I learn from the Patheos:Inklingations blog that USD philosophy professor Joseph Tinguely has penned a pointed riposte to his employer Governor Dennis Daugaard's persistent denigration of Tinguely's chosen field—philosophy—and the product he cranks out for the state—philosophy majors.

Professor Tinguely brands the Governor's declaration that philosophy majors are not profitable as "false" and "myth". Tinguely cites a Wall Street Journal chart (with PayScale.com data) showing that by midcareer, philosophy majors out-earn information technology grads. (Engineers are at the top; I look dolefully at my wife and note that education and religion majors are at the bottom.) Philosophy majors also rock grad school entrance exams.

Tinguely says philosophy majors' skills are fundamental to success:

These results are not surprising for anyone with the slightest knowledge of what professionally transferable skills a philosophy degree actually develops in its students. The ability to identify and formulate an argument for oneself and to communicate it clearly to others; the critical capacity to recognize assumptions and evaluate reasons; the confidence to express oneself in speech and in writing; these are not just skills required to do philosophy well, these are the very skills required to do any job well. Everyone is always “doing philosophy” whether she knows it or not, but only a regrettably few take upon themselves the discipline and responsibility of learning how to do it well [Joseph Tinguely, "Philosophy Degree Offers a Lifetime of Value," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.24].

I'd rather beat the Governor's anti-humanities tirade by pointing out there's more to life than money. But even if you stay in Governor Daugaard's cash-only paradigm, Tonguely shows that philosophy can profit everyone.

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Uh oh—I feel another Hobo Day Riot coming on....

For those of you who believe everything you read on the Internet, Noodle.com says the most influential college in South Dakota is... Augustana College.

In other states, Noodle picks the predictable public behemoths as the most influential: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Texas, Austin. But in South Dakota, two state campuses each posting headcounts over 10,000 and together cranking out over 4,200 degrees a year evidently exert less influence than one private campus fielding 1,800 students and graduating fewer than 400 a year.

Do these ratings stand up as well as a wet version of that website?

Noodle.com says it calculates influence based on these four factors:

  1. Search engine popularity
  2. Twitter authority
  3. Number of affiliated Nobel Prize winners
  4. US News rank

That's all we get, so we can't replicate Noodle.com's data noodling perfectly. It's mostly Google-happy proxy talk, with the exception of Nobel Prize winners. On that front, if we're talking South Dakota natives, Ernest Lawrence, the inventor of the cyclotron, got his undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. Economist Theodore Schultz graduated from SDSU.

If we are talking about determining the influence of colleges within their own states, we perhaps do better to work from our own knowledge of where our leaders come from. USD provides a lion's share of our political leaders; Augustana College has yet to produce a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, or Governor for South Dakota (although Susan Wismer is trying to change that).

If we're talking about industry, SDSU's agriculture and engineering grads surely give USD business grads and School of Mines engineers runs for their money in every local Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, if we're talking economic development, Northern State University, as the employer of Joop Bollen, gets all of the credit for bringing $600 million and over 5,000 jobs to South Dakota through EB-5 investment. Go Wolves!

If we're talking about future leaders, consider that SDSU produced the most teacher education graduates this year, 145. Black Hills State produced 143 teachers; USD, 104. The College Board tells me 11% of Augie's grads come out with teaching degrees, suggesting about 40 new teachers a year.

But how does one really measure the influence of any given institution? Readers, alumni, professors and campus partisans, I open the question for your evening noodling: which campuses wield the most influence in South Dakota?

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Last March, the Chamberlain School Board received a letter from the King (as in Martin Luther King. Jr.) Center for Nonviolent Social Change asking the board to recognize the ongoing request of many of its constituents to include a Lakota honor song in its high school graduation ceremony. Long-time Chamberlain resident and Indian rights advocate James Cadwell asked the Board for an opportunity to discuss that letter publicly at its April meeting. Chamberlain superintendent Deb Johnson responded thus:

Jim,

You will be placed on the April 14 school board agenda under the 'delegation' portion to address the topic: Resolution Recognizing District-Wide Cultural Competence (7/12/10). You will be granted five minutes to present comments to the board. Please note that the honor song will not be addressed or discussed... [Supt. Deb Johnson, e-mail to James Cadwell, Chamberlain School District, 2014.04.10].

Ah, the administrative passive voice, a sure sign someone is saying something unpleasant that she doesn't want to own.

The Mitchell Daily Republic called the banning of discussion of the honor song unconstitutional. James Cadwell calls the speech ban a violation of his civil rights, and in July, he submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights:

6. Describe the discrimination: On what basis were you discriminated against?

Race; retaliation—I received a letter from superintendent Debra Johnson of the Chamberlain public schools that I would not be allowed to participate in the Chamberlain school board's meeting because I wanted to talk about the Native American honor song and the letter of support that was sent for the honor song from the Martin Luther King center in Atlanta, Georgia. I was also told by the school board president Rebecca Reimer that the honor song issue is a dead issue and we will not be talking about it anymore.

...8. What would you like the institution to do as a result of your complaint?

Follow their own bylaws and allow everyone to speak openly about their concerns with school policy. Resend the motion and change the bylaws back to allowing a subject to be discussed more than one time. This came about at the exact time the denial was given for further discussion of the honor song. And remove the change in length of time that was additionally imposed as a result of the request to further discuss the honor song. There currently are no Native American people serving on the school board, The time allowed for input was 10 minutes and has now been reduced to 5 minutes unless approved by the school board, as no Native American peers serve on the board this has never happened. I have seen many non-native people exceed the 5 minute rule without consequences being imposed. I however have been held to the 5 minute rule with a stop watch. Nearly 40% of the students in this school are Native American [James Cadwell, text submitted in support of civil rights complaint to U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, July 2014].

This complaint has bite because it speaks the one language that every school board understands—money:

OCR is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), 42 U.S.C. §2000d, and its implementing regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 100. Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance from the Department from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

As a recipient of Federal financial assistance from the Department, the District is subject to Title VI [Joshua Douglass, supervisory attorney, Office of Civil Rights, letter to James Cadwell, 2014.09.03].

The Chamberlain school district receives hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in Federal Impact Aid as compensation for the large number of American Indian students from families living on federal, non-tax-generating property. According to the board's June 23 minutes, as of May 31, the district had a balance of $2.66 million in its Impact Aid account.

If the OCR finds Chamberlain is violating civil rights by stifling discussion of the Lakota honor song, it can order the board to remedy the situation or lose that valuable federal funding.The OCR acts on the authority of Title VI and federal dollars. A ruling on this one point would say to Chamberlain that it has been acting in ways that could cause it to lose a big chunk of federal dollars. Thanks to the cowardly misers we send to Pierre, Chamberlain and other school districts can't afford to lose a penny. If the OCR rules in favor of Cadwell on his complaint, it will hang a sword of Dollarcles over the Chamberlain school board's heads... a sword sharpened by Republicans themselves.

The Chamberlain school board could render this complaint and this threat to its federal funding moot with six simple words: "Mr. Cadwell, the floor is yours." They could let him speak at length about the King letter, the honor song, and civil rights. They wouldn't even have to respond, just listen. Listening isn't that hard... unless it's an invitation to a conversation that you don't want to have.

8 comments

Oh, look—white kids dressed up in mock Indian garb:

Photo of Watertown HS homecoming (known locally as "Ki-Yi") royalty, Watertown Public Opinion, 2014.09.19, screen cap 2014.09.23

Photo of Watertown HS homecoming (known locally as "Ki-Yi") royalty, Watertown Public Opinion, 2014.09.19, screen cap 2014.09.23

Not having had the pleasure of graduating from Watertown, Home of the Arrows, I can't speak to the rich local tradition behind the branding of homecoming week as a celebration of Dakota culture. I invite locals and proud alumni to fill us in.

Homecoming activities evidently do not include having all students dress up as Indians. But to pile irony upon irony, student organizers kicked off the in-school celebrations by designating Monday as 'Merica Day (yes, with the apostrophe), on which students were to wear patriotic garb. Those who chose not to wear red, white, and blue could opt for nerd outfits.

Related Reading:

387 comments

As a supplement to our discussion of the teacher shortage and the Legislature's and Governor's keen desire not to focus on teacher pay as a solution, I offer the average starting salaries for teachers in the seven-state region (in the 2012–2013 school year):

  Avg Start Salary Avg Salary
Wyoming $43,269 $57,920
Minnesota $34,505 $56,268
Iowa $33,226 $51,528
North Dakota $32,019 $47,344
Nebraska $30,844 $48,931
South Dakota $29,851 $39,580
Montana $27,274 $49,999
Nat'l Avg $36,141 $56,383

The disparity between South Dakota's starting salary and the amount available out-state isn't as drastic as the disparity between average salaries. We might even have some leverage in recruiting Montana grads to come make $2,600 more during their first year. But if they want to clear $30K a year and grab a rung on a tall long-term salary ladder, they head somewhere besides Montana and South Dakota.

On the bright side, on starting salary, we're not the worst. We're only second-worst. Yay.

3 comments

I can hear the conversation in Pierre: We're short on teachers, and folks going to expect better pay... quick! Blow smoke!

South Dakota’s superintendents say schools are struggling to fill open positions mainly because of low teacher pay, while policymakers suggest a solution to the teacher shortage isn’t simple and the problem won’t be fixed with funding alone [Kevin Burbach, "Lawmakers Say Education Needs More Than Just Money," AP via that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.21].

Actually... yeah, it will. Raising teacher pay would do more to solve South Dakota's worsening teacher shortage than any other single policy action. $10,000 more in every teacher's paycheck would change more teachers' minds about moving or retiring or taking up welding than improving teacher training and "support," the ideas Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) mentions in Burbach's report. (At least Burbach gets Rep. Sly's name right; he calls Democratic Rep. Paula Hawks "Tessa".)

At the bottom of the article, spokesman Tony Venhuizen reminds us what the Daugaard Administration really thinks of the teacher shortage—they'd like to make it permanent:

“Particularly in some small districts we see they’re making decisions to keep larger staffs, to keep their staffing levels higher rather than to use the money to pay fewer teachers more [Tony Venhuizen, quoted in Burbach, 2014.09.21].

That's right, far from a shortage of teachers, Governor Daugaard still thinks we have too many teachers. Getting rid of a third of our teachers would deprive our kids of even more resources and support in school, but hey! those darn teachers lean union and Democrat anyway! Who needs 'em?

There are plenty of other, more positive legislative actions we can take to improve our K-12 schools. So let's not dilly-dally: let's raise teacher pay so we can get on to those other improvements.

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What philosophy major kicked Dennis Daugaard's dog? Our governor continues his passive-aggressive media campaign against philosophers and the liberal arts with another "major in what you want, but you'll be sorry" diss to the humanities:

High school graduates in South Dakota looking at $25,000 in debt for a college degree should do the math first, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says.

What is more likely to pay off those loans, the governor asks: A good-paying job in a growing sector of the state economy — such as science, engineering and skilled trades — or a degree in philosophy?

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do, what to major in,” Daugaard said. “I just want them to have their eyes open about it. I think it’s a fact that it’s harder to get a job with a bachelor degree in philosophy than it is with a bachelor degree in electrical engineering” [Steve Young, "Science, Math Key—and So Is Writing," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.15].

Heavens no, the Governor isn't trying to tell anyone what to do. He's just saying that, from his dollar-based worldview, people studying philosophy are wasting time.

Daugaard's academics-for-dollars finds some support in the Payscale.com College Salary Report. According to their data (discussed also on the Washington Post Wonkblog), new graduates of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology enjoy the eleventh-best median starting salary in the nation, $65,600. They beat Stanford, Princeton, Duke, and Yale.

But over time, those schools's graduates and several others catch up with and pass our Hardrockers. Mid-career (at least ten years after graduation), 64 schools post median graduate salaries of over $100,000. School of Mines grads rank 104th in mid-career salary, stuck at $94,800. I say stuck with starry-eyed dreams of making half that amount (ring that blog tip jar!), but I also note that the Hardrockers' 44.5% ten-year salary growth is actually below the average of 70.0% growth for the 1002 schools in this survey. The schools with the biggest salary growth are liberal arts schools: Haverford (198%!), Carleton (169%!), William and Lee, Tufts, and Whitman.

Those big gainers come from schools with markedly lower percentages of science, tech, engineering, and math grads. Maybe all those technical skills that Governor Daugaard isn't-but-is saying everyone should major in are great for grabbing jobs right out of the diploma chute, but as technology evolves and specific technical skills become obsolete, those liberal arts majors Tarzan better from vine to vine in the changing job market.

Related: Payscale.com looked at four South Dakota schools: Mines, SDSU, USD, and Augustana:

School Name Early Career Salary Early Rank Mid-Career Salary Mid Rank % High Meaning % STEM Degrees
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology $65,600 11 $94,800 104 57% 92%
South Dakota State University $45,800 345 $76,600 416 51% 20%
University of South Dakota $42,600 583 $68,800 652 60% 8%
Augustana $38,800 849 $74,100 481 55% 14%

SDSU beats USD on both starting and mid-career salary. Jacks rule! (And Yotes, tell your frat brother Chad Haber to stop dragging you down.) Augie doggies start low, but in ten years, they're beating the Yotes, too. Hmmm... maybe we should take our long-term education and career advice from Augie graduate Susan Wismer instead of USD graduate Daugaard.

But interestingly, a higher percentage of USD graduates report a sense of "high job meaning" (i.e., when asked "Does your work make the world a better place?" they say yes) than say the same at the other three schools surveyed. Hmmm... is that coming from all those philosophy majors?

16 comments

The Associated School Boards of South Dakota have a plan for starting to raise our rock-bottom teacher salaries to competitive levels by charging more sales tax in the summer:

The average salary for a teacher in South Dakota is $40,023, and even that amount is not competitive with neighboring states, according to data presented to lawmakers.

North Dakota teachers earn $48,666 a year on average, compared to $49,545 in Nebraska, $51,662 in Iowa and $57,230 in Minnesota. South Dakota has the lowest teacher salaries in the country, according to older data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Where are you going to go as a teacher?" SASD Executive Director Rob Monson said. "We identify it as a critical problem right now."

To catch up with North Dakota, the state would have to spend an extra $80 million a year on teacher salaries. By increasing sales tax by a penny in June, July and August, the state would be able to increase its average pay for teachers to about $44,000 – still short of North Dakota, but a start, [ASBSD exec Wade] Pogany said [Patrick Anderson, "Higher Teacher Pay from Sales Tax? One Lawmaker Says Yes," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.08].

Joe Lowe proposed something like this during the Democratic gubernatorial primary last spring. The proposal is one eighth of the initiated measure that voters rejected in 2012 to add an extra penny to the sales tax and split the proceeds between education and health care.

ASBSD received the usual statements of interest in a conversation from lawmakers at yesterday's Legislative Planning Committee meeting but no firm commitments to turn this plan or any other into action to end the embarrassing exploitation of teachers that has is driving oodles of talent out of South Dakota's K-12 labor pool.

The paucity of respect, guts, and imagination in Pierre leaves us grasping for suboptimal solutions like expanding our regressive taxes instead of following the example of our bank income tax, changing the productivity tax into a real and fairer agricultural income tax, and looking for other sources of revenue that would not heap the burden of supporting schools further on low-income citizens. We've got to do something, but let's seek better, fairer revenue sources for our teachers and our future before we dig ourselves deeper into dependence on sales tax.

109 comments

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