The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A War Like No Other

"The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy."

A taste of how Victor Davis Hanson makes war on political correctness in this must-read article, "Ten Random Politically Incorrect Thoughts." (Hanson is the eloquent classicist who authored the book on the Peloponnesian wars, A War Like No Other.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

More on educational hypocrisy

I want to clear up any possible confusion about my last post.

I think it will be good for the Obama girls to go to a private school, where the school and the customer have a direct relationship, with the interest of the child their natural bridge.

I am for the privatizing of all education. In private education, children have the best opportunity to get the kind of education they need.

However, I'm incensed by those who send their own children to private schools, yet are against steps towards educational freedom for those without the current means to go to a private school. Attendance at private schools costs more than it would in a free market - because the parent has already paid for the government schools in his or her taxes. It's hard to come up with the money for private schools.

I AM concerned about using vouchers to expand educational freedom because they are doled out by the government...which inevitably means government oversight...and it's consequent leveling-by-regulation of whatever it controls. I'm worried that, with vouchers, private schools will need to conform to government standards, instead of individual school goals and innovations.

And their differences will end up being wiped out. Andrew Coulson at Cato describes the problem in the Netherlands, and offers a solution.

An Education in Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is alive and well in Washington, DC.- the Obama’s have chosen a private, $30,000 per year Quaker school for their girls. The Huffington Post approves.

Yes, the Obama girls need to be protected from danger and sheltered from the press. This can’t be done at a public school? You’d think the drug gangs would clear out in a minute with all those Secret Service agents.

Meanwhile, according to this Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Obama is against vouchers, because “Although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom.”

The “vision of the anointed” redux? I can’t wait to see what Tom Sowell says about this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paying attention

Maria Montessori

In my first post, November 3rd, I asked why young elementary children lose their earlier fire to learn and is there a way to get it back. Maria Montessori provides us with the answer to both questions:

"When you have solved the problem of controlling the attention of the child, you have solved the entire problem of education."

When it comes to attention and learning, Montessori could have been talking about anyone. Without attention to the material that needs to be learned, there is no learning. Attentional resources (focus) are limited. They must be used well to efficiently learn the most possible.

Further, the developed ability to concentrate on work and goals and to self-maintain interest and focus allow a person to succeed in long-term projects and purposes. In Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism, Jerry Kirkpatrick calls this “Concentrated Attention.”

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

In his studies on intensely productive and creative people, University of Chicago and now Claremont Graduate School research psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (found that certain conditions elevate the ability to pay attention, and pay attention deeply for long periods of time. He also recognized that specially designed practices in Montessori classrooms provide these conditions throughout the school day. His research group, including the work of Kevin Rathunde, has found many exceptional outcomes from these Montessori practices.

Here’s a picture of a work on geology which demonstrates the layers of the earth. What better way to interest children and cement the learning in their minds than through eating? Patti O’Donoghue, a teacher at my Council Oak Montessori School, invented this lesson.

At our school, we frequently get notes from parents, telling us that their children enjoy school so much that they pretend to be well when they are sick, so they won't miss school!

So, why can't traditional schools hold the attention of many students, from grade school through college?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Enormous payouts to college executives

While politicians and the public cry with outrage at executives' huge compensation packages in private, for-profit corporations, executive pay at non-profit universities and colleges have been shooting up.

The Chronicle of Higher Education's report features Amy Gutman, president of the public University of Pennsylvannia (Ben Franklin's baby). She got a 40% pay increase over the previous year, to a total compensation package of $1,088,786 in 2006-7.

And she's not alone.

"Fifteen presidents of public research universities took home at least $700,000 in 2007-2008, up from eight in last year's survey, and nearly one-third now earn over $500,000, according to the annual Chronicle of Higher Education survey out Monday [November 17th]." says the Chicago Tribune .

Some people are outraged that the executives get such high pay while students can't get financing and non-tenured faculty work hard at low pay.

Below is the Chronicle's table, comparing public and private, non-profit and for-profit CEO pay. (I wonder about Illinois state politicians' official pay versus their "take home" in our corrupt state.) I notice that no private college CEO is listed.

"Chief Executive Pay in One State

Here we compare the annual compensation of Richard Herman, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who makes close to the median compensation of $427,400 for a public research university president, with the compensation of other chief executives in the state.

Patricia A. Woertz, chairman and CEO, Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, Ill.


Richard Herman, chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Neil J. Nicoll, CEO, YMCA of the USA, Chicago


Walter Milton Jr., superintendent, Springfield (Ill.) Public Schools


Rod R. Blagojevich, governor of Illinois


Timothy E. McGuire, president, National Merit Scholarship Corp., Evanston, Ill.


National Median Salaries





Civil engineer


Corporate lawyer


Member, U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate


Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court




Nonprofit CEO


President, private research university


Corporate CEO (large companies)


SOURCES: The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-9 edition; Securities and Exchange Commission proxy filings; the office of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich; The Chronicle of Philanthropy; the federal judiciary; 2007 Equilar Survey of Corporate Chief Executives; Chronicle reporting"

What needs to be asked is: what is a public-university president producing to warrant such pay? Highly educated and productive graduates? Large-revenues from deals with private firms for university research?

I can't claim to know how such pay rates should be determined, but if this level of pay is what the market will bear for university presidents, I wonder if the scramble for the millions of government-financed college students these last 10 years has anything to do with it.