Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hunger Games for Universities

Mark Chelgren, a Tea Party Republican state senator in Iowa, proposed a bill that would, among other things, do the following:

(2) The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution. The employment of the professor receiving the fewest votes approving retention shall be terminated by the institution regardless of tenure status or contract.

The bill is really breathtaking in its peculiar view of what professors - or any kind of professionals - do, and how they should be judged. It is a kind of cut-throat competition that would make for poisonous relations among any staff.  This was the principle governing co-working relations at Enron, which led them to try to outdo one another in ruthlessness toward customers.

One blog commentator, tmareace, wrote "How about doing the same for the legislators in the state?"

The good news is that, as far as I can tell, this bill went nowhere, to the credit of the Iowa legislature.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Would Government-Provided Birth Control Be Fair, Because Voluntary? How About Government-Provided Guns?

My students have been reading Cahn and Carbone's Red Families vs. Blue Families. As the name suggests, the authors contrast the vision of family life of conservative and liberal ideologies, and actual practice.  The short version of the difference:

Blue families promote marital delay, birth control, equality in marriage, and higher education.

Red families promote early marriage, sex control, complementarity in sex roles, and conservative religion.

I asked the students to try to come up with several policies that would justly serve a nation with both kinds of families.  Some of the students are liberals and some are conservatives, but all are students at a selective college, most of whom are planning on careers for men and women, as well as marriage and children. Some are, therefore, 'red' in their ideology, but tilt 'blue' in their practice.

Which led quite a few, on both sides of the spectrum, to want the government to make birth control widely available to everyone.  They reasoned that this was a fair policy to both views; the government was not promoting birth control, as blues would like, but simply making it available.

It occurred to me that a good parallel would be to have the government make guns widely available to everyone.  Would this constitute a fair policy to both views, or would the government be promoting gun ownership, as reds would like?