Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Radley Balko: “Overlooked in this story: Note how privacy laws allegedly passed to protect students are used to protect the school.”
The comic, by Toby Morris, is well worth reading. It begins:
Another way to look at it: you are privileged in the US if your municipal and state government works hard to ensure that the drinking water supplied to your home is pure and does not contain harmful substances like lead. You are not privileged if those governments work hard to deny the obvious when your drinking water stinks, is brown, and contains lead and other pollutants and instead of fixing the situation try to deny the problem and ignore you.
A very clever idea: to build a database of the syllabi used for college courses. Joe Karaganis and David McClure report in the NY Times:
College course syllabuses [I prefer the more traditional plural form, “syllabi.” – LG] are curious documents. They represent the best efforts by faculty and instructors to distill human knowledge on a given subject into 14-week chunks. They structure the main activity of colleges and universities. And then, for the most part, they disappear.
Some schools archive them, some don’t. Some syllabus archives are public, some aren’t. Some faculty members treat their syllabuses as trade secrets, others are happy to post them online. Despite the bureaucratization of higher education over the past few decades, syllabuses have escaped systematic treatment.
Until now. Over the past two years, we and our partners at the Open Syllabus Project (based at the American Assembly at Columbia) have collected more than a million syllabuses from university websites. We have also begun to extract some of their key components — their metadata — starting with their dates, their schools, their fields of study and the texts that they assign.
This past week, we made available online a beta version of our Syllabus Explorer, which allows this database to be searched. Our hope and expectation is that this tool will enable people to learn new things about teaching, publishing and intellectual history.
At present, the Syllabus Explorer is mostly a tool for counting how often texts are assigned over the past decade. There is something for everyone here. The traditional Western canon dominates the top 100, with Plato’s “Republic” at No. 2, “The Communist Manifesto” at No. 3, and “Frankenstein” at No. 5, followed by Aristotle’s “Ethics,” Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” “Oedipus” and “Hamlet.”
“The Communist Manifesto” ranks as high as it does (for those wondering) because, like “The Republic,” it is frequently taught in multiple fields — notably in history, sociology and political science. Writing guides are also well represented, with “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White at No. 1, as are major textbooks, led by Neil Campbell’s “Biology” at No. 4.
What about fiction from the past 50 years? Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” ranks first, at No. 43, followed by William Gibson’s “Neuromancer,” Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” Ms. Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” Sandra Cisneros’s “The House on Mango Street,” Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony” and Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”
Top articles? . . .
In particular, take at the Syllabus Explorer.
Not totally surprising, but still somewhat depressing. Kevin Drum explains at Mother Jones:
Anne Case and Angus Deaton recently wrote a paper that’s gotten a lot of attention. One of the minor ways it’s gotten attention is in the way a lot of people talk about it: as the Deaton paper, or the Deaton/Case paper, despite the fact that it’s traditional in economics to list authors alphabetically.
Is this just because Angus Deaton recently won a Nobel prize? That probably didn’t hurt. But Justin Wolfers points today to a new working paper that suggests this is a widespread problem: when women coauthor papers in economics with men, it’s the men who get all the credit. The study is by Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate at Harvard, who examined economics papers and tenure decisions at elite universities over the past 40 years. The chart on the right comes from her paper, and it shows the basic state of play. For men, it didn’t matter if they coauthored papers. They got tenure at about the same rate regardless of whether they coauthored or solo authored. For women, it mattered a lot. Solo authoring 80 percent of their papers doubled their chance of getting tenure compared to co-authoring most of their papers:
The coauthoring penalty is almost entirely driven from coauthoring with men. An additional coauthored paper with a man has zero marginal effect on tenure.Papers in which there is at least one other woman have a smaller effect on tenure for women than for men (8% vs. 3.5%) but still have a positive marginal impact.
Roughly speaking, Sarsons examines several possible explanations for this (maybe women are genuinely less qualified, maybe they pair up more often with senior people, etc.), and her conclusion is fairly simple: . . .
. . . “Does that diploma guarantee them a hope for a life where they can support a family?” asked Melanie D. Barton, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee in South Carolina, a legislative agency. Particularly in districts where student achievement is very low, she said, “I really don’t see it.”
Few question that in today’s economy, finishing high school is vital, given that the availability of jobs for those without a diploma has dwindled. The Obama administration has hailed the rising graduation rate, saying schools are expanding opportunities for students to succeed. Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced that the national graduation rate hit 82 percent in 2013-14, the highest on record.
But “the goal is not just high school graduation,” Arne Duncan, the departing secretary of education, said in a telephone interview. “The goal is being truly college and career ready.”
The most recent evaluation of 12th graders on a national test of reading and math found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college level work. College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high, particularly at two-year institutions, where fewer than a third who enroll complete a degree even within three years.
In South Carolina, even with a statewide high school graduation rate of 80.3 percent, some business leaders worry that not enough students have the abilities they need for higher-skilled jobs at Boeing, Volvo and BMW, which have built plants here in recent years. What is more, they say, students need to be able to collaborate and communicate effectively, skills they say high schools do not always teach. . .
Very interesting personal discovery recounted in Salon by Rani Neutill:
In 2007, I got my Ph.D. I proudly walked across a stage and received my diploma in Ethnic Studies and Film from the University of California at Berkeley. I held on to that diploma tightly, but not too tightly. I didn’t want to crush it.
In 2009 I was a lucky one, lucky because the market crash in 2008 hit hard and still I had nine interviews at the Modern Language Association. There were not a lot of tenure-track jobs in academia to begin with, so you can imagine what the job search was like afterward. Still, I seemed destined to get a job. The odds were on my side. A reporter found out about my interviews through a mutual friend. She wanted to interview me for an essay she was writing. The job crisis was getting a lot of media attention and my multiple interviews were, I guess, newsworthy.
“What is it like to be on the market during this time?” she asked.
“Well, it’s frightening. Sometimes I think I am going to end up being a waitress.”
When the article was published, that quote got pulled. It was one of those quotes that they highlight. The font goes up to like 72 points and it’s bolded and placed between paragraphs. You know the kind of quote I’m talking about.
I didn’t get any of those nine jobs. I applied year after year, flew to wherever the MLA conference was being held, sat in hotel rooms (yes, interviews for tenure-track jobs in the humanities take place in hotel rooms), wore conservative clothing to cover all my tattoos and body parts that I’m told should be covered. I was warned that if I dressed too stylishly or provocatively, it would distract from what I was saying—I needed to look boring.
For hour after hour, I sat in front of strangers who made me feel either special, as though the job was mine, or alternatively, like an idiot. They asked me long and intricate questions meant to show off their own brilliance. Lots of peacocks in academia, lots. I applied year after year and never got a single offer.
Fortunately, I did get post-docs, which were temporary appointments, so every two years I moved to a different city to work at a different school and build a new life–new streets, new friends, new bars, new grocery stores. My only constant at that time were my dogs.
Gradually, I started to resent academia, partly because I couldn’t get a permanent job and partly because of the elitism and snobbery that came with the profession—an elitism that seemed inextricable from the environment and the people in it. I would grit my teeth at academic parties, listening to conversations where it was impossible for a person to talk about anything other than Hegel or T.S. Eliot. All I wanted to talk about was “The Good Wife.”
“How do you deal with these people?” a colleague’s spouse asked me one night. We were smoking on a porch in the dead of winter, shivering through our conversation. There was snow everywhere. I had been quietly listening to two white dudes from the philosophy department alternate between a discussion of Heidegger’s “Being and Time” and reminiscences of traveling to Paris in the summer for research, how wonderful the city was and how hard it had been to return to the provincial United States. In my head, which had started to throb, I was thinking, “You guys have it real hard here, don’t you?” Another guy from the English department launched into a monologue about his recent publication in some fancy academic journal. No one seemed impressed. No one there seemed impressed by anything other than themselves.
“Oh my god, have you read so-and-so’s book? It’s terrible. She doesn’t understand Deleuze at all. I can’t believe Harvard published her!”
I looked at my colleague’s spouse, a bit tipsy. “Save me,” I mouthed.
We went inside. There was a glass of wine in her hand. “Here,” she said. “Sedate yourself. It won’t make it stop but it will numb the pain.”
We started talking and laughing. And that was when it hit me. I was someone who always made friends outside academia, who would rather engage with the spouses or bartenders and servers I encountered than the fancy senior faculty around the table. It was suddenly clear; I would rather be a waitress than an academic.
The one thing I still loved about the job was teaching, but that was changing. The kids I taught now seemed more like clients or customers than students. In 2014 I taught a class on sex and cinema, a course that pretty much broke me. After that, I’d had enough. I went on unemployment and began applying for jobs outside higher ed.
It was a bust. It seemed that without any connections outside the academy, I was screwed. My résumé was too long. People in HR wouldn’t even consider me. They would read “Ph.D.” and think, “overqualified.” I was at home doing nothing, not even writing. I had given up on that passion as well, floundering about in self-pity and confusion and the panic I felt when I realized my unemployment was going to run out before long.
What the fuck was I going to do with my life?
I knew I needed income and structure, that without it I was going to go crazy. As an undergrad in the ’90s I’d worked at a bar in Cambridge and loved it. So much 21-year-old fun. As a 38-year-old, back in the area, I went there once a week. I knew the manager. I loved the staff and the food. It was that bar that I always went to: it wasmy bar. We all have a bar like that. One day I was telling one of the servers about being unemployed. She said, “Why don’t you work here again? You know all of us, and you’ve already done it.” I looked at her, sighed, and said, “Yeah, maybe,” thinking at that moment, I have a Ph.D., I’ve taught at Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins, and now I’m going to waitress? This feeling was only compounded by comments made by folks in academia, some leaving because they couldn’t find a job or wanted to be in corporate America (something that is vehemently not me). . . .