Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Double Edged Razor

My name is Bill Brickey. I graduated from Shimer College in 1989.

Occam's Razor
"Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate" or "plurality should not be posited without necessity." ( click on the words above to read about the Razor for yourself )

PJ, I think you have things the wrong way around.

Also, spelled Okham’s Razor; it is a Medieval Theory. Without going too far into mentioning how this type of “old saw” is twisted by people like George Bush to whip people into mindlessness let me just point out that this little rule of logic is prepositioned by the words “without necessity”. This dialogue is necessary because the move does not seem to be necessary.

Perhaps some of you have missed the NCLB years of public schooling in Chicago. I have not. I am teaching in the public schools near the beautiful Pilsen area. I know multiple students who have lost loved ones to stray and intended bullets in the soon to be regentrified area. No freshmen year Shimer type college student needs to be walking around Pilsen, Bridgeport or any other part of southwest Chicago casually at night. That is a reality. It is a simple truth. Don’t try to complicate it with rhetoric about regentrification and art hippies moving into the neighborhood. The art hippies are moving into condominiums or homes with security doors, locks and/or guards or better yet they know the hood. They are protecting themselves against the displaced, the unhappy and the uneducated. Gated neighborhoods are not uncommon.

There is a concerted effort in this country to “dumb down” education for the common folk in order to create a more affordable working class. If you are a degreed Shimerian working in corporate America you see it everyday. The story of America’s success is the story of cheap labor. This is the impetus behind schools like IIT. They want to produce workers. People who stand up for their rights in the work place slow down the wheels of production. This is why I don’t think we should be associated with IIT.

IIT is what it is and it serves a purpose. Shimer serves a purpose as well. They are fewer and fewer schools that do what Shimer does. The educational paradigm is shifting for the worst. Each day it moves closer and closer to the Western World Business Management Paradigm. The paradigm is a pyramid. The leader sits at the top and the orders are passed down hill. It is the way that businesses are run and it is the way that sports teams are lead. For my feminist friends this is also known as the male power archetype. This is in sharp contrast to Shimer’s power archetype which is more feminist or flat decisions and activities are taken on together.

The way this decision is being made is more in the spirit of a school like IIT. We Shimerians are actively involved in our communities. Anyone who expected to move the school by walking into a room and saying, “This is what we are going to do, now do it.”, is, kindly put, sadly mistaken. I did not vote for George Bush and I am not part of his America any more than I have to be. I am going to ask the hard questions and I am going to expect cogent answers. If I do not receive intelligent responses I will be suspicious. This, I would think is to be expected of all Shimerians. We ask questions, we ask a lot of questions and we expect answers.

I ask the questions about Shimer because I am weird. I am not perfect. I don’t fit easily into the top down management structure. If it were not for Shimer, I would not know the difference between being lazy and having a learning disability. Shimer fits a niche. Pursuing a relationship to have a financial profile like all the other big institutions takes us out of that niche. That’s right I said us. Despite the love hate thing I know who I am, and I am a Shimerian. When something happens in that community that calls me I will respond. I am worried about all the other “unique” people that will come after me. Where will they go if the only thing that is left is IIT and DePaul University?

In response to some recent posts: Many of the arguments in favor of the move have three major components in common:

1.) The arguments acknowledge a lack of data to support the argument in favor of the move.
2.) The arguments dismiss the lack of data or logic as part of the complexity of business; beyond the understanding of laypeople.
3.) The arguments suggest that in spite of these curiosities and concerns the move is a good thing because it will bring Shimer in line with other colleges and universities.

In the “..Thoughts from left field...” post he says: “Unless you're willing to ascribe extreme bad faith to the Shimer administration when they say that Shimer will remain financially and administratively independent…” seems to imply that arguments against moving are arguments against the administrative bodies at Shimer College. This is a brilliant way to quash intelligent dialogue.

Please do not insult the integrity of this blog and its patrons by trying to create friction that does not exist anymore than it always has. Asking questions about things that will impact you or something you care about greatly is not a sign of animosity or bad faith. It is healthy adult behavior and good citizenship. The comments posted here contain legitimate questions. These are the legitimate arguments and thoughts of concerned alumni and students (and now teachers and board members). I guard carefully against disparaging comments and demonizing.


(1) The articles posted here, in regard to Barat College, were from legitimate sources located on the internet in the public domain. They were not solicited. Barat was required or expected to produce 800 enrollments per year and failed. That factoid came from the office DePaul has set up to field questions about the Barat closure. As a result they were closed down after 4-5 years. It would be good to know ahead of time if there is such a stipulation in the contract with IIT. In which case the move would definitely not be a good move; unless, one feels, that by moving to the IIT campus, Shimer College will increase its enrollment goal over 800% within 5 years of its move. The point of posting the article was not to demonize the move but to give a framework to understand the possibilities and parameters of moving a College or University for those of us not currently moving Colleges or Universities. Unless someone is willing to post the details that show that this is not an issue, it is not a cogent argument to suggest that examining the similarities is equal to bad faith in the administration. There are those of us who believe that our education at Shimer taught us to ask questions and not to trust blindly. Following this charter should not put us in opposition to any part of the Shimer College Family. It should make them proud of us. We want to know what is going on.

(2) I am a Chicagoan and yes Chicago is being regentrified at the expense of the poor. Why would anyone brag about or espouse the process of regentrification as something good? It is a way to legally move poor people out and affluent people in. But if regentrification and growing intellectual population are your argument, so be it. Crime is generally higher in Chicago than in Waukegan but no matter how one paints it, as neighborhoods in Chicago go, Pilsen and Bridgeport are still some of the riskiest if your skin is the wrong color or you look like an easy target. I work in and around them and I don’t have a problem, so I don’t want to paint it like Viet Nam or Iraq. But please don’t tell people that they can hang out in Pilsen or Bridgeport at night the way the do in Waukegan. Safety is an issue in that part of Chicago still.

(3) Waukegan has produced poets, comedians and authors. While it is not an intellectual Mecca let us not forget that there are some extremely intelligent and innovative people born and raised in Waukegan. It can still be a good home for Shimer. Let us not forget that Notre Dame is in Indiana, of all places. The commentary on Waukegan’s intellectual capacity makes us look bad. There is nothing that we know that is so special that we should feel that we are better than those who do not know it or do not espouse a particular idea or possess a special degree. It is not that I feel I am above any intellectual snobbery but I really fight against in myself. I think I learned that at Shimer.

(4) Left of Field also said...“…but nobody's going to compose pastoral poetry about downtown Waukegan, either.” This statement may be the reason that Shimer flounders in Waukegan. How many poets, artists and comedians does Waukegan have to produce to get a break from the intellectual elite?? Can we get over ourselves?? Shimer needs a small community to thrive and Waukegan needs a unique educational experience to promote the hell out of. Maybe they want to help grow a college. Has anyone asked them?

(5) Next IIT’s pedigree was never in question. The meat of the argument against them for me is that IIT is part of a new class of colleges designed to serve the needs of Corporate America. They intentionally forgo intellectual pursuits in favor of getting people ready for the work force. They are designed to do two things prepare you for Wal-Mart or Wall Street. If this is not the case I have not seen anything that suggests the contrary. I for one am really genuinely concerned about the education being watered down in favor of catering to the goals of a financially driven agenda. Also, I have a hard time buying the, “Good Samaritan” picture we are painting of IIT. IIT is a business and I don’t see that they need anything but Shimer’s name and property.

About the potential benefits mentioned in the last post:

1.) Poor Location – This point is very subjective and assumes that all avenues for growth in Waukegan have been explored. No factual data was supplied to support it. Also, I just learned that there is a new marketing plan for the Waukegan area this makes the most sense to me.

2.) Crumbling Physical Plant – That is not a reason to move it is a reason to research avenues to pursue funding for renovation. This is a point that might be presented to the city of Waukegan. Shimer is one of the things that keep Waukegan ahead in the race for growing municipality. Besides, IIT is ugly. This is a cogent point because it speaks to the learning environment.

3.) Lack of Extra Curricular Activities – If you really want a football team and sports bars with naked chicks of the girls gone wild variety you can go to a different school. There is St. Johns if you want something more upbeat with that respectable intellectual tinge. The train ride to Chicago is 45 min. and what about Ravinia or the Botanical gardens. I know they are not easy to get to but they are there within reach. They can ride bikes and get some exercise.

4.) Small Incestuous Social Scene – This is the nature of institutions. I would bet I could get 9 out of 10 college students to show me the click they hate and tell me evil stories about the townies. But this is a valid point. You can change clicks more easily at a larger and better placed university. In small communities everyone knows each others business. If you don’t like this aspect of small colleges you can go to a larger one.

5.) Lack of Diversity In Electives – This is about money and impetus. It will be the same no matter where Shimer is. If they want traditional or additional programming they will have to pay people to work as professors and provide them with infrastructure. IIT could definitely help with this but I feel the price may be to high and the rewards to few.

And one more thing about Occam’s Razor.

In today’s political and economic climate the simpler truth would be the unpleasant one. Owning and selling real-estate is the fastest way to make money. Mergers and Acquisitions are the new business model. The simpler idea is that someone is making money and that that is the motivator. The more complex thought is that there are secrets that we should not know for our own good and the good of Shimer’s future.

Finally, to be clear, this blog was meant to gather facts to facilitate discussion. I have no data that suggests that anyone is doing anything untoward. I know that there are board members who want to move Shimer College to Chicago. I know that there are students, alumni and faculty who believe this is a good idea. I know that there are others who disagree. I believe this is a bad idea based on my own insights and research. I do not however, “know” that this is a bad idea. The facts presented thus far suggest that it is not wise.

I am waiting for facts to the contrary. If the move is good for Shimer and this is the simpler of the two theories on how to save Shimer, why can’t we simply know the facts?

1 comment :

Cassandra Kaczocha said...
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