Random Thoughts about Things I Read Today

I was going to spend today writing about dual credit, but I got bored and spent my time reading various articles online.

  1. Justin Peters gives the Bill O’Reilly story the “no-spin” explanation it deserves in “The All-Spin Zone: Bill O’Reilly’s long career of transforming B.S. into “common Read Tweetssense.” Like so many other things lately, too many of us underestimate the appeal of Fox News and it’s television hosts, Peters says. O’Reilly speaks to an aged viewership who appreciates strong opinions and paternalistic “straight talk:” Correctness is less important than certainty and, Peters argues, gives rise to Trump’s successful presidential election. I agree. As the world gets more complex, people want to believe the solutions are simple and easy. “Elites” like Obama and Clinton bloviated, spun, and obfuscated. O’Reilly, for his faithful viewers, cut through all that BS for common sense solutions. Watching O’Reilly, for me, was always a bit like watching a talking WWE episode, but I’m thankful for O’Reilly’s career because he gave us the Colbert Report.   Interestingly, commentators like O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have an out-sized influence based on the actual number of viewers and listeners. (FYI–if you don’t follow ratings, the NBC Nightly News has about 10 million viewers a day.) Any post about O’Reilly also needs a shout-out to the advertisers who pulled their ads as a way to stop supporting a many accused of such abusive behavior. Of course, I’m sure the sting of unemployment is soothed by his $25 million pay out.
  2. After spending time reading about Bill O’Reilly this morning and then sitting in an hour and a half meeting, I read (with a great deal of longing) Forbes “The Best Places to Retire in 2017.” The mind and body are willing, the 403B isn’t. I’m looking forward to reading about Forbes best places to retire in 2037. That’s painful to write. I’ve reached a point in life, though, were retirement becomes this actual thing instead of some abstract concept in the long-away future. I particularly like that the list seems to privilege college towns and lower cost housing. Retirement isn’t just about money (thank goodness). Keeping costs down, having easy access to medical services, and living someplace with low cost entertainment matters.
  3. The Texas Senate has advanced a bill to gut the top 10% rule. These types of bills pop up every couple of years. For those of you outside the great state of Texas, years ago the state mandated that state institutions automatically admit any student who finished in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. The idea was to create diversity at public institutions without requiring race-based admissions. Using high school standing takes into account the impact race and economics has on ACT/SAT performance and rewards good students from bad high schools with automatic admission to a state institution. Of course, both the U of Texas and Texas A&M have waivers. For those of us at mid-sized regional universities, gutting the top 10% rule would help as those students who weren’t admitted to UT or A&M would be forced to go with plan B and attend less expensive, high quality regional universities. Works for me. I’m weary of our state representatives writing bills and higher ed policies based on what works at UT and A&M and forgetting the other colleges in the state. The current budget proposed anywhere from 4% to a 10% cut for higher ed, cuts that some of smaller schools can’t absorb. In 2001, the state portion of higher ed funding was 65% and students paid 35%. Today, those numbers are reversed, even as our legislators tell us they want more graduates. We’ve done more with less for so long, I fear we’re about to do less with almost nothing.
  4. If you have a chance, read Adrianne Jeffries’ “How Google Eats A Business Whole.” After, try not to get worried that we’re giving our entire lives over to machines that will control knowledge and truth. Reminisce about the good old days when Bill O’Reilly was around to tell you what to think. If you haven’t read Dave Eggers’ The Circle (read a great review here and an old blog of mine here), check it out. His novel (spoiler alert!) is about how social media has infiltrated every nook and cranny of daily life. (Hopefully, the movie will live up to the novel.) Jeffries’ dos a nice job, unintentionally, of showing exactly why it’s so difficult to teach research skills to students these days. Who are the experts? How do you trust data? Where is truth (or truthiness for any Colbert fans out there)? As importantly, we probably need to start paying more attention to the way social media, information aggregate sites, and invasive data purveyors shape ideas and impact business. In the meantime, I wonder what google has to say about dual credit?






Another Reason You Should Have Listened in English Class

Bill O’Reilly wants an explanation. Evidently, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times. This, O’Reilly (and anyone else who refers to the President as “that Kenyan”) is the smoking gun on the biggest scandal to hit the White House since Watergate. Or Benghazi. Or the birth certificate. Or shooting skeet. Or the stolen election (Obama’s not Bush’). Or any other daily event from a Democratic president.

Creative writing graduates used to work for magazines. Now they get hired by FoxNews.

The problem with the “smoking gun” is there is no gun or smoke. (Mostly because Obama is an anti-gun liberal who daily tramples on the second amendment according to my crazy Facebook friend. He might have a smoking rubber band or smoking jacket. Never a gun.)

Clearly, Mr. O’Reilly, a man who reminds his listeners on a regular basis that he used to teach in public schools (therefore, by implication, he is an educational expert and just a regular guy who happens to earn $10 million a year), didn’t teach an English class where they discussed metonymy and synecdoche.

Metonymy, for those of you who listened as well as Mr. O’Reilly, is what us fancy pants English professors (and other educated folks) call a figure of speech. When we talk about Hollywood, we might really mean the movie industry. We talk about our bosses as “Suits,” call those liberal, pinko communists in the Main Stream Media (or the Lame Stream Media as some folks so cleverly call it) the “Press,” and, on a much simpler level, offer someone a shoulder to cry on. Trust me–they don’t expect you to just hand them the shoulder. That would be creepy. And gross.

Synecdoche is another of those terms you were supposed to learn in the 8th grade that we use when we talk about a part of something to refer to the whole. Sometimes, we flip-flop and refer to the whole when we really mean a smaller part. For instance, we might call for “all hands on deck” in times of trouble, even though we really want legs, torsos, and heads also. We ask for someone’s “John Hancock” on a document to signal their approval, and a cattle thief will steal a “head of cattle.” Presumably, he took the rest of the cow also. The head isn’t worth all that much and they are difficult to detach.

Admittedly, these two terms are easy to confuse. Both are subsets of metaphor and, if you ever plan to teach English or pontificate after a few beers at an office party, you want to understand the finer distinctions between the two terms. Everyone loves that guy at the party.

But if you are simply going to bloviate on national television, you should at the very least understand that going to the White House doesn’t equate to visiting with the President because 1) the White House is an actual house with many rooms; 2) there are an awful lot of people who work in the White House; and 3) you are supposed to have an actual working brain in your head if you make $10 million a year.

As a “news station,” and I use that term loosely with FoxNews, they regularly report that “The White House said . . .” For consistency’s sake, do we assume FoxNews actually believes the White House is talking?

Of course not. (We hope?)

When the White House releases a press release, we realize as listeners this is metonymy–the White House equals the president and his staff. And, more importantly (since it’s Friday and understanding words can sometimes give us a headache) when we go to the White House Visitor Access Records, we notice that Shulman visited with many people not named Barack Obama. In fact, as the director of the IRS, the agency responsible for coordinating health care exchanges, Shulman met with various people in the other agencies undertaking this massive attempt at providing nominal health care for American citizens.

But why let the facts get in the way. Again.

I’ll admit that I’m no fan of the IRS tax laws and I have mixed feelings about nationalized health care. There are even days where I don’t like what I hear coming from the White House (see me use metonymy in a sentence! You try it). But let’s stop spending all our time pounding the scandal drumbeat on this one.

There’s bound to be a stained dress somewhere on which Republicans can tie their impeachment hopes.

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

NYT > Politics

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)