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Sociology Paradox: Winning is Losing


This madness is so well put it almost makes sense. Lets give a certificate to everyone even when we have no idea if they have followed the course. Curiouser and curiouser.

Originally posted on tressiemc:

Oh we kid the MOOCs around here, what with their non-research based, pedagogically unsound, sociologically ignorant form and function. But, Udacity’s tacit acknowledgement today that credentials have to be descriptive to have utility is a hollow victory.

Oh, sure, I will still have a vodka martini at news that one of the largest MOOCs will no longer offer free no-identification credentialing. How can I not? The hype was that MOOCs would overturn a hundred years of social science with a modem and a functionalist dream. MOOCs were to end race, class, and gender bias in credentialing! It would be like the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist movements and union movements had always had it wrong. Surely, sociologists — who have studied credentialing for about 70 years now — would be wrong. And then today, from Udacity’s website:

We have now heard from many students and employers alike that they would like…

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I am a very disillusioned voter, as far as I can see democracy is not working. Democracy is not a natural development nor even a normal state of affairs. It took us in Britain nearly 900 years to reach one man and one woman one vote. It was 1928 before women got the vote at the same age as men. In historical terms that is yesterday. Men and women struggled, fought and died in order that the majority should have some say in how the country in which they lived, worked and died, in how it was governed. In the beginning votes were bought and sold in order that a tiny elite could continue to hold all the power in their hands. I don’t think that votes are still bought and sold but today David Cameron came very close to offering a bribe by reducing taxation for the poorest workers and a much bigger reduction for much better paid workers. There is absolutely no doubt we are still governed by a tiny elite, for goodness sake they all went to the same school, Eton, the most expensive school in the land.
Since 1979 the ruling elite has step by step removed accountability, from the banks, from the large multi-national corporations and allowed the media barons to focus our attention on celebrity life styles and the supposed wastefulness of those most vulnerable in society.
Owen Jones, in his book, “The Establishment- And How They Get Away with It.” Encapsulates our current madness:

” The status quo may be treated as common sense now, but future generations will surely look back with a mixture of astonishment and contempt at how British society is currently organised: the richest 1,000 individuals worth £520 billion, while hundreds of thousands of people have to queue to eat in food banks; a thriving financial elite that helped plunge Britain into a vortex of economic collapse, which was rescued by over £1 trillion of public money but continues to operate much as before; a reigning dogma that treats the state as an obstacle to be eradicated and shunned, even as the state serves as the backbone for private interests; a corporate elites, dependent as it is on state largesse, that refuse to contribute money to the state; a media that does not exist to inform, educate, as well as challenge all those with power, but which serves as a platform for the ambitions, prejudices and naked self interest of a small number of wealthy moguls. More startling to our descendants will be how this was passed off as normal, as entirely rational and defensible, and how institutions run by the elite attempted, with considerable success, to redirect people’s anger to those at the bottom of society.”


The twenty-first century although at first sight a move away from the old twentieth century is in significant ways looking backwards a hundred years and more to the vast inequalities which existed before the First World War. In Britain and the United States which appear to be joined in a three-legged race to get back to a dismal vastly unequal society, economic theories and political ideology have joined forces to deregulate and allow the financial sector to set its own limits, or absence of limits, so that a tiny percentage, 0.01% of the population will get rich beyond their wildest dreams. The 99% will find their wages and salaries held down and Pensions trimmed back to level of food and shelter, no holidays, no trips out, no cafe luncheons, no fun spending at all. In the UK the firemen have just been on strike, the teachers and lecturers, the civil servants and the majority of workers in the NHS are all concerned about the extension of hours of work and the cutting back of pension rights. This is in fact the main aim of privatisation, to get a non-unionised work force. So further limits will be easier to impose, so we have Academy Schools, privatised services for the NHS, details of workers out-sourced to private companies, many of which originated in the US and privately run prisons. All supported by British tax-payers but to whom they have no accountability. Most importantly the government cannot be held accountable as these are private firms for example Serco and G4S and others.
These developments are not natural organic growth they are the deliberate decisions of small groups of men acting not on behalf of the country but in the interests of a small elite group who think only of their own personal enrichment utterly without thought for the health and prosperity of the country as a whole. It is possible to make other decisions,all we need is the will to do so.

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Reparations: What the Education Gospel Cannot Fix

Originally posted on tressiemc:

I promise you I don’t know Coates from Adam’s cousin Leroy. I stopped attending the Thursday night Black People Meetings ™ ages ago when gas crossed $2 a gallon. But, I know that Coates has written a thing at The Atlantic making the case for reparations.

This is good.

When I teach my inequality course to undergraduates, I spend a lot of time on periods of wealth creation in U.S. history and how fundamental enslaved labor was to its distribution. Even my econ majors tend to walk away saying there’s really no redress for inequality that does not begin and end with wealth redistribution. The issue is almost never if reparations is a solution but only if it’s a solution white folks can live with. So, there’s that.

I like Coates’ addendum on his blog. He gives some love to the academics and teachers who slog through survey courses that…

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When does old age begin? I have a compelling interest in answers to this question. There are certainly various markers, I will confine my analysis to women, the ageing male is more mysterious to me. The sixtieth birthday is one of those definitive moments; the government recognises that you are now officially an Old Person, subject to the correct number of National Insurance contributions, you are entitled to a Pension. You will probably receive a free bus pass also any medication that you will now most probably need. So far so good.
Treatment in hospital will for the moment be free at the point of need but nursing care and attention may be noted by their complete absence. (I am of course talking about English hospitals).
Grey hair, nowadays this has become a matter of choice, many people in the public eye and others completely anonymous decide that a choice of colour is much more preferable. I have been tempted in this direction myself.
A spreading waistline, I will remain discreetly silent on this point, I have observed this in people who have not yet reached thirty years of age.
The universal need for reading glasses, this can begin in the fifties. For some a boost with hearing,(often invisible).
By no means universal but frequently seen a walking aid, often specially carved to suit the individual supported by it.
The most interesting aspect when does an individual human being recognise herself as being old? I recall getting on a bus, watching the passengers enter and mentally deciding, that person is old, this one merely middle aged. In very recent journeys I have noted young people stand up to give me a seat, indeed I have been very glad to sit down. They have categorised me as an old woman. Long ago I was told I looked young, time and tide wait for no man nor woman either. I still have my own teeth, well most of them, my hair is thick and glossy,(my hairdresser often compliments me). My grey cells are still in working order, I would even go so far as to say they work better, except for the minor problem of forgetting once familiar names.
Feelings! I can remember 1958, I’ve counted up 56 years ago. I come from another age, I could exhibit myself on Antiques Roadshow and ask if they would put a value on me. Well this item is showing some cracks and the surface has faded, as William Morris said, ‘have nothing in your home which you do not believe to be beautiful or useful’. Which category?
A famous writer once said,’the past is another country’, I think that makes me a time traveller. How strange, exciting, beautiful and frightening this twenty-first century world is.