Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

“Campusology” at Texas A&M and in Education 6-12

In the wake of my retirement beginning June, 2016, I’ve experienced personally that the positive I’ve done professionally as a Ph.D. scientist who likes to teach (as opposed to a science and math teacher) stands out more than the positive criticism of our educational system I’ve offered in recent years. The wonderful things my former students/present friends said to me at my retirement party was like a life-long justification of my decision so long ago to teach high school juniors and seniors rather than teach physics on the collegiate level. At the same time too many people at the party seemed to ignore my criticisms of secondary education leading to high school graduation (probably because I used at the party an “inappropriate” term — the “s” word as part of a strong negative adjective abbreviated by “BS” — in describing part of the school administration I experienced over 40 years of teaching in public and private school) and missed the message because they could not get around a word in that message.  I used the “BS” descriptor as a word of emphasis to call people’s attention to the issues I raised in the years just prior to my retirement. In my opinion “BS” does not make my descriptor “positive criticism” oxymoronic, if one hears all the criticism. (See 1: Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2: Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013])  I learned that even in adulthood so many still judge people strongly by the language they use; the adults overlook the context of that language utilized to draw attention to the context; ironic and sad, but true.

So, in sincere gratitude for all the accolades sent my way at the beginning of my retirement, I’d like to attempt my positive criticisms of the education of the young minds in our society once again, this time without such strong language that unfortunately distracts so many.  In a time-honored metaphor, I’d like not only to be an old war horse put out to pasture with accomplishments, fun, and fond memories attached, I’d like to be an old war horse put out to pasture with thought-provoking, reformative, and time-proven suggestions also attached.  I’d like to leave a legacy of both knowledge in our children’s heads and ways of improving what we are doing on our children’s campuses to improve that knowledge.  As I spell out in 1: Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2: Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], we can do better than we are.  I know this because I have experienced the “better;” my suggestions are not hopeful fairy tales of what could be; my suggestions are methods I’ve seen work marvelously at Cisco High School, Texas A&M University, Waxahachie High School, and Canterbury Episcopal School.

This time I’d like to use an analogy — one between my experience both in and out of Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets in my undergraduate years 1964-1968 and my experience living within administration/faculty/student body situations for 60 of my 70 (so far) years.


Texas A&M University is one of those unique institutions offering a full-time ROTC program by which undergraduates can simultaneously graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the armed forces calling for a service career of twenty years or so (The Citadel is another such institution, I think.).  As a freshman (a “fish”) at A&M in the school year 1964-1965, I had to be a member of the Corps as well as an entering physics major, as that was the last school year being in the Corps was compulsory.  Beginning the following year of 1965-1966, I opted out of the Corps, learning I did not want to pursue a career in the military; so I became what was known then on campus as a “non-reg,” a non-Corps student.  For the record, I was in the Army ROTC branch of the Corps, assigned to company “Devil” D-3 of the Third Brigade.  Nowadays Texas A&M is almost 9 times larger than it was in 1964-1965 and the overwhelming majority of students are “non-regs.”

Like the service academies at West Point, Annapolis,  and Colorado Springs, being in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets means you “play soldier” 24-7 during the week and on most weekends.  You have to eat, drink, and play Corps as well as eat, drink, and play going to classes working toward your bachelor’s degree.  You are living simultaneously in two not necessarily different and incompatible worlds.  For instance, being in the Corps helped me become more disciplined in my study habits.  (As a fish back then I had to study, and only study every weekday evening from 6:30-10:00 PM at my dorm room desk, monitored every 15 minutes by the sharp eyes of the upperclassmen hall monitors of our outfit (company).)  On the other hand, when I became a non-reg my sophomore year, I had only one world to deal with, which for me as a physics major was about all the “world” I could handle.  Therefore, I know the Corps and its effects upon academics “inside and out.”

Here’s the point:  in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, there are three possible modes of “juggling” the two worlds, with various degrees of emphasis among the three modes, depending upon the mind of the individual student.  1)  You can successfully and consistently keep working toward two goals, the degree and the commission, 2) you can work harder on the degree without much concern for the commission, or 3) you can work harder on the commission without much concern for the degree.  In my fish year, I saw hundreds of fellow students in each mode.  Being in the Vietnam war era, the war in southeast Asia played a part in each student’s mind as they found themselves in one of these modes, as each mode carried with it its own risks back in those days.  I was in mode #2 — I was well on my way being kicked out of the Corps early the second semester, so “un-sharp” was I (I was  called “Cadet Basketball.”), until the company commanding officers (seniors) saw my good first semester grades.  My good grades were needed to keep the outfit’s grade average above the level of acceptability monitored by the Corps Command in the Trigon (A&M’s version of the Pentagon).  Those in mode #3 became known as majoring in “campusology,” more involved with extra-curricular Corps-related activities than with their responsibilities in the classroom.  Campusology was very seductive to lots of students, as #3 mode was lots of fun, even if you were on the receiving end of the hazing fish got constantly; I had loads of fun taking advantage of “fish privileges” and driving upperclassmen (sophomores (“piss-heads”), juniors (“serge-butts”), and seniors (“zipper-heads”)) “crazy.” (Mess hall had its own fun vocabulary — e.g. “bull-neck” was meat, “deal” was sliced bread, and “baby” was mustard, to name a few that can repeated in polite conversation.)  Campusology majors ran the greatest risk, for if you don’t pass, you cannot stay on campus long.  I tragically saw a good friend be seduced by #3.

Our fish year was only a couple of months along, and my friend and I were both taking calculus for the first time ever, but not in the same section (classroom).  Despite the fact we were in different outfits across campus from each other, he and I arranged a meeting in the library (Today that building looks like a tiny annex attached to the massive library that came after.) so I could help him with his calculus.  His first serious question to me was “What is a derivative?”  Again, he was not joking; he was serious.  Those of you who are “calculus savvy” know someone asking that question two months into a calculus course is in, to put it mildly, trouble.  I helped him, but it was too little too late for him.  He couldn’t get the help from me he needed, I worried about his academics from then on, and beginning the next semester, he slid into academic probation, resulting in his having to transfer to another college or university.  He was but one example among many who were lured by the fun of campusology.  I’m pleased to say that over many years thereafter he was able to work his way back and eventually get his degree from A&M.

No institution of higher learning deliberately sets up a “campusology major” to ensnare unsuspecting students; students alone were responsible for the mode they found themselves in at A&M back in the 1960’s.  But campusology can be a problem on any campus.  For all non-Aggie or non-Aggie-knowledgeable readers, substitute “sorority” or “fraternity” for “Corps of Cadets” in the above and I think all readers will see my point (not to mention substituting “athletics,” “student government,” “committees,” “clubs,” “community service,” “jobs,” etc).  The social structure of institutions today, just like at A&M in the ’60s,  can become the “prize” for students instead of the intended prize of academic success — the only path to a college degree.  If a student of higher learning looks toward another prize other than the one intended by the establishment of the institution itself, they have created for themselves an inverted, “tail-wagging-the-dog” world; they closed their eyes while swinging at the pitch; they come to realize there are no degrees in distractions or diversions — no degrees in campusology.


A form of campusology is at work in our public and private schools, a form whose remedying would go a long way toward getting our high school graduates back on par and even ahead of high school graduates in other countries around the world.  I’m not talking about the usual high school extra-curricular activities that take up students’ academic time, like athletics, band, theater, student government, clubs, squads, jobs, proms, etc., though these can be campusology-like impediments toward high school graduation; how many students tragically have to settle for GED’s because they didn’t graduate high school due to being seduced by secondary school campusology?  No, I’m talking about a campusology that affects students like I was privileged to teach in high school — students sharp and talented enough to easily juggle loads of extra-curricular activities alongside impressive academic success in the classroom.  In other words, a campusology that impedes student preparation for direct matriculation into 4-year universities, an impediment in addition to cost.  It is a campusology that, curiously, involves the relationship between school administration and school faculty. If relieved of this campusology, the percentage of high school graduates in all sizes of graduating classes capable of successfully and immediately attending university classrooms would jump from, in my observation, from around 10-11% to around 25%.

This high school adminstration/faculty campusology I’m speaking of here is labeled “wrong models” in 1: Education Reform — Wrong Models!.  Moreover, this labeling can be applied to administrations and faculties at the junior high or middle school level, in my opinion.  The relief from the problem of this campusology/wrong model is spelled out in 2: Education Reform — The Right Model and in 3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need.

In brief, then, a campusology-like mode potentially grips both administration and faculty in public and private schools.  As articulated in, again,  2: Education Reform — The Right Model and 3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, an “adult game” of management diverts both administrators and faculty away from their one and only charge or client — the student body.  Teachers are called “professionals,” yet treated like “employees;” administrators are called “managers,” yet behave like “bosses.”   Policy-level academic decisions are made by administrators, not classroom teachers; teachers are called away from their time with students to help the administrators “manage.”  (Hall duty, lunch room duty, bus arrival/departure duty, etc.)  The campusology becomes obvious when teachers are trained to focus upon being a part of a “team,” as opposed to an egalitarian gathering of colleagues.  Teachers are groomed to climb the tenure ladder and establish working relationships with their “bosses,” the administrators, all to the negligence of their duties to their students in the classroom.  Teachers are encouraged to be promoted out of the classroom, to leave their students and become “middle managers” — i.e. assistant principals on the path of becoming head principals.  This promotion is heavily loaded with salary increases, increases towering over those reserved for becoming, say, a department head staying in the classroom.  Such a situation lends itself pregnant toward becoming a “good ol’ boy” system, wherein school districts cooperate with each other to pass bad teachers away from one district to another and to create positions for “buddies” across districts so that the “buddy” can get a few more years service to pad their retirement payments.  Ex-teachers and ex-administrators often are grafted away from campuses to become salesmen for exclusive “good ol’ boy” school-supply companies (not in the spirit of capitalistic competition) charging inflated prices, taking advantage of the school-tax-dollar “cash cow.”  Nothing in the “good ol’ boy” system seems to have the students’ (or teachers’) best interests.  This is why I called “BS” on it this past summer.

Schools are not about the careers of administrators and teachers; schools are about the development of young minds toward meeting the intellectual challenges of the world beyond high school.

2: Education Reform — The Right Model and  3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need remind us this campusology featuring the “good ol’ boy” system need not be.  To repeat myself, I saw vestiges of the “right model,” the professional/colleagual in Cisco High School, in at least two campus administrations during my 32 years teaching at Waxahachie High School, and in Canterbury Episcopal School.  Where I really saw this right model functioning full-time was in graduate school at Texas A&M University.  Wherever I saw this remedy from all forms of campusology, it had nothing to do with departments of education or with degrees in education.  This tells me that not only is there no science of education, departments of education and their curricula either are culpable in the perpetuation of campusology in secondary schools and the “good ol’ boy” system, or they are inadvertently so.  Sprinkled throughout 1: Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2: Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], and 3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], is the constant theme of teachers declaring the education courses they took toward getting teacher-certified were “useless,” save the time spent in the classroom doing their student-teaching.  Holders of degrees in education need to get back in the classroom taking long, hard looks at student behavior rather than at school organization and management.  Moreover, school district administration and school boards need to focus on the classroom also, instead of trying to manage others from their ivory towers.  All school organization outside the classroom should be postured in support of the classroom; the schools are not the focus of education — students’ minds are.


As an aid in thinking about education reform, think about a large regional hospital, wherein hospital administration and board are analogous to school administration (campus and district) and the school board, professional staff (the doctors) are analogous to school faculty, and patients are analogous to the classroom students.  Ideally the entire hospital focuses upon its mission of promoting the health and recovery of its patients; hospitals are for patients the same way schools are for students.  What if this hospital was infected by the campusology/good ol’ boy system such as described in schools above?  Doctors would have to have administrative approval of their diagnoses and their prescriptions; doctors would be encouraged to become hospital administrators, as the latter are paid more than the former; emphasis for doctors would be upon climbing the tenure ladder; the hospital softball team becomes as important as successful patient stays.  That, to me as a potential patient, is insane!  Are schools fraught with divertive campusology and good ol’ boy tactics potentially harmful to student education any less insane?  Based upon 60 years in the classroom as a student or teacher, I don’t think so!  I trust all good teachers, those who are competent and also who care, resonate with what I’m saying.


If any school tax payer, any former or present school administrator, any former or present school teacher, or any former or present student thinks positively toward any or all of the above, please read my specific, suggested solutions toward needed education reform in 2: Education Reform — The Right Model and  3: Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need.  In all probability, many such readers could come up with better suggestions, ideas, and plans than I.  In fact, good friend and former student Dr. Burl Barr thinks I don’t have a prayer reforming departments of education as I propose; reluctantly Dr. Stephen Weldon, another friend/former student, agreed with Dr. Barr.  See if you can change Dr. Barr’s and Dr. Weldon’s views on this matter.  Please pass on to us all your suggestions, ideas, and plans.

The idea/philosophy of public education is, in my opinion, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, legacies passed on to modern humankind by the United States of America.  What is happening now in our USA classrooms does not reflect that great legacy.  We need to do something about this incongruity, not just talk about it.  Please join me in working for the development of young minds.




Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election

As I join all those who want our President-elect Donald J. Trump to successfully represent all Americans, regardless whether or not we voted for him, I would be disingenuous were I not forthcoming with some observations suggesting themselves in the wake of his election.

I hope my remarks here will supplement those made on Facebook already by fine contributors such as Dr. Rick Covington, Kyle Kent, and Ronnie Applewhite.
First, some particulars:

1) Polls in this election seemed out-of-sync with the population supposedly represented by the sampled. It was as if Trump supporters either avoided being part of the sample or gave false information to the sampler.

2) I think there was a false equivalency developed between the liabilities of the two top candidates fueled by misogyny. Paraphrasing Joy Behar of ABC TV’s The View, “This election shows men can get away with anything, while women can get away with nothing.” Seemed like a double standard to me. In other words, being reckless with e-mails pales in comparison with talking about grabbing a woman’s you-know-what.

3) Trump’s many liabilities were scandalously overlooked if even only one of his positions was zealously supported. A great example was his pro-life position. Pro-life, evangelical, “one-issue” Christians actually supported him, overlooking his tendencies of demeaning women to the point of sexual assault. These Christians, in my opinion, prostituted themselves — “sold their soul” if you please — because “the Devil” said he was against abortion. In this manner, they also “sold out their American citizenship” by siding with the intolerant pro-life position that denies women the right to make their own decisions about their bodies; pro-choice does not force an action or inaction on a woman concerning abortion; it is up to the woman; pro-choice protects women’s Constitutional rights. (See The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013] & The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013])

4) It seems to me that anyone who listened to Trump’s speeches and who took any history in school would see clear parallels between his campaign and that of a fascist dictator. His disdain of our time-honored peaceful transfer of power (if he lost) was incredibly and unprecedentedly disrespectful to our remarkable democratic traditions. Many of his poses behind the podium reminded me of Mussolini. I would encourage any of you who have not done so to read about Hitler’s rise to power in William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Incidentally, it seems that Trump is not as bright an intellect as Mussolini or Hitler, as shown by Trump’s uncanny susceptibility to Putin’s pandering to Trump’s ego.)

5) Just like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton won the overall popular vote in 2016, but lost the election. Has American universal suffrage progressed enough to here in the 21st century for us to consider doing away with the archaic Electoral College and replace it with a nation-wide final tally?

6) The “racial vote” of white votes against Clinton in 2016 reminded me of the “racial vote” of African-Americans for Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and, curiously, to the white votes, “racial votes,” for segregation in the 1960’s, in the attempt to thwart the Civil Rights movement.

6) above is a nice transition to my final, more general and philosophical point:

One way of looking at our country’s history is to see it as a slow progression toward universal suffrage for everyone above voting age. As we were all reminded recently, when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, neither women could vote nor were black players or players from Latin American countries allowed in the major leagues.

The 2016 Presidential Election reminds us that it possible to step backwards in this progression, even in the 21st century. I say we went back to parallels with the 1950’s, when white men ruled in the United States. I am embarrassed to say that I am now in the same demographic as the political “rulers” of the ‘50’s — an old white fart! However, I am proud to say that I am a Baby Boomer for whom the three social revolutions of the 1960’s, 1) the women’s movement, 2) the Civil Rights movement, and 3) the anti-war movement, “took.” (Historically 1) was the most successful of the three, in my opinion.) As I’ve said elsewhere, I can consider myself a reformed high school male chauvinist pig, who “saw the light” on a university campus.

In case you haven’t noticed, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” White men don’t rule anymore; nor do all whites or skins of any other hue. We have become the vision of our progressive Founding Fathers: a social melting pot of many, many diverse and different origins, colors, cultures, creeds, views, affiliations, bank accounts, and opinions — each group with exactly the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other group.

Hillary Clinton failed to “break the glass ceiling” for women in our country, I am sad to say. The opportunities for my granddaughters may not arrive for them as soon as I had hoped, I’m also sad to say. We now have to work our way out of the “new 50’s” back to the true equality for women in our country the election of a woman President will portend. May this “breaking” election come for the generation of my granddaughters, if not sooner.  (See You Go Girl! (II), [March, 2012])

For the sake of our country, Mr. President-to-be-inaugurated-in-Jan-2017, please try and be the President of us all, and may we all unite to help you be so. Given the media and the plethora of hacked e-mails in our midst, we will know if you are trying or not.



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