Monday, February 25, 2013

And now, Standing Behind Ben Affleck

It's a cliche to say, "that woman made him what he is today." A person is formed by how he thinks and what he learns growing up. Despite that, yesterday I said to myself, "Jennifer Garner made Ben Affleck what he is today."
You're probably thinking, "how shallow." I'm not saying that Ben Affleck didn't go from being the butt of jokes to someone respected in Hollywood without hard work and personal growth.
What I am saying is that finding someone you respect and that gives you feedback in life can be a great asset to your personal growth and strength
It can go both ways, and hopefully it always does. I know I get stronger because I trust my wife and her ethics and insight. I hope she takes something from me.
I think we always admire someone who remakes himself/herself. It gives us confidence that we can change and grow.
So forgive my assumptions, and understand that although people earn their own respect, having a strong person to interact with can make all the difference.
Now if we could only find a guy for Lindsay Lohan.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

He killed Bin Laden, but that was Yesterday

If you care about the special forces who've done so much for us since 9/11, you should read "The Shooter: the man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden." The article appears in the March 2013 issue of "Esquire." This man is a hero and our government has treated him like crap.
Maybe it's because we have an all volunteer force and no students have to worry about being drafted, but sometimes I think our country no longer values the people who put their lives on the line for us.
Phil Bronstein, the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, has spent a lot of time with this man and his Seal Team Six comrades.
He records how after 16 years of service and a body covered with scar tissue he retired from the Navy Seals.
What did he get for being an American hero?
"Nothing. No pension, no healthcare, and no protection for himself and his family," Bronstein said.
It's just not a needless worry, this concern about protection. After the White House made a big thing about the death of Osama Bin Laden, reporters converged on the neighborhood where The Shooter lives. Many terrorists would like to win their spurs by killing him and his family.
One Seal Team Six member wrote a best-selling book "No Easy Day." Matt Bissonnette made a few bucks writing that book. The Shooter, along with others of the 23 Seals who went into Pakistan, feel that violated the code of the "quiet professional" they were expected to follow.
I urge you to read this article and decide if we value our war heroes.
(In May 2011, I wrote a blog about my personal war hero, Frederick (Ted) Marks. (it's called "Heart of A Navy Seal" and its listed on the bottom of the blog's first page).We worked together at United Press International in Boston and I really admired him.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

College Costs in US and China

Yesterday's New York Times had two articles that actually focused on a problem that affects both the United States and China. In the first there was a profile of a couple who had sacrificed everything to get their daughter into college (daxue). The father had gone down into a claustrophobic, pollution filled coal mine to earn the money for his daughter's education. The problem in China today, though, is that an enormous number of students have graduated from college to face a limited number of jobs. After a lifetime of sacrifice, the Chinese family has no savings for retirement and the daughter had doubts that getting an education would be worth it. She wants to get a job.

In another section of the times, Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, says "the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country."

One issue has to be looked at very carefully. Universities spent like crazy on all sorts of projects that may have had a limited social benefit. Because of faculty dissension, one University of California campus has three music departments. I think every campus should have a music department, even though graduates will make the least of all graduates coming from the institution (unless, of course, they got a sociology degree and took that A.B. into the business world with no additional education).

(By the way, I have a doctorate in the social sciences, and do not demean the importance of a liberal education).

So we have a country where it's almost impossible to work your way through college. Because college tuition has reached an astronomical level, totally out of sync with the increase in the CPI, ambitious people must take on enormous debt to receive their education. Add an advanced degree, which most people need to get a good job, and you have a financial disaster that will haunt the debtor throughout his life.

In Europe (not to hold them out as an example of fiscal responsibility) college educations are mostly free. In America, Republicans once pushed to have banks provide student loans that frequently were at onerous rates. Now all student loans come from the government and we can hardly look at repayments as the source of income for our government.

In China, it is an immense burden for low income families to send a child to college. We, in American higher education, have made sure that it's a burden on our children, although that was totally unnecessary.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Asian American Quotas at Ivy League Schools

In a recent email to Asian-American students, the 80/20 educational foundation points to research that shows the Ivy League schools have a 17% , plus or minus 2% quota for Asian-American students.
This harks back to the quotas on Jews at Ivy League schools in the 30s and the 40s. My doctorate is from the number one school in public affairs, the Maxwell school at Syracuse. In the 30s, though, Syracuse was a school trying to get through the depression that couldn't afford to have a Jewish quota. Because their Jewish graduates went on to great things and also supported Syracuse financially the University moved into the top 50 universities in the nation.
But the Jewish quota at Ivy League schools was not only unfair, it probably was dysfunctional. In the end those institutions were robbed of highly intelligent individuals who could have made a great contribution to their student bodies and alumni giving.
Because I've been lucky enough to teach American idioms to Chinese doctoral candidates at UCLA, while they taught me Chinese, I've been able to work with individuals whose intellectual level is impressive. I've been asked questions I never received in 30 years of teaching. I know enough Chinese-Americans to be highly impressed with their intellectual ability.
If a Chinese-American is a US citizen he or she should not be limited by quotas at rich white schools. If they are, in the end they will still become important people, and the schools that rejected them will be the lesser for it, while the schools that accept them will be stronger.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Africa? Where's that?

When I was an undergraduate, a political science professor told us the saddest thing was when Africans saw movies about America they could never hope to have such a society because they were resource poor.
I'm not sure if that affected me, but I could tell you where Tianjin is in China, that the Czech republic is made up of Bohemia and Moravia, but I didn't know where the hell Mali was.
When I looked on the map I was surprised to see that it was right below Algeria. I'd helped get the University of Missouri portfolio out of South Africa, had great students from Ethiopia and Nigeria, but I was an African dunce.
I have a feeling that because of their involvement there that Chinese students know where countries are located on the map of Africa.
Let's have a little poll. How many people knew Mali was contiguous with Algeria? Okay I'm counting. Three?
America has never put any emphasis on Africa. We may be supporting a child in Africa through one of those programs, but we probably don't know exactly where he or she lives.
It's time we stepped up to the plate and learned African geography. As it is, Bill Gates seems to be the only person who knows where to go there.