Morning Ed: Education {2016.06.29.W}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. noptme says:

    Defense attorneys are supposed to make novel arguments.

    Schriever Air Force Base colonel wants adultery case tossed, claims law discriminates against heterosexuals

    • J_A in reply to noptme says:

      I think he is right, but the response is to to toss out the adultery charges, but to update the definition of adultery to sexual acts with someone not your spouse (it’s not clear to me if heterosexual sodomy with someone not your spouse is or not adultery. Is sodomy intercourse?)Report

    • DavidTC in reply to noptme says:

      He has a point…but not much of one.

      If any and all sex outside a marriage truly does count under ‘all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces’, as the prosecutor claims, then the solution is for them to just drop the adultery charge and charge him with *that*. Tada, everything is solved.

      That said, considering he’s facing two counts of rape also, worrying about the adultery charge seems sorta stupid. Adultery (Or disorderly conduct) gets you a dishonorable discharge. Rape gets you prison.Report

  2. J_A says:

    About your second link,, but “and now, something completely different”, I have the honour of having had the company I represented being sued by our own lawyers (and to be deposed as material witness by our ex lawyers in this litigation)

    It’s one of my most successful cocktail party stories, particularly with lawyers present, who can barely believe itReport

    • Francis in reply to J_A says:

      Details, please!Report

      • J_A in reply to Francis says:

        It’s a fairly long story. It gets better when you get the details, but the whole thing is at least three beers long.

        Short version

        The power plant I was CFO in (somewhere in Lat Am., but still property of Chapter 11 Enron) was stroke by lightning, and one of the generators was fully destroyed. From an engineering point of view it was a very fluke incident, requiring a lot of things to go wrong (cue first beer courtesy of Oscar Gordon, who would love this bit)

        We submitted an insurance claim of about $10 million. Reinsurers denied the claim arguing it was all, or almost all, wear and tear. We decided to sue the insurers in Houston, since Enron had negotiated the insurance on our behalf. The court agreed to take the claim.

        We hired a boutique firm specialized in insurance claims, with only two partners, paying a small retainer (50k) and any other payment based on contingency . A couple of months later the firm dissolved itself and our partner (*), and our case, moved to a fairly large, three partners names in the door, Texas based (Fairly, Texas & Large) firm.

        After more than a year of prep, the trial is to start in two days. Enror’s head litigation counsel, our internal counsel and myself come into the FT&L offices at about 10 am, to discuss the final details. Once we walk into our lawyers’s office, she tells us that she has accepted a position in another firm, she is taking the case there (and the rights to the contingency fee), and tended her resignation that same morning.

        The Enron lawyer is in shock. He tells us we have to get out of that office immediately and silently. We try, but the first named partner (Mr. Fairly, a really nasty guy) is standing in the front door blocking our exit, surrounded by like ten people. He stops us.

        Shouting ensue, mainly between Fairly and the Enron litigation lawyer, who at some moment says “quantum meruit”. Fairly turns around and starts screaming to the ten witnesses saying “You heard him. He said quantum meruit. You are all witnesses. He said quantum meruit”. Fairly is so engrossed in this that he stops watching us and we can literally squeeze past him out of the office.

        I didn’t know them what quantum meruit meant, but it felt like we were screwed. And the Enron lawyer ‘fessed that that was the last thing he should have said.

        The following day FL&T sued us in the same court we were about to start the trial, which got bumped out of the calendar and delayed for two more years. We had to hire a lawyer to defend ourselves not only from FL&T but, in principle, also from our original lawyer, and the new law firm (New&Firm) that now had the case, which they nevertheless continued to have and work on, with plenty of paperwork waiving and not waiving certain privileges.

        FL&T and N&F settled and agreed to a split of the contingency fee. We went to trial two years later, the jury found for us…..

        And then the judge threw out the jury verdict and issued a JNOV!!!

        But that’s a different story, that requires its own beer.

        (*) This lawyer is a very interest person in his own right. He had been in an early morning meeting in the Twin Towers on 9/11, leaving the building minutes before the first plane hit it. He was in the subway when the plane crashed and only found about it when he got out in MidtownReport

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:


          (Here’s your IPA)Report

          • J_A in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            This is but a mere fraction of the whole saga, which still baffles lawyers, insurance people and engineers.

            Our claim, supported by our independent expert, and accepted as good by the Adjustor prior to the Reinsurers rejecting the Adjustors report was that:

            1. The lightning hit the top of the 80 mt stack, but did not drain via the grounding system, but via the actual metal stack to the metal covering of the turbine-generator set.

            2. The metal encasing of the generator potential versus ground, floated and was raised several kilo volts whereas the generator coils were Y connected with the neutral to the ground, which had not yet felt the lightning impact.

            3. Coil insulation failed and burned the coils.

            This is were it gets better

            4. During repairs we noticed that the insulation( to stop eddy currents) between the plates of the iron core had disappeared in some points. This creates hot spots that burn more insulation and would eventually -matter of months- melt the core.

            5. Because the core had not melted there had technically not been a core stoppage, only a coil stoppage, and there is the argument that we should have replied the coils, reassembled the machine, wait for the core to melt and then reopen and reconstruct both core AND coils again.

            6. This is a stupid proposition, wasting a huge amount of money and there is precedents in insurance case law that if a valid stoppage has occurred and you find something that does not allow the machine to be restarted you can repair it under the insurance, but, the law is not settled in this matter.

            7. The Adjuster concurred with these conclusion and recommended payment. The Reinsurers rejected the Adjuster’s report: claimed that no lighttning had occurred because if it had it would have drained via the lightning arrestors, and that the coil damage was wear and tear and not a sudden incurable stoppage (and thus the core damage could not be brought in either)

            8. The core itself was not wear and tear. Insulation between plates is forever, though it can be damaged if the core overheats, but we didn’t have records of enough overheating. We concluded the core issue was a latent manufacturing defect.

            The repair was awesome for engineering nerds. But that’s another beerReport

        • veronica d in reply to J_A says:

          That all sounds terrible unreasonable.

          I blame Zeus. Fucking lightning bolt.Report

        • Francis in reply to J_A says:

          When in doubt, keep your mouth shut and ears open. Me personally, I would have turned to Mr Fairly, asked for a copy of the engagement letter and requested a private conference room. Cool off for a few minutes and decide who you actually want to handle the case. You probably need to call back to the office and let someone know you’re getting screwed by the lawyers. Ask Mr Fairly to come in and tell you what the firm’s position is on the case being taken by the attorney to the new firm. Make no commitment, say as little as possible. Force Mr Fairly and the trial lawyer to do the talking.Report

          • J_A in reply to Francis says:

            I promise I didn’t say a word. We know our litigation guy (Enron’s Head of Litigation for the International Businesses) screwed royally in the shouting match. He, too, knew it immediately.

            But it was scary. Mr, Fairly is not a nice guy. And he was acting as a madman. Literally stopping us from leaving the office. Saying he would not let us go until we signed X papers (which we never saw, nor would I have signed them under any circumstances – Ihad the full Power of Attorney of the company)

            And you are right about something. There was never an engagement letter with FL&T. Only the one with the original boutique firm. And our lawyer did point that out, which made Fairly scream even louder.

            A new engagement letter was, of course, the first thing N&F asked after this.Report

          • J_A in reply to Francis says:

            i’m surprised no legal nerd has asked about the Judge throwing out the jury verdict and issued a JNOV.

            That was one of the biggest surprises in my career. The jury ruled for us and several days later we are back in square oneReport

            • Francis in reply to J_A says:

              So, he found that you weren’t hit by lightning, or the insurance contract didn’t cover it, or …?

              Tell the rest!

              As to being bullied by your own lawyer, that’s when you simply say that if he continues to stand in your way you’re dialing 911. Then start to do it.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    1. Are math and physics useful majors? Those seem among the most abstract sciences. CP Snow noted that a lot of scientists in mid 20th century Britain had working class backgrounds. wealthier people might grow up in households where the arts are more encouraged.

    2. Prediction: Coding is the new law school for liberal arts grads. A bubble burst is inevitableReport

    • It’s not the example I would use (I would pick something more directly vocational) but math and especially physics majors do appear to out-earn English and Political Science, as well as Business Administration. There is likely some degree of self-selection involved in that, though.

      And for the purpose of the article, it may apply if only because parents and students think it’s a good jobs degree.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Will Truman says:

        I know about 5 math majors that went directly into business and are extremely successful there, one is a CFO, another runs a non-Profit, another became a Hi-tech Sales rep (and had a PhD), and two others are basically accountants/comptrollers/directors of Finance on their way to CFO positions.

        Plus, I hear that Math majors are heavily recruited in both software development (duh), and high-finance (where I don’t have that many connections).

        In fact, the developer role may be the least lucrative route for math folks that I’ve seen (but that’s a pretty high floor!).

        Oddly enough, like liberal arts, the “practical” fields of business provide all sorts of opptys – not everything has to do speculative math or philosophy of ideas with highly abstract degrees.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Right. cryptography, compression, “waterfree” coatings, your cell phone, the weather modeling.
      Abstract, perhaps, but very, very useful.Report

    • Mo in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      With all of the jobs in analytics and statistics, math isn’t that abstract.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Math & Physics are both quite useful. My office has tons of both (people with actual engineering degrees, like me, are in the minority).

      Even when I worked at Boeing, we had pure math & physics grads mixed in. Large engineering efforts, and many software development efforts, need a solid mix of skill sets to be successful, and those degrees are critical parts of that mix.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The thing about coding is, you can either do it or you cannot. I mean, yeah you can learn shit in school, but — there is this thing. Those I talk to in education disagree the exact point, but it is either recursion or pointers — or both. But there is a point where students just hit a wall.

      I dunno. I assume we’ll get better at teaching this. I don’t believe in hard boundaries. But still.

      Will there be too many compsci degrees? Maybe. Even probably. Will there be too many people who can actually fucking code?

      I doubt it. We need so much code.Report

      • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

        Okay so I just read the “coding school” article — HEY! We don’t always read the article before we comment.

        So yeah, these “coding academies.” I dunno.

        I know one person who attended one. They’re smart and motivated, but maybe not a “natural math brain” (or whatever). Anyway, they paid their money, did their work, got their slip of paper, and got nowhere in the job market. So it goes.

        The question is, has anyone worked out the truth about the graduates of these things? Let us just say, I trust their self-reported numbers about as much as I trust — well, a suitably skeptical metaphor is escaping me. Let’s just say I don’t trust them much.

        How many get jobs? What jobs? Paying how much? — and not just some kinda average, but give me some sense of the range. How many are actually software engineering jobs? “In industry” is pretty vague. Some person slaving away in the server farm sweatshop is “in industry.” But if they ain’t writing code, they ain’t writing code.

        And saying “some of our graduates got jobs at Google” — well fine! Yay! How many, out of how many graduates? And doing what exactly?

        And were these some self-taught super genius weirdos who stepped into the school already hot coders? Such people exist (she says while energetically gesturing to herself).

        Cuz trust me, I know what a Google software engineering interview is like — to say the least. 🙂

        It seems like, at first glance, a lot of this stuff is HTML/CSS with enough Javascript to wire together something like an “app.” Which fine. That’s a task. Maybe they throw in some Ruby on Rails. Great. You can make money doing that. But it ain’t what I do. Don’t confuse the two.

        I dunno. Let’s just say I’m skeptical. It’s like, I had friends who went to “art school” and got nothing, “cooking school” and got nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. And the schools lie lie lie. I don’t trust these “code academies” any more than that.

        In a shitty world of broken dreams, the easiest way to make bank is to sell false dreams.Report

  4. Marchmaine says:

    The Bruenig piece was interesting in a hunch confirming sort of way (so it must be wrong, of course).Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Or it is so completely right that it will be largely ignored, or viscously attacked.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Marchmaine says:

      One interesting thing I noticed is that while the poverty rate for every education bracket has increased substantially since the early 90s, the overall poverty rate has barely budged on net, after going down during the late-90s boom and rising again with the Great Recession. This is consistent with ability bias and signalling explaining the college wage premium, but not so much with human capital.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        How’s that? Can we tell the effect of productivity with the graphs we have? I’m not sure I see how productivity is tracked or measured in this series of charts. Quite possibly its there, and I don’t get it though.Report

    • j r in reply to Marchmaine says:

      I agree with most of what Bruenig is saying, but I have to wonder to what end. It is literally true that education does not fix poverty, but certainly there are aspects of education that need improving and that would have a positive affect on poverty reduction.

      I view it this way. If I am giving advice to a teenager growing up in rough circumstances, I’ll say, “Do/don’t do these three things before you reach eighteen: finish high school, don’t get or get anyone pregnant, and stay out of trouble with the law. Doing these things won’t guarantee you a ticket to a comfortable middle class lifestyle, but if will give you a fighting chance.”

      I guess there is a perspective that says eff of your sellout centrist interventions! The only correct answer to poverty is the radical distribution of wealth from those who have too much to those who have too little. As someone who does not share that perspective, however (and I don’t know enough about Bruenig to know if he does), I saw if we can do something on the policy front that can help kids do those three things, then why shouldn’t we?Report

      • veronica d in reply to j r says:

        There is also a question of time scale. A significant increase in education can mean more people capable of solving hard problems. I’m not suggesting a simple model. This is not open heads and pour in knowledge. But over long horizons, a rich educational framework can foster cognitive capacity.

        But hey, I bet nutrition matters also.

        It’s almost as if social engineering is hard.

        But anyway, lots of people with school-acquired knowledge — yeah, that ain’t a magic cookie that makes jobs fall from the sky. Investors are gonna invest according to what they can measure and see.

        Are we looking at ten year time spans? Twenty year? Fifty year?

        People are hurting now.Report

  5. veronica d says:

    The Lisa Ruddick article was a doozy. It’s like, I’m sure she’s right. I hit up against the edges of that stuff, among the “gender theory” crowd. It’s all batshit, just bizarre.

    Somehow this stuff always reminds me of my favorite bit from Impro. I’m sure I’ve posted this before. I shall no doubt post it again.


    One day, when I was eighteen, I was reading a book and I began to weep. I was astounded. I’d had no idea that literature could affect me in such a way. If I’d have wept over a poem in class the teacher would have been appalled. I realised that my school had been teaching me not to respond.

    (In some universities students unconsciously learn to copy the physical attitudes of their professors, leaning back away from the play or film they’re watching, and crossing their arms tightly, and tilting their heads back. Such postures help them to feel less ‘involved’, less ‘subjective’. The response of untutored people is infinitely superior.)


    I tried to resist my schooling, but I accepted the idea that my intelligence was the most important part of me. I tried to be clever in everything I did. The damage was greatest in areas where my interests and the school’s seemed to coincide: in writing, for example (I wrote and rewrote, and lost all my fluency). I forgot that inspiration isn’t intellectual, that you don’t have to be perfect. In the end I was reluctant to attempt anything for fear of failure, and my first thoughts never seemed good enough. Everything had to be corrected and brought into line.

    The spell broke when I was in my early twenties. I saw a performance of Dovzhenko’s Earth, a film which is a closed book for many people, but which threw me into a state of exaltation and confusion. There is a sequence in which the hero, Vassily, walks alone in the twilight. We know he’s in danger, and we have just seen him comforting his wife, who rolled her eyes like a frightened animal. There are shots of mist moving eerily on water, and silent horses stretching their necks, and corn-stalks against the dusky sky. Then, amazingly, peasants lying side by side, the men with their hands inside the women’s blouses and motionless, with idiotic smiles on their faces as they stare at the twilight. Vassily, dressed in black, walks through the Chagall village, and the dust curls up in little clouds around his feet and he is dark against the moonlit road, and he is filled with the same ecstasy as the peasants. He walks and walks and the film cuts and cuts until he walks out of frame. Then the camera moves back, and we see stop. The fact that he walks for so long, and that the image is so beautiful, linked up with my own experience of being alone in the twilight— the gap between the worlds. Then Vassily walks again, but after a short time he begins to dance, and the dance is skilled, and like an act of thanksgiving. The dust swirls around his feet, so that he’s like an Indian god, like Siva— and with the man dancing alone in the clouds of dust something unlocked in me. In one moment I knew that the valuing of men by their intelligence is crazy, that the peasants watching the night sky might feel more than I feel, that the man who dances might be superior to myself— word-bound and unable to dance. From then on I noticed how warped many people of great intelligence are, and I began to value people for their actions, rather than their thoughts.

    Anyhow, it feels on-point to me.

    What are the humanities even for? What is the purpose of critical theory?Report

    • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

      The humanities are for testing exactly how well we can fake being human.
      Fake it until you make it real.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

      Its time for my favorite George Orwell quote. “There are some things so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” Academics usually don’t need to think about how things are going to work out in the real world. This is why they can get so more radical than anybody operating in the real world. They could create pure theories and just leave it at that.Report

      • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

        This stuff is not uniform, though. Like, for example, Viviane Namaste’s book, Invisible Lives, was written as a response to, among other topics, Judith Butler’s theory of “gender performativity.”

        Short version (and trust me, you do not want the long version), Butler had argued that all gender was a type of ongoing constructive “performance,” which meant something along the lines of — well, the problem with this jargon heavy stuff is if you try to say it in plain language, then it sounds perfectly banal. But anyway. The idea was our genders never just are, but instead we are constantly re-creating them as a social process.

        Or something. No one is really fucking sure what the hell she meant.

        I read Butler’s book. It was — not even impenetrable.

        Anyway, near the end she has this big section about how drag queens reveal the illusional nature of gender and how they “queer” gender by showing its provisional nature — or some shit. I dunno. One wonder if she actually spoke to any drag queens.

        Namaste, in her rebuttal, points out that drag queens are actual people, and female-presenting gender variant people, which include trans women and drag performers and others, often live rather dismal material lives, and we aren’t “queering” anything. Thus trying to use our lives to prop up your something-beyond-abstruse academic theory without addressing the first thing about the material conditions of our lives — well it’s just sheltered ivory-tower academic nonsense.

        In other words, Namaste hit Butler with a pretty standard Marxist-Materialist critique.

        Which probably makes her a product of the liberal bourgeoisie or something hilariously ironic like that.

        (I’ll give her credit. Butler has over the years responded well to these critiques, and she tends to get it right when talking about trans stuff these days. But still, her writing! Yeesh.)

        Anyway, blah blah blah. Academic theory. It’s adorable.

        Everyone should read Julia Serano, at least for gender stuff. She is a trained biologist turned social critic, but she never lost her basic grasp of material reality. Plus she knows how to write clearly. Her nouns denote things-in-the-world that exist. Her verbs describe relations and actions that actually happen. Her logical connectors connect things logically. Her sentences are straightforward and express clear ideas. Her paragraphs express coherent structures.

        In other words, she writes precisely the opposite of how Butler writes. It’s kinda refreshing. I suspect this has everything to do with her being a scientist.

        Plus her insights are the sort that make you think, “Oh yeah, I can see how shit works that way in the actual world that I live in” — even if it is a new and surprising idea.

        Anyway, it’s a rather novel approach to social criticism. I hope it catches on.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

      Intelligence is one thing. Cleverness is another.

      The problem is that cleverness is a positional good. You can be an intelligent person when you are by yourself, in a crowd, with strangers, with friends, with family. You can only be clever with another person and only if you are more clever than they.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        The best parts of a humanities education sharpen and train intelligence, but there are other parts that train the student on how to better jockey for position and status.

        I suppose it could be argued that those parts are more important for certain classes and careers.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird — He is a UK author and this was written a few decades ago (I don’t feel like checking), so I’m not sure if he’s using “clever” with the same sense as we use it today in the states. I dunno. Often words like that having slightly different meanings across the pond.

        Like, they use “quite” quite differently from how we do. It’s odd.

        But anyway, I agree with what you said.

        (Gosh I wonder if I’ll still be saying “UK author” in the coming months. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he’s English, as in not Welsh, Scottish, or Irish (or Manx or whatever). I could check, except lazy.)Report

  6. Brandon Berg says:

    Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the fact that the presumptive nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties are flaming each other on Twitter?Report