Fall 1998, Volume 16.1
Reading The West
read-ing (from ME reden, to explain, hence to read) - vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to, study.
Violence in the Schools
When the majority of American adults were in school (in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s) discussion of discipline in the schools, if it occurred at all, probably derived from flipping spit wads, carving initials into the top of a desk, or a rare fist fight/wrestling match between two adolescent males. While these were not years of absolute innocence, for the most part students treated each other and their teachers with reasonable civility. Recent newspaper headlines have made it clear that today’s school experience is markedly different. Alcohol, drugs, gangs and guns abound, and as a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics observes, "Anyone who thinks they are not vulnerable is really naive."
Two recent national studies released in March, 1998 ("Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97" and "Students’ Reports of School Crime, 1989 and 1995") contain findings that are all the more frightening because they are not surprising.
More than half of U.S. public schools reported experiencing at least one crime incident in school year 1996-97, and 1 in 10 schools reported at least one serious violent crime (defined as murder, rape or other type of sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery) during that school year.... Physical attacks or fights without a weapon led the list of reported crimes in public schools with about 190,000 such incidents reported for 1996-97. About 116,000 incidents of theft or larceny were reported along with 98,000 incidents of vandalism. These less serious or nonviolent crimes were more common than serious violent crimes, with schools reporting about 4,000 incidents of rape or other type of sexual battery, 7,000 robberies, and 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights in which weapons were used.... While 43 percent of public schools reported no incidents of crime in 1996-97, 37 percent reported from one to five crimes and about 20 percent reported six crimes or more....
Crime and violence were more of a problem in middle and high schools than in elementary schools. Middle schools and high schools were more likely to report that they had experienced one or more incidents of any crime and one or more incidents of serious violent crime than elementary schools.... Forty-five percent of elementary schools reported one or more violent incidents compared with 74 percent of middle and 77 percent of high schools....
Most schools reported that they employed low levels of security measures to prevent violence.... Two percent of public schools had stringent security, which was defined as a full-time guard and daily or random metal detector checks. Eleven percent of schools had instituted moderate security measures such as a full-time guard, or a part-time guard with restricted access to the school, or metal detectors with no guards, while 84 percent of public schools reported having a low level of security-restricted access to their schools but no guards or metal detectors.
And the grownups don't seem to do much better…
Murder Rate (per 100,000)
Source: Both NCES reports can be found at https://nces.ed.gov/\
A Report Card for America
Americans have an instinctive urge to measure their national wellbeing. This takes the form of state addresses, blue-ribbon commission reports, ad nauseam. One of the more thoughtful recent efforts is titled "A Nation of Spectators," released in June by the National Commission on Civic Renewal, co-chaired by Sam Nunn and William Bennett and funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. The commission’s purpose was to look at America’s civic condition by examining various surrogate indicators of the national health such as volunteer activity, political involvement, divorce rates, etc. The report is not good, and if anything, the commission gives the country a borderline "C."
America’s Civic Condition: Civic health may be measured along several dimensions – participation in electoral politics, political and social trust, voluntary sector activity, and attitudes and conduct bearing on the moral condition of society, to name but a few.
In an effort to provide a clear and simple summary of our civic condition, the Commission has created an Index of National Civic Health, which measures and combines trends over the past quarter century in political participation, political and social trust, associational membership, family integrity and stability, and crime.
Not all of these trends move in the same direction. Political participation and all forms of trust have declined significantly in the past generation, although there is some evidence of stabilization and perhaps even modest improvement during the past two years. Crime statistics have improved, especially in the early 1980s and again in the past five years. The soaring rate of divorce stabilized in the early 1980s and has trended slowly downward ever since. Out-of-wedlock births rose sharply for three decades before peaking in 1991 and then declining modestly. (The number of women having abortions also declined – by 15 percent – between 1990 and 1995.) And statistics on associational memberships of various kinds present a mixed picture, with declines in many traditional organizations (such as gender-specific social clubs and unions) offset by gains in professional societies and faith-related small groups.
In short, there have been a number of promising developments over the past decade. But when most Americans evaluate our civic condition, their point of comparison is not the late 1980s or early 1990s, but rather their sense of how things were a generation ago. In this key respect, the Index of National Civic Health is consistent with the beliefs of most Americans: our overall civic condition is weaker than it was – and in need of significant improvement. [bold added]
[There is] a widening gulf between "We, the People" and "They, the Government," [and] this schism in the body politic does not serve the public interest. Although who is "right" is open to question, who suffers is not; our country and our communities suffer. Surely we need to understand more about why citizens and officeholders have little that is positive to say about one another. Saying that the problem is good people and bad government is superficial and one sided. [ Politics from the Politician’s Perspective by David Mathews]
Source: Full report available at http://www.puaf.umd.edu/civicrenewal/
A Wonder Drug for the 21st Century?
Having solved so brilliantly the continuing medical problems facing this country—AIDS, cancer, Gulf War Syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the general malaise of the health care system itself—it is reassuring to read of the wonderful purposes to which Viagra is being put. On June 13, 1998 the Associated Press reported:
Carson City, Nevada – Business has been real good for Joe Richards since spring and he credits Viagra. He’s no pharmacist, either — he owns two brothels. Richards figures the wildly popular impotence pill has increased activity at the Cherry Patch and Mabel’s by some 10 percent. "We have a lot of guys who used to come up here but stopped, and now they’re back. The girls say they’re on the pill," said Richards.
The Proof You’ve Waited For
If you have been following the irrational inflation of foundation executive and corporate CEO salaries, you will probably enjoy the following letter by Paul Wesel that appeared in THE ECONOMIST, June 20, 1998.
Sir, engineers and scientists will never make as much money as business executives. A rigorous mathematical proof explains why this is true:
Postulate 1: Knowledge is Power.
Postulate 2: Time is Money
As every engineer knows
Power = Work / Time,
and since Knowledge = Power,
and Time = Money,
then Knowledge = Work / Money
Solving for money, we get
Money = Work / Knowledge.
Thus, as knowledge approaches zero, money approaches infinity, regardless of work done.
Conclusion: The less you know, the more you make (but you probably knew that already).
And More Proof...
That the July sun in Nevada can get hot enough to fry the human brain, consider the following report from the Associated Press of people who paid $50 each for the opportunity of doing stupid things.
Mesquite, Nevada – At least one person was injured … in an Americanized version of the running of the bulls on a dusty ranch track in this small Nevada town…. Some 300 people raced down an S-shaped track pursued by a dozen bulls…. The runners included four men wearing masks representing Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Another runner wore a giant chicken suit.
[Mike Lansford, co-promoter of the event observed,] "People don’t realize what they’re getting into until they get going. Then it’s panic, like a theatre fire. This is rugby with horns."
Higher Education Faculty are Concerned
The West is about to witness a new University spring full-grown from the head of the Western Governors’ Association. In June 1995, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt suggested that the western states act together to take advantage of new technologies and to avoid duplication in distance learning efforts. Four years later the Western Governors University (WGU) is preparing to offer its first courses and degree programs. WGU’s first degree and certificate programs (an Associate of Arts Degree, an Associate of Science Degree, and an Electronic Technician Workplace Certificate) will be ready for students in 1998, and 15 additional programs are expected to be ready by 1999.
Because the Western Governors University will "unbundle faculty roles" and provide instruction from a variety of educational and corporate sources, because educational planners increasingly hold out visions of education without bricks and mortar, and because there is increased questioning of the academy from those outside, many university faculty are growing concerned. In June, 1998, Galya Diment, president of the University of Washington AAUP chapter, gave voice to this concern in an open letter addressed to the governor of the State of Washington. Diment’s letter was signed by 850 faculty from the University of Washington system. It is reprinted here by permission.
An Open Letter to Governor Gary Locke…
Higher education in the state of Washington is at a crossroads. Earlier this year Governor Gary Locke appointed a blue ribbon commission of business and civic leaders to develop plans to meet the state’s higher education needs for the next quarter century. Recommendations are due in September. The Washington Higher Education Roundtable, appointed by the legislature, may be making recommendations at the same time. As members of the faculty at the UW, we address this letter of concern to these committees as well as to the Governor and legislature.
These are troubling times for the UW and for higher education in Washington state. Our state’s future depends upon providing increased access to affordable, high-quality public education. But there are signs that those charged with designing the future of our community colleges and universities are heading in disturbing directions.
Visions of education "without bricks and mortar," of education by CD-ROM and the Internet, dominated the initial meetings of the 202O Commission. In a recent speech at the UW law school, Wallace Loh, ex-officio member of the Commission and Governor Locke’s chief advisor on higher education, added to the impression that the planners are bent on replacing face-to-face classroom teaching with what he described as the "brave new world of digital education." Governor Locke himself, in a speech to graduating high school seniors, has anticipated the obsolescence of the University as we know it, saying that in the future there will be no need for "designer label" educations at prestigious institutions.
Hopefully these are merely exploratory remarks. But as faculty members at the UW (an institution we have never regarded as "designer label"), we feel called upon to respond before quixotic ideas harden into disastrous policies.
Founded as a vital public center for the exchange of ideas, the UW has survived periodic economic challenges to achieve its standing as an internationally renowned teaching and research institution, on par with private universities costing more than five times as much. The UW’s national reputation is crucial not only because the UW is the Northwest’s principal institution of higher learning, but also because the undergraduate and graduate students who avail themselves of its distinguished faculty and resources are themselves major contributors to our teaching and scholarly community.
Declining rankings reduce our ability to recruit and produce the finest scholars and educators in our state and, indeed, the world. Is it possible that a state that can afford to build world-class sports arenas would turn its back on the world-class university that has served it for so long and with such distinction?
In the last 20 years Seattle has become a major U.S. city, the state of Washington has grown, and its economy and population have expanded rapidly. What has not grown proportionately is our investment in public education. Despite our industry and prosperity, Washington state invests fewer dollars per capita in higher education than any state in the nation but one.
Since the 1980s, the UW has faced successive budget cuts, pay freezes, and hiring freezes. Other states, notably Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, also faced economic hardships. But their elected officials wisely saw their universities as bearing the promise of the future. Those states protected - and continue to protect - these vital assets. Meanwhile, the UW has struggled to maintain its reputation. Its successes thus far testify to the loyalties and capabilities of its faculty, administration, students, and staff.
Unfortunately, Washington’s policy makers now seem to be considering a number of risky alternatives to the excellent system of public education we already have. Calls for "downsizing," productivity increases, and greater "accountability" carelessly echo corporate fads without taking into account the already downsized nature of the state’s universities and colleges.
The UW and its employees are already accountable through a range of public channels, and their achievements in providing high-quality education at what is already a uniquely low cost speaks for itself. As students know well, education is not a product, but a process, and increased "productivity" means larger classes, fewer resources, less contact with instructors and other students, and the loss of valued teachers and researchers.
Even riskier, some policy makers appear to have decided that higher education must undergo the rigorous reorganization endured by the health care professions. They would like to convince the public that colleges and universities should be supplanted by a profit-driven, digitalized "knowledge industry," and that teachers should be subject to the same kinds of limitations that healthcare providers have experienced under the rule of HMOs. This prospect is frightening—deeply contrary to the foundations of higher education and its role fostering a free and democratic society.
In addition, there is a growing fascination with "digital education." In his April 27 speech Governor Locke made the surprising claim that the research university and its national prestige are irrelevant to a coming "Information Age" in which Washingtonians will simply buy their "knowledge" in "bite-sized" chunks through private technology. A few weeks later, Wallace Loh spoke enthusiastically of a "virtual university," where education will be delivered electronically, and anonymously, to students seated at "the kitchen table."
Although "distance learning" presents important opportunities to specific kinds of individuals, including full-time workers seeking continuing education, for most students it imposes serious limitations. One of the problems with the newest crop of distance-learning institutions is that they are motivated entirely by profit. They admit students into their programs regardless of whether or not they have suitable faculty and resources to confer degrees. The value and efficacy of degrees attained through such unconventional means are entirely unproven. When advanced education is turned into a business, it is the buyer - or student - who must beware.
While costly fantasies of this kind present a mouth-watering bonanza to software manufacturers and other corporate sponsors, what they bode for education is nothing short of disastrous. Public money diverted from "live" education into techno-substitutes will further erode students’ access to the low-cost, high-quality education upon which their real futures depend. It is absurd to pretend that the reputation or ranking of an institution of higher learning can be ignored. The free market in education-commodities that some foresee will, in the manner of all markets, result in a range of products with different values and price tags.
In reality, a privileged few will continue to enjoy the personal and economic benefits of face-to-face instruction at schools like Stanford, UC Berkeley, and M.I.T. The less fortunate citizens of our state will make do with downsized and underfunded campuses or settle for inferior and dehumanizing "virtual" alternatives. Chances are that neither will qualify the students of the future to compete for the kind of jobs they want.
Education is Not Obsolete:
Far from obsolete, the UW is a vibrant, living community wherein diverse individuals blend an extraordinary range of skills and motivations. Its public spaces are unique: the classroom, the seminar, the student union, the lecture hall, even the corridors. Education, moreover, is not reducible to the downloading of information, much less to the passive and solitary activity of staring at a screen. Education is an intersubjective and social process, involving hands-on activity, spontaneity, and the communal experience of sharing in the learning enterprise. Education is also not the exclusive province of the young. The thousands of older students demanding access to higher learning are doing so, not only to enhance their careers and keep pace with technology, but also to be stimulated, revitalized, and rejuvenated by the one area in public life that values ideas for their own sake.
As UW faculty, we are profoundly committed to meeting these needs and fulfilling the goals of a liberal education. We seek to cultivate the active, independent, critical faculties, ethical capacities, flexible intelligences, and analytical skills without which neither democracy, nor freedom, nor creativity can thrive. This kind of teaching involves personal contact and sustained exchange.
The people of our state need real, not factitious, access to higher learning and good jobs. Fortunately, it is not too late. Governor Locke and members of the 2020 Commission, we urge you to support learning as a human and social practice, an enrichment of soul and mind, the entitlement of all citizens in a democracy, and not a profit-making commodity to be offered on the cheapest terms to the highest bidder.
The UW is a vital resource to our community, not a factory, not a corporation, and not a software package. Its excellence and integrity are not only assets that we as a community can afford to maintain, but also assets that we cannot afford to squander.
It is no longer clear what the place of the University is within society nor what the exact nature of that society is, and the changing institutional form of the University is something that intellectuals cannot afford to ignore.
Bill Readings, The University in Ruins, Harvard University Press, 1996.
The Western Governors University
The first 10 states to support the Western Governors University were: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. They were later joined by Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana and the territory of Guam.
In 1997, WGU officials signed preliminary agreements to collaborate with The Open University in Great Britain; the Open Learning Agency in British Columbia, Canada; the Tokai University Educational System in Japan; and the Universidad Virtual del Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico.
The Wolves are Back in Yellowstone, Maybe
Taking care of the environment often seems like the dance you first learned in grade school – two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back.... The problem is, that on bad days, the order of the dance steps seems reversed. The following chronology of the re-introductions of Wolves into Yellowstone presents a cautionary tale:
- 1900s By the early 1900s, the last gray wolf (canus lupus) in the western United States has been killed. Between 1940 and 1986, no wolf reproduction was detected in the Rocky Mountain States.
- 1973 Secretary of the Interior lists the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis lupus irremotus) as an endangered species.
- 1978 Entire species, canus lupus, is listed as endangered species in lower 48 states (except Minnesota where it is listed as "threatened").
- 1980 Following sections of the Endangered Species Act, a Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan is completed and published by Department of the Interior.
- 1986 A wolf den is discovered in Glacier National Park (by 1997, the number of wolves in Montana has grown to about 70).
- 1987 The 1980 Recovery Plan is updated, and concludes that a wolf population of about 300 is required for species to come back to those areas of the western US from which they were eliminated. The plan recommends active reintroduction of wolves into three areas: northwestern Montana, central Idaho, and Yellowstone National Park.
- 1992 National Park Service and Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service begin preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement required for reintroduction to Yellowstone.
- 1994 After wide consultation, the Environmental Impact Statement is completed and approved by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
- 1995 In mid January, fourteen wolves are trapped in Canada and brought to Yellowstone, held in acclimation pens for two months, and then released.
- 1996 Additional wolves are brought to park. By the end of 1996, a total of 64 wolves (adults and pups) are living in the park in 10 packs or groups.
- 1997 In December, responding to a suit by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Federal Judge William Downes rules that the government and wolf-recovery advocates have acted illegally in reintroducing Yellowstone wolves, and orders removal of the wolves. [see the full text of Judge Downes’ order, below]
- 1998 In June, an appeal of Judge Downes’ ruling is filed by the National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, et al.
- 1998 The current free ranging Yellowstone wolf population stands at 114 composed of 31 adults, 52 yearlings and 31 known pups as of June. To date 43 wolves have been killed or removed. Causes of death include: 8 illegally killed, 3 legally killed, 19 natural causes, 4 vehicle accidents, and 9 management actions.
Judge Downes' Order Regarding the Wolves in Yellowstone:
ORDER : The Court, having carefully reviewed the administrative record and the various parties’ memoranda, having heard oral argument of counsel and being fully advised in the premises, FINDS and ORDERS as follows:
Mindful of the dedication, talents and money which have been expended in the development and implementation of the wolf recovery program, the Court reaches this decision with the utmost reluctance. The Court is especially mindful of the concerted efforts of the Government and wolf-recovery advocates to accommodate the interests of stockgrowers and others who may be adversely affected by the wolf recovery program. The fact that the program has been responsibly implemented, however, cannot obviate the limitations Congress has imposed upon the application of § 10(j). The laudable ends aspired to by the wolf recovery plan cannot justify the Secretary’s impermissible means. [bold added]
Given the importance of the issues presented and the ramifications of this Order, this Court, sua sponte, imposes a stay upon this Order pending appeal. THEREFORE, it is
ORDERED that Defendants’ Final Rules establishing a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, central Idaho and southwestern Montana are hereby found unlawful and set aside pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 706; it is further,
ORDERED that by virtue of the plan being set aside, Defendants must remove reintroduced non-native wolves and their offspring from the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas; it is further,
ORDERED, sua sponte, that the judgment entered hereby is stayed pending appeal. DATED this 12th day of December, 1997.
[Cartoon by Calvin Grondahl—Standard-Examiner]
The wolves and all the rest of us will feel pressure as the West increases in population.
In 1996, the thirteen mountain and pacific states (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Washingon, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii) had a human population of 58.5 million. By the year 2020, that figure is projected to
Ten Fastest Growing States % Population Change 1990-1996
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census
The Graying West
Not only are there more of us, but we are growing older. The U.S. Bureau of the Census gives the percentage of resident population aged 65 years and over in 1996 as follows:
Suffer the Little Children
Nearly a quarter of all children age three or under live in poverty according to a study released in April 1997 by the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University. The report found that the poverty rate for young children has grown by 33% from 1979 to 1995. The poor can be found in all racial and ethnic groups, in all types of residential areas, and in all regions of the United States. In fact, the poverty rate for children under age three has grown twice as fast among whites as among blacks. The situation is independent of welfare, as the majority of poor children also have one or more working parents.
Interviewed in the August 1998 issue of TRIAL, the Journal of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund adds:
In the last 25 years, great progress has been made in improving children’s lives in many areas. But, shamefully, high child poverty rates persist, and children still remain the poorest group of Americans. It is now time for all Americans to work together to end the scourge of child neglect, violence, poverty and racism, which are eating away the core of our national soul. What kind of billboard are we for democracy or capitalism when millions of children in our country suffer malnutrition every year? Many millions of American children are hungry, homeless, neglected, abused, and dying from preventable or curable diseases.
Source: Early Childhood Poverty: A Statistical Profile, http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/cpf.html.
NOTE: We have chosen not to include book reviews in this or future issues of Weber Studies in part because there are so many book reviews freely available on the world wide web – including the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, The American Library Book List, and others. Easy access to good book reviews and the home pages of western university presses is available as part of the "west links" on the Weber Studies home page – https://weberstudies.weber.edu/