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the millennial/gen-z strategy - the collected ahp
"“Tell a subset of your population that they are entitled to economic security if they play by certain rules, provide them with four years of training in critical thinking and access to a world-class library — then deny them the opportunities they were promised, while affixing an anchor of debt around their necks — and you’ve got a recipe for a revolutionary vanguard.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article by Eric Levitz, published earlier this week, with the straightforward title “This One Chart Explains Why the Kids Back Bernie.” The chart (or rather, the stats that create the chart) are indeed explanatory:
(1) The unemployment rate among recent college graduates in the U.S. is now higher than our country’s overall unemployment rate for the first time in over two decades, (2) More than 40 percent of recent college graduates are working jobs that do not traditionally require a bachelor’s degree (while one in eight are stuck in posts that pay $25,000 or less), and (3) the median income among the bottom half of college graduates is roughly 10 percent lower than it was three decades ago.

This is the millennial (and Old Gen-Zer) reality: an “anchor of student debt,” as Levitz puts it, taken out in the hopes of achieving fabled economic security. But who convinced us that college was going to solve, well, everything? In the book I’m finally finished writing on millennial burnout (actual cover coming soon, I promise) I try to work through that question: how did we come to believe in “(the best) college at any cost”? (See also: grad school at any cost).

A lot of the answer can be traced to “the education gospel,” a term coined by an economist (W. Norton Grubb) and a sociologist (Marvin Laverson) to describe the nexus of ideologies (about the future of America and democracy; about how to beat the USSR, then Japan, then China; about how the economy could replace the manufacturing jobs displaced by globalization) that undergird “college at any cost.”

Grubb and Laverson chose the word “gospel” to evoke just how ideological integrated — how naturalized — the idea had become. Of course more education is better than less education; of course you should go to college by any means necessary — even when the costs of that college outweigh the benefits, despite increasing evidence that college is not “worth” its cost for those who drop-out, or for those who come from lower-class backgrounds. They point to a study from the National Commission on the High School Senior year, released in 2001: “In the agricultural age, post-secondary college was a pipe dream for most Americans,” it declared. “In the Industrial Age, it was the birthright of only a few. By the space age it became common for many. Today, it is just common sense for all.”

The roots of this “common sense” go back to the mid-20th century, when the government decided to create the grant and loan programs that made it much, much easier for people to go to college. In 1947, 4.2% of women and 6.2% of men had a college degree; in 2018, those numbers had risen to 35.3% and 34.6% — but that’s of the entire population. A more useful statistic is the percentage of high school graduates who immediately enroll in college: which, in 2016, was 69.7%.

And here’s where the stats become really telling. For the group of students who started college — any type of college — in 2011, only 56.9% had finished their degree by 2017. Around 70% of graduates have student debt of some sort; in 2016, the average debt load was $37,172. That’s a huge amount of debt, especially given the fact that it’s $20,000 more than it was in 2003.

But that’s the people who have degrees. If you reverse the completion stat above, you realize that 43.1% of students who started college in 2011 had not finished their degree in six years. These are students who believed that college could be a pathway towards success, of stability, or their dream job — but couldn’t make it work. There are so many reasons why people are forced (or choose) to drop out of school, and some do find success and stability because they quit school. But they often have nearly as much debt as those with a degree but none of the credentials to put on their resumes — which helps explain why they’re three times as likely to default on their loans.

The institution that pisses me off the most in this scenario are for-profit colleges, where only 23% of students graduate, and 48% of those who do leave with more than $40,000 in debt. A whopping 52% of student loan defaults come from graduates of for-profit colleges. If you don’t know about the general scamminess and ethical grossness of the for-profit college, I can’t recommend Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed enough (you can buy it here, and read an excerpt here).

But if college is theoretically an “equality machine,” then for-profit colleges are inequality machine: they target first generation students, they disproportionately enroll (and fuck over) students of color, they charge massive amounts of money for degrees and education that could be obtained for far less at local community colleges, they jack up their price to the maximum allotted under loan guidelines, and they get away with it because 1) Betsy DeVos and 2) millennials have been so inculcated with the education gospel that, again, we believe that no matter how much it costs, how difficult it will be to complete a degree, how tight the market might be in the field we’re pursuing, the degree itself will be worth it.

To be clear: people with college degrees make more, statistically speaking, than people without college degrees. But the “equality” component of the machine is broken. There’s a massive gap between the promises that floated around that degree — and that includes graduate degrees — and the lived post-degree experience. We’re not talking about liberal arts graduates ski-bumming until they decide they’re ready for that six-figure job. We’re talking about those 40% of graduates working jobs that don’t even require a college degree, and the one in eight working jobs that pay $25,000 or less.

I’ve talked to and heard from hundreds of millennials in this position. If they have loans, they’re either on income-based repayment (and they’re convinced that they’ll be paying them off forever), in default (with reverberations and shame across the rest of their lives), or in deferment (amassing huge amounts of interest). They feel stupid and ashamed that they took out as much money as they did, or pissed that so many forces in their lives — parents, guidance counselors, professors, culture, peers — assured them that it would all work out, if they could just get that degree. It’s hard to convey just how difficult and devastating it is to pay down a broken dream every single month for the rest of your life.

I’ve written extensively about student loans, and the broken state of the student loan forgiveness program, here. That piece was the first thing I wrote after the original millennial burnout article, because it was the most tangible expression of the gap between what millennials were told their future would look like, if only they worked hard enough, and the lived, post-Recession reality. To understand millennial burnout, you can’t just understand the amount of student loans we’re carrying; you have to understand what they feel like. And if and when you understand that, it’s incredibly straightforward to see why so many support Sanders and Warren.

Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, middle-class boomers and young Gen-Xers were faced with the reality that their parents’ broadly stable middle-class existence would not necessarily pass down to them. The so-called Golden Age of American Capitalism had lasted just long enough that those who grew up under it could believe that it might last forever. They responded to the decline in stable middle class jobs in a number of ways: many of them, too, went to college, but because public institution funding had yet to be gutted by tax cuts, it cost much, much, much less. (Cue: your boomer uncle who loves to tell you he worked his way through college and graduated without loans).

But as Barbara Ehrenreich persuasively argues in Fear of Falling, they responded by turning decisively inward: how can I do whatever is possible to help me and mine? You could work tirelessly at cutthroat, soulless jobs (investment banking!) no matter the cost (to yourself, to your family, to the environment, to society), adopting what Ehrenreich calls “the yuppie strategy.” Or you could vote for politicians who promised to lower your taxes, make your life better, regardless of the effects on those who didn’t act and spend and look like you. (See: the widespread embrace of Reaganism). As Levitz points out, in 1984, 61% of voters under 25 voted for Reagan. Conservativism — think Michael J. Fox as Alex Keaton from Family Ties — was, I dunno, cool? Not actually cool, but very much mainstream.

The strategy makes “sense,” in so far as it was motivated by self-preservation and fear. And a whole lot of millennials were raised by parents who lived through, if not fully embraced, the guiding ideologies of that period. But it’s fascinating to watch as millennials and Gen-Z — — faced not just with the fear of falling, but the widespread reality — embrace a profoundly different one."
genz  millennials  generations  geny  education  highered  highereducation  debt  studentdebt  boomers  wnortongrubb  ericlevitz  unemployment  employment  wages  loans  unschooling  deschooling  educationgospel  marvinlaverson  ussr  coldwar  japan  china  highschool  inequality  commonsense  investment  parenting  betsydevos  nonprofits  nonprofit  forprofits  capitalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  barbaraehrenreich  ronaldreagan  reaganism  conservatism  familyties  alexkeaton  michaeljfox  tressiemcmillancottom  race  generationz  generationy 
20 hours ago by robertogreco
diana / on Twitter: "This is very small but: when I was the dept receptionist, Brathwaite would always stop and thank me for whatever small task I had done, & give me copies of his books, & explain that education could not function on bureaucratic
"This is very small but: when I was the dept receptionist, Brathwaite would always stop and thank me for whatever small task I had done, & give me copies of his books, & explain that education could not function on bureaucratic time, & just generally be the most open-hearted prof"
kamaubrathwaite  time  learning  howwelearn  education  academia  highereducation  highered  deschooling  undercommons  bureaucracy  srg  process 
13 days ago by robertogreco
k'eguro on Twitter: "(I'll never forget that Canadian Africanist telling a room of Kenyans to write books like the one he had written as though we couldn't possibly have our own interests and methods yes, yes he was)" / Twitter
"(I’ll never forget that Canadian Africanist telling a room of Kenyans to write books like the one he had written

as though we couldn’t possibly have our own interests and methods

yes, yes he was)

(I would love to see more talk about how African scholars create knowledge and innovate methods

Less talk about how African scholarship does not measure up to X or Y standard)

(Why assume scholarship should look or read a particular way?

Also, who gets applauded for writing in nonconventional ways?

Imagine someone claiming you’re a bad thinker because you don’t write sentences in “the approved way”?)

(I can write many different kind of sentences.

Depends on audience and material and mood and what I had to eat and drink.

My water prose does not sound like my cake prose.)"
kaguromacharia  2020  form  writing  howwewrite  africa  kenya  knowledge  knowledgecreation  innovation  scholarship  academia  highered  highereducation  deschooling  unschooling  howwethink  standards  standardization  audience  mood  material  prose  conventions 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Anand Giridharadas on Twitter: "My theory of beating Trump. Run a true progressive. And sell their policies in a way too few progressives do — in the languages of patriotism and personal transformation. Show people your way is the American way. And your
"The languages of justice and corruption are powerful. They’re the ones I speak in much of the time.

But I think we sometimes forget that America will be more fun, more thrilling, more joyous, full of better marriages and better holidays and better youths if these ideas succeed.

Progressive candidates can do better at helping people picture their lives on the other side of the mountain of change.

What will your marriage be like when you’re not stressed by debt and healthcare?

What books will you read to your kids when you’re not working three jobs?

Personal transformation is a powerful American vernacular. Except it’s about what you can do alone, as a self.

What I’m suggesting is that progressives co-opt this language but for grand public policy.

Sell health and education and tax policy as the real enablers of a new you.

And patriotism.

Don’t let the incrementalists and the defenders of ruthless corporations own the flag.

Taking care of each other is the American thing. Learning is the American thing. Paying your fair share is the American thing.

Root this fight in the language of country.

I don’t hear enough of these things.

I was born in Ohio. I went to college in Michigan. I now live in New York.

I believe these policies would benefit people in all these places. But some languages work better than others in the heartland.

Languages that are true to the facts.

At the end of the day, the country progressives want to build will be a more fun country to live in. That truth gets lost in the very worthy talk of oligarchy, corruption, and billionaires. I’m guilty of this, too.

We have to help people visualize the new America — and new them.

So that’s one guy’s take on how to defeat Trump while defeating what enabled Trump, while being mindful that doing so requires speaking to people who are non-native speakers of the language of social justice.

Check out the rest of my chat with @MMFlint: "
justice  corruption  anandgiridharadas  politics  progressive  progressivism  elections  2020  2019  patriotism  society  solidarity  personaltransformation  healthcare  inequality  medicine  change  debt  education  highered  highereducation  taxes  policy  centrism  incrementalism  corporatism  care  caring  us  economics  relationships  language  messaging  oligarchy  socialjustice  transformation  elizabethwarren  berniesanders  michaelmoore 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ep. 9: Please Let Me Rob You, I'm Woke (feat. Anand Giridharadas) from RUMBLE with MICHAEL MOORE on RadioPublic
[also available here:–9-Please-Let-Me-Rob-You–Im-Woke-feat–Anand-Giridharadas-e9s5iu/a-a182c6l ]

“While the majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and one emergency away from financial peril, a new study shows that the 500 richest people in the world gained a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth in 2019. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% now control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.

But what happens when the very people hoarding this wealth at the expense of democracy, the environment and an equitable society, re-brand themselves as the people who will fix society’s problems? What happens when the arsonists pose as the firefighters?

Anand Giridharadas has been studying these questions and he joins Michael Moore to name names and discuss what to do about it.

Rumble Reads:

Anand’s book, “Winners Take All” is here:

Follow Anand here:

The Jamie Dimon “60 Minutes” episode that Michael and Anand ridicule is here:

The new survey about the wealthiest people in the world is here :
anandgiridharadas  michaelmoore  inequality  winnerstakeall  winwin  2019  us  wealth  power  economics  society  war  polarization  internet  work  labor  democracy  capitalism  abuse  proximity  barackobama  lloydblankfein  democrats  markzuckerberg  jeffbezos  billgates  politics  policy  wapo  washingtonpost  class  republicans  corporations  taxes  profits  mikepence  elections  corruption  finance  financialization  profiteering  banks  banking  investment  stockmarket  michaelbloomberg  liberals  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  oligarchy  plutocracy  kleptocracy  healthcare  cities  problemsolving  culture  elitism  climatechange  reputationlaundering  reputation  business  neoliberalism  wokemanickypercapitalism  latecapitalism  poverty  walmart  healthinsurance  pharmaceuticals  wendellpotter  change  profiteers  berniesanders  2020  fun  debt  education  highered  highereducation 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Young Left Is a Third Party - The Atlantic
“The United States is a fortress of gerontocracy besieged by a youth rebellion. America’s leaders are old—very old. The average age in Congress has never been higher, and our national leaders are all approaching 80. Nancy Pelosi was born in 1940, Mitch McConnell came along in 1942, and Donald Trump, the baby of this power trio, followed in 1946, making him several weeks older than his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are 77 and 78 years old, respectively. Every individual in this paragraph came into the world before the International Monetary Fund and the CIA; before the invention of the transistor and the Polaroid camera; before the Roswell UFO incident and the independence of India.

The nation’s finances are almost as skewed toward the elderly as its politics are. Americans 55 and up account for less than one-third of the population, but they own two-thirds of the nation’s wealth, according to the Federal Reserve. That’s the highest level of elderly wealth concentration on record. The reason is simple: To an unprecedented degree, older Americans own the most valuable real estate and investment portfolios. They’ve captured more than 80 percent of stock-market growth since the end of the Great Recession.

Americans under the age of 40, for their part, are historically well educated, historically peaceful, and historically law-abiding. But this impressive résumé of conscientiousness hasn’t translated into much economic or political power.

Instead, young Americans beset with high student debt ran into the buzz saw of a painful recession and slow recovery. Today they are poorer, in income and in wealth, than similarly young groups of previous decades. “In the U.S, as in the U.K. and in much of Europe, 2008 was the end of the end of history,” says Keir Milburn, the author of Generation Left, a book on young left-wing movements. “The last decade in the U.K. has been the worst decade for wage growth for 220 years. In the U.S., this generation is the first in a century that expects to have lower lifetime earnings than their parents. It has created an epochal shift.”

Young Americans demanding more power, control, and justice have veered sharply to the left. This lurch was first evident in the two elections of Barack Obama, when he won the youth vote by huge margins. And young Americans didn’t edge back to the political center under Obama; they just kept moving left. Obama won about 60 percent of voters younger than 30 in the 2008 primary. Bernie Sanders won more than 70 percent of under-30 voters in the 2016 primary, which pushed Hillary Clinton to the left and dragged issues like Medicare for All and free college from the fringe to the mainstream of political debate.

To many observers, it might seem like young voters have remade the Democratic Party in their image—as a claque of “woke” socialists. In May, the historian Niall Ferguson and Eyck Freymann, a research analyst, wrote in The Atlantic that the U.S. was at the brink of a great generation war, in which older conservative Republicans would do battle with Democrats, who were “rapidly becoming the party of the young.”

But upon closer examination, the Democrats aren’t really the party of the young—or, for that matter, of social-justice leftists. In the most sophisticated poll of the Iowa caucus, Joe Biden polled at 2 percent among voters under 30, within the margin of error of zero. Nationally, he is in single digits among Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Yet Biden is the Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential nomination, thanks to his huge advantage among older voters—especially older black voters—who are considerably more moderate than younger Democrats.

Bernie Sanders, by contrast, leads all candidates among voters under 30 and polls just 5 percent among voters over 65. In a national Quinnipiac poll asking voters which candidate has the best ideas, Sanders crushes Biden 27 percent to 4 percent among those under 35 and receives an equal and opposite crushing at the hands of Biden among voters over 65: 28 percent to 4 percent.

Age ‬doesn’t just divide Republicans and Democrats from each other, in other words; age divides young leftists from both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats under 30 have almost no measurable interest in the party’s front-runner. Democrats over 65 have almost no measurable interest in the favored candidate of the younger generation. ‬This is not a picture of Democrats smoothly transforming into the “party of the young.” It’s evidence that age—perhaps even more than class or race—is now the most important fault line within the Democratic Party.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It might be most useful to think about ‬young progressives as a third party trapped in a two-party system. Radicalized by America’s political sclerosis and economic and social inequality, they are a powerful movement politically domiciled within a larger coalition of moderate older minorities and educated suburbanites, who don’t always know what to do with their rambunctious bunkmates.

What would this progressive third party’s platform look like? In one word, justice: Social justice, sought through a reappraisal of power relationships in social and corporate life, and economic justice, sought through the redistribution of income from the rich to the less fortunate.

One can make out the contours of this agenda in “Hidden Tribes,” a 2018 study of the political views of 8,000 Americans, which sorted the country’s voting-age population into seven political groups. The study called the youngest and most left-wing group in the survey Progressive Activists. They accounted for 8 percent of the population and as much as one-third of likely voters in the Democratic Party, due to their higher-than-average engagement in politics. (I don’t want to imply that Sanders voters and the Progressive Activist tribe are synonymous: The demographics of Elizabeth Warren’s support suggest that she attracts a large number of Progressive Activists too.)

Compared with the average American, Progressive Activists—“young, secular, cosmopolitan, and angry”—were more likely to be under 30, college-educated, and white; twice as likely to say they never pray; and three times as likely to say they’re “ashamed” of the country. They are motivated by the existential threat of climate change, strongly pro-immigration, and more concerned about police brutality than about crime or terrorism. Perhaps most distinctive, they are attuned to structural challenges in society and skeptical of the individualist strain of the American dream. In response to a question about whether personal responsibility or broader socioeconomic factors are more important for determining success, 95 percent of Progressive Activists said that “some people’s situations are so challenging that no amount of work will allow them to find success.” Most Americans, including 69 percent of moderates, preferred this statement: “People who work hard can find success no matter what situation they were born into.”

This group’s support for Medicare for All, free college, and student-debt relief is sometimes likened to a “give me free stuff” movement. But every movement wants free stuff, if by free stuff one means “stuff given preferential treatment in the tax code.” By this definition, Medicare is free stuff, and investment income is free stuff, and suburban home values propped up by the mortgage-interest deduction are free stuff. The free stuff in the tax code today benefits Americans with income and wealth—a population that is disproportionately old. Medicare for All might be politically infeasible, but it is, taken literally, a request that the federal government extend to the entire population the insurance benefits now exclusively reserved for the elderly. That’s not hatred or resentment; it sounds more like justice.

Ben Judah: The Millennial left is tired of waiting

Most Americans over 40 support several measures of both social justice and economic justice. But across ethnicities, many Americans have a deep aversion to anything that can be characterized as “political correctness” or “socialism.” And this might be the biggest challenge for the young progressive agenda.

For example, the Democratic presidential candidates who focused most explicitly on sexism and racial injustice have flamed out. In its premortem for Kamala Harris’s presidential run, The New York Times quoted one anonymous adviser who blamed the candidate’s struggles on the misguided idealism of her younger staffers, who took their cues from an unrepresentative sample of Twitter activists. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, too, was widely derided as a shallow attempt to create viral moments for his woke online followers. ‬Notably, these candidates failed to win much support among the very demographic groups for which they were advocating. ‬‬

Second, the progressive economic agenda might be suffused with the egalitarian ethic, but its landmark policies aren’t that popular. While Medicare for All often polls well, its public support is exquisitely sensitive to framing. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the net favorability of eliminating private insurance or requiring most Americans to pay more in taxes—both part of the Sanders plan—is negative-23 points.

The Medicare for All debate is a microcosm of a larger divide. The young left’s deep skepticism toward capitalism simply isn’t shared by previous generations. According to Gallup polling, Gen X is firmly pro-capitalist and Baby Boomers, who came of age during the Cold War, prefer capitalism over socialism by a two-to-one margin. (You can point out to your parents that Social Security and Medicare are, essentially, socialism for the old, but that’s not the same as converting them into Berniecrats.)

“This is only the … [more]
politics  us  2019  derekthompson  progressive  berniesanders  boomers  generations  geny  millennials  government  medicareforall  highered  highereducation  justice  socialjustice  economics  priorities  democrats  democracy  socialism  medicare  socialsecurity  wealth  inequality  babyboomers  generationy 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Dr. Steven W. Thrasher on Twitter: "I find it wildly confusing that 18-year-olds—who can vote, who can be sentenced to death if they commit certain crimes, who can be sent off to war to die—are legally tied to their parents in an infantilizing manner
"I find it wildly confusing that 18-year-olds—who can vote, who can be sentenced to death if they commit certain crimes, who can be sent off to war to die—are legally tied to their parents in an infantilizing manner to get health insurance or qualify for student aid. It’s—weird.

The family functions in neoliberal society as a site for the state to offset economic liabilities onto. An 18 yr old who can be conscripted as a soldier deserves Medicare. What neoliberalism grants is private insurance from parents (IF they have parents (if THEY have insurance))

An unfortunate turn in Gay Inc politics was a move from desiring healthcare for all (to free all from hetero/sexism), which was replaced by the “targeted” (@pocojump) goal of expanded health insurance thru same sex marriage. David Eng calls this a kind of trickle down economics.

Adrianne Rich wrote of “compulsory heterosexuality.” When Mayor Pete calls for access to higher ed to be determined for *legal adults* by their parents, I think this is a kind of compulsory heterosexism as well, and a kind of compulsory infantilization.

By demanding LGBTQ young adults specifically (& young adults in general) be bound to their parents’ earnings WHICH THEY DON’T CONTROL to receive public education past age 18, Mayor Pete is using the family as a locus of social control in the most cynical, conservative way.

To say young legal adults must go through their parents to access healthcare or education allows their parents to hold biopower over the lives of adults. Medicare for all or free college for all would grant much more freedom to 18 year olds. But when they must go to their folks->

as legal adults who are basically hostages for the means of life itself, their parents can wield homophobia over them. Demand their trans “adult children” not get hormones or gender affirming surgery. Deny birth control. Wield stigma.

It’s not good, and it makes no legal sense.

No wonder old Dems like the youngest candidate (Pete) & young Dems like the oldest (Bernie):

Pete is trying to reinforce the existing, conservative social order.

Bernie is offering something akin to queer liberation by way of liberated access to learning & health.”
medicareforall  healthcare  infantilization  policy  us  heteronormativity  sexuality  petebuttigieg  berniesanders  insurance  healthinsurance  marriage  neoliberalism  patriarchy  conservatism  democrats  election  2019  2020  queer  liberation  health  education  highered  highereducation  financialaid  control  parents 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ed-Tech Agitprop
"Is technology changing faster than it's ever changed before? It might feel like it is. Futurists might tell you it is. But many historians would disagree. Robert Gordon, for example, has argued that economic growth began in the late 19th century and took off in the early 20th century with the invention of "electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, chemicals and plastics, and the diffusion to every urban household of clear running water and waste removal." Rapid technological change -- faster than ever before. But he argues that the growth from new technologies slowed by the 1970s. New technologies -- even new digital technologies -- he contends, are incremental changes rather than whole-scale alterations to society we saw a century ago. Many new digital technologies, Gordon argues, are consumer technologies, and these will not -- despite all the stories we hear -- necessarily restructure our world. Perhaps we're compelled to buy a new iPhone every year, but that doesn't mean that technology is changing faster than it's ever changed before. That just means we're trapped by Apple's planned obsolescence.

As historian Jill Lepore writes, "Futurists foretell inevitable outcomes by conjuring up inevitable pasts. People who are in the business of selling predictions need to present the past as predictable -- the ground truth, the test case. Machines are more predictable than people, and in histories written by futurists the machines just keep coming; depicting their march as unstoppable certifies the futurists' predictions. But machines don't just keep coming. They are funded, invented, built, sold, bought, and used by people who could just as easily not fund, invent, build, sell, buy, and use them. Machines don't drive history; people do. History is not a smart car."

We should want a future of human dignity and thriving and justice and security and care -- for everyone. Education is a core part of that. But dignity, thriving, justice, and care are rarely the focus of how we frame "the future of learning" or "the future of work." Robots will never care for us. Unbridled techno-solution will never offer justice. Lifelong learning isn't thriving when it is a symptom of economic precarity, of instability, of a disinvestment in the public good.

When the futures we hear predicted on stages like this turn so casually towards the dystopian, towards an embrace of the machine, towards an embrace of efficiency and inequality and fear -- and certainly that's the trajectory I feel that we are on with the narratives underpinning so much of ed-tech agitprop -- then we have failed. This is a massive failure of our politics, for sure, but it is also a massive failure of imagination. Do better."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  agitprop  dystopia  technology  storytelling  propaganda  pressreleases  capitalism  neoliberalism  benjamindoxtdator  economics  education  learning  highered  highereducation  johnseelybrown  davos  worldeconomicforum  power  money  motivation  purpose  howwelearn  relationships  howweteach  schools  schooling  disruption  robots  productivity  futurism  robertgordon  change  history  jilllepore  security  justice  society  socialjustice  technosolutionism  californianideology  work  labor  future  machines  modernism 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
teachers at the margins – Snakes and Ladders
“Lisa Marchiano, a psychoanalyst, describing her encounter with a student who had a “panic attack” during an exam and didn’t want to take any more exams:
I asked this young patient of mine what in fact had happened during the first exam. She responded again, I had a panic attack. I lightly pressed her to move beyond the jargon and tell me about her actual experience as she took the exam. Eventually, she was able to tell me that, as the papers were being handed out, she become flushed and light-headed. Her heart was pounding, and her hands felt clammy. What happened then? I asked. She felt like running out of the room, but she was able to calm herself down enough to take the test. Though she successfully completed the first exam — and did okay on it — the fear that she might have another “panic attack” had prevented her from attempting the second exam.

What had happened here? One way of understanding this young person’s experience is indeed that she had had a limited-symptom panic attack. According to the diagnostic criteria for panic attacks in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a limited-symptom panic attack can be diagnosed based on a pounding heart, sweating, and shaking. Of course, as anyone knows who has ever taken an exam, performed in front of an audience, or asked someone they like out on a date, these are in fact utterly normal reactions to feeling nervous. I gently attempted to reflect this back to my young patient. “So you were nervous about taking the exam, but you didn’t run out of the room. You did it. You pushed through the fear feelings.” I wanted her to see this as a success, one that she could build on, that could help alter her stuck story that tells her she is too anxious to function adequately. Her response to my positive reframing was telling. She looked up at me from under her brows and held my gaze. “Yes,” she responded firmly. “But I had a panic attack.”

Reflecting on this experience, Marchiano raises a key issue: “I found myself wondering where she had learned that she ought not to be expected to tolerate ordinary distress or discomfort. How have we come to the point where we believe that emotional disquiet will cause harm, that we ought to be soothed and tranquil at all times?”

Some years ago I had a student — I’ll call her M — who came to me and said that she could no longer take the reading quizzes that I give at the beginning of many classes. If she had to take them, she preferred to do so in the office on campus that deals with students who have disabilities, even if that meant missing most or all of my classes. And M clearly, though in no way angrily or aggressively, expected that I would do as she preferred.

I ended up talking with the case worker assigned to M, and the case worker told me that M was anxious about not having time to finish the quizzes, and, further, that M had problems, not to be disclosed to me, that made it necessary for me to accommodate her preferences.

Several elements of this situation puzzled me. First, M was usually among the first to complete her quizzes. Second, she had the highest quiz average in the class, and it wasn’t even close. Third, her very intelligent contributions to class discussions about the quizzes added significantly to the value of our class time. And fourth: those facts, and my observations, had absolutely no bearing on the expectations my university had for me. M’s feelings and preferences, as interpreted by her case worker, were all that mattered — I was strongly discouraged from sharing with M any of my thoughts, no matter how positive.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I agreed to make any accommodation necessary. But M kept coming to class, kept taking the quizzes, and kept excelling in them. Why she didn’t follow through on her request I can’t say. Maybe her knowledge that I would do what she wanted was enough to relieve the pressure the had been feeling.

I’m glad M stayed in class, and that there was a peaceful resolution to the situation, but the whole sequence of events troubled me then and troubles me now. The first, and larger, problem is that we’re now in a moment at which any attempt to resist the pathologizing of perfectly ordinary experiences of nervousness or uncertainty is tagged as indifference (at best) or cruelty (at worst). To encourage students to believe that they can overcome their anxieties is, it appears, now a form of abuse.

And second — perhaps not as important but still significant to me — there is the marginalization of the teacher-student relationship. It was made very clear to me that the case worker — who had never been in my class, who had never observed either M or me — could dictate the response to M’s concerns. I didn’t push back, because I didn’t want to bring any further anxiety to a student who was already anxious, but I wonder what would have happened if I had insisted that my own view of the matter, which was after all backed by some experience, should be taken into account.

More seriously, it seemed to me that the case worker was constructing, or allowing M to construct, a narrative in which I was M’s antagonist and it was the case worker’s job to intervene to assist M in her struggle against her antagonist. The idea that I might be on M’s side and want to help her, and indeed should, as part of my job, help her was never considered.

The work done by the “bias prevention units” or “diversity offices” that have proliferated in many universities might seem to be a very different phenomenon, but that work has a similar effect on the relationship between teachers and students. A key premise — sometimes unstated but sometimes quite explicit — of such administrative offices is that faculty are often the enemies of diversity and the perpetrators of bias, and therefore these programs must step in to correct the injustices inherent in the system. Again the faculty member is cast as the students’ antagonist, or at least as a possible antagonist. I do not know of any circumstances in which the “learnings” or “training modules” produced by these offices — which are often mandatory for all students — have received any faculty input, though I suppose some faculty may occasionally be involved. The “learnings” seem to be designed to emphasize the untrustworthiness of teachers.

I think students in general have a pretty good grasp of these dynamics. My observations suggest that disgruntled students these days rarely take their complaints to department chairs or deans, but rather to these amorphous “offices” which exist independently of the faculty structure and are typically empowered by the university to impose decisions without consulting anyone in that faculty structure.

I also think that this way of doing our academic business exacerbates, quite dramatically, one of the worst features of academic life, which is its legalism. Knowing that they are being overseen by these distant and almost invisible “offices,” faculty end up writing more and more detailed syllabuses, working to close every possible loophole which might be exploited by students to get what they want even when, from the faculty point of view, they don’t deserve it. And the more desperately faculty look to close such loopholes, the more the students search for them. It’s no way to run a university — at least if the university cares about learning.

There were certainly flaws in the old way of doing these things, in which individual teachers almost certainly had too much power. But certain experiences of learning were possible in that system that the current, or emerging, system is rapidly making impossible. The marginalizing of the student-faculty relationship is not a good recipe for addressing those old flaws.”
alanjacobs  2019  teaching  howwelearn  howweteach  highered  highereducation  academia  administration  management  services  anxiety  relationships  lisamarchiano  psychology  trust  power 
october 2019 by robertogreco
against lectures – Snakes and Ladders
"At the very heart of the academy we find a series of genres — discursive genres, which are also genres of social interaction — the mastery of which constitutes, more or less, mastery of the academic profession itself. Some of these are universal: that is, they may be found in all academic work. Others are specific to certain disciplines or disciplinary families. Some of them are performed in relation to colleagues, others in relation to students. Here are a few that I, as a professor of humanities, have had to practice:

- the classroom lecture
- the “job talk” lecture
- the invited public lecture
- the short lecture that you give when you’re on a panel at a conference
- the conference-panel discussion
- the “Socratic” seminar discussion
- the symposium based on a paper everyone is supposed to have read
- the peer-reviewed article
- the book review
- the peer-reviewed monograph

Some of these wear, over several decades, better than others. Some I will probably never do again (the peer-reviewed article, the job talk); others I will be doing to the end of my career (the classroom discussion, the monograph). Some I enjoy, some … not so much.

But I have one definitive and unshakeable opinion: I never want to hear, or deliver, another lecture as long as I live.

For one thing, lectures are very, very hard to do well. I’ve surely heard more than a hundred public or semi-public lectures in my life, and only one of them has been excellent: when I was a grad student at UVA I heard Stephen Greenblatt deliver a lecture that later became his famous essay “Shakespeare and the Exorcists,” and it was electrifying. (I was sitting next to one of my professors, and at the end of the talk he leaned over and said to me, sotto voce, “Do you still have your wallet?”) Otherwise they have been not-crushingly-boring at best. And while I work hard to make my lectures vivid and interesting, I am always aware that there are better ways to accomplish what the lecture is supposed to accomplish.

The lecture is an unfortunate holdover from the pre-Gutenberg age. It makes no sense to have me come and talk to you on a subject in circumstances in which I could write something, send it to you, and have you read it and think about it, after which you could bring me to your institution for a conversation. That would be more intellectually productive for everyone concerned. Of course, one might reply that a lecture is not as polished as a finished, publishable essay or article. Indeed: that’s a major reason why lectures aren’t much fun to listen to. Better to embrace the tentative and unfinished character of your thoughts by having a conversation about them instead.

It is true that fewer people can participate in such a conversation than can attend a lecture. But note the difference between “participate” and “attend.” Certain kinds of intellectual exchange simply do not scale. I truly believe that if, instead of asking me to deliver a lecture at your institution, you asked me to come prepared to talk with four different groups about my published work, or even my work-in-progress, the experience would be better for all of us. (And I would be much more likely to say yes, since I wouldn’t be committing myself to all those hours of lecture-writing — a problem for me, because my conscience won’t allow me to deliver the same lecture repeatedly at different places.)

Well, one can hope. Or lose hope. But this I am sure of: When I am lying on my deathbed, I shall heave a breath and whisper to whoever is near, “Thank you, Lord. I shall never have to attend, or deliver, another lecture.”"
alanjacobs  lectures  teaching  academia  conversation  2019  howweteach  howwelearn  print  writing  whywewrite  highered  highereducation  unschooling  deschooling  change  tradition  buckingtradition 
october 2019 by robertogreco
These 3 Policy Failures Are Killing the American Dream
"In sum: The “middle-class crunch” is a choice. The American Dream isn’t dying of natural causes. We know what must be done to revive it. The problem is simply that a lot of powerful people would rather pull the plug than pay for the cure."
policy  inequality  economics  taxes  history  us  ericlevitz  2019  middleclass  wages  work  wealth  wealthinequality  income  housing  healthcare  highered  highereducation  socialwelfare  socialsafetynet 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Is College Merely Helping Those Who Need Help Least? - The New York Times
“I am — to capitulate fully to the nomenclature — a “first gen,” meaning a first-generation college graduate. For me, as for many first gens, a college degree was transformative. If you’d met me when I was 10 — pulling copper from radiators in my father’s junkyard — you would have thought my trajectory was set. I certainly did. The shape of my life stretched out in front of me like a shadow, its terminal point determined absolutely by where I was standing at that moment. There would be marriage at 17 or 18. Children soon after. If I worked, it would be as a cashier at the local grocery store.

When I was 17 I enrolled in college and everything changed. History, philosophy, geography: A decade at the world’s best universities will lift you to new ground. The life I live now is not the life I was born to. I was propelled up to it, and the motor that powered my ascent was a university education.

This is our ideal of higher education: as an engine of opportunity. And data show that, when it works, higher education is exactly that. So why is it that The Chronicle of Higher Education recently called our system an “engine of inequality”? Has a college degree lost its transformative power, its capacity for lift?

Put simply, no, it hasn’t. We live in a knowledge economy, and human capital has never been more valuable. The problem is distribution. As higher education has increased in value, that value has increasingly become captured by those at the top, so that today, whether you graduate from college is largely determined by your parents’ income. In the United States, 77 percent of children born into the top income quartile will earn a degree by age 24, but for the bottom quartile that number is a mere 9 percent. The implications are clear: The education system isn’t transforming the lives of those who need it most; it is dispensing ever more opportunity to those who need it least.

How it is that inequality has come to define higher education is the subject of Paul Tough’s new book, “The Years That Matter Most.” Tough has spent much of his career as a journalist documenting the injustices of our K-12 system. Here he turns his attention to the years after high school, to our colleges and universities, where we might hope those injustices are addressed. The news is not good. In chapter after chapter, Tough shows how higher education does not ameliorate the inequities of K-12. It magnifies them.

Tough rests his case on research, but it’s the people in his drama who will stay with you. We meet Ned Johnson, a $400-an-hour tutor in Washington, D.C., and Ariel, one of Ned’s teenage clients. We watch as Ned helps Ariel raise her score on the ACT test from a 26 (the product of work she’s done with three previous tutors) to a 32, out of 36. We then see Ned do the same with Ben, a low-income Haitian-American student brought to Ned by a wealthy benefactor.

We meet Clara, whose father takes a list of the 100 most selective universities in the country, draws a line under the top 30 and tells Clara she is only allowed to apply to schools above the line. (This becomes possible after Ned helps raise Clara’s score from a 27 to a near-perfect 35.) We meet Kim, a low-income student living in Appalachia, whose father, a Marine, abandoned her family when she was 7. Kim dreams of attending Cornell, and her test scores (sans tutor) could get her there, except her mother, who did not go to college and is dubious of its value, doesn’t want her to go.

We then witness the great sorting of America’s youth: The wealthy congregate at the most elite universities; the middle class raid retirement accounts and bury themselves in student loans in order to attend increasingly budget-strapped state schools; and the poor — if they go to college at all — are exploited by a cadre of aggressively marketed for-profit institutions.

Two types of stratification are happening here. The most obvious is the concentration of wealthy students at a few top schools. Tough rightly calls out the Ivy League and its ilk for capitalizing on positive press while offering little in the way of actual change. It remains the case that in most of the Ivy League, at least two-thirds of every class come from the top income quintile, while those from the bottom quintile account for less than 4 percent. In some cases the imbalance is extreme. Several Ivies admit more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

Tough also identifies another type of stratification that is less conspicuous but perhaps more consequential: not the inequities between the students, but rather the growing inequities between the institutions themselves. Until recently, the funding gap between our state colleges and our elite schools was fairly modest. But since 1990, that gap has exploded, so that elite colleges now have an endowment-dollars-per-student ratio of more than $1 million, compared with less than $35,000 per student at a typical college.

Tough proposes two explanations for this widening gap: politicians and donors. Since 2008, state legislatures have cut approximately $14 billion in funding from public universities, or approximately 20 percent. These schools make up the difference with tuition hikes, which forces them to compete with one another for the small slice of wealthy out-of-state students who can pay double or triple fare. This is higher education reduced to free-market principles, a world in which universities behave more like businesses than schools, pursuing customers rather than students.

Meanwhile, philanthropic giving to the most selective schools has skyrocketed. As Tough points out, wealthy universities have wealthy alumni, who, after benefiting from an elite education, are even better positioned to donate large sums of money. This is the final cog in the inequality machine, an intense cycle of wealth concentration that Tough calls “unsustainable — and yet, at the same time, unstoppable.”

Some of the imbalances Tough describes are simply breathtaking. In 2009, President Obama asked Congress for $12 billion to revitalize the country’s community-college system. He didn’t get it. But between 2013 and 2018, a lone American university — already the richest in the world — raised $9.6 billion in a single fund-raising campaign. And so the machine turns.

The apparent weakness of this book is its forgettable title; the content, however, is indelible and extraordinary, a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of higher education to the present moment. As a country we are divided economically and politically, and education sits conspicuously at the center of both divides. Whether you have a college degree turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of both your political preferences and your income.

Reading Tough’s book, you cannot fail to notice that these three factors are related — that we have allowed the inequities of our economic system to be reproduced in our education system, and that the result is poisoning our politics. We then ask ourselves why so many Americans no longer believe in college or degrees. Or facts. Or science. Why they perceive education as not for them but rather as a good distributed by the elites to elites.

On the other hand, there is not much motivation among people of means to reform education — to give less money to Princeton and more to Penn State, or to send both their taxes and their children to public colleges. But for those wondering why the American people have lost faith in higher learning, the answer is straightforward: If we want others to believe in public education, we first have to believe in it ourselves.”
highered  highereducation  inequality  elitism  funding  education  us  policy  paultough  tarawestover  ivyleague  privateschools  colleges  universities  privilegehoarding  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  corporatization  neoliberalism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College Museum on Instagram: “Our 11th annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain College conference is coming up on Friday, September 20th at the UNC Asheville Reuter Center! We…”
"This year's conference will kick off with a panel discussion with Mary Emma Harris (The Bauhaus and Black Mountain College: Envisioning an Education for a New Kind of World) and Thomas E. Frank (How Not to Start a College: Black Mountain Among the Experimental Colleges). That evening, artist Sara VanDerBeek and Chelsea Spengemann, Director of the Stan VanDerBeek Archive, will present a keynote address centered around the curation of VanDerBeek + VanDerBeek, opening that night at BMCM+AC. ⁠

For a full schedule of panel, performance and workshops visit⁠
thomasfrank  maryemmaharris  bmc  blackmountaincollege  colleges  highered  highereducation  history  events  2019 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Weirdness and Joy of Black Mountain College | The Nation
"Can the art of teaching art be exhibited? No, but people keep trying."


"Can art be taught? That question isn’t as old or as hoary as one might imagine. For many centuries, artists were taught, either through a studio apprenticeship or, later, in a formal academy. It only became possible to think of art as something different in the 19th century, when the old system fell apart and it seemed conceivable that anyone could be an artist. But very few people were. Perhaps being an artist was the result of some peculiar inner drive or necessity, some genius that burned in certain kinds of people—something they were born with rather than something that they learned. The question has by now fueled two centuries’ worth of bar banter, family quarrels, and panel discussions. What keeps the conversation going is that many of the people who say that art can’t be taught still make their living by teaching it. Teaching does have its own rewards, and so does trying to learn, whether the learning “takes” or not.

A related question is easier to answer: Can the art of teaching art be exhibited? No, but people keep trying. The ambitious show “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957,” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, is the latest such effort. (It will be on view at the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, from February 21 to May 15, and then at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus from September 17 to January 1, 2017. A handsome catalog is available from Yale University Press.) In fact, Black Mountain exhibitions have become a genre unto themselves. “Leap Before You Look,” curated by Helen Molesworth, formerly of the ICA/Boston and now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, is the fourth that I know of. The first, which I saw in 2002, was “Black Mountain College: Una Aventura Americana,” curated by Vincent Katz, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. Then came “Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College 1933–1957,” curated by Caroline Collier and Michael Harrison, at the Arnolfini in Bristol, England, and Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, in 2005 and 2006. And last summer, I paid a visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin, which mounted “Black Mountain: An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933–1957,” curated by Eugen Blume and Gabriele Knapstein.

Why the recurring preoccupation with a short-lived, unaccredited school at the back of beyond, which never had enough students to pay its way? It could be the school’s believe-it-or-not story and how, the more you learn about it, the more unlikely it seems. The tale begins in 1933, when an unorthodox, arrogant classics professor named John Andrew Rice and several of his colleagues were purged from Rollins College in Florida. A number of their fellow professors resigned in protest, and some students withdrew as well. Bent on starting a college of their own, they found a complex of buildings for rent near Asheville, North Carolina, and some start-up money—but not much. At first, the faculty worked without salaries, but at least they owned the joint: The papers of incorporation specified that “the sole membership of the corporation” would be “the whole body of the faculty.” In other words, there was no board of directors and no non-teaching administration either, so the instructors had no other masters than themselves.

There was splendor and misery at Black Mountain, which was run according to the will of its teachers and, to a great extent, its students. The faculty believed that the curriculum should reflect what the students needed or desired to learn. This principle runs contrary not only to the present conception of the student as a consumer or client who is to be supplied with certain knowledge, but also to the designs of the conservative governors of North Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states, who believe that they should have the final say over what’s being taught and who’s doing the teaching at their state colleges and universities. At Black Mountain, teachers and students committed themselves to shared undertakings, the educational equivalent of socialism: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."


"Black Mountain’s founder had in his own way anticipated the Maoist doctrine of continuous revolution. “At one time Rice said he thought the college should disperse every ten years into smaller units,” recalled M.C. Richards, the English professor turned potter who’d been instrumental in bringing Olson to the campus. “This was to avoid too much stability. It was to be faithful to the chaos out of which creativity constellates.” No one was better at cultivating chaos and spangling the atmosphere with its constellations than Olson. Who else would have thought of suggesting to a fellow poet, Robert Creeley, that he fill in as a teacher of biology? When Creeley pointed out that he’d never studied the subject, even in high school, Olson “said, ‘Terrific, you can learn something,’” Creeley recalled. “Subsequently, I realized that teaching is teaching. It has, paradoxically, nothing to do with the subject.” In other words, true learning, as described by Jacques Rancière in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, is fostered by teaching what one does not know.

As Rancière wrote, this kind of education can never be institutionalized; “it is the natural method of the human mind,” yet everything works against it. No wonder Black Mountain could never come to terms with the outside world or itself. Robert Duncan, in his extraordinary poem “The Song of the Border-Guard”—shown in “Leap Before You Look” as a broadside accompanied by a Twombly linocut—imagines “a barbarian host at the border-line of sense.” Which side of the border was Black Mountain on? Were its denizens the barbarians readying themselves to overcome the common sense of Eisenhower’s America, or were they guardians of a deeper sense of life and learning against the yahoo horde surrounding them? No matter. “The enamourd guards desert their posts / harkening to the lion-smell of a poem / that rings in their ears.” And the poem of Black Mountain still rings in ours."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  pedagogy  teaching  education  highereducation  highered  2016  barryschwabsky  leapbeforeyoulook  johnandrewrice  rancière  reproduction  ephemeral  ephemerality  institutions  institutionalization  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  art  arts  socialism  jacquesrancière 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The most influential college you’ve never heard of, why it folded, and why it matters | Scalawag
"But Black Mountain College was not, strictly speaking, an art school. And it certainly didn’t start that way. In 1933, classics professor John Andrew Rice tossed the snowball that kicked off a decades-long avalanche, foregoing more pointed Latin and Greek coursework at Rollins College to lead his students on Socratic journeys about topics from religion to “What is Art” and bad-mouthing academic hierarchy. The Rollins College president, a self-proclaimed “experimenter in education,” was nonetheless displeased. For this curricular skullduggery, and for Rice’s generally winking attitude toward authority, he had Rice fired.

Popular as Rice was, his exit caused a scandal. When the dust settled, eight professors had left Rollins, and a number of students with them. After some uncertainty, Rice and his colleagues decided to put their rebellious philosophies to test. Thanks to a local professor, property was located in western North Carolina, a grand colonnaded hall atop an Appalachian hill in the shadows of the Blue Ridge; funders were secured to support the endeavor; teachers were recruited. From a pedagogic schism, Black Mountain College was born.

The goal was from the outset to approach education in an unregimented way. There were no required courses, no extensive examinations, no formal grading. The school was not even accredited, “graduating” only sixty students throughout its lifetime. Yet its alums were accepted by graduate schools and as transfers, from Harvard to Princeton to the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theatre, despite their lack of certificates.

To ensure an open curriculum, the founders decided to avoid top-down control, instead granting ownership of the school to the whole faculty evenly, including new hires. Meanwhile, the school decided to make no decisions without student input—student officers could be present at faculty meetings and would sit on the governing Board of Fellows (constituted otherwise of a subgroup of the professoriate). Discussions of school policy were typically open affairs attended by all. Collectivism was applauded; democracy reigned.

This opened space for BMC’s idea that learning and living should interlace. As Louis Adamic, who spent three months at the school as a curious visitor, described the method in a breathless 1936 article for Harper’s: “At BMC there is no head-cramming. There education is experience that involves in action the whole person.”

To that end, Rice and his cofounders made art a core piece of the Black Mountain experience, in an effort to get each student to “put the same faith in doing that he has been taught to have in absorbing,” as an early school catalogue put it. Serendipitously (for Black Mountain, anyway), the year of the college’s founding, the Nazis closed down the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany. Josef and Anni Albers, looking to escape the rising tide of fascism, agreed to come on at BMC to teach art, despite the fact, as Josef wrote, that he did not “speak one word English.” In subsequent years, many Germans would follow.

The Albers’ arrival was a coup for the school. It immediately provided a strong artistic spine and influenced the pedagogy greatly: Josef was a champion of a humanistic approach to education, of art as a way to engage the world completely. So while art was central, everyone was not to become an artist, per se; instead, art looked more like the core of a liberal arts education today. BMC alum Will Hamlin described the result to historian Martin Duberman: “I think we had this in common with the painters and weavers and musicians, that we were trying to make some kind of order out of things, I mean really trying, not just pretending to be… I think we were—with a few exceptions—really working at creating our own universes of meaning.”

The decision to avoid any sort of administrative board cut both ways. The educational model was open as the sky. But the school was constantly scrambling for money, seemingly always on the verge of closing—although it still maintained a pay-what-you-can system (sometimes counterbalanced by accepting wealthier students for that reason alone).

The “precariousness, though deplored and decried at the time, may well have contributed to the community élan,” as Duberman writes. “The severity of the struggle for economic survival helped to knit the community together.” The upshot was a focus on collectively tending to the college: a work program was instituted early on, and students and professors alike worked a farm that provided food for sustenance and sometimes sale, constructed new school buildings, washed dishes, and maintained the grounds. This was cause for grumbling in some corners—it was work, after all—and romantic reverie in others. Rice, the school’s cheeky founder, perhaps summed up the ambivalent attitude best in his autobiography. “Untoiling poets may sing of the dignity of toil;” he wrote, “others know there is degradation in obligatory sweat.”

Nevertheless, there was definite communal buy-in among the Black Mountaineers. When psychologist John Wallen joined the faculty in 1945, he broadened the question of collective responsibility by reaching out to the largely bemused and distrustful surrounding community. (There was a bit of a cultural gap between the school and its environs. A maintenance man on BMC’s first campus described the student body to me as many contemporary locals would: “nothing to do but moonshine and sex.”)

In many ways, the experiment was successful. Students volunteered in town, worked in the Southern Negro Youth Conference, registered voters, gathered signatures for petitions. But it was also short-lived, as Wallen left BMC contentiously not two years into his appointment, taking his ideals with him.

Still, while insulated at times from its surroundings, the school tackled the social issues of its day. It offered a home to German Jews, artists and intellectuals during another era when immigration vexed the United States. In 1944, ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Alma Stone, a Black musician from Georgia, attended BMC’s summer institute in the Jim Crow South. The following summer black artists began to teach, and Black students enrolled full-time, some back from the war on the GI Bill. When the students went into town, they abided by segregation laws; but when outsiders came to Black Mountain for concerts, theater productions, and the like, everybody sat where they pleased.

Democracy proved hard. Immediately upon BMC’s founding, a more powerful group of faculty emerged at its helm: John Rice, Josef Albers, engineer Theodore Dreier, a few compatriots. Soon, some of their colleagues began to resent the group’s authority as at odds with the school’s mission; when Rice had a very public affair with a student in the late ’30s, it provided a catalyst to put him on leave for a time. He never returned.

Sans affair (although that continued to happen every so often), this process repeated itself throughout the school’s history: groups of professors were forced out or resigned, sometimes taking significant portions of the student body with them. Eventually even Albers fell victim to such a dispute after a younger crop of professors decided that he and his ilk had become too stuffy.

The infighting shaped life at the school and gives a sense of the easy-come-easy-go nature of the work. Professors were appointed initially to two-year terms, and later to one-year terms; there was no tenure. Faculty could be asked to leave for the vaguest of reasons—complaints about classroom technique became shorthand for any number of nebulous collegial gripes. Yet because they were part of steering the college, because of their great freedom in implementing their visions of education, professors came. And they stayed.

Josef and Anni Albers, despite the consistently meager pay, taught at the school for 16 years. Co-founder Theodore Dreier, too. Poet Mary Catherine Richards stayed seven years and continued to be involved with the school after she left. The poet Charles Olson stayed six years, until the school closed. (Some students stayed about as long.) The pay was bad, yes. But to be architects of education, rather than grunts on its front line, was for many worth the shortfall.

Albers’s exit in 1949 began the last, most incandescent period of BMC’s history, under the rectorship of Olson, a six-foot-seven-inch whirlwind of a man. After a (comparatively) more staid period in the late ‘40s, the school under Olson lived up to its ideals of radical experimentation. Any semblance of traditional course structure was scrapped, seminars ran until the wee hours of morning, the lines blurred fully between students and faculty. The literary arts took central importance, and the “Black Mountain School” of poets emerged, buoyed by Robert Creeley’s publication of the Black Mountain Review, a journal whose contributors also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

The Olson years were BMC magnified: yet more cash-starved, yet more experimental, yet more soul-searching. Yet more famous alumni—painter Dorothea Rockburne emerged from this period as well—yet more piercing thought. But the lack of structure had its costs; dwindling enrollment meant emptier coffers, and finally, in 1956-7, the school’s closure. Professors and students spun off to more traditional universities, to new experiments in communal living, to Abstract Expressionist New York and the San Francisco of the Beats.

Black Mountain College’s troubles stemmed from staunch opposition to centralized hierarchical governance. The UNC system’s current issues lend credence to those fears. Early last year, after the NC Board of Governors reviewed 240 academic institutes and centers across the UNC system, they decided to close down three—the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s NC Center for Biodiversity; and … [more]
northcarolina  2016  sammyfeldblum  hierarchy  education  highered  highereducation  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  johnandrewrice  charlesolson  democracy  art  arts  curriculum  openness  experience  experientialeducation  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  governance  politics  precarity  rollinscollege  authority  opencurriculum  living  lcproject  openstudioproject  louisadamic  martinduberman  precariousness  community  collectivism  responsibility  theodoredreier  marycatherinerichards  robertcreeley  history  horizontality 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Prospect of an Ideal Liberal Arts College Curriculum by Shane J. Ralston – BMCS
"Reconstructing the [John] Dewey - [Robert Maynard] Hutchins Debate"


"What happened at Black Mountain College was for the most part what Rorty conjectured would happen if students came to college prepared and faculty could fully exercise their academic freedom. “Faculty [at Black Mountain] were to select their own methods of instruction,” Katherine Reynolds (1988:124) explains, “which might include ‘recitations, lectures, tutorials, and seminars.’” So, pluralism in curriculum design is, and should be, an obstinate feature of any flourishing academic community. One of the first steps in achieving more collaboration between great books proponents and their critics in such a pluralist community, then, is for both sides to admit that there is no fixed ideal that should dictate the content of the ideal liberal arts curriculum. Indeed, we could go one step further and claim that there is no ideal liberal arts curriculum, if what we mean by ‘ideal’ is an ultimate destination, telos or final end. Second, the distinction between subject matter and method should not be treated functionally, not dualistically. To treat it dualistically, and to choose content over method, as Hutchins did, risks alienating those faculty members, such as Rice, who do not rigidly adhere to course syllabi, but make the classroom a space for free-ranging and open-ended discussion and dialogue. Dewey (1966:133) resisted what he called in his 1899 Lectures in the Philosophy of Education a “more or less hard and fast separation” between subject matter and method, seeing them instead as inextricably connected in any intelligently designed curriculum. In this way, Dewey’s twin emphasis on educational subject matter and method represents a bridge between those, such as Hutchins and Adler, who saw content as the preeminent concern of curriculum development, and those, such as Rice, who focused largely on method. Third, and lastly, we should heed Dewey, Rice and Rorty’s plea for tolerant pluralism in the design of college curricula, allowing faculty the freedom to develop teaching methods and content as they see fit. Having had two colleagues at different institutions who were great books proponents (indeed, both were former students of St. John’s College), I know from personal experience that such collaboration is possible, though it demands humility, diplomacy and hard work if both parties hope to craft and realize a shared vision."
blackmountaincollege  bmc  shaneralston  liberalarts  curriculum  highered  highereducation  education  johndewey  johnandrewrice  rollinscollege  jimgarrison  philosophy  pedagogy  democracy  katherinereynolds  greatbooks  robertmaynardhutchins 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Radical Experimental College in the Blue Ridge Mountains — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
“North Carolina is widely respected for institutions such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, both research-intensive and high-prestige schools. But it’s less known for a radically experimental college that was tucked away in the Appalachian mountains more than half a century ago.

Just east of Asheville, Black Mountain College (BMC) was founded in 1933 and survived for 24 years until closing due to funding issues and a lack of students. But before it did, it had a strong core of teachers to attract students, attracting artists like Josef and Anni Albers from Germany after the Nazis rose to power and, in its later years, architect Buckminster Fuller and poet Charles Olson, among others. A liberal arts school, president John A. Rice emphasized the importance of the arts in every student’s education.

The education it offered was extremely atypical. Black Mountain didn’t have a standard grading system or set of classes; professors and students determined the curriculum together. It was unaccredited. It didn’t have a board of directors. During its existence, BMC only graduated about 60 students of the 1,200 who attended. Yet, despite this lack of standardization (or because of it), its students enrolled in graduate school at elite institutions and looked back fondly upon their time at Black Mountain.

“I think we’re wild about it because it had so many soap opera aspects to it,” said Joseph Bathanti, an expert on Black Mountain College and the McFarlane family distinguished professor in interdisciplinary education at Appalachian State University. “It’s become its kind of myth.”

That myth serves as something unimaginable in today’s higher education environment. Higher ed has many roadblocks that prevent any sort of Black Mountain 2.0: Many students think of college as the first credential necessary for a good job; most colleges are too bureaucratized and regulated to allow such campus experimentation; and campus officials are too resistant to change for a decentralized education approach to take hold. Though various college programs and academics have been influenced by Black Mountain College, it’s questionable whether any college working within traditional higher ed today could recreate something like BMC.

While chaotic and sometimes questionable in its approach, the disappearance of experimental colleges like Black Mountain has left American higher education more uniform and rigid. Such oddball schools would be regulated out of existence today; the curriculum would be seen as too individualized or low-quality because it doesn’t meet the requirements of an accreditor. “We have basic education plans, we have five-year strategies, we have long-term planning, we have tenure, we have accreditation, we have so many checks and balances, we have all these things that are antithetical to Black Mountain College,” Bathanti said. A college today can’t operate without a master plan directing it.

Such a school would also have no chance of getting approved for federal aid. Accessing federal aid wasn’t a problem in the 1940s, though. During its existence, veteran students could pay for BMC with their GI Bill benefits. Rules about federal student aid were much less strict then.

Black Mountain had a niche; its chaotic style attracted a certain type of student. Bathanti described them as “the people who had had disastrous experiences with traditional education.” Charles Perrow, a sociologist at Yale University who attended BMC in the late 1940s, wrote of the student body that:

Almost everyone there at this period seemed a poster-child of some sort, representing a fragment of our culture—the closet gay, the civil rights activist, the communist, the avant- garde painter, the urgent truth-seeker, the parent-escaper. My poster was being about the only student from the West Coast (most were from the Northeast, particularly New York City); about being the only one without parents and siblings who had attended college (most students, but certainly not all, were from a well-educated upper middle class, or intellectual elite class).

Perhaps due to attracting nontraditional and well-off students, the college’s expectations for them were different. Black Mountain didn’t sell itself as the key to a good job or its professors as all-knowing sages who would shape and monitor students. “It was presupposed that those students had a work ethic, that they were there, that they wanted to work on their stuff and didn’t need a warden,” Bathanti said. “Students these days, I don’t know the proper adjective, but they’re shepherded so much.”

The independence and drive that BMC students had is rarely found today, partially because colleges do not encourage such self-driven learning. Students arrive on campus and the college tells them what classes to take, or what classes they can choose from to fulfill a major’s requirements. The students today who can avoid being shepherded have to jump through hoops to do so, or belong to an honors college or honors program that offers more flexibility. Academic independence is a privilege for a few, not an expectation for all.

The focus on the arts and expectation for self-disciplined students led to a certain amount of cultural influence: the American poet Burt Kimmelman wrote that “one direct outgrowth of the College was the jolt of energy and innovation that dramatically affected arts communities in a number of cities, San Francisco and New York especially.”

If Black Mountain didn’t give students a diploma, it made up for this oversight by giving them a community and a network that was important for their success. Those connections might explain why students were so loyal to the institution in a way that’s hard for most colleges to develop. Students will sacrifice for and invest in a community—but they won’t sacrifice for a bureaucracy or a job training program.

“Students these days, I don’t know the proper adjective, but they’re shepherded so much.”

The advantages Black Mountain College had doesn’t mean it didn’t have flaws, of course. With few grades and graduates, the college resisted measurement and a diploma was economically worthless. Without a laborious on-campus evaluation from accreditors, discerning whether the school wasn’t defrauding taxpayers for financial aid would be impossible by today’s standards. A decentralized order can be both a benefit and a cost, and BMC doesn’t nicely fit into today’s higher ed regulatory environment. Its utopian ideals, too, left something to be desired. As the journalist Daniel Scheffler wrote in a 2015 City A.M. article about an art show focused on BMC:
BMC embraced the utopian ideals of the progressive education movement, stating that the arts should be the centrepiece of the curriculum, whether it be weaving and knitting, painting and sculpting, or music and photography. The lofty—if rather fuzzy—ideal: to “better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society.”

If the campus climate on self-styled progressive institutions like Evergreen State College is any indication, an experimental progressive college today may become a threat to free expression and academic inquiry. Instead of an antidote to a corporatized and uniform college education, a similar approach might result in the suppression of individualized thought and art. A 1952 college bulletin that Scheffler noted, for instance, stated, “The way of handling facts—and himself amid the facts—is more important than the facts themselves.” A loyalty to a political conception of “progress” can undermine the value of an experimental approach today. Black Mountain College may have been lucky to exist in the 1950s that allowed it to avoid present concerns and preserve its mythical status.

Reflecting on Black Mountain, Jonathan Palmer of Mendocino College and Maria Trombetta of San Francisco State University asked, “Does the educational structure of the college system impede our learning?” College access has expanded greatly since Black Mountain College closed its doors. But so has the influence of state and federal governments. The direct and indirect government funds have also brought standards, regulations, and a bevy of strings attached to the money. Many students can now get a rigorous college education at an affordable price, and employers don’t question the quality of their diplomas. But Black Mountain College serves as a reminder that American higher ed has also lost a certain freewheeling, experimental approach that served students who didn’t find a place in the traditional system.”
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2019  anthonyhennen  progressive  highered  highereducation  howwelearn  learning  education  democracy  danielscheffler  burtkimmelman  experimentation  josephbathanti 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [ ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [ ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Brief Idyll of Late-Nineties Wong Kar-Wai
"In the summer of 1997 I was living in London, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d left college and had been in the city for a year, trying, like so many other twentysomethings, to write a novel. I’d given myself a year, but as the chapters took shape so did a curious tension about the way my life was playing out. Part of me was exhilarated and determined: I was writing about a country and people—my people—that did not exist in the pages of formal literature; I was exploring sexual and emotional boundaries, forming relationships with people who seemed mostly wrong for me, but whose unsuitability seemed so right; I was starting, I thought, to untangle the various strands of my cultural identity: Chinese, Malaysian, and above all, what it meant to be foreign, an outsider.

But the increasing clarity of all this was troubled by a growing unsettledness: I had imagined that the act of writing my country and people into existence would make me feel closer to them, but instead I felt more distant. The physical separation between me and my family in Malaysia, which had, up to then, been a source of liberation, now created a deep anxiety. All of a sudden I saw the huge gulf between the person I had been and the one I now was. In the space of just five or six years, university education had given me a different view of life, a different appreciation of its choices. My tastes had evolved, the way I used language had changed—not just in terms of syntax and grammar but the very fact that standard English was now my daily language, rather than the rich mixture of Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian slang that I had used exclusively until the age of eighteen. I was writing about the place I was from, about the people I loved (and hated), but felt a million miles from them.

All around me, the world seemed to be repositioning itself in ways that seemed to mirror this exciting/confusing tension within me. Britain was in the grip of Cool Britannia fever, and London—multicultural, newly confident after the Labour Party’s victory in the elections—seemed to be the most exciting place on the planet, a city where minority groups of all kinds suddenly found their voice and artistic expression flourished alongside capitalism. On the other side of the world, where my family and friends lived, however, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis had just erupted, bringing the previously buoyant economies of Southeast Asia to their knees. On the phone with my parents, I heard news of one friend after another who’d lost their job or business. A new anxiety lurked in the voices of all those I spoke to in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region: an unspoken fear of civil unrest, of anti-Chinese violence that inhabited the passages of our histories in times of crisis. These fears were not unfounded: less than a year later, in Jakarta, where my father worked at the time, widespread anti-Chinese riots led to the murders of over a thousand people and hundreds of incidents of rape and burning of Chinese-owned property and businesses. Stay where you are, don’t come back, various friends cautioned.

On TV, I watched the handover of Hong Kong to China after one hundred years of British colonial rule, a transition that felt at once thrilling and scary: the passing of a country from one regime to another, with no one able to predict how the future would pan out. My sister, who had recently moved to Hong Kong to find work, decided that it would change nothing for her, and that she would stay.

I sank deeper into the world of my novel. I sought refuge in a place where I was in control—but even there, things weren’t working out. My characters were all divorced from their surroundings, trying to figure out how to live in a world on the cusp of change. They fell in love with all the wrong people. They didn’t belong to the country they lived in. I wanted the novel to be an antidote to the confusion around me but it wanted to be part of that mess. I was exhausted by it and by the end of that year, abandoned the manuscript.

It was exactly at that time that Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together found its way into the art house movie theaters of Europe. That summer he had won the Best Director prize at Cannes for the film—the first non-Japanese Asian to do so—and I’d seen the movie posters in magazines: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung sitting dreamily in the back of a car, their faces bathed in a hypnotic yellow light. I’d grown up with these actors, iconic figures in Asian pop culture. I’d seen all their movies, and like so many of my contemporaries, knew the words to all the Leslie Cheung songs, which still take up several gigabytes of memory on my iPhone. I’d seen and swooned over Wong Kar-Wai’s previous films, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, as well as a curious early work called Days of Being Wild, set partly in the Philippines and also starring Leslie Cheung. I thought I knew what to expect from Happy Together. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

It’s impossible to describe the intense rush of blood to the head that I felt on seeing these two leading actors—young, handsome, but somehow old beyond their years—in the opening scene. They are in a small bed in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. They are far from home, wondering what to do with their lives, how to make their relationship work again. Within seconds they are making love—a boyish tussle with playful ass-slapping that morphs quickly into the kind of rough, quick sex that usually happens between strangers, not long-term partners.

It was the end of the twentieth century; I had watched countless European movies where explicit sex was so much a part of the moviemaking vocabulary that it had long since lost the ability to shock me. But the people in this film were not random French or German actors, they were familiar figures of my childhood, spitting into their hands to lubricate their fucking.

The two men are partners in a turbulent relationship with extreme highs and lows. They travel to Argentina—as far away from home as possible—to try and salvage what they can of their love. Their dream is to travel to see the Iguaçu Falls, a journey which takes on totemic qualities as the movie progresses and their relationship once again falters. They break up. Tony Leung takes a lousy job as a doorman at a tango bar; Leslie Cheung—promiscuous, volatile—becomes a sort of rent boy, though the precise nature of his relationships with other men is never clearly defined. (Over the years I’ve developed a resistance to remembering the characters’ names, wanting, I guess, to imagine that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung were actually in a relationship.) Leslie drifts in and out of Tony Leung’s life, sometimes bringing his tricks to the bar where Tony works. From time to time they appear ready to get back together again, but they always miss their chance to connect—often in a literal sense, for example when one goes looking for the other, but goes into one door just as the other emerges from an adjacent one.

Their relationship is a series of missed connections, but it is more tragic than two people simply being in the wrong frame of mind at the wrong time. It is impossible for the men to achieve intimacy because they are unable to carve out their place in the world—neither in Buenos Aires nor in Hong Kong, which is referred to often but never in comforting or nostalgic terms. Their new city is not welcoming, and neither is their home country. The same set of problems they escaped from home to avoid follow them to this strange foreign place. The Buenos Aires they inhabit is at once real and unreal, sometimes gritty, other times so dreamy it seems like an imagined city. The mesmerizing visuals that Christopher Doyle created for that film (and would carry into Wong Kar-Wai’s future works) make us feel as if the characters are floating through the city, incapable of affixing themselves to it.

Late in the film, a major new character is introduced—an innocent, uncomplicated young man from Taiwan played by Chang Chen, who works in the Chinese restaurant where Tony Leung has found employment. They form a close friendship, one that seems nourishing and stable. But Tony Leung is still preoccupied by Leslie Cheung, even though they are no longer together. Does Chang Chen feel more for Tony Leung than mere friendship? Almost certainly, he does. He goes to Ushuaia, the farthest point of the Americas, but Tony Leung chooses to remain in Buenos Aires. Those missed connections again: that impossibility, for Tony Leung at least, to figure out how he truly feels because he is too far from home, cut off from his points of reference. That intense separation should have brought him objectivity; he should have gained clarity of thought and emotion. Instead his feelings remain trapped in a place he wants to leave behind, but is unable to forget.

In the closing scenes, Tony Leung finally manages to leave Buenos Aires and travels not to Hong Kong but Taipei. He goes to the night market where Chang Chen’s family runs a food store. Chang Chen isn’t there, he is still traveling the world. “I finally understood how he could be happy running around so free,” Tony Leung says in his low, sad, matter-of-fact voice-over. “It’s because he has a place he can always return to.”

When I think of that period in 1997, when I couldn’t walk down the street or fall asleep without seeing Tony and Leslie dancing the tango in a squalid kitchen, or hearing Caetano Veloso’s featherlight voice hovering over ravishing images of the Iguaçu Falls—I can’t help but think that we were in a short era of innocence before the complicated decades that lay ahead. The Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in that movie no longer exists. The film’s original title is 春光乍洩, which means the first emergence of spring sunshine—or, more idiomatically, a glimpse of something intimate. But perhaps it refers also to that brief moment of openness and… [more]
wongkar-wai  tashaw  film  memories  memory  place  belonging  home  1990s  1997  2019  youth  identity  storytelling  unsettledness  separation  malaysia  education  highered  highereducation  langauge  english  malay  cantonese  mandarin  chinese  malaysian  change  innocence  london  capitalism  jakarta  southeastasia  hongkong  china  tonyleung  lesliecheung  chunkingexpress  happytogether  fallenangels  daysofbeingwild  buenosaires  relationships  intimacy  families  connection  nostalgia  comfort  cities  taiwan  changchen  taipei  vulnerability  openness  acceptance  victimization  divisiveness 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Meritocracy Is Killing High-School Sports - The Atlantic
"Obsessive competition in high-school athletics is inseparable from the gargantuan role that sports plays in college admissions.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education,” says Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. (About 30 percent of Williams students are recruited athletes.) In the 1990s, Division I and Division II colleges annually distributed less than $300 million in student-athlete scholarships. Today that figure is more than $3 billion.

You might think most of that scholarship money is going to help kids from poor families who couldn’t otherwise afford college. That’s not the case. In 2010, just 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first-generation college students, meaning they likely came from low-income families. Five years later, that figure has fallen by nine percentage points. Today, fewer than one in seven students receiving athletic scholarships across all Division I sports come from families in which neither parent went to college. Farrey calls this the slow-motion “gentrification” of college sports.

This process starts in youth and high-school sports. Both historically served as a pipeline to flagship universities for low-income kids. But when they’re shut out from pricey travel leagues and the expensive coaching that early specialists receive, lower-income kids are denied not only the physical benefits of playing sports, but also the jackpot that is college recruitment and Division I and II scholarships.

Institutions that were meant to be opportunity-equalizers for the rich, poor, and everybody in between—community youth sports leagues, public high schools, the American college system—are being stealthily hijacked to serve the primary goal of so many high-income parents, which is to replicate their advantages in their children’s generation."
meritocracy  athletics  colleges  admissions  sports  scholarships  inequality  highered  highereducation  universities  games  failure  education  competition  economics  anxiety  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
America Without Family, God, or Patriotism - The Atlantic
“The nuclear family, God, and national pride are a holy trinity of the American identity. What would happen if a generation gave up on all three?”

“One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the erosion of traditional Western faith. People under 30 in the U.S. account for more than one-third of this nation’s worshippers in only three major religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This reflects both the increase in non-European immigration since the 1970s and the decline of larger Christian denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. It also reflects the sheer increase in atheism: Millennials are nearly three times more likely than Boomers to say they don’t believe in God—6 percent versus 16 percent. If you think that Judeo-Christian values are an irreplaceable keystone in the moral arc of Western society, these facts will disturb you; if you don’t, they won’t.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics. Youthful disinterest in patriotism, babies, and God might be a mere proxy for young people’s distaste for traditional conservatism. For decades, the Republican Party sat high on the three-legged stool of Reaganism, which called for “traditional” family values (combining religiosity with the primacy of the nuclear family), military might (with all its conspicuous patriotism), and limited government.

Millennials and Gen Zers have turned hard against all these values; arguably, their intermittently monogamous, free-spending Republican president has, too. Young voters are far to the left of not only today’s older Americans, but also past generations of younger Americans. Based on their votes since 2012, they have the lowest support for the GOP of any group in at least half a century. So it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans. They seem most comfortable with unaffiliation, even anti-affiliation. They are less likely than preceding generations to identify as “environmentalists,” less likely to be loyal to specific brands, and less likely to trust authorities, or companies, or institutions. Less than one-third of them say they have “a lot of confidence” in unions, or Silicon Valley, or the federal government, or the news, or the justice system. And don’t even get them started on the banks.

This blanket distrust of institutions of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational, considering the economic fortunes of these groups were pinched in the Great Recession and further squeezed in the Not-So-Great Recovery. Pundits may dismiss their anxiety and rage as the by-products of college-campus coddling, but it flows from a realistic appraisal of their economic impotency. Young people today commit crimes at historically low rates and have attended college at historically high rates. They have done everything right, sprinting at full speed while staying between the white lines, and their reward for historic conscientiousness is this: less ownership, more debt, and an age of existential catastrophe. The typical Millennial awakens many mornings to discover that some new pillar of the world order, or the literal world, has crumbled overnight. And while she is afforded little power to do anything about it, society has outfitted her with a digital megaphone to amplify her mordant frustrations. Why in the name of family, God, or country would such a person lust for ancient affiliations? As the kids say, #BurnItAllDown.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young, and it isn’t confined to the overeducated yet underemployed, either.”

“he older working-class men in the paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making. They want to be fathers without nuclear families. They want spirituality without organized religion. They want psychic empowerment from work in an economy that has reduced their economic power. They want freedom from pain and misery at a time when the pharmaceutical solutions to those maladies are addictive and deadly. They want the same pride and esteem and belonging that people have always wanted.

The ends of Millennials and Gen Z are similarly traditional. The WSJ/NBC poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others.” This is not the picture of a generation that has fallen into hopelessness, but rather a group that is focused on building solidarity with other victims of economic and social injustice. Younger generations have been the force behind equality movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #AbolishICE, and Medicare for All, not only because they’re liberal, and not only because they have the technological savvy to organize online, but also because their experience in this economy makes them exquisitely sensitive to institutional abuses of power, and doubly eager to correct it. What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

The authors of the paper on working-class men note that, even as their subjects have suffered a shock, and even as they’re nostalgic for the lives of their fathers and grandfathers—the stable wages, the dependable pensions—there is a thin silver lining in the freedom to move beyond failed traditions. Those old manufacturing jobs were routine drudgery, those old churches failed their congregants, and traditional marriages subjugated the female half of the arrangement. “These men are showing signs of moving beyond such strictures,” the authors write. “Many will likely falter. Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”

And there is the brutal truth: Many will likely falter. They already are. Rising anxiety, suicide, and deaths of despair speak to a profound national disorder. But eventually, this stage of history may be recalled as a purgatory, a holding station between two eras: one of ostensibly strong, and quietly vulnerable, traditions that ultimately failed us, and something else, between the unmaking and the remaking.”
derekthompson  us  culture  society  economics  generations  change  religion  patriotism  families  2019  suicide  middleage  purpose  meaning  community  anxiety  malaise  collapse  vulnerability  traditions  marriage  parenting  millennials  geny  genx  generationy  generationx  generationz  gender  work  labor  unemployment  hope  hopelessness  activism  skepticism  power  elitism  democrats  republicans  politics  education  highered  highereducation  ronaldreagan  reaganism  belief  diversity  voting  unions  siliconvalley  socialjustice  justice  impotency  underemployment  spirituality  capitalism  neoliberalism  genz 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Syllabus Search Engine | SyllabusFinder
"Our syllabus search engine helps you discover full details on courses that interest you. We believe that students should be allowed to know what material is taught in courses before registering at their schools."
database  syllabus  syllabi  highereducation  highered  academia  education  teaching  howweteach  instruction  search 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Open Syllabus Project
“Mapping the college curriculum across 6,059,459 syllabi.”

“What is it?

The Open Syllabus Project (OSP) collects and analyzes millions of syllabi to support educational research and novel teaching and learning applications. The OSP helps instructors develop classes, libraries manage collections, and presses develop books. It supports students and lifelong learners in their exploration of topics and fields. It creates incentives for faculty to improve teaching materials and to use open licenses. It supports work on aligning higher education with job market needs and on making student mobility easier. It also challenges faculty and universities to work together to steward this important data resource.

The OSP currently has a corpus of seven million English-language syllabi from over 80 countries. It uses machine learning and other techniques to extract citations, dates, fields, and other metadata from these documents. The resulting data is made freely available via the Syllabus Explorer and in bulk for academic research.

The OSP is based The American Assembly—an independent non-profit organization affiliated with Columbia University.

Tell me more. What is a syllabus?

For our purposes, a syllabus is any detailed account of a class or class section. Not every country represents classes in the same way. In the UK and Australia, we also collect reading lists. In India, a syllabus is a bundle of classes associated with a degree. We collect those too.

All of the syllabi in the current collection are English language documents – including from universities where English is not the primary teaching language. Eventually we will create workflows for the large non-English portions of the collection that we cannot currently analyze.

We have no means at present of mapping syllabi back to class size or enrollment. A MOOC and a seminar are treated identically. Nor do we know how representative the collection is of the larger universe of syllabi (although the collection is now large enough to permit the construction of representative subsets using various criteria). Our rough guess is 5% of the Anglophone curricular universe over the last 10 years.

Because the Syllabus Explorer focuses on assigned texts, it privileges syllabi that provide detail about class readings. These represent a bit over 50% of the collection.

The other 50% come either from classes that assign no texts (such as many studio, lab, and internship classes) or from curricular management systems that do not or only inconsistently list assigned readings. These contribute nothing to the citation rankings but are useful for other kinds of analysis, including work on skills and trends.

How does the OSP get its syllabi?

Primarily by crawling and scraping publicly-accessible university websites.

Faculty contributions make up a small but significant portion of the collection. They also form the basis of an emerging ‘full permission’ collection that we will display and make available for download in a later version of the Explorer. If you would like to contribute syllabi to either the public or non-public collections, please read more here.

We also have institutional contributors that we hope will form the basis of a larger Syllabus Commons.

The first step in the OSP data pipeline is to separate syllabi from other documents collected in the OSP’s internet crawls. The second step is to deduplicate these documents. As of May 2019, around 7 million documents passed these tests. The Explorer currently displays the roughly 6 million syllabi collected through 2017.

What are ranks, counts, and scores?

Citation counts–how often titles are assigned across the collection–appear throughout the Syllabus Explorer.

If a title appears on a syllabus, it ‘counts.’ If it appears 10 times on a syllabus, it counts only once. If it appears in ‘suggested reading’ or some other secondary list, it still counts. Our methods can’t distinguish primary from secondary reading (yet).

A title’s ‘rank’ is calculated with respect to all 1.7 million unique titles identified in the collection. The most frequently taught text–The Elements of Style–is ranked #1.

The ‘scores’ listed next to titles convert the frequency with which a title is assigned relative to other titles in the collection to a 0-100 scale. Our intention is to provide a number that is easier to interpret than the raw rankings and counts.

We think that providing these numbers gives faculty a way to gain recognition for scholarship with classroom applications. Syllabus counts privilege types of work that are underrepresented in metrics derived from journal citation, including more synthetic, accessible, and public-facing work that often represents a large part of faculty labor. We think that counting classroom use also creates a positive feedback loop for teaching-directed and public-facing scholarship, potentially leading to better teaching materials.

How are counts calculated?

The Syllabus Explorer has a master catalog of titles that it can identify within the syllabus collection. In OSP Version 2, this catalog is primarily a combination of The Library of Congress and Crossref—the latter a scholarly publishing catalog with records for around 80 million articles. We also incorporate the Open Textbook Library, which allows for tracking the adoption of openly-licensed titles.

The Syllabus Explorer identifies citations by looking for title/author name combinations in the raw text of the syllabi. The resulting matches are then run through a neural network trained to distinguish citations from other occurrences of the same words. This process is accurate around 93% of the time.

Some of the remaining 7% are cleaned through rule-based and hand-composed blacklists. The rest show up in the Explorer.

Why doesn’t the Syllabus Explorer show results for X?

There are many possible reasons but here are the most likely:

X is not assigned on the syllabi currently in the collection.
X is not in the master bibliographical catalogs that we use to identify titles (The Library of Congress and Crossref).
X was improperly merged with another title in building the master catalog. With nearly 100 million total records, some title/author combinations appear hundreds of times. The process of collapsing large numbers of variants and potential duplicates into single records is imperfect.
The original catalog data for X is ambiguous or incorrect. This is common. Records sometimes fail to list all of the authors for a title, list editors or translators in the author field, or have other erroneous information.
We’ve worked to minimize these problems but if you spend time with the Explorer, you will see them.

What about date, location, and field information?

The dates of classes are obtained by analyzing the date strings that appear in the syllabus text or the source URL for the document. This process is around 90% accurate, which means that erroneous dates will appear with some frequency. Some schools, too, use date formats that we have difficulty parsing accurately.

Fields are challenging because there is a great deal of variation in how different educational systems and intellectual traditions divide human knowledge. Also, these boundaries are constantly changing. We trained classifiers to identify—initially—117 fields found in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP 2015). For this round of OSP work, 62 were accurate enough to use (all can be mapped back to CIP codes). The attribution of texts to unusual fields in the Explorer (for example, The Prince to Public Safety) is most often a problem with the field classifiers and is common, especially, with syllabi obtained from non-Anglophone universities.

Institutional attribution is based on a mixed analysis of URLs and e-mail strings found in the documents, which are then mapped to Digital Science’s GRID database of research and teaching institutions. These methods resolve institutional location for around 94% of the syllabi in the collection.

What about people and publishers?

Unlike titles, schools, fields, and countries, authors and publishers do not have unique records in the database. An author search simply returns people who share a particular name. These results can be nearly unique for people with rare names, but are less reliable for common names. Additionally, our source catalogs often contain multiple versions of the same person’s name, and often duplicates based on the different citation conventions around initials. Our efforts to reconcile these variations are imperfect. Stable author identities remain one of the major challenges of library science. We can’t solve that problem, but we will try to adopt emerging solutions, such as ORCID (go on, get an ORCID ID).

Publishers data is structurally similar to authors but has some unique features. The quality of publisher data in the source catalogs is generally terrible, with no consistent representation of publisher names, ownership structures, or roles in publication. However, the finite number of publishers makes the data easier to clean. We have aggressively cleaned much of it, making relatively complete publisher records possible in many cases (at the expense of some of the complexity embedded in the records).

We also list academic journals in the publisher section.

In practice, a title can be composed of dozens of underlying records, with different publishers, publication years, and even authors. Where we have multiple records for a single title, we show (1) the most frequent (i.e., modal) title and subtitle; (2) the modal author or authors; (3) the dominant publisher (i.e, representing 70% or more of the records); and (4) the earliest publication date from among all the records. The result is a useful indicative record, rather than a ‘true’ representation of the title and edition assigned.

Are you exposing individual syllabi or teaching choices to the world… [more]
opensyllabus  education  data  syllabi  syllabus  teaching  highered  highereducation  database  search 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Matthew Paskins on Twitter: "When I tell colleagues I don’t fly, quite a lot of them, especially senior ones, respond—“oh, I should fly less.” I respect this response, but /1" / Twitter
[via: ]

“When I tell colleagues I don’t fly, quite a lot of them, especially senior ones, respond—“oh, I should fly less.” I respect this response, but /1

I suspect it’s very unlikely that you will start to fly less if your professional persona and way of being depends on it. People just don’t actually give it up, you know? /2

Some do, some reduce, some have great aspirations; some use the security of professorial status or tenure to reduce their transport load. But in general flying is too central to a way of being and a kind of thriving to give up. /3

(I think. I’d love to be wrong). /4

The reason I don’t fly isn’t straightforwardly instrumental—it isn’t that I think I’m grounding enough planes to make a big difference. It’s that I can’t bear a model of scholarship which is as dependent on the sociotechnical system of aviation and border control as ours is. /5

And I would like to have contributed in whatever small way I can to the anticipatory labour of making a less unjust academy. That is obviously complicated and obviously fraught with inequities. /6

And senior people are going to continue to behave with the combination of grace and ruthlessness which got them where they are. That means, most of the time, accepting the immense subsidy for elite networking which universities pay out. /7

What those people can meaningfully do—what you can do if you’re one of those people—is support colleagues whose mobility is limited: whether that’s through refusal to fly, the operation of tyrannous Visa systems, or because they have caring responsibilities. /8

I don’t mean me—or just the performative act of attempting to refuse to reproduce institutional injustice: a lot of the people who feel they can afford to do that are already fortunate, or very stubborn can or both /9

But limited access to transport is an injustice that reaches far beyond that group. /10

I would love for the conversation to go: “I don’t fly.” “Oh that’s interesting, I’ve just written a letter this week to a colleague who can’t travel about how we could work together.” Or “Cool, I’ve been making sure people are reading stuff by [so-and-so]”. /11

Etc. These are tiny wishes but they are achievable in a way that individual flight-reduction may not be. THE END. /12"
flight  flying  academia  highered  highereducation  opportunity  matthewpaskins  aviation  status  security  inequality  inequity  elitism  networking  conferences  borders  visas  travel  injustice  socialjustice  climatechange  sustainability  flightshame  flyingshame  flygskam  carbonemissions  emissions  airlines  climate  airplanes  carbonfootprint 
august 2019 by robertogreco
CENHS @ Rice! » 133 – María Puig de la Bellacasa
“Dominic and Cymene indulge a little post-Pruitt glee on this week’s podcast and speculate about the possibility of six foot tall low carbon lava lamps in the future. Then (16:46) we are thrilled to be joined by star STS scholar and emergent anthropologist María Puig de la Bellacasa to talk about her celebrated new book, Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start with the importance of care in feminist philosophy and how this work, alongside her own activist background, inspired this project. She asks us to consider how we can make knowledge that takes seriously a politics of care without giving ourselves over to the neoliberal commodification of care. And she asks how a commitment to speculative ethics can lead us to imagine and enact worlds different than the one we inhabit now. Later on, María tells us about what led her to quit philosophy and why appropriation might not actually be such a bad thing. Then we turn to her work with permaculturalists and soil scientists, what it was like to study with Starhawk, changing paradigms of soil ontology and ecology, what are alterbiopolitics, speculative ethics in a time of political crisis, and so much more.”

[See also:

“Matters of Care by María Puig de la Bellacasa, reviewed by Farhan Samanani”

“Reframing Care – Reading María Puig de la Bellacasa ‘Matters of Care Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds’” ]
maríapuigdelabellacasa  care  maintenance  2018  morethanhuman  humanism  posthumanism  multispecies  anthropology  ecology  alterbiopolitics  permaculture  caring  ethics  politics  soil  philosophy  brunolatour  work  labor  activism  neoliberalism  feminism  donnaharaway  academia  knowledge  knowledgeproduction  thoughtfulness  environment  climatechange  individualism  concern  speculation  speculativeethics  speculativefiction  identitypolitics  everyday  pocketsofutopia  thinking  mattersofconcern  highered  highereducation  intervention  speculative  speculativethinking  greenconsumerism  consumerism  capitalism  greenwashing  moralizing  economics  society  matter  mattering  karenbarad  appropriation  hope  optimism  ucsc  historyofconsciousness 
august 2019 by robertogreco
David Gooblar on Twitter: "I want to urge you to read @rtraister's extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more tha
[via: ]

“I want to urge you to read @rtraister’s extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more than worth your time.

Traister’s argument: although one might think Warren’s professorial manner might be a liability on the campaign trail, she’s actually a *really good* teacher, and the way that she’s a good teacher might be the key to her success, both as a candidate, and as a political leader.

The way teaching is talked about here—by Warren, but also by Traister—gets to the heart of what it means to be an inclusive teacher, and (to me) draws a thicker line between teaching for social justice and plain old political action for social justice.

For instance: Warren, as a law school prof, relied on the Socratic method in her classes. The Socratic method means different things to different people, but in a law-school context, it usually means the relentless grilling of students, one at a time, to reveal their weaknesses.

There are a lot of problems with this mode of teaching, like: what are all the other students supposed to be doing while the one unlucky sap is being questioned?

Traister refers to “the seeming paradox of a woman known as a bold political progressive adhering to an old-fashioned, rule-bound approach to teaching.” But it’s not a paradox, because the way Warren conceives of the Socratic method is actually deeply progressive.

She worried that “traditional” discussion, in which the professor only calls on those students who raise their hands, inevitably reinforced privilege. “The reason I never took volunteers,” Warren tells Traister, “is when you take volunteers, you’re going to hear mostly from men.”

Instead, she adopted a cold-calling approach that made sure as many students were involved in each class period as possible. Here, Traister quotes one of Warren’s TAs, whose sole job during class was to keep track of who had spoken, and who hadn’t yet.

[image: “In this position, Ondersma remembered, she had one job: to make sure everyone got called on equally. “The whole idea was that she wanted everybody in the classroom to participate.” Ondersma would sit with the class list and check off every student who’d gotten a cold-call question. Then, in the last ten minutes of the class, “I’d hand her a notecard with the names of all the students she’d not yet called on,” and Warren would try to get to them all.”]

(A few years ago I wrote about cold-calling as a way to invite students into discussions. It’s a weird thing: it feels old-fashioned and authoritarian to many of us, but it can actually help ensure your discussions are more democratic.)

In line with that emphasis on reaching everybody, whenever a student would come to office hours before an exam with a question, Warren would ask the student to write the question down, so she could send it (and her answer) to every student.

Traister quotes one of Warren’s students: “it was very important to her that people were not going to have any structural advantage because they were the kind of person who knew to come to talk to a professor in office hours.” What a great idea!

I often tell faculty that teaching is much more defined by their mindset than by whatever teaching strategies they adopt. From what this piece tells us, it’s clear that Warren gets that, and that her mindset is the right one.

Look at how she talks about teaching:


““That’s the heart of really great teaching,” she said. “It’s that I believe in you. I don’t get up and teach to show how smart I am. I get up and teach to show how smart you are, to help you have the power and the tools so that you can build what you want to build.””

"But she explained to him the thinking behind hers: 90 minutes, she said, is a long time to sit and be talked to. The Socratic classroom as she handled it forced everyone in it to pay close attention not only to what she was saying but also to what their fellow students were saying. She was not the leader of conversation; she was facilitating it, prompting the students to do the work of building to the analysis.

It’s a pedagogical approach that Warren sees as linking all of her experiences of teaching. “It’s fundamentally about figuring out where the student is and how far can I bring them from where they are.”"]

Her approach to teaching begins with students, with thinking about the students’ experience, with consciously altering her approach so that as many students as possible can get as valuable an experience as possible. That is, at heart, an inclusive teaching practice.

But maybe even cooler is the way in which Traister goes beyond showing what a great teacher Warren was. She connects Warren’s pedagogical approach with her political one, in a way that really gets me thinking about the role of teaching and learning in our public life.

We often talk about politics in terms of communication—how well a certain candidate is getting her ideas across to potential voters—but the task is more complex than that typical lens suggests. It’s less communication than it is persuasion—persuading people to act.

Persuading people to vote for you, yes. But also persuading people that they are capable of action. Persuading people that they have agency, that they can do more than they currently think they can.

If you want to succeed at this kind of persuasion, you’d be wise to learn from the scholarship of teaching and learning, which is precisely concerned with these questions. How do we help other people do things—for themselves?

If learning is the work of students—if we can’t *make* students learn—then how do we help them do that work? What conditions can we create that make that work more likely to happen? That is the teacher’s task.

Likewise, if real political change is the work of citizens—many, many citizens changing the political reality, not a single politician—then how do we create the conditions in which that work is more likely to happen? That, Warren suggests, is the political leader’s task.

Elizabeth Warren can’t make us do the work of banding together to defeat corruption, inequality, injustice. But maybe she can use inclusive teaching methods to help us come to the conclusion—on our own—that such action is necessary, and possible. That is a wild sentence to type.

Traister does great work drawing parallels between Warren’s teaching practice and her campaign tactics. She quotes Warren talking about the challenge of teaching people about her proposed wealth tax, and why it’s not so radical:

[image: "When she was first doing town halls, after proposing a wealth tax, she said, “I’d look at the faces and think, I don’t think everybody is connecting. It’s not quite gelling. So I tried a couple of different ways, and then it hit me. I’d say, ‘Anybody in here own a home or grow up where a family owned a home?’ A lot of hands would go up. And I’d say, ‘You’ve been paying a wealth tax forever. It’s just called a property tax. So I just want to do a property tax; only here, instead of just being on your home, for bazillionaires, I want it to be on the stock portfolio, the diamonds, the Rembrandt, and the yachts.’ And everyone kind of laughs, but they get the basic principle because they’ve got a place to build from.”"]

Elsewhere, Traister brilliantly points out that Warren’s habit of calling individual donors on the phone—regular people who gave $50 or whatever—mirrors her cold-calling in class, ensuring that *more people* are being heard from than the usual men raising their hands.

This is partly because I’m really inspired by Warren in general, but the piece really underlines for me the value of inclusive teaching, the importance of the work teachers do, in helping students remake themselves, and remake their worlds.

Inclusive teaching practices are based on sturdy research on how students learn best. But they follow, 1st of all, from a choice the teacher makes. We must choose to be committed to every student, to put their development first, to be led by them, rather than the other way around

That is, I’m sorry to say it, a political choice. Not because we’re trying to get our students to vote a certain way. But because we help students believe in their own possibility, in their own agency. I happen to think it’s hugely important.

Anyway, I should probably have just written this as an essay (and I don’t want to quote/screenshot from it any more)—go read the piece!

Oh, and the companion episode of The Cut on Tuesdays (one of the best podcasts going, by the way), is delightful. You get to hear Warren herself talk about teaching, including a truly excellent rubber band metaphor that I’m going to use in workshops.

Also also: [image of Elizabeth Warren with her dog]“
davidgooblar  elizabethwarren  teaching  howweteach  politics  elections  2019  2020  learning  howwelearn  education  highered  highereducation  inclusion  inclusivity  rebeccatraister  socraticmethod  instruction  pedagogy  via:audreywatters  cold-calling  lawschool  studentexperience  citizenship  participation  participatory  gender 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Flying shame: Greta Thunberg gave up flights to fight climate change. Should you? - Vox
“Greta Thunberg gave up flights to fight climate change. Should you?”

“Rosén said there isn’t anything unique in the Swedish soul that has made so many across the country so concerned about flying. “This could have happened anywhere,” she said. “We’ve had some good coincidences that have worked together to create this discussion.”

Nonetheless, the movement to reduce flying has created a subculture in Sweden, complete with its own hashtags on social media. Beyond flygskam, there’s flygfritt (flight free), and vi stannar på marken (we stay on the ground).

Rosén said that judging by all the organizing she’s seen in other countries, she thinks Sweden won’t long hold the lead in forgoing flying. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Germans would follow us soon,” she said.”

“Scientists are having a hard time overlooking their own air travel emissions

Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has curbed her air travel by 75 percent.

“I really started thinking about my carbon footprint after Trump was elected,” she said. “Doing my climate science and donating to the right candidates was never going to be enough, even if you took that to scale.”

She created a spreadsheet to track her personal carbon footprint and found that flying formed the dominant share of her emissions. “By the end of 2017, 85 percent of my carbon footprint was related to flying,” she said.

Much of Cobb’s research — examining geochemical signals in coral to reconstruct historical climate variability — required her to travel to field sites in the equatorial Pacific.

While she doesn’t anticipate giving up those visits entirely, Cobb has taken on more research projects closer to home, including an experiment tracking sea level rise in Georgia. She has drastically reduced her attendance at academic conferences and this year plans to give a keynote address remotely for an event in Sydney.

[embedded tweet by Susan Michie (@SusanMichi

"I have begun replying to invitations “Due to the climate emergency, I am cutting down on air travel …” Have been pleasantly surprised how many take up my offer of pre-recorded talk & Skype Q&A’s @GreenUCL @UCLPALS @UCLBehaveChange "

quoting a tweet by Russ Poldrack (@russpoldrack):

"I’ve decided to eliminate air travel for talks, conferences, and meetings whenever possible. Read more about my reasons here: "]

Cobb is just one of a growing number of academics, particularly those who study the earth, who have made efforts in recent years to cut their air travel.

While she doesn’t anticipate making a dent in the 2.6 million pounds per second of greenhouse gases that all of humanity emits, Cobb said her goal is to send a signal to airlines and policymakers that there is a demand for cleaner aviation.

But she noted that her family is spread out across the country and that her husband’s family lives in Italy. She wants her children to stay close to her relatives, and that’s harder to do without visiting them. “The personal calculus is much, much harder,” she said.

She also acknowledged that it might be harder for other researchers to follow in her footsteps, particularly those just starting out. As a world-renowned climate scientist with tenure at her university, Cobb said she has the clout to turn down conference invitations or request video conferences. Younger scientists still building their careers may need in-person meetings and events to make a name for themselves. So she sees it as her responsibility to be careful with her air travel. “People like me have to be even more choosy,” she said.

Activists and diplomats who work on international climate issues are also struggling to reconcile their travel habits with their worries about warming. There is even a crowdfunding campaign for activists in Europe to sail to the United Nations climate conference in Chile later this year.

But perhaps the most difficult aspect of limiting air travel is the issue of justice. A minority of individuals, companies, and countries have contributed to the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from flights and profited handsomely from it. Is it now fair to ask a new generation of travelers to fly less too?”

“Should you, dear traveler, feel ashamed to fly?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” wrote Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Air travel has yielded immense benefits to humanity. Movement is the story of human civilization, and as mobility has increased, so too has prosperity. Airplanes, the fastest way to cross continents and oceans, have facilitated this. And while some countries have recently retreated from the world stage amid nationalist fervor, the ease of air travel has created a strong countercurrent of travelers looking to learn from other cultures.

Compared to other personal concessions for the sake of the environment, reducing air travel has a disproportionately high social cost. Give up meat and you eat from a different menu. Give up flying and you may never see some members of your family again.

So it’s hard to make a categorical judgment about who should fly and under what circumstances.

But if you’re weighing a plane ticket for yourself, Paul Thompson, a professor of philosophy who studies environmental ethics at Michigan State University, said there are several factors to consider.

[embedded tweet by @flyingless:

"No need to tell me about your feelings of guilt. I see no reason for you to feel guilty. You already excel at ethical thinking in many other areas of your life and relationships. Judge for yourself what the times require of you, personally and politically. Act or don’t act."]

First, think about where you can have the most meaningful impact on climate change as an individual — and it might not be changing how you are personally getting around. If advocacy is your thing, you could push for more research and development in cleaner aviation, building high-speed rail systems, or pricing the greenhouse gas emissions of dirty fuels. “That’s the first thing that I think I would be focused on, as opposed to things that would necessarily discourage air travel,” Thompson said. Voting for leaders who make fighting climate change a priority would also help.

If you end up on a booking site, think about why you’re flying and if your flight could be replaced with a video call.

Next, consider what method of travel has the smallest impact on the world, within your budget and time constraints. If you are hoping to come up with a numerical threshold, be aware that the math can get tricky. Online carbon footprint calculators can help.

And if you do choose to fly and feel shame about it, well, it can be a good thing. “I think it’s actually appropriate to have some sense of either grieving or at least concern about the loss you experience that way,” Thompson said. Thinking carefully about the trade-offs you’re making can push you toward many actions that are more beneficial for the climate, whether that’s flying less, offsetting emissions, or advocating for more aggressive climate policies.

Nonetheless, shame is not a great feeling, and it’s hard to convince people they need more of it. But Rosén says forgoing flying is a point of pride, and she’s optimistic that the movement to stay grounded will continue to take off.”
climatechange  travel  carbonemissions  2019  gretathunberg  sweden  flight  airplanes  aviation  flygskam  guilt  shame  activism  sustainability  globalwarming  majarosén  arctic  norway  germany  science  scientists  carbonoffsets  offsets  electrofuels  carbonfootprint  kimcobb  academia  susanmichie  russpoldrack  highered  education  highereducation  flying  flyingshame  flightshame  emissions  airlines  climate 
august 2019 by robertogreco
tahereh mafi on Instagram: “last night i attended my ten-year college reunion. (🤯!!!) it was surreal to step back on campus after so long. i chose to go to @sokauniv…”
"last night i attended my ten-year college reunion. (🤯!!!) it was surreal to step back on campus after so long. i chose to go to @sokauniv entirely because of their mission statement—because i wanted to become a global citizen committed to living a contributive life. (for a couple of years i thought i’d end up in the peace corps.) i worked on campus all through college (and after graduation) in IT and in Philanthropy, and wore many hats, doing everything from graphic and web design to organizing galas. i was lucky enough to have worked on—and successfully funded—SUA’s campaign to make tuition free for any students with a combined family income of 60k or less, and it’s still one of the most rewarding projects i’ve ever worked on. ❤️❤️ i have so much love for this liberal arts university; i grew up here, made some of my best friends here, and met some of the best people here. it was so good to be back. ❤️❤️"
taherehmafi  sokauniversityofamerica  liberalarts  highereducation  highered  2019  soka  sua 
july 2019 by robertogreco
David F. Noble: A Wrench in the Gears - 1/8 - YouTube
davidnoble  power  education  progressive  corporatism  highered  highereducation  documentary  rules  schools  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  cv  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  activism  authority  abuse  academia  resistance  canada  us  lobbying  israel  criticalthinking  capitalism  experience  life  living  hierarchy  oppression  collegiality  unions  self-respect  organizing  humanrights  corporatization  luddism  automation  technology  luddites  distancelearning  correspondencecourses  history  creditcards  privacy  criticaltheory  criticalpedagogy  attendance  grades  grading  assessment  experientialeducation  training  knowledge  self  self-directed  self-directedlearning  pedagogy  radicalpedagogy  alienation  authoritarianism  anxiety  instrinsicmotivation  motivation  parenting  relationships  love  canon  defiance  freedom  purpose  compulsory  liberation 
july 2019 by robertogreco
"In this commentary, I revisit an article from New Society which evokes a moment in the development of British higher education in the post-war period but also, I argue, could still illuminate thinking on debates about the roles and responsibilities of universities within their wider social settings. The Potteries Thinkbelt piece, published in 1966, proposes an unbuilt project that today serves as a parable of what higher education did not become, of a path not taken. To contemporary eyes, aspects of the Thinkbelt proposal may seem fantastical; yet, if we can enable what Coleridge named ‘that willing suspension of disbelief’, it could offer us lessons about the relationship between universities and the cities or regions that host them.

The author of the Thinkbelt was Cedric Price, an architect with relatively few realized projects but who, through his teaching roles, writings and published drawings, has nonetheless exerted a deep influence on how leading members of a generation of architects think about architecture, and how their buildings sit within their wider social settings. In the Thinkbelt, Price outlined an ambitious project for a centre of higher education amongst the coal fields of Staffordshire. These pits originally served ceramics factories throughout the region but, by the early 1960s, had fallen into disuse – de-industrialisation came early to the Potteries. The landscape Price wished to regenerate spanned approximately 100 square miles, was triangular in shape, and stretched from Pitts Hill in the North, Madeley at its Western point and Meir to the East, with Stoke and Newcastle-Under-Lyme located at its heart.

The Thinkbelt would connect to outside rail, road and air networks via transfer areas at the points of the triangle. Industrial units at these points offered campus sites that could be reconfigured according to differing uses – so, in addition to public learning spaces, these units would also offer accommodation for visiting students and staff. The transfer sites would be connected together by continuously running railbuses using the disused railway network that previously had connected the pits with the potteries; Price was interested in enhancing the efficacy of the already there. Furthermore, the railbuses themselves could be reconfigured as learning spaces so that teaching might be carried out en route, with fold-out deck units offering more space for larger lectures and talks.

Price envisaged the Thinkbelt as offering education for 20,000 students, following mostly applied curricula in engineering and science subjects. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was an industrial undertaking in large part; its remit included working with regional industries as research and design centres, as well as offering re-training in new industries for local residents whose work in the pits and potteries had disappeared. The Thinkbelt was designed for 20,000 students, but with provision for 40,000 residential units that were flexible in form and adaptable to possible relocation and aggregation; Price wished to see student housing combined with local council tenancies. The four different forms of residential units were crudely named as sprawl, capsule, crate and battery housing, using terminology specifically intended to irritate professional designers.

The Thinkbelt rejected previous and contemporaneous ideas about appropriate university architecture, with Price’s aesthetic citing industrial forms such as the container, rather than what he perceived to be the pretensions of twentieth century university buildings. Typically, he viewed contemporaneous campus designs as aspiring to the medieval form of the castle (ivory towers included), making defensive spaces removed from the rest of their towns. Price made a virtue of his avoidance of the design principles that characterised the university movement in both pre-war and post-war periods. ‘While students’, he wrote in 1970, ‘are at present one of the most mobile social groups of technologically advanced societies the nature of their own particular production plants – schools, colleges and universities, is static, intro-spective, parochial, inflexible and not very useful’ (1).

If Price cared little for university architecture, he cared even less for the principles of university education, taking care to avoid the use of the word in his scheme. Certainly his scheme for such a large cohort of students by contemporaneous standards worked against the exclusivity typical of the sector at that time; his preference for science and engineering spoke to the idea that education should be seen as serving wider societal uses, rather than purely for the fulfilment of individuals from elite social groupings. The Thinkbelt sought to correct an imbalance in the esteem paid to ‘applied’ rather than ‘pure’ knowledge, through an architecture which was functional, flexible and impermanent rather than ornamental, fixed in purpose and inert.

The Thinkbelt was to be a site of learning premised on patterns of mobility, at individual, collective and even infrastructural scales. This mobility, embedded within the physical buildings themselves, spoke to a wider understanding of the word in debates about meritocracy and the opening out of higher education to a part of the population hitherto under-represented. Price’s project was far-sighted in its emphasis on flexibility within the curriculum, planning for access through life-long and part-time learning and hence alive to the needs of student groups that, as Paul Stanistreet has suggested, are often overlooked in contemporary debates. Certainly the Thinkbelt anticipates debates about whom and what higher education is for, pre-dating current arguments about the value of a university degree in terms of the ‘employability’ agenda for the individual learner and the value of an educated workforce for national industries. Price’s analysis of the social value of higher education more generally is incisive; towards the conclusion of the New Society piece he makes the case for student loans to become salaries, arguing that where ‘people are doing a job society wants them to do, they must be paid for it’.

Moreover, the Thinkbelt prompts consideration of the disjuncture that can arise between the places where we work and where we live. The combination of student residences with local council tenancies sought to integrate the student experience with that of the wider population, disrupting preconceived ideas about the housing of students on campus accommodation away from residents of the towns and cities that give universities their names. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was written in the shadow of early tensions, noted in the article itself, between managers and students at Keele, and the University’s apparent disregard for the surrounding region. In this magazine, Mary Stuart has questioned how alive universities are to their civic missions – the Thinkbelt, for all its hypothetical aspects, gives us a benchmark for thinking through such issues. Are our universities supplementary to the cities and regions that give them their names and that sustain them economically? How do academics and students engage with each other? And how do we interact with our neighbouring populations?

The Thinkbelt is an experiment in conceiving of a different type of learning environment; think about the dynamics of a lecture in a moving rail carriage, and how it might bring staff and students into contact in a way that we can all too easily avoid in the stratified spaces we build into our campus lives. The Thinkbelt is premised on a different social and political settlement for higher education to that which we labour under today; in its own time, it did not attract the attention of policy makers, falling as it did by the margins of planning for the University of the Air – later to become the Open University. Yet its focus on place remains of interest. In returning to the Thinkbelt here, my argument is not that Price’s proposal offers us answers to our debates about the public role of universities today – there are too many questions around the complexities of academic freedom, architectural design and political context to claim that. Nonetheless, as Samantha Hardingham reflects, ‘if there is a use for presenting this material again, here and now, it may be to ask whether we are looking at something we already know, or looking for something we still cannot see yet’ (2).

Whether Price’s proposal can offer clues about a future we cannot yet see is interesting for a number of reasons, not least in raising the question of why we find it difficult to imagine our futures in quite the same ways, with quite the same optimism as he did. At the beginning of this commentary, I suggested that adopting a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ might be useful in approaching the Thinkbelt; for Coleridge, the suspension of disbelief is necessary to enable what he understood as ‘poetic faith’. Poetry and faith – it strikes me that these are qualities too often missing from thinking about higher education, and its planning; by these I mean a belief in the potential of universities to actively shape socially just economies and societies (rather than accelerating the reproduction of inequalities, as Stephen McKay and Karen Rowlingson argue), and the lyrical licence to imagine how they might do this."
darylmartin  2014  thinkbelt  cedricprice  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  architecture  education  rail  transportation  unschooling  deschooling  cities  urban  urbanism  disbelief  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
For Hire — The California Sunday Magazine
"When the class of 2018 graduated from college, they were the first of a new generation — Generation Z — to join the workforce. They watched their parents lose their jobs a decade earlier and fall into debt and worry about whether they’ll be able to retire. They’ve seen the rise of part-time work, the decline of well-paying entry-level jobs, and the continued shrinking of once-stable career options. Although the economy has recovered, for many graduates, financial security still feels unattainable. Here, teachers, students, job-seekers, parents, and résumé-embellishers reveal what they think it now takes to earn a living."
work  careers  genz  generationz  highered  highereducation  resumes  employment  jobs  labor  studentdebt  money  finance 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Culture of Professional Colleges Failed Dr Payal Tadvi – Just as It Did Me

"I've heard this from Dalit friends in India, from first-generation/low-income/immigrant students and students of color in the US. As a college professor nothing infuriates me quite as much as this. Education is meant to be a path to emancipation not a space for reproducing power."]

"The conversations around Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide, on May 22, 2019, have been quite unsettling. That some have attributed it to work pressure or “cowardliness”, shows a lack of understanding about how caste works or how deeply pervasive it is. I can imagine what could have driven her to end her life – I experienced unapologetic casteism at university too.

I attended one of India’s elite law schools. In these spaces – unlike in medical and engineering colleges – casteism was subtle and intellectualised (perhaps because aspiring lawyers knew how to avoid a penalty under the Prevention of Atrocities Act). I could never really tell what made me feel different, lonely and marginalised.

I sensed that I didn’t think like them, share their fascination with the same cultural icons and activities, and did not behave in a manner deemed appropriate by them. All of which, I later understood through my readings, was shaped by one’s caste background.

In my first year, a faculty member proclaimed that she was Brahmin, and went on to ask other Brahmin students to raise their hands. The same lecturer asked us to make a project on our ancestors. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my ancestry, but I had to – it was to be marked for 20 marks.

The upper caste students didn’t see it as a big deal. For many of them, it was an opportunity to boast of the achievements of their forefathers and their rich ancestries, all somehow related to their social location. Some of us, who had no such histories to tell, felt ashamed when it was our turn.

The casteism of my peers was mostly implicit. Explicit references to caste were mostly stereotypical and prejudiced. Tambrams and Kayasths were the most intelligent, apparently, Rajputs valiant and emotional; Banias shrewd and money-minded, and so on. In groups dominated by savarnas, such remarks were often made, for each other in jest. It made me wonder how they’d refer to me if they knew who I was: a former untouchable.

When I tried to point out that such statements were inherently casteist, they defended themselves, saying they had a right to feel proud of their caste and that I should be proud of mine. Be proud of the fact that people from my caste were routinely humiliated, pushed into bonded labour, and beaten up when they tried to go to school? Okay.

A savarna friend once told me that I was uncultured because I was not trained in any classical dance or music. Another told me she would never forgive people who availed of SC/ST quotas because, if it weren’t for us, she would be in a better law school. Her tone made me feel like I had committed a heinous crime.

Some even rationalised the caste system as a result of genetic differences among the varnas, with Dalits and Adivasis as the most inferior. One boy used this as the reason he was in love with a certain Kshatriya girl, because she was apparently honourable and would give birth to strong children.

One boy didn’t hesitate to let the elevator shut on a boy from the Meena community, saying ”ye Meena log ke saath aise hi hona chahiye’‘. It was that normalised. If you called them out on it, they would brilliantly justify themselves, leaving us feeling like we were just over-reacting.

Classroom discussions on the jurisprudence of reservations were one-sided, usually concluding that reservations must wither away or be provided on economic grounds. The discussions were dominated by UC students; our voices silenced by their loud, assertive ones, confident in their ignorance of the larger social context.

These were all bright, well-meaning, caste-blind students who were extremely thick to the social realities outside of life as they knew it. My confidence and self-esteem were beaten to a pulp by everyday microaggressions. Eventually, it got to me and I succumbed into believing that I deserved to feel that way.

After all, my existence in that university was an anomaly, and I had taken up their space. The assault to my dignity was the price I had to pay for the privilege of studying at such an eminent institution.

Those experiences, coupled with rampant sexism, took a toll on my mental health. I tried to talk to the few people I thought I could, including my parents. But they couldn’t understand what I was going through. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and my world is very different from theirs.

My savarna seniors told me that I was victimising myself, and that law schools are extremely competitive spaces; I had to toughen up or be left behind. I didn’t know how to explain this to my doctor either. She told me I had “low self-esteem and an inferiority complex and that I should only think positively.”

I couldn’t, so I became a recluse. I took up less space, participated less and confined myself mostly to my room, escaping into books and art. I managed to get through five miserable years. I have had enough time since then to process and understand that ordeal.

When I look back now, what bothered me most was my inability to respond in a way that made me feel empowered. Instead, I protested weakly, with the savarnas beating me with their eloquence. I was already gaslighted into believing I was a waste of space in a meritorious institution. I had so deeply internalised their narrative that I couldn’t fight the it within my own self, let alone them.

It wasn’t until I read Ambedkar (conveniently excluded from the law school’s curriculum), Yashica Dutt’s Coming out as Dalit or Christina Thomas Dhanraj’s writings that I could develop the intellectual ammunition to fight the narrative – first with myself and then others.

My colleagues from the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities went through similar experiences. When we enter these privileged spaces, we are very vulnerable and develop various coping mechanisms. Some internalise the dominant campus culture, hiding our identities and trying to emulate them. Some become depressed, even self-destructive.

At my university, we refrained from forming a homogenous group, because some of them were not comfortable with being ‘that quota group’, as one friend put it. Many of us wanted to learn from our savarna peers, even if it meant putting up with their micro-aggressions and gritting our teeth through their thoughtless remarks.

Expecting savarnas to magically unlearn their casteism and make these spaces inclusive would be foolish. It is so central to their lives that they may genuinely not see it, the way fish may be unaware of water. Those of us who were never a part of it, can’t help but see it – we are reminded of it with every interaction.

That’s where our institutions have failed us. Professional institutions – medical, engineering or law – do not encourage any form of student politics. Their students have no safe spaces in which to confidently come to terms with their identities, and assert the same when someone threatens their dignity.

Greater student representation from these communities would also help make these spaces more inclusive. Another institutional-level solution would be to establish mandatory workshops on casteism and sexism every year, so that these spaces don’t churn out even more insensitive professionals, like the ones who killed Dr Payal Tadvi, Rohit Vehmula, Bal Mukund Bharati and others."
caste  education  highered  highereducation  india  2019  emancipation  hierarchy  bias  power  privilege 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The College Dropout Crisis - The New York Times
"American higher education has a dropout problem. About one in three students who enroll in college never earn a degree. But a promising solution is staring us in the face: Schools with similar students often have very different graduation rates. This suggests that the problem isn’t the students — it’s the schools.

Here we looked at 368 colleges arranged by what we would expect their graduation rates to be, based on the average for colleges with similar student bodies."

"For too long, she added, university leaders have been distracted and have been chasing prestige and rankings, rather than getting better at helping students succeed."
colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  dropouts  data  2019  statistics  education  academia  prestige  rankings 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Can Californians Still Find a Path to Mobility at the State’s Universities? - The New York Times
"As a counter to staggering inequality, the system needs to be more open to the people who actually live in the Golden State."

"Joan Didion described her alma mater, the University of California, as “California’s highest, most articulate idea of itself, the most coherent — perhaps the only coherent — expression of the California possibility.”

That ethos has endured. The University of California has prevailed as both symbol and engine of opportunity, true to the spirit of the state’s founding constitution, which endorsed an accessible, independent institution of higher learning. From admitting women in 1870 to establishing the nation’s first multi-campus research university, and from its string of world-changing scientific breakthroughs to its embrace of undocumented immigrants, the University of California has reflected and nurtured the state’s core values.

The university plays a critical role at a time when the top 1 percent in California draw almost a quarter of the total income while six in 10 children are covered by Medi-Cal. But to be most effective as a force to counter the staggering inequality, the university needs to reshape campuses so they not only look more like California but also again offer what Carol T. Christ, the chancellor of Berkeley, calls “equity of experience” — equal access to science and technology majors, research opportunities, campus life and study abroad.

Berkeley is one of the university’s nine undergraduate campuses, the top tier of a remarkable tripartite public system that educates a majority of California students. The undergraduate universities consistently rank as the most effective schools in the country as drivers of upward economic mobility. More than 40 percent of their undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college. More than half come from families with annual incomes of less than $80,000 and pay no tuition. Berkeley, which enrolls a smaller share of lower-income Pell grant recipients than any other campus, still educates the lower-income students at almost twice the rate of Ivy League schools — and Pell grant recipients graduate at roughly the same high rates as their wealthier classmates.

What has fractured since Ms. Didion graduated in 1956 is the cohesive community, the assumption of shared experience that bound so many generations of alumni, particularly at Berkeley, the university’s flagship and still its best-known brand. Today, Berkeley has cleaved into disparate worlds divided by class, race and major. In its stratification and struggles, it mirrors a complex nation-state with deep divisions and extremes.

The symbiotic relationship between school and state means that Ms. Christ and her counterparts grapple with the consequences of some of California’s most intractable conditions: a housing crisis that forces many students to commute for hours because they cannot afford to live anywhere near the Bay Area; a poverty rate that means some students skip meals and others send financial aid money home; a volatile state budget dependent on the superwealthy and prone to boom-and-bust cycles; and decades of underfunded primary and secondary public schools that strain to educate a diverse student body.

Although Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the state and a majority of the school-age children, they remain underrepresented across the university system, most of all at Berkeley. Only 5 percent of the Berkeley faculty members are Latino. Latino student enrollment has increased to about 14 percent, still far short of reflecting California over all.

Berkeley, the original campus (hence its nickname, Cal), was central to the agreement that shaped California’s system of higher education. The 1960 master plan established jurisdictions for the University of California (which retained its exclusive right to offer graduate programs), California State University and the community colleges. The master plan guaranteed admission to the four-year schools for top high school seniors and envisioned community colleges as feeders for other students. An era of expansion ensued to meet record demand as California passed New York to become the most populous state.

Then came more complicated decades: the Free Speech Movement, which helped propel Ronald Reagan to the governorship; Proposition 13, which slashed state revenues; Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action; and multiple recessions. During the worst years of the Great Recession, the University of California lost a third of its state support, and tuition, once free, rose to $12,000 from about $8,000 per year, for the first time surpassing state aid in total revenue.

For first-generation students, financial obstacles are only the start, especially at Berkeley, where faculty members have long valued research above teaching and the school has reveled in its sink-or-swim culture. Alejandra Tapia, who graduated in the class of 2019 with a major in molecular and cell biology, is both a success story and a cautionary tale. Raised by a single mother who worked in the fields, Ms. Tapia decided to become a doctor after her mother suffered a stroke. She attended four high schools, all in farmworker communities.

Through grit and intelligence, she won a full scholarship to Berkeley. Many days, she wondered if she had made the right choice. She had expected the intellectual challenges; she did not expect to navigate alien academic and social worlds with no support. Often the only Latina in her labs, she juggled pre-med classes, 15 hours a week of work and worries about her family. She came close to leaving. “It has made me better and stronger than what I thought I could ever be,” she said, triumphant that she had persevered. Thinking about the hardships, she began to cry.

The culture of intellectual Darwinism undermines the goal of equity in an era when so many students arrive without the cultural or financial resources once taken for granted. What is needed is more than just an update to the master plan, still the governing covenant. California needs a master plan for equity, a goal that would take a combination of vision, political will and acumen.

“The Master Plan was designed to provide a broadly traditional education to a broadly traditional student body,” the chancellors of the university and the community college system wrote last year in an agreement to formalize paths among the systems. “What is missing is a systemic reimagination of the ends of education in light of 21st-century conditions.”

The unbridled optimism and growth of the 1950s and early ’60s had downsides but nurtured a system that grew based on ideas, with confidence that resources would follow. Decisions now are too often made the other way around. Out-of-state students pay three times as much in tuition as residents; since the financial crises, their numbers soared to 18 percent of the enrollment.

There are signs of progress. One of every three new students at Berkeley is a junior transfer from a community college. They are more likely to be Latino, first generation, from lower-income families and more likely to concentrate in humanities because they lack the prerequisites for science and technology majors. Transfer students will be key for Chancellor Christ to fulfill her goal to make Berkeley a “Hispanic-Serving Institution,” a designation already achieved by six of the university campuses, which requires that a quarter of the students be Latino.

“The University and the State of California are inseparable,” Ansel Adams wrote in the late 1960s, after he had photographed every aspect of the university for its centennial celebration. “The challenge to the University of California today is nothing less than to help bring forth the civilization of the future.” Fifty years later, the future looks very different, but the challenge of its mission remains."
miriampawel  2019  universityofcalifornia  california  communitycolleges  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  socialmobility  joandidion  access  inequality  funding  tuition  anseladams  society  masterplan  uc 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Abraham Verghese and Denise Pope — How Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? - The On Being Project
"Ms. Tippett: So I always worry about when any conversation veers into the “kids these days” mode. But that’s not what we’re doing here. We are talking about how this matter of success and what it means has shifted in our lifetimes. Those of us who’ve been around for a little while perceive that, and Denise, you have actually studied that. You have put research to that. You started to see, when you started to look at this, that there’s a lot of hyperactive attention to success in terms of academic achievement, study habits, classroom discipline, peer culture — dropout rates would be the opposite, and, as you said, just about no serious attention to classroom experiences and the character of their intellectual engagement.

Ms. Pope: Yeah. I always start my talks out with “How do you define success?” And if I say it to students in a student assembly, without fail, usually, the top couple of answers are money, grades, test scores, where you go to college, something like that. And that’s been consistent, now, for 15 years.

And when I ask the same question to the parents — and usually, it is the parents of those kids, who are coming at the same school that night — it’s never that. Now, they could be lying; they don’t want to say “money,” when — but usually —

Ms. Tippett: “I want my kid to make a lot of money.” [laughs] Right.

Ms. Pope: No one’s going to stand up and say that out loud. But they say happiness, well-being, give back to society, love and be loved — really different from what we’re hearing from the kids.

Ms. Tippett: That’s interesting, isn’t it, because I would presume, and I think you would too, that they mean that. But what it points at, to me, is that we know how to teach these other things, and we invest in them — that, it’s what I perceive, that we have lost our sophistication about investing in those things, even if we believe them.

Ms. Pope: And I think it’s in the everyday little messages that schools send and that parents send. When you walk into schools, you see awards. One of the first things, when you walk into a school, is usually the trophy case. Sometimes you see pictures of kids with 4.0s on the wall. We publish honor students in the newspaper. The first thing a parent says when the kid walks in the door is, “How’d you do on the history test?” You’re sending those messages that external, extrinsic — grades, test scores — that’s what matters more. They’re posting their report cards on the fridge. They’re not posting their public service activities on the fridge. They’re not raving to grandma about that when they talk about SAT scores. So it’s happening — we’re sending the messages to these kids to produce that result."

"Ms. Pope: There’s definitely a corollary in education around relationships, because we know that when you feel that there’s someone who has your back, when there’s an adult you can go to if you have a problem, if your teacher truly cares about you, knows your name, knows who you are, knows how you learn, kids are more engaged. They do better. And that’s where we say, it isn’t rocket science. We know how to get kids to learn. We know that if you feel safe, and you feel like you belong, and you’re excited and engaged, you’re more likely going to learn than if you’re not. And it’s just, the whole system is getting in the way of those relationships and that learning being able to happen. So we work very concretely with schools: Can you change your bell schedule so that not everyone’s running around eight times a day? Can you have a later start so that kids can get more sleep, because they need it? Can you build time in for teachers and students to work together and meet and talk and have advisory? We know how to do this; it’s just really hard to break what — everybody in their life has been through 14, 12, 16 years of school that all look the same, and we’re talking about something that’s pretty different and scary, particularly for those schools that have those high-achieving kids, because if it ain’t broke, and we’re saying, no, no, no, it’s broke …


… it’s broke — it looks different. You might be getting good grades and getting them into college …"

"Dr. Verghese: I think that the real education of my life was all the failures. That is, really, what shaped me. So I began medical school in Ethiopia, actually, and a very nice school run by the British consul for East Africa. And then civil war broke out. So, suddenly, in the middle of my third year of medical school, I was adrift. And it was the worst thing that could’ve ever happened to me, I thought.

My parents had come here a little before that, reading the writing on the wall, and I joined them in New Jersey. And I could not get back into medical school, because I didn’t have an undergraduate degree. In most parts of the world, you go straight from high school to premed to medical school. And I began to work as an orderly. And I think it was the hardest part of my life. At the time, I thought this was really the pits. And I was working night shifts and sharing a car with my parents.

But I look back now, and if I have any sort of reputation in America, I think it’s come from the fact that I got to see what happens to the patient in the 23 hours and 57 minutes that the doctors are not in the room. I feel a great solidarity with my colleagues in nursing, nursing assistants. And I think that that “failure,” so to speak, turned out to be the biggest success. And I don’t want to go on, but I would say that almost everything I learned — and I hope undergraduates really listen to this; in fact, I know, Dr. Costanzo and others have a whole project around resilience and failures — that is really where your education comes. The rest of it is fluff.

Ms. Tippett: I’ll just say here that every time I get introduced like I did tonight, which was so gracious and beautiful, but it’s like, we live in this presentational culture. And every time, I cringe a little bit because I know the real story.


And it’s not that all of those credentials don’t matter, but the real story, it’s just full of more — most of the time, for many years, even the things that look like a success, eventually, often feel like failure so much of the time — or just very uncertain. And if I look at my résumé now, of my 20s, I walked into all of these adventures. And it looks so impressive, and I know that every single minute of every single day of all of those years, I was constantly second-guessing myself and wondering what I should be doing that would be better.

And I actually think this is one reason that friendship across generations is really important. I think it’s really a calling for this century because the wisdom of young adulthood, I think, is actually an urgency and an impatience and this longing and this aspiration to see the world whole and make it better. We want that. But there’s something so relaxing about living for a while and knowing in your body that life is long and knowing that there will be another side to whatever is happening. And so that’s really the experience you have of failure.

But I will say, the wisest people I’ve interviewed — and the most successful, I would say, in human terms — are not successful in spite of what’s gone wrong for them but because of how — not just how they have walked through that, but how they integrated it into their wholeness on the other side.

Mr. Feineh: Switching to the perspective of an employer or a mentor or a professor, what can each of those roles and people do to encourage alternate ways of thinking about success, more from the extrinsic to the intrinsic mode of viewing success?

Dr. Verghese: Well, maybe I’ll start and say that I actually think that my mentees are teaching me what success means because I think the millennials, they really have a much better sense of what’s important. And sometimes our generation complains about that, that this is just a job for them, not a calling. But, on the other hand, they are much more ready to put their family and their children first in a way that I regret that I didn’t do. And so I’ve learned from them to be flexible, to be much more concerned about their personal health than I think we were. So, I’m not sure that I impart as much to them as they impart to me.

But that said, I think a lot of — when I do impart things that are not strictly medical and career, it’s mostly about just relaxing and making sure that they’re enjoying the journey.
I have a very simple definition of success, which is, any day above ground is a good day …


… given the alternative, and I see plenty of that. So if you start with that premise, and it’s not hard to do in medicine, then literally every day is a good day. How can you not bring your best to it?

Mr. Feineh: And the last question I have here is from a young person who went to a competitive school in Palo Alto …


… and finds him or herself struggling to question what success looks like. “I feel like I have few role models. Even the three of you have successful careers that were explored in your introductions.” And this person is curious to hear your thoughts about career, mentorship-building, how to create some of these pipelines, and a final direct action to help students expand some of their opportunities.

Ms. Pope: We hear this question a lot from kids. There’s a couple of different answers. One is that people assume that there’s a straight and narrow path, that I knew when I was 18 that I was going to be sitting up here today. And I can tell you, absolutely not. I didn’t even think I should be up here with this guy, anyway, now. So I think that idea of a straight and narrow path is really outdated, and as a young person — so part of this is, your prefrontal cortex — getting into the medical side of things — is not fully developed. And the … [more]
kristatippett  denisepope  abrahamverghese  2019  education  unschooling  success  youth  colleges  universities  life  living  highered  highereducation  schooliness  schooling  school  resilience  presence  markrothko  parenting  motivation  extrinsicmotivation  workllifebalance  generations  agesegregation  careers 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Spadework | Issue 34 | n+1
"By the time I started organizing so much that it felt like a full-time job, it was the spring of 2016, and I had plenty of company. Around the country there were high-profile efforts to organize magazines, fast-food places, and nursing homes. Erstwhile Occupiers became involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined the exploding Democratic Socialists of America, whose members receive shabby business cards proclaiming them an “official socialist organizer.” Today’s organizers — not activists, thank you — make clear that they are not black bloc participants brawling with police or hippies plotting a love-in. They are inspired by a tradition of professional revolutionaries, by Lenin’s exhortation that “unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.” Organizing, in other words, is unembarrassed about power. It recognizes that to wield it you need to persuade untold numbers of people to join a cause, and to begin organizing themselves. Organizing means being in it to win.

But how do you win? Historical materialism holds that crises of capitalism spark revolts, perhaps even revolutions, as witnessed in the eruption of Occupy and Black Lives Matter; uprisings in Spain, Greece, and Egypt; and the British student movement against tuition fees. But there’s no guide for what happens in the long aftermath, as the left has often learned the hard way.

In previous moments of upheaval and promise the left has often turned to Antonio Gramsci, who sought to understand why working-class revolts in Europe following the Russian Revolution had led to fascism. Gramsci concluded that on some level people consent to subservience, even take it for granted, when the order in which they live comes to seem like common sense. Hegemony was subtler than outright coercion, more pervasive, permeating the tempos of daily life.

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”"

"The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay."

"Realizing that it was not enough for people to like me was revelatory. I had to learn to be more comfortable with antagonism and disagreement, with putting a choice in front of people and letting them make it instead of smiling away tension and doing the work myself. I had to expect more from other people. With other organizers, I role-played the conversations I feared most before having them; afterward, I replayed them over and over in my head. I struggled to be different: the version of myself I wanted to be, someone who could move people and bend at least some tiny corner of the universe.

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one."

"The relationality of organizing is maybe the hardest thing to understand before you’ve done it. But it is the most important. This is not because people are governed by emotions instead of reason, though they sometimes are. It’s because the entire problem of collective action is that it’s rational to act collectively where it’s not to act alone. And you build the collective piece by piece.

Organizing relationships can be utopian: at their best, they offer the feminist dream of intimacy outside of romance or family. In the union, I loved people I did not know very well. In meetings I was often overcome with awe and affection at the courage and wisdom of the people there with me. I came to count many of the people I organized with as my dearest friends. When I needed help, there were always people I could call, people who would always pick up the phone, people I could and did talk to about anything. These relationships often served as a source of care and support in a world with too little of those things. But they were not only friendships, and not only emotional ballast. The people I looked to for support would also push me when it was called for, as I would them; that, I knew, was the deal.

Our relationships forged the practical commitments to one another that held the union together. They made us accountable to each other. They were difficult and multifaceted, often frustrating, intensely vulnerable, and potentially transformative but no less prone than any other relationship to carelessness, hurt, and betrayal, and always a lot of work. We were constantly building them and testing their limits, pushing each other harder the closer we got. They had to bear a lot of weight. In more abject moments, I wondered whether they were anything more than instrumental. More often, though, I wondered what was so menacing about usefulness that it threatened to contaminate all else.

The word comrade, Jodi Dean argues, names a political relationship, not a personal one: you are someone’s comrade not because you like them but because you are on the same side of a struggle. Comrades are not neighbors, citizens, or friends; nor are they any kind of family, though you might call them brother or sister. The comrade has no race, gender, or nation. (As one meme goes: “My favorite gender-neutral pronoun is comrade.”) Comrades are not even unique individuals; they are “multiple, replaceable, fungible.” You can be comrades with millions of people you have never met and never will. Your relationship is ultimately with the political project you have in common. To many noncommunists, Dean readily admits, this instrumentalism is “horrifying”: a confirmation that communism means submitting to the Borg. But the sameness of the comrade is a kind of genuine equality.

Being an organizer is like being a comrade in some ways but different in others. The people you organize alongside may be comrades, but the people you are organizing often aren’t; the point of organizing, after all, is to reach beyond the people who are already on your side and win over as many others as you can. So you can’t assume the people you organize share your values; in fact, you should usually assume they don’t. This means that unlike comrades, organizers aren’t interchangeable. It matters who you are. McAlevey’s theory of the organic leader is that people have to be organized by people they know and trust, not by strangers who claim to have the right ideas. The SNCC looked for “strong people” — not necessarily traditional leaders, but people who were respected and trusted among their peers, on the logic that people would only take risky political action alongside people they trusted. When organizers reflect the people they organize, they win: when women of color organize other women of color, a 2007 paper by Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren shows, they win almost 90 percent of elections. This cuts both ways: when women and people of color led the organizing in my department, we often struggled to get white men to take us seriously.

Yet the comradely element of organizing can also open up space for building relationships with people beyond those boundaries. It’s not that class and race and gender disappear, transcended by the cause — … [more]
alyssabattistoni  organizing  academia  academics  highereducation  highered  2019  labor  work  unions  thatcherism  reaganism  margartthatcher  communism  ronaldreagan  capitalism  meritocracy  hegemony  stuarthall  busyness  antoniogramsci  comrades  relationships  relationality  utopia  hierarchy  instrumentalism  equality  leadership  politics  class  race  gender  school  schooliness  schooling  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Building an Inclusive Campus

bracketed parts from Twitter thread: ]

"Scaffolding can create points of entry and access but can also reduce the complexity of learning to its detriment. And too often we build learning environments in advance of students arriving upon the scene. We design syllabi, predetermine outcomes, and craft rubrics before having met the students. We reduce students to data.

["I'm increasingly disturbed when I see compassion, respect, and equity for students being mislabeled with the derogatory word “coddling."

"We need to design our pedagogical approaches for the students we have, not the students we wish we had." @Jessifer @saragoldrickrab ]

5 things we can do to create more inclusive spaces in education:

1) Recognize students are not an undifferentiated mass.

2) For education to be innovative, at this particular moment, we don’t need to invest in technology. We need to invest in teachers. 

3) Staff, administrators, and faculty need to come together, across institutional hierarchies, for inclusivity efforts to work. At many institutions, a faculty/staff divide is one of the first barriers that needs to be overcome.

4) The path toward inclusivity starts with small, human acts:

* Walk campus to assess the accessibility of common spaces and classrooms. For example, an accessible desk in every classroom doesn’t do much good if students can’t get to that desk because the rooms are overcrowded.

* Invite students to share pronouns, model this behavior, but don’t expect it of every student.

* Make sure there is an easy and advertised process for students, faculty, and staff to change their names within institutional systems. Make sure chosen names are what appear on course rosters.

* Regularly invite the campus community into hard conversations about inclusivity. For example, a frank discussion of race and gender bias in grading and course evaluations.

5) Stop having conversations about the future of education without students in the room."

["“Critical formative cultures are crucial in producing the knowledge, values, social relations and visions that help nurture and sustain the possibility to think critically...” @HenryGiroux

The path toward inclusivity starts with small, human acts.

"You cannot counter inequality with good will. You have to structure equality." @CathyNDavidson

"The saddest and most ironic practice in schools is how hard we try to measure how students are doing and how rarely we ever ask them." @fastcrayon" ]
teaching  howweteach  jessestommel  2019  scaffolding  syllabus  syllabi  pedagogy  inclusivity  inclusion  humanism  cathydavidson  henrygiroux  measurement  assessment  differentiation  coddling  compassion  respect  equity  outcomes  standardization  learning  howwelearn  ranking  metrics  norming  uniformity  accreditation  rigor  mastery  rubrics  performance  objectivity  education  highered  highereducation  grades  grading  bias  alfiekohn  hierarchy  power  paulofreire  pedagogyoftheoppressed  throeau  martinbickman 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Almost All the Colleges I Wanted to Go to Rejected Me. Now What? - The New York Times
"There’s a greater delusion here. We’re often encouraged to imagine our society as an egg-sorting machine: jumbo, extra-large, large, medium (and then the sizes that don’t show up in the supermarket: small, peewee). We’re drawn to the idea that the rewards of social life — money, esteem, opportunities at college and then, later, at work — are determined by talent and dedication. In this picture, everyone can be ranked on a scale of how meritorious they are. True, we can complicate that picture a little and acknowledge that skills are various; that one person might be a fine mathematician and another a fine musician. But even if you had multiple scales for multiple skills, you would find that the vast majority of us aren’t great at anything. A person can only be at the top if there are lots of people ranged below.

If your self-worth is tied to being better than others, then, you’re headed for trouble. Your classmate in the honors program can feel inadequate compared with a higher-performing classmate in that program, who can feel inadequate compared with a still-higher-performing classmate and so on up the line. They could all walk around in a state of dejection. But that would be an ethical error. Why ethical? Because ethics, in its classical sense, concerns itself with what makes a life go well.

In the end, what matters isn’t how we rank against others. (Though my hunch is that you’re the only student at your school to be published in The New York Times this week!) You started out with a bundle of talents and interests unlike anyone else’s — yes, even if you have an identical twin. Your life so far has allowed you to develop some of them and to take up projects that you are committed to: Maybe it’s playing the guitar decently, writing a short story, serving the needs of the less well off in your community, being a good Christian or Muslim. Maybe your aim right now is simply being a good friend, taking genuine pleasure in the good fortune of those you care about. “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?” Dorothea asks in George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.”

You may acquit yourself, in these various endeavors, better or worse than another person, but nobody else is trying to do exactly the things you are trying to do with exactly the developed talents you have. Because we all come equipped with different capacities and have been born into different circumstances, and because we choose our own projects, each of us faces his or her own challenge, one that is, like you, unique. You have, as the great German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder once put it, your own measure.

The goal, therefore, isn’t to be the best; it’s to do your best. And don’t think this lets you off the hook. To become a better version of yourself is quite demanding enough. The 18th-century Hasidic rabbi Zusha is supposed to have said that when he died and appeared before the heavenly court, they could ask him, “Why were you not as great as Abraham?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; after all, he wasn’t given Abraham’s intellectual gifts. They could ask him, “Why weren’t you Moses?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; he didn’t have Moses’ skills as a leader. The question that frightened him was this: “Why weren’t you Zusha?” The scholar Martin Buber, writing in the past century, called this the “question of questions.”

I’ve talked about delusions. Here’s what’s true: Lots of things that happen to you — a good number of which will be a matter of sheer luck — will affect the life you make. But what will make your life a good one, along with luck, is a willingness to run with the opportunities that come your way.

Mourning all the things that didn’t turn out in your college-admissions season, you say that you can’t see yourself thriving in any school that has accepted you. Don’t trust that intuition for a moment. If acceptance from elite colleges is hard, self-acceptance can be harder.

Take up that question of questions. Think about what you can do with the opportunities you have, like going to a good college near home. If you do the work, make friends and enjoy reasonable luck there, you’ll come away from the college enriched and ready for the next phase of your life. So seize the day. The race you’re running has only one competitor, and it’s you."
colleges  universities  admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  kwameanthonyappiah  education  highered  highereducation  meritocracy  sorting  ranking  hierarchy  ethics  inequality  selectivity  personhood  acceptance  elitism  self-acceptance  delusions  measurement 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Nick en Instagram: “On the Power of Discourse, Fitting In, and Belonging ⁣ ⁣ I finally submitted my undergraduate thesis titled “Understanding the…”
"On the Power of Discourse, Fitting In, and Belonging ⁣

I finally submitted my undergraduate thesis titled “Understanding the Interactions Between the State of Rio de Janeiro and Favela Communities”. Key Words: violence, hegemony, biopower, culture of terror, police, nation-state, Brazil, favela.⁣ Before this year, I had assumed that all undergraduate seniors across the USA had to undergo this 9 month process called “capstone”. As I have talked to more undergraduate students throughout the years at conferences, Lyft rides, or abroad, I have found it quite interesting how Soka’s liberal arts education has really allowed its students to not only talk about our own specializations from the perspective of our own disciplines, but also from other lenses as well. This includes using lenses from other disciplines that historically might conflict with the one we are concentrating in now (oh btw, my school has concentrations, not “majors” b/c *insert tour guide voice* everything is interdisciplinary). ⁣

Like there was this one time this guy I met in Taiwan, who majored in…I don’t even remember…East Asian Studies w/ a focus on “x” and a sub specialization on “y” (you can see where this train wreck is going)…Clearly w/o the liberal arts framework…b/c when I started asking questions like “ok, so it’s been 30 minutes and you know all this history like great you ate a textbook, can’t relate. But how is this history told? How does the narration of this history impact different communities in Taiwan? Does this history parallel anywhere else's in the world? Before I could chime in and be cute and say "That's wicked similar to x community in...", he fucking keeps talking as if his narrow ass expertise is any better. Have you considered that maybe the history you learned at an elite institution in the USA is maybe a colonized one?” Idk… there’s always all these people that try to be like “impressive”, and it’s like I’d rather drink boba w/o a straw than this… (1/3)"
sokauniversityofamerica  capstones  liberalarts  2019  interdisciplinary  education  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  soka  sua 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Anxiety ‘epidemic’ brewing on college campuses | University of California
"The number of 18- to 26-year-old students who report suffering from anxiety disorder has doubled since 2008, perhaps as a result of rising financial stress and increased time spent on digital devices, according to preliminary findings released Thursday by a team of UC Berkeley researchers.

The percentage of all students nationally who reported being diagnosed with or treated for anxiety disorder climbed from 10 percent in 2008 to 20 percent in 2018, according to the findings by a research team led by Richard Scheffler, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy and School of Public Health.

Rates of anxiety disorder grew at higher rates for students who identified as transgender, Latinx and black, and they increased the closer all students got to graduation.

“It is what I am calling a ‘new epidemic,’ and that the data supports using that term, on college campuses,” Scheffler said. “We need a heightened national awareness of this very serious epidemic.”

Scheffler and his team examined nine years of data from the annual student National College Health Assessment survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth — two nationwide examinations of student well-being. The group also conducted 45-minute interviews with 30 UC Berkeley students who identified as suffering from anxiety.

While Scheffler said he cannot firmly establish the causes for the rise in anxiety, he found strong correlations between anxiety disorder and financial instability, the amount of leisure time spent on digital devices and the level of education attained by a young adult’s mother.

“The correlations and the data are pretty powerful,” he said.

Factors increasing anxiety

Specifically, the findings show that:

• Young adults who come from families that have trouble paying bills are 2.7 times more likely to have anxiety than students who come from families that have no difficulty paying bills.

• Young adults who spend more than 20 hours of leisure time per week on digital devices were 53 percent more likely to have anxiety than young adults who spend fewer than 5 hours a week on digital devices.

• Young adults with mothers who had at least an undergraduate degree had a 45 percent greater chance of having anxiety than young adults whose mothers had less than a college degree. The surveys used in the analysis did not ask about the fathers’ level of education.

Scheffler also found that anxiety is associated with other serious problems beyond the overwhelming feelings of worry or nervousness associated with the disorder.

A student with anxiety is 3.2 times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, the findings show. Other negative outcomes correlated with anxiety included increased probability of having been sexually assaulted or attempting suicide.

All factors being equal, Scheffler also found that between 2008 and 2014, young adults with anxiety earned 11 percent less than those without anxiety.

“Anxiety has really very dire consequences for these students,” Scheffler said. “That’s a lot of pain and suffering.”

‘Something’s going on here’
Scheffler, who joined UC Berkeley’s faculty in 1981, said he first began thinking about student anxiety 10 years ago, when he looked out at the 100 students in his lecture hall and saw faces stricken with worry.

“More than half the students were not looking at me, they were looking at their phones or their computers,” Scheffler said. “I told everyone to turn their phones off and put their computers away. I had four or five students who were so addicted, they could not do it. I actually had to go and take their phones away from them.”

“I said to myself, ‘You know, something’s going on here,’” he added. “That was the beginning. And then I watched for several years.”

While Scheffler doesn’t make policy recommendations in his preliminary findings, he said the first step in dealing with the rise in anxiety is increasing awareness among faculty and college administrators.

“I want the faculty and the university leadership here at UC Berkeley and across the country to know that this epidemic is out there, and they need to understand it,” he said. “The students need help.”

To that end, the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans, a research center affiliated with the Goldman School of Public Policy, is hosting a panel discussion on the findings Thursday afternoon that will feature Chancellor Carol Christ, student leaders and UC Berkeley health system administrators.

“We know that Millennials and GenZ are experiencing anxiety like no previous generation,” said Sarah Swanbeck, the executive director of the institute. “While there’s a lot we still don’t know about what’s causing the spike in anxiety disorder, this report highlights that the problem is actually getting worse. It’s an important signal to college administrators that much more must be done to tackle this issue.”

Scheffler will present his findings and hopes the audience of deans, counselors, students and program coordinators will take his message to heart.

UC Berkeley offers a number of resources for students, including counseling at the Tang Center, help meeting basic needs and other programs."
education  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  anxiety  mentalhealth  psychology  2019 
april 2019 by robertogreco
From Harvard to UChicago, Elite Colleges Are an Anomaly - The Atlantic
"A focus on highly selective schools obscures the experience of the vast majority of American undergraduates."

"Every year at this time, headlines reveal once again what everyone already knows: America’s top institutions are selective—very. Harvard took a record-low 4.5 percent of the applicants to its 2023 class. Yale accepted 5.9 percent, the same as the University of Chicago.

These numbers—albeit wild—are outliers, representing an almost-negligible slice of the United States’ higher-education ecosystem. Approximately 10.8 million undergraduates were enrolled in the country’s more than 2,500 four-year universities in the fall of 2017, according to an Atlantic analysis of raw figures from the Education Department’s data center.

The majority of students—more than 80 percent—attend schools, such as Texas A&M, Rutgers, and Simmons University, that accept more than half their applicants. In 2017, our analysis shows, roughly 3 percent of the country’s bachelor’s-degree candidates were enrolled at a four-year university that accepts fewer than a quarter of undergraduate applicants; only 0.8 percent of undergraduates were attending one of the handful of universities that accept fewer than one in 10 applicants.

Most schools are not these highly selective institutions, and the application process for millions of students is not the stress-inducing nightmare that gets so much public attention. Excluded from the narrative are the thousands of four-year colleges that serve millions of undergraduates, including many historically black colleges and universities—not to mention the 1,000-plus community colleges.

Various characteristics set these more-typical institutions apart from their brand-name counterparts, such as the fact that the former are more likely to enroll Pell grant recipients (read: very low-income individuals), as well as “nontraditional” students (that is, those who are 24 or older and/or have children of their own) and military veterans, according to the New America higher-education policy analyst Iris Palmer. They’re also less likely to be considered research universities—generally those that offer doctoral-degree programs—and more likely to be commuter campuses, according to Georgetown University researchers. Of all the country’s four-year institutions, slightly more than half are private, nonprofit schools, such as Massachusetts’s Endicott College and Texas’s Trinity University. About 29 percent are public—Mississippi’s Alcorn State University, for instance, and the University of California at Merced, near Fresno. The remaining 17 percent are for-profit, such as the College of Westchester in New York, and Oregon’s Pioneer Pacific College.

These schools dominate the options for most American high schoolers; attending them is a far more common experience than that provided by the Dartmouths and Dukes and Davidsons of the country. The landscape of higher education is far more sprawling than a focus on selective schools allows.

Moreover, the student bodies of the upper tier of competitive colleges are not representative of the demographics of the country at large. Research published by Opportunity Insights, a think tank led by the economists Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Nathaniel Hendren, has found that roughly three dozen of the country’s “elite” colleges—schools including Washington University in St. Louis, Trinity College (Connecticut), Tufts, Yale, and Brown—enroll more students from households in the top 1 percent of the income scale than they do students from the bottom 60 percent of that scale. In fact, students from the top 1 percent are 77 times more likely to attend “elite” colleges, here defined as schools that accept fewer than a quarter of undergraduate applicants, than are their peers in the bottom 20 percent.

Another often-overlooked feature of higher education in the U.S.: community colleges. Of the nearly 2 million bachelor’s degrees granted last year, roughly half of the recipients had community-college credit. In some states, a solid majority of bachelor’s-degree recipients at some point attended community college—in Texas, for example, the rate last year was three in four. In the fall of 2017, 5.8 million people were enrolled at community colleges, most of them as part-time students.

The most selective schools produce many of the people who populate the top ranks of American business, media, and political leadership. But the country is much bigger and more multitudinous. The work of educating its people falls by and large not to the small set of famous schools, but to the much wider array of ordinary schools, where millions of Americans go to learn every day."
admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  elitism  anxiety  education 
april 2019 by robertogreco
On Quality Higher Education: An Essay in Three Installments, Part 1 | Howard Gardner
[Part 2:
Part 3:

Quotes below from various parts]

"Of the 1000 students whom we interviewed at length on ten disparate campuses, depressingly few report the experience of exploring new topics and acquiring new ways of thinking as central to their college experience."

"The principal purpose of a liberal arts education should be the achievement of academic and cognitive growth. Any other purpose needs to be deeply intertwined with these academic and cognitive priorities. By the conclusion of a four-year education in an institution that calls itself a liberal arts school, or that claims to infuse liberal arts significantly into a required curriculum, all graduates should have been exposed to a range of ways of thinking that scholars and other serious thinkers have developed over the decades, sometimes over centuries. Students should have ample practice in applying several ways of thinking; and they should be able to demonstrate, to a set of competent assessors, that they can analyze and apply these ways of thinking. Put specifically and succinctly, graduates should be able to read and critique literary, historical, and social scientific texts; exhibit mathematical, computational, and statistical analytic skills; and have significant practical “hands on” immersion in at least one scientific and one artistic area."

"When we began our own study some years ago, we were completely unprepared for two major findings across a deliberately disparate set of campuses. We found that challenges of mental health were encountered everywhere, and were, for whatever reasons, on the increase. And across campuses, we found as well (and presumably relatedly) that a large number of students reported their feeling that they did not belong; they felt alienated in one or another way—from the academic agenda, from their peers, from the overall institutions. And to our surprise, this alienation proved more prominent among graduating students than among incoming students!"

"When we began our own study some years ago, we were completely unprepared for two major findings across a deliberately disparate set of campuses. We found that challenges of mental health were encountered everywhere, and were, for whatever reasons, on the increase. And across campuses, we found as well (and presumably relatedly) that a large number of students reported their feeling that they did not belong; they felt alienated in one or another way—from the academic agenda, from their peers, from the overall institutions. And to our surprise, this alienation proved more prominent among graduating students than among incoming students!"

"Indeed, if non-academic goals—say, social or emotional development—are to be reached, they are likely to be reached as a result of the presence of appealing role models on campus and the way the institution itself is run and addresses challenges. If consistent modeling is ingrained in the culture of an institution, most students can be expected to live up to these high standards. To be sure, mental health and belonging issues may need to be specifically supported by trained professionals (either on or off campus)."

"At such times, institutions are tested as they have not been before. And higher education faces a clear choice: the sector can continue to claim, against the evidence and against plausibility, that it can repair the various fault lines in the society. Or it can reassert the major reason for its existence and strive to show that, in the present challenging climate, it can achieve what it was designed to achieve. If it fails, the whole sector is likely to be so fundamentally altered that the vision we’ve described will have disappeared—and perhaps for a very long time."
liberalarts  howardgardner  wendyfischman  highered  highereducation  mentalhealth  purpose  mission  belonging  criticalthinking  vocation  vocationaleducation  onboarding  missiondrift  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  goals  meaning  meaningmaking  colleges  universities  economics  institutions  academia 
april 2019 by robertogreco
White paper: Debt, tuition dependence doom small colleges
"Scholar looks at history of U.S. higher ed and finds that vulnerable colleges, most of them private, tend to close or merge when crisis pushes them "over the cliff.""

"The 2008 recession has heightened the significance of closures, since fewer new nonprofit institutions are arising than at nearly any time in history. That makes each closure matter more, since the total number of seats shrinks.

In the past, colleges have evolved slowly, often from tiny operations into regional and sometimes nationally recognized institutions. She noted, for instance, that the Anna Blake School, which opened in 1891 to offer training in economics and industrial arts, became the Santa Barbara State Normal School after the state of California took it over in 1909. Twelve years later it became Santa Barbara State College, then Santa Barbara College of the University of California. It's now known as UC Santa Barbara.

Likewise for the Pacific Sanitarium and School of Osteopathic Medicine, which opened in 1896. Long story short: it's now the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

Sapiro urges those who would predict hundreds of closures to consider that most colleges have spent “significant parts of their institutional existence teetering on the brink of ruin, deeply vulnerable to having to close.” A high proportion of colleges and universities have survived through troubled financial periods -- even back to Harvard University. Actually, institutions that we think of as elite have often been the beneficiaries of outside aid, either from donors, subscribers or even government largess. She noted that Harvard enjoyed “substantial public support” when it was founded in 1636. The Massachusetts Bay Colony donated the land for its campus and handed over revenues from a nearby toll bridge. “They had a whole bunch of public funds that served as the basis for their success later.”

She also noted that most of the U.S. colleges and universities with roots prior to the 20th century began as academies -- sometimes they began as primary schools, seminaries or even orphanages. That suggests the next great wave of colleges could evolve from very different-looking institutions.

While many observers these days would say that poorly run colleges deserve to close, Sapiro cautioned that a college is not like your typical business. For one thing, managers can't simply make its core product cheaper.

“We’re very confined,” she said. “We’re businesses, but we don’t run our institutions in the way of a for-profit business that buys and sells stuff.”

Colleges and universities that are under threat of closure “have a full range of bad choices to make,” she noted: they can lower standards, defer maintenance, create new programs to generate new students or cut unpopular programs that aren't attracting enough students. All of these, she suggested, are terrible ways to save money or bring in new revenue. A former dean, Sapiro said abolishing even an entire department “doesn’t save money the way you think it does.”

Colleges like Hampshire or Green Mountain, which have sought to provide a niche by focusing on sustainability and ecology, for instance, often find that this simply isn’t enough to differentiate themselves from others. “What Green Mountain found is that not every student who wants to be green and ecological is going to go there,” she said. “Some [students] are going to go to UCSD.”

In a few rare cases, colleges such as Boston University have intentionally planned for smaller entering freshman classes to be more selective -- in the process, she said, BU also increased acceptance of transfers with good records elsewhere (including at community colleges). That helped it become more desirable, while at the same time increasing access across different demographic groups, including first-generation students. “If you become an institution that is more prestigious, that can beat other institutions more at admissions, you win,” she said.

Sapiro also suggests critics pay closer attention to what she calls higher ed's “ecology” -- literally its cycle of birth, death and rebirth. When colleges die, they don’t simply disappear. Their physical assets, as well as their faculty, staff and students, often enrich another, sometimes related, college. “In some way or another, they feed the birth of another institution,” she said.

She noted that Wheelock College didn’t simply disappear in 2017 -- it merged into Boston University, bringing together two institutions with campuses separated by about a mile. The former college now houses the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

Struggling denominational colleges serve another interesting function, Sapiro said: when the religious institution that oversees one finally decides that it's unsustainable, it typically transfers funding to another educational undertaking that is sustainable, much as a holding company might do.

“It’s very sad when your alma mater or your institution goes down -- and it’s bad for the community because of all those business that depend on it," she said. "But very often it feeds the sustainability of another institution.”"
2019  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  hampshirecollege  ucsb  greenmountaincollege  newburycollege  atlanticunioncollege  ucirvine  bostonuniversity  wheelockcollege  2017  niche  virginiasapiro  gregtoppo 
april 2019 by robertogreco
An Honest College Rejection Letter - McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
"Dear Applicant,

The Admissions Committee has carefully considered your application and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to offer you admission in the entering class, or a position on one of our alternate lists. The applicant pool this year was particularly strong, and by that I mean the Admissions Committee once again sent candidates like you multiple enticing pamphlets encouraging you to apply, knowing full well we had no intention of accepting you.

However, you will be pleased to know that you have contributed to our declining admissions rate, which has helped our university appear exclusive. This allows us to attract our real candidates: upper-class kids and certified geniuses who will glean no new information from our courses or faculty, whose parents can incentivize us with a new swimming pool or lacrosse stadium.

As a reminder, we don’t aspire to be a socially exclusive learning environment. In fact, we have chosen to actively pursue a more diverse campus and welcome all minorities. But our admissions program is quite unique; we combat past discrimination by discriminating in the present. It is one of the many techniques that our Nobel, Peabody, and Oscar award-winning faculty has helped to develop.

While we consider applicants from all backgrounds who excel both in and out of the classroom, we really want student savants who relentlessly pursue a single instrument, sport, or other activity. Unless you have written a New York Times bestseller, won first place in the Intel Science Fair, or cured type 1 diabetes using only solar power and a tampon string, we’ll put you at the bottom of the pool.

You may be wondering how a near-perfect SAT and ACT, a dozen perfect AP scores, and your presidency of four clubs did not distinguish you from the pack. Please know that we take many other factors into account as well, including socio-political-monetary context, Asian-ness of name, BMI, and modified-Rorschach (in which one of our assistants holds your application from across the room and we try to discern the outline of your profile).

You should also know that our committee did not fall for your attempts to look “humble” or “well-rounded.” Volunteering in developing countries is nice, but truly generous individuals volunteer to improve their local communities, while truly wealthy families buy a third-world country for their child to gentrify. We also realize that your extensive study of how “Novel cyclic di-GMP effectors of the YajQ protein family control bacterial virulence” was not influenced by your passion for “volunteering with the elderly,” nor was it anything but a résumé inflator. Most importantly, we know that your minimum-wage job did not teach you “patience, teamwork and leadership.” No one learns anything from minimum-wage jobs except how much they hate people and that they shouldn’t have majored in political science.

The reality is that we are no longer looking for students who are remarkable candidates for college; we are looking for people who have already made a difference, so that we can grow our list of impressive alumni. Your value to our college depends solely on your ability to attract future applicants. Since you are no Emma Watson or James Franco, we urge you to consider your acceptance letters from state universities and equally expensive second-tier schools, and commence nursing an inferiority complex for the rest of your life.

We sincerely hope that you find it in your heart to forgive us for not “seeing” your “full potential.” Please remember that we will need your tiger-parent instincts in approximately three decades when you push your own children to the brink of death, and once again help us boost our US News & World Report ranking.

Dean of Admissions"
education  colleges  universities  diversity  admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  satire  mimievans  selectivity  competition  rankings  highered  highereducation 
april 2019 by robertogreco
‘Liz Was a Diehard Conservative’ - POLITICO Magazine
"Warren herself says that in her early academic work she was merely following the dominant theory of the time, which emphasized the efficiency of free markets and unrestrained businesses, rather than holding strong conservative beliefs herself. Still, she acknowledged in our interview that she underwent a profound change in how she viewed public policy early in her academic career, describing the experience as “worse than disillusionment” and “like being shocked at a deep-down level.”

Her conversion was ideological before it turned partisan. The first shift came in the mid-’80s, as she traveled to bankruptcy courts across the country to review thousands of individual cases—a departure from the more theoretical academic approach—and saw that Americans filing for bankruptcy more closely resembled her own family, who struggled financially, rather than the irresponsible deadbeats she had expected.

It wasn’t until Warren was recruited onto a federal commission to help reform the bankruptcy code in the mid-1990s—and then fought for those reforms and lost that battle in 2005—that she became the unapologetic partisan brawler she was in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, serving in the Senate and, now, stumping on the 2020 campaign trail. “I realize nonpartisan just isn’t working,” she recalls of that second conversion moment. “By then it’s clear: The only allies I have are in the Democratic Party, and it’s not even the majority of Democrats.”

Some friends and colleagues say Warren became radicalized, equating her change to a religious experience, to being born again. “She really did have a ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion when she saw the bankrupt consumers really were suffering—forced into bankruptcy by illness, firing or divorce—and not predators,” Johnson says. Other friends argue Warren’s shift has been more gradual, and that she is not the extremist her opponents have sought to portray her as. “It drives me crazy when she’s described as a radical left-winger. She moved from being moderately conservative to being moderately liberal,” says Warren’s co-author and longtime collaborator Jay Westbrook. “When you look at consumer debt and what happens to consumers in America, you begin to think the capitalist machine is out of line.”"

"What Warren’s Republican history means for her presidential prospects remains unclear. There’s a version of this story in which her politically mixed background makes her the ideal candidate to capture not just the the American left but also the center—a pugilistic populist vowing to take on corporations, a policy-savvy reformer who believes that markets are essential to the economy.

But that’s not the political landscape of 2019. Warren’s tough stance during the financial crisis got her tagged by Republicans and many Democrats as more Harvard liberal than an up-by-the-bootstraps working mom from Oklahoma. And her work on the CFPB alienated much of the financial services industry. Meanwhile, much of the left wing of the Democratic Party, for which she was the banner-carrier after the financial crisis, has found a new champion in the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. And members of the growing Democratic Socialists of America and the hosts of the popular leftist podcast Chapo Trap House have criticized Warren for her adherence to capitalism. As of this writing, she is generally polling fifth in the Democratic field, and her 2020 fundraising has fallen short of several other rivals’.

With some in the Democratic Party demanding purity, perhaps Warren thinks going back through her Republican history could hurt her. When I suggested near the end of our interview that she might consider talking more about that part of her biography, and her conversion, she was politely noncommittal.

“Sure, sure,” she said, before quickly pivoting back to another question."

[See also:

"A very good read. Warren's story is such a profound American story, and a very deep story about how ideology works, and what it takes to get free.

This is how you get free: You do the work, and embrace the learning.
Warren’s academic career soon took a turn that made her far less comfortable with unfettered free markets. Prompted in part by a surge in personal bankruptcy filings following the passage of new bankruptcy laws in 1978, Warren, Sullivan and Westbrook in 1982 decided to study bankruptcy in a way that was then considered novel in academia: by digging into the anecdotal evidence of individual filings and traveling to bankruptcy courts across the country, often rolling a small copy machine through airports along the way.

Whatever their take on "capitalism" or "socialism," I'm here for leaders who understand how American capitalism in its current form (since the late 1970s; "neoliberalism") has completely failed—both morally and technically.

In the presidential field, there are exactly two.

The intellectual damage of the 1980s is intense. It's immensely to Warren's credit that, as a young woman untenured professor then, she realized—through fieldwork—that she could not in conscience enforce the ideology.

And everyone who went to elite colleges in the US in the 1980s needs to be scrutinized. I remember intro economics in 1985-86. Martin Feldstein preaching the catechism to 1,000 young minds in Sanders Theatre. Midterms where you "proved" why rent control was bad. Deadweight loss!

Three years later those young minds were lining up for "recruiting" as Goldman, Morgan, McKinsey et al swarmed the campus to usher them into the golden cage. This shit happened quickly, people. It's a wonder anyone escaped.

People shaped in the 1990s, with the neoliberal foundation cushioned by Clintonite anesthesia, post-Cold War complacency, and the mystical arrival of the internet, are no better. Probably need even more deprogramming. That's why the arrival of the AOC generation is SUCH A RELIEF."
"Not everyone. A lot of college students in the 1980s were committed activists, from those involved in Divestment from Apartheid South Africa to ACT UP to activism against US policy in Central America."
"Indeed. I was one of them! But that doesn't mean we didn't get coated in the zeitgeist. We all need periodic cleansing."]
elizabethwarren  mindchanging  politics  research  listening  2019  berniesanders  siddharthamitter  billclinton  1990s  1980s  ronaldreagan  economics  martinfeldstein  neoliberalism  2000s  us  policy  bankruptcy  academia  jaywestbrook  highered  highereducation  ideology  fieldwork  rentcontrol  regulation  consumerprotection  democrats  republicans  finance  cfpb  banking  markets 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Great American Meritocracy Machine – alex posecznick
"Cheating is a thing. It happens a lot. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with Gregoire, who ran the testing center at an institution I will call “Ravenwood College.” Although Ravenwood accepted SAT and ACT scores, they also had their own in-house entrance exam which was administered on site. Gregoire was meticulous in proctoring exams, checking paperwork and especially photo identification carefully. He recalled one time, when an applicant claimed to have left her ID in the Office of Admissions and said she would be right back. Later, the applicant returned with the ID and escorted by an admissions counselor, but it was an entirely different person.

She tried to persuade Gregoire that he was mistaken – that they had just spoken and she had come back as instructed. But he responded, with a roll of the eyes and a dry comment: “Okay, who did you get to take your exam for you?”

Sound familiar?

The Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal has splatted hard in the middle of the media, and already faded from our attention. Several days of non-stop coverage and opinion, followed by fatigue. Our attention is nothing if not fickle. It is outrageous that wealthy elites and influential celebrities and their consultants have falsified documents and bribed coaches so their kids can go to extremely selective universities. And it makes sense that this would catch our collective attention. The story fundamentally undermines our trust in American meritocracy.

Maybe it should. Maybe that’s a good thing. Because the most noteworthy thing about the scandal is not the cheating. There are other important observations to be made. And there have been many who have made important observations about how affluent families already game the system in entirely legal ways. But there is more still to consider here.

I’ve spent a lot of my professional life around colleges and universities and seen wonderful and transformative things happen there. But we have to also recognize that a big part of what colleges do is sort students into piles based on merit. “Going to college” is one sort of meritorious pile that employers pay a lot of attention to; and in some circles the most relevant pile is which college we went to. And even affluent parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure their kids are sorted into the most distinctive pile. There is thus a lot of consequence here.

The contradiction, however, is that the more people obtain degrees, the less distinctive those degrees become. This pushes people to find new ways to be distinctive: a degree from this elite college, or perhaps a master’s degree. But this is an anxiety-fueled, credentials arms race – and although it can benefit colleges and universities financially, I’m not sure it is sustainable. How many loans can the average American family bear?

Elite institutions flourish when demand is high and admission low. Demand is measured by how many people you reject every year. But admission offices need to constantly balance the demands of coaches, wealthy donors, trustees, campus executives, ranking metrics, and alumni. One’s job could be at risk if the wrong donor is unhappy, or if the institution falls in a popular ranking system. We therefore need to acknowledge that colleges and universities are not the ivory towers we like to pretend they are. Not any longer. Colleges and universities are extremely competitive, profit-focused enterprises that must reconcile competing aims: educational mission on one side and market on the other. The big secret is that admission offices are under as much pressure as parents are.

This pressure shifts in less-selective spaces, but does not diminish.

Less-selective institutions flourish based on higher enrollments, because their budgets are so closely tied to the number of students sitting in their classrooms. Such institutions may have some strong standing locally, but like “Ravenwood” College, are not household names across the country. For these colleges, the consequence to a bad year could be layoffs, contractions, budget cuts, or closures. In fact, Ravenwood itself experienced some of these challenges. And this is increasingly a concern: by some accounts, private colleges are closing at the rate of 11 per year!

Public universities are not cushioned from such pressures either; many states have so severely cut funding to public higher education in recent years that they must learn to play the market like private institutions. Colleges and universities want to appear distinctive for the same reasons that we all do.

In short, we have built a massive, comprehensive infrastructure to “objectively” identify, evaluate, measure, and sort us into piles. And this sorting machinery involves high school administrations, college recruiters, College Board test designers, marketing teams, private test prep centers, university administrations, college athletics, federal regulatory agencies, voluntary accrediting agencies, magazine publishers, student loan lenders, employers, faculty, students, and their families.

Attending college does not define our value as human beings, but it would be naïve to pretend that there was no consequence to how we get sorted. When employers take note of a particular name or brand, what they are really interested in is how we’ve been continuously sorted into the right bins across our lifetimes. This scandal (and the many editorials since it broke) has revealed that this infrastructure is not objective. The notion of meritocracy has long been at the heart of the rhetoric of education in American society, but is that machinery broken?

Students of history should know that we’ve never had an objective, merit-measuring machine; this is not the story of national decline that some have been preaching. As many have been pointing out, affluent families systemically use their resources to give their kids advantage all the time – and always have. There are boarding schools, expensive test-prep programs, legacy admissions, private counselors and coaches, private violin lessons and extravagant service trips to other countries that make for a great personal statement. And despite some recent and limited interventions through affirmative action, communities of color have been systematically and appallingly excluded for centuries.

Operation Varsity Blues reveals that although the meritocracy machine is powerful and active, we should not always accept it at face value. Not only in elite space, but at all levels, we must recognize individuals for their achievements while weighing them critically and skeptically. In short, the best measure against a broken meritocracy machine is vigilant, morally-grounded people willing to challenge what they see. As long as we have the credentials arms race, there will be cheats and scammers – and the most noteworthy part of this scandal is not that some cheated, but that the wealthy perpetrators will face consequences.

Unless of course the siren call of some new big scandal distracts us."
meritocracy  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  2019  operationvaristyblues  alexposecznick  markets  degree  sorting  ranking  rankings  society  degreeinflation  employment  elitism  objectivity  testing  standardizedtesting  cheating  credentials  scams  corruption  admissions  anxiety  education 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Editorial - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"Syllabi are theory’s infrastructure. While they are not the same as the essays, lectures, books, case studies, films, and other media organized by them, they can and should be seen as theoretical contributions in their own right, and subjected to the same degree of critical reflection, scrutiny, and innovation. Syllabi set a program for study, give structure to vast networks of ideas, and define an interpretative stance on the world. Focusing attention on syllabi—which texts they include, and how they are organized and framed—offers a window into larger problems facing the field of architectural theory today.

Architectural theory went through an academic renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s, with scholars forging new links with groundbreaking theoretical movements of the time, from feminism and postcolonialism to semiotics, phenomenology, and deconstructivism. New syllabi were formed in architecture curricula that incorporated contemporary discursive practices, positions, and sensibilities. Yet the syllabi for such classes have not developed significantly since then. Architectural theory in academic curricula today is often addressed either through a history of theoretical concerns—from mimesis, analogy, beauty, honesty, and utopia to modernity, alienation, authenticity, regionalism, contextualism, autonomy, and postmodernity—a tabulation of theoretical frameworks—from structural linguistics, marxism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology to feminism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism—or a roster of authors—from Vitruvius, Alberti, Laugier, Perrault, Boullée, Durand, and Ruskin to Le Corbusier, Loos, Meyer, Jacobs, Alexander, Banham, Venturi, Scott-Brown, Norberg-Schulz, Rowe, Rossi, Tafuri, Eisenman, Jencks, and Koolhaas.

Academic courses that address more urgent contemporary issues and diverse geographies are too often allocated to specialized fields, institutions, or spaces of study, such that they rarely come to challenge the canon of architectural theory’s increasingly standard model. Theory is one of the necessary ingredients for the maintenance of the discipline of architecture as a synthetic manifestation connecting history, criticism, and practice. Therefore, theory must overcome the institutional inertia of pedagogical reproduction, the neoliberalization of intellectual labor, and the disorientation of informational media, and rearticulate its necessary role. At an infrastructural level of knowledge production, theory must attend to the changing nature of cultural communication, globalization and calls for inclusivity within the social space of discourse, and the economic logics driving planetary collapse.

The starting point for any reformulation of architectural theory should be the ways we learn. The conditions of contemporary thought itself have been transformed over the past decades by new media platforms and the emergent practices of surveillance capitalism. The old attentional economy that once sustained reflective and critical thought has been replaced by an economy of distraction. The work of analyzing difficult texts has become alien to digital natives young and old, who are habituated to a culture of instant access, skimming, and the hypnotic rhythm of clicks, taps, and swipes. When video tutorials appear more engaging and specific than the seemingly dated writing styles of even a decade ago, the habits of reading, thinking, and writing common to theory’s past must be re-imagined.

This expanding space of communications has accompanied intensified intercultural exchanges brought about by global economic integration, migration, and the resultant pressing together of different peoples, cultures, and ways of life. Theory’s debt to a Western tradition of philosophical, historical, and critical reason has been brought into question. Architecture’s theoretical discourse needs to respond to the critique of Western-centrism and the calls for its provincialization. It must address the question of opening up to alternative epistemologies and broader methods of discourse production, be they poetic, practical, symbolic, moral, magical, or mythic as much as philosophical or metaphysical. Provincializing Western architectural theory is one way to address the social struggles and conflicts between identity groups that have intensified with the proverbial shrinking of the world. In this vein, theory must reflect on who constructs architecture’s theoretical canon, who speaks as a theorist, who theory speaks about, and who theory addresses as its audience. While embracing the concrete political gains in the social redistribution of power among different genders, races, sexualities, and class backgrounds, theory should also question the role of identity as an operator within discourses, institutions, and national politics, and critically reflect on both its essentializations and constructed nature.

The globalization of culture is, for better or worse, supported by global, transnational, and neoliberal economic practices and their consequent forms of ecological destruction. As much as the global can provincialize theory, the global can also further focus theory upon the new ethico-political demand created by the explicit awareness of technological convergence and impending planetary collapse. With the recent granting of a new geological epoch to our species, we have passed a threshold of irreversible awareness that modern dreams of progress, infinite economic growth, and unlimited consumerist self-expression produce the counter-effects that turn dreams into nightmares. Yet while causes remain global, their effects are often local and asymmetrical, demanding that we theorize both a new hermeneutics of our technological being and a new ethics and politics of the earth.

In challenging architectural theory, these historical factors hold the capacity to reenergize and rethink its relationship to its traditional concerns, frameworks, authors, organizations, and geographies that shape its curricula. They might even force the most basic of existential questions for architectural theory itself: what is it for, today? At its very minimum, we can understand theory to be an instrument for socializing architects into a shared vocabulary and tradition, both within and outside of the discipline, as well as a means for providing a forum for ideological debate between the many conflicting practices that compose the field of architecture. But should architectural theory seek to renew the projective avant-garde project which it was understood to be a couple of decades ago, one capable of challenging and reorienting studio culture and professional practice more widely? Or should it keep a critical distance from design, and instead focus its lens upon the formation of the subjectivity, critical consciousness, ethical comportment, and civic duty of the architect themselves?

Theory’s Curriculum is an extra-academic initiative that seeks to provide theory with a means to challenge its existing methods of pedagogical reproduction. It seeks to build a collaborative project that brings together isolated laborers to pool ideas and methods across dispersed institutions and geographies, to compare inherited models, to detect received assumptions, and to ask fundamental questions about what and how we should teach and learn when we teach and learn architectural theory.

Collaboration is inevitably a heuristic fiction, promising what is often difficult to sustain against the dominant structures of modern individuation, today’s entrepreneurialization of the self, and the semiotic capital of discourse. It inevitably cuts across the values of wage-labor and attribution, and blurs the boundaries between professional roles, friendship, and community spirit. Yet, as McKenzie Wark has argued, the conditions of intellectual laboring in the academy today necessitate that we adopt a more realist approach to theorizing as the cumulative task of many smaller efforts, rather than the great leaps forward once marked by grand philosophical systems or public intellectuals. With these syllabi, Theory’s Curriculum seeks to reconceptualize intellectual work as the function of a general intellect, an ecology of contributions on particular themes and ideas that, when exchanged and debated, evolve as a collective project.

These syllabi aim to indicate potential avenues for progress, and in so doing prompt a debate. They are far from exhaustive, yet are free to be used, recycled, hacked, and plundered. They are offered in the spirit of further collaboration, and with the hope that they will invite others to join this nascent enterprise in the rearticulation and teaching of architectural theory today. Ultimately, they suggest that pedagogy is not secondary to theory, but that rethinking how we teach and learn theory might be central to how we theorize anew."
syllabus  syllabi  curriculum  architecture  education  highered  deign  highereducation  academia  theory  nickaxel  josephbedford  nikolaushirsch  mckenziewark  collaboration  individuation  labor  progress  pedagogy  anthropocene  neoliberalism  globalization  economics  migration  thecanon 
april 2019 by robertogreco
is everything an MLM
"When I tweeted out the piece, a fellow academic responded: “This sounds….familiar: ‘CorePower churns out thousands more “certified” teachers than the company offers to employ.’”

She’s referring to the overproduction of PhDs: too many people coming through grad school, and too few sustainable academic jobs. And as anyone in any field understands, when there’s way more qualified applicants than jobs, the existing jobs can demand more of applicants (more qualifications, less money) while applicants lower their own expectations (for compensation, for benefits, for job security, for course load and service, for location).

So why don’t academic departments just decrease the number of PhD students they accept? Because those students have become an integral cog in the contemporary university. A recent report by the National Research Council on"Addressing the Nation's Changing Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists" found that the number of new PhDs awarded every year “is well "is well above that needed to keep pace with growth in the U.S. economy and to replace those leaving the workforce as a result of retirement and death." The report suggests that there should be no increase in the number of PhDs, but does not call for a decrease: “to change suddenly the numbers of people could be very disruptive to the research that’s going on at the present time.”

Put differently, those PhD students are providing (cheap!) labor in labs; to decrease the flow of incoming students would necessitate a dramatic rethinking of the funding/viability of various labs. The Humanities don’t have labs, but they do have massive numbers of undergraduate courses that need teaching. In English programs, it’s some version of “comp,” or composition; in foreign language programs, it’s intro language classes; in communications, it’s public speaking. Many of these courses are mandated “core” in some capacity, ensuring an unwavering stream of students, and an unwavering demand for (again, very cheap) graduate student labor to serve them. To decrease the number of graduate students, again, would be to decrease the supply of cheap labor. To rectify the loss, you’d either have to hire adjuncts or more professors (both more expensive than graduate students) or decrease the number of admitted students (and a loss, to the university, of an income stream).

Some schools start PhD programs — even though they know that their institution is not prestigious enough to place its graduates in “good” jobs, unless they are truly stellar — as a sort of labor generator: lure students with the promise of tuition remission, and you’ve got at least four years of their labor. Some MA programs also provide tuition remission in exchange for TA’ing; others are simply “money makers,” with no opportunity to TA, just the opportunity for 10-40 students pay full tuition, even if the chances of moving on to a PhD program (or full-time employment in their field) is small.

We talk a lot about how “for-profit” colleges (Cappella, Phoenix, dozens of others) exploit students’ internalized belief that the only way to pull themselves and their families up through the capitalist system is a degree — no matter if they have to take out massive amounts of debt to do it, no matter if they’re steered towards degree programs (massage therapy) in which there’s little chance to find employment that will even cover your loan payment, let alone allow the student to pull themselves up the class ladder. (Of course, a degree can provide that route — but usually it can be obtained for much, much less at the local community college.)

For first generation college students with little or no inherited knowledge of how college or student loans work, for-profit colleges can be incredibly appealing. They target you; they tell you that you could have a different life, a secure life, a career, everything you’ve dreamed of, just by enrolling. (For the twentieth time, read Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed for an in-depth account of how for profit colleges target, recruit, and exploit these populations)

But academia — specifically, higher ed — does something different. Like my yoga teacher, they affirm what so many of us wanted to believe about ourselves: that we’re good enough, smart enough, potential-filled enough, to go to grad school. Maybe it started when you wrote a paper you were particularly proud of, and your professor told you, off-handedly, “maybe you should think about grad school.” Maybe someone else in your life — the parent of a friend, someone you nannied for, your parent — told you the same. When my undergrad professor told me as much, it was like someone had unfogged the windshield of my life: oh, yes, there’s the road in front of me!

Everyone I met in grad school had some version of this story. Once the aptitude was discerned, in our minds, into something like destiny. You ask for letters of recommendation, and your professors write them. You apply to grad schools, and some accept you. Instead of thinking about should I go to grad school, it becomes which grad school should I go to? And because you’ve already made the decision, it’s difficult to divert when the road conditions become more and more difficult.

Bad funding situation? You’ll make it work. Too many MA and PhDs means you have to “professionalize” (go to many conferences, publish many peer-reviewed papers) on your own dime? You’ll make it work. Take out loans to cover that conference travel; take out loans to live over the summer because there’s no funding available; take out loans to finish your dissertation because your school ran out of it; take out loans to travel to MLA to be one of 15 people interviewing for a job you don’t want. Again: You’ll make it work. You’re already too far down the road.

Job market’s so tight that you have to move away from your partner for a year of a post doc, then another post-doc across the country, then a job in a place far from family that pays less than a high school teacher? Again, you’ll make it work. You get to do something you love, the refrain goes. All jobs are bad, someone will tell you.

To give up is shameful, but why? Where does that shame come from? We internalize the failure as our own, instead of a failure that was set up, save for a select few, from the start. Put differently, getting spit out by the contemporary academic establishment isn’t a mark of failure; it’s a sign that the system is working as intended. Those who aren’t spit out are absorbed into the pyramid — as adjuncts, as tenure track. And no matter how much they advocate for ethical treatment, no matter how much they support graduate unions, there’s only so much you can do when your university keeps admitting graduate students.

Which isn’t to say there’s nothing. I’ve always deeply admired the Communications program at the University of Wisconsin, which only accepts as many PhD students as it honestly believes it can place in jobs. That means incredible selectivity, but it also means keeping its numbers incredibly low. (I didn’t get accepted there, which maybe should have been a sign that I should’ve have kept going!) I know a number of professors who are increasingly working with graduate students, from the beginning, on how to “professionalize” towards career paths that may or may not lead outside of academia. I know tenured professors who fund graduate student travel to conferences, and who only publish in open-source journals, and who speak frankly to their undergrad students about the realities and debt and burnout incurred through the graduate school process.

There are so many good and ethical actors within the system. But it’s not enough to counter the absorbing, flattering, hope-igniting energy of contemporary academia, which subsists on the infinite stream of students so eager for someone to tell them that the thing they love to think about it, the thing that feels nourishing and explosive and electric, they can have that thing all the time. That’s how I used to talk about my path to grad school: I wanted a way to think about the things I was thinking about for the rest of my life. All I needed was that one teacher to tell me I could. What I didn’t realize is that there were, and are, so many paths, professional and otherwise, to think about those things for the rest of my life.

To suggest as much, though, feels subversive — or at least un-American in some weird way. Of course you should pursue your dream! But what if “my dream” was actually just a fear of other options + an addiction to compliments + a few well-written undergraduate papers?

When I first suggested that yoga teacher training was an MLM, someone rightly responded: “it feels like everything today is an MLM.” That’s what happens when an industry is fully enveloped by capitalism: When a hedge fund buys a yoga company — or when universities are figured as money-making businesses, with actual consultants hired to lead them. You can blame massive constructive initiatives intended to lure students, but the real problem is the one no one wants to talk about: the massive divestment of state funds, aka tax dollars, across the board. Over the last thirty years, our elected officials have decided that higher education isn’t a societal investment. It’s a capitalist business that must sustain itself. It doesn’t matter how much the head of a graduate department wants to increase graduate pay when the budget has been squeezed so tightly and tuition has already exponentially risen to counter it. There’s no there, there.

The fault with thinking of academia as a pyramid scheme is that there’s no one at the top — just the increasingly ambivalent structure, the ever-reproducing base. You could say administration profits, or football coaches profit. But it increasingly feels like a system in which no one wins: not the students, not their … [more]
capitalism  academia  annehelenpetersen  labor  work  markets  highered  pyramidschemes  ponzischemes  yoga  mlms  multi-levelmarketingschemes  exploitation  colleges  universities  srg  gradschool 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Mαtt Thomαs on Twitter: "Gonna try to live-tweet @Jessifer’s talk at @uiowa today: “Designing Assignments: Redesigning Assessment.”"
"Gonna try to live-tweet @Jessifer’s talk at @uiowa today: “Designing Assignments: Redesigning Assessment.”

.@Jessifer begins by talking about some personal stufff, as a deliberate tactic to situate himself as a human being amongst other human beings. Something to also do on the first day of class, etc.

.@Jessifer says he doesn’t use the LMS at his school because he doesn’t want students to encounter and interface with it before him, a person.

.@Jessifer points out that today syllabuses are often generated from required, stock, auto-generated templates. This sort of “scaffolding,” however, presumes a lot of things about how learning happens that might not be useful.

For instance, many of us (read: teachers) are designing courses and assignments for students we don’t even know yet. To bring in the work of @saragoldrickrab, we need to design for the students we have, not the students we wish we had.

What happens, for instance, when you learn that 1 in 2 students face food insecurity issues? How might that change how you design courses/assignments?

.@Jessifer moves on to talk about grades. They’re not some universal constant, but rather a technology that we have to learn to use, or perhaps not use.

Grading reduces learning to a transaction instead of a set of human relationships.

College teachers have often internalized ways of grading that they can perhaps free themselves from. @Jessifer says we need to “raise a critical eyebrow” at our own grading practices — e.g., our rubrics. He argues against scale, for a return to subjectivity!

In the gradebook students are reduced to rows, in the rubric reduced to columns.

Especially important things to think about, @Jessifer points out, now that almost all colleges have adopted Learning Management Systems, course “shells,” and standardized syllabuses.

.@Jessifer has recently moved to shorter-worded assignments that ask for non-traditional products. Reconceptualize the internet using analog tools, re-order the words of a poem — then document your process!"
jessestommel  mattthomas  2019  rubrics  grading  teaching  syllabus  assessment  howweteach  howwelearn  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  humanism  lms  templates  standardization  writing  howwewrite  form  alternative  syllabi 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”


When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.


Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."

"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
april 2019 by robertogreco
This Is How You Kill a Profession - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Part of me still wants it. That kind of faith is in my bones, and reason can only bleach it away somewhat. The imprint is still there, faint, hauntingly imprecise, all the more venerable for its openness to dreams. I worked as a college administrator for seven years after that postdoc, because I couldn’t bear to be away from my beloved community even after it had set me aside. Because I couldn’t walk away.

All cults, all abusers, work the same way, taking us away from friends and family, demanding more effort and more sacrifice and more devotion, only to find that we remain the same tantalizing distance from the next promised level. And the sacrifice normalizes itself into more sacrifice, the devotion becomes its own reward, the burn of the hunger as good as the meal. "
herbchildress  academia  labor  work  cults  highereducation  highered  teaching  colleges  universities  health  inequality  tenure  competition  faith  abuse  adjuncts  service  class  precarity  capitalism  hungergames 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Why College Is So Expensive In America - YouTube
"College in the United States is expensive. The cost of higher education just keeps going up. Tuition costs at both public and private universities have doubled since the late 80s, while accounting for inflation.

"I think that it's so ingrained in your head that you have to go to college, that college is the next step after graduation," said Jarret Freeman, a college graduate with roughly $50,000 in student debt. "I think in hindsight, I see that college is not for everyone."

But a college education is becoming more and more necessary to succeed in today's economy. Georgetown University estimates that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school degree.

Students graduate with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt. It all adds up to $1.5 trillion across the country.

Watch the video above to learn how higher education became big business, hear from former students facing mounting debt and explore why it's so important to solve the student debt crisis."
colleges  universities  tuition  studentloans  studentdebt  money  2019  education  highered  highereducation  rankings  usnewsandworldreport  wealth  inequality  tests  testing  meritocracy  data  sat  standardizedtesting  funding 
april 2019 by robertogreco
How Harvard and Other Colleges Manage Their Endowments - YouTube
"College is expensive, but there is one place in higher education where there's no shortage of money – endowments. There's more than $616 billion worth of endowments assets in the U.S. Lawmakers are starting to questions why tuition is still rising if some schools have billions of dollars."
colleges  universities  ivyleague  endowments  2019  money  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  inequality  finance  highereducation  highered  power  wealth  universityoftexas  hedgefunds  yale  charity  hoarding  taxes  investment  stanford  divestment  economics  policy  politics  princeton 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Evaluating scholarship, or why I won’t be teaching Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | Blayne Haggart's Orangespace
"In his review, which is a wonder of careful thinking and contextualization, Morozov performs a couple of useful services. First, he highlights the extent to which Zuboff’s argument about how surveillance capitalism works rests on a tautology – “surveillance capitalists engage in surveillance capitalism because this is what the imperatives of surveillance capitalism demand” – that leaves they why of the matter unexamined. Second, he places her squarely within an intellectual tradition of “managerial capitalism” and a wider functionalist tradition in sociology associated with Talcott Parsons. Morozov argues that partly as a result of this (unacknowledged) mindset, Zuboff fails to understand the extent to which her critique of surveillance capitalism is actually a critique of capitalism, full stop. This inability to see anything outside the mindset of capitalism accounts for the way the book just kind of finishes without suggesting any real possible paths forward other than, we need a new social movement, and surveillance capitalism must be destroyed and replaced with a better form of (digital?) capitalism.

I hadn’t made those exact connections, and Morozov’s review does a great job in concisely summing up these intellectual frameworks. And if you didn’t know anything about managerial capitalism and Alfred Chandler, or the Italian Autonomists, you could also be forgiven for not making those connections either. I knew very little about managerial capitalism, nothing of Alfred Chandler. I am familiar with Parsons and my only exposure to the Italian Autonomists was by reading Hardt and Negri’s Empire during my PhD, which was enough to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with them.

Morozov’s final conclusion is both persuasive and damning from an academic perspective. The book, he says, could be politically powerful because it is a sharp broadside against two companies – Google and Facebook – that represent a clear and present danger to society. However, it “is a step backward in our understanding of the dynamics of the digital economy.”

I think that’s about right.

I am also pretty sure that, despite the acclaim it’s getting in non-Baffler circles, I’m not going to be teaching The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in my Global Political Economy of Knowledge course, but not because I disagree with Zuboff’s argument or feel threatened by her analysis. To the contrary, she’s pretty much telling me exactly what I want to hear. Or more to the point, what I want to believe.

I’m not going to be teaching it because as an academic work, it falls far short of the standards to which we should hold ourselves. It may be a politically effective polemic, but as scholarship that advances our understanding of the world, it is sorely lacking."

"Four tells of poor academic scholarship

1. Exaggerated claims to novelty"

"2. Absence of relevant literatures"

"So. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a study of the messy interactions between economic and social imperatives. (Actually, I’d argue it’s really two linked business case studies of Facebook and Google that wants to be a study of a larger system, but that’s another matter entirely.) This means that it is a study of political economy. Which means it has to engage with the political economy literature on surveillance (a specialized literature, but it does exist) and capitalism (its entire raison d’être). I expect it to engage with particular sources, like Srnicek, like Shawn Powers and Michael Jablonski’s The Real Cyber War. With, in other words, the books that can provide context and support for, and pushback against, its argument.

And if you’re talking about big trends in capitalism and society from a critical perspective, Hannah Arendt is not your go-to. You also need to go beyond the social-science founders – Durkheim, Marx, Weber. You need to engage with the likes of Susan Strange. Or Robert Cox. Or Michael Mann, people who are interested in exactly the same issues that you are dealing with. Karl Polanyi is great, and Zuboff grabs just the right concepts from him. But He. Is. Not. Enough.

(Polanyi was also much more than an “historian,” as Zuboff identifies him. As his Wikipedia entry makes clear, he was an “economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. Then again, the phrase “political economy” appears only four times in this book, and exclusively in the titles of cited books and articles in the endnotes.)

Finally, if one is talking about the dangers involved in a form of power that “knows and shapes human behaviour toward others’ ends” (page 8) and Antonio Gramsci’s conception of hegemony doesn’t rate a mention, I don’t even know. Especially if it’s presented as a completely new idea (in this case “instrumentarian power” – see: Exaggerated claims of novelty). The Gramscian concept of hegemony is all about how the powerful can get other groups to buy into ideologies that may not be in their best interests.

Much of the book is about how surveillance capitalists are working to change human nature so that human thinking more closely resembles that of machine learning. Absolutely correct, but not only is this not the first time that the powers that be have worked to reshape what we think of as human nature, it’s also kind of what it means to rule a society, any society. That’s what the whole concept of hegemony is all about, as any student of Gramscian thought could tell you. Or what someone like Susan Strange or Robert Cox (the two thinkers I’m using in my own work on these very subjects) would note. Knowing that this type of activity is simply how power works in human society puts a different spin on what Zuboff is arguing. It’s not so much that surveillance capitalists are rewiring human nature, but that their ideology is antithetical to a particular type of human nature, namely one in the liberal-democratic vein. Actually engaging with the voluminous work on hegemony and the social construction of knowledge, however, would have challenged Zuboff’s argument that the knowing and shaping of “human behavior toward others’ ends” is unique to surveillance capitalism.

(Maybe the problem is with capitalism itself? As Morozov noted in a follow-up tweet, “My critique of Zuboff’s new book boils down to a paraphrase of Horkheimer: ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you’d better keep quiet about surveillance capitalism’.”)

And it’s just a bit odd that Michel Foucault doesn’t get so much as a mention beyond a reference in a footnoted title about neoliberalism. In a book that’s all about the relationship between power and knowledge."

"3. Unclear framework"

"4. Use of hyperbole: These go to eleven"

"The final verdict: No go

To be honest, before reading Morozov’s critique, watching the glowing reviews come in, I started questioning my judgment. Sure, there were flaws in the book, some of which I would have called out immediately if committed by an undergraduate, but how much did they really matter?

Part of me, I’m embarrassed to say, was swayed by the identity of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’s author. A professor emerita. From Harvard. Who had done important previous work in the field. Even though I know better, I got inside my own head, internalizing the academic class system that places certain schools and scholars above others. The “important voices” whose work is guaranteed a respectful hearing merely by virtue of their pedigree or institution.

The saddest thing is, my receptiveness to this argument from authority says as much about where I see myself in the academic food chain as it does about a Harvard professor. Even though I have witnessed the most idiotic arguments and proposals made by scholars from top-ranked universities, endured recycled banalities from leading lights with nothing to say, and read the most embarrassing articles by celebrated Ivy-league academics. Even though I will put my Canadian Carleton University education up against anyone’s from Oxford or Yale or Harvard. I know this.

And yet, there was that part of me, whispering, But look at who she is. She’s an Authority. Look at all the praise she’s getting, the panels she’s on. Maybe you’re just being judgmental. Maybe you’re being too critical. Maybe you’re wrong.

Well, maybe I am wrong, but a failure to produce an honest critique because of our respective places in the academic food chain is the absolutely worst reason not to make the critique. One of my proudest moments as a teacher was when I heard that a second-year student had written a fantastic, well-researched and impeccably argued paper about how I’d been wrong about something I’d claimed in my Introduction to International Relations class. (And she was right.) We should expect all academics to live up to the same standards we set for our students.

So, no. After spending an entire work week reading this book, after taking over 100 pages of notes and thinking about it constantly for far too long afterwards, I do not believe that The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a good piece of scholarship. It is not careful in its presentation of evidence. It chooses hyperbole over accuracy. It fails to engage with the relevant literatures and critical voices that would challenge what ends up being a one-sided, almost existentially bleak argument.

Its lack of engagement with the relevant literatures makes possible the blind spots, trenchantly catalogued by Morozov, regarding surveillance capitalism’s relationship to capitalism, as well as those regarding the role of the state as something more than a bit player in this epic story. These impair the book’s value in terms of its analysis and, as Morozov’s comments about Zuboff’s failure to consider the “capitalism” part of “surveillance capitalism” suggest, its prescriptions. Why the book … [more]
blaynehaggart  shoshanazuboff  evgneymorozov  criticsm  surveillancecapitalism  mnagerialism  harvard  pedigree  academia  hierarchy  criticism  robertcox  highered  highereducation  michelfoucault  hannaharendt  hyperbole  2019  hegemony  technology  economics  politics  policy  scholarship  authority  elitism 
march 2019 by robertogreco
What Makes a Fair College Admissions Process? | JSTOR Daily
"Move Away from Meritocracy
Nadirah Farah Foley

Especially in the wake of the recent news of a coordinated bribery scheme, many people seem to agree our selective college admissions process is broken. There is far less consensus, however, about why we think it’s broken, and what a better, fairer admissions process would look like. Some think that the process would be fair if it were conducted without special considerations for legacy students, development cases, or athletic recruitment. Others go further, focusing on the myriad mundane ways—aside from bribery and donations—that the system allows privileged people to leverage their resources to secure and perpetuate their advantages. But I contend the process is inherently unfair because it is based on meritocratic principles designed to produce unequal outcomes. A truly fair system would reject meritocratic logics and instead operate on the principle that high-quality education is not a reward for the few, but a right of the many.

Our current process, in which applicants are stratified into a hierarchical higher education landscape, takes a meritocratic ideology as its foundational premise. Meritocracy, the term popularized by British sociologist Michael Young’s 1958 The Rise of the Meritocracy, is typically imagined as a system in which all have equal opportunity to compete on a “level playing field” on the basis of “talent” and “ability,” and all are rewarded equitably based on their “merit.” While this system sounds fair at first blush, a meritocratic ideology poses two problems, either of which should be sufficient cause to critically question it, and perhaps abandon it entirely.

First, upholding meritocracy necessarily entails accepting and upholding inequality. In the case of college admissions, we currently have a system in which some schools have more resources, are more prestigious, and are deemed “better” than others, and those schools have limited seats. We try to allocate those seats “fairly,” on the basis of demonstrated past success and evaluations of future potential. It’s far from a perfect system, but we can rationalize it as ideologically consistent with a meritocratic ideal of equal opportunity and reward for individual talent, effort, and ability. But perhaps, rather than focusing on who “deserves” the “best” schooling, our societal commitment should be to making a high-quality education available to all. Such a commitment would require a rejection of the stratification and inequality presupposed by a meritocratic system and lead us to question whether a stratified society—and assignment to places in an unequal education system—could ever be just.

Second, even if one were inclined to find inequality and stratification acceptable, the reality is that we are so far from the ideals of equal opportunity and a level playing field that the unfairness is glaringly obvious. As sociologist Jonathan Mijs argues, opportunities for demonstrating merit are far from equally distributed. In the United States, where racial residential segregation and local control of schools combine to disproportionately relegate nonwhite (especially black) students to underfunded schools, the claim that anything approaching equal opportunity exists is laughable. Our emphasis on standardized tests, which have roots in racist, ableist, eugenicist science, evinces a narrow understanding of what intelligence is or could be. Holistic admissions evaluations, which provide necessary latitude to consider students’ contexts and lived experiences, also provide privileged applicants another opportunity to show off well-filled extracurricular profiles and essays carefully coached and edited by counselors and consultants. In sum, our current admissions process is—top to bottom—built to misrecognize privilege as “merit,” and thus advantage the already advantaged. To say wealthy white applicants are gaming the system belies the fact that they’re really just playing the game—a game in which only they have full access to the equipment. Perhaps the way to fix this is not to try to change the rules, but to stop playing the meritocratic game entirely.

If that seems a drastic proposal, let me try to convince you it’s a necessary one. We could try to work within the current system, striking the policies that are most obviously and egregiously unfair: legacy, donor admissions, early decision, recruitment of athletes in country club sports. While an improvement, this does nothing to address the fact that even with those components stripped out, the process still falls far short of fairness, because our very metrics of merit are skewed toward privilege. We could try to calibrate for disadvantage, but that’s essentially what holistic evaluation tries to do now—and it’s not enough. Meritocracy is an arms race, one in which the privileged are always better equipped.

We could, as many scholars have proposed, move toward a lottery, which would go a long way toward making explicit the role of luck in college admissions. But I’m concerned by the way some thinkers discuss a potential admissions lottery. Proponents of a lottery often suggest that there should be some baseline level of “merit” in order to enter the lottery. Such a formulation of the lottery doesn’t entail a rejection of our metrics of merit, meaning it would likely reproduce existing inequalities. To avoid that, a lottery would need to not use simple random selection, but instead be carefully calibrated to ensure the resulting class is not just representative of the pool (in which wealthy white students are overrepresented), but of graduating high school students. That could be achieved by assigning different weights to students depending on their background, or by using a form of stratified random selection, in which the applicant pool would be divided into smaller pools based on, for example, demographic factors, and a certain number of students would be accepted at random from each pool.

The lottery is an exciting idea, but one likely to run into legal challenges. And beyond that, it doesn’t do enough to address the unfairness inherent in our unequal education system. I think we need to go a step further than asking what constitutes a fair admissions process, and instead ask what constitutes a fair society. We should recognize that our college admissions process is merely holding a mirror up to our society, reflecting how competitive, individualistic, unequal, and unfair the United States is. A truly radical solution would require the reorganization of our entire class structure and the redistribution of resources, thus obviating the need for such a high-stakes college application process.

It seems that we cling to meritocracy as a way of clinging to some hope of a better life in an increasingly unequal world. But rather than investing our hope in a fairer admissions system, I think we should dream bigger, and invest our hope in a more just society—one in which we live in community rather than competition. That might look like taking up Harvard professor Lani Guinier’s call to emphasize “democratic merit,” or it might look like dispensing with merit—and its attendant acceptance of deserved inequality—entirely.

Everyone deserves access to education. A fair admissions system would have that as a core premise and reject ostensibly just, “meritocratic” inequalities."
juliepark  christineyano  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  admissions  colleges  universities  meritocracy  lottery  collegeadmissions  highered  highereducation  merit  inequality  academia  academics  education  school  schooling  us  firness  laniguinier  democracy  privilege  jonathanmills  race  racism  michaelyoung 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Malcolm Harris: College Admissions Scandal and Capitalism
"The idea that a high-achieving student is doing $100,000 worth of labor a year won’t be surprising to anyone who knows one. Without huge amounts of time and effort beginning at a young age, it’s incredibly hard to pull together the kind of résumé that’s needed in order to stand out to elite and competitive schools. These teens end up putting in so much labor that they are developing their specialized skills to professional levels before they finish high school. In some ways, the unmediated job market has lower standards than the most exclusive colleges do. The best child musicians and scientists and athletes are working very hard, and what they’re doing has value, too. We know it does, because their efforts are worth counterfeiting.

Student labor has a curious character. It’s unpaid, but the idea is that it will be compensated indirectly later. There are tests that are meant to validate kids along the way, including college admissions and ultimately the job market. A higher grade (in the broader but also in the specific, academic sense) is supposed to lead to a higher wage down the line, something everyone understands implicitly. The value from all that childhood work has to go somewhere; we can think of that place as a sort of internal battery that stores human capital, the skills and abilities that we put to work when we go to work. Counterfeit human capital is what William H. Macy and Mossimo Giannulli were allegedly buying for their kids: the appearance of skills and abilities that didn’t actually exist.

Human capital is an odd commodity because it’s inalienable. You can’t sell your ability to do 100 push-ups or your starting position on the soccer team or your Yale diploma. That means that workers can’t really be said to own their human capital, since it’s not transferable. It’s an abstract substance that can be weighed and compared, but also a relationship between workers and owners — that’s why companies can use it in place of “human resources.” Human capital belongs to workers, but only to be managed and exploited by employers. To monetize their abilities, workers need someone to hire or invest in them. (The number of workers who are able to save up their wages in order to start their own businesses is much smaller than we’re led to believe, and shrinking.) There is no fixed correlation between the accumulation of human capital and pay. You get paid to work, not to be smart.

Because no one is on the hook for compensating any particular young person for their hard work, there’s no reason to set a limit on how much of it they should do. The random distribution of talents and passions and the very predictable distribution of resources have left students with any number of ways to differentiate themselves from each other in the eyes of graders. An arms race arises as students are encouraged to try their hardest, to reach their full potentials, to use every advantage they have. We can see the scale of it in the forged applications: The aforementioned Yale admit claimed to be a nationally ranked soccer player in China, a nation of 1.4 billion people. The admissions committee had no reason not to believe it; I’m sure they see genuine applications like that all the time. There’s always someone who can try a little harder and stay up a bit later or whose parents can pay more. The level of competition gets higher and higher, and theoretically that’s great — as long as everyone eventually finds a job that will repay the investments they’ve made in their own capacities. You can see the problem.

The best thing you can do for your own future employment prospects is to invest in your human capital: learn to code or speak Mandarin or captain your sports team or whatever else the Aspen crowd wants from us this week. Training according to guesses about the notoriously unreliable future demands of rich people is not particularly fun, and it’s obvious why their own kids can’t be bothered. But most of us have to try, and there arises a supply-and-demand problem: If everyone teaches themselves to code and the supply of human capital goes up, it’s suddenly very easy for employers to find coders, and the demand (read: pay) goes down. What’s advantageous for the individual is self-defeating for the class.

The result is workers who have not only taken on an average of tens of thousands of dollars in educational debt, but have also put in what we can now understand as hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars’ worth of unpaid labor. Taking no responsibility for this situation, employers have used the flood of overqualified workers to lower job quality, sometimes so far as to stumble onto the wrong side of America’s meager labor laws. That leaves young people who had planned on higher-quality jobs (as they were told to) underwater on their own human capital. Having invested more in effort and money than their work can command on the market, they’re not in possession of distressed assets; they are the distressed assets. And they’re stuck with themselves.

I can’t speak to why people who will never have to work in their lives care about getting fancy degrees, but I know why everyone else does. As the distance between the rich and the rest increases, the stakes of childhood go up too. Failure at one of the crucial steps (like college admissions) means taking a loss on your investment in yourself, which is extremely depressing. Everyone is compelled to work harder to try to avoid that fate, except the business owners and landlords, who just have to pay higher bribes — which they can afford to do because all those people who are working harder are, in one way or another, working for them. Depending on whether or not you own the means of production, it’s all a virtuous or vicious cycle. For most of us, it’s the latter."
malcolmharris  2019  labor  education  schools  schooling  colleges  universities  admissions  collegeadmissions  children  work  capitalism  exploitation  competition  highereducation  highered  debt  unpaidlabor  humancapital 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Liberation Under Siege | Liberación Bajo Asedio on Vimeo
"Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, which successfully fended off imperial aggression by the United States, the United States imposed an economic trade blockade as punishment, which has continued to be in place for the past 60 years. The US has undertaken repeated attempts to plunder the Cuban people through genocidal measures, which has been met with the staunch resilience of the Cuban people, who continue to have faith and confidence in the socialist principles of the Revolution, despite the blockade materially impacting their everyday lives.

“Liberation Under Siege” examines the material conditions cultivated by the destructive blockade through the experiences and stories of everyday Cubans, and reclaim the imperialist narrative pushed by the United States through billions of dollars.

Filmed, Directed, and Edited by:

Priya Prabhakar
Reva Kreeger
Sabrina Meléndez"
cuba  2019  excess  us  foreignpolicy  interviews  education  healthcare  medicine  socialism  food  highereducation  highered  politics  blockade  embargo  poverty  equality  economics  race  gender  sexuality  priyaprabhakar  revakreeger  sabrinameléndez  video  small  slow  consumerism  materialism  capitalism  less  environment  values  success  health  imperialism  media  propaganda  resourcefulness  trade 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Recommendations for an optimal conclusion to Hampshire College (opinion)
"Hampshire College: Fold, Don’t Merge: Michael Drucker proposes what he thinks would be an ethical conclusion to the experimental college."

"When I say my alma mater is an experimental college, I mean it literally. No grades. No majors. No tests. We are different by design and intention.

My academic adviser would ask me, “What are you curious about in the world?” and “How are you going to find the knowledge you need to answer those questions?” Since we have no majors, we have no list to follow telling us exactly what courses to take to complete our degree. Students must not only study the material in their chosen areas of concentration but also figure out what that will be. Simply being a student at Hampshire College is an act of experiential education.

Hampshire’s educational philosophy asks: What is possible if students are studying for the sake of learning instead of competing for letter grades? What is possible if students are studying not only for the sake of learning but also for innovative, interdisciplinary applications of that knowledge?

Do Not Resuscitate

In January, President Miriam E. Nelson announced the search for a long-term strategic partner for Hampshire and questioned first-year class enrollment. Student activism ignited. Alumni, faculty and staff comments in support and dissent flooded in. A petition calling for shared governance collected thousands of signatures within days. On Feb. 1, Hampshire announced it would enroll only early-decision admits and students who previously deferred.

A partnership, or a merger, could be great if I’m allowing myself to be optimistic. But it’s increasingly difficult to sustain optimism, as my idealism feels more like naïveté with each passing day. Staff layoffs may begin as early as April. Early-decision admits are told a new affiliate will likely control how any diploma they earn will be awarded. Notable alumnus Jon Krakauer writes in The New York Times that in the merger “it is not at all clear how much of the Hampshire philosophy -- to say nothing of the Hampshire soul -- will survive.”

I feel more and more confident that Hampshire’s soul will not survive. If that’s the case, I do not want to keep our institution on life support. I respectfully submit my request to the Hampshire Board of Trustees to consider ordering a DNR for our beloved and complicated alma mater.

Without our educational “soul,” what remains is still something beautiful: a liberal arts campus with provocative course material, progressive ideologies and the harmonious clashing of overlapping countercultures. But that’s something students can find at many other colleges around the world. It’s not enough for me to want Hampshire to continue for the sake of its name living on.

The pedagogical tenets of our educational experiment make us who we are. Without them, we are not Hampshire College. Some might ask if it’s really that bad to have majors, grades or tests. No, it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of Hampshire.

I’m only 27, and I’ve lost both of my parents. My dad died when I was a third-year student at Hampshire. The day he passed, I was at ACPA’s annual convention with Hampshire student affairs representatives. My first professional mentor was there and consoled me the night I found out. My mom passed in the summer of 2017 -- too young and too soon.

I know what loss, mourning and grief mean. I’ve already begun mourning Hampshire as I’ve done before while preparing myself emotionally for the painful departure of a loved one. I do not want Hampshire to close, but I know that it is an option. My personal experiences make it easier for me to consider it as a viable one. I’m not afraid of it.

My preference for Hampshire to close, rather than merge, is not about me throwing in the towel on a good fight to save our college. It’s about respecting its legacy. It’s about preferring to honor it in memory rather than seeing it diluted in its new form. It’s about thanking Hampshire for what it has been and letting it pass peacefully.

It may be over, but it’s not a failure. We had 50 years of magic. We existed. We were here. It mattered. It will continue to matter.

An Ethical Conclusion

Closing Hampshire College is not as simple as one human being dying (which is, of course, not simple at all). Closing the college would have an immense economic effect on its employees and the local Amherst community. It has four classes of active students to consider. But I would support closing rather than merging if we could spend our energy and resources developing the best conclusion possible. There is potential here for us to truly live out Hampshire’s philosophy until the end.

From what I can gather, however, what is happening right now is not an ethical termination. Amherst College faculty members wrote an open letter to President Nelson criticizing the recent decisions made without adequate faculty input, noting, “No leader in any field can violate long-standing professional norms for long without compromising his or her credibility and losing the confidence of core constituencies.” Hampshire’s Executive Committee of the Faculty authored their own letter declaring that the president’s Jan. 15 announcement considering not accepting an incoming class “turned a financial crisis into a catastrophe” -- in essence making it so that Hampshire then had no choice but to fulfill this self-defeating prophecy and spiral down toward helplessness. The staff, faculty and administrators are now in the midst of learning of layoffs. Those who must leave have only 60 days to prepare; those who stay are headed into the unknown. Either way, there is harm done. It seems the employees and students living and working on the campus right now are being neglected in the shuffle.

Do this, but do it right. Gather all Hampshire constituencies for planning the conclusion of Hampshire in the spirit of shared of governance. Generate ideas, cross over disciplines and break boundaries -- discover the beauty in something tragic. Lengthen the window of time for shutting down. Create a four-year plan for closing up shop. Do everything we want to do in that time.

Provide accurate information to all employees with at least six months' notice, if not more, for changes or termination. Use your remaining resources to financially ease the transition for all your employees.

Let current students grieve and be angry. Offer them what you actually can offer them. Don’t hold out with information you know is inevitable. If current first-years need to transfer to have full college experiences, tell them as soon as possible and help them do it. Learn from other colleges that have closed. Replicate their better practices and learn from their shortcomings.

Last, let’s throw Hampshire the most perfectly Hampshire going-away party we’ve ever seen. Let’s celebrate what we’ve done. Let’s document our innovations and accomplishments. Let’s show others how to resurrect what Hampshire did if the financial and political tides turn. Invite alums back to campus for a weekend of acknowledgment, celebration and community. If we were to lean into this direction now, we have the potential to do something extraordinary.

Before anything, the people making the decisions need to reveal the status of the merger’s development. The board and senior administrators must gamble on showing their cards. It would take a radical amount of vulnerability to show us all what our options are -- and an even greater amount would be to let us all have a say in which direction we go.

The students organizing in Hamp.Rise.Up are demanding just that: a say in what’s happening. It’s not typical for a college to do that in this dire situation, but we’ve never been typical. What would it mean to have a Hampshire-wide democratic vote on the future of our college? Even if we vote to close the institution in light of unfavorable mergers, what could we teach to the rest of higher education by the process through which we got there?

We are a college that lives our motto, Non Satis Scire: “to know is not enough.” So far, we don’t know much, and that is clearly not enough. But given the chance, what could we create?"
hampshirecollege  2019  michaeldrucker  alternative  education  learning  howwelearn  highered  highereducation  maverickcolleges  experience  experiential  grades  grading  ethics 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Hampshire College provides excellent education that should be protected (opinion)
"The Best Education Isn't Cost-Effective: Hampshire’s model provides excellent education precisely because it is not efficient, argues Falguni A. Sheth, and that's why we need to protect it."

"When I first read that Hampshire College’s new president was “inviting a partnership” to keep it afloat, I was startled but not surprised.

Hampshire has been long known as the quirky, hippie, artsy liberal arts college in the western Massachusetts woods. Developed via a consortium of four other colleges (Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts), Hampshire has always been the poor cousin. Like the New School for Social Research, where I matriculated as a philosophy graduate student, Hampshire has been eternally underfunded and run on a skeletal budget, relying on its faculty and staff’s dedication and commitment to the alternative, progressive pedagogy espoused since the college’s founding in 1965.

I was a faculty member at Hampshire for 14 years. There, I developed my identity as a political philosopher and public writer on national security, the war on terror and Islamophobia. There, I found challenging and supportive intellectual camaraderie among brilliant, committed colleagues who espoused a broad, interdisciplinary curriculum. Hampshire’s list of illustrious and accomplished faculty has included James Baldwin, Yusef Lateef and Jerome Liebling, among many others.

I discovered students who were refreshingly thoughtful, refusing to be satisfied with a conventional education. They were fearless in challenging their faculty members’ and classmates’ presuppositions. This is how my first book came about: from a political philosophy course on the social contract that was continuously challenged by critical students. My students asked about race, colonialism, the absence of recognition for male and female nonwhites, the contradiction between the notion of equal rights, and the fact of slavery. They required me to address these contradictions back when it was unheard-of to do so.

The same questions had occurred to me in graduate school but were afforded little merit even at a progressive place like the New School. Those questions still niggled as I taught my courses at Hampshire, but we -- my students and I -- were afforded an intellectually supportive space to consider them, even as I insisted that my students seek better, more rigorous ways to exhibit their findings.

The distinctiveness of Hampshire’s curriculum needs to be considered carefully: students are required to create their own interdisciplinary concentrations (majors). Hampshire’s approach is predicated on inquiry-based learning where students contend with immediate concerns and long-term objectives, with new ideas and a demand to understand the history of those ideas, while anticipating what the future might look like. This means that knowledge is not merely received but rather explored and digested through various methods: photographic, agrarian, scientific, poetic and dramaturgical, among others. This curriculum requires wrestling with ideas, as well as self-reflection, and anticipation of unexpected obstacles. It cultivates critical thinking and ethical reflection in the deepest sense imaginable.

As an immigrant kid who went to public schools, I was initially skeptical of what seemed to be a fairly self-indulgent education. Yet I knew that many respected academics sent their children to Hampshire instead of elite Ivy League schools. They were in on one of the best-kept secrets of postsecondary education: students were given unprecedented attention from faculty members, nurtured and carefully guided in their intellectual and political interests to become powerfully smart and critically thoughtful, broadly read citizens of the world. Graduates have gone on to become journalists, immigrant rights lawyers, inventors, novelists, scientists, professors, actors, social entrepreneurs, community organizers, doctors and engineers.

Inefficiency, Not Cost-Effectiveness

Yet as remarkable as my time at Hampshire was, my colleagues and I were unrelentingly exhausted. We were encouraged to teach specialized courses and to develop new ones. Students needed faculty members to serve as frequent advisers as they finished the various levels of education, from individual and distinctive interdisciplinary concentrations to the Division III senior capstone project that has been part of Hampshire’s graduation requirements.

Moreover, since its inception in 1965, Hampshire has assessed students’ relevant skills through narrative evaluations rather than grades. Faculty members write such evaluations for students as they progress through the educational tiers to help them reflect on their studies, develop deeper questions and further complicate their thinking and skills. To do justice to each student’s work, those evaluations must have detailed comments on various aspects of the project.

This innovative approach often resulted in extreme workloads. Often faculty members would find themselves writing pages upon pages of course evaluations, concentration evaluations and senior capstone evaluations -- sometimes in excess of 100 to 150 pages each year. This work did not account for the enormous time devoted to faculty-governance commitments or the various extracurricular programming that faculty members would engage in: bringing speakers to campus, raising money for those speakers and taking students on topic-related trips -- whether to The Hague to witness the tribunal for a war criminal; to Cuba to learn about arts, culture and politics; or to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn about immigration patterns.

All of those activities -- intensive interactions between and among faculty members and students, narrative evaluations, fascinating extracurricular programming, vigorous faculty governance -- are crucial to the exciting intellectual, cultural and political environment that gives Hampshire its spirit. But all of this commitment is difficult to sustain on a shoestring budget. It also means scarce resources -- in terms of both time and money -- are available to support the faculty’s intellectual life and research, which are nonnegotiable in this epoch of competition for students.

And therein lies the rub: Hampshire’s model is effective precisely because it is not efficient. Inefficiency -- not cost-effectiveness, in the form of careful attention, reflectiveness and conversations unhampered by time restrictions -- leads to some of the best education in the country. Inefficiency requires more money, not less, but for good cause: nurturing young minds and sustaining the education of worldly and thoughtful citizens, which requires the nurturing of faculty minds and lives, as well.

So, unlike the contemporary trend among postsecondary educational institutions, Hampshire’s incredible educational model flies in the face of a neoliberal, cost-effective business model of education. That latter model measures its economic sustainability through metrics that are designed to assess the pedagogy or curriculum but tell us little about whether students have evaluated their positions critically or understand the world differently.

The other four colleges in the consortium should understand their obligation to uphold Hampshire as a vital intellectual partner, where their own students take classes and flourish. I hope that a merger will not succumb to calls for cost-efficiency, or a “leaner” educational model by paring down faculty and staff members -- and as bad -- curtailing the rich interdisciplinary curriculum.

If it does, then Hampshire will be forced to forfeit its singular gifts and place in the academy, and the world will be much poorer for it. I fervently hope that Hampshire can continue to exist in its distinct way and thrive among sympathetic partners."
hampshirecollege  falgunisheth  2019  alternative  education  highered  highereducation  cost  efficiency  inefficiency 
march 2019 by robertogreco
maybe it’s time to give up – Snakes and Ladders
"Some of them thank me for opening their eyes to the realities of our current socio-technological order, but more of them admit, either ruefully or a little defiantly, that nothing we’ve read or discussed is going to change their habits, because it’s just not important enough to invest time and energy in. They’re worried about whether they’re going to get into law school or medical school, and they want to have fun at football games, and when you add up the work hours and the leisure hours there just aren’t any left over for questioning the moral legitimacy of Instagram. And anyway that’s where their friends are. Usually there’s a shrug at this point.

And you know what? I don’t think I can say that they’re wrong. Maybe that’s a rational decision they’re making, all things considered. In which case I need to find a new topic for my first-year seminar."

[See also:
"“Gen Z” and social media"

"The Digital Age, Fall 2018" (syllabus) ]

[via: "Christian humanism in a technocratic world: Alan Jacobs's biography of T.S. Eliot, Simone Weil, W.H. Auden, Jacques Maritain, and C.S. Lewis"

"In a recent blog post, Jacobs reflects on his experiences teaching technological and media literacy to freshmen in Baylor’s honors program. Despite finding the material compelling, many students acknowledge that they are unlikely to change their behavior. He re­flects their voice perhaps in saying there “just aren’t (enough hours) left over for questioning the moral legitimacy of Instagram.” The title of Jacobs’s post? “Maybe it’s time to give up.” It seems that the protagonists of 1943 ended in a similar posture.

Jacobs is right to point out that a technocratic worldview is powerful in its appeal to scientific objectivity. It is “a gospel that liberals and conservatives alike are drawn to.” The problem is un­likely to shrink in importance anytime soon. Whether in the “ranches of isolation” or “the valley of making,” to use Auden’s language, we are in need of re-enchantment. Jacobs’s protagonists re­mind us that our savior might not come in technocratic packaging and might instead exist woven into the theologically informed poetry that “makes nothing happen.” Perhaps all we can do is to live transformed by this power within the fields we plow, acting expansively as we pray for a thousand flowers blooming."]
alanjacobs  genz  busyness  2019  socialmedia  internet  online  work  learning  education  highered  highereducation  technology  society  time  generationz 
march 2019 by robertogreco
An Honest Living – Steve Salaita
"There are lots of stories from Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois, and the American University of Beirut [AUB], but they all end with the same lesson: for all its self-congratulation, the academy’s loftiest mission is a fierce compulsion to eliminate any impediment to donations."

"Platitudes about faculty governance and student leadership notwithstanding, universities inhibit democracy in ways that would please any thin-skinned despot."

"But forward progress as material comfort is cultivated through the ubiquitous lie that upward mobility equals righteousness. Honest living is a nice story we tell ourselves to rationalize privation, but in the real world money procures all the honesty we need."

"You hear ex-professors say it all the time and I’ll add to the chorus: despite nagging precariousness, there’s something profoundly liberating about leaving academe, whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic, only after you exit (spiritually, not physically) and write an essay or read a novel or complete some other task without considering its relevance to the fascist gods of assessment, or its irrelevance to a gang of cynical senior colleagues, do you realize exactly how insidious and pervasive is the industry’s culture of social control."
academia  highered  highereducation  2019  stevensalaita  purpose  meaning  corporatization  precariousness  precarity  assessment  socialcontrol  hierarchy  mobility  upwardmobility  society  dishonesty  honesty  democracy  hypocrisy  education  cv  privation  toxicity  committees  elitism  learning  howwelearn  compromise  canon 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Interview with Dick Gray, founder of World College West - YouTube
"For the occasion of the World College West reunion of July 2012, Dick Gray welcomes attendees and shares his perspective on the founding of World College West and the development of its programs. Dick is interviewed by WCW grad, Lisa Geduldig"
worldcollegewest  dickgray  richardgray  education  learning  schools  highered  highereducation  2012  woldstudytravel  commitment  alternative  howwelearn  lisageduldig  marin  colleges  universities 
february 2019 by robertogreco
THE JANUARY REPORT; Wayout West - The New York Times
"IF LOCATION is an indicator of lofty academic goals, then World College West, the smallest four-year liberal arts college accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, is perfectly placed: perched on a hillside near Petaluma in rural northern Marin County, Calif., with a view that could easily inspire Utopian thinking.

''World College West is the college of the future,'' said Rollo May, the eminent psychoanalyst, a past trustee and an ardent supporter of the college since its inception. ''Its graduates are the planetary citizens who will be harbingers of a new way of looking at the globe.''

But while the college's educational philosophy is as elevated as its panoramic view, of a valley dotted with dairy farms and pastures, its finances are precarious. With 120 undergraduates, 8 full-time faculty and 25 adjunct professors, it has just ended one of the most turbulent years since its founding in 1973. Its second president lasted less than a year; poor fund-raising efforts forced cutbacks, and a popular foreign-study program has been diverted from China to Taiwan because of turmoil on the mainland.

Moreover, while campus buzzwords like ''empowerment'' and ''stewardship'' recall the idealistic rhetoric of the 1960's, the college is struggling with the materialistic realities of the 1990's.

''Nontraditional 60's-style colleges in the vocational 70's and 80's are swimming against the tide, facing the hard reality that students have changed,'' said Robert Atwell, president of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization representing all accredited postsecondary institutions and national higher education associations.

Mr. Atwell predicts that in the 1990's, entering freshmen, whose numbers are expected to increase, will demand more options, and the picture will change yet again. ''But the question is,'' he said, ''how does an undercapitalized institution survive until then?''

World College West, one of a handful of small, progressive, experimental institutions that appeared on the American educational landscape in the early 70's, was founded by Richard Gray, a former advertising creative director turned theologian and educator. Mr. Gray served as president until fall 1988, and continues his association with the college as an active fund-raiser.

''In the traditional academic setting, the undergraduate was getting lost in the shuffle,'' Mr. Gray said in a recent interview on campus. ''Nobody was paying attention to the developing person.''

He and the college's other founders designed an academic program to encourage that development, including giving students voice in the college's government and operation, and requiring students to work on campus and later in the community, and then to pursue independent projects abroad.

''I have to admit I was a skeptic when I first heard of the plans for World College West,'' said Paul Heist, retired professor of higher education at the University of California at Berkeley. ''But now I'm a convert to its mission of internationalism. Even though it's always been in financial straits, it has been a developing phenomenon for almost 20 years.''

When Mr. Gray retired, the college faced perhaps its most arduous task: replacing him. His successor, Marcus Franda, a professor of economics and comparative politics, was concerned that students were not learning the practical skills they wanted and needed to compete in the workplace. Among Mr. Franda's priorities were raising money for a science and computer building and supporting the new business management major.

Though his credentials were impeccable, his management style - perceived as autocratic - was anathema. He was not invited back. Now a director of international affairs and professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland in College Park, he is suing World College West for breach of contract and declined to comment on his association with the school.

Michael Stone, one of the college's original faculty members, serves as interim president, but over an institution with tenuous finances.

A budget of $2.4 million in early 1988 had fallen to $1.9 million when classes resumed in September. Although the school has raised an average of $1.3 million a year since academic year 1979, in 1989 it raised $675,000. With an endowment of only $147,000, that meant deferring a faculty position, giving a transportation coordinator's job to a graduate and consolidating administrative assistants' positions.

As it is, attracting 50 to 60 new students a year is not easy, said Charles Greene, the administrative vice president and also one of the first faculty members. ''We are very self-selecting,'' he said.

About 200 applications are received each year, mostly from California. The average age of freshmen is 20 1/2, the average combined Scholastic Aptitude Test scores are 1,060 with a grade point average of 3.2 and a college preparatory curriculum. Tuition is $7,500 a year; the college offers several scholarship programs.

DeAnne Redwine, a sophomore, is a typical student. She graduated from a 2,500-student high school in Dallas, and ''wanted something small.'' She was also drawn to the international program, having visited Mexico. ''My first international experience opened me up,'' she said. ''I realized I could do something meaningful with my life.''

Ms. Redwine is unusual, according to The American Freshman, an annual survey of values, beliefs and attitudes among 222,300 entering college freshmen. The fall 1989 survey shows a consistently increasing desire to make money and attain power, prestige and status, and a declining interest in developing a meaningful philosophy of life, serving the community and other such values.

''Despite the obstacles, I give this school a great chance,'' said Alexander Astin, professor of higher education and director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, which publishes the survey. ''I sense a move afoot -granted, a slow and plodding move - to focus more on those societal values. And World College West is one step ahead.''"
worldcollegewest  marin  marincountry  sanfrancisco  colleges  universities  philosophy  alternative  richardgray  fortcronkhite  dickgray  1990  education  highered  highereducation  learning  howwelearn 
february 2019 by robertogreco
World College West - Wikipedia
[vi: ]

"World College West was an undergraduate liberal arts college in Marin County, California. Founded by Dr. Richard M. Gray, it offered a program that integrated a grounding in the liberal arts with work-study and a required two-quarter "World Study" in a developing country. It opened with its first seven students on September 17, 1973.

Fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, World College West had programs in International Service and Development (ISD), International Environmental Studies (IES), Art and Society (AS), and Meaning, Culture, and Change (MCC). In later years, Business and International Business was added to the program line-up. ISD focused on the economic, political, and social development of "Third World" nations; IES concentrated on the wise use and global conservation of natural resources; AS examined the relationship between culture and the performing and visual arts; and MCC focused on the variety of ways in which the world's diverse cultures, through their systems of religion, philosophy, and tradition, give meaning and purpose to human life, and to the world around us.

The college's World Study Programs were established in China, Mexico, Nepal, India, Ghana, and Russia. Students could spend two quarters (six months) studying in both an urban and rural setting in one of these countries. During the urban stay, students lived with a host family and attended regularly scheduled language, culture, and history classes. During the rural stay, students again lived with host families and conducted independent research studies while continuing to learn the country's language.

The college placed a special emphasis on work-study and internships, because the founders of the college believed that learning occurred best through "disciplined reflection on experience". Once an area of study was selected, students were required to complete 480 internship hours in their field of study as part of their graduation requirement.

During its first few years, the College leased space on the campus of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, followed by several years in surplus army barracks at Fort Cronkhite on the Pacific Ocean. In the early 1980s the college built and moved to a permanent campus off U.S. Highway 101 in the rolling hills of northern Marin County, between Novato and Petaluma (now the home of the Institute of Noetic Sciences).

World College West closed due to inadequate funding in Fall of 1992, the result of difficulties in succession after its founding president retired. The spirit of WCW lives on in Dick Gray's successor institution Presidio Graduate School[1]. The hundreds of WCW alumni call themselves "Westies"."
worldcollegewest  marin  marincountry  sanfrancisco  colleges  universities  philosophy  alternative  richardgray  fortcronkhite  dickgray  education  highered  highereducation  learning  howwelearn 
february 2019 by robertogreco
"Educating for a Sustainable Future

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february 2019 by robertogreco
Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts –
"The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is debt and grade free experiment in education. It assumes the constructivist maxim that all art propagates the conditions of its own conception and making. The Co-Work Space will address issues having to do with advertising, global warming and the university.

A project by Avi Varma and curated by Sofia Bastidas hosted by SMU Pollock Gallery."

"The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is a radical experiment in art and education. It is radical in that it resists, in its conceptualization, design and implementation all paths of least resistance to producing stuff in an art gallery setting. In this way its goal is to avoid the forces of normativity, lassitude, and entropy that have rendered spaces of art, education, spirituality and social justice ultimately toothless in their most contemporary American histories. It asks the fundamental question: What would artists do if Drawing I and its derivatives ceased to exist? The Co-Work Space thinks itself Virgil, and Gagosian the seventh circle of Hell.

The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is an experiment in that it has no performative identity to cite as antecedent. The color of its walls is a hopeful guess, yet a guess nonetheless; the arrangement of the space is hopeful, yet a guess nonetheless; its video, sound piece, catalogue, website and this very text itself are hopeful expressions, but ultimately just guesses. What the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts guesses is that the languages of advertising, the legal-juridical battles of sovereignty for the rights of the environment and for dying species, and the infrastructures of the 21st century such as scalable platforms and co-work spaces are the materials at hand for art making, the way pigment and ground glass were those of Titian. This is guesswork. The Co-Work Space asks the fundamental question, What would art be if it exited the indeterminate, stuff-making paradigms of Contemporary Art?

If since the 13th century, when financier Scrovegni colonized the pagan spaces of the mother-goddess with his chapel and sought out Giotto’s craftwork to absolve him of the sins of usury, art has had social utility as the valuation of value, as the material ordination of financial power, then the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts asks the question: what would art do if it ceased to be the secret in money and was instead a promise to the world?

This desire is not new. One sees in the persistent references to polytheistic, non-western, non-heteronormative modes of spiritual technique and artistic practice in the Co-Work Space Course Catalogue a deep yearning for art’s separateness to cease and for the practice of art to vacate the gallery, the studio, and its very own rules of engagement. This desire is not new, of course, though the strategies mapped out here may very well be different from those that made Dream House, Spiral Jetty, Lightning Field, General Idea, Ocean Earth Development Corporation, Monument to the Third International, Black Mountain College, EGS, and Temenos such exceptional projects at the end of the twentieth century.

Each of the projects listed abrogated to themselves the right to set an ambitious trajectory in large-scale projects whose duration extended years. They aspired to be alternative universes, let alone alternative spaces. A consequence of such ambition is a strangeness that in effect undermines a sense of reality. And what today is the reality that ineluctably encroaches upon us but that of capitalism, the endless agricultural mess of the anthropocene and global warming, with all of their diverse and expanding algorithms.

The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts considers itself a vehicle of interstellar and intertemporal travel that seeks to beat the present reality-machine to its ultimate endpoint, and to carve out space for the future before the future is eliminated. That endless grey, timeless world without beginning or end has a name: ecofascism. It is being discerned by activists such as Micah White and intelligence operatives at the Pentagon, who are composing speculative training videos to prepare for it. Both art and politics need to reorient themselves so that their visions are as ambitious as that of their enemies.

Such a reorientation will have a number of consequences. It will create an alternative space; in the language of trauma recovery, a healing vortex. Who will be enlivened? Every single being and body that feels the need to move beyond capitalism and the anthropocene as both a mode of survival and liberation. One only needs to drive past Abilene, Midland, Odessa and smell the sulfurous fumes of oil rigs and hydraulic fracking at 70 miles per hour to realize that Big Oil is Sauron, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are ringwraiths, and the whole topography of Central Texas is turning into Mordor. To recover from this mass trauma, to escape the ceaseless repetition of the traumatic event both consciously and unconsciously in the central autonomous nervous system, the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is a form or resource generation.

Over the course of this installation and its future iterations, participants will use the Co-Work Space platform to create an abundance of resources and projects–all speculative, hyperstitional, and post-contemporary–an abundance that will operate within an ecosystem in permanent toxic shock syndrome yet unable to lift in flight from its own diseased repetitions. The Co-Work Space is a poem performing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy on the vision of the world so that it can see beyond Ivanka Trump’s cleavage.

This process takes place all at once, in the central autonomous nervous system, the Amazon rainforest and the George Bush Turnpike, accelerated, expanding, and iterative.

The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts combines elements of both horizontal and vertical political platforms. Though it is a highly structured environment, and though the way one may flow through and experience the Pollock Gallery has a highly narrative framework, participants are highly encouraged to follow their inspiration where it leads them. Sit down, peruse the Course Catalogue, and pursue authors and subjects of one’s interest in the Co-Work Space library. Should one have the time and the inclination, one can watch the promotional videos, read the Course Catalogue and listen to the sound installation; or, likewise, one could gather with friends to perform a seance and invoke the queer spirits and spirits of color through shamanic ritual following the guidance of artist AA Bronson’s course. Then one might form a think tank that seeks to create, perform and iterate seances that encourage hybrid identities such as bisexuality in deep red states, using the instructions from ICA Miami Curator of Programs Gean Moreno’s course on think tanks. That’s not all. One could then try to link to legal frameworks and get the federal government to fund experimental residencies for shamanic research in locations as exotic as Spokane and Northampton. The possibilities for modular combination of course-pursuits and lines of flight are limited only by the participants’ own vision.

It is important to say at this point that the Co-Work Space is not an incubator space. It is not promoting “equity” or “representation” or any other neo-liberal buzzword of “social practice art” that puts the wolf’s work in sheep’s clothing and promotes social stasis. The Co-Work Space is not a closed loop but an expanding cone, whose base intends to incorporate a greater and greater majority of users (the logic of capitalist growth) but whose apex is not the creation of surplus value, but rather a strategy that may explode the terrifying eco-fascist future we seem to be so horrifically hurling towards. Additionally, we want our users to get credit for the projects they create and to build verifiable portfolios. To this end, the Co-Work Space, in March, will begin an experiment in blockchain certification for participants who have dedicated their time and energy to visionary projects. It will grant digital certificates. This is a radical step. Typically only major institutions such as MIT and the European Union have attempted to do the same.

This use of blockchain as a method for certification validates the work participants will do into greater and more global perspectives, above the constraints of the university as we know it.

The politics of the Co-Work Space is in its form and not its content. It is seeking to re-orient art, education, spirituality and justice away from a cyclical and ineffective reactivity towards the obvious and logical endpoint of the neoliberalism (eco-fascism) as it transforms into green-zone demagoguery. The movement for the future needs to be 4 steps ahead and not 3 steps behind if it wants to win. As Nick Srnicek describes, our current de facto response to overwhelming social injustices is invariably a “folk political” one: reactive, humanistic, local, small-scale, paltry, failing. It has no proposal for the future, and it fails to address the problematics of global, complex systems at large. Rather, folk politicians create a circular logic within the problem, whose boundaries they cannot escape.

The future is happening in the present and it is accelerating. Yet its very speed is its vulnerability. The Co-Work Space is not static, it is a project in motion, changing, evolving, truly progressive, in a motion that creates gaps within the establishment. It uses their resources–flexible labor and the university– in order to hack into the common sense of how we see and act within the infrastructures that are already in place.

art  arteducation  dropouts  coworking  globalwarming  highered  education  alternative  constructivism  sofiabastidas  avivarma  radicalism  resistance 
february 2019 by robertogreco