Tightwads, NSF, "Veni, vidi, vici," cheaper than jail, writing, Waseda

Misers, tightwads, skinflints, penny-pinchers, and Scrooges are studied in a new course given by Dr. Fedwa Malti-Douglas at the University of Texas. The course shows how literature portrays the miser and how East and West differ in their protrayals of this social type.

Dr. Malti-Douglas, author of a book about avarice, based on her studies of medieval Arabic anecdotes, notes that while Western literature usually portrays stinginess through a single character, Arabic and Islamic writings more often use several characters, each having one aspect of the vice.

''While these may be seen as satire, it has been my experience that most are truer to life than we'd like to believe,'' Dr. Malti-Douglas says. An Arabic story about a landlord who instructed his tenant not to have visitors because they might wear out the floor brought a student's exclamation, ''This is just like my landlord!''

Experimental computer projects designed to improve ''science and engineering education at the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade and early college levels'' are being financed by the National Science Foundation and 58 grantee institutions. Radio Shack, Atari Inc., the Digital Equipment Corporation, IBM Corporation, and the Apple Education Foundation are donating the computer equipment and related hardware. According to the NSF, ''The researchers will explore ways that computers and other information-handling technologies can help students learn science and engineering.''

After a drastic decrease from 1960 to 1980 in high school Latin students, ''Latin is back.'' Reasons for the resurgence are tied to the need to improve English language skills. ''Because more than half of the English language has its roots in Latin, students have 'inside information' on many unknown words,'' Education USA writes. ''Students who took the Latin Achievement Test in 1980 scored an average of 144 points higher on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) verbal exam than the national average for all students, . . .'' reports showed. As a result, there is now a Latin teacher shortage.

Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, writing in the October l982, ''pta today,'' reminded voters: ''To educate children in this country costs an average of $1,600 a year per child. To keep one prisoner in jail for a year costs $8,600. To keep one child in a detention home for a year costs $11,500.''

Graduate students and Dr. Geoffrey Boothroyd at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are simplifying product assembly for Westinghouse, IBM, General Electric, Xerox, Digital, and others. Dr. Boothroyd says that they are working with mostly high technology companies ''which feel the need for reducing costs.'' The products include computers and copy machines.

The companies want ''a design package aimed at achieving high productivity and, ultimately, restoring US producers' edge over international manufacturing rivals, such as Japan.'' They have already helped Xerox by reducing production costs an estimated $150 million a year.

Since assembly is still manufacturing's biggest cost, Dr. Boothroyd is also exploring the use of robots in automated assembly. ''We're investigating how you can apply robots economically in assembly,'' he says.

Although many people are also examining this, the Massachusetts institution is the only one considering ''programable feeders.'' This would allow robots to perform one task and then be automatically reprogrammed to continue with another. ''A feeder puts parts in place where a robot can pick them up, a programmable feeder would make the various pieces of equipment as versatile as the robot itself,'' Dr. Boothroyd says.

Professor Nancy Packer, department head of Stanford University's freshman English program, says writing continuously can help overcome writing fears. Professor Packer attributes the decline in writing skills to high schools requiring fewer hours of English, as well as the increasingly numerous alternatives to reading, such as watching television or going to the movies. For the student at the opposite end of the scale - with the ability to write endlessly, but without organization or an argument - courses in logic and critical thinking are available.

Waseda University in Tokyo is celebrating its founding 100 years ago. Addressing a Waseda audience on Oct. 23, Dr. Franklin Wallin, president of Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., described in a keynote address the role of universities in an age of global interdependence and instant access to information: ''We will learn to put back together what . . . specialization has taken apart.''

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