by AndrewMc | 2/26/2010 11:01:00 AM

Welcome to Friday. Today is the birthday of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and the subway in New York City.

Follow me.

I've used this space a few times to highlight the ongoing media debate about the value of a college degree. In fact, hardly a week goes by without one article or another questioning whether or not a college degree has value.

Most of that discussion, as I've said in the past, implies that the value of a college degree is in the monetary reward of whatever job a student gets after they graduate. Personally, I feel that this completely ignores the point of a college education.

The point is to prepare people to be active and engaged citizens of this republic. For that, students need to have a liberal arts education with a core curriculum that exposes them to a broad range of ideas and allows them to discuss and debate those ideas in an open and unfiltered manner.

It also requires that they grow and mature as people during their college education.

That's why this trend is not good:

Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.

And then:
In an era when college students commonly take longer than four years to get a bachelor's degree, some U.S. schools are looking anew at an old idea: slicing a year off their undergraduate programs to save families time and money.

This is "education as assembly line." Get students through as quickly as possible so they can get a job. It completely ignores the role of higher education as a facilitator of an educated citizenry. It's education on the cheap, with the main goal being to save time and money, and to bring out a product [a diploma] quickly and efficiently.

Education isn't supposed to be quick and efficient.

Majoring in sex, drugs, rock 'n roll.

I'm going to be the pilot on the next shuttle mission. Then I'm going to get a job as a programmer at Apple. After that, I think I'll take command of the 101st Airborne division. To wrap up a busy career, I think maybe I'll conduct cancer research at Scripps Hospital. Maybe I'll get my friend Bob Sacamano to help. No problem.

I have several students who self-identify as Tea-Partiers. My surprise is that I don't have more. In fact, the only good thing about the general apathy of of my students is that it means that the College Republicans don't do very much.

I realize that Teabaggers need to have a populace that is as uneducated as possible. Well, let me go back for a second. Tea Partiers themselves seem to be pretty well educated. But those are the self-styled leaders of the party. What they need is for voters to be as uneducated as possible. How else will they get them to swallow all the crap that comes out of the mouths of people like Mark Williams.

So, their non-stop meddling is bad enough. But this is more worrisome.

As if the recession had not given community college advocates enough to worry about, some fear that the anti-tax sentiment stirred by Tea Party activists could endanger their federal, state and local funding.

One Tea Party group in New Jersey is questioning Warren County Community College's plans to open a satellite campus, meant to accommodate the institution's burgeoning enrollment in outlying areas and free up space on its main campus. As required by New Jersey law, half of the $7.3 million bond to buy and renovate a commercial building for the new campus would be paid from an existing pool of state funds. The remainder, officials say, would be paid for by leasing additional space in the renovated building to interested tenants.

This seems like a "duh?" moment, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised when it happens.

A Montgomery County teacher has agreed to apologize to a 13-year-old student whom he reprimanded and sent to the office for twice refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, said a lawyer who represents the student.

It's about time.

We're reading Rick Perlstein's "Who Owns the Sixties" in class this week, so this piece at Salon is especially timely. I'm intrigued by the idea of the Teabaggers as "countercultural," especially given the unceasing argument that America is essentially a conservative nation. Me, I'd go with labeling them "disaffected loonies." But that's me.

Still, there's something to be said for the idea that

Street theater. Communes. Manifestoes. Denunciations of "the system." The counterculture is back. Only this time it's on the right.

Political factions that are out of power have a choice. They can form a counter-establishment or a counterculture. A counter-establishment (a term that Sidney Blumenthal used to describe the neoconservatives in the 1970s) seeks to return to power by reassuring voters that it is sober and responsible. A counter-establishment publishes policy papers and holds conferences and its members endure their exile in think tanks and universities.

In contrast, a counterculture refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rules of the game that it has lost. Instead of moving toward the center, the counterculture heads for the fringes. Like a cult, it creates its own parallel reality, seceding from a corrupt and wicked society into morally and politically pure enclaves.

The words "disaffected loonies" doesn't even begin to cover this.

THE .50 CALIBER Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load magazine. When the 25-year-old drove me to a mall in Watertown, New York, near the Fort Drum Army base, he brought me to see it in its glass case—he visits it periodically, like a kid coveting something at the toy store. It'll take plenty of military paychecks to cover the $5,600 price tag, but he considers the Bushmaster essential in his preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.

His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oa/th Kee/pers, one of the fastest-growing "patriot" organizations on the right.

Here's the main clue that these people are way more "anti-Obama" than they are concerned with defending the Constitution:

Most of the men's gripes revolve around policies that began under President Bush but didn't scare them so much at the time. "Too many conservatives relied on Bush's character and didn't pay attention," founder Rho/des told me. "Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists. But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, 'I think you are a threat to the nation?'"

This is the typical behavior of people who support dictators: Absolute power is OK when my allies exercise it.

The test for handing power to someone, anyone, is "would I be OK if my political opponents had the same power?" If the answer is "no" then you don't do it. It's simple.

I love the idea of this:

It is a grand vision: a global college with no tuition, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

When the higher education entrepreneur Shai Reshef laid out his ambitious plan to build a free university that would use modern technology to spread the promise of a college degree to all corners of the earth, he got an enthusiastic reaction from some high-profile institutions. The United Nations has backed the venture. So has Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. Reshef and his lieutenants also like to mention the many letters of support and offers to pitch in from professors worldwide.

It gets right to the very ideal of a liberal education: it should be open to all. But the hard reality is that a liberal education is subject to the market. Universities raise tuition, loans are hard to get, and states generally have little interest in funding higher education in a meaningful way. Too bad.

Questions about the so-called University of the People abounded: How do you build quality programs without charging tuition? How effective would the project’s peer-to-peer pedagogical model be in classrooms of students from vastly different cultural and educational traditions? Who would accredit such an operation at a time when the perceived value -- even necessity -- of a postsecondary education is ascendant in virtually every country? Reshef’s heart seems to be in the right place. But is his head?

I don't know that this thing will succeed. After all, many universities already provide free online classes to anyone with a computer.

We'll see.

In class today we are tasting a range of chocolate stouts. Young's was the first I ever had. It reminds me of liquid chocolate cake. Great flavor--it's deep and mellow.

It falls into the "Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer" category for the Beer Judge Certification Program. From a judging standpoint this category is wide-open, and it gives brewers a great deal of flexibility.

Have a good weekend.

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