Set aside for the moment that this decision lacks any evidentiary basis. Another judge might have heard the same parade of witnesses and reached a different conclusion.
Bear in mind that the case will be appealed to a higher court, and will continue to be appealed until there is no higher court.
It is not unreasonable to believe that the California Teachers Association might negotiate a different tenure process with the Legislature, perhaps a requirement of three years probationary status instead of two.
The one thing that does seem certain is that, contrary to the victory claims of hedge fund managers and rightwing editorial writers, no student will gain anything as a result of this decision. Millions more dollars will be spent to litigate the issues in California and elsewhere, but what will students gain? Nothing. The poorest, neediest students will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs. They will still be in schools where classes are too large. They will still be in buildings that need repairs. They will still be in schools where the arts program and nurses and counselors were eliminated by budget cuts.
If their principals fire all or most or some of their teachers, who will take their places? There is no long line of superb teachers waiting for a chance to teach in inner-city schools. Chetty and Kane blithely assume that those who are fired will be replaced by better teachers. How do they know that?
Let’s be clear. No “grossly ineffective” teacher should ever get tenure. Only a “grossly ineffective” principal would give tenure to a “grossly ineffective” teacher. Teachers do not give tenure to themselves.
Unfortunately, the Vergara decision is the latest example of the blame-shifting strategy of the privatization movement. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income, they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. If they were truly interested in supporting the needs of the children, the backers of this case would be advocating for smaller classes, for arts programs, for well-equipped and up-to-date schools, for after-school programs, for health clinics, for librarians and counselors, and for inducements to attract and retain a stable corps of experienced teachers in the schools attended by Beatriz Vergara and her co-plaintiffs.
Her whole blog has quite a lot on this latest salvo by billionaire busybodies out to destroy public schools.
God Bless America! The possible good news here is that the Tea Partification of the Repugs will consign them to the dustbin of history. The possible bad news here is that this signals the move of the Repugs even further to the right without any loss of political influence.
I get asked periodically about how it could be that a major British newspaper purportedly recommended (several years ago) as "one of the best 100 blogs" a rather bad philosophy-related blog by a former academic with a PhD in philosophy and a truckload of ressentiment against liberals, competent philosophers, leftists, atheists, successful scholars, and basically everything he is not. (I will refrain from mentioning the philosopher or the blog, though I do hope this post will forestall further e-mail inquiries on the subject from readers familiar with the blog in question.)
The blog in question prominently advertises this 'distinction'--about the only distinction on offer, it appears--even though, as correspondents point out, the ratio of mistakes about philosophical matters to passable content is not very favorable on this site. The explanation is simple, and would not surprise Karl Kraus: an obscure (and right-wing) British journalist with no knowledge of philosophy was asked to recommend 100 blogs in different areas, two of which he identified as philosophy blogs. The other "philosophy" blog the journalist picked out was by an English professor, who probably was even less philosophically adept than our fellow with the PhD. The journalist published his silly list in the London publication. So it goes. In any case, that's the story.
UPDATE: A reader has alerted me to some interesting circumstances surrounding our noxious mediocrity's departure from the University of Dayton as an "associate professor" after 13 years. More on all that later.
JUNE 2 UPDATE: The sick viciousness of Vallicella's "reply" is par for the course--he is not satisfied with calling me an idiot and a philosophical incompetent, instead, he has to fish unrelated libel out of the bowels of cyberspace and mock my appearance! It's hard to believe this pathetic person is 64 years old. (Once, ten years ago, I commented on one of his right-wing stupidities, without even naming him; since then, over the last decade, he has posted dozens of times to insult, mock, and abuse me by name. Nothing like a sense of proportion.)
ANOTHER (JUNE 5): I've gotten a number of interesting and amusing e-mails about our noxious mediocrity du jour, but this one is especially funny and worth sharing:
I don’t know if you’ve been following the Maverick Man’s meltdown in the wake of your 100-word post on May 30. By my estimate, he’s now written a half-dozen different posts and a couple thousand words all in response to a post that didn’t even mention him by name! It’s quite a display. You would think someone (maybe his wife?) would let him in on the secret that such an excessive response, as well as the middle school insults about unflattering photos of you, do not make him look mentally stable (and they also make it obvious how vulnerable and wounded he is). One can imagine the reaction at the dinner party with his wife’s colleagues at ASU when he boasts: “Oh, yes, I trashed some philosopher at the University of Chicago by posting rude photos of him and making fun of his weight”! And what is it with his obsession that you’re a “careerist”? As you remarked, he’s not a very good philosopher, but surely he is not a complete idiot and can see perfectly well that attacking philosophers like Nagel, as well as producing the PGR, has done no good for your career at all, as I think even you've acknowledged. As with his fixation on Alinsky, it all seems to be a delusional mix of resentment and projection. My guess is if you were to write an actual post with his name in it, he'd spend the rest of his life ranting and raving in reply!
MORE AMUSING CORRESPONDENCE from another reader:
[A] friend would occasionally link to [Maverick Man's] blog in our online discussions, and so I became a casual reader of his. I chose to dismiss Vallicella's unhinged politics as the ramblings of an eccentric shut-in. I know that people of his extreme mindset have usually been hurt or disappointed in life; hence the resentment. They perceive themselves as having been overlooked by humanity.
My sympathy ran dry, however, when Vallicella exposed himself as an unbridled racist. You may remember when John Derbyshire was fired from the National Review some months back for pulling off the remarkable feat of publishing, in a separate online forum, something that was too racist even for the National Review. (I don't care to search for it, but basically it was a sort of open letter to his children informing them that black people are violent and intellectually inferior and warning them to avoid groups of African Americans at all costs.) Well, when this happened Vallicella wrote up an indignant defense of Derbyshire, basically admitting that Derbyshire's racist worldview was his own....
[H]appily I hadn't thought about him until you posted about him last week. Well, I went back to his website, and guess what. Right at the top of the page was another defense of racism! Go figure...
By the way, I'm sure others have informed you of this, but your mention of Vallicella has awakened an obsession in him. He has devoted no less than eight posts to you in the past week, and now he promises at least a week's more. This is perhaps not surprising, as angry shut-ins have a tendency to develop weird and unhealthy preoccupations. I wouldn't be surprised if he were fashioning busts of you out of mashed potatoes.
I have to confess I haven't looked since June 2, but I have no reason to doubt my correspondents. I know from past experience with right-wing crazies who don't have real lives that they can go on and on and on and on...they usually stop when their readers say "enough already." By the way, several readers asked about the circumstances surrounding his departure from his only academic job, mentioned above. The original report did not pan out. What appears to have happened is this: after teaching at the University of Dayton from 1978-1991, he took a leave of absence because his wife, who teaches art education, got a job at Arizona State University. Unsurprisingly, he could not get another job, and so he simply left academia to follow his wife. The only amusing irony here is that our raving right-wing, racist lunatic appears to be basically a "house husband"!
AND FINALLY: One final note, from yet another reader:
Just a heads up that Vallicella is now soliciting anonymous attacks on you. (In keeping with the middle school level of all this, he also called you a “pussy”!) This is all starting to remind me of another one of your insane cyber-stalkers from the past (I think they are cyber-pals actually). Their motto isn’t an “eye for an eye” it’s “two eyes (and a tongue and a nose and all major bodily organs and all four limbs) for an eye.”
That motto is amusingly apt, but if he is really soliciting libel, then he apparently doesn't realize that this will waive his CDA 230 immunity. In any case, I’ve referred this nonsense to my lawyer, who will decide whether it’s worth doing anything about this latest orgy of defamation and cyber-harassment.
UPDATE: Reader Raphael Magarik writes to point out that Dr. Oppenheimer's PhD is in "religious studies." Wissenschaften these days are not what they used to be.
ADDENDUM: Reader Josh Blanchard points out that even Oppenheimer knows his PhD is a fraud; from his little smear on Dr. Angelou:
[T]hese titles are often pretty meaningless. It’s true that I got a Ph.D. in religion over 10 years ago, but I am hardly a scholar. I haven’t kept up with the latest scholarly writing and have never held a tenure-track academic post. Unlike physicians, I can’t actually do anything to help people. What’s more, there are plenty of people in the field of religion with only master’s degrees, or less—clergy, laypeople, enthusiastic amateurs—who know plenty more about my subject than I do. My doctorate just signals that I went through a program of exams and paper-writing, including a thesis-length paper at the end. But so what? Graduate school is not even that hard. I am a good cocktail-party bullshit artist, but I was that before grad school, and some of the best BS’ers I know have only a B.A.
Too bad he didn't get a PhD in an actual discipline.
One wonders why 'Dr.' Oppenheimer finds it so galling---20 years on---that 'Operator Jones' is 'aping' a 'certain level of expertise'. He 'always' thinks of Operator Jones when he 'encounters a case of title inflation'. Is it because he can't stand to concede that even a blue-collar public transportation worker can rightfully claim a particular level of expertise regarding the operation of a goddamn interstate bus? Or is it because he regards the conductor of said mode of transport as an 'ape'?
Here's a vid of Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'The Mask'. I think she exhibits a 'certain level of expertise' in something--call it human wisdom---which the pseudo-doctor Oppenheimer has no inkling of.
AND ONE MORE: I've been asked, fairly, not to dismiss the entire field of "religious studies" because Mark Oppenheimer is a hack. I do doubt that the field itself is a Wissenschaft, since it is an amalgamation of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, classicists and so on--and to that extent, serious scholarly work is done under the rubric "religious studies," and I should not imply otherwise.
Philosopher Justin Tiehen (Puget Sound) writes to share this curious story:
You might be aware that the Ultimate Warrior, an extremely famous professional wrestler, died yesterday. (It's been in the news, and the guy was famous enough that people who don't follow wrestling at all are still sometimes vaguely aware of him.) Anyway, after retiring from wrestling he became a motivational speaker and life coach. For reasons that are somewhat opaque, this involved him creating a website where he posted a glossary of "the world's philosophies," with entries on behaviorism, consequentialism, deontology, existentailism, general semantics, and on and on. Just to give you a sense, here is the entry on Kantianism.
"This is the exact opposite of Objectivism. It's epistemology is faith-eaten and mystic- appeasing. It's metaphysics is subjective, it's ethics are altruistic and it's politics are collectivistic. Kant created the exact opposite of what constitutes a philosophy based on reason. His "argument" consists of equivocations, elaborate straw-men (the entire Critique of Pure Reason for example), etc. He was quite an evil person."
As you can gather, the Ultimate Warrior was apparently a Randian. Many of his other entries also come from a Randian perspective.
...a tenured philosopher (whom I may have met once in my life, not sure) bravely issued a call a few weeks ago for other philosophers on Facebook to "ostracize" me, and since then one tenured philosopher, whom I've never met, "unfriended" me on Facebook! (I used to 'friend' folks on FB I had never met.)
Fortunately, no one has yet called for other philosophers to give me a wedgie.
Philosophy cyberspace is like high school all over again, except with tenure!
This is quite bizarre. As Tad Brennan (Cornell) wrote to me, "Does anyone have any idea what he is talking about? What bit of Schopenhauer could he possibly have in mind? And did Schopenhauer actually advocate it, as well as describing it?" My guess is that since his piece is full of Rand-speak, Ayn Rand probably makes this charge against Schopenhauer, but that's just a guess. Readers, any ideas? (Schopenhauer certainly was good at polemics, though many of them were directed at Hegel, a "collectivist" on Planet Koch.)
Vince Vitale teaches at the Center for Christian Apologetics at Oxford and is featured in this slightly ridiculous video. Is this what Christian Apologetics has become? Yikes!
(Thanks to Michael Lopresto for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A philosopher really at Oxford writes:
Your most recent blog post is a reminder quite how subtle “Oxford” is as a term. Vince Vitale, although described as “a philosopher teaching at Oxford University”, is not a member of the Oxford Philosophy Faculty and so far as I can ascertain is not employed by the University of Oxford. He is an employee of Wycliffe Hall, one of the “Permanent Private Halls” (PPHs) in Oxford, a collection of small, religious institutions in Oxford with a somewhat complicated relationship with the main University. The PPHs are licensed by the University to admit undergraduates and graduate students who can enter for Oxford degrees, but their staff are (by and large, and in the particular case of Dr. Vitale) not employed by the University and the University has no say in their appointment. (Dr. Vitale is affiliated to the Faculty of Theology, which is standard for academics in a given field appointed by a PPH or college, but (I believe) the Theology Faculty will have played no part in his appointment.) There is more information available about the PPHs in a recent Oxford University internal review at http://www.ox.ac.uk/gazette/2007-8/supps/1_vol138.pdf; see in particular pp.43-44 for discussion of Wycliffe Hall.
Similarly, the “Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics” is not part of Oxford University in any way, though it does have an affiliation with Wycliffe Hall (and though its website is a little coy on the matter).
None of this is intended to imply anything one way or another about Dr. Vitale – who I do not know - or his research (though I share your reservations about the video) but just to provide a bit of context.
This makes it vivid. Part of the problem, unnoted in the linked article, is the ease with which so many U.S. states, including California, grant "exemptions" to supposedly mandatory vaccination schemes based on "religious" or "philosophical" objections. (Having a "philosophical" objection requires checking a box, not giving an argument, in the California system.)
...you were wrong. As far as I know, this is the only document in existence that concludes that Linda Alcoff's objections to the PGR (which are, indeed, utterly specious and self-serving!) shouldn't be taken seroiusly because I hate Republicans.
Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory has dropped 11 points, from 54 percent to 43 percent.
So while there was a 10-point gap in 2009, there is now a 24-point gap.
In fairness, millions of Democrats are apparently ignorant of basic science too. What a country!
You would think this came from a Sinclair Lewis novel, but it's for real:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.
Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”
...watch this (and see the commentary that follows by Andrew Sullivan), all of which supports, I'm afraid, Robert Paul Wolff's diagnosis. These sick, sick people need to be caged first, treated second.
I am not going apologize if I am occasionally rude to an ill-informed overpaid Harvard professor making absurd pronouncements on economics that have the effect of obstructing policy aimed at ending unnecessary suffering.
Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems--or "problematics" to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.
The paper co-authored by law professor Michael Simkovic has had every blowhard and know-nothing in cyberspace frothing at the mouth for the last week; he has a sharp series of replies here. The Dunning-Kruger Effect lives!
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)