Social, Economic, Enviromental Responsibility

Category: Challenge

Students, Universities And The Student Debt Crisis

The American Ideal involves a house, a dog, a wife and 2.5 children. Those children then spend 18 wonderful years growing up, and after high school attend a fine college or prestigious university to begin the first steps in their chosen career. After four years, the graduate with honors holding a piece of paper that unlocks opportunities that would not be available otherwise. Young men and women enter into the workforce, highly skilled, highly intelligent and go about making the world a better place.

Having now started my second journey through college to develop and refine the left side of the brain; I have been forced to see the truth of higher education in America. On the record of course collegiate institutions are upholding the ideals listed above. Off the record, behind closed doors, where no one but the initiated are allowed the driving principle seems to be this:

The Student Is a Revenue Stream.

This realization came, not through stumbling across an unshredded memo or a chance remark in passing; rather by piecing various experiences I have had thus far with certain university policies and several other conversations. Like Archimedes in the bathtub, my Eureka moment came hard and fast.

The ballooning cost of tuition combined with the increased length of time until graduation is the first marker. It’s one thing if a for-profit institution seeks to place students into the longest possible course schedules, they have to make a buck! But when state schools and private, non-profit universities behave in such a manner; something is wrong. If rising tuition costs are unavoidable, then a prudent university would work to ensure that students are able to graduate in as short an amount of time as is reasonable. The opposite is occurring and I know this from first hand experience. I am currently looking at five plus years of work at a minimum to graduate, and have met strong resistance when attempting to pursue paths that would shorten said time frame. Beyond that, the additional fees assessed by universities onto students in addition to tuition and room and board and the rising cost of text books (especially those special versions printed by a University that cannot be sold on the market, and are still priced at a premium) reveals the idea that students are to be squeezed for as much money as possible.

If one steps back and looks at the Board of Directors, their policies, budgets, and the day to day procedures; it most closely resembles that of banks and financial institutions. To begin with, Students have quietly lost their rights on campus. Of course legal counsel is still available, but there are no Ombudsmen or Arbitrators to decide issues between students and professors or students and the university. Student Advocacy Groups have become information/help desks, their teeth removed and only allowed to answer questions. Student government organizations have been distracted with frivolous things like homecoming court and determining the nutritional value of the food served on “Mexican Mondays.” Meanwhile, the students are so overloaded with coursework and debt that they have no time to think about how wrong this is, and if they could, they wouldn’t have the energy to do anything about it! So the students themselves are left with no course of action to take if they disagree strongly with an issue that directly affects them whatever it may be, from tuition and parking costs to course scheduling and requirements. It is an oppression and slavery of the worst kind.

Consider how universities have handled cutting costs. If they were truly public servants, who desired to serve the best interest of the public and their nation at large, the board would have begun with their own salaries. In fact, the board of directors would be an entirely volunteer position with the appropriate honor and respect given to it because these fine men and women have sacrificed financial gain in order to dedicate their lives to bettering the pursuit of knowledge.

Instead of that, they began with privatizing essential services. Outsourcing! Contracting out essential services to the private sector. It would be one thing if the least profitable portions of the college were outsourced, under-performing departments and bloated research projects for example. But it tends to be those services that break even or make money (provided of course that they are not wildly successful athletic programs). At Ohio State for example, the entirety of the parking services is being sub-contracted out for fifty years with the students having no say in the matter whatsoever. A short-term boon, and the ability to fire State Employees without fully paying retirements, has cost Ohio State long term financial stability and the respect of the students. It won’t come at first, but after a few years of being mistreated at the hands of over-worked, under-paid employees, students will realize how little they mean to the University. While the financial gluttons on the board of directors enjoy a cut of the take.

The most brazen example of this is the recent spate of collegiate advertising. When a state school believes it needs to advertise in order to attract students, something is very wrong. Advertising is, rightly or wrongly, believed to be lies; They might tell the truth in some way, but they are still lies. If a University uses advertisements to trumpet its accomplishments, then those accomplishments are false. They are presented as lies, in a medium specialized for lying. Companies advertise out of desperation, either a competitor is gaining market share, a product has performed poorly, or they are losing money and are trying to reverse the trend. The best companies don’t need to advertise. Starbucks, prior to its fall from grace, had almost no advertising budget. They didn’t need one, they were too busy delivering great coffee to people, and those people were telling everyone about it.

State Universities at one point, were too busy turning out some of the best students ever seen in the world. Students who went on to found ground breaking companies, spearhead research, develop new technology, write the next American Classic, push the boundaries of art, foster thought and philosophy, and generally better the world around us. That was their advertising. Or when a university won a prestigious award, or had an alumni win a prestigious award. That was their advertising. Sometime in the not so distant past, that stopped happening. The students weren’t graduating as bright eyed and (most importantly) well equipped to tackle the new round of challenges. Universities had begun to get caught up in themselves, had become a ground for personal gain, advancement and vendettas. The focus, was no longer on the student. Look at how many “professors” never teach a class at Ohio State, and President Gee has DEFENDED them for it.

This. Is. Wrong.

Any and all colleges and universities should be focused on graduating the best students possible in the shortest amount of time. The “profit” comes in the form of a highly skilled, highly intelligent, highly motivated workforce that goes out and creates the “next big thing.” Pushes society forward, strengthens the economy, and solves the problems facing us today. That means much more money over a much longer period of time, and an alumni association that encourages students to attend their alma maters.

Of course, this means that students must once again be the focus and end product of higher education. They must be taught the skills necessary, and equipped to handle the challenges of the contemporary world. They cannot be burdened with too much debt, and they must be taught how to use their degrees. Gone should be the art major who doesn’t know what to do with their degree, in its place should be the Art Major. An individual who has developed their creative drive in such a way that they can produce amazing works of art and solve solutions in elegant ways. As comfortable with a paintbrush as they are with a hammer or laptop, or Excel spreadsheet.

This requires that Students become investors in the university. They are shareholders with a vested interest in the university. Students attend a university, and enter into a contract that states:

I believe this university is the best choice I can make to succeed. I will work hard, I will learn, I will grow, I will mature. I believe that this is the best course of action. In exchange for investing myself, my money and my time, the University will agree to prepare me to be an economic force. To solve ideas, to serve others, to achieve. They will not overload me with debt, and will not keep me a day longer than is needed to achieve the goals set out.

Instead of being released from the need to learn, the student must work harder at it. Instead of languishing in immaturity, the student will be forced to grow and become better in all aspects of their lives. If they don’t succeed in the larger world, then they have failed themselves, and the university has failed them and itself.

Tolerance Doesn’t Work

Tolerance is the cheap imitation of Equality. It is a lie designed to calm and pacify.

A good man cannot tolerate wickedness, just as darkness cannot tolerate light. Tolerance leads to inaction, inaction leads to weakness and weakness leads to injustice.

Tolerance is disrespectful. I can’t accept that your views are different from mine, therefore I’ll tolerate them. How childish; how selfish.

If I respect you as a person, then I will respect your opinion; even if I disagree with it. If I believe you are wrong, I will say something. Ask something. Pursue the issue further. Maybe you aren’t wrong; maybe I am. If I merely tolerate your “wrongness” then we will never learn who or what is right.

There are rights and wrongs. Constants and laws. Good and Evil. As we learn more, we have a fuller understanding of what those absolutes are. At one time, tomatoes were poisonous. We’ve since learned it was a reaction of the acidity in tomatoes with the lead soldering used in pewter plates, bowls, and mugs. Tomatoes weren’t poisonous, but the lead was.

What does this have to do with the environment? Everything!

We need to understand, that the modus operandi of our contemporary world has only been in play for fifty to one hundred years. We’re learning what is wrong or obsolete, and we need to implement what is right.

We can no longer tolerate the wrongness that exists in our societies. We must respect individuals, and begin to address the serious issues we face. To cut away what is wrong (from both sides of the argument), and add what is right.


The Sun delivers roughly a kilowatt of energy to every square meter of the earths surface. Meaning, one meter of land provides enough energy to power ten light bulbs.

If the average rooftop is say 10 meters by 30, that’s 300 meters. Meaning the potential for energy is 300 kilowatts a day.

300 kilowatts, times 365 days a year equals 109,500 kilowatts of energy a year.

The sun doesn’t shine everyday, and this is assuming a perfect conversion rate. Solar panels are only 30% effective, meaning only 30,000 kw of energy is actually produced. Still more than enough energy to power a home, and the two homes next to it.

The sun doesn’t shine every day; a true statement. But it could not shine for 8 months, and there would still be enough power for a home. The average American household uses 11,040 Kwh as of 2008 4 months of sunshine is all that is necessary to cleanly power an American home.

The rub with solar power is not energy production at all, it’s energy storage. The roof of a house has the potential, with current means, to provide all the energy requirements for a home. But there is no effective way to store that energy.

Why then is so much money and effort devoted towards solar panel development? What is needed now, is an efficient way to store and discharge energy. Solar panels work, it’s time to bring batteries up to speed!


Is the hot spot for tech and the environment. I have serious, serious issues with that.

Tech-wise: Products are developed that constantly decrease productivity. Sure, plenty of things occur, but not much is actually done on an iPhone. It’s like using a rocking chair; you’re moving, but you’re not getting anywhere. Think if Windows had been developed in Indiana, a state of common-sense/no nonsense thinking. Windows 3.1 would have been spectacularly productive. And Millennium would never have been spawned.

Environment-wise: Most of SoCal is utterly unsustainable for the number of residents. Yet, they’re championing solar power and electric cars. Meanwhile most of their water and electricity is shipped in from out of state. In fact, the water table keeps shrinking and shrinking.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed my visits in California, but it is a textbook example of our current schizophrenic society. A completely unsustainable model that espouses the need for environmental responsibility.

A Few Thoughts That Should Come Together

I’ve got “Factory Floor” on television right now. One of the clips is about plywood.

The quote was “because it’s man made it’s stronger than any tree.”

I had to think for a second about that statement, and the answer is yes; We can often engineer some specific characteristic to be better than what is found naturally.

Obviously then, we can improve on what is found in the world around us. Meaning we can improve the world around us.

Secondly, this post. Note further down, the ideas on taste and bad culture. Currently, our society as a whole is operating with this slow moving, bad taste culture.

The good ideas are either not being implemented, being poorly implemented, or only implemented in certain areas/sectors. What good changes that are implemented in one area (say MPG standards) are ignored or counteracted within other circles (Oil Production).

Societal costs raise every year. Yes some of the environmental changes will also raise prices. However the trade off (better city planning, more jobs, cleaner energy, more fuel efficient cars and vehicles, proper mass transit, a more integrated culture, etc) is worth it.


But again, prices will go up regardless of what we do. We might as well do the right thing.

Plans For Today

Today I have 2-3 goals depending on my level of energy and dedication.

Goal 1:

Replace the flex-plate on the BMW.

Goal 2:

Clean the shed.

Goal 3:

Finish the speedometer/gauge assembly for the Death Machine, Black Lightning.

Why are these goals being posted on my (semi)professional blog?

Simply because I can. Seriously though, the BMW is a 528e. One of the most economical vehicles still on the road today. Once I replace the flex-plate, I can start getting 30-35 mpg driving all over town again.

The shed is becoming home to my next venture: taking the Conservance philosophy and style, and applying them to motorcycles and whatever else I damn well feel like. A good cleaning and reorganizing will make my life so much easier. It also will be nice to have a place out of the elements to work on the motorcycle.

Once I finish the gauges, the bike is effectively done. The last major hurdle will be the BMV inspection.

If all goes well: two stylish and efficient vehicles will be ready for the open road. Huzzah!

New Energy, Old Problems

If  you were to draw a rough line around the Saharan and Sub-Saharan region of Africa; you would have circled the renewable energy equivalent to the Middle East.

The sun that shines and the wind that blows across the dunes of the Saharan desert could power a large chunk of the world. On its own.

Or to put it into perspective:

That’s all that’s needed regarding solar panels.

Here’s where it gets a bit rough.

The record for the First World in Africa is spotty at best. That’s a lie: it’s down right atrocious.  For example, many of the ecological issues in Western Africa were a result of the intensive farming methods of the French Colonists. Think Sierra Leon and C’ote De Ivory.

We have the third world once again sitting on tremendous potential wealth and resources. I have a sneaking suspicion that our clean energy generated there will be tainted.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek had an article from the 16th of September that highlights this fact. Note that no quotes or thoughts from  African countries/leaders/anyone is mentioned. It’s as though those countries don’t really matter, and are merely in the way of everything.

My pride also wants to note that I was spouting of this idea over a year ago. FIRST!

For My Christian Readers; A Thought…

There has been a long running debate regarding what the phrase “in the image of God” means. As in God created Man in His image.

Allow me to toss my hat into this theological debate.

I think it falls in squarely with the story of Creation. Our first encounter with God is when he creates. In that sense I feel that our “image” then is to be creators.

Furthermore, we see God create a world of perfection, with systems and orders and ecological principles. This highlights the logic of God. Before God there was nothing, and now there is a logical universe with principles and laws.

Finally we step back further and see a God of Justice and of Love. And lastly we have a call from Jesus to join in building the Kingdom of Heaven.

So our image then is to be creators who join in the building of the Kingdom.

What does this mean for the environment?

We must approach it with the same love and respect that God approaches it. We are creators, but the question that must be answered is does this better the Kingdom of God? Does it further the Kingdom?

Do we understand that the fullness of the Kingdom of God encompasses the entirety of creation? Honestly, I don’t think we do. God created everything with a purpose, with intent. Our current system of use, does not treat everything with that same reverence.

Recycling Is Easy

Or at the very least it should be.

There are two ways to encourage recycling.

1) Make throwing away trash prohibitively expensive

2) Make recycling easier than throwing something away.

Regarding option 1,  somehow the US economy has hidden the actual cost of certain products and disposal. Trash disposal should be much more expensive then it is currently.

Regarding option 2, imagine if you could throw every recyclable object into one bag. No sorting, no checking of numbers, no worries. Meanwhile, if you wanted to throw something away it had to be sorted. And depending on what it was, there would be costs associated with it.

For example plastic and styrofoam would cost the most money to throw out, because they never really decompose.

Engineering Marvels

To get a car to go 155mph it only takes “a pithily 270 horsepower.” To break the 250mph mark it takes an additional 730 horsepower.

Why on earth would I talk about horsepower and speed records on an environmental blog? Aren’t the two completely against each other? Sort of…

We’ve become obsessed with speed, and have broken engineering benchmark after engineering benchmark in our pursuit of speed. The Concorde, the F-22, land speed record vehicles, The Veyron, and others are modern miracles. Akin to the Pyramids of Machu Pichu, the Great Wall of China, and others.

We’ve broken the sound barrier in the air and on the land so often, it’s old hat.

Yet we start talking about averaging 30mpg in the city, and automakers begin to hem and haw and balk at the challenge…


We can build a car that can average 700+ mph on two runs over the Bonneville Salt Flats, but we can’t manage to squeeze a measly 30mpg city driving? 100mpg on the freeway is apparently so impossible that not even MIT students can manage it… Yet you talk about squeezing 1,000HP from a V-6 engine and it’s basically a bolt-on kit.

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