TagEducation

What ‘I Fucking Love Science’ actually means is ‘I Fucking Love Existing Conditions.’ But because the word ‘science’ still pings about between the limits of a discourse that depends on the exclusion of alternate modes of knowledge, the natural world of I Fucking Love Science is presented as being essentially a series of factual statements.

Plus a takedown of everyone’s favorite scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

You Need Humanities

Last week, Indian Twitter [1] was discussing merit and its role in social or professional advancement. While this correlation is tenuous at best (see this comic strip), there is an underlying assumption that smartest people on this planet are those in the STEM fields. You may definitely earn much more in STEM fields but the assumption that it is due to the smartness of the people is erroneous.

My training was in architecture which is one of the rare fields that necessities the use of both sides of your brain. It’s an art as well as a science (while not being the best at either but that’s a different story). Luckily we had a smattering of humanities in our coursework through architectural history and other topics. Most treated it as something that we needed to study to tick off the courses checklist but at least under that excuse, they were exposed to certain social and economic topics which sparked interesting conversations in the canteen.

On the other hand, my countless friends in engineering and medicine were never exposed to any humanities education after 10th grade and even as they matured, most never understood or appreciated the nuances of society, culture, and its indelible impact on our behavior. I regularly saw misleading and erroneous arguments made on blogs (and now on Twitter) not due to malice but simply due to ignorance. Some generalizations like – blacks are lazy and prone to crime, Muslims are violent religious fanatics, the poor just want handouts and loot stores, etc. – are common.

Some are open to learning beyond their prescribed textbooks and have done exceedingly well but for the most part, I think engineers and medical doctors are largely ignorant of economics, sociocultural norms, and history. I blame the lack of exposure to these subject and very narrow specialization that our education system has subjected them to. Not only are they ignorant but a subsection of them feel superior to the rest of us just because we opted to study the humanities, as expressed in the photo in the tweet above.

I used to but nowadays I don’t try to change their minds. I wish them all the best in the discovery of their ignorance which is what our education should be. My education in architecture, public policy, and urban science hasn’t taught me everything but it has definitely made me more curious and aware that there are factors underlying every behavior and even if it doesn’t justify those behaviors, it certainly explains them. All I ask is to acknowledge this.

Footnotes:
  1. If nothing, it’s an excellent source for topics to blog about []

College vs. UnCollege

One of the popular themes at the SXSWedu conference that I recently attended was ‘unCollege’. This has become more popular given the rising popularity of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) [1]. This is a concept that is rapidly gaining ground among education ‘geeks’ and posits that it isn’t necessarily important to attend college to be successful in life. Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal and proponent of this trend, even has gone to the extent of offering a scholarship to skip college:

Thiel Fellows are given a no-strings-attached grant of $100,000 to skip college and focus on their work, their research, and their self-education. They are mentored by our network of visionary thinkers, investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, who provide guidance and business connections that can’t be replicated in any classroom. Rather than just studying, you’re doing.

I attended one such panel at SXSWedu that pitted a proponent for unCollege with a proponent for traditional yet evolving college experience. While I understand the need to help education evolve with changing times and technology and even will go to the extent of supporting MOOCs, I’m not yet ready to endorse not going to college. In fact, in my professional life I’m working on virtually the opposite. Before you cite Upton Sinclair [2] to me, I’ll clarify that, having been in school/college for nearly 24 years, I’m one of the strongest proponent of formal education. It has not only been proven by research to give graduates a significant economic advantage over non-graduates over their lifetime, but also is an experience that molds your social and cultural personality. Even though both the panelists had not graduated from college, each admitted the immense impact of the college experience had probably guided their life path.

While this might not be the place in trying to compare College and unCollege, it is important to understand as to who are making these arguments. Most people, including the panelist at SXSWedu, making the case for unCollege belong to the technology sector and are more often than not driven by the need to seek a technological solution to most social problems. Education is far more complex for merely a technological solution and its failures often include motivation not only on part of students but also parents. The Thiel Fellowship helps in self-selection of highly motivated teenagers and then credits itself with their success. The most famous dropout of all, Bill Gates, in fact chooses to invest his billions in education and often in non-technology-based solutions. It may be downright dangerous to advocate that college is not important to you especially when low-income minority children are still not going to college and in turn, affecting their life outcomes.

I cannot agree more with Nitin’s view on MOOCs. While technology and MOOCs may aid education delivery, it still cannot be the complete solution that a typical college or university experience offers.

Footnotes:
  1. horrible acronym, I know []
  2. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” []

Kindergartens or Daycares?

In this endeavor, Chandresh Maithil, 28, who will be graduating this year, is channeling his skills and knowledge in setting up kindergartens for children. Maithil’s kindergartens, which will be called ‘Naani Ka Ghar’, will operate with the help of the retired and elderly people.

“These kindergartens will be a self-sustaining social platform that would allow a two-way exchange of benefits between the children and the elderly,” said Maithil, who has four years of work experience before coming to study at IIM-A.

He explains that this is a model based on the arrangements of nature. As young parents go out to search food, the elderly stay at home to take care of the children, passing on traditional knowledge and values as they play with them. With changing lifestyles and emergence of nuclear families, there is an emerging gap between the traditional past and the children which needs to be bridged.

“By playing with and learning from elderly people, the kids will be exposed to lot of love, gentleness and knowledge.

[via The Times of India]

I’m confused. Are these establishments kindergartens or daycares? If they are the latter then Maithil may be on to something but if they are kindergartens then he has a distorted view of early childhood education. I say this from the perspective of having seen my mother run an excellent and successful kindergarten for the past 25 years. Using nature as a model for modeling education ignores the fact that we have moved past the hunter-gatherer stage in our evolution and it seems like Maithil is more concerned about instilling moral values than imparting education.

Although this may be well intentioned, it assumes the fact that nuclear families are incapable of instilling such values in their children and as the last line implies, Maithil seems to believe that only elderly people are capable of imparting love, gentleness, and knowledge. The IIM-A tag (note the use of buzzwords – “self-sustaining social platform”) might be why this story even made it to the pages of a national newspaper. The elderly may have much to teach us but I prefer qualified teachers, elderly or otherwise, delivering education fit for the modern age. The headline of the article seems to suggest that Maithil’s primary objective seems in employing elderly people and not educating children but I may be wrong. I’ll worry about instilling moral values in my kids and rather not rely on a stranger for what may be an integral part of being a parent.

Apple in Education

An excellent initiative by Apple to self-author textbooks and sell them in the iBooks Store for $14.99 or less. Obviously, their primary goal is to sell more Macs and iPads so all the authoring and publishing tools are free. Go forth and publish. Or rather go first.

[Source: Apple in Education]

Secrets of Innovation

China and India are likely to produce many rigorous analytical thinkers and knowledgeable technologists. But smart and educated people don’t always spawn innovation. America’s advantage, if it continues to have one, will be that it can produce people who are also more creative and imaginative, those who know how to stand at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences. That is the formula for true innovation, as Steve Jobs’s career showed.

[Source: Steve Jobs’s Genius – NYTimes.com]

Walter Isaacson, biographer for Steve Jobs, ends his op-ed in the New York Times with this gem of wisdom that is often neglected by countries. India and China graduate millions of engineers every year but very few of them end up entrepreneurs and the United States is starting to make the same mistake to make up for tepid economic growth. Humanities and liberal art programs across universities in the U.S. are being defunded and eliminated because they are thought of as ‘useless’. Little do they understand that reading the classics, cultivating good writing skills or understanding basic statistics makes for a better engineer who is more likely to have better foresight and understand his consumers better. You can be a simple engineer and get by in life but to be a real creative genius like Steve Jobs or even Bill Gates, you’ve to possess a well-rounded education.

State of STEM majors among Americans

The bulk of attrition comes in engineering and among pre-med majors, who typically leave STEM fields if their hopes for medical school fade. There is no doubt that the main majors are difficult and growing more complex. Some students still lack math preparation or aren’t willing to work hard enough.

An insightful look into the state of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education among American students that doesn't bode well for the country (either “it’s too hard” or “the teachers aren’t good enough”). As things stand now, it seems likely the the high skill jobs that these majors lead to will be performed by immigrants from countries where these fields are heavily emphasized. Further, the low skill jobs are also increasingly performed also by immigrants, mostly from Latin American countries. The 'real' Americans are caught in the middle, untrained in the new economy and unable to adapt. But will they learn quick and adapt soon?

PS. India does graduate a lot of engineers and doctors but research has shown that a majority are not up to the standard that employers want so we too some catching up to do.

[Link to State of STEM majors among Americans]

The Case for 320,000 Kindergarten Teachers

"Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more."

These findings reinforce the importance of the quality of early childhood education. It should be the focus of policy makers in leveling the playing field instead of enforcing reservations at higher education institutes because by that time, it is already too late and makes little difference.

[Link to The Case for 320,000 Kindergarten Teachers]

How Fundamental is the Right to Education?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the Right of Children to
Free and Compulsory Education Act that enshrines education as a fundamental right for children. But how significant is this development? Indian Express tells us that India joined the league of 130 nations that provide legal guarantees to provide free and compulsory education to children. So probably it was long overdue and much-needed step in achieving tangible goals of actually providing education. But remember, 129 nations had already done it before so India isn’t doing anything pathbreaking.

While no one I know argues against granting children a fundamental right to education, the Indian government’s experiments in public education has been pathetic. The Congress government’s self-praise at introducing the 86th Constitutional Amendment is premature considering that implementation of truly extending this right to children is hazy at best. One of my objections to this act is the mandate that private unaided education institutions have to reserve 25 percent seats for children for weaker sections. While a noble goal, the schools will be reimbursed by the government at the rate it decides is necessary for educating a child. This rate may be far lower than the fees certain schools charge the other 75% of students. While I am not fundamentally opposed to reserving 25% of seats in a private school for children from ‘weaker sections’, it would be far less burdensome on the schools if the government pays them the fees it charges other students. Of course, how does the government plan to define ‘weaker sections’ or how does it plan to fund the act’s implementation are largely ignored aspects.

The government of course, is free to build and run public schools that give free education to all but we all know how that experiment has turned out. Even people from ‘weaker sections’ will not voluntarily send their kids to such government schools who are open to paying private school fees just because of the quality of education and the returns it guarantees post-graduation. The government must stop thinking of education as a solely non-profit field. Did you know that even for a private school, you cannot register your school as a profit-making institution? It should be registered as a non-profit or a charitable institution. Never mind, the fact that private schools are hardly run as such and is the direct result of such stifling regulation.

The government rightly understands that education is the core of development but errs greatly in its implementation. It should allow private players to unleash their entrepreneurial ideas and instead focus on accreditation to maintain standards. Legislate standards both academic and infrastructure-wise that schools must ensure it provides students and then get out of the way. More private schools will mean more opportunities for all sections of the society. Why spend tax payer money on building government schools when it is clear that they are not achieving their desired outcomes? Why hire teachers that never show up to work? Why build schools that are never maintained or upgraded? Let private entrepreneurs do the daily nitty-gritty and spend their money in exchange for a little premium for their hard work. Encourage charitable donations that give to such efforts and foster venture capital that funds primary education. This applies both in cities and villages.

Although I seriously doubt it, I hope this Act starts a national dialogue on reforming education and providing opportunities to all sections of societies without the micromanagement of the government.

NCERT Textbooks Online

This is fantastic. NCERT textbooks are now online for classes 1 through 12 and for almost all subjects [HT;via Nimbupani]. I love the history textbooks which are one of the best in India. I studied using these books for class, VI, VII, and VIII and had to revert to the horrible SSC boards after that where chapters on say, French Revolution were all of 4 pages. Although the NCERT textbooks look a lot different than when I was in school, the content still rocks.

Travails of Getting an OPT/EAD card

Previously I mentioned the change in my academic status when I finally defended my doctoral dissertation. I will officially graduate in August. In the meantime, I had been furiously seeking a full-time position post-graduation and was offered a research position in a research institute in College Station. But as with all international students, I was first required to get approved for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period during which I could work full-time and transfer from being a student to a professional. Although I hadn’t graduated, doctoral students can begin work provided they have completed their coursework and have set a defense date for their dissertation. Having defended in the first week of May, I was all set to begin work around mid-May. But then nothing ever works out that smoothly for me.

I applied for my EAD (Employment Authorization Document) or OPT in the last week of March and my application was received by USCIS on March 30th. The official time to get your card is 90 days although almost no one takes that long. I had received my EAD after my M.S. in 35 days and I expected it to take as long if not sooner considering USCIS had tripled their fees. So I informed my employer that I would be able to begin in mid-May which would be about 45 days from my application date. But that didn’t happen.

I still wasn’t too tensed up since my employer did not seem in any particular hurry but as day 75 approached and passed, I began to panic. We had already signed a rental lease for a new home and would be moving soon. We were dipping into our savings now because essentially I had been out of work since mid-May when my I-20 expired so I was no longer eligible to be a graduate research assistant, a job that earned me my livelihood through my Ph.D days. And to complicate things further, if the card was approved and sent after we moved, it would be returned and the wait would be prolonged for an indefinite time. The International Office at Texas A&M provided little assistance or context in terms of other students statuses. The only response they had was that we can step in only after the 90th day, when the deadline from USCIS lapses; no mention of what they would do or whether they could expedite the process in any way.

We decided to take matters into our own hands. Ash and I scrounged around various immigration message boards and forums for possible solutions. We found that a particular batch of applications, those between March 26th and 30th had been interminably delayed. Those who had applied before and after that period seemed to have gotten their cards with 45-50 days. In fact, another desi student who was also offered a job by my employer and he applied for his OPT in mid-May and got it approved within a month. In fact, the USCIS status update website couldn’t even find my application and I had to call customer service to stop freaking out. In fact, even calling the customer service phones is slightly tricky. Forget listening to the options, simply call 1-800-375-5283 and hit 1-2-3 as soon as you get the welcome message. That takes you straight to a human. The CS rep. confirmed that my application was in the system although pending and admitted that their website was seriously backed up. That explanation proved to be of little consolation since people who had applied much later than me could see their case status online.

The two websites that proved to be of immeasurable help were:

The first website, Track It, is a crowdsourced tracker for all immigration-related applications like I-485, I-140, H1-B, N-400, and of course EADs, OPT or otherwise. It helps you track the average times for other applicants and processing times of various service centers. Just as my luck would have it, the generally fast Texas Service Center proved to be really tardy this year. It also eases your tension a little by helping you share your frustrations and concerns with other people in the same boat, no pun intended to Cubans. It helps you get an idea of the various stages of the application process e.g. how many days does it take to get your card in hand after it has been approved?

The process if your application passes the 90-day deadline is extremely hazy with conflicting reports in the forums. One person suggested waiting as long as you can and calling USCIS every week pestering them to expedite your application. Another suggested, taking an InfoPass appointment to the local USCIS office and making an in-person request. People had tried both methods with similar results so it is pretty random. As my 90th day approached, I did take an InfoPass appointment in the San Antonio office which was the recommended office for my zip code although the one is Houston was much closer.

On my 79th day I called USCIS and asked them to expedite my application. Upon asked why, I told them that I have a job offer and wanted to start ASAP. The International Office at TAMU insists that such a request makes no difference and sending your offer letter with your application doesn’t help although in certain cases according to forum members, it has. Also, since I was moving, I called USCIS again on the 84th day to change my address. International offices in almost all universities scare you by asking you not to move during your OPT application since it will delay your process but in my experience, it is all bunkum. But you have to change your address before your application is approved otherwise your card is sent to the original address (nope, USPS does not forward your mail since the letter comes with a ‘Return Service Requested’ stamp). In my case, I was lucky to have submitted my change of address in the nick of time since it takes 2 days for the change to percolate from the National Center to Regional Centers (don’t ask why!). Attribute it either to my expedite request or my address change, the case status website suddenly started showing my application although still pending.

Then one evening of the 87th day, I got an email notification saying, that my application was approved and card production was ordered. Hallelujah! I have never experienced a bigger sense of relief and it was approved on the day after the address change had supposedly propagated to the Texas service center which was good because I was going to move the next day. My employers were equally relieved and had even prepared a long letter that I planned to overnight to USCIS requesting expediting my application and citing potential financial losses for them. Thankfully, I didn’t need it. The following week I received another email notification that my card has been mailed and I received it the next day…at my new address.

Thus concluded my ordeal at an otherwise mundane immigration procedure that is generally smooth for most. Coincidentally, my application was approved on the day Obama gave a speech promising changes at the USCIS where he promised increased funding for quickening the application processes for legal immigrants. But honestly, I don’t know what worked, the expedite request, the address change, or heck, even Obama’s speech; somehow my application was retrieved a few days before the deadline and approved post-haste. With all attention focused on illegal immigration, legal immigrants often get a raw deal and being a non-voting group, we have effectively no control over our fate and no way for government bureaucracy to be help accountable. We have no choice but to be patient and rest our fates at the mercy of the already-burdened bureaucracy. Strangely, I have never heard of an OPT being declined which begs the question that why do we need it in the first place much less take three months to process and if, like the I-20, it can be generated by the university itself.

Anyway, this rant turned out to be longer than I expected but I wanted to vent my frustrations and perhaps, will help a random Googler understand he or she is not alone in the frustrating wait for the EAD.

PS. I received a notification in the snail mail a week after I received my card that my request to expedite was being considered and I would hear about it in 14-20 days. And it was forwarded from my old address. So much for being consistent and reliable. Sigh!


Update 1:
Surprisingly, I got my H1-B petition approved in just over a week.

Update 2: My second H1-B petition took just under two months, about average time, but since I was eligible to work as soon as USCIS received my petition, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Abandoned Detroit Schools

As they say, education is the bedrock for economic growth and prosperity. Given the state of these Detroit schools, no wonder the city is dying.

Banning Foreign Students from American Banks

Bank bailouts are giving the U.S. Congress the chance to attach several conditions that banks otherwise wouldn’t accept. But given the fact that bank executives and financial wizards screwed up so bad, it might seem alright for the government to teach them a thing or two. One might argue that government should not tell banks how to run their private business. In most cases they would be right except that these banks have run their own business without any interference and dug themselves deep taking all of us with them. But that doesn’t mean that the government overnight knows any better. In fact, in these partisan times, any conditions attached to the bailout money has to be thoroughly examined for political motives unrelated to business efficiency.

One such pre-condition was the ban on hiring of foreign workers at ailing banks. This led to Bank of America rescinding on it job offers to foreign MBA students graduating from US business schools [hat tip: Rohit]. The politicians on Capitol Hill feel that these jobs should be offered to Americans. Who was responsible for this pre-condition? Protectionist Democrats and the Obama administration? You would be surprised that it was in fact, Republic Senator Charles Grassley and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (the only Socialist in the Senate) who introduced this amendment to bar people holding H1-B visas from working in so-called taxpayer-funded banks. These senators falsely assume that banks are hiring foreign workers instead of Americans when in fact, the opposite it true. Any desi student knows that U.S. companies are not hiring them because they are cheap but because they are the best people for the job. Processing an H1-B visa in fact entails additional cost that hiring American workers would not. Given the higher proportion of foreign students in graduate programs especially in top-ranked universities, it is not surprising that an American company is more likely to hire a foreign student. Given the so-called abuse of the H1-B visa system by certain large Indian companies, a case could be made to prevent people who haven’t studied in the U.S but even then, it would miss the point of attracting the best possible talent.

As Megan McArdle says:

As a committed free trader–and an MBA who went through the mass layoffs of the last recession–my sympathy is all with the MBAs. These are people who mostly aren’t eligible for scholarships or subsidized student loans; they’ve borrowed or spent close to $100,000 in America to get their degree, many of them in hopes of staying here. They’re intelligent, highly skilled, and promise to be net contributors to the tax system . . . so America kicks them in the teeth and sends them home without a job.

By keeping these students out, America is actually sending skilled human capital away which in turn makes creating and maintaining efficient and profitable businesses all the more difficult. The “Buy American” clause runs counter to every conservatism principle there is given the arguments of merits, free trade (of intellectual capital, and supporting legal immigration; in fact it exposes xenophobic fears that prey on rational sensibilities. It makes a false assumption that there is a pool of American workers who are equally qualified and willing to replace foreign workers.

Do I blame the Obama administration and Democrats for allowing this restriction to stay in the stimulus bill? Of course, I do. Admittedly, people responsible for drafting the bill had to make several compromises to attract Republican votes but I fail to understand why these conditions were not removed after Republicans refused to vote in favor. Political bickering leads to such compromises that have no direct bearing on solving the crisis and merely results in America being less attractive to skilled immigrants and in turn, less competitive in the world arena. This financial crisis will eventually lead to global restructuring following which the intellectual talent and conducive business environment tempered by smart regulation will be key factors in the next emerging economic superpower. Ignoring skilled immigrant talents will only drive them away to other pastures that will be only too eager to accept them. Otherwise you risk America becoming the land of mediocrity and even idiocracy; case in point – this Verizon customer representative and his manager [YouTube link; hat tip: Rohit].

Do only Atheists believe in Evolution?

Evolution and Religion

The world celebrated Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday this past Thursday. Darwin, as many know, is known for his revolutionary theory of evolution. Evolution has been unanimously acknowledged by the scientific community and served as the basis of biology. But compared to other scientific theories (yup! gravity is a theory too), evolution gets the step-brotherly treatment from the general population driven primarily from religious dogma.

Surprisingly, according to this chart by Pew Research, a higher percentage of Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews abelieve in evolution than atheists (unaffiliated)[via]. Go figure! Does this imply that religiosity does not affect belief in evolution? Probably but it helps to remind oneself that Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews make up for less than one percent individually of the total population and they are more likely to be college-educated and high-income. The religious zealots of these religions are less likely to be in the United States although religious tenets of Buddhism and Hinduism isn’t in conflict with evolution compared to Christianity. High levels of education and income probably explain the Jewish angle. It is still a significant level above the general United States population of which only 48% believe in evolution. The role of religion in social and cultural life in the United States has permeated to the educational system leading to skewed beliefs and results in United States lagging behind in belief for evolution compared to its peers of developed nations.

Sakshi had raised the issue (on Twitter) on whether people really understand how evolution works as opposed to belief. I admit that the Maharashtra school board hardly touched on the topic let alone explain it. If it was taught after 10th standard, I had already opted for a Biology-exempt curriculum of PCM (Physics-Chemistry-Maths) for my 12th boards. Yup, I blame the educational system for not including teaching of evolution earlier but that’s a rant for another day. I would attribute belief in evolution or for that matter, any scientific fact as deferring to the experts whom we implicitly trust. There is much in our technologically advanced society that we do not understand but believe in. Of course, one should make utmost efforts to understand evolution but to merely dismiss it without actually studying it because of its apparent contradiction with your religious beliefs is detrimental to your intellect. On a related note, read Olivia Judson’s Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation delightful, fun, and of course, informative book on mechanisms of evolution.

On the Indian front, if a higher percentage of Indians ‘believe’ in evolution then it is probably due to the fact that there is no competing argument present in the Indian society as intelligent design is in the United States. The level of religiosity in India is similar to that of the U.S. but compared to Christianity, Hinduism perhaps does not impose strict beliefs that believers need to adhere to be considered as Hindus. Science and religion have largely co-existed peacefully in India and although there have been occasional skirmishes, science and education has been left alone. Not surprisingly, belief in evolution in rigid Islamic societies is pretty low too and I’m not sure the United States wants to be in that company.

Banning Queer Theory in Colleges

Crumbling schools and lack of adequate enrollment in science and technology courses apparently is not at the top of some of the Georgia legislators list for reforming education. They rather harp on certain misguided notions that ‘moral principles’ of their constituents needs protecting. House Republicans in Georgia are pushing to oust professors with expertise in certain societal behaviors. These professors study subjects like male prostitution, oral sex and “queer theory [emphasis mine]”

Hill and Byrd were incensed to learn a University of Georgia professor teaches a graduate course on “queer theory.” They also took aim at Georgia State University, where an annual guide to its faculty experts lists a sociology lecturer as an expert in oral sex and faculty member Kirk Elifson as an expert in male prostitution.

Georgia State spokeswoman Andrea Jones called the critics’ argument “flawed.”

“Teaching courses in criminal justice, for example, does not mean that our students are being prepared to become criminals. Quite the opposite,” said Jones. “Legitimate research and teaching are central to the development of relevant and effective policy [source].”

It is sad to see that people with absolutely no understanding of higher education are in a power to determine what we should or should not study. So much for living in an age of intellectualism and engaging in pursuit of knowledge, eh? As the spokesperson from Georgia State nicely explains why their arguments let alone their desire to indulge in moral policing is fundamentally wrong. From the perspective of these legislators, using examples from his research in GLBT studies by one of my professors at Georgia State for our research methods and statistics classes was a heinous act. Mind you that this isn’t even high school but college-level courses where students are free to choose what courses they want to take. Why should some guy in a budget-writing House Appropriations Committee tell me what courses I should or should not take in understanding the society around me?

On a related rant, isn’t the title of the article cited as the source misleading? After all, I’m sure those professors are not teaching students how to give mind-blowing blowjobs; such courses are theoretical and discussion-oriented and can hardly be described as “steamy sex courses”. As Jessica at Feministing says, “they don’t quite get the notion that one can be experts in a field – you know, like study it – without participating in said area of study.”

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