Swickard: Assuming our way to school change

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   Let us look at assumptions. They are the building blocks of change. American public schools provide an example. Not everyone agrees that they are broken; some just think they should be improved.
            As to public schools: in the past and now, there are calls for educational change by political leaders wanting to make political hay and get votes. Some say we need to innovate while others say we must reform the schools. What is the difference?
            Innovation assumes things can be better. Reform assumes things are so bad that they must be changed. Now assumptions do no harm so long as no one acts upon them. Unfortunately, people are acting. There are many attempts to reform schools when what is needed is innovation.
            Worse yet, many attempts to reform schools are not tied to research. One of the most problematic assumptions people make is that educational research is not essential. The truth is that any school change not research-based will be a disaster.
            Want proof? Every politically driven reform movement in the last fifty years has not been research-based. Constantly some politician has an idea for changing schools and everyone jumps on to the fad.
            The change may not make things better or the change will make things worse. It is like when an airplane is flying along and the pilot finds something isn’t working quite right. The pilot may fiddle with it to the point the aircraft quits flying completely.
            The standards and accountability movement is not research-based. Someone thought, hey, let’s try this. The public schools are busy accounting for themselves without a clear notion what it means when the accountability numbers vary.
            The general assumption is that the schools did something wrong when the numbers are poor. However, research assures us that schools can only teach students who want to learn. No one is attending to this truth.
            So, what is the accountability movement really measuring? The school’s effect is comingled with out-of-school influences. Do the people in the accountability reform movement realize this? No, they assume poor scores are automatically the school’s fault.
            A change should be made in the way we change our schools. Since students ultimately benefit or are harmed by educational change, those political leaders changing the schools should have to put something in escrow before making sweeping changes.
            Then, if they are right, we should reward them well. If they are wrong, they should pay a penalty. Make them risk their retirement. Then we will see how sold they are on school uniforms or quarter hour math ladders or whatever new fad.
            There would be a rush to use research. It would then be more dependable than just driving down the road, running over a turtle, and thinking that Flat Turtle Math Programs are the answer.
            That is not to say that the public schools are not ripe for innovation. Schools can be made better or worse. It completely depends upon the research assumptions. And please ignore the political school change fads.

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Swickard: The need for vocational education

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  Imagine that a wave of brown smelly sludge starts pouring over the edge of your toilet. Oh no! That is not the textbook way brown sludge should be handled by the toilet. When you press the handle the “product” should just disappear out of sight, mind and smell.
            But it is overflowing and coming down the hallway. There is the immediate necessity to find someone competent in plumbing. We are not looking for conversations about academics. We need plumbers, not professors.
            I was thinking about this because many public schools, starting even in kindergarten, are pushing all of their students to go to college. No exceptions. But someone needs to be trained and ready to fix the biffy along with other repair professions.
            If every child goes to college there will be a huge problem. Millions of young adults can look at the human waste coming down your hallway and comment on the Peloponnesian War of 431 BC which had minor similarities to the crisis you are facing.
            When they are through talking about Greek history you still have a mess unless you find a plumber. The brown stuff will just keep on keeping on down your hallway.
            So many young people will know right where to put the comma, but nothing vocational. When trying to fix things you ask: what about using a screwdriver? No, not the liquid kind. And plumbers are not the political leak finders in Washington, they are those professionals who make the plumbing work as advertised.
            I was lucky that vocational education was for all students in the 1960s so that I am mildly competent in most repair situations. Even better, I know when not to tackle a problem other than tackle it with my wallet and someone who will fix the problem correctly.
            As a society, we are looking down our academic noses at those people who work with their hands and come home occasionally smelling like low tide at the swamp. The only thing we will know in the future is what we know now: everything will break at the least useful moment.
            We should bring vocational education back and put every public-school student through some of it so that minor things can be fixed by each of us. The wave of crud backing up from the toilet will take a real plumber. I hope we still have them in the future.
            It is wrong to push all students to college. Rather, we should make students aware of the possibilities without pushing what we think and let them decide what interests them. I understand colleges are worried by dropping enrollment.
            Partly this is due to the incredible increase in college costs plus a stagnate job market. They need skills that our world will support financially.
            Many young people do not want to go deeply in debt. Be a plumber first and then use those dollars to explore other professions. When the brown sludge overflows you will know what to do other than worry.

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No jokes

© 2016 Jim Spence - Read this column a few times over the last few years and you will see repeated charges lodged by me that not only has American journalism sunken into being a propaganda ministry for the Democratic Party, but the entertainment industry, Hollywood if you will, is nothing more than a megaphone for Democrat causes too. The trouble with this sad decline, as my idol Mel Brooks so aptly said just a few days ago, is that this process is killing comedy. Comedy took another few nails in its coffin just yesterday.
Every late night talk show host does a joke monologue. They all have done so for several generations. In fact they have made fun of every sitting president relentlessly……until the arrival of Barack Obama. Suddenly for fairly obvious reasons, Obama became off-limits. Make fun of Obama and somebody is bound to call you a "racist" instead of a hilarious comic.
One thing that has returned with Donald Trump is the great American tradition of seeing comics have their fun at the president’s expense. Too bad many of us stopped watching late night talk show hosts once we realized the fix was in across the board for Democrats.
Enter stage left (pun intended) one Hollywood icon Harvey Weinstein yesterday and an amazing revelation that not only has he engaged in sexual harassment for decades, but he admits it. We also find from a former New York Times reporter that simply because Weinstein is a serial contributor of millions of dollars to the Democrat Party, the New York Times squashed all investigations into Weinstein’s reprehensible behaviors.
Say what? Yes you heard that right, the New York Times refused to run the well-documented stories simply because Weinstein gives millions to help Democrats. The reality here is we have little more than sham journalism and a sham entertainment industry. 
Let's take an even closer look at the late night talk shows. While the clowns have rediscovered how funny it is to make fun of the president……the Weinstein news should have also triggered a barrage of monologue gags raking ole Harvey Weinstein over the coals. This should have happened last night and it should go on for at least a week or so. But instead, for the opening night at least, there was deafening silence on the Weinstein outrage. Let’s see why this is hypocrisy in the extreme.
Consider what a field day these same comics had with the unproven allegations against Bill O’Reilly. I’ll spare you the details of what he was accused of since it has never been proved. Suffice to say that what used to happen in these situations, and still does with GOP types is that they suffer from the rule that famous people from all walks of life are fair game for the late night joke tellers should their name get soiled by some unseemly news. No more is this the case. Now comedy is political.
Late night talk show hosts are no longer comedic artists. They are not playful people who are willing to needle anyone who is famous who gets embarrassed by allegations. What we have now are hardcore Democrats who will only go after accused sexual predators known to have conservative leanings. This is comedy?
Not so much as a peep was heard from the comics on Weinstein, despite his own ludicrous statements being enough to fill the Rose Bowl with pages of written jokes.  It would seem that sexual-harassment/assault allegations that Weinstein essentially copped an absurd plea to, along with suggesting he was “seeking help” for his ways, was not deemed fertile ground for the one line gags.
Where is Johnny Carson and Jay Leno when you need them?
How does this square with these comics handling of less unseemly, but still provocative admissions by Trump? The same comics and their army of joke writers have jokes ready for any Trump “news” with little more than a moment’s notice. And they pound away for days according to my sources.
People tracking Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert made note of the fact that every single one of them passed on the Weinstein news in their monologues. Perhaps these clowns will mix in a few Weinstein barbs tonight. Who knows? Don’t bet much on it. Either way, I won’t be watching any of these scabs. As for the New York Times quashing the stories years ago? This what journalism has come to. Most reporters are not doing their jobs anymore…..nor are the late night comics. No wonder newspapers and talk shows are dying a slow death.
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Always doing what we always do

© 2016 Jim Spence - Michael’s column this week strikes up a conversation we have had many times over the years, dating all the way back to his solo radio show days. It is wise to scrutinize the idea of whether NMSU’s scheduling of football opponents for big paydays makes sense. Michael and I have opined on the topic for years and neither of us thinks it is a good idea. We have suggested that if NMSU cannot schedule a home and home arrangement with another school, NMSU should make no scheduling deal.
We have watched NMSU the institution, operate for the last fifty years. The case made by administrators for playing “money” games, which Michael better describes as “selling losses” goes something like this: "NMSU needs the money because NMSU simply does not have the resources to compete." This is basically the argument. Amazingly, NMSU the institution, has chosen to be a money whore for two or three games each year to ”make ends meet.” Unfortunately this is pretty much what prostitutes choose to do. They sell themselves to "make ends meet."
Let’s give NMSU administrators some credit. Let’s assume there is some logic to playing money games. If this tactic is reasonable, the process should eventually lead to a positive outcome. It has not. Instead, playing only enough money games to “get by” each season has resulted in NMSU making ZERO bowl game appearances for more than fifty years. This is unmatched futility. It does not merely suggest institutional failure, it confirms the false premise of thinking playing the role of prostitute a couple times a year is a legitimate long-term strategy.
To be fair, the current administration at NMSU inherited a big mess that has been snowballing. A.D. Mario Moccia is still paying for the previous A.D.'s mistakes and Moccia has no authority to implement a long range plan. None of the predecessor presidents at NMSU, who were responsible for decision-making for NMSU football, ever implemented a plan for success. The atrocious hire of Barbara Couture truly accelerated NMSU’s decline, including the loss of several conference affiliations, which is the surest sign of institutional failure. One cannot overstate the horrific damage previous A.D. McKinley Boston did to NMSU athletics through neglect.
Why did Boston and Couture fail so miserably? They always did what NMSU always did.....or worse.
Let’s assume selling losses/prostituting the program for money games makes sense. If this actually makes sense, and the Aggies are going to loose their conference affiliation after this year anyway, why not play only UTEP and UNM each season and use the rest of the schedule to arrange ten huge money games. Why settle for two paydays to merely get by? The Aggie Athletic Department with the blessing of the administration, could pocket close to ten million dollars per year (after cutting expenses to the bone), and move towards the goal of building a quarter of a billion dollar football endowment over time. In perhaps fifteen years or so, NMSU could have a gigantic permanent endowment that would be capable of funding a competitive football team EVERY year. There would be no more “getting by” or living hand-to-mouth until the end of time.
Strangely enough, I floated this idea in the early 1990’s. The responses were predictable. Successful business-people who have built winning organizations and understand the need for adequate long term capital liked the plan. They saw the wisdom of committing to a long range self-funding plan, to one day accumulate the resources required to be competitive. However, virtually every highly paid bureaucrat immediately searched for reasons why instituting a long range self-funding plan just couldn't be done. It is the classic “Can’t do, stay inside the box,” mindset. I am not sure why people who think like this should be paid $275,000 a year by NMSU. But that is roughly what the institution paid Boston to find ways to do nothing.
If this strategy had simply been implemented in the early 1990’s, when the idea was first floated, NMSU would ALREADY have a gigantic football endowment. And it would have accomplished this without having played any fewer bowl games over the last twenty five years....than NMSU played anyway.......with nothing but lost conference affiliations to show for it.
In the end, NMSU the institution seems plagued by the same sort of inertia that leads to always doing what it has always done. And NMSU the institution, also seems destined to always get what it has always gotten.
Doug Martin has done a great job this year with impressive football wins over UTEP and UNM. But there is still no long range plan to get competitive financially.

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Swickard: Taking money to lose games

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
             On page C5 of the Sunday, October 1, 2017 Albuquerque Journal is a headline: Aggie offense shows well in money game.” While some weak football programs do it, I object to the ethics of selling losses in “money games” to national powerhouses.
            It is certainly the right of NMSU to engage year after year in this ethical morass of selling losses. But it is not right for them to do so. The football team plays mostly unwinnable games a couple times a season for money.
            Over the last forty years NMSU has sold losses in a sport entirely judged by the team’s win-loss record. I have spent those forty years complaining about this to no avail.
            In the modern NCAA Football era comes an unethical practice of strong national teams spending millions of dollars for an easy week while weak teams collect millions providing a loss. This last week the University of Arkansas paid NMSU $1.35 million to go there and lose.
            Over that forty years NMSU has won twice and lost more than a hundred times. Many Aggie Football coaches have been fired because of their win-loss record.
            Three concerns: first, it appears giving two losses a season keeps the Aggies from going to Bowl Games. NMSU hasn’t gone to a Bowl Game since Eisenhower was the President in 1960. I see a trend.
            Secondly, smaller teams playing physically larger teams often get players hurt. This is not a strong team in your conference, these are national teams.
            Finally, it is a thumb in the eye of home fans. Not going to Bowl Games because of selling losses makes selling season tickets harder.
            Partly personal: I have watched NMSU football for fifty years. My first year was with legendary coach Warren Woodson in 1967. I have had season tickets most of the time including this year.
            The NMSU Athletic Department have spoken to me over the years due to my criticism. They say I don’t understand Higher Education. I always respond I have a Ph.D. in Higher Education from NMSU. But they don’t listen to me.
            Former NFL Head Coach Bill Parcells wrote, “The only way to change people is to tell them in the clearest possible terms what they’re doing wrong. And if they don’t want to listen they don’t belong on the team.” This is true at NMSU where the same old strategy has failed for so many years.
            The way to change the fortunes of the NMSU Football program is: first, never ever sell a loss. Secondly, play teams you can beat. Finally, with enough wins go to Bowl Games. Any Bowl Game The program will pick itself up and success will follow.
            As Bill Parcells said, “Success is never final, but failure can be.” The NMSU Football Program will be shrouded in failure so long as they continue to sell losses.

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