Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stinging the Frog

Tucson, Arizona. The Citizen has a story on Arizona’s funding reduction for its three universities as a means to help balance its budget, a well documented phenomenon across the country in the last thirty years. University presidents tend to be rather sharp individuals, so the administrations of the University of Arizona, Arizona State, and Northern Arizona University anticipated the development. They will do their best, but ultimately education suffers. In the case of the U of A, an $875,000 rollback of funding for the Math & Science Teacher Initiative Loan program is just the beginning of the impact.

Public support for higher education has stagnated in the last thirty years. From WWII through the 70s, the US endorsed an educated society as the key to military and economic supremacy. Few realize how marginal the United States international standing was prior to WWII. Neither the atom bomb nor GI’s having a lot of kids propelled this nation to the pinnacle of economic and military might. What launched us ahead of everyone was sending our young to college in numbers previously inconceivable, first with the GI bill and later with the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965. Cold war fears and Johnson’s war on poverty fostered a culture that viewed a well educated population as benefiting society.

Then we elected an actor of marginal intellect who made no connection between an educated population and prosperity, no sense of societal benefit from an electorate armed with a solid education, critical thinking skills, and the ability to engage in informed discourse. Forget all that. Education didn’t help society. It only helped students get better jobs, so the varmints should pay for their owned damned education. It frees up funds for elected officials to give to their friends, and to say that public schools have simply raised tuition to make up for declining government support oversimplifies the complexity of the system’s response.

What Reagan started, GHW Bush continued, and Clinton stalled, W (the cerebral equivalent of a tuna sandwich) exacerbated dramatically and lobotomized half the nation. Somehow, the power structure rejected knowledge, education, and intelligence to embrace the suppression of progress and the domination of dogma and dumb. O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Robertson, Savage, and a sea of religious kooks seek an anti-learning oppressive system that promotes the persistence of ignorance. The White House dropped $1.3 B to tell teenagers not to have sex. Think about that.

Those familiar with this blog can perhaps appreciate my frustration when here in Tucson, a tiny training institute helping local workers increase their skills and wages was destroyed solely to pad the coffers of a corrupt agency that accomplishes nothing. The institute was not replaced with a superior design. They just killed it because they wanted its money. Occam’s Razor.

At the local, state, and federal levels, education increasingly incurs in spite of, not because of, the increasingly dimwitted and self-serving elected officials who seem to lack an understanding of what government is supposed to do. We are on a path towards a system where elected officials represent only a small number of rich pals sitting on the boards of soulless corporations that will do anything for short term gain. What neither the elected officials nor their wealthy supporters understand is that they, no exaggeration, sting the frog that keeps them afloat.


Blogger The Navigator said...

Regarding SAIAT, x4mr, for what little it’s worth know that at least one reader gets the extent of the travesty. When I learned of your involvement in Landmark Education’s programs, in particular assisting, the dots really connected. When you say "course leader" or "course supervisor" or "production supervisor" I know exactly what you are saying. Those who have never taken a "real course" cannot fully appreciate what you were / are about. I cannot believe they are so stupid as to think PCC can even begin to do what you did.

I met a Raytheon employee who had training at SAIAT, and he confirmed what you have written. The hotels and other training venues have lousy or no internet, zero computer expertise, pathetic copiers, no network or power cables, spare projectors, or other supplies. What it comes to having a training event, he said going from any other place to SAIAT was like going from a Yugo to a Ferrari. I cannot believe that TREO actually knew what they were destroying. Those who want to REALLY understand x4mr should take the Landmark weekend. A thousand pieces would come together.

Regarding governance, I think you point to something very important. Humanity needs to self-organize into governed states to provide rule of law and a variety of infrastructures to permit effective commerce and the allocation of resources. I don’t understand, but Reagan hated government yet wanted to be president. I think Republicans currently hate government and seek to starve and destroy it. At least libertarians would not drown it in debt and say deficits don’t matter. The Republicans claim government can’t do anything right, and when in power fulfill their own prophecy. They abdicate responsibility for equitable systems and allow companies to rob the country (oil, pharmaceuticals, HMO’s).

It is painful to watch the US squandering what it built during the 60's and 70's.

I share your anger and frustration.

4/26/2008 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's this about Landmark?

Should I stop reading this blog?

4/26/2008 9:20 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Relax. Distinguish between a blog post and a comment. This blog has nothing to do with Landmark Education. An abundance of material on them (favorable and unfavorable) is available online. I have not participated in any of their courses in over a decade. From 1993 to 1999 I worked at a copper company that utilized some of their material.

Without question the distinctions of their "Forum" are most provocative. I love a good debate and found the event fascinating. My opinion is that individuals of confidence and "ontological maturity" find the conversation illuminating. Some, in particular those very set in their ways, have the experience of being threatened or invalidated.

I have participated in programs that make the Forum look like ontological kindergarten. Though slower and more subtle (at first), the nine-month LDP (NOT Landmark) I ended up leading dives 10 times as deep. During his third session as a participant, my mentor Errol spent the night throwing up. When I led Group 8, after day two of session three, one of my participants had a heart attack. The LDP stuff isn't for children.

In the LDP, there are only three or four staff for 20 participants. In the Forum, there are about ten staff or so for about 110 participants. Landmark is pure conversation. You are physically free to come and go. There are lunch and dinner breaks and you go home every night.

For contrast, in the most intense program I ever took, for 15 participants there were over 60 full time staff in a remote secured site. They take your car keys, your cell phone, your watch, and food is carefully withheld to just stop short of causing suffering yet leave a completely empty stomach for the main event.

For good reason. At this event, staff and participants do more than speak and listen.

Nav's point is that I know what's under the surface of any possible training event, whether it's computer training, leadership development, team building, Microsoft Excel, Landmark programs, or stuff you will never hear about.

I fly to California soon to see my daughter at Stanford. First I head north to spend a weekend with a certain set of folks. It will be great to see Judy again.

Stop reading whenever you like, but I value readership and request you stick around until I ask you for money. Either that, or when I tell you to drink something blue and sweet.

4/26/2008 11:07 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

any training event?

Come on, x4mr. You don't know jack about training ballerinas or bull fighters, and you would faint on the spot at any training that involves needles and body fluids.

4/27/2008 5:28 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Ok, CM. Point taken, but how many Southern AZ employers do you think approached SAIAT with requests for training ballet dancers or bull fighters?

You're right about the medical thing. In a country that only provides health care for the most affluent, I have the 12 gauge medical plan. It cures everything with two barrels above the bridge of the nose. Pull both triggers, and you're not sick anymore.

4/27/2008 10:15 PM  

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