MONEY IN THE COUNTRY: MOOCs Look Like Sub-primes From Here

I hate to use the word “conspiracy” because it connotes craziness, but sometimes it really feels like one exists. There seems to be a dumbing down effort by the elites in this country – and by elites I mean the 1% – who want to make sure they are the only ones to get a fine education. The steep incline in prices at both public and private institutions, have found parents discouraging their kids from going to college and instead to get a job out of high school.

Lack of a college education almost invariably means a lower-paying future. So what’s come along now, the panacea to all our educational & financial woes, is online learning, built on and in conjunction with the for-profit college model.  Though for profits have been shown to have huge drop out rates, a much lower quality education and lower quality teachers, and higher prices to boot, they are being marketed as gateways for people who would otherwise not have access to higher education. A boon to democracy, that also has the all-American profit motive behind it.

Hold up: that sounds like how the subprimes were and are currently still being marketed.  Interest only loans offered to people with low incomes and bad credit, with high default rates end up costing the buyer far more over time than a traditional mortgage.  That seems to be the formula here, and whether it’s a conspiracy or not, it’s definitely a profit model to exploit the weak, the poor, the uneducated in order to make profits for the already wealthy so we can widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Not surprisingly, for profits generally attract poor minorities, just as subprime loans do. Yet both are being endlessly touted from Charlie Rose to the New York Times to the endless commercial bombardment on television as democratic levelers. Now MOOCs have joined in: billed as offering education to “people in Africa,” the truth is, MOOCs are mostly being used on our own soil to replace the traditional college experience, that is one on one learning.  While the idea that something is better than nothing is appealing, the truth is that in practice, the MOOCs are inherently a poor replacement for in class learning. And a universe in which MOOC learning dominates will surely be a less educated one than we have today, and our nation is already in an educational crisis.  Our literacy numbers alone are embarrassing for a developed nation.

MOOCs are another case of something that sounds too good to be true – because they are.  Of course, some form of online learning can help as an adjunct, but corrupting education with corporate capitalism leads to oligarchy. Isn’t that what they’ve got in Russia? To think all the angst of the Cold War has only led both countries to the same corrupt place. Do old white men get together and plan these things out or is it simply the honest result of like minds thinking alike?

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Successful Women Want to Date He-Men?

I’m so confused. Yesterday, I read that women who are successful in their careers want to go to bed with lunkhead construction workers. Is that true?

The piece went on to say that alpha women generally don’t pick these types for relationships.  So basically, (God, does this date me), Mallory’s boyfriend Nick on Family Ties is not marriage material.  He’s only fuckable material.  For marriage, or even long term relationships, these women pick more intellectual, mild-mannered types.

So women have their dumb blondes too, that they just want to fuck and then roll over and forget about. These types of stories come out every once in a while, and it’s true that women sometimes do just want sex and nothing more. But a whole date with a Repub construction worker, even if he does have nice muscles, seems like a long time.

For me, I’m not interested in dumb or ignorant.  I’m turned on by a smart guy. Perhaps I’m not alpha enough. But there is something in men occupying a traditional role – opening doors, bringing you flowers, cherishing you – that is consistently appealing. In order for me to feel free to do this stuff, they have to feel respected. How can I respect someone who is empty-headed?

Apparently, gays have an edge on straights when it comes to picking partners: same sex couples don’t have half the problems straights do in maintaining long term relationships – and keeping it clear when it’s love ’em and leave ’em sex. Is that because if you date the same sex, it’s easier to communicate? Or is it so hard to be gay, that the impetus to stay clear is stronger.  Maybe they should teach straights about marriage, not the other way around.

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Does Everyone Cheat?

Watching Mad Men last night, set me to wondering if everyone cheated on their spouse in the 50s and 60s. Must have been because it was before the sexual revolution, I thought. But looking around, it seems that many people I know, here in 2013, have either cheated or been cheated on. We thought we obviated that now by getting married later, but that doesn’t seem to work either. Is monogamy doomed no matter what? Are we no better than animals when it comes to our sex drive, as the infamous sociobiologist Helen Fisher posited? Truly, if Don isn’t happy with Megan, who stands a chance?

Sex is the opposite of death, so immortality seekers tend to pursue more sex.  Most of us don’t want to die.  Still, that seems too simplistic. On a chemical level, nothing, I repeat, nothing compares to that first rush of falling in love with someone. And it makes sense that can be addictive.  But not everyone is falling in love with their sexual partners:  look at Pete.  He made a hideous mistake not making sure the woman he dallied with was on the same page. If you fuck everyone, you’re bound to get some negative feedback in time.

Still, as a society, we cling to the idea of monogamy. Not just because it makes it easier to raise kids and be taxed, but also the romance of loving just the one person for all time.  I was recently at a wedding and was struck at the fairytale notions of love being espoused. One look at Mad Men calls all that into question.

So if we are doomed to cheat, are you a Don or a Pete? Are you into numbers or into quality? Do you fall in love or do you fall in lust? Do you feel guilty or do you give yourself a pass, saying it’s biology? Do you admit it, or do you lie about it?

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MONEY IN THE COUNTRY: Grad School May Only Be for Dumb Rich People

While distracting the public with no brainers like same sex marriage and whether more guns will kill more people, Obama is making sure that the gap between the rich and poor gets deeper and wider. Not only are banks today bigger than they were during the housing crisis in 2008, they are back to their same old tricks, making record numbers of LBOs and selling subprime loans to anyone who will buy them.  As I’ve said here before people:  take your money out of the stock market.  In fact, do as David Stockman advises in his new book The Great Deformation: take your money out of all markets. There are bubbles everywhere. (And this coming from a former Reagan White House staffer.)

Today, I was reminded of something even more depressing: Obama is also set to increase student loan rates to adjust to market rate. So now students have to decide if an education is “worth” going into life-crippling debt for. (Though, at this rate, everyone is going to have bad credit and debt problems so jump in, the water’s fine.) Recently, the blog post “100 Reasons not to go to Grad School” gained traction for advising students it’s just not worth the money.

So – our government is effectively preventing higher education. As Stockman states, such policies leave us both fiscally and intellectually bankrupt. Do we really want to discourage higher learning? Is every American citizen simply, and only, as good as their economic contribution to society? Newsflash then to stay at home parents and NGO volunteers – you’re nothing. Even if you make a little money, and are part of the growing lower working class demographic, over 69% female, you’re still just next to nothing. That includes teachers, who may be increasingly out of work as national educational values erode.

In a list of 141 countries, the US is fourth from last, above Russia and the Lebanon, in terms of wealth inequity.  So all you who were worried about the evils of Communism a generation ago can put that to rest: Capitalism, as practiced here anyway, has had the same effect as Communism vis a vis destroying the middle class.

One encouraging note: there is a new generation of college professors have begun teaching “History of Capitalism” courses, to explain to our youngsters how we got to this sorry state. Democracy it ain’t. But if higher education disappears, this won’t matter either.

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: College as Meat Market

Most people wax nostalgic when you ask them about their college days, but Susan Patton took it one step further and published a letter in The Daily Princetonian, forty years later, advising female undergrads to waste no time shopping for a husband.  Since then, she’s taken a lot of heat for what she calls just some “motherly advice.”  I get what she’s saying – it’s easier to meet and date in college because you’re all trapped in one place. In the resulting backlash from the article, a lot of people have already said that 22 is too young to get married, and that college is for learning, not dating.  I want to add, however, that not every woman is hell-bent on getting married.

Patton must be in her sixties now, so perhaps she is feeling lonely, or anxious that her daughter should get married as to avoid years of painful searching for a mate.  But from where I sit, if I had married a fellow student, I would have missed out on ten years of loneliness – but also ten years of FUN.  I wouldn’t change my 20s for anything.  Now that I’m married, it’s the memories of all that fun that keep me going!

The other thing that struck me about Patton’s piece is that she attended Princeton when just a handful of women matriculated. When I was a student, the ration of men to women was still 2:1. Now at first I thought that was a boon – I’d have tons of guys competing for me.  But it doesn’t work that way.  18 year old boys are chronically insecure, so faced with those odds, and the grueling schoolwork, they tended to prefer getting drunk with their buddies on their off time. Sometimes they’d take road trips to find girls at another college. Of course there was dating, but mostly there were hookups, which I think is pretty typical of young men and women.

Patton says that women will never have such a great, smart pool of men to choose from in later life.  But isn’t marrying a smart guy – assuming you want to get married – just one part of the equation?  When I was in my 20s, I dated a very smart guy. He was a writer, like I am, and very competitive. He also wasn’t very nice.  I remember an older woman, my boss at the time, told me, “There are a lot of smart guys out there. Find a nice one. That’s a lot harder.” Smartness started to fall a little lower down the list when living together. Sharing chores, equality, kindness, compatibility all came into play, and eventually degraded smart from pole position. I still think intelligence is important, but not at the cost of everything else.

I would revise Patton’s article to say keep in touch with classmates – they might come in handy later. Also, the most challenging part of finding a mate for me was  not just finding someone smart, but more importantly, finding someone who wasn’t intimidated by my intelligence. Turns out, even smart guys don’t always want smart girls. Find a mate that likes it that you’re smart, and wants you to succeed instead of tear you down.

And if you happen to find him/her in college – great. Two of my closest friends found life-long matea at Princeton. One started dating while they were seniors; the other, a few years after graduation.  Both couples have been married over ten years and from the outside at least have successful relationships. I guess that’s nice. But it also seems boring.

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY – Same Sex Marriage Still Taboo?

I’ve kind of tuned out a lot of the news about same-sex marriage because it seems like a no-brainer.  Also, I feel like Obama is focussing on this and other social issues – marijuana legalization, immigration – to distract from the fact that he is not going to commence any Wall Street reform at all. But I was struck yesterday by some of the arguments I heard being presented in the Supreme Court about California’s Proposition 8, aka DOMA.

One of the arguments that Cooper and Hollingsworth have put forward, the lawyers for the defense of DOMA, is that the primary intent of marriage is to procreate. When Justice Sotomayor questioned how that applied in a marriage of a man and woman over 55 years of age, the lawyers still insisted that there was a potential for procreation. Finally, Sotomayor assured the court:  “If two people over 55 get married, there aren’t going to be a lot of children coming from that marriage.” Onlookers laughed, but the defense stood their ground, despite the ridiculousness of it.

These arguments have come to light because this is such a high profile case.  Mostly, we don’t get to see what’s happening inside the Supreme Court. Both Justices Kagan and Sotomayor said when they took the bench that they would welcome cameras in the courtroom, that it would be educational for Americans to see their Justice system at work. But both Justices have since rescinded that idea, staying now people wouldn’t understand and would be confused by the proceedings.  For the DOMA hearings, people waited in line in freezing DC to get tickets, so we are privy to more information from the inner sanctum than usual.

Transparency is key, and I object to the notion that citizens shouldn’t be able to watch Supreme Court proceedings on a regular basis.  Of course controversy will arise, but isn’t that the point in a democracy?  Why do we need protection from the knowledge of the way the laws of the land are being interpreted by the highest court?  Let misunderstanding arise, then let’s flesh them out and get to understanding.

But perhaps my biggest objection to the case at hand is that the voters of California were essentially tricked by the writers of Proposition 8.  Many voters didn’t understand the language of the law and thought a yes vote meant a yes on same sex marriage. They didn’t realize a yes vote meant a no on gay unions. Otherwise, how do you account for recent polls that show Californians – some of the most liberal voters in the country – overwhelmingly support gay marriage? DOMA was a scant four years ago.

So, unfortunately, now we are witnessing both a waste of time and money, just because some crafty Bible enthusiasts – the Mormon church funded a great deal of the Prop 8 campaign – succeeded in duping average voters.  Right now, it’s not clear what the Supreme Court will decide, but like I said, we should all be suspicious about the timing of this compelling distraction. The banks are bigger now than they were before the sub-prime market crashed (echo, echo, echo).

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Should You Tell Him You Want Sex?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while – young women today often announce to their prospective partner that he can kiss her, or have sex with her as the case may be. Now, I was raised to believe that this was the wrong way to go. It takes all the fun out of the game, the mystery, the challenge. In the old days, I heard men say that the best moment is right before a girl takes off her clothes, because it’s all potential. But my husband says that women have to do that now because men are so confused by the signals and the verbiage about date rape; and are having anxiety over whether or not sex is going to happen. And the anxiety can be paralyzing.

On Girls, the characters often do the announcing bit. Yet, there is still a problem with confused expectations, because one man’s enjoyment may not be one woman’s. Apparently, people are outraged by the sex scene last Sunday, in which one of the characters comes on his girlfriend’s tits and she doesn’t like it. Personally, I found nothing offensive in that act. But it occurred to me that perhaps an answer to all the confusion is sexting. Maybe prospective couples should sext first, to see if they are sexually compatible. If your guy is talking about whips and chains, and your girl is more into silent sex with the lights out, then it’s prolly not a match.  Why not save a little time and misery?

It’s hard to examine sexuality because you don’t want to fuck with what turns you on for fear you’ll never get hard/wet again. But the Girls episode Sunday shows that despite the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, there’s still a good amount of misfiring that happens between men and women. This is prolly aggravated by the fact that men have a greater difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality than women. I like the idea that a man has a little anxiety but he wants me so much he pushes through it to the first move. I guess I’m old fashioned, but I also don’t like being rejected. 

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