Hot Air

Schools For Tools

An indictment:

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

These words, written by William Deresiewicz in The New Republic magazine for his piece on the Ivy League brain factories, can be applied to most university programs, including our own Indiana University.

Deresiewicz opens his article by recounting the time he participated in a Yale admissions committee session. That’s where, in his case, five people sat in a room, pored over high school students’ applications and gave thumbs up or down. Yale, the alma mater of the likes of Sinclair Lewis and Paul Krugman, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, and no fewer than 17 members of the United States Supreme Court, is, of course, among the toughest of universities to get into unless your daddy-o prints money. But there are only so many Americans who comprise the 1% so that Yale admissions committee had to reach down deep into the poorer-then-Croesus pool for the coming school year.

Yale House Flag

Nevertheless, the lucky few who gained admission to Yale that year were the cream of the cream. Students, for instance, who listed six extracurricular high school activities on their applications, were deemed, essentially, too lazy for the place.

I don’t know about you, but I loathed the type of kid who’d list a half a dozen or more extracurricular activities under his yearbook pic (I went to an all-boys HS, so don’t holler at me for using the male pronoun).

I’ve railed on and on about how our colleges and universities these days seem to be nothing more than glorified vocational schools. Kids strive for college degrees not so they can learn to think and to reason, to learn the rigorous methods of inquiry, to become well-rounded, to be exposed to the dizzying variety of peoples who live on this Earth, and then, so prepared, be an asset not only to the species and the planet, but to get a good job as well. No. Too many kids spend four years setting themselves up as the best little employees they can be. Universities are fast becoming training grounds for adults who are docile, unthinking, and eager consumers.


The Ivy League schools, apparently, are the best at doing this ugly job but it’s a job shared by institutions across this holy land. Read Deresiewicz’s piece and, if you’re like me, weep.

[h/t to John Wasik.]

Just Don’t Get Sick

Up to 15 million people already have benefitted from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Nice. That means millions more kids now get better access to preventative and urgent health care than did before Barack Obama came into office. Hundreds of thousands of families now don’t have to worry about financial ruin should a daughter’s liver go kaput or a parent’s brain suddenly sprout a tumor.

Once again, I’m not thrilled with the ACA. I want single-payer, universal health coverage. But Obamacare is the best we could do, considering the extent to which Republicans get itchy when the question of helping people who aren’t richer than certain small nations arises.

The GOP has stood on its head trying to overturn the ACA. The very idea that we as a nation should extend a helping hand to our broke neighbors strikes Republicans as un-American. They characterize those who want to help people who can’t afford $500 or $750 a month health insurance premiums as socialists, commies, or, worse, secret Kenyans.

I’ve known scads of rugged individualist Republicans whose response when asked about poor people has been Fuck ’em. That’s not shorthand; I’m quoting.


It’s Your Own Damned Fault!

That is shorthand for what the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said yesterday in a ruling on federal subsidies for ACA participants. Check out the ruling and you’ll see that it’s chock-full of high-minded legalese and the splitting of hairs over seemingly inconsequential language in the original Act. The judges sound very knowledgable and Solomonic. But in truth, they’re saying Fuck you to those 15 millions who now have affordable health insurance, the emphasis on the word now. Tomorrow, if the panel’s decision is upheld by the Supreme Court, is another story.

We are engaged in a battle for the soul of this nation. As in, some of us want the nation to have a soul and some of us prefer us to be soulless. Funny, though, how those who seem most soulless are the same ones who talk about god all the time.

To Sleep, Perchance…

And, speaking of courts flipping the bird at one class or another of citizens, Marion Superior Court Judge David Dryer ruled Monday that Monroe County’s newly-approved late-night noise ordinance isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and work can continue on I-69 through the night, every night.

That means a lot of people who live around SR 37 and points southwest in this county will be super cranky at their jobs for the next few months due to the banging, beeping, and clanking that’ll keep them awake all night long. A good night’s sleep is a fine thing but it is nothing at all compared to the desire of the state to lay concrete.

Interstate Road Construction

Happiness Is Wet Concrete

The I-69 brouhaha was aboil when I moved to these parts in late 2009. Plenty of people were protesting and hollering at INDOT officials and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels that the proposed super-road would cause  environmental nightmares.They were certain, several told me, that they could derail plans for the highway. I told anybody who’d listen (most didn’t) that laying concrete is the most irresistible urge the state — any state — has. If the federal government’s primary responsibility is military defense and the overriding duty of municipal gov’t is to pick up garbage, then the state’s biggest task is to build roads. Road building is the lifeblood of a state’s economy, as well as the financial health of whichever political party is in charge. Ergo, no amount of hooting and shrieking would deter Daniels et al from paving from here to eternity.

Natch, work on I-69 continued apace, environmental nightmares be damned. On the other hand, the folks who live around the I-69 construction zones won’t have to worry about nightmares anymore. You have be able to get to sleep to have them, after all.

4 thoughts on “Hot Air

  1. David Paglis " not of that number who remain ignorant in spite of experience." says:

    Fly in the ointment time: Remember GW being criticized for starting unfunded wars? I think Obamacare is seriously underfunded. Expanded Medicaid in the states, subsidies for those earning up to some number above the poverty line and a few taxes and cuts to providers to pay for it? We’ll see. Wars end, entitlements don’t. I’m all for the individual mandate but I think those smart guys in Washington could have come up with a market oriented approach. Obamacare is here to stay and that’s good but let’s get some market forces going.

  2. Susan Sandberg says:

    And in the wake of this troublesome ruling, our illustrious Governor Pence is doing backflips in defense of his opposition to the ACA and his refusal to embrace the extension of Medicaid in Indiana. See, apparently he was right after all when he said “fuck ’em.”

  3. Just A Bill says:

    American conservatives hate social security. They hated it in FDR’s day and every day since, Their attempts to dismantle the most successful public insurance program in history have been continuous and mean-spirited, appealing to the population’s basest motivations.
    While failing to kill the SSA, they’ have managed to implement an impressive social insecurity system that diverts resources, sows hatred and resentment and assures tidy (massive) profit for its corporate sponsors.

    Convincing a plurality of American voters of the intellectual superiority of their ideas gave way to a concerted effort to harness bigots and zealots through fear and self-righteousness to dam up the works, increase inefficiency and divert spending into closed loop processes. In the face of overwhelming evidence, they may have finally succeeded… temporarily.

    Their scheme is not sustainable. The questions facing us today are when the breaking point will come and what will remain after it does.

  4. David Paglis " not of that number who remain ignorant in spite of experience." says:

    I had a similar discussion with a Liberal friend about SS. I googled and found that the House version passed in ’35 with just 33 no votes, 15 R’s, 15 D’s ( we had a couple of smaller parties back then). The conference bill was so popular with both parties that both Houses of Congress passed it on voice votes. The program is on a self described unsustainable course. To propose improvements is not the same as killing it.

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