Is Tenure important? Yes. Here’s why…

Tenure is one of the more controversial benefits offered to educators in the United States, in particular. Teachers who are “tenured” often are difficult to discipline constructively if they commit violations — even some severe violations.

But when examining the benefits, it becomes clear that Tenure is necessary for a classroom that is as little motivated by external politics as possible.

Consider the fact that Governors often appoint Regents to the University’s management board. This function allows the Governor to effectively control policy at a State school of learning, by and through his appointees to the Board of Regents. While this in and of itself doesn’t sound overly daunting, consider the following:

Consider an instructor teaching a course in a college the Governor appoints Regents to, and this instructor teaches philosophy contrary to the opinions of the Governor. The Governor finds this out, and wishes to see that this employee is somehow sanctioned; which he could theoretically do through his Regent appointees, because the Chief Executive of the State often has the power to “unappoint” individuals, as these individuals often serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Regent could feel pressured to sanction the employee in some way, including not approving a new contract of which the employee is a part. Regardless of the issue, it gives one individual a LOT of power — that power being the Governor’s.

Without Tenure protections, teachers who teach “politically inconvenient” subjects or topics could find themselves in very serious trouble — and even fighting for their job. With this type of pressure in mind, is a teacher able to remain unbiased from external forces when building a lesson plan? Maybe so, maybe no.

Tenure helps deflect issues such as these — and allows the individual teacher to teach and conduct pedagogical methods or even politically or internally unpopular ideals, methods or philosophies, with a far diminished fear of retribution.  This allows the instructor to be influenced as little as possible by external forces, including shifting political views with the times, changes in administrative or executive leadership — both internal and external to the school, and other forces that drive education.

With these things in mind, what do you think?  Should teachers be as isolated as possible from forces outside the University or School System, or should they be directly held accountable — not the school?

I’ve always believed in holding the school accountable, so schools can error-correct themselves, particularly when it comes to more simple issues such as methodology, research or general practice.   [I’m not taking into account things such as gross dereliction, or showing up to work drunk, or other massive concerns where Tenure shouldn’t count as much, I’m assuming your average, every-day teacher].  Placing individual educators under the microscope of the public, or to forces outside the institution politicizes them — and that simple act causes a change in how the teacher will function, pure and simple.

Further Reading:

NYT: Tenure Firmly in Place, but Colleges Grow Wary of Lasting Commitments

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Americans with Ebola Released From Hospital… But…

The fact that the Americans who contracted Ebola and returned to the United States for treatment — and have now been released from the hospital after apparently recovering should be a cause for celebration. We now have a potential cure for such a devastating disease.

However, there are those who have said that it took Americans to get sick to come up with a cure for the disease. To a point, that’s kinda true — however…

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method

As a scientist myself [admittedly in my own crack-pot, not-yet-a-REAL-doctor, amateur, Emmett-Brown kinda way], there’s one thing drilled into the psyche of every scientist: be it a surgeon, a researcher, a social scientist or a biologist: the Scientific Method. “Real” research takes time, indeed, often a lifetime’s worth of testing, re-testing, hypothesizing, re-hypothesizing, failures, and successes, before the fruit can be borne. Indeed, Albert Einstein’s own “Great work” which he died writing, is still being written even now by his successors! [That being a revision of general relativity, essentially.]

It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of effort to come up with true scientific data, particularly when it comes to that of real scientific progress, as opposed to an undergraduate paper being written the night before its due.

It *did* take Americans getting sick to get approval for the drug, “ZMapp” to be released, it would seem — but… it’s still untested. Its side effects, if any, are unknown. Could Ebola be completely wiped out of the body by the drug? Or, could the treatment be similar to how HIV is treated: where it can be functionally eliminated, but still “hide” in the body somewhere, and when treatment stops, the virus gains a foothold on you again. We simply don’t know.

The FDA’s “Compassionate Use” protocol allowed those who knew full-well the risks involved, indeed, scholars in the area themselves, to take part in treatment, knowing that further down the road could bring more problems. What if there is some side-effect that the medication has that winds up causing problems down the road? Could it be an unknown carcinogen? Could it degenerate the brain? That’s what painstaking research and the scientific method is all about — and that’s exactly why it takes years for drugs to be made available for everyone.

Is the system perfect? Of course not. Do “bad drugs” still slip through the system? Of course. But its BECAUSE of the system of test, re-test, test again, test repeating and re-testing the test results that people don’t die from new drugs every day. I herald the day that these people were allowed to go home and continue their recovery, indeed, I celebrate it — Ebola DIDN’T lose two of its most prominent soldiers fighting against it, and indeed, I’m willing to bet that these individuals may find a renewed determination in fighting this terrible disease because of their experience. But, it doesn’t mean that Americans get “preferential” treatment just-because. The rest of the world isn’t a petri dish for the American way of life. We care too — which is exactly why untested drugs don’t go to just “anyone.”

Lack of News Coverage, or Sensationalist Media?

As a center-left guy, I’ve always tended to favor CNN when it comes to national news.  FOX is well known for being a mouthpiece of the big-money Republican establishment and MSNBC is equally as liberal; with their own agendas and stuff they will either NOT cover, or will cover with a strong bias.  CNN, while with a liberal slant that comes with mainstream media, it’s relatively informed and and when reporting on information, individuals such as Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer seem to present information relatively impartially.

However, with the recent loss of Malaysian Flight 370, I’ve noticed every time I turn on CNN… there’s NOTHING ELSE covered, except maybe on the bottom ticker.  I’ve learned more about the pinging signal from the Black Box than I’ve learned in COLLEGE in the last year — and that’s a sad statement.  Further, during the Fort Hood shooting, I noticed little press on the matter on CNN; or even the removal of limitations on monetary donations to federal-level election funds.

…aren’t these things the public may wanna know about?  Not more lack-of-news on a plane that sadly vanished a month ago, and we’ve learned LITTLE from since?

American media is starting to scare me.

Russian Military lands in Ukraine… What now?

The Ukrainian President has been removed from office.

Former Prime Minister [and oligarch?] Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison.

…and Russia has begun an armed invasion.

Those are the images seen from the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula today — Russian Spetsnaz gunships landing in civilian airports, Russian soldiers crossing the border on foot, and reports of telecommunications sabotage.

These events happening in just a matter of hours all begs the question: what’s next for the former Soviet republic?

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

With the so-called Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as Russian Chairman President Vladimir Putin’s brainchild of the Eurasian Union, which is billed as an European Union-answer to post-Soviet states; to which its own stated policy seems to be more a 21st century answer to the USSR than another EU — this apparent military takeover of a pro-West/pro-European Union nation seems to be more a politically self-serving move for Putin than an allied military entering to assist a nation to restore order.

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

Former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark states this is “an armed invasion.”  Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN has said that his nation is prepared to defend itself, and urged the UN to support it.  This isn’t a nation who’s “friend” is entering to “assist” the government in Kiev.

So… what now?

Apollo 11 on the Moon

Chinese rover successfully lands on moon…

Chang'e-3

Chang’e-3

Today, the People’s Republic of China became the third nation in human history to successfully land on the moon, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Chang’e-3 spacecraft, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, PRC on 01 December, just two weeks ago, will soon release the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit“) rover, a six wheeled scientific vehicle that contains an imaging sensor array, a telescope, an ultraviolet sensor and arms that can dig into the lunar soil up to 90 feet.  With a planned mission of three months, hopes are that the solar powered vehicle will live well beyond it’s life expectancy and mission time, much like other rovers have done.

Further, the next phase of the CNSA’s lunar program, Chang’e-5 is set to not only soft-land also, but has a stated objective to return to Earth with lunar soil samples, with a projected launch date of 2020.

Coming a long way since it first put a Chinese cosmonaut into space for the first time just ten years ago, the Chinese National Space Administration has clearly made leaps and bounds in putting the flag of it’s nation on another celestial body in a soft landing.

During the first EVA of Apollo 17, Eugene Cern...

Harrison Schmitt with the American flag and the Earth,400 000km away.

The last soft landing on the moon was by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24, which occurred in August 1976.  This mission was the third Soviet lunar expedition to successfully return lunar soil samples to Earth.  Four years before, Apollo 17 was the last manned exploration of the Moon, made up of Professor (and future United States Senator) Harrison Schmitt, and Navy Captain Eugene Cernan, known as “the Last Man on the Moon,” when his mission left the lunar surface exactly 41 years ago today, funny enough, when the Lunar Module ascended to meet the CSM at 10:54PM UTC.

“Sometimes, I catch myself looking up to the Moon and I wonder, when are we going back, and when will that be?”
— Captain James Lovell, USN (Retired)
Commander, Apollo 13

International Political Economy — What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

English: 2010 HDI (Very High) nations graph by...

English: 2010 HDI (Very High) nations graph by population size and region (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The social science concept of International Political Economy is a measure of a nation‘s law, politics and economics — and their effect on each other, and it’s worth to the world.  While this sounds complicated, it really isn’t, particularly if you think about the simple phrase itself.

In some aspects, it’s exactly what you think of when you think of how “strong” a nation is, particularly when you compare them socio-economically.  When you hear phrases such as “Nation A is stronger than Nation X,” or “Nation C has a stronger swing in the world than Nations G, E and F.”

Why is this an important thing to consider?  This is the measure of the whole machine: politics, law, the nation’s military industrial complex, state control of the economy and political freedoms work together (…or against) the rest of the “machine” of the country.  A country can have an extremely strong military, but with little social freedoms, this could very well work against the forward momentum of the nation if it’s regime is looking forward (as most of them are…).  However, another theoretical nation with a weaker military, but a strong Gini index and a strong Human Development Index may have a stronger IPE because the Grand Strategy of the nation is more in tune with what the people want in a democratic society.

It’s a simple concept — that has a complicated and involved explanation.  There’s a lot to know.  Check it out, there’s all sorts of really cool theories.  Everything from Marxist IPE theory to Realist IPE theory.

The one family you’ve probably never heard of… who’ve influenced your life the most

English: The heraldic achievement of the House...

The House of Medici

 

The Medici Family of Italy is probably something you’ve never heard of, unless you’re involved in high finance, politics, or the academic sides of each… but they’ve likely influenced your life more than you’ll ever know.

The Medici family rose to prominence during the 14th century in Florence, getting very wealthy off the textile and later, further gathering power in the Kingdom’s local governments. At the time, their seemingly unstoppable rise continued onward and upward, to the point where they founded the Medici Bank, the largest and most notable bank of the 15th Century of Italy.

Why is this so important? The Medici family not only produced FOUR Catholic popes (Popes Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV and Leo XI) — but it also made massive contributions to accounting and finance methodology — including the advent of the dual-book accounting system and overall improvements of the general ledger. Many of these improvements are still used by public and management accountants even today!

Coat of Arms of the Medici Family. based on Ar...

Coat of Arms of the Medici Family

 

Arguably, the Medici’s were the most wealthy family in Europe, and among the most powerful — effecting policy, religion and even banking methodology that’s still in use today. Next time you balance your checkbook, take a minute, and think about how the whole system of finance works, and where it came from… and look into it! You’d be surprised how the simple methods we use today to balance our sheets were revolutionary just a few hundred years ago…

Why did I leave Business to become a Theorist…

Socrates-1-

The Death of Socrates

“…an unexamined life is not worth living.”
 — Socrates

It’s question I’ve gotten a lot when I’ve been bouncing it off the minds of my more intellectual friends…

“Why would you not get a graduate degree in business?”
“There’s more money in business.  You want to study philosophy?!”

I’ve asked myself the same questions a lot, particularly the last year or so.  Yeah…  you definitely don’t get a degree in the humanities or social sciences and expect to make a lot of money — but I found myself going “Businessmen and businesswomen are a dime a dozen in the world today.  Indeed, they’re going to be flooding the marketplace by the time I graduate,” which is true.  Not only do I have my past successes in business as armament on a resume, but I started looking to the future…

With my experience in business, I can still teach business if I so want to; however, I think teaching the basics of political philosophy and ethics in politics could be just as important to preventing the next financial or political calamity as any business professional could be, teaching the equivalent courses.  Indeed, studying our past mistakes and failures makes us better able to prevent another Lehman Brothers‘ or Subprime Mortgage crisis or S&L Scandal.  Teaching the values of a balanced approach to policy in business, and business in policy I think is just as important, as well.

My main goal since I was a kid was to teach — even when I went into the private sector for awhile, first in mortgages, then in security as a manager, now working for a Fortune 500’s Health Safety and Environmental Department while I continue schooling…   I realized that studying our political past and the successes and failures in it lend just as much understanding as studying the great economists and financiers of our past and present does.

If maybe one day, one of the students I inspire goes forth to be a little more ethical, and blows the whistle on an unfair banking practice, or other social justice issue, or even something as simple as being a little more ethical in his or her business practices by having a sense of social responsibility and social justice, but still being profitable in his or her business — I think I’ll have done my part.

More and more the past several years, my drive has shifted from a sense of being educated more in business to more a sense of social justice.  I learned I was more interested in learning about business for the sake of my OWN knowledge, than applying it toward something I could use in the future.  When I found myself studying political or social justice issues…  particularly the work I’m doing right now as a Research Analyst and Intern with The SERO Project…  this is the stuff that actually matters.   The fact I retain information from a Business Communication course doesn’t *mean* anything, aside from the fact I can write kickass resumes and letters.  Helping myself and my friends better themselves is an awesome thing to be able to do…  but, when it comes to social science and social justice… this stuff actually MATTERS.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home in the top 5% of income in the United States.   I’m well taken care of, essentially, the rest of my life, even if I fall flat on my face a dozen times.  I’ve lived in some of the nicest places in the country — I’ve gone to some of the best schools our nation has to offer — including Eastern’s prestigious College of Business.  I have a family who’s always been there, and I have access to many resources and avenues the average person does NOT.  I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted, essentially…  even if I had to wait awhile for it.  Studying and working on behalf of the social sciences, particularly social justice, I think is not only a calling, but a duty of mine to perform — and it’s something I’m loving more and more, and have more and more a passion for as the days go by.  While I don’t have a wish at this time to be directly “in” politics, I’d love to be a back-office player someday…  maybe a policy analyst, or a Chief of Staff who offers a sounding board to a legislator or other person who’s decisions matter — to be right there, in the thick of it, when the opinions and the research actually count for something OTHER than lining your own pockets.

This is what I’m going to do.  Let’s get it done.

#2013Shutdown’s effect on Business and the Future of America…

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

One of my former (and future, no doubt!) professors from Eastern Michigan University, Dr. David Victor, posted this morning about a possible future oil boom for Iceland, noting that a recent survey and discovery shows Iceland sits on a *LOT* of the possible undiscovered oil reserves in the world, estimates place it at 13%.  With the thawing of the northern ice cap, and the North Atlantic Current keeping ice from marring up the major ports of the island nation, all of these things could conspire to bring a well-needed boon to it’s economy.

However, another follower on Facebook of Dr. Victor, the Chair of CitrinGroup, also threw in his two cents, stating that while the Chinese are courting and betting on future oil producers, such as Iceland, the United States, already suffering an anemic economy, is wasting it’s time on policy matters that in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter.  I tend to agree.

The United States’ economy is JUST starting to  gain traction, while sitting fairly stationery and spinning it’s wheels, begging to move forward since the crisis began in the Subprime Mortgage market in 2007.  We’re finally starting to see forward momentum beyond the familiar numbers of “0.04% gains.”  People are beginning to feel confident in the economic system again.

However, when people see the Government itself can’t get it together and pay it’s OWN bills, that’s when people begin to hold onto their OWN money, going “What if I find myself right back in 2008 again?”  I admit, I found myself thinking twice when I made a relatively small purchase this morning, because the well-being of MY household budget is determined by the fiscal health of the Federal Government.

When recessions and slumps hit the nation, the Government is there to provide relief, to buffer the blow with benefits, stimulus and other some-such capital, by pumping money into the system.  However, if that money is cut off too soon, the economy can slump again.  Bad news breeds bad feelings.  Bad feelings breed either a binge on spending, or a lack of spending, more often, the latter.  When people stop spending, the economy grinds to a screeching halt — as we saw starting with the credit freezes of 2008.  While one can argue the merits of policy on both sides of the aisle, the latest budgetary and policy debate is doing nothing but killing consumer confidence, and indeed, making foreign markets question the stability of the American economy.

While Obamacare is certainly an expensive program, so was the F-35 Fighter — which estimates have the cancelled fighter costing as much as a trillion dollars — a number often attributed to the cost of Obamacare.  Oddly enough, I haven’t heard it mentioned once by Republicans on the Hill, even though it is now essentially a great waste of capital and expenditures.

Who’s right?  Who knows.  One thing I do know is — #2013Shutdown can be a death knell for the fragile traction the American economy took years to get.