Earthquake Ghouls, Colleges As High Schools, The Robinson DeFazio Controversy, More

J-school Ghouls

On the radio, a female American reporter in Tokyo, unnecessarily breathless and somewhat disappointed. “I can only imagine if it were here, it would have been much worse and the, uh, the count would have been much higher.” Body count, of course.

Colleges Now Offer High School Degrees

From the—yes, really—New York Times, a story on how CUNY schools are having to teach college students what they should have learned in high school. The “tide of remedial students has now swelled so large that the university’s six community colleges — like other two-year schools across the country — are having to rethink what and how they teach, even as they reel from steep cuts in state and local aid. ”

Isn’t this the same paper that is siding with the Wisconsin (and New York) union teachers, saying that these teachers need more money for the find job they are doing? Thanks to long-time reader and contributer Ari Scwartz for bringing this to our attention.

Detroit Invaded By Hipsters

Under the We’re-not-sure-this-is-a-good-thing category, Detroit is being taken over by t-shirted, expensively shod hipsters. And why not, when you can buy a perfectly serviceable house for pocket change. Videos here.

Unintended Consequences of Obamacare

Who could have ever guessed that the you-can’t-know-what’s-in-it-until-you-pass-it Obamacare law would have provisions which actually cause health care costs to increase? Unprecedented. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the comedic situation where parents are going to the doctor to ask for prescriptions for aspirin and others over-the-counter remedies. Why? The Obamacare law says that health care expenses drawn from flexible spending accounts can only be authorized via a doctor’s script. Result: costs increase.

Stuff Academics Like

Just when you thought the postmodern academic culture wars were over, we have a new site documenting the oddities of academics. In the vein as Stuff White People Like, Stuff Academics Like posts strange things ivory-tower inhabitants find important. Much fun can be had in their “Guess the Fake Title” game, where they display a list of titles from genuine peer-reviewed papers, one of which is fake. A brief excerpt:

Exemplarity – The Real: Some Problems of a Realist Exemplarity Exposed through the Channel of an Aesthetic Autopoeisis [conference paper]

Tragic Closure: A Genealogy of Creative-Destructive Desire [conference paper]

The True History of His Beard: Joaquin Phoenix and the Boundaries of Cinéma Vérité [conference paper]

Trying the Law: Critical Prosecutions of the Exception [conference paper]

Thinking the Pure Unformed [conference paper]

Alan Ball’s True Blood Antics: Queering the Southern Vampire [conference paper]

Antagonistic Corpo-Real-ities [conference paper]

This list is partial, so it is unknown which, if any, is fake. Be sure not to miss the link to the Write Your Own Academic Sentence site. My entry: “The epistemology of pop culture replays (in parodic form) the ideology of the nation-state.”

Democrat Peter DeFazio Meddles With Opponent’s Kids?

Many sites (one link) are reporting on the Oregon House race of Democrat Peter DeFazio (leader of the House “progressive” caucus) versus Republican Art Robinson (ex professor of chemistry and climate “skeptic”, a no-no in his corner of Oregon). The details are not clear, but Robinson accused DeFazio of conspiring to have three of Robinson’s children (he has six) booted from Oregon State University’s graduate school. Robinson writes of one of his sons:

Thus, Democrat activist David Hamby and militant feminist and chairman of the nuclear engineering department Kathryn Higley are expelling four-year Ph.D. student Joshua Robinson from OSU at the end of the current academic quarter and turning over the prompt neutron activation analysis facility Joshua built for his thesis work and all of his work in progress to Higley’s husband, Steven Reese. Reese, an instructor in the department, has stated that he will use these things for his own professional gain. Joshua’s apparatus, which he built and added to the OSU nuclear reactor with the guidance and ideas of his mentor, Michael Hartman, earned Joshua the award for best Masters of Nuclear Engineering thesis at OSU and has been widely complimented by scientists at prominent U.S. nuclear facilities.

Robinson lost to DeFazio. Oregon’s Gazette Times reports that OSU said there was “no factual basis” for Robinson’s claims. The paper also differs in the details saying Robinson didn’t claim his kids weren’t being kicked out, but that two, not three, were “given unfair deadlines to complete their Ph.D. projects.” Which is a very different thing.

Robinson also alleges the OSU has “ostracized” faculty member Jack Higginbotham (nuclear engineering) for telling Robinson of the conspiracy. OSU was forced to issue a press release which said Robinson’s claims are “baseless and without merit.”

Anybody have more details on this?

Update Somebody linked to the low-flow toilet story with this must-see video from Rand Paul spanking the Obama administrator’s “Ms. Hogan” on what “pro-choice” means. Busybody!


  1. Briggs


    M. Anonymous asks us to look at this page. re: the Robinson, DeFazio controversy. Joshua Robinson publishes letters he received and wrote to the department chair, Kathryn Higley, whose husband was a member of Joshua Robinson’s PhD committe, but who is resigning. This leaves Robinson a member short, which Higley apparently interprets as meaning “no committee”, even though she is aware that Robinson is nearly finished with his PhD work. Higley is giving him (it looks like) until the end of this semester to reconstitute his committee, which was dissolved officially upon her husband leaving.

    Very suspicious, that.

  2. JH

    Colleges Now Offer High School Degrees

    You know, when some students don’t learn, I don’t blame myself for not doing a fine job. ^_^

    Here is the usual chain of blame. College professors blame it on high school teachers. High school teachers blame elementary and middle teachers. Elementary teachers blame parents. And parents can blame any or all levels of teachers.

    My younger brother teaches computer skills and math in a public high school in my native country. He enjoys his job, perhaps this has to do with his personality, but I don’t think he would want to be an American high school teacher.

    Unintended Consequences of Obamacare

    Has the health care bill taken effective already?

    Stuff Academics Like

    It’s obvious that academics are not as perfect as people want them to be.

    Democrat Peter DeFazio Meddles With Opponent’s Kids?

    Mr Briggs, You have a special noise for stinky, gossipy reports. ^_^

  3. DAV

    Perhaps Mr. Robinson should contact UVA for ideas on combating interference from elected officials. UVA bends over backwards to avoid a legitimate request from the state AG’s office citing “academic freedom” and OSU actively aids with (hopefully) unofficial requests while ignoring “academic freedom”. And both cases are apparently caused by Global Warming. Interesting.

  4. Ray

    Re stuff academics like.

    Is Alan Sokal still writing spoofs? Some of those titles look like his work.

  5. Re: the Robinson v. DeFazio war in and around OSU, have been following that for about three months and everything I’ve seen tends to confirm it is a blatant misuse of political power, but that shouldn’t bother anyone. The family members being scuttled are conservatives, so it isn’t as if anyone is causing them any damage. Due to mental incapacity they had no future, anyway.

  6. It is difficult for me to remain aloof to all this because I know the players personally. Just to clear up a few items:

    Arthur Robinson, Ph.D., the 2010 Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in Oregon’s 4th congressional district, is a research professor of chemistry and co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. After graduating from the California Institute of Technology in 1963 and earning his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego, he served as a UCSD faculty member until co-founding the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine with Linus Pauling in 1973. In 1981, Dr. Robinson, his wife, chemist Laurelee Robinson, physicist Martin Kamen, and later joined by Nobel-winning biochemist R. Bruce Merrifield, cofounded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. In recent years, Dr. Robinson has also directed the Petition Project, which has obtained the support and signatures of more than 31,000 American scientists for a petition opposed – entirely on scientific grounds published in peer reviewed journals – to the hypothesis of “human-caused global warming.

    After his wife died, Dr. Robinson raised his six children, then aged 12, 10, 9, 7, 7, and 17 months. He developed a home schooling curriculum that is now used by over 60,000 students. Is it any good? Three of Art’s children now have Ph.D.s and the other three are in Ph.D. programs (in nuclear engineering no less).

    Joshua Robinson has completed all the course work. He built his apparatus and has taken all the measurements. He is basically done. He passed his FINAL written exam. He still has to pass his orals and finalize his dissertation for publication. He already has a post-doc position lined up.

    Steven Reese, who is Higley’s husband, quit Joshua’s committee AFTER the written exam. He wants to steal Joshua’s work, which is virtually complete. He is not Joshua’s major professor, just one member of the committee. Reese has given NO REASON for quitting. The student handbook specifically protects grad students from this kind of backstabbing by a sabotage-minded professor. Higley refuses to abide by the handbook. She has given NO REASON for doing so.

    The OSU Dept. of Nuclear Engineering has lost all their best faculty over the last four years, and has been taken over by a nepotistic cabal of “nuclear health” experts. The folks who left include Dr. Jose N. Reyes, Ph.D., who is the co-designer of the NuScale passively-cooled small nuclear reactor: safe, modular, scalable nuclear power generation that is the best answer yet to the world’s energy needs.

    The strongest on-campus supporter of Joshua Robinson is Dr. Jack F. Higginbotham, Ph.D., president of the OSU Faculty Senate and the only real scientist left in the NE Dept.

    But all those are just my opinions. As I said, I am too close for comfort.

  7. John M

    Unintended Consequences of Obamacare

    Has the health care bill taken effective already?

    Portions of it have. One portion that has definitely taken effect is the rule that “over-the-counter” drugs are eligible for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs, funded with “before tax” money) only if they are obtained under a prescription.

    (Some definition of “over-the-counter” huh? Even Orwell wouldn’t have thought of that one.)

    So, if you’re taking those little baby aspirin pills as a precaution againts stroke and heart disease (which by the way are way more expensive than the regular aspirin pills that have four times the dose), or if you take fish oil pills, glucosamine, vitamins, Claritin, whatever, it is cheaper to you as a consumer to go to the doctor, have the doctor’s visit paid for under insurance, and get a prescription for the “over-the-counter” meds so that you can pay for them with pre-tax dollars.

  8. JH

    John M, you also corrected my English. Thank you.

    I guess some people would try to squeeze every last drop of tax savings from of their FSA. It seems to be more hassle than it’s worth to me. Anyway, I signed up for the FSA one year a while ago, I think I could use it for medicines purchased without a prescription under my employer’s plan.

  9. Chris D

    Mike D,

    You were misinformed.

    In general, after the completion of their course work and before beginning their dissertations, students must pass a set of qualifying exams within four years of being admitted to the Ph.D. program.

    “Joshua Robinson… has been a graduate student in nuclear engineering for the past four and a half years.

    He had taken a written qualifying exam for his doctoral program on Nov. 4, 2010. He wasn’t told the score but was told he had “conditionally passed,” meaning he would have to take an oral exam as well.

    Last month he took the oral before a faculty committee and passed, according to a Feb. 16 letter from Kathryn A. Higley, head of the nuclear engineering program. (The letter was released by Art Robinson.)”

  10. Speed

    The offering of “remedial” level courses by colleges and universities started in the late 1960s with appropriate levels of hand wringing and newspaper headlines. Clearly the number of school systems that fail at the fundamental task of education is growing. Meanwhile, others move forward teaching and graduating students that compete to enter and succeed in rigorous university programs. There’s no magic involved.

    Some kids are saved by plucking them out of their failing and failed school systems …

    Lorain County Community College, west of Cleveland, Ohio, has an Early College High School program. Beginning in the ninth grade, students receive ” … flexible coursework … in a challenging and supportive environment … that enables them to earn their high school diploma and to overlap those efforts with those needed to earn an associate degree, leading to a bachelor degree and employment.”

  11. Ari


    Depending on location, the reporter is right. Even a moderate quake in NYC would be a disaster: too many pre-war buildings that aren’t up to code.

    Japan has two big advantages in a quake: 1. Most of the country was leveled during the war, so most buildings were built in the post-war period; and 2. a national building code.

    Federalism is great for a lot of reasons, but for a national building code… not so much. In that regard, a single central government is a great advantage.

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