Tag Archives: New York Times

New York Times is offering online classes for college credit

I always knew Krugman was a professor, but this is getting ridiculous. According to the AP guys, The New York Times is going to be offering online classes for college credit.

The New York Times Knowledge Network and New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University are teaming up to offer online courses in subjects ranging from homeland security studies to global health care.

Of course, there are many jokes to be made here about what classes the NYTimes will offer.

Krugman 101: Always Being Right

Brooks 302: If you cite enough studies in one article, you won’t have to cite any in your next one

Wedding Announcements 201: Why didnt you go to Penn?

Style 203: Youth Trends… uh… shit, make up something

And Kyle B’s contribution: NYT 101: PAYWALL

I can never get into that class, so I just get notes from HuffPost.

Anyways, I brought up the topic on Facebook, and Lily made an (un?)intentional reference to a Backpage I once did.

Well, in response to Ames calling me out (pdf: Evan classes Backpage):

These jokes are funnier if you went to Rice.


In whence I continue to rant about David Brooks and higher education

As the always lovely Michaela pointed out on my Facebook, David Brooks has a new blog on the New York Times. Oh boy! Now there are more opportunities to ramble on my own blog.

In his first blog entry, Brooks talks about distinguishing between universities, specifically those ranked best and those not perhaps the best. He claims that on personal experience, he cannot tell the difference between undergrads from difference universities or colleges:

I spend a lot of time on college campuses, and I’m not sure these distinctions have any meaning. If you put me in a room with 25 students for an hour, I couldn’t tell if they were from Harvard or Arizona State. There are smart students all over.

No doubt there are smart students all over, but if David Brooks can’t tell the difference between students from different schools, he is asking the wrong questions. If you had Rice students and University of Houston students in a room, I could tell the difference with one question: What college do you belong to?

You see, some schools can be very different from others.

But Brooks claims there is little difference between schools, relying largely on a study that demonstrates that lifelong earning has little to do with undergraduate education:

Recently Stacy Dale and Alan Kreuger came out with a study suggesting that the college you attend makes little difference when it comes to how much money you’ll earn. A self-confident student who gets a 1400 on her SATs will have the same income whether she goes to a super top university or merely a good one.

First of all, I question the accuracy and long-range meaning of the study Brooks references. Perhaps long term earning may be different, but ending up at a top school may result in a more enjoyable or prestigious job, even if the pay is the same. But to Brooks, pay seems to be what matters.

Either way, judging by what Brooks says, students and parents really shouldn’t split hairs about school rankings, because of what studies say. How ironic that David Brooks relies upon a study to make his point, when he goes on the next day to criticize not just policymaking based on studies, but ignoring more subtle life qualities that cannot be measured by income:

But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

Indeed, let’s look at the study in his blog and ignore everything else. Except for when we shouldn’t. And let’s use income to determine that all schools have equal value, except for when we should use less tangible qualities. Which one is it?

But perhaps if Brooks were actually listening to university students (he does spend so much time on campuses) he would learn that location really does matter. The experience at Rice’s college system is different than living at the huge University of Texas.

I am reminded of a friend who planned on attending Rice, with an intent of focusing on arts. I warned her that Rice’s arts program, while impressive in its own way, was not a grand program and is basically based out of a trailer. She dismissed my claims. However, two years and one Playboy appearance later (Rice has a long history of involvement with that magazine), she transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design. Rice was not the right place for her. Location matters.

Or, for a more subtle difference, another friend was deciding between Rice and University of Washington at St. Louis. WashU had offered him more money than Rice, and thus chose that school. Given the close rankings between the two schools, certainly Brooks would support going for more money. But comparing notes, he expressed a certain regret not having gone to Rice. After all, students attended Rice because they wanted to: they wanted the small classes, college system, and general sense of unique community that didn’t exist at WashU.

Location matters.

My anecdotes are not scientific study, but according to Brooks we should not rely on merely quantifiable characteristics, so let’s just roll from here.

After all, there is a difference between Harvard and Arizona State, and if Brooks actually talked to students he would be able to discern it. Schools have their own focused agendas, specified academic focuses, and general personalities. A student’s sense of self and attitude towards the world can be shaped by going to one school over another.

Generally, students choose their own schools to a certain extent. This ensures, somewhat, that students end up where they want to be. They find schools that are perfect fits for them. But if we go by Brooks’ standard that it doesn’t matter, schools may find students who don’t fit well on campus, and may be harmed in the long run.

As Brooks himself says:

Colleges are distinguished most importantly by their cultures and personalities, not by anything that can be ranked by neat status rules.

I agree. But what is the point if people like Brooks cannot tell the difference between students?

Anyways, I’m rambling now. But in the end, location is important, and personalities are important. For undergrad. But people aren’t getting their long-term out of undergrad, they’re getting them from graduate schools. Brooks should take another look there and then claim how much ranking doesn’t matter.

Did David Brooks preview his Rice University commencement speech?

New York Times columnist David Brooks is slated to be the 2011 Rice University Commencement Speaker. My own take on David Brooks is mixed. As Kyle Derr once argued, he is the only person on the New York Times opinion page who gives proper respect to the humanities. And as the saying goes: “This nation was founded by Humanists, and it will be saved by Humanists.” Then again, I think that saying may be more historically accurate if you replace the word “Humanists” with “lawyers.”

On the other hand, Brooks’ respect for the humanities often treads into the Clouds, looking upon the nation from his east-coast abode, thinking that because he once spent a week in the Red State that he knows all about how the world works, with his punditry being nothing more than bad standup: “You ever notice how Red States are like this, but Blue States are like this? And what’s the deal with public schools?”

And for a Member of the Tribe, he is far to quick to defend and support the Christian interests that threaten the Jewish community.

Indeed, it should be no surprise that I have already mocked him here, not just because he is often an awful columnist, but because he is Rice’s commencement speaker for this year. So it seems a bit odd that, as a commencement speaker, he ended his column yesterday with a jab at college commencement speakers.

In his column, Brooks discussed “The Great Stagnation,” an e-book by tyler Cowen, regretting our current American way of life in which we have massive quality of life gains that do not necessarily tie to economic gain or national growth. In describing the modern man, Brooks said:

“He loves Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and his iPhone apps. But many of these things are produced outside the conventional monetized economy. Most of the products are produced by people working for free. They cost nothing to consume.

They don’t even create many jobs. As Cowen notes in his book, the automobile industry produced millions of jobs, but Facebook employs about 2,000, Twitter 300 and eBay about 17,000. It takes only 14,000 employees to make and sell iPods, but that device also eliminates jobs for those people who make and distribute CDs, potentially leading to net job losses.

In other words, as Cowen makes clear, many of this era’s technological breakthroughs produce enormous happiness gains, but surprisingly little additional economic activity.

Jared’s other priorities also produce high quality-of-life gains without huge material and productivity improvements. He practically defines himself by what university he went to. Universities now have nicer dorms, gyms and dining facilities. These improvements have not led to huge increases in educational output.”

By this new standard, people focus more on their happiness and contentment with life, rather than goals of economic growth, competition and victory. In his closing jab, Brooks remarked:

“During these years, commencement speakers have urged students to seek meaning and not money. Many people, it turns out, were listening.”

So what, exactly, are commencement speakers supposed to say?

“Work hard and make money”

“Work like a drone and then die”

“Beat the fuck out of those Chinese”


Brooks has given commencement speeches in the past. As far as I can tell, his message seems to have two parts. First, mocking what he sees as the foibles of liberal America. For example, in his 2007 commencement speech at Wake Forest University, Brooks wasted no time before entering one of his traditional stand-up routines about Volvos.

“They come up to the elementary schools driving Audis, Saabs and Volvos, because in certain corners it’s socially acceptable to have a luxury car so long as it comes from a country hostile to U.S. foreign policy.”

Lol David! Well, Audis are German, Volvos are Swedish, and Saab Automobile was owned by American company General Motors from 1989 until 2010. I’m not sure how Germany and Sweden are hostile to U.S. foreign policy, but maybe that was one of those anti-Europe jokes that were so popular in dictating U.S. foreign policy in the Bush years. And Saab doesn’t even belong on the list!

But yes, Brooks gave students a real knee-slapper before going on to a real message that they certainly would appreciate and use in their graduate lives: wacky names of organic foods!

“Whole Foods is one of these progressive grocery stores where all the cashiers look like they’re on loan from Amnesty International.

Actually, my favorite section is the snack food section. They couldn’t just have pretzels or potato chips—that would be vulgar. So they have these seaweed-based snacks like we get in my house, Veggie Booty With Kale. It’s for kids who come home from school and shout, “Mom, I want a snack that will help prevent colon-rectal cancer!”

Then as their children get older, the enlightened parents buy them Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, the Ice Cream with its own environmental policy. I once suggested that Ben and Jerry’s should make a pacifist toothpaste. Doesn’t kill germs. Just asks them to leave.”

More classic David Brooks stand-up! Next stop, the Live from the Apollo!

For part two, Brooks talked about how GPAs don’t matter.

“From here on out the skills you need to succeed will change. The average collegiate GPA for a self-made millionaire is 2.7. You know all those morons who sat in the back of the classrooms goofing off? In a few years you’re going to have a new name for them: Boss.”

He made the exact same joke in his commencement speech at Occidental as well:

“The average self-made millionaire in this country had a collegiate GPA of 2.75. These entrepreneurs may not be scholars, but they have the ability to perceive emerging patterns, to understand what they are good at and to work phenomenally hard to hone their capacities.

You don’t find the best lawyers or politicians or teachers with an IQ test. You find the future superstars in these fields by asking the following question: Who is friends with who in this room?”

Indeed, at Occidental, Brooks followed his patented commencement pattern, starting with ever so funny jokes about liberalism.

“You should know that I grew up as a staunch liberal. I grew up near Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and in 1965 my parents who were somewhat left took me to a Be-In in Central Park, where hippies would go just to be. As part of their being, they set a garbage can on fire and threw their wallets into it to demonstrate their liberation from money and material things. I was five and I saw a five-dollar bill on fire in the garbage can, so I ran up to it, grabbed the money, and ran away. That was sort of my first step over to the right.

I participated in the revolution of the 1960s by writing nasty things about Julie Nixon, the president’s daughter, on the chalkboard in fourth grade, and I was paddled for that. In high school I volunteered for many Democratic candidates, I had a big Hubert Humphrey poster on my wall with the caption. “Some talk change, others cause it,” because even then I knew I wanted to become the kind of person who only talks change.”

Oh man, great stuff there. The ’60s. Wacky! At least it was better than his attempts at relating to contemporary culture, with jokes about how: “I watched an entire season of “Jersey Shore,” and I have to say The Situation changed my life.”

With on point observations like that, he could write for Leno.

But the most telling is at the end of the his Occidental commencement speech, where he get to the, you know, point. He basically espoused the base idea of the historical Conservative movement, which really isn’t a bad thing. Basically, the world is far too complex to be able to understand, so we must change slowly, relying on traditions that work, and realize that rationality cannot fix everything. In a supreme oversimplification, he boils it down to the French Revolution vs. Scottish Enlightenment. However, the baby in the cake is his penultimate statement:

“I do hope you use your odyssey years to educate your emotions through travel, art, love and the occasional misbegotten hookup, and I hope that you do it by chasing deep pleasure, by finding something that deeply pleases you and chasing it wherever it leads.”

Really? Chase deep pleasure? Educate your emotions? I dunno, David Brooks 2010, I don’t think that David Brooks 2011 would agree with that.

I know that people learn and change their view about the world (ex: My first Thresher column vs. A Thresher column as an alumnus, notably part 6) but a one year turnaround is pretty big. And admittedly, Brooks’ speech at Occidental was probably largely in reaction to the school’s reputation of having an incredibly liberal student body. So maybe Brooks should tailor his speech to Rice.

First, no stupid liberal jokes or comments on the bohemian bourgeoisie. Rice is in Houston, Texas, a barely blue haze in a red state. Rice’s activism is usually expressed through Engineers Without Borders. Students are just as likely to go to Fiesta as Whole Foods. Cliche jokes about a liberal campus are ignorant at best and insulting at worst. Brooks’ columns may not be known for deep research, but at least chat with some students first.

Second, shut up about the 2.7 GPA stat. Because really? Really? After 21 years of struggling and striving to get the top grades, top SAT score, top extracurriculars, the last thing you want to hear is about how you shouldn’t have worked hard for good grades. Because you know what, you do need those good grades. A 2.7 in high school won’t get you into Rice. A 2.7 at Rice won’t get you into a good law school, or help with a good job. I don’t know where all these millionaire lawyers with 2.7 gpa are coming from. Maybe Brooks could actually cite that study.

So let Brooks answer this: How many of the 2.7 gpa bosses went to an Ivy League or have family connections. He said self-made millionaires, but I’d like to see the evidence to back it. Because for some folks, it is easy to get through life without the stats to prove prowess. But for the rest of the world, you need something besides a family name and wealthy contacts to pump for seed money. You need a resume. You need grades. You need to be impressive. And a 2.7 simply isn’t impressive.

Finally, just what is it that students should do? In 2010 Brooks said that students should “educate [their] emotions” and “chas[e] deep pleasure, by finding something that deeply pleases [them] and chasing it wherever it leads.” Then in 2011 he mocked the idea of commencement speakers telling students to “seek meaning and not money.”

So which is it: pleasure or pecuniary?

David Brooks should spend his time at Rice discussing that. He should address the real struggle of being taught, and required, to get good grades and do well on standardized tests to get somewhere in life, only to be told upon the seeming pinnacle of grade point achievement that all of it was pretty worthless if you’re an awkward nerd who can’t talk to people. And at Rice, that is an awfully large portion of the population.

After all, not all of us get lucky breaks after writing satirical works about conservative leaders. As for me, I just get asked to forward an original so they can frame it.

A David Brooks column about the Rice KTRU Sale

Yesterday, the New York Times contained an article about universities selling their radio stations, notably Rice University and KTRU. Of course, I wrote a blog thing about it, including hypotheticals about what various New York Times columnists would write about the matter. However, one very important columnist was missing.


Bohemian bourgeois find truth on Facebook.


David Brooks has a special place in this whole thing. Not only is he one of the utterly worst New York Times columnists, but he is the commencement speaker at Rice University this year. So it is only appropriate that he write a full column about the KTRU sale.

Here it is, a fake David Brooks column about the Rice University KTRU sale:

Sometimes you make stuff up.

Yesterday evening I was interviewing Rice University President David Leebron in preparation of my commencement speech there, and we were talking about the university selling the student radio station KTRU. His voice was nasal and fatigued, and he was taking those little sighs that people take when they’re frustrated with being criticized even though the criticisms don’t have any actual effect on the result.

Out of the blue I asked, “Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?”

Leebron’s tone changed. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I continued to list random names and philosophical concepts, hoping he would react to one and I could write a column about it: “C.S. Lewis, Gestalt Theory, Steven Quartz, Ewan Moontz, Friedrich Schleiermacher, bobo chic, Rick Warren…”

I went on for a bit and he stopped me at Milton Friedman.

“I generally don’t agree with his views,” President Leebron said. “For example, there is certainly such a thing as a free lunch, Rice got one by secretly selling KTRU. We get the proceeds while KTRU did all the work.”

As part of my contract with the New York Times, I’ll take this point to state a thesis that disagrees with a notable conservative icon but agrees with someone in power in a way that gets the result I wanted anyways.

Unlike 90 percent of America, I am cheering for the sale. This is widely cast as a students v. administration conflict — the powerful Board of Trustees against the ragtag KTRU community. If this were a movie, KTRU’s arguments before the FCC about localism and education would be successful, and KTRUvians would be weeping with joy.

But this is why life is not a movie. The Board is not always wrong. They do not always exploit student efforts without any discussion. The Rice administration — to the extent that they are paragons of power, which I dispute — won through hard work.

For the first time in university history, the rich and powerful work harder for student interests than the students. KTRU supporters would have gotten what they wanted if only they had worked harder, even if the university was keeping the sale secret. And even though I have never had a job besides working for various upper crust publications, I have no problem lecturing about hard work.

This lack of labor by university students explains why non-profit radio licenses are now essentially dominated by Christian religious stations and NPR.

Notice the dichotomy between the two remaining systems. Blue State NPR asks its listeners for money, while Red State Christian stations only ask their listeners to pray and be better people. Even though I was born in Toronto and have worked almost exclusively in Washington D.C. and New York City, I am an expert on the differences between Red States and Blue States. And what’s the deal with airline food?

You can look back on the history of the KTRU sale many ways. It was callous, at least, to call students lucky in any context of this secret sale. The Rice Board and President Leebron could have done something wonderful if they had engaged students and the KTRU community at the beginning. They didn’t. And it is obviously true that this secrecy played a role in the opposition to the KTRU sale.

But Neibaour wouldn’t listen to KTRU. How do I know? Because I’m on the New York Times opinion page, so I must be right. Sure, I generalize and make stuff up in a way that may sound good if you already support my positions but is utterly lacking in hard facts.

And the same could be said about Rice’s justifications for the KTRU sale. Therefore, it was only appropriate that Rice University invite me, David Brooks, to be the 2011 Commencement Speaker.


Save KTRU made it to the New York Times

Check out your Monday New York Times Business Day section, there is an article about Rice University selling KTRU! Looks like the Save KTRU movement finally made it to the big time. Maybe the story will make it to the opinion page as well!

Bob Herbert would write about how selling KTRU, and shows like Africana, demonstrates that large universities do not care about important local and minority interests, and people who cannot afford portable online access. He would reference boomboxes.

Tom Friedman would write about how everything will be online anyways, and complain about how students want to remain on FM radios. He would note how much bandwidth it would take, and money it would cost, to listen to KTRU over an iPhone. However, Friedman would argue that the situation will improve in 6 months, and if it doesn’t then Rice should buy back KTRU.

Paul Krugman would talk about how the FCC no longer considers public welfare when regulating the public good that is the airwaves, and will extrapolate these facts to government as a whole.

Nicholas Kristof would write about some poor girl from India who made it big by having her music played on KTRU.

Charles Blow would look at the statistical correlation between the decline of college radio and the rise of college tuition.

Gail Collins would write some cutesy thing about her experiences in college and about how they really knew how to protest in the ’60s

Ross Douthat would equivocate.

Maureen Dowd would write a fictional dialogue where the board is Lady MacBeth and Leebron is MacBeth.


While the article is just a general, cursory look at the issues surrounding Rice University and Vanderbilt selling their student radio stations, it does recognize one of the distinct issues of the KTRU sale, notably that Rice did it in secret:

Despite obvious parallels between KTRU and WRVU, Chris Carroll, director of student media at Vanderbilt Student Communications, draws a stark contrast between the situations at the two universities. At Vanderbilt, he said, “what’s happening, really, is a big public discussion about is this a good idea or not, and there’s no conclusion to that yet.” Rice, he said, made the decision to sell KTRU behind closed doors — without student input.

At least Vanderbilt had the dignity to tell students that they were planning on selling the resource. As has been documented, Rice University tried everything possible to conceal the truth.

If Rice really needed to sell KTRU, then they could have made the arguments to the students. But Rice has yet to demonstrate in a factual study that selling KTRU will result in a greater benefit than the loss of all the benefits and value that KTRU had.

While KTRU supporters should be glad to see the story make it to the New York Times, the article does not mention another major point not only of supporters’ arguments, but legal arguments as well: KTRU was a gift and meant for education, not an asset to be sold for cash.

KTRU was created by Rice students. From its very beginning it was a student creation with little other input, financial or otherwise, from the university. Even the upgrade to 50,000 watts did not come at the expense of the university but was paid for by the late KRTS station as part of a FCC-mandated deal.

Rice has put little into KTRU, and seeks to bleed it for everything it is worth. Rice seeks to benefit not from its own labor, but from the labor of its students. If Rice students had not made KTRU so popular, it would not have been strong enough to mandate the 50,000 watts transmitter in the KRTS deal. This send a message to Rice students to not contribute to the university — after all, if you become too successful, they’ll just sell it for cash. But furthermore, it raises legal questions as well.

The KTRU radio station has an educational license. By selling KTRU, Rice is undermining this license, essentially turning the educational purpose into one of profit. Friends of KTRU raised this legal problem in its Petition to Deny:

It has long been Commission policy that the bedrock goal of any NCE license is to promote an educational program. Now, Rice and UHS propose to entirely undermine the educational purpose for which the license was originally granted in favor ofa cash-grab. Rice is effectively treating the KTRU License like any other university asset, and completely ignoring the Commission’s mandate that the license serve an educational purpose. Instead, Rice is seeking to profit from the sale of a license that was founded and operated by students, in order to pad the university budget.

Taking advantage of student efforts merely to line a pocketbook is not just slimy, it may be illegal as well. KTRU is supposed to exist for educational purposes. Rice tried to steal that education away without letting Rice students, or Houston, know.

Well here is to hoping that they get schooled before the FCC.