Crime and Realestate in NYC

The lackadaisical vetting stands out even more considering that the building went so far as to create a “canine interview committee” in 1999 to screen potential newcomers’ pets. “We don’t want to be tyrants,” Mr. Kissel was quoted as saying in an article about the policy change that ran in The Times in January 2000. “But this is your worst fear; you get somebody in the building and their dog turns out to be a nightmare.”

Mr. Kissel was an embezzler who stole $4.7 million from the co-op.

A Moment of unwonted candor

Presidents of Colleges Cite Finances as Main Issue

College presidents are more preoccupied with financial issues than educational ones, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The presidents said they believed they were judged slightly more on whether they had a balanced budget than for the quality of educational programs. Five of the six top concerns they cited related to money: rising health care costs, rising tuition, financial aid, technology costs and inadequate faculty salaries. The sixth was retaining students.

This article (my link is to the New York Times – the Chronicle of Higher Education is a trade journal and only available to subscribers. I don’t subscribe.) doesn’t sound heavy on the usual pieties. Sounds right to me, other than the health care costs. Maybe we’re just too small a place to really worry much about that. I might also wonder if #6 is higher at some schools than others.

Chinese is the new Russian

“Chinese is the new Russian,” says Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, referring to the Cold War period when colleges couldn’t increase programs in Russia fast enough.

Damning with faint praise there, as anyone who deals with Russian programs knows. Read this paragraph and weep:

To appreciate the significance of having 2,400 high schools teaching AP Chinese, consider how low enrollments in the language have been historically. In 2002, the last year of a national study on foreign language enrollments, just over 34,000 college students were enrolled, according to the MLA. That represented a 20 percent increase from 1998, but a fraction of the nearly 750,000 studying Spanish.

Remember how great high school language instruction was? I’ll all in favor of the study of Chinese (as literatures go it’s as “classical” as what we call the Classics), but let’s be realistic. If we can’t do a decent job of teaching Spanish what’s the likelihood that this will be an improvement?
I wrote a post long ago, lost in the archives crash, about Arabic language instruction at Berkeley. It had, I think, doubled since 9/11 – to something like 300 students enrolled in the entire language. They were having trouble finding people qualified to teach. Pitiful.*

*you can find that post if you click here and search for “Arabic.” Interestingly, I titled that post “Pitiful”. Maybe if I get pneumonia this winter I’ll un-jam the archives.

Neighbors . . .

The things you learn about your neighbors when they’re about not to be your neighbors any more! The people upstairs always sounded flatfooted and kind of energetic. Turns out they had a ping pong table.

Prayer Request

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, but here goes – please pray (or bear in mind, for those of my dear readers for whom that seems the more apt request) for a friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s one of these, by the way.

Dodging bullets

This has been a stressful semseter – can you tell by my slow blogging? I sat down in the cafĂ© to keep office hours and opened up my email. I had received 3 emails from students in Greek Art yesterday evening and expected that all three were rough drafts — and decided to answer them today.
Praise Jesus! All of them were procedural questions rather than rough drafts!
Still, this is one of those weeks.

Scowcroft admits he prefers stable dictatorial governments

Scowcroft, in his interview, discussed an argument over Iraq he had two years ago with Condoleezza Rice, then-national security adviser and current secretary of state. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. The article stated that with a “barely perceptible note of satisfaction,” Scowcroft added: “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.” (my emphasis)

If ever 50 years deserved a title other than “Peace,” it might be the last 50 years in the Middle East.
Read the whole Washington Post thing.

Podcasting in Elementary Education

Here’s a story in the Washington Post about podcasting in elementary education. As a devoted user of audio books on my iPod, I think this could be useful. One sad fact of modern American life is how poorly many students read aloud — I found that again when students in my European Studies 101 read their favorite aphorism from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius on Monday.
Too many of them, even at a high priced and reasonably selective institution like these Colleges, read aloud haltingly. It was seldom painful to listen to, but they don’t all read fluently at first sight. Early practice for podcasting would help that!

Resisting a God King?

Oh my! Neuroscientists protest a theocrat? Can it be so?
I was beginning to think that the Dalai Lama’s claims were the last to go unchallenged; I find the bizarre intersection between self-styled American progressives and pro-theocrats inexplicable by criteria involving argument or evidence (our local Progressive Student Union sponsored a Free Tibet week recently, complete with Dalai Lama adherents).
I first bothered to look into the actual claims-on-paper the Dalai Lama makes when he spoke at my graduation from Emory; I was bemused when some friends of mine who were otherwise remarkably antireligious swooned over the being offered the opportunity to meditate in his presence and decided I should go to some reference works and look him up. I recommend the exercise. It’s not at all as though the Pope were being offered the chance to talk as though the living incarnation of Jesus was doing so — and as though there were another living incarnation of Jesus (as so often there is!) was operating in the next county over.
I’m also interested by the academic programs in Buddhism offered by Antioch College. Does any Christian educational institution in America offer credit-bearing programs for non-believers that include required practice of Christian prayer? Read the curriculum for Buddhist studies in India and for Buddhist studies in Japan and wonder what a Catholic version would be. I could design one – and it would produce students far more capable of understanding western art and architecture from 300-1800, but I can’t imagine what college or university would offer credit for students chanting the daily liturgy of the hours.

Beer Pong Product Placement — No, really!

The recent tournament in Philadelphia was sponsored by Bing Bong, a company that sells portable beer pong tables for $150. In the past year, Bing Bong has sold more than 2,000.
“It was something a lot of people needed,” said Tom Schmidt, the 27-year-old chief executive. He added that he wanted to turn the game into a socially acceptable barroom sport, like darts.

Those are specialized beer pong tables “a lot of people needed.” Gosh, the younger generation believe in the right tools for the right job! We just played with any ol’ pub table that came to hand!
The article is from the New York Times, which puts it in the context of neo-prohibitionism and binge drinking.