Friday, May 18, 2018

Statistical Drugs: Depression and Cholesterol




By Professor Doom

     It’s summer, higher education slows a bit, and I get to consider other things. So, we have another depressing headline in the news:

CDC: Teen suicide rate up 70% from 2006 to 2016



     This is a pretty hefty increase over a mere decade. Some news sites are trying to spin this as inadequate medical coverage, but I’m not buying it.  Americans are the most medicated population on the planet, though we pay very dearly for those drugs, even when insured. It’s not just teens in any event, suicide rates in general are increasing in this country.  

     But wait just a minute here. Anti-depressant drugs are very easily prescribed, doctors pass them out all the time—when I was diagnosed with cancer, the doc had a bottle in my hand very quickly (I refused to take them, almost certainly a great decision on my part).

     These things really are being passed out like candy on Halloween:

Between 2011 and 2014, approximately one in nine Americans of all ages reported taking at least one antidepressant medication in the past month, according to national survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three decades ago, less than one in 50 people did.


     Now, the ol’ “conspiracy theory” sites say these drugs are useless, and doctors who claim such things (there are a few) generally have their careers smashed but…the bottom line is we have over 30 million Americans taking drugs to offset depression, the most debilitating symptom of which is death by suicide.

     And yet the suicide rates are increasing.

     These drugs supposedly help based on statistical studies.

      Now, I know a thing or two about statistics, and I know how trivial it is to manipulate statistics in a study to say whatever you want. To get a drug approved, a drug company need only bribe convince our government into saying the drug works, and all that takes is money a statistical study.

      These studies typically have only a few dozen people, maybe a few hundred, and this study might be performed over a few weeks, perhaps a year. On the basis of such studies we’ve now inflicted these drugs on more than 30,000,000 human beings, for decades. Most importantly, we’re giving these drugs to human beings which our doctors believe are most vulnerable to the most debilitating symptom of depression, suicide. If these drugs really helped, we’d be seeing a reduction in suicide in general statistics for the population.

      In short, I have a study with 30,000,000 subjects on a drug which is supposed to reduce the suicide rate over the course of years…and the rate has gone up, dramatically. So…how exactly are these drugs helping? There are various studies saying these drugs are addictive, these drugs have very harmful side effects (including, amazingly enough, suicide), and so on, but challenging these studies is completely irrelevant, because we now have unbiased data more powerful than any study performed by the drug companies, which shows the drugs aren’t helping (it’s possible society is just so horrible now that the rates would be far worse without the drugs…but I just don’t buy that one at all, not without extraordinary evidence).

      I could toss in how there’s a strong link between these types of psychotropic drugs and mass shootings but, again, it’s beside the point. It would be up to the philosophers to decide if the occasional mass murder was worth it in exchange for helping millions of people. We need not consider this, however, because the evidence doesn’t show these drugs helping the general populace at all.

      I’m no doctor, and you must of course follow your heart regarding taking these kinds of drugs. I totally understand how one might take these drugs in desperation, and the placebo effect is legitimate enough that even if the drugs are worthless medically, they might still have a benefit in the short run for an individual.

      But, bottom line, in terms of statistics? I deeply dispute studies performed by the drug companies or a corrupt government taking money from the drug companies (i.e., with a conflict of interest, direct or indirect) which say these drugs do much against the worst side effect of depression, because the general evidence says, if anything, these drugs are increasing the rate of suicide.

     I was confronted with another statistical drug recently. I’m easily in the last half of my life, so I went to the doctor for my first checkup in five years.

Doc: “Your cholesterol level is high, I’m going to put you on some statins.”
Me: “How high? What are my risks here? How safe are these statins?”
Doc: “You’re at a 15% elevated risk of a heart attack. You need to take these drugs for life.”
Me: “Hmm. Okeedoke.”

--pretty much the conversation I had with the doctor, a young man who struck me as fairly bright. It really was surprising that concepts such as “diet” and “exercise” didn’t come up.


     We’re really at the stage of “big data” for our drugs, where benefits are not determined by direct observation, but by statistical manipulation. Now, I grant I’m no athlete, but I’m fairly active, go up and down 4 flights of stairs without any issues (I teach in an old building, built before elevators, but does have nice views of the modern administrative palaces on campus), go to the gym and lift weights weekly, and no specific health problems. Checking the ol’ stats, I see I have around a 1% chance of having a heart issue/heart disease, based on my age, gender, and race. That’s an average, and I’m pretty sure my fitness level, minimal drinking, no smoking, good diet, and having no health issues will put me in that area (no family history of heart disease, either), give or take a few tenths of a percent.

      So the doc says I have a 15% elevated risk. Now that sounds like a lot, and I imagine most people get suckered by hearing it expressed that way. But I know the math, and I know that now my chance of a heart attack (again focusing on the worst effect of what the drug should prevent) soars from 0.01 all way up to 0.0115.

      With effects this small, this is another statistical drug, you really need to look at a sizeable part of the population to have any hope of determining any benefit. The gentle reader should compare these drugs to say, aspirin, where the fever-reducing effects are immediately noticeable on any lone individual who takes a few pills—you don’t have to study a few hundred people over the course of a year to calculate a few tenths’ of a percent improvement with aspirin.

     So, the doc says if I take the drugs (and they work perfectly) we’ll have a reduction in heart attack/death here, changing my percentage from a low 1.15% all the way down to 1%. That’s not so easy to visualize.

      Hmm. Let’s put that in terms most people can more easily understand. Under the assumption these drugs were perfectly effective, then a group of 700 males like me who used these drugs would see 7 heart attacks in a year (i.e., 700 times 1%), while a group of 700 who didn’t use the drugs would see 8 heart attacks in a year (i.e., 700 times 1.15%, or 8.05 heart attacks—I’m rounding a bit).

      8 heart attacks without the drugs, but 7 for the group using the drugs for this group of 700, and you could scale that for any group size. So, if I don’t take the drugs, the chance of that decision hurting me is 1/700. Hey, heart attacks are bad things, and if these drugs were completely harmless, I’d have no problem doing something to give even a piffling 1/700 chance of not having a heart attack.

       But these drugs do have side effects. They increase the rate of diabetes (I’m citing an official medical site, not a conspiracy by any means), and diabetes dramatically increases the chance of all other health issues, including heart attacks, by far more than 1/700. I’ve a family history of diabetes so I’m pretty motivated not to get it. The drugs also might well cause dementia and memory problems…I like having a functional brain, so another strike against taking these drugs.

     Do these drugs even work? Well, the doc says a 15% increased rate, so they must have been studied pretty hard. To quote me that number, he must have been given a margin of error of 0.0005. A quick check of the sample size for this margin of error shows a study of around 80,000 people much like me, for a year (assuming 95% confidence, with an estimated 1% chance) must have been done at some point.

      I would have liked to have seen that study, as that’s basically a very large proportion of the population with stats somewhat like me…I don’t know anyone who was in it (and I know plenty of people in my age group), nor could I find evidence of such a study being performed. There are at least a dozen age/sex/race categories, so assuming they did this for every group indicated, we’re talking a clinical trial of over a few million people for over a year. I don’t think it actually happened despite the doctor’s confidence. Hmm, just how many numbers are simply being made up, here?

     On the other hand, we have been using the population of this country to experiment with this drug. 25,000,000 Americans take statins now, and, much like with anti-depressants, these drugs are given to people who, supposedly, are most vulnerable to heart disease (if I can use the formal description for a range of heart-related issues, though like the general public I’ll simply express this a as a heart attack).

     With such a massive prescribing of drugs to reduce heart disease, we totally should see a reduction in the general population, right? Statins were first introduced in the late 80s. Again, I focus on the worst effect of a bad heart: death. So, are deaths from heart disease decreasing?

     It turns out, they are. More for males than females, even, and I’ll just consider males for statistics here.

     From 1990 (when these drugs started being given to nigh everyone) to 2014 (most recent stats), heart disease deaths dropped almost 10%. That’s pretty impressive. Is all of this due to the minor benefits (at best) claimed by the drugs? That drop doesn’t even cover what the doctor told me, 15%, for my particular numbers, and these drugs are supposedly more effective for more “at risk” people. Have we truly made absolutely no other medical advances in the last 24 years? It really seems like there have been improvements in medicine in the last generation.

     My suspicions aroused, I look harder at the data. I note that from 1969 (earliest stats provided above) to 1990, deaths from heart disease dropped 14% Seriously, the rate was dropping faster without the drugs. So…again I’m pretty wary of using these drugs, as unbiased statistical evidence points in the exact opposite direction which the drug company claims. (Scaling for population changes over this time period, incidentally, only makes these drugs look more irrelevant.)

     The gentle reader must, of course, follow his heart. I do encourage you to make an informed opinion, however. (I again consider the possibility that perhaps we’re damaging our hearts so much that death rate would be worse without the drugs, but again I would need to see some extraordinary evidence to accept this as a possibility.)

     Personally, I filled the prescription, but I’ll not be taking the drugs. The doctor is only claiming a 1/700 chance that I’d be helped by them, after all, and that’s the best case scenario of assuming no negative side effects, assuming there have been no heart-related medical advances in the last 24 years, and assuming the empirical evidence of the 21 years before that is falsified. I’m willing to bet 1/700th of my life against at least one of those assumptions being invalid.

       I personally find more realistic options, such as cutting down sugar, losing weight, and fast walking a mile a day on the new treadmill, are more likely to help me…admittedly, “more likely to help” is a pretty low bar than what the doc offered. I’ll let you know how well my plan works out after a few months.

       If I suddenly stop posting, well…1/700 is greater than zero, and disregarding doctor’s orders always has risks. Like I said, follow your heart.







Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Millenial Males With College Degrees Shafted In Workplace




By Professor Doom

      I accept that having a Y chromosome puts a hard cap on my career. I went into this with wide open eyes, as I was told in the 80’s that such would be the case. It was perhaps 1989 where it was made clear to me just how the system was working: the hiring committee had to justify in writing why any female (or minority) candidate was not chosen, but could reject any white male candidate without explanation. I promise the gentle reader: I’ve seen nothing since that time to indicate the rules have changed.

     Just because I don’t lament my own knowing choice, doesn’t mean I don’t find the claims by our “leaders” in higher ed that they’re tirelessly working to “fight sexism” anything but infuriatingly insulting. Listening to them say this even as we all know most college students are females nowadays is just adding insult to the insult.

     The bulk of our population goes to college now, so I suppose it’s only natural for the behavior of higher education to be reflected in society. I still think the following detail should be more public:



     Hey, it’s tough to get a job fresh out of college—employers are catching on that a degree doesn’t mean what it used to, and so they want experience…experience that a graduate won’t have because he’s just spent the last 6 or so years sitting in classrooms, learning (bear with me) things that most employers just don’t find useful.

     Now, government unemployment numbers are as much a fiction as anything coming out of the mouth of a higher education “leader,” so you have to read them carefully in order to get any information. A helpful chart puts things in perspective:



     There are only so many jobs out there, and looking at the above, it’s reasonable to conjecture that higher ed isn’t the only place where “first hire females, and then if anything is left over, let a male have it” seems to be the guideline.

     Looking at the age categories, however, it seems this is a newer phenomenon in the workforce. We should be worried, and we should wonder. Most graduates from STEM fields are male, so you’d think they’d be over-represented in hires. We’re told all the time how STEM fields lead to jobs but…there are only a finite number of jobs, and it’s well known that females with STEM degrees are even more preferred (heck, engineering firms which only solicit female employees can even brag of the fact…any firm which boasted of restricting to males would be utterly destroyed in the press). If your business is female owned, it gets a distinct advantage when seeking business with the most generous customer in the country, our government.

     It’s not just STEM where the males are getting ignored, and realize this is even more devastating than it looks because more college graduates are female now. Even with a “shortage” (to use the phrasing our leaders often use to describe a situation with females) of male college graduates, the above chart suggests an over 2:1 ratio of unemployment for college graduate males over college graduate females. I know, this could be viewed as a victory for feminism or whatever, but when one looks at the previous generations represented on that chart, it’s clear our society is engaging in a new experiment for how it should run.

     This, gentle reader, is a dangerous experiment. Societies which have a great number of unemployed, unemployable males with no prospects, no hope for a future are particularly vulnerable to upheaval by a sub-population which has nothing to lose. Ok, perhaps I worry overmuch here, but the fact remains this disparity would be intolerable if any other “protected class” in our country were subjected to such obvious discrimination.

       My apologies if I’m quick to see sexism here…but I know that’s how this startling result would be represented if the female graduates were being unfairly targeted for unemployment. The article tries to say something else is at work:

But what if there’s a deeper, more encompassing problem underlying these circumstances? Is it possible that today’s young men are suffering from a malaise…


     Ok, sure, a malaise. Could that malaise be the simple fact that college indoctrination typically involves the males being told about their “toxic” masculinity? How is this not considered sexist, either?

created by current societal norms?


     Honest, the societal norm here is that males are second class citizens. I grant this is not the case throughout society, but it’s a common enough norm on our campuses, and the gentle reader needs to understand: our females graduate from these campuses, too, and get the same reinforcement, get the same message that males only should get something after all the females get something.

     Now toss in the scramble in corporate America to have “female leaders,” who absolutely can get into positions to strongly influence the hiring (again, I note every time I read of a company boasting of only hiring females, it’s a female making the boast, because that’s where the company initiative comes from…).

     The article I’m quoting from doesn’t allow comments, so there’s nobody to take the author to task for both ignoring the very real possibility of sexism, or for her (of course) shamefully blaming the victims here, the males, for having a “malaise” which is keeping them from getting hired (seriously?!).

     While I can’t pin this trend precisely on the student loan scam, bottom line is our student loans are huge factor in the skyrocketing tuition, a tuition justified because a college degree is supposed to be helpful for getting a job. I know it’s too much to ask for the universities to return the money they collected under false pretenses, but perhaps we could cancel the loans made to the males for degrees of no value to them?

       Just imagining the crying in the media about how sexist that would be inflames the part of my heart which warms when it considers hypocrisy.





    






Saturday, May 12, 2018

Attacking RACIST Buildings




By Professor Doom

     I hardly know where to begin today. Anyone watching the news knows that basically everything you say, everything you do, is now recorded somewhere. Anyone reading the news knows that if you’re in the crosshairs of the powers that be…everything you’ve said and done will be scoured (and possibly twisted) for something that is “wrong,” by today’s standards. A racist joke you told a few decades ago, or a picture your girlfriend sent you when she was under 18 and you were in high school, could easily be turned into “damning” evidence of your unworthiness, not just for public office, but for any job at all. One false step at any point in your life can cause you to be irrevocably un-personed.

     Current “celebrities” aren’t the only targets, there’s a push to target people long dead for similar un-personing. While certainly someone who lived in the 19th century won’t have quite the “internet footprint” of anyone alive today, he’s also not around to defend himself from the charges. It’s really worth pointing out how vile this tactic is when trying to apply modern “sensibilities” to people from a very different era.

     If someone from the 19th century stood up and started spouting some of the things taken as “normal” today…he would have been destroyed. For example, I cannot believe someone in 1850 who announced “There are 52 genders, and anyone who wants to change their sex should do so as a civil right!” would have much of a future beyond a trip to the nearest asylum…but pretty much all college administrators today must be able to shout such things at the top of their lungs, shamelessly and endlessly.

      There’s long been a push to un-person many of our founding fathers, for owning slaves. So far, these efforts have been unsuccessful, mostly because slave-owning was perfectly legal and culturally acceptable at the time of those founding fathers…but recent events at a university warn me more is coming.

        On university campuses, we often honored scholars by naming buildings after them, or erecting statues, after a lifetime of service. Ok, I’m talking about the past here; nowadays we mostly just honor administrators and coaches (Penn State can tell you how that works out). These honors, bestowed years ago, are now being removed based on modern thinking:



    Ah, the cry of RACIST, yet again. Now, I’m in no way defending these honored people, and I certainly don’t agree with their ideas, but this is a sickening precedent.

     Let’s take a look here:

Little was president from 1925 to 1929. He was also president of the American Eugenics Society and advocated policies that would deny civil rights to immigrants, many minority individuals and others.


      Nope, not a fan of eugenics but…”deny civil rights to immigrants” is pretty loaded. In modern America, we need to distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants. A certain President is firmly of the belief that giving certain civil rights to illegal immigrants is a bad thing…if we un-person Little, could this not be used as a precedent?

In the 1950s, he served as a leading spokesman for the tobacco industry in contesting the idea that there was any relationship between smoking and cancer.


      Now, serving as a leading spokesman for the tobacco industry, contesting the relationship between smoking and cancer is quite reprehensible but…this is a teaching moment. Instead of burying history here, why not put up a big plaque, detailing what this guy did?

       It is very, very, important to smash into people’s heads as often as possible the following concept: big money can easily corrupt science. Very few people know just how long it took, how hard the fight was, to finally convince the American public/government that smoking was dangerous, despite the fact that doctors “strongly suspected” the relationship starting in the 19th century. Doctors who spoke out publicly were considered crackpots, because all the “scientific” studies said smoking was harmless.

      Please keep this in mind when the mainstream media screams at you that “there’s no relationship between autism and vaccines.” Lots of people believe there’s no relationship because of this screaming but…educated people know it took decades before the completely obvious relationship between smoking and cancer could finally be acknowledged, because for decades the media kept telling the public, through figureheads like Little, that there was no relationship at all.

      Similarly, there’s big money in the global warming “science”…but let’s get back on point for today’s topic.

      So, absolutely he was a monster whose actions got many people killed. Let’s not bury that information, but instead help to inform people that, at one point in time, his actions were considered honorable.

      Let’s look at the other racist building being attacked:

Alexander Winchell, who in the late 19th century was a professor of physics, civil engineering, geology and paleontology. His 1880 book, Preadamites, or a Demonstration of the Existence of Men Before Adam, is considered to be full of racist ideas and is typically cited these days only by those who advocate racism…

--note that not only the man, but anyone who ever cited the man, is being targeted here.


      This action is even more reprehensible. Let’s take it as an axiom that this scholar wrote a book and that his beliefs were totally, fundamentally wrong…but he still got the building named after him for his scholarly work.

      This one book wasn’t the only thing he did.

     Plato is one of the humanity’s greatest minds. He believed that all matter was composed of four elements, and by “element” I mean in the ancient sense: air, earth, fire, and water.

      Now, this is patently, obviously wrong. Colossally wrong, even. Should we now destroy every statue of Plato, and remove all of his books from human consideration for this grotesquely inaccurate version of reality? Of course not, and that’s the heart of the problem here.

       So this guy wrote a terrible book, used by people other people don’t like. You don’t destroy a scholar for having one wrong belief, or for making one mistake (particularly when there’s no evidence it killed anyone). But, this guy was targeted, all his work in engineering and geology and other fields is now determined to be meaningless because of something else he said.

      This is no false outrage on my part here. Communism was a huge crime against humanity, causing over a 100,000,000 deaths in the 20th century alone. I’m still not calling for statues of Marx to be taken down, or for his books to never be read again. He was a monster, and his monstrous ideas need to be preserved, so that we do not forget monsters exist.

     In a similar vein, the above targets should not be punished for their mistakes, particularly when you put their “racist” views in context. We have Leftist racists running many of our campuses today, and I find it very likely that, at some point in the future, their incredible evil will be cast out…when this happens, if they have buildings and statues named after them, let those remain.

     But put a plaque next to those honors, listing the evil of their Progressive beliefs in detail. The children of tomorrow have a right to know the monsters on our campuses today really existed.







Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Ph.D. Mill




By Professor Doom

     I know I’ve written of the tremendous glut of Ph.D.s before, but I feel this is an important issue that needs addressing, for two big reasons.

     First, many schools are basically degree mills, cranking out diplomas in exchange for those sweet student loan checks. The students learned nothing in their degree programs, so when they graduate, they can’t find a job.  We’ve been doing this for years, and it’s created many victims. Many of these get double-victimized, as they return to school to get doctorates, getting even further in debt. But since now we have doctorates being cranked out in huge abundance, their value has also plummeted to almost nothing, in most fields (and, yes, that includes STEM). The more I cover this huge scandal in higher ed, the more likely it is I’ll prevent at least a few people from being double-victimized.

       While the first reason above is honorable enough, the second reason I keep coming back to the Ph.D. glut concerns me more because it deals with integrity. See, your typical bachelor’s degree was never about a job, and was never meant to directly apply for a job. A degree in Sociology, Psychiatry, even pure Mathematics is not, all by itself, necessary to get a job. In these “olden days” simply earning a degree was an achievement and nothing more, noteworthy enough that an employer realized the earner was an exceptional person and likely would do well at any job. The exact field was unimportant.

        But that’s the bachelor’s degree. A Ph.D. is a different matter entirely. Such a degree is a scholarly research degree, a demonstration that the holder is qualified to conduct legitimate research (again, I’m referencing the old days here). Absolutely there were independently wealthy people who would get such degrees and research on their own time, but those days are mostly over. While common enough over a century ago (where the aristocracy was more common), somewhere in the 19th century it was clear that the people getting Ph.D.s were devoting their lives to knowledge, and would generally need, if not aristocrats themselves, support from a wealthy sponsor. This support soon shifted over to support from a university or other institution dedicated to knowledge.

        What I’m getting at here is while bachelor’s degrees are seldom explicitly for a particular job, doctorate degrees are, specifically, for getting a job in higher education. Thus comes the integrity: for a university to accept doctoral students far in excess of any estimates of job availability is a woeful lack of integrity.

     Integrity is important here, because every accredited school promises in writing to act with integrity. Few, if any, do, because those student loan checks at the graduate school level are very sweet indeed.

     We’re now starting to regularly see the problem at the Ph.D. level which we started to see a decade ago with our students getting bachelor’s degrees. This is no surprise, since it can take about a decade for a student to get a Ph.D. The Ph.D. mills are destroying the value of a Ph.D. as assuredly as our degree mills have destroyed the value of an undergraduate degree:



      I’m quoting from Anonymous Academics again here, because I also think it’s important to understand faculty, when trying to point out serious problems in higher education today, are punished severely, and this  punishment is so common that you can literally publish a regular column from faculty willing to highlight problems…provided they can preserve their anonymity.

Her article added to an expanding genre known as quit lit, which reflects the growing disillusionment of many academics with university culture.


     Just as we a huge body of literature of anonymous academics too afraid of retaliation to openly criticize higher ed, so too do we now have a great deal of literature which covers academics who write of their thoughts regarding walking away from the entire exploitative system. The article I’m quoting from is just one more such piece.

      The author has her prized Ph.D. but can’t find a job:

Perusing job ads, it strikes me that lectureship vacancies are rare, in contrast to the plethora of positions for university bureaucrats. When permanent jobs come up, the ensuing feeding frenzy sees hundreds of applications from superbly qualified candidates.


     I used to be on hiring committees, and it is amazing when a job opens up. Even though the job requirements were very restrictive, we’d still get many hundreds of applicants who, on paper, were every bit as qualified for the job as I was. Even after moving the females and minorities to the top of the stack (because that’s what admin wanted), it was still a daunting task to get to the top five worth interviewing by the committee.

     Senior academics warned that my university cared more about cheap labour than launching academic careers. It turns out they were right


      The “cheap labour” (if you’ll forgive the British spelling; the article is just as valid for the US) refers to being used as a grad student. While adjuncts --churned out Ph.D.s desperate for work--form the bulk of labor (cheaply) for higher ed, another significant source is the grad students, who also teach courses and perform research.

       As a third bonus, grad students also bring in that sweet tuition revenue. It’s no wonder integrity was discarded in exchange for a bunch of grad students to exploit.

…the aspirations of doctoral students – the overwhelming majority of PhD students I’ve encountered desperately want a career in academia. They didn’t saddle themselves with debt because they wanted intellectual stimulation. Given university marketing departments’ desperate trumpeting of the value of “employability”, it’s surprising that taught and research postgraduate degrees seem exempt from this consideration.


      Again, integrity is an issue here. Any claim that employability will happen via a doctorate is implicit is disintegrated when the university marketing explicitly states that’s what the Ph.D. is for. Now, when a university is stamping out, say, Plumbing degrees, they can defend themselves from their graduates not getting jobs by saying claiming the university has no control over the plumbing industry.

       But higher education totally controls the jobs for Ph.D.s. They know how many positions were available last year, are available this year, and have an excellent idea how many will be available in the years to come. Universities are stamping out degrees for jobs they know for an absolute fact won’t exist because they are the industry.

      Our universities know they are hurting people, setting them up for a financial ruin, and our universities keep on doing it.

I’ve had a year as an academic, for which I’m grateful. I’ve got a nameplate on my door (which I intend to take with me when I leave). Do I feel like a failure? No, I did everything I reasonably could to make myself employable. But I can see that the PhD production line is broken, and it won’t be fixed any time soon.


      So another scholar walks away from higher education, another victim created. And so I post again, in the hopes that more people will become informed, and thereby fewer victims will be created.

      But I still believe our universities need to be taken to task for the pure evil they are doing here and forced to renounce their evil actions, because they’ll never stop doing it on their own.

     That would take integrity, after all.





Sunday, May 6, 2018

Trump Attacks Community Colleges…Rightfully




By Professor Doom

     It really is amazing how whatever Trump says is twisted by the media. I apologize for piling on here by doing some twisting as well in the title, though I’ll at least concede he has the right of it. The article I’ll be quoting from gives no such quarter, presenting only those who disagree, and “accidentally” forgetting to indicate why Trump might well have a point:


     Both my title and the article’s are a little misleading. The article clarifies quickly enough:
President Trump loves vocational training. Community colleges? Not so much.

      There’s a big misconception by the public, which lumps vocational training and community colleges together. Doubtless this is due to the deliberate misleading by our leaders in higher ed.
      Vocational training is worthy enough—training people for actual jobs by giving them actual skills. Schools specializing in this exist, but quite commonly community colleges offer vocational training as a sideshow to the pseudo-academics. Trump is right to distinguish between the two, because these schools often obfuscate what they’re doing so that most can’t tell the difference.
       It’s very common for these schools to wheel out that one success story from the vocational part of the school, then neglect to mention that the vast majority of what goes on on campus has nothing to do with vocational training. In my own blog, I’ve highlighted many schools where 90% of the academic coursework is 9th grade (or so) material, sucking up taxpayer money for “college” material which is nothing of the sort and, more importantly, isn’t training the students for anything at all, much less a profitable occupation.
     Let me state clearly: 90% of community college isn’t college. This percentage comes up every time I look at a school’s course offerings. The Poo-Bah will point out, correctly, that their “electrician certification program” produces ten graduates a year, he’ll neglect to mention the thousand or more students taking “Elementary Math” courses with content literally no different than what’s going on in the primary school down the road (and I do mean literally, because I’ve taught the course and compared with a friend teaching in that primary school).
     Community colleges run on fraud; their business model is to suck in as many students as possible via the Pell Grant scam, squeezing every last dollar out of them before spitting them back out. Over 70% of community college students are cheated by this system, and leave community college with nothing (I repeat: 70%).
      Because of this fraud, we have weird quirks, where the most common college grade is an A, and yet schools’ on-time graduation rates are abysmal, with 0.6% (i.e., close to 1 student in 200) considered pretty decent.
      This contradiction exists not because students are bad, mind you…it’s because the business model is fraud. They’re not students, they’re not there to graduate…they are there for the checks, and the people running the schools know it.
      Just because there is some legitimate jobs training occurring on campus doesn’t change this simple fact.
      But back to the article, which quotes Trump:
"But he’ll never be a student, nor did he want that kind of learning, that kind of whatever you want to call it," Trump said. "So we need vocational schools. Now, they call them, a lot of times, community colleges. I don’t think it’s an accurate definition."

     Again, this is correct. There’s a big push for community colleges to change their name and call themselves universities. They’re not doing this because of their vocational programs. They’re doing it because the big, easy money is in “academic” programs. Let me explain way.
      See, vocational training is expensive. You need to hire people that really know what they’re doing, and you’ll have to pay them more than what they could make with those useful job skills, to put up with collegiate working conditions. You’ll also often have to shell out real money for actual training tools—you’re not teaching electricians without an electrical shop, for example. Finally, the graduates of a vocational program have to have actual skills. Classes must be kept small so that students don’t fall through the cracks, and the instructor can see with his own eyes he’s passing people with legitimate skills. You can’t graduate fake electricians without the local community realizing it, very quickly…and that would be a problem for the school.
      On the other hand, academic programs have a HYUGE (to use Trump’s phonetics) profit margin. Hiring a gender studies teacher is cheap, very cheap, because that’s just not a skill which has any market value (assuming gender studies is a skill). It takes no money for instructional materials, relatively speaking: just a projector so that the instructor can run the content-free PowerPoint slideshows. Class sizes can be gigantic, because nobody cares if a student gets through the course without learning anything. You can totally graduate fake Gender Studies majors because, again, nobody cares if the graduate is any good at it.
      So our community colleges turn away from the hard and noble mission of job training, and go for the low hanging fruit of bogus academics. I doubt Trump knows the precise details I’ve outlined above (and the statistics I cite are all publicly available)…but he’s still right, even if it’s coincidental.
“I would welcome an opportunity to speak with the president about the wealth and breadth of programs and services our 1,200 community colleges provide annually to millions of individuals," J. Noah Brown, the president and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees, said in a statement Thursday.

     Hey, CEO Brown? The statistics are publicly available because you collect them. These schools are sucking in Federal money, so Federal strings are attached, which means the schools collect and publish the data.
       I’m sure CEO Brown will ignore what he knows to be true, and instead point at the little vocational programs that indeed represent the top of what community colleges offer, hoping Trump never learns of the huge mountain of rubbish hiding under those programs.          
Ivanka Trump said the administration was focused on expanding alternatives to four-year degrees, including apprenticeships.

     Yes, do that, please…I humbly ask the gentle reader to look at the want ads of the paper and see how much demand there is for electricians, mechanics, computer repairmen, and other people with skills, and compare that to the demand for gender studies, even though the latter course is now mandatory on campuses (I could address at this point how gender studies isn’t even academic, and explain the immense fraud of accreditation which allows this to happen, but I don’t want to digress too much here). Genders Studies is mandatory, so why not make computer repair and other important life skills mandatory?
      Seriously, right now our community college graduates graduate with the knowledge of 45 genders and how everything is racist, because courses on those topics are mandatory. Would our community colleges be held in such low esteem if, instead, they had mandatory coursework on computer repair and car repair mandatory instead? If you can make non-academic coursework like gender studies mandatory, then, yes, you could make car repair courses mandatory as well. The gentle reader should consider carefully why the latter courses are not mandatory, to see I have the right of things here.
      The article then goes on to trash Trump regarding his support on campus among the students, assuring us that the polls say only a small percentage of students are Republican anyway or even like Trump . I won’t waste time on this aspect of the article, beyond reminding the gentle reader how well those polls predicted Trump’s support in the last election.
     For the most part, the comments section dogpile on Trump (the site I'm quoting from is read mostly by faculty, who are indeed primarily Left-leaning), although one commentor points out, much as I have, the statistics regarding community colleges are abysmal:
Community colleges would be banned if they were private with their ridiculous outcomes, usually ranging around 8% graduation rates, only a little over 30% transfer rate, and 0% employment rates. Any other form of education including kindergarten would have been banned years ago if they consistently had such poor outcomes. It just shows how government protects its own by allowing public institutions to thrive when they perform so poorly.
If home owners knew that they directly pay for these terribly performing schools they’d be livid.


      The above person is disregarded, but those stats, I again point out, are public knowledge (although I suspect the 0% employment rate is a typo). And, yes, any public school with outcomes like these would be a disgrace, even though it’s considered typical community college “success.”