actually educating students into giving them vocational training instead:

In March 2018, the school’s administration offered a proposal to deal with the deficit. Cuts were necessary, the administration said. Liberal-arts staples such as English, philosophy, political science, and history would have to be eliminated. All told, the university planned to get rid of 13 majors. Not enough students were enrolled in them to make them worth the cost, the university argued. “We’re facing some changing enrollment behaviors,” Greg Summers, the provost and vice chancellor at Stevens Point, told me. “And students are far more cost-conscious than they used to be.”

Instead, administrators wanted to focus the school’s limited resources on the academic areas that students were flocking to and that the state’s economy could use straightaway—though they maintained that the liberal arts more generally would remain central to the curriculum, even if these specific majors were gone. “We remain committed to ensuring every student who graduates from UW-Stevens Point is thoroughly grounded in the liberal arts, as well as prepared for a successful career path,” Bernie Patterson, the institution’s chancellor, said in a message to the campus. The changes would reflect “a national move among students towards career pathways,” administrators argued. The proposal planned to add majors in chemical engineering, computer-information systems, conservation-law enforcement, finance, fire science, graphic design, management, and marketing. By focusing more on fields that led directly to careers, the school could better provide what businesses wanted—and students, in theory, would have an easier time finding jobs and career success.

Fierce backlash to the proposal from students, faculty, and alumni pushed the administration to reconsider its original plan. By the time the final proposal was released in mid-November 2018, it was less expansive, though still forceful. Six programs would be cut, including the history major. The university seemed to be eyeing degree programs with low numbers of graduates, and nationally, the number of graduates from bachelor’s programs in history has had the steepest decline of any major in recent years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

If the proposal, which is now in the middle of a public-comment period, is finalized, history classes will still be offered, but Willis said that cutting the major may ultimately lead to a reduction of staff and upper-level courses, such as the spring seminar on the Holocaust and its major’s emphasis on race and ethnicity. To Willis, this isn’t just an educational loss, but a societal one as well. “You never know when a historical metaphor is going to arise,” he quipped, pointing to the recent incident in Baraboo, Wisconsin, where high-school students gestured the Nazi salute in a photo.

Here's a tip: liberal education, especially in areas like English and history, is job training. Anyone can write code; many people can manage; actually figuring out how to run a business is different.

It's yet another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect: you need a liberal education to understand how beneficial—how useful—it is. And people like Scott Walker don't have those tools.

Gonna be a long two years

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had a, shall we say, energetic exchange with President Trump today. On camera:

Whoo boy.

An example of why Rauner lost

Crains' Springfield, Ill., correspondent provides a vignette showing why Bruce Rauner couldn't get anything done in his one and only term as Illinois governor. A bill the governor supports got lost in the shuffle between the Illinois House and Senate, prompting him to send a nasty letter to the press before sending it to Senate president John Cullerton. Why didn't the governor just use his legislative liaison office? Rich Miller explains:

[T]he governor's office employs a large number of people who get paid to lobby legislators. If this issue was so all-important to Rauner, then why not have one of his liaisons contact Bush in the months before the veto session began?

I made similar remarks on my blog, and [Rauner adisor Mischa] Fisher reached out to say it was not the "role of the executive branch to shepherd legislation back and forth between the two chambers."

Um, yes, it is. "Why even have legislative liaisons if you're not going to use them?" I asked. "To communicate the governor's position on legislation as it moves through the two chambers," Fisher replied.

Did he not realize that this is exactly what I was talking about? There was zero communication with the Senate until the final hours of the veto session. Fisher replied that "making sure it wasn't lost is what the governor's letter is intending to do."

J.B. Pritzker beat Rauner by half a million votes last month and will be sworn in January 14th. Rauner will "return to private industry," in the parlance of politics. Pritzker, one hopes, will be able to get a bill passed before the end of his first term.

George H.W. Bush, 1924-2018

The 41st president of the United States died last night at the age of 94. President Bill Clinton, who succeeded Bush in 1993, remembers his friend:

No words of mine or others can better reveal the heart of who he was than those he wrote himself. He was an honorable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future. And he believed in his duty to defend and strengthen them, in victory and defeat. He also had a natural humanity, always hoping with all his heart that others’ journeys would include some of the joy that his family, his service and his adventures gave him.

His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life. From Indonesia to Houston, from the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast to Kennebunkport — where just a few months ago we shared our last visit, as he was surrounded by his family but clearly missing Barbara — I cherished every opportunity I had to learn and laugh with him. I just loved him.

We should all give thanks for George H.W. Bush’s long, good life and honor it by searching, as he always did, for the most American way forward.

I voted against Bush in my first election, and helped defeat him in the 1992 campaign. Back then, we opposed people in the other party; we didn't hate them. Bush embodied that decency. He will be missed.

All skate!

With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel retiring this spring, we now have 21—count 'em, 21—people running to replace him:

For now, the list of 21 candidates includes: state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, state Rep. LaShawn Ford, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, City Hall veteran and attorney Gery Chico, former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot, businessman Willie Wilson, former Ald. Bob Fioretti, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, Southwest Side attorney Jerry Joyce, activist Ja’Mal Green, Austin Chamber of Commerce Director Amara Enyia and attorney John Kozlar.

Five other individuals submitted petitions but have not created official campaign committees with the state, did not have a campaign website or had not raised any money, all measurements of a campaign’s viability. Historically, such candidates often do not make the ballot.

In 1995, Chicago began holding nonpartisan elections, with a general election in February and a runoff election in April between the top two finishers if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote. In that era, the most candidates to appear on the ballot was six in the 2011 race to succeed retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley.

From 1901 to 1995, the city held partisan elections, with a primary in February and a general election in April. In that era, the most candidates to appear on a general election ballot was four in 1977, 1991 and 1995, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. City election officials said they could not say for certain the largest number of candidates to appear on a primary ballot from 1901 to 1995 without a trip to a warehouse to research election records.

Even with that caveat, 21 is likely the largest number to file for mayor since at least 1901, said Jim Allen, the election board’s spokesman.

Now I have to go read up on the 16 candidates who are actually running.

Stuff to read later

Of note:

Fun times!

Me and Julio

Yesterday was my [redacted] high school reunion. We started with a tour of the building, which has become a modern office park since we graduated:

The glass atrium there is new, as of 2008. The structure back to the left is the Center for the Performing Arts, which featured proudly in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

I didn't get a picture of the Michelin-starred student food court, but this, this I had to snap:

So, at some point I'll post about Illinois school-funding policies and why one of the richest school districts in the world has 20 or so exercise bikes, each of which costs as much as feeding a child lunch every school day for three years...but this is not that post.

It was great seeing some of my classmates and walking around the old school. Also, shout out to the server at Northbrook's Landmark Inn for dealing with about 100 old people who didn't remember their own drinks.

 

Pas de Bourbon pour l'Europe

Craft distillers in the U.S., like home-town FEW Spirits, are getting creamed by the European Union's retaliatory tariffs:

Following the European Union's June implementation of a 25 percent tariff on bourbon, the popular U.S. whiskey variety, the impact has been clear. One American producer said his exports have "dropped to zero" as a result. Last year, they made up 15 percent of revenue.

"Every U.K. buyer backed off," said Paul Hletko, the owner of Evanston-based Few Spirits. "They may want to buy it, but if they can't sell it at the right price, that's not doing us any favors."

Small distillers cite the drought as proof their fears of a global trade war are coming to fruition. Europe had been blossoming as a source of new revenue — but this market has been effectively cut off for producers that lack the clout or brand recognition of titans like Brown-Forman and Diageo. Now they've been sent back to square one.

Remember: we didn't want these tariffs, we didn't need the tariffs that prompted them, and we are all (European and American alike) suffering because of them. So why did the president start this fight? Does he even know?

President Trump does not put "America first"

Greg Sargent points out the obvious reality of who the president is really looking out for:

The suggestion here is that we are now seeing what “America first” really looks like. That is, when Trump says “America first,” he means it.

But this concedes too much. In an inadvertent but pernicious way, it supports Trump’s preferred framing of his presidency. In this case and many others, Trump is not being “frank” about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self-interest over what’s good for America, and prioritizing the real-world policy realization of his own prejudices over any good-faith, fact-based effort to determine, by any discernible standard, what might actually be in the country’s interests.

But I’d like to take this further and point out that here Trump is not actually operating from any meaningful conception of what is good for the country. It isn’t just those lies [about our relationship with Saudi Arabia]. It’s also Trump’s insistence that we’ll never know whether the crown prince actually ordered the killing, which breaks from the intelligence community’s conclusion, and the subtle slandering of Khashoggi via the floating of the Saudi claim that he was an “enemy of the state.”

Again, this has been obvious for years. Decades, even. As Michelle Goldberg writes in today's Times, Trump's entire presidency is based on a con.

And the House of Representatives can start dismantling that con in just six weeks.

Queued up for later

Some questions:

And finally, when can I take a nap?