Category Archives: Education

UCLA Labor Center Faces Possible Closure


ucla labor center

Regular readers know I can’t stand the Huffington Post or Ariana Huffington. Nevertheless, I received a link to this article about the possible closing of the UCLA Labor Center by political scientist Peter Dreier through the H-Labor listserv that I thought was worth sharing.

Our society is so dominated by corporate culture that we hardly notice it. Every daily newspaper has a “business section,” but not a single paper has a “labor” section. Politicians and pundits talk incessantly about what government should do to promote a healthy “business climate,” but few discuss how to improve the “labor climate.” Most economics courses treat businesses as the engines of the economy, workers as a “cost of production,” and unions as an impediment. Most universities in the country have a large, well-endowed “business school,” but only a handful of them have even a small “labor studies” program.

Among the small number of labor studies programs, the one at the University of California-Los Angeles is one of the best, and now it has been targeted for extinction by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the UCLA administration. Allies of the UCLA Labor Center have mounted a letter-writing campaign to persuade Chancellor Gene Block to reverse this decision and restore funding for this cutting-edge program. Block can be reached at:

Each year for the past five years, Schwarzenegger — egged on by the state’s corporate powerbrokers and right-wing Republicans — has tried to kill the University of California’s labor research and education programs at UCLA and Berkeley, but has been thwarted by resistance from its supporters and its allies in the state legislature.

This year, with the worst state budget crisis in memory, anti-labor forces think they can prevail. UC labor studies, a minuscule part of the state budget, is the only UC program that the Governor specifically targeted for elimination. The combined budgets for these programs is only $5.4 million a year. The UCLA Labor Center has 20 staff members involved in research, teaching, and community outreach.

UCLA Labor Center director Kent Wong learned about the administration’s plan to eliminate the Center from a July 11 article in the New York Times.

[read it all here]

More from the center’s website:

As part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education plays a unique role as a bridge between the university and the labor community in Southern California.This role has grown in the past few years with the dramatic changes that have overtaken the Southern California economy.

As part of the university, the Labor Center serves as an important source of information about unions and workers to interested scholars and students. Through its extensive connections with unions and workers, the Labor Center also provides labor with important and clearly defined access to UCLA’s resources and programs. An advisory committee comprised of about forty Southern California labor and community leaders (representing more than one million members in the public and private sectors) provides advice and support for the center.

The Labor Center also hosts a downtown office just two blocks from the L.A. County Federation of Labor, amid the majority of L.A.’s union halls and worker centers and in the heart of a diverse immigrant community.


[Mural image swiped from UCLA Labor Center website]

Two Interfaith Events: Europe and U.S.A.


The first excerpt is from Arutz Sheva:

( A European rabbinical umbrella organization boycotted an interfaith conference on Monday after it was determined that Muslim delegates included members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The meeting, co-hosted by the European Commission and the European Parliament, took place in Brussels, Belgium. It was intended to bring together four religious leaders from each participating faith community. Three of the Islamic delegates were members of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE).

In a statement explaining the decision not to attend the meeting, the Executive Director of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Rabbi Aba Dunner, said: “We do not consider it appropriate for organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, or individuals who made or endorsed anti-Semitic statements and who are clearly linked to radical Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to be present.”

The Muslim invitees, according to the CER, are “extremists who are not representative of the vast majority of Europe’s Muslim citizens, who support dialogue and the democratic values of the European Union.” The statement noted that the interfaith initiative was a positive one, but that it was “undermined by the inclusion of people who are not interested in interfaith dialogue but in promoting divisive ideologies.”

The second item is from the 92Y Blog (sorry I missed this event):

Jews, Muslims and Shared History: How Understanding the Past Can Build a More Peaceful Future

Join former U.S. archivist Allen Weinstein and noted cultural scholar and writer Al Khemir for a wide-ranging, provocative discussion on how we can comprehend Middle East culture and history in a larger framework than the current eruptions of violence—exploring how we might develop greater appreciation of the commonalities between the people of the region.

Brief Biography

Most recently the Founding Director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, Dr. Al Khemir is an artist, television and film producer and author of a wide range of works including her recent novel The Blue Manuscript. She is also the author of ‘Waiting in the Future for the Past to Come‘ (1993) and the ground breaking essay ‘The Absent Mirror‘ (2005).

The Honorable Allen Weinstein is a Visiting Professor at The University of Maryland, College Park. As the Ninth Archivist of the United States he is widely credited with having made the story of American Democracy more accessible. He is a former Professor of History at Boston University, Georgetown University and Smith College and the recipient of many awards including The United Nations Peace Medal.

Done for the Semester


I am officially done teaching for the semester. All that is left is grading and I should be able to finish that by Sunday.

The main event occupying my brain space is the rapidly approaching due date of our baby. My wife and I have been frantically trying to clean and make space for all the new things a baby brings, like a crib, a stroller, all that stuff. Since we only have a little more than two weeks until the baby arrives, I will likely not be spending much time blogging. I imagine even less so the first two weeks.

Here are two items I intended to write longer posts about but have not found the time:

It looks like a couple more animal activist nutjobs activists were picked up by the state apparatus, this time in Southern California. Kevin Olliff (22) and Lindy Greene (61) were arrested and charged with stalking and conspiracy to commit the crime of threatening a public officer or school employee. The indictment claims both were members of the Animal Liberation Front whon targetted employees of the University of California, Los Angeles and POM Juice Company.

Sociologist William Robinson at the University of California, Santa Barbara is coming under fire for an email he sent to his students which compared the recent IDF operations in Gaza to the Nazi’s in WWII. Back in my rad lefty days I used to be really into Robinson’s work but it shouldn’t surprise me he is part of the hate Israel contingent. Bluetruth has more info. So does Ron Radosh (h/t to Bob and Jogo).

Almost the End of the Semester


Next week is the last week of class, always a joy for me but less so for my students as it means they are approaching finals. Between now and then I have a little time to slow down (at work, not at home) and get some reading done. Too many books on the list, I don’t know where to start. After finals, three weeks until the baby is due…

I have not posted a list of links in a while so here are some things you should be reading elsewhere:

Airforce Amazons: Check out the art Kellie did during his Mallorca holiday

Bob from Brockley has the anti-Zios going off the deep end (re: Cafe Crema)

But I am a Liberal! On the paranoid right (and left)

Contentious Centrist discusses the assassination of Afghanistan women’s rights activist Sitara Achakzai

Elder of Ziyon: Gaza Fake Civilian Count Keeps Rising

Norm Geras: Terror as Accident

Martin in the Margins on the G20 protests

Modernity Blog: Canada and Attacks on Jews

MountainRunner: How to Win the GWOT–or Whatever it’s Called Today

Simply Jews: Johann Hari, Not a Moonbat

Small Wars Journal: Professors in the Trenches: Deployed Soldiers and Social Science Academics Part 5.

Stumbling and Mumbling: Irrelevant Rationality and Rational Stupidity

Sultan Knish: Leftists and Islamists, The Tiger in the Box

Michael Totten in Commentary on Durban 2

ZWord: BBC Admits to Bias

Samuel Kassow: Who Will Write Our History?



Trinity College History Professor Samuel Kassow discusses his recent work, Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto on C-SPAN 2’s “Book TV” program.

Click here to watch the video.

From the Book TV website:

Samuel Kassow recounts the efforts by Polish historian Emanuel Ringelblum and a group of amateur and professional historians, the Oyneg Shabes, who worked secretly from 1940 to 1943 to record Jewish suffering and subsequently hid thousands of records prior to the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. This event was hosted by the Tenement Museum in New York City.


Do College Students Deserve an A for Effort?


[H/t to Michelle Cottle who blogs at TNR’s The Plank.]

Ms. Cottle writes:

There’s a wicked little piece in today’s NYT about how college students’ somehow, somewhere along the way came to believe that if they put in the effort then they automatically deserve a high grade, regardless of the actual quality of their work.

The article cites research into the subject. For instance:

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading…

The way my students are evaluated is clearly articulated on the syllabus for the class. For example, attendance and participation, quizzes, exams, presentations, and homework all contribute a certain percentage of points which are totaled to calculate the final grade.

I have never seen a syllabus that states 50%, let alone 100% of your final grade for the course will be based on how many lectures you have attended and how many readings you have completed. Reading and attending class is the first step in earning a grade in a class, not the last.

As Professor Marshall explains in the NYT article:

I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.

Janus provided this comment at The Plank:

This simultaneous lower and raising of expectations is rampant, and extraordinarily damaging. I think I first noticed it in elementary school, when I actually bothered to read the grading scale and noticed that a C is, and I quote, “average.” Strange, that, when I was told over and over again that a C is basically a dismal failure.

Blackton adds:

I have to be honest, in my University classes I essentially seek to achieve an average of 80 on my exams, and year in an year out I average in the high 70’s, that is for the students who attend class and do the work. Granted I am teaching English, which is not rocket science or statistics. I could not last as a teacher if I failed everyone, as much as possible I teach to the level of the class and not to the level of the material.

At the baccalaureate level, a “C” should signify more than average work. It should denote the minimum level of proficiency expected of someone with a B.A. If a student is not meeting that level of proficiency—and that means the “level of the material”—than that student should receive less than a C.

Other methods of evaluation cheapen the value of the B.A. and the educational experience in general. It also hurts these students in the job market. If that means fewer students take my classes, good. I would rather have 15-25 than 30-50. The experience is better for my students. We need to encourage greatness, rather than mediocrity, in our students.

JHildner sums up what a lot of educators have to deal with:

The reason kids view the educational process as a system to be gamed — with plagiarized work, Ritalin-fueled cram sessions, outraged emails arguing a grade — is because they have never been taught *at home* the *value* of what they’re doing other than obtaining a piece of paper that can get you to the next level.

In fact, the parents might not even perceive much value themselves.  Many adopt an adversarial posture toward teachers, as in, How dare you affect my kid’s life with your grade?  Who the hell do you think you are — you *public employee*?  Contempt is more common today than ever, and schools and acedemic institutions find that fulfilling their missions in even the most basic sense is an uphill struggle.

Now, I don’t really think that the younger generations are populated by soulless shits, but I do worry a great deal about what strikes me as the pathetic state of our educational system even in relatively ideal locations.  And the problem I see most accutely isn’t overpaid, lazy professionals — although they exist — but a lack of proper support at home, a lack of serious partnership between schools and parents, and a collective community-wide cluelessness as to what education is and what it should be.

C-SPAN Presidential Survey


C-SPAN has released the results of their Second Survey of Presidential Leadership. From the Survey website:

Fifty-eight historians from across the political spectrum who contributed to C-SPAN’s year long series, American Presidents: Life Portraits participated in C-SPAN’s survey. They rated the 41 men who have served in the White House on ten different qualities of presidential leadership. Results of this survey, overall rankings and each president’s scores in individual categories, are being released by C-SPAN to coincide with the February 21 observance of President’s Day…

The cable public affairs network was guided in the survey effort by a team of four historians and academics: Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Associate Professor of History, Howard University; Richard Norton Smith, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library; and Dr. John Splaine, Education professor, University of Maryland.

The four survey advisors devised a survey which asked participants to use a one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: “Public Persuasion,” “Crisis Leadership,” “Economic Management,” “Moral Authority,” “International Relations,” “Administrative Skills,” “Relations with Congress,” “Vision/Agenda Setting,” and “Pursuit of Equal Justice for All”. And, to reflect the changing role of the presidency over the course of US history, the advisory team chose as the tenth category, “Performance Within the Context of His Times.”

The survey was sent by mail in December to 87 historians and other professional observers of the presidency whose work contributed to C-SPAN’s 41 week biography series, American Presidents. Fifty-eight agreed to participate. Survey responses were tabulated by averaging all the responses in any given category for each president. Each of the ten categories were given equal weighting in the total scores. Overseeing the tabulation were Robert Kennedy, C-SPAN CFO and Dr. Robert Browning, a political scientist who serves as director of the C-SPAN archives.

The surveys provide an interesting snapshot of how a particular president is viewed at a particular time. For example, President George W. Bush is number 36 on the list. Will his position rise over time or decline? Back when the first poll was taken in 2000, President Clinton was ranked 21st. Today he has risen to 15th, placing him ahead of John Adams, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams. Time will tell with Bush as well.

Survey results here. Comparison between 2000 and 2009 is here. A list of historians who participated in the survey is here.