Thursday, July 26, 2007

Texas and education

Governor Perry, why did you have to go and ruin my week? It's bad enough that the Texas Republican Party platform explicitly declares that "America is a Christian nation" - so much for not establishing a preferred religion. Now our governor has gone and appointed a creationist anti-intellectual to be the head of the state board of education. Frankly I don't care what his personal religious beliefs are, but I am extremely bothered that the governor has appointed a man who believes that education and intellectualism are essentially useless ("The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that scepticism.") to run the state educational system. Great move, Governor. Ever wonder why it's hard to convince high tech industry to create jobs here?

17 comments:

Dan M said...

Is it time to start a letter-writing campaign? A petition drive? Or shall we just put our fingers in our ears and say "LA LA LA LA" for a while? Might be about as effective.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the general sentiment, that last statement seems sort of misleading. Austin is the second-biggest semiconductor center in the country, though I know Albany is the new game in town. Texas isn't really unfriendly to tech companies- low taxes, very low cost for land, good university hiring base. It's just unfriendly on an ideological level. That doesn't mean I don't want to get the hell out of Texas, though.

musafiremes said...

"intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old."

This phrase might not be entirely untrue. Intellectuals could be wiser than the witch doctors or priests of old, but still, being an intellectual doesn't necessarily preclude one being immoral or simply having a bad personality, and therefore being an unworthy exemplar...

Doug Natelson said...

Anon - unfriendly on an ideological level means that it's very hard to recruit talent from Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, etc. Yes, Texas universities are pretty good, but home-growing talent only goes so far, and Perry is always claiming that he wants the state to be a national leader in this and that.

musafiremes -
Obviously an intellectual may not be a great human being, just as a nonintellectual may not be a great human being. What I disagree with is the implication (throughout his website) that somehow intellectualism (and particularly scientific intellectualism) makes people worse.

hypnose said...

Doug, you can always recruit someone from the cities you mentioned if you pay them 100K salary per year. The problem with texas has nothing to do with ideology, it is the low salaries.

Incoherent Ponderer said...

hypnose - issues like culture, close-mindedness and anti-intellectualism are very much important, and to many just as important, if not more so, than money. I have thicker skin, but it would take a lot more than "100K" and affordable housing market to convince my wife to move to Texas - mostly due to purely ideological issues. Austin may have a chance, but Houston has much more of this cultural problem.

Other red states in the south and bible belt (think Kansas) have the same type of reputation. Those states are dirt-cheap to live in, but close-mindedness of some of the citizens (which persists up to high levels of government) make these places very unappealing.
I am sure places like Texas get much worse rap than they deserve, but perception is more important here than the actual truth, and statements like mentioned above by Doug only reinforce the impression of anti-intellectual atmosphere attributed to a lot of red states.

hypnose said...

IP, I do not see your logic. Would you prefer living in a hole in manhattan or in a detached house with swimming pool in texas?? Besides, you can always make a weekend trip to manhattan if you love it too much. It is just a three hour plane trip from texas. In life, everything depends on how much you have in your pocket. You will not be able to enjoy anything manhattan offers if you have no money...

Doug Natelson said...

Hypnose - I think anyone in high tech recruiting will tell you that it is a chore to convince people from the places I mentioned to move to Texas, and the problem is not monetary.

hypnose said...

Guys, there are more high tech jobs in texas than the entire midwest. Just look at austin. It is booming. Dallas is the finland of USA. I have no clue what you are talking about...

Besides, which academic can survive in NY or SF where the rents start from 2500$ for a one bedroom apartment?? I mean, if you are an investment banker in wall street, I can understand you but with an assistant prof. salary of 70K per year you will not be able to afford anything in manhattan. This whole discussion looks like a joke.

If I owned an apartment in Park Avenue(which would be great), I wouldn't be in academia now. Nobody would...

BTW, IP, I am interested in learning where you live right now, what your income is and what kind of house you own (do not tell me you are living in a rathole in central park west)

Dan M said...

hypnose, your puzzlement aside, I can assure you Doug and IP are correct. These considerations may not reflect your personal priorities, but we have always encountered challenges in recruiting faculty to come to live in Houston, simply because it is Houston. Culture, atmosphere, weather, these things matter. I can promise that salary is not the big concern.

Incoherent Ponderer said...

hypnose - here's my personal top 10 list of large US cities:

1. Boston, MA
2. San Francisco, CA
3. Boulder, CO
4. San Diego, CA
5. Portland, OR
6. Chicago, IL
7. Washington, DC
8. Baltimore, MD
9. New York City, NY
10. Santa Barbara, CA

This does not necessarily imply we currently reside in any of these locations, but it should paint a broad picture of my preferences. Note that all states except Colorado are blue states. Most are on the two coasts, and north of Dixie-Mason line. All are very expensive areas, but then again - you get what you pay for.

When I was on the job market, I turned down offers from locations with median housing prices a factor of 3+ lower than the city we are living in now. My salary is about the same as what was offered in places I turned down - but my wife would probably struggle to find employment in these places. I don't think this would make us a particularly happy couple down the line.

While interviewing for postdocs I encountered several situations when people (who are still grad students) would refuse to move from ridiculously expensive (for a grad student!!!) area because they love their lifestyle/the area so much.
So money isn't everything - even to poor graduate students.

You must have heard of people turning down fancy postdoc fellowships from government labs like Oak Ridge or Los Alamos (relatively cheap areas to live in) where they could be making from 60-70K all the way to 100K (Oppenheimer fellowship at LANL), instead going for 40K postdocs in very expensive areas like Cambridge, MA or Bay Area.

On another note - I have been to Houston and Austin, and while I would personally prefer Austin, Houston is not a bad choice at all (although not quite my top 10). Houston is still way ahead of many other places - most other red states are just unacceptable. We both don't like the hot weather much (so much for Phoenix).

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take rocket science to understand why no one would want to associate themselves with Texas. If you have traveled to different countries in the last 7-8 years, just try to remember what reaction you got from strangers when you told them you are from Texas. They would give you looks thinking that you must be a stupid Bush-lover redneck. Why else you would you live in Texas ?

That's the global outlook. Hypnose, you must be from some small country. If you were from a big country (India or China, for example), you would easily understand why people in the US don't want to live in Texas. Every big country has some regions that are considered close-minded, and some liberal big cities where most people would want to live (irrespective of living standard).

Texan World Traveller said...

Previous Anon, Have you travelled outside the country lately? I currently live in Texas (though not a native) and have been to 10 countries in the past 1.25 years. No one, not one single person, ever even hinted at such associations when learning I reside in Texas when stateside. I have found that most people in this world can differentiate between individuals and the inept actions of their political leaders, elected or otherwise. It seems to be a universal concept that those in power do not serve, nor speak for the people.

Anonymous said...

No one, not one single person, ever even hinted at such associations when learning I reside in Texas when stateside.

Of course, no one is going to be impolite to you. Other things that you have mentioned are also debatable.

One thing that cannot be denied is that when people hear the word "Texas", the first thing that comes to their mind is Bush, unruly and uncivilized cowboys, gunslingers, and other negative things. There are positive things about Texas too, but the thought of Bush preceeds everything. Can't be helped after what that monkey has been doing.

Anonymous said...

Well even us uneducated, uncivilzed cowboys need a place to live. Thank God for Texas !!!! I mean we would feel right outa place with y'all enlightened folks up in Boston and San Francisco. Me, I'm gonna watch football on my big screen TV in my humungous house and enjoy a good BBQ while I enjoy the sunny, gorgeous Houston December weather..

Mark Knight said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/12/gail-lowe-perry-picks-cre_n_230167.html

At least Perry is consistent in his choices. Consistently wrong, but consistent.

San Diego Dentists said...

I agree with the general sentiment, that last statement seems sort of misleading. Austin is the second-biggest semiconductor center in the country, though I know Albany is the new game in town.