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October 01, 2007 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-10-01

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4A - Monday, October 1, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Academic apathy
Lack of participation in rally makes students easy to ignore
f the 350 University of Michigan students to take the Amer-
ican Civic Literacy Test, freshmen managed a score of only
47 percent and seniors 51 percent. This report, released
last week by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, demonstrates that
University students don't know much about the world around them,
and they don't learn more about it during their stay at the University.
Such ignorance, especially of state issues that have led to constant
tuition increases, leaves young people at a marked disadvantage.
Until students become informed and make it clear that they intend
to hold elected officials accountable, they will continue to be taken
advantage of by the state and national leaders.

They want to live in peace and have a
comfortable life with their families:'
- Humayun Hamidzada, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, on whether the Taliban will
negotiate with the government during a period of foreign occupation, as reported yesterday by CNN.com.
aking the, case for essays


Last week, student governments from
several state universities bused students
to Lansing to gather in protest of pro-
posed cuts to education funding. Given that
state universities in Michigan have close
to 200,000 total students, it is downright
embarrassing that only 300 managed to
attend the protest. This was a prime oppor-
tunity for students to make a strong show-
ing of their numbers and support for issues
like higher education funding. The Michi-
gan Student Assembly provided transpor-
tation and professors were even asked to
excuse students from class for the protest.
Yet, this opportunity was ignored by many;
the sparse attendance only confirmed for
legislators what they've always known:
Students are lazy, unwilling to get involved
and can safely be ignored.
Student leaders at universities like our own
are to be commended for doing all they could
in organizing this event - with one excep-
tion. The student government at Michigan
State University failed to organize students
of that campus. That's especially deplorable
considering that MSU is the campus closest
to the statehouse. When the state's largest
university does not even inform its students
of a rally just down the road, it shows that

civic apathy at some campuses is starting to
trickle from the masses and infect student
leaders too. Hopefully this doesn't reflect a
wider trend.
The students who did rally managed to
effect some level of awareness. For example,
politicians seemed downright shocked that
students had turned up at all. Some were
genuinely affected by the concerns students
have fortuition increases, but this effect was
minimal, considering there were only 300
students there. Most legislators were likely
just amused at the toothless spectacle that
they could simply forget about the next day
and not face any consequences. Could they
have done that if 10,000 students gathered
at the rally? Probably not.
As legislators hurry to slop together a state
budget on deadline, the last-minute cuts and
compromises made will reflect the interests
of voting blocs that are most likely to hold
lawmakers accountable. Groups that swear
to recall any politician voting in favor of a
tax increase, for example, will be a primary
concern in the minds of the legislators. A
tiny gathering of 300 is not a group the leg-
islature is going to seriously work to placate.
They have no incentive to work for us, and
so we'll be overlooked again.

For thousands of aspiring law-
yers, Sept. 29 was more than
just a typical football Satur-
day: It was LSAT
Saturday, the time
for them to display
their analytical
reasoning skills
to scouts from 196I
acaredited lawj
schools. For those
unfamiliar with
this . academic MIKE
combine, the Law E
School Admissions EBER
Testconsists of five
35-minute multiple-choice sections,
ranging from reading comprehension
to analytical puzzle games and one
unscored essay segment.
Does it make much sense to not
count the essay portion of such a high-
stakes exam? Compared to the 101 fill-
in-the-bubble questions, reasoning
demonstrated in writing reflects real
aptitude for any law-related profession.
Lawyers in action rarely circle A, B, C,
D or E in assisting their clients. How-
ever, they are likely to write briefs, sub-
poenas and closing arguments to prove
their superior reasoning skills.
The lack of importance placed on
students' ability to argue and reason
effectively through writing disap-
points me. According to a Law School
Admissions Council survey, only.9.9
percent of schools "always" look at the
LSAT writing sample as part of the
admissions process. The fact that an
extemporaneous writing section on the
LSAT is considered irrelevant could
either mean that the testing method is
flawed or that admissions committees
just don't place enough itportance on
this method of analysis.
In my own LSAT preparation class,
a total of 15.minutes out of more than
60 in-class hours was devoted to pre-
paringstudents forthewrittensection.

If anything, the minimal emphasis on
the essay shows its lack of importance
and the irreverence our society has for
articulating knowledge in narrative
form. This exclusion of writing skills
and over-reliance on multiple-choice
testing debases academic aptitude to
the mere ability to darken circles - an
attack on reasoned discourse.
I would postulate a testing method
that tests in the same manner that
knowledge is formed for each respec-
tive subject. For example, if you want to
test how well a monkey eats a banana,
stick a banana in its hand and observe
how nimbly it can peel the skin and
chew with its mouth closed. Assign ita
score on a bell curve on a scale ranging
from120to180. If you wantto testhow
well a monkey can fill in a bubble, stick
a pencil in its hand and give it a test.
Reducing knowledge to a one-
option-out-of-five crapshoot is an insult
to thinkers throughout history. As the
regurgitation of knowledge should
mirror its initial formation, to create
knowledge one must painstakingly
understand a problem, ruminate over
interrelated ideas and finally articu-
late the assertion in writing. Whether
a person is demonstrating his or her
mathematical abilities or knowledge of
political science, important facts and
numbers can only support reasoning
if these facts accompany a narrative
At the University, we take some'
classes that are graded entirely by
multiple-choice examinations. Most-
ly, these are mammoth introductory
courses with hundreds of students,.
and professors administer this type of
"objective" analysis because the sheer
number ofstudents prevents themfrom
reading actual words and appraising a
grade under any realistic time frame,
This is reality at underfunded public
institutions when class sizes get too
large. Although this type of academic

assessment is what constitutes our
grade point averages, it is unfortunate
that the same analysis makes up our
entrance exam scores as well.
I fear that this multiple-guess format
excludes people who cannot express
their knowledge in two-millimeter
bubbles. While some people may see
neatly aligned grids, others may see a
Jackson Pollack-ian splatter of paint on
paper. Like it or not, an accurately bub-
bled Scantron exerts a form of social
control. Those who master or inherent-
ly excel at multiple-guess examinations
have far more career opportunities
than their unlucky counterparts.
Lawyers should
learn how to write,
not darken circles.
It's doubtful that there is a causal
link - or even a correlation - between
a high LSAT score and one's success as
a lawyer. According to the LSAC, how-
ever, "the LSAT alone continues to be
a better predictor of law school perfor-
mance than is GPA alone." How could a
three-hour test possibly be more indic-
ative than four years of coursework?
Despite this, top law schools require
higher scores, and entry into those
schools is the edgeusually required for
getting a job at one of the better pay-
ing law firms. It shouldn't be this way.
Achievement on multiple-guess exams
is not necessary for professional suc-
cess, but evaluating one's academic
aptitude through more written dis-
course might be sufficient for further
test-taking parity.
Mike Eber can be reached
at mieber@umich.edu.

Reconsidering Iran

Let's all take a deep breath on the issue of
Iran, please.
Recently, there have been a lot of reports
about the dangers Iran poses to America.
Many of these stories have contained the same
talking points and have revolved around the
personality of Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. A viewpoint by the group Isra-
el IDEA ran in the Daily last week ('It's 1938
and Iran is Germany', 09/26/2007): There are
two problems with that title: It's 2007, not
1938, and Iran is Iran, not Germany.
As Israel IDEA's viewpoint showed, it is
easy to criticize Ahmadinejad. There is no
question that some of his statements have been
thoughtless, even hateful. There are enough
real reasons to condemn him, but by inflat-
ing his rhetoric and his power, critics attempt
to increase their audiences' hostility toward
Iran without providing an accurate picture
of that country's complex politics. Presenting
Iran and Ahmadinejad as bigger threats than
they actually are is not helpful to American or
Israeli interests.
It seems that whenever Ahmadinejad says
something conciliatory - for example, that
Iran wants only a peaceful nuclear program
- he is called a liar. But when he says some-
thing more aggressive, commentators rush to
say that we must take him at his word. We
have no sympathy for the Iranian president,
but conservative commentators have con-
structed the Ahmadinejad they want: the
most hostile one possible.
It is important to note that the presidency
is not a very powerful position in Iran. The
presidency is contested in an election every
four years, with a maximum of two consecu-
tive terms. The election process is not entirely
democratic - the clerical establishment for-
bids some candidates from running. However,
among those candidates who are allowed to
run, competition is fierce, despite the weak-
ness of the office.
Real power resides with the supreme leader,
currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The office
of the Supreme Leader is, in fact, dictato-
rial. He serves for life, and the army, the elite
Revolutionary Guards and the security ser-
vices report directly to him. All of the atten-
tion on Ahmadinejad pulls the spotlight from.
the more powerful Khamanei, who is less dis-
posed toward bombastic rhetoric.
In addition to the supreme leader's author-
ity over the president, political power in Iran
is dispersed across myriad offices and commit-
tees, further diluting the influence of the presi-
dency. Ahmadinejad is a convenient rhetorical
punching bag, but he is not necessarily a win-
dow into the Iranian government's intentions.
However, let us assume for the sake of
argument that it is Iran's intention to directly
attack America or its allies. Unlike Germany in
1938, there is no question about the outcome of
a hypothetical war between the America and

Iran: The full brunt of American power would
quickly overwhelm Iran.
Iran is also dissimilar to Germany in the
way it treats minorities, including Jews.
Today, tens of thousands of Jews live in Iran
as equal citizens, and the Iranian parliament
reserves a seat for the Jewish community.
Iran is home to more Jews than any place in
the Middle East outside of Israel: There are 23
synagogues in Tehran alone. The most expen-
sive and one of the most popular television
shows ever broadcast on Iranian state-run
television is a current show about an Iranian
diplomat who forges passports to help Jews
escape from Nazi-occupied France. The Ira-
nian government may be hostile to Israel -
and Ahmadinejad is vehemently hostile - but
it cannot fairly be deemed hostile to its Jew-
ish citizens or Jews in general.
The comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany
is not only factually incorrect, it is insulting
to the Iranian people and damaging to the
democratic reform movement. After Ahma-
dinejad's speech at Columbia, Mohsen Mir-
damadi, a prominent Iranian reformist, told
The Associated Press that "The blistering
speech against Ahmadinejad only strength-
ened him back home and made his radical
supporters more determined." The hostility
and possibility of war between America and
Iran has preoccupied many Iranians inside
and outside of the country, and it has taken
the focus off of internal reforms. In short,
the conservative media is helping destroy the
best means to achieve what it claims to want:
a truly democratic Iran.
As The Washington Post reported in June
of 2006, under pressure from a then-power-
ful reform movement, the Iranian govern-
ment in 2003 sent a secret message seeking
reconciliation with America. It proposed
negotiations to stop monetary support for
Hezbollah and Hamas, to provide assistance in
Iraq and Afghanistan and to recognize Israel
in exchange for a lifting of American sanc-
tions and a guarantee not to try to overthrow
the current government. America rejected the
offer and increased its anti-Iran rhetoric, the
Post reported. The next year, the reformists
were defeated in Iranian elections, and they
have been demoralized and relatively weak
ever since.
Foreign policy hawks like to point to 1938 as
an example of the failure of dialogue in avert-
ing great human tragedy. In dealing with Iran,
a more relevant point of historical reference is
2003. Hostile rhetoric against a Middle East-
ern country that in reality posed no threat
to America escalated to the fiasco in Iraq in
which we now find ourselves.
It's time to take a deep breath before things
go too far again.
Ben Beckett and Esmaeel Reza
Dadashzadeh are LSA juniors.


Free market is really to blame
for environmental problems
I would like to clarify some general misconceptions
raised in Patrick Zabawa's column last week (False Hope,
First of all, back in the early 20th century, electric cars
were just as popular as those powered by gasoline. How-
ever, consumer demand tended to lean toward the more
powerful gasoline engine, and by 1930, it was difficult to
find an electric in operation. General Motors had experi-
mental electric cars back in the 1980s, along with numer-
ous other advances in technology. The consumer ignored
all of these. Those paddle shifters on the Lexus? GM had
something similar in the late '60s and early '70s, but con-
sumer demand killed it.
Secondly, House Democrats-made the right decision in
stopping the bill. It unfairly attacked automobile emis-
sions, which are some of the cleanest. If the bill was fair,
it would have regulated emissions for all energy sources,
including coal, gas and oil power plants.
My point is that the free market is not the reason the
environmental movement is working. Those blamed for
this lack of environmentalism have historically pushed
the technology to deliver more than consumer expecta-
tions. Granted, I amleaving out the 1980s and 1990s, which
were ugly for American auto companies. It was consumer
demand that stopped the flow of environmentally friendly
products because no one would buy them.
The free market is the vehicle thatconsumers have used
to allow for the pollution of the Earth. It's just now that
people are becoming aware of the hazards this causes.
John W. Schmotzer
Engineering alum
The letter writer is a member of the Society ofAutomotive

Current tax system already hurts
Michigan's strappedfamilies
In his letter (Don't rally to raise taxes on struggling
state, 09/25/2007), Clark Ruper deplored the detri-
mental effect that any possible state tax increase in
Michigan will have on "Michigan's already strapped
families." Michigan's state tax structure is currently
unfair to poorer families and individuals because the
state constitution stipulates a flat tax. Everyone, irre-
spective of income bracket, is currently taxed at the
same percentage rate.
The problem to which Ruper points can easily be
addressed if.the state switches to a graduated income
tax, which means that people in higher income brack-
ets pay taxes at a higher percentage rate than those in
lower tax brackets. In this way, additional revenue can
be raised without unduly hurting the individuals and
families who are already strapped.
This will require a constitutional amendment, which
I hope Ruper will support.
Sayan Bhattacharyya
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the
editor. Letters should be under 300 words and
must include the writer's full name and University
affiliation. All submissions become property of the
Daily. We do not print anonymous letters. Send
letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.

Editorial Board Members: Kevin Bunkley, Ben Caleca, Milly Dick, Mike Eber, Brian Flaherty,
Gary Graca, Emmarie Huetteman, Theresa Kennelly, Gavin Stern, Jennifer Sussex,
Neil Tambe, Matt Trecha, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Wagner.



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