Help Stop Crippling Budget Cuts

Yesterday we learned of Florida State senator JD Alexander's proposed budget, which would cut USF's state funding by 58%.

Today I am asking all my readers to consider the following articles:

If so moved, then please follow this link to "urge your legislator not to enact massive cuts to higher education."

I would stress that the legislative branch already has enacted massive cuts to higher education; over the last three years, USF's operating budget has been cut by $100 million dollars. That's about 33% of its total operating costs. Massive increases in tuition have off-set some of those costs, but not all. Students are already outraged and feel over-extended. The only way these cuts help stimulate our economy is buy further entrenching our students in debt. This is not a long-term solution.

But there is a strategy to Alexander's madness. To set the discussion at 58% means that accepting a "mere" 25% deduction feels like a fair compromise. It isn't. The Florida system has taken massive cuts for 3 years. It cannot tolerate more, unless one doesn't care about crippling the quality and availability of education. How can you argue that education is central to the future of the economy and simultaneously gut funding to your education systems?

One might argue that education should be left to the free hand of the market. I would argue that the last few years has shown us the extent to which the private sector knows how to operate efficiently and ethically. If anything, investing in education should be seen as a presupposition to the idea of a "free market" because it at least ensures that everyone has equal access to the tools for success. But, again, the strategy here is called "positional bargaining," by setting the initial position at such a ludicrous extreme, it almost ensures that the opposition will have to compromise far more than they feel they should.

We can see Alexander's perverse strategy already playing out. Take, for instance, change.org's web petition to "Have equal budget cuts across the Florida State University System". This is not the argument to make--as one of my graduate students, Dan Richards, so keenly pointed out, we should not approve budget cuts for a fourth straight year that will leave all our Universities in deficit.

I am on my best behavior here. I am trying, very hard, to avoid any mention of a conspiracy theory, of considering what is happening in Florida across what is happening in other states, such as Texas, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Apparently, given those sentences, I can't quite try hard enough.

I remember a verse from my youth, one that helped get me interested in "critical" education in the first place. Zack de la Rocha:

They don't gotta burn the books
They just remove them;
While arm warehouses grow as quick as the cells,
They rally round the family,
With a pocket full of shells


Colbert, Citizens United, and Irony

Apparently I live under some kind of rock, because today was the first I heard of Steven Colbert's PAC. There's a short article over at Slate documenting Colbert's attack on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. A few random thoughts:

First, I thought of Gregory Ulmer's theory that in electrate culture, entertainment rises as a dominant apparatus to challenge the authority of religion, science, and the state. Couple Colbert's campaign with the recent success of Wikipedia's blackout and you get a picture of how "entertainment" is rapidly massing political clout. From a sophistic/Latourian perspective, this is a good thing, since it collects more actants into the multitude to contribute to the social drama that constitutes our reality.

Second, I thought it interesting how the author explores the effectiveness of Colbert's strategy--is it leading to authentic change or is it merely more evidence of our "irony fatigue," our cynicism. FTA:

At one level, this is all just comedy, and it’s hard to measure whether Colbert’s sustained attacks on the court’s campaign finance decisions are having any real impact, beyond making us laugh. On the other hand, when the New York Times declares that Colbert’s project is deadly serious, and it’s just the rest of politics that’s preposterous, something more than just theater is happening."

That last sentence reminds me of Baudrillard's riff on Disney World in Simulation and Simulacra, that Disney World isn't the fantasy, but rather the hard kernel of the Real, a representation of our fantastic desire, that makes the rest of the world (the illusion of that world) keep on running. Just a thought there.

I've been writing about Latour today, specifically his emphasis on concern in "Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?" and its relation to the desire for ontological purification in We Have Never Been Modern. I'm thinking of Latour's emphasis on a compositional public, transiently organized around matters of concern, through Richard Lanham's Strong Defense of rhetoric, which insists upon viewing truth as the fragile, fluid, and flexible products of an ever-ongoing social drama. To do so dismisses the notion of "just theater." Theater, performance, hypokrisis, lexis--its all we got.


Gmail is Awesome

Today I discovered that gmail prompt you with the question "did you forget to attach a document" if you write "attach" in an email and then hit send. Neat stuff. I was telling a student that I attached a reading to our course site--but there's plenty of times I need that reminder. Point for Google.


Discrimination or a Bad Day?

Via Facebook, a story from Native News Network about a student suspended for using her native language in class. FTA:

"The teacher went back to where the two were sitting and literally slammed her hand down on the desk and said, "How do I know you are not saying something bad?"

As a former high school teacher, I get it. There are days when you just are on edge. I once through a persistent problem child out of class because she sneezed. I just didn't have the fight in me that day.

I am hoping, based on the quote, that this teacher was having one of those days. Too bad for her it has become a meme on Facebook. There might be a context to this story beyond the article.

This reminds me that ethics is something to which we work because, put simply, we need less of this in the world. The default reaction to what we don't know is often fear, but that is something we can work to overcome.


Dear Football Gods

Please, don't let us lose to the Giants. I've had the pleasure of Super Bowl wins. They were dandy. That loss back in 07 really humbled us. I could lose to any other team and say, "wow, its been a great year." But not Eli. Not the Giants.

That is all.

EDIT: The game didn't quite go as planned. But at least the commercials were solid this year.