Archive for May, 2013

Southern Poverty Law Center Interview on Regnerus and Other Christianist Haters….

30/05/2013

 

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2013/summer/suspect-science#.UaaempzugXW

In the wake of all the Regnerus nonsense, it was good to see the Southern Poverty Law Center navigate to the critical scientific end of the debate, and do a much more thorough job of examining the key issues than any other outlet has done. The  conspiracy mongering that has plagued much of the reporting on what Regnerus did, how he did, why he did it, who helped him, and what that says about the social sciences has not been helpful, and it has smeared the professional reputations of blameless people like Jim Wright (and me) and tarnished the reputation of Social Science Research. The vitriol and harassment, mostly now coming from a handful of clueless LGBT activists, is so severe that if it does not desist really soon, I’m taking legal action and I’m sure Elsevier is probably ready to do the same. So, lawyer up, assholes.

I really appreciated Evelyn Schlatter’s interview and work on the project. It is a very good thing that SPLC has figured out that the real problem runs way beyond the specifics of this single incident. The big picture issue is that people like Regnerus, Wilcox, Smith, etc have had a golden shower of funding for all of their careers, all of it coming from right wing Christian foundations. It’s given them exclusive access to data collection, massive levels of research assistance, travel money, conference money, summer salary, and whatever they need to further their right wing agenda. This isn’t about the funding agencies dictating what researchers find, it’s about ideologue researchers being cultivated from the time that they are undergraduates, and then being rewarded for their fealty to radical right wing Christianity with millions of dollars in grant money. Evelyn did a great job of making sure that came through.

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When I was Audited by the IRS: Ronald Reagan’s War on Education

23/05/2013
Oh, you got a fellowship! Bend Over!!!!!!

Oh, you got a fellowship! Bend Over!!!!!!

A lot of bloviation is occurring on how the IRS actually did its job and scrutinized the applications for new tax-exempt organizations. Turns out that hit the conservative motherfuckers a bit hard, since they have a lot of astro-turf, and they falsely represent their political involvement.

But, those are just corporations, being scrutinized based on the criteria for corporations to continue to exist without paying taxes (and benefiting from myriad tax breaks). No real humans were actually investigated by the IRS, only fraudulant political organizations.

The politicization of the IRS began in the second half of the Reagan presidency. Most of the efforts were directed against young people starting their careers. The targets were people–real people— who held ” lucrative” scholarships at research universities. Raygun was at war with those pointy headed intellectuals, and so he thought of this as a means of accomplishing “stereo divestment”, as if us graduate students used our grants to buy electronic equipment. For those too young, that was a reference to the anti-Apartheid movement, which sought to move university money away from corporations that sponsored the racist regime in South Africa (I was once the president  of the anti-Apartheid group at the University of Tulsa).

At the beginning of his second term, Raygun sicced his IRS goons on everyone and anyone who received a fellowship, no matter how small. I had won two essay contests my senior year ($1500), and then my fellowship at Duke was also service free. I wound up paying almost as much in penalties as I won for the essay contests, and had an additional $1500 tax bill added to two years of graduate funding. The war on education was mounted by Raygun, and he did a great job of making sure that anyone who wanted to succeed would suffer. I was audited three years in a row, starting in 1989, backdated to the 1987 tax year. During most of the period I was an undergraduate or graduate student making almost nothing, and I was married with a kid to boot. I was targeted for audits for three years because the IRS was directed to harass college students on fellowships. Raygun wanted to squeeze us for what little we had, while relieving his fat cat donors from their “tax burden.”

Why MOOCs won’t work: point 666

17/05/2013
You like this MOOC?!

You like this MOOC?!

Once upon a time I was a teaching-award-winning professor at Vanderbilt University. I won a student-selected teaching award from the graduating class of 1994—in my first four years of teaching at Vanderbilt the students selected me as one of the top 10 all-time professors. My teaching evaluations were always at least a half a point above the department mean for courses at that level (except for those two courses in demography, which were only average), and my grade point averages were always more than half a point below the departmental average. None of my colleagues wanted to teach introduction to sociology, particularly not pre-tenure, because the students were vicious in their evaluations. I taught packed courses of around 60 students in my “core” courses on intro and American Social Movements. In my last section of intro, I had 60 students and received a perfect 5.0 score in my teaching evaluations. The last lecture ended on the same sentence I ended the first lecture in the class (when all of the students were thinking “who is this idiot and why doesn’t he dress nicer?”). “Well, as far as I can tell. I don’t know. I’m not sure what sociology is, anyway.” The class applauded. Students were crying. Granted, they knew it was my last lecture at Vanderbilt, but it was intro, it’s not like these were my grad students or something. I could have been a MOOCER!!!!!!

Yeah, right. Let’s get this shit straight. The whole MOOC bullshit is predicated on the idea that the “great lecturers” at top universities are somehow more able to teach to the masses, and will democratize knowledge by providing the same education for people at Southeast Missouri State that is available at Harvard, MIT, and the like. Bullshit. Like any crap ass MOOC, my own MOOC–based on the most popular and highly evaluated social science course at a top university with considerable teaching focus—would be an absolute disaster. “Wow, who is that crazy guy on the computer, and why is he using such big words?” “Who is this Marx guy, and why did he want to fuck Feuerbach? Is that an analogy? What’s an analogy.” The bottom line is my courses worked because the students were required to read primary texts from Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Blau, Emerson, and Marcuse (that was just exam 1….out of four). They were expected to read these works in advance of my lecture, and they had the capacity to do so—even if many of them often did not. I never had a textbook at Vanderbilt, and the substantive sections of my introductory course were purely based on my lecture notes on topics like “family” “criminology” “race and ethnicity” “gender” and the like. In the substantive sections, students were required to read articles from recent top-tier journals—generally American Sociological Review and Social Forces (AJS charged extra for “courspacks” after the Kinko’s decision, so I didn’t use things from AJS after 1993 or so). There were no multiple guess exams, only short and long-answer essays. I graded all of the exams myself for most of the course I taught, and in 10 years there were only three graduate students I trusted to evaluate my students: Mary Karpos, Chris Mowery, and Candi Batton.

So, how many students at your average Cal State at Bumbfuck, CUNY in the hood, Southwesteasternnorthern Texas State, or Southern Illinois are actually able to prepare  for understanding a lecture on Marx or Weber or Durkheim delivered by an eloquent lecturer who is shooting above the bow? How many can read current articles from top sociological journals, or pay attention and take notes on additional lecture material not covered in those articles?  Let me give you a straight answer, about 2%. While virtually 100% of Vanderbilt students were in a position to learn from what I did, only about 2% of SIU students would be able to excel at that level of pedagogy, and maybe another 10% would be able to merely survive with a C or a D. My Intro class at Vanderbilt would be a 400-level course here, and I’d have to adjust the curve.  And, I was actually in the classroom at Vanderbilt. A real, live human being who expected them to show up for my lectures and exams. If we MOOC it, then the small fraction of students who might have a legitimate shot of passing my course would be further disadvantaged by only basically watching the lectures on glorified television. Telecourses, we used to call them back in the Junior College Days. They were a miserable failure.

I can’t think of a worse idea than to make glorified internet telecourses from the courses taught by top teachers at elite universities. These are of no value to the students, and simply will do what all research shows that they are doing—causing most students to fail, underachieve, and lose interest in education.

Racism, Sexism, and the Whoring of Survey Research

08/05/2013
I feel the Pulse of the Populace, I can feel it!

Sexism is dead, I can feel it.

I was just trying to get a bead on a few issues, and lamenting my inability to get a good measure of racial threat for a paper I’m working on showing the impact of conservative movements and propaganda on public opinion. But, alas, racism and sexism are so OVER. Everyone knows that nobody is a racist or sexist. We do NOT need to be asking people if they would vote for a NEGRO for President or if they would vote for a Woman (who does not have a penis), or if they think that those Africans have gone too far in pushing for Civil Rights. Fuck Civil Rights. This is America! Hell Yah! And, in American Social Science we are much more concerned with how Christianity is helping your mental health, or whether or not your one true god is more like a man or a muffin, or anything, anything but standard questions about racism and sexism. So, for most items, they simply  stopped asking. Nearly 10% of respondents thought there should be laws against interracial marriage in 2002 (down from nearly 40% in 1972) but somehow this seemed to justify eliminating the item entirely….rather than seeing if support might have rebounded, or tracking the continued support for racist laws among certain groups in the population. Similarly, the GSS has not asked whether or not women should take care of the home instead of the country since 1998—when over 15% wanted women home, barefoot and preggers. Just because opinions are no longer a majority or near-majority does not make them sociologically irrelevant. Their concentration in certain geographic, occupational, and cultural realms make make these prejudices quite influential for social life. It is a bad move to stop tracking these basic indicators of racism and sexism, just so people with grants can ask other questions. And what questions are they asking? Where are they getting their funding? Oh, gee.

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land….

03/05/2013

jacksonconcert3

I love living in Carbondale, and like many college towns throughout our great nation the public schools are fabulous. The teachers are wonderful, the administration is sane, and the school system supports the arts and music. My son Jackson plays trumpet in the 4th grade  band, and today was their big year end concert. In attendance were not only the director of the school of music, and the chairs of the SIU departments of women’s studies, foreign languages, chemistry, sociology, and faculty from many other departments who had children singing and playing instruments, but also gaggles of fully veiled Saudi women and their husbands, graduate students from all over the world, heavily tattooed local Anglo s, average white Midwesterners who work as staff at the college or around town, numerous Latin American families, and a large contingent of quite diverse African Americans—ranging from school teachers, coaches, and professionals to people barely scraping by on the margins and working in fast food joints, if they can. The Carbondale city schools are “majority minority”, and everyone made an effort to watch our kids sing and play.

Carbondale has a fairly uncommon solution to segregration issues—rather than use busing to desegregate the schools, everyone simply goes to the same school and they reduced the number of grades in the schools. It is fucking brilliant! Kindergarten and first are at one school, second and third at another, fourth and fifth at yet another….so ALL of the kids are in the same school, and there aren’t huge age differentials so all of the kids can be friends. Jackson is the nicest boy in the world, so he’s friends with everyone, no matter who they are. But, his special friend is really Madeleine, whose parents are regular working class Carbondale people and we sat with them at the concert. Next to us were Miguel’s two mommies , one of whom is the Spanish immersion teacher at the K-1 school (I coached Miguel in soccer, and he’s been friends with Jackson since they were toddlers at the SIU Child Development Labs daycare. In front of us were Ajawhn’s parents, one of Jackson’s other close friends. But the room was filled with rich and poor, black, white, and brown. And we listened to a patriotic themed musical program. No less than five Middle Eastern  kids were in the 5th grade band/orchestra playing “My Country Tis” and “God Bless America”, while their gleeful parents captured the action on their video cameras and ipads.

Normally, a program like this would have made me want to vomit. It was all Americana, and patriotic songs. I mean, Jesus fuck! They did  “God Bless America”?! But, somehow, in this crowd, it seemed more poignant. God bless America. I don’t believe in gods, but I do believe in America. I really do. In every corny way possible. I’ve mostly become cynical and blighted and focused on how we’ve completely lost track. But, god damn it, I believe in America. And what I saw today is what America is and should be. A bunch of fucking kids singing about hope and equality and democracy. One group of classes even put the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of the Constitution to song. I’ll defer to Professor Benyas on the musical merits, but it was inspiring to watch this group of kids from diverse backgrounds praise the ideals that have kept our nation together and brought slow progress towards realizing those ideals. And, I thought mostly about how important this was for those children and their parents from other nations, particularly the students from Islamic backgrounds. It was a celebration of us, and you are us. I hope they all fucking stay and become Americans, every god damned one of them.

This machine kills fascists….

Jim Inhofe: Idiot, Asshole, Whore

02/05/2013

Idiot, Asshole, Whore

Since Jim Inhofe is now peddling the idea that the communist socialist islamic homosexual state is buying up all of the ammo so god fearing Christians will be defenseless, I thought it appropriate to resurrect this….

I’ll never forget the first time I met Jim Inhofe. It was emblematic of everything he stands for. I was playing a soccer match on an Oklahoma select team (Green Country United) against the national champion u-12 club team from Sweden, Skanor Falsterbo, punctuated during the pre-game and halftime of a Tulsa Roughnecks game (I think they were playing the Chicago Sting, captained by the Italian great Chinaglia). Inhofe had never even seen a soccer game, and of course his pasty ass kids never played the game–which was quite hot in Tulsa, mostly driven by the large ethnic populations from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America (you know, Iranian rednecks and shit). Tulsa had the best team in the NASL, and we won the Soccer Bowl if not that year, the year after (I can’t remember). The Roughneck’s secret was a bunch of super strong Yugoslavian guys, and  the Iranian great Iraj Danifard. Most teams were using all their salary to pay old retirees like Chinaglia, Beckenbauer, and Pele (who is a nice guy, I’ve met him twice…another story), and the rest of their rosters never measured up.

It was 105f in Tulsa, and probably pushing 120 on the astroturf field at Skelly Stadium. The Swedish kids were dying, and we were able to hang with them that game. I played central midfield and had a couple of game saving assists and two good shots on goal. Our old German coach, Walter Schnorr, did an awesome job of keeping us fresh against the much superior Swedes. After a substitution, I get back to the bench fucking dying, and it’s full. On the bench sat Tulsa Mayor, Jim Inhofe, and a couple of his worthless loser kids. So, either we were supposed to stand, or what, sit on the 125 degree astroturf? So some fuckhead and his kids could spectate at a game they’d never even seen, even though this joker was mayor of the town whose professional team was averaging 20,000 spectators per game, and was poised to win the premiere championship of the sport in the USA…..I actually told one of his loser kids to move over, and I just sat down in a pile of sweat right next to him, and then all those worthless fucking pansy ass Republicans got up and left (eewwww, Daddy, some dirty smelly Iranian kid just sat down next to me!!!! Ewwwww!!!). Fuckheads. We tied Skanor Falsterbo in that game, though they kicked our asses in the second game of the series.

Ah, but Inhofe wasn’t finished. After bankrupting a mid-sized insurance firm, he became a high priced whore for the oil industry. This enabled him to move on from being a failed mayor and a failed businessman and into the U.S. House of Representatives. Inhofe never met an issue he wouldn’t sell out on. You wanna Christian Right dipshit? Inhofe’s your man!!! Of course, Inhofe has no real bone fides for right wing Christianity. He is a non-practicing Presbyterian. You need someone who will deny global warming? Inhofe’s your man!!! The guy is pure sleaze. He’s mostly portrayed as being  the dumbest person in the Senate; and, while that may be true, people don’t get the main issue. He’s a whore. He doesn’t care if what he says is false and ridiculous. It’s what he’s being paid to say. So, it doesn’t  matter that the entire planet is making fun of him.  Ain’t this boogie a mess? The crux of the biscuit, is the apostrophe.