Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

By Alan J. Yeck

Just when I thought the political fruit cake couldn’t get any nuttier, I woke to the news that Hillary Clinton, in a discussion with Nancy Pelosi, shared her own conspiracy theory that President Trump called Vladimir Putin on the day of the riot at the Capital. I find myself going back and forth between being entertained by the moron platform (well used by both parties) to really pissed off that this is even in the news. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not? That’s why we wait for facts before holding public hearings. I don’t like Trump but I don’t like Biden either. I don’t like any of them and this is just another example of ‘why.’ Their intense, personal hatred of Trump comes first and foremost, well before issues that are affecting and destroying the American people on a daily basis. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord…and Hillary and Nancy. Don’t you wish they were that consumed with the fraudulent, student loan industry? Don’t you wish they spent their energy on campaign finance reform, or healthcare, or a distribution plan for the COVID vaccine? Don’t you wish all of them had their heads out of their asses and actually worked for the welfare of the American people? I do.

The next WTF moment came with two commercials on the networks; one was about TV news personality, Katie Couric, being interviewed by the news, about Trump. The other promo was about the news, interviewing CBS News White House correspondent, Major Garrett, on Trump. This is what we do now – the news interviews the news and makes it news when it’s not news at all. Again, I’m not defending nor supporting any of the politicians including Trump, but is it a surprise, to anyone in the country, how the mainstream news networks loathe Trump? I’m not saying they don’t have good reason – I’m saying they are news networks and not gossip tabloids (or shouldn’t be gossip tabloids). If you also loathe Trump do you need more loathing ammo? If you support Trump, does this ease your fears as we transition to a new Biden administration? Maybe try reporting on how much money from Super PACs go to which politicians? How about where the thousands upon thousands of lobbyists spend their time, and money, in Washington? How about using the power of the press to bring real, lasting change to a country desperately needing it, by real reporting and not a vendetta agenda. Do you understand that as you also seek your pound of old, white, flabby, flesh that you only create more mistrust in what you report on?  The only difference between you and The National Enquirer is…nothing. Except I did see Elvis in an Asheville head shop so the Enquirer’s reporting on that was true. 

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The Pandemic of American Politics

By Alan J. Yeck

It’s been a bit tough trying to write this week. So much information coming at us and so many emotions in the mix that it’s been hard to bring my thoughts to clarity. Then I saw a picture today and in it I found a few moments of focus. It was a picture of a short hose coming from a fire hydrant, attached to a larger PVC pipe with a dozen drinking taps on it. It’s a fresh water station on the streets of San Francisco for the homeless. There is not a better example of the biggest problem we face today in the United Sates but if you think I’m saying ‘homelessness’ is our biggest problem, you’re wrong. Our biggest problem, and it didn’t start with this administration but I promise you it will continue with the next, is how we address all of our problems- we treat the symptoms and not the causes. The problem isn’t providing drinking water to the homeless, it’s the homeless! Instead of addressing the causes of homelessness, e.g., mental health, affordable housing, life sustaining wages, education, etc., we hook up a hose to a device that is supposed to be used to put out structural fires and call it a day. The world leader in innovation does it again. The COVID-19 equivalent would be to never develop a vaccine and just treat the symptoms with Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu. “Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” That should do it.

Meanwhile, on any given night in our country, more than 500,000 people go homeless every night, 40 million of us are living in poverty, 21 million are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, 10 million women and men are physically abused by their partners, with 700,000 children abused and neglected yearly  (the actual number is much higher because so many go unreported). And what is our mainstream solution? Our judicial system which ensures the extremely profitable prison system has a never-ending supply of customers.  We have 2.3 million people in 110 federal prisons, 1,833 state prisons, 3,134 local jails, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 218 immigration detention facilities (immigration is another problem where only the symptoms have been addressed), 80 Indian Country jails, state psychiatric hospitals, and military prisons. Prison is the largest treatment for mental health in the U.S. What I mean is that where so many Americans need mental health treatment (the root causes of incarceration, homelessness, drug abuse…) instead of making sure they can receive that, we treat the symptoms and sent them to prison where they are beaten, raped, abused and come out more likely to commit greater crimes than before they went in. Prison is like the ITT Tech of criminal instruction. It’s not good but we’re paying for it anyway. 

Those are just an example of some of the many troubles we need to deal with, head on. How do we address them, by finding the root causes or only treating symptoms? These are national issues that affect all of us therefore it is the responsibility of our government and elected officials to implement policies to make the positive changes. But they don’t do they? Why? 1) Follow the money. Always, follow the money. 2) Keep the people asleep. A person in California was asked, “why do you think there are so many homeless people here?” Her response was, “because we have nice weather.” That’s right, homelessness exists there because the weather is nice. OMFG! 1 and 2 working together are hard to beat, but not impossible. 

How do you feel the government systems we’ve been using are working for us? All of them, blue and red, are accountable for what the United States is today. All of them. Until we remove corporate and lobbying influences (the money) and expand the two-party system, the corruption will only continue. And the worst part? Me, you, and your sister too have allowed it. It is time for us to wake up from our social coma. Demand from those whom you vote for that they support this and if they don’t, then know they are why all of the above continues. They are why the capital was attacked, they are why democracy is dying, and they all make money from it. Vote for the person that agrees to make these changes in our system and restore democracy to the people. If they don’t, don’t vote for them.  Yes, it is just that simple. 

Be well and keep up the peaceful fight. 

Walking Dead Higher Ed: Leadership In A Pandemic

By Alan J. Yeck

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been over 300,000 cases and 80 deaths at U.S. colleges and universities, according to a survey done by The New York Times of 2000 campuses. Of note is that the majority of cases occurred since the start of the fall semester (almost 70,000 cases since the start of this month). Also, given there is no national tracking system The Times relied upon the institutions’ self-reporting but at least 70 ignored requests while another 80 said they had zero cases. What we know about data is its ease in manipulation, and what we know about higher education is its ease in lack of transparency. The reality is that those numbers are likely higher than being reported/discovered.

The other numbers that are directly related to COVID are the job losses in education. According to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts, since the start of the pandemic state colleges and universities are down 14% with some exceeding 20%. Declining enrollment, already a huge problem prior to the pandemic, continues to increase the financial strain. As state funding is reduced, declining enrollment revenue, and increased costs of COVID testing, their budgets are in complete chaos. 2021 doesn’t look to be any better. There is no surprise that most states are projecting greater revenue declines, which directly affects the already minimal aid given to education. Declining revenue and increased costs will surely mean more layoffs.

Now we have transparency of the problem. Now we can see the challenge – keeping revenue up enough to keep colleges open while not killing any more students or staff. Keep people safe but keep the money flowing. That’s a tough problem but I do have the answer – you can’t. Anyone who says the teaching and learning is just as good as it was a year ago is in denial or a liar (or maybe in denial that they’re a liar). The learning taking place on many of the colleges today is poorly done regardless of the quality of the instructor or the student. Fatigue coupled with curriculum never meant to be taught online to students who were never meant to take these classes online by faculty who were never meant to teach these classes online means learning outcomes blur down to, survival. Nothing more. Senior leadership and trustees must realize they are not only robbing the students tuition but wasting the students’ time and cheating them with a subpar product. It’s a pandemic and the issues need to be addressed as if it were a pandemic – because it is. We will recover but if your plan is to keep the lights on at the students’ expense, it’s a poor plan from poor leadership.

Colleges and universities must work together and present a unified front to the state capitals and Washington. Remember these are the same folks that bailed out Wall Street after the mortgage crisis (which Wall Street causes in the first place). Your voices must be loud and in unison. Do not let them ignore you or surely you will fall, one by one.

There will be more layoffs until this is under control but stop passing that burden down to the students. It’s a pandemic.

Institutions that bring students back on campus to fill dorm rooms to ensure their money flow should be held liable for any deaths they cause. It’s a pandemic.

While there is no argument that success in teaching and learning, historically (but not exclusively) has been through a classroom experience, historically we haven’t done this in a pandemic. Yes, again, it’s a pandemic.

Higher education leaders who would risk students, faculty and staff (and their families) to make up for years of financial mismanagement are playing a dangerous game. Take care of your people, first and foremost and brighter days will return for all. It’s a pandemic.

#highered #higheredleadership #highereducationleadership #highereducation #studentloans #studentloandebt #altraged #election2020 #corruption #elections2020 #education #students #dirtypolitics #teachers #school #teaching #teacher #backtoschool #blmmovement #kamalaharris #joebiden #trump #elizabethwarren #womenempowerment #business #innovation #covid19learning

Failure Is Not An Option

Alan Yeck, Founder of AltRaged.com

Prior to COVID-19, technology wasn’t widespread enough for online education to even be an option for any health-related closures until, at the earliest, the swine flu pandemic of 2009. Prior to that, any schools whose campuses couldn’t stay open just closed. We might have been able to go on  for a few days to a few weeks, but nothing can compare to our current situation of campus closures and needing to switch entirely to online teaching and learning.

We moved to online education very rapidly for two distinct, and not entirely opposing, reasons . One is a conscious, self-defined clean perspective, full of laurels and intellectual collegial banter about moving teaching and learning forward despite our current circumstances. Damn the torpedoes, we care about the students’ learning, and this virus cannot defeat the sanctity of post-secondary education. The academic high ground.  The other reason we moved to online education at breakneck speed for the money, not the student. It’s an ugly reality for many schools today: enrollments are down, finances are critical, and they’re already cut to the bone. Remove an entire term’s tuition from a budget established last year and more than a few school doors will shut for good with others crippled for the foreseeable future. Please understand I’m not arguing this point but using it to highlight the importance of what has to happen next for our students.  No one taking an online class this term should receive a failing grade.

Having earned my entire MBA at Walden University online, at a time in my life when any other way would have been impossible, I am a huge proponent of online education–an evangelist for it.  I was taught online, I’ve taught online, and I believe as technology continues to progress, what we call online will become the standard medium for education around the world. We’re not there yet, but we’re not far off either. Numerous studies over the years have shown that online education can be as academically rigorous as that done in the classroom, if not more so. Of course, there are institutions, courses and teachers that have given online education a bad reputation within the industry, but those same institutions, courses and teachers also likely deliver poor classroom instruction. They are consistent. The delivery medium is arguably the least important factor in determining the quality of instruction. Internet or in-person, are the students engaged?

Online education is comprised of four elements: teacher, student, curriculum and technology. When all of those elements are fully functional, learning will take place. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s the case. We’ve taken students who initially enrolled for a classroom course and thrust them into the online world with little to no preparation. We’ve done the same to faculty who taught classroom courses. We’ve taken courses designed for the classroom and quickly “adapted” them for online delivery. Three of the four basic elements required for successful online education are somewhat questionable, not to mention other challenges like students who do not have Internet access where they live (could be financial or lack of service). Everyone has done their best, above and beyond the call of duty, to get everything up to speed for online education. You’ve done an amazing job–-truly commendable. Thank you. My point is what all our points should be about–the students.

For advanced learners, online classes are terrific. They performed well before this nightmare, and I’m sure those students are doing great right now. They aren’t the ones we need to worry about. Studies at Harvard and Stanford have shown that struggling students are more likely to do poorly in online classes than their peers with higher GPAs. In their most current model, online courses can be tough, especially for the students who have not had adequate preparation. These students’ outcomes are worse than they would have been had these same students taken in-person courses. After failing a class, these students are much likelier  to withdraw from college.

We have to recognize and address:

1) Not all courses lend themselves to online education.

2) Not every course that was “adapted” for online instruction would meet best practices under normal circumstances

3) The level of instruction for new online teachers probably didn’t follow the same non-COVID-19 process of thoroughly learning the technology and more importantly the pedagogy for online instruction

4) Some of our students would struggle with online learning regardless if everything else was perfect.

Academically challenged students need a classroom and face-to-face interaction with their teachers (not one through Zoom). Of course, there are exceptions to both groups, but policies should never be established around the exceptions. The educational authorities have given us tremendous flexibility to respond to the crisis, and we need to do the same now with our students. Any student who had enrolled in a classroom class, who does poorly online, should be given an Incomplete “I” at the very least to be made-up when they have the option to return to the classroom.

When the nation moved to online teaching overnight, our institutions, state and federal educational agencies, and the accrediting bodies all made it known that they were going to become as flexible as possible to help us accomplish this never-before-attempted high-wire act (no net). The missing part to this flexibility is a unified decision about awarding “I” for any failing grades this term. Another conversation going around is to not award any failing grades, period, this term–-all students pass. Radical? We’re in radical times. If there is going to be an error on our part, it should be on the behalf of fighting for our students. Anything less and we fail them.

Do not fail a student who didn’t sign up for an online class, taught by a teacher who didn’t sign up to teach that class online, when it wasn’t designed to be an online class in the first place. To hold them to the same grading process we’ve always done would be an unacceptable, arrogant, unethical, indefensible and unforgivable position to take. Either an “I” or “P” option must be given to all.