Monday, October 31, 2005

Plato and Play Doh

Just had an enjoyable time in my Dewey seminar with Play Doh, used prominently in Chapter 3 of Jim Garrison's Dewey and Eros to illustrate "Dewey's transactional metaphysics." Ah, but the smell is what brings back fun at Plain School, Stockbridge MA to me...

Back from a long trip to a conference on Albert Schweitzer's legacy (Jane Goodall keynoted), more on that later...

Monday, October 24, 2005

The peeling paint adds character, don't you think?

Ah, a campus of wide resplendent lawns, Georgian brick buildings, and gleaming glass and steel structures. And yet, Art History has found a home too amidst such splendor in Urbana/Champaign...

Andrew Hacker's "The Truth about the Colleges"

Andrew Hacker has written a NYRB essay review of several books on higher education. While I found the essay to be provocative at times and containing some deftly worded quips, I was frustrated by its emphases. The essay appears, given its audience, to be slanted toward those who are most concerned about elite liberal arts colleges and their particular contributions. I attended one of these, but the landscape of higher education only has a small corner for such.

I asked several colleagues to comment on the essay review, and here are their remarks.

Judith Gappa: Since several books are being reviewed, the essay jumps around among several important but not easily integrated topics. I'll start with the first one which deals with undergraduate access, curriculum and faculty performance in the class room --i.e. undergraduate education. The review is good at unveiling the kinds of privileged and moneyed people who attend the "best" institutions, and is concerned mainly with the quality of the education they receive. Interesting reading for me, since I went to one of the elite private colleges -- Wellesley College -- as an undergraduate. What is said in the review does not correspond to my experience. I was hardly privileged or moneyed when I was accepted. I had attended three public high schools, the last and worst of which was in Oklahoma where I graduated, and I went to Wellesley on a scholarship. So much for moneyed and privileged. Of course that was a long time ago --

But ACCESS for those who are not privileged or moneyed (i.e. the poorer people educated in the public schools) is one of the major issues facing higher education, states and the nation these days. An undergraduate degree is seen as the ticket to a middle class lifestyle, and the under-representation of various minority and ethnic groups continues to be troubling. The overall quality of education of the American public can be described as one of the major national problems we face these days. These issues are not discussed here. So the problem from my perspective is not what the article says at the end "Far too few of our undergraduates are getting the education they want and deserve"; the problem is, are they getting any higher education when it is a prerequisite for a middle class lifestyle. Further, as a professor, I would question that the average undergraduate student has the knowledge and sophistication to define the education they want. They may be able to define what outcomes they want to achieve, but they don't have enough knowledge to know how to get there.

Regarding the corporatization of the academy, and the skewed rewards system for faculty members: I would agree with the essay that it is not in the students' or the colleges and universities' best interests to spend their time chasing dollars rather than imparting learning. If professors are mediocre (or worse) in the classroom, it is in part because of lack of rewards for doing well --and to the extent it is happening, we have indeed moved away from what should be our chief mission and preoccupation.

Sherman Dorn: Hacker's idiosyncratic essay is like much of the discussion of higher education today: thoughtful and yet scattered and without much grounding in key conditions in higher education. Much of what he says is true, and yet...

And yet there is something strikingly false about a focus on elite private institutions and public flagship universities when the vast majority of students attend public schools such as Hacker's own Queens College. Yes, we should worry about the quality of a Harvard education, but I worry far more about the quality of a University of North Florida education. We should worry far more about Standard & Poors' 2005 report on privatization and its threats to poorer public institutions than the rising tuition at Williams.

And Hacker's argument about full professors not only focuses on elite institutions (where neither Hacker nor I work) but ignores a key reason why full professors' ranks have grown in comparison to full-time faculty: Institutions are less likely to hire full-time, ranked faculty for vacancies than they were 30 and 40 years ago. The legacy of that change is inevitably an older population of ranked faculty and what may appear to be top-heavy institutions. There are plenty of younger, non-full professors, but Hacker's numbers don't include those who are instructors, lecturers, and adjuncts.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

"This is the mother of all unfunded mandates."

Via Nick Burbules, coming to a university network near you: The Feds, and of course, who is going to pay the bills for this?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

KU on Evoloo(shun)

A letter to the KU community from the Chancellor of the University of Kansas on the evolution v. creationism debate.
(Via Nick Burbules)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Gonna investigate this newish e-entity called Elgg; Craig Cunningham put me onto it:

The concept behind Elgg is to develop a fully customizable learning landscape: a hybrid of weblogging, e-portfolios and social networking. This combination of features will provide an engaging environment for learners to create their own learning space and then connect to others, forming online communities of learning.

Group Blog Blue Sky

Today I tooled over to UIUC, to pay homage to Chief Illiniwek...NOT.

Did go over to Champaign to meet with Craig Cunningham, Nick Burbules, and Wally Feinberg on starting a group blog on education. We tossed around a bunch of ideas, and plan to Moodle soon to move along on our planning.

The day was topped off by the first Hardie lecture at the College of Ed, given by Denis Phillips of Stanford, always a stimulating and amusing speaker. I do like that term he used, "methodolatry," and his discussion of how research other than random field testing has been silenced in national education circles bothered me a great deal. Education is increasingly funneled into simplistic terms, when it is anything but a simplistic phenomenon.

Tidbit at the end of Denis's Darwin took 20 years to write his Origin, anticipating arguments, doing further observations, carrying on a rhetorical development of the book...fascinating!

A stunningly beautiful drive over, too, crystal blue sky and turning leaves.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Happy Half a Grand, Nick!

My good friend and colleague Nick Burbules's Progressive Blog Digest just celebrated its 500th posting. Nick's work is truly outstanding and informative, a conscience for many of us. (On a side personal note, he was most helpful in coaxing and then counseling me as I tiptoed into blogging a year ago.)

But I can't give a tribute on the half a grand milestone better than this. Congrats, Nick!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Socrates and Bubble Sheets

Via Jim Horn's Schools Matter, a posting about an op ed in the Atlanta Constitution by the classics scholar Margaret Spellings, that begins with this line: "Testing has been a valuable part of the educational process since the days of Socrates."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Who is? You are? Really?

I Am Charlotte Simmons, a book I am now reading, set to be filmed. Will use it, or parts of it, as the tome is huge, for my "higher ed in film and fiction" class this spring, da mudder of dis blog. Having hung my hat in the gorgeous mountains of western NC for a spell, I think I know Charlotte Simmons, who hails from such hollers. And I have hung my hat at colleges, from elite privates to isolated comprehensives to behemoth MooU land grants, for years. It is interesting to see Charlotte make the transition to a thinly veiled Duke surrogate. (Link via Maud Newton)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Shopping for your next four years...

Via Corax, a guide to the "getting into college" guidebooks, all 3,456,274 pages of 'em. With only an only, now a junior, can't say I miss reading through such, or fretting the decision process.

Meet the Bookers

A half English household, and literary to boot, means we follow avidly the Man Booker Prize news and final selection, as much, if not more, than the National Book Awards, the Pulitzers, and such. The treat with this year's Booker is to see the Edward Scissorhands come out in the aftermath, with this one, and then this one.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ivan Tribble Unmasked!...

...and his name is Leopold Stotch, posting on Outside the Beltway. Here is some Tribblish drivel from Stotch on Daniel Drezner's recently reported tenure denial at Chicago:

First, Drezner's blogging under his real name while untenured was a gigantic mistake. There's is no way for me to believe that what he wrote at his blog was not a factor in the tenure committee's decision, and I think it was a foolish mistake for him to both blog under his real name but also to be so public about it (his website is listed on his academic CV).

But second, and more importantly, Drezner made another huge mistake in trying to conflate blogging and scholarship, and I can only assume that his colleagues deemed this type of work unserious -- a perspective with which I largely agree. Looking at his CV, however impressive, might have led his colleagues to believe that once granted tenure, his focus might shift away from his serious work toward more articles, books, conference papers, etc. about blogging -- which I assume is hardly what they were looking for when they hired him.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Daddy's Girl...

Evanston, Illinois, 20th birthday weekend, to start junior year of college. Taken on the sly with my Sony Ericsson phone. Ah, they grow up too quickly...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Nails it...

From the man who made "the tipping point" a catch phrase, Malcolm Gladwell's take on elite college admissions is dead on, at least from my ever receding memories of a term as an Ivy admissions officer. And, given what he says about the halo effect of elite education, I know my ancient vehicle with its decal noting (paltry) contributions to my alma mater must cause some puzzled looks.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bad Poetry for the Saturday Trek

It's up to Evanston we go
To escape the Boilers' woes
Rented van we will board
To slip past the hoard
of black and gold
samely clad foes...

Stow and go back seat
Makes this dad's day complete
Shove in that used couch
Watch for that corner, ouch!
Bandaged back from Evanston we go.

Up to Evanston we go
Women's Christian Temperance..hell no!
Stop in Merrillville
Baker's Square, some swill
Hey, watch out for deer-y
Eyes mighty blear-y
It's back from Evanston slow.


Nice blip from a few weeks ago on NPR by David Weinberger on tagging, further evidence of the leveling, democratizing, decentralizing modes of the Internets...I have used Flickr, look to the right and down...and tried to get into, but will give it another go.

Please, someone restart this "cool" site...

This has been "dormant" for over five ("5") years...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Gore's Warnings...

Uh, FINALLY...Blogger has come back online! I am like an addict needing my bloggin' fix.

I have been waiting to post this, from Schools Matter, great blog. A speech by Al Gore on threats to democracy. Where else can you find a politician who quotes Habermas AND Jon Stewart??

Who Needs Real Trees...

...when you can just look at 'em online?

Via Arts and Letters Daily.

Take that, Ivan Tribble!

Article on how Ball State University will use uncensored blogs to recruit new students. (Thanks to Velma Jones for the link.)

Update, from my daughter Rachel, a junior at Northwestern:

Interesting idea, but not that groundbreaking. It's easier (and really does paint an HONEST picture) just to look at people's profiles on Facebook.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I just love this story...

From Critical Mass, some delicious background, including a quote from the autobiography of the well known philosopher, Hayden Fry, about the reasons behind painting the visiting team's locker room pink at Kinnick Stadium.

Hmmm, Hawkeyes in town this coming weekend...given how the home team has been playing, I vote to splash Ross Ade in the color! Hell, why stop there, let's dye the Wabash pink!

Buying the Campus Mind

Via Nick Burbules, an article from the Boston Phoenix about how bucks from mostly conservative foundations quietly influence research, outreach, and publications at many of the nation's colleges and universities.