Bring Back Meals Together NOW.

How can students and faculty improve their interaction?

by Gwendolyn Toth (Montclair State)

When I attended college in the 1970s, it was clear that we were there to learn from our brilliant professors. However, as I look back with 35 years hindsight, I realize that learning occurred not only in the classroom, the laboratory, the rehearsal hall, the dorm rooms, the rec rooms, and late-night bars (we could drink in those days).

We also learned in the dining hall.

Over food we met new friends with new points of view. Discussions started in late-morning classes continued at lunch with both students and teachers.

We all ate together every day.

Fast forward to 2012. Continue reading “Bring Back Meals Together NOW.”

Talk Onto the Page

How can you write better?

by: Peter Elbow (UMass)

I got interested in writing because in my first try for a PhD at Harvard, I gradually couldn’t write.  I had to quit before I was kicked out and felt like a complete failure because I had so much invested in my image of myself as a good student.  When I went back to grad school five years later (at Brandeis) I gradually learned what became my philosophy of writing:  I can’t write right, but I can write wrong;  and then I can make it right.  It’s too hard to take a mess in the head and turn it into coherence on paper;  but it’s not so hard to take a mess on paper and turn it into coherence on paper.

My current interests (reflected in my new book) concern the wisdom of the tongue.  Starting around age four, we all internalize a native language.  No one’s native language is Continue reading “Talk Onto the Page”

Tree of Memory

What have you learned about life?

by Michael LaBossiere (Florida A&M)

Some years ago my life was at a terrible low point. My marriage was failing, my career seemed stagnant, and I was stuck in what seemed to be a sea of bleak misery. Many of my problems seemed to stem from my reluctance to do bad things and the willingness of others to prosper through misdeeds.

One morning, when things seemed to be at their lowest point, I went for a run. As I ran, I thought about my life and how I ended up in the situation I faced. In the past, I believed that a person should do what is right—even when it often seems like doing wrong has the greater reward. But, I had seen the rewards of trying to be good and those reaped by those who thought just about themselves. At that moment, I doubted the value of trying to be a good person. Continue reading “Tree of Memory”

Too Much Higher Education

Are too many students going to college?

by Walter E. Williams

Too much of anything is just as much a misallocation of resources as it is too little, and that applies to higher education just as it applies to everything else. A recent study from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity titled “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart,” by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe, explains that college education for many is a waste of time and money. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. An essay by Vedder that complements the CCAP study reports that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.” The study says Vedder — distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of CCAP — “was startled a year ago when the person he hired to cut down a tree had a master’s degree in history, the fellow who fixed his furnace was a mathematics graduate, and, more recently, a TSA airport inspector (whose job it was to ensure that we took our shoes off while going through security) was a recent college graduate.”

The nation’s college problem is far deeper than Continue reading “Too Much Higher Education”

Old People Love to Try to Give Young People the Answers, if Only Just to Feel Like Their Age is Useful Somehow

What would you tell your high school self?

by: Sarah Stroup (Q4Colleges.com)

Dear Sarah,

I am Sarah of the future writing to you to provide you (us?) with some perspective on how your life right now will look once you are seven or eight years down the road.  If you are tired of people trying to tell you what to do, how to think, and who to be, then I don’t blame you.  Old people love to try to give young people the answers, if only just to feel like their age is useful somehow.  If you are already annoyed enough to stop listening, then it’s possible that you don’t need my advice because you already have enough confidence in yourself to go get yourself into scrapes, have adventures, and prosper.  Ultimately, that’s what I want to say to you anyway. Continue reading “Old People Love to Try to Give Young People the Answers, if Only Just to Feel Like Their Age is Useful Somehow”

Life Is Never What You Expect It To Be, And That’s Okay

What would you tell your high school self?

by Adrienne Rodney (Q4Colleges.com)

Hi Adrienne,

You probably have an idea (or wish) of what life will be like at 32. I’m sure you’re very successful (you want to be a publicist, right?), thin, educated and probably married with children. I’m sure you also got to where you wanted to be by 27. Am I right? Is this what you imagine?

Unfortunately life doesn’t work the way you want it to. That doesn’t mean life is worthless, just that what you envision is not always reality.

Life at 32 will be NOTHING like you think it will be, but that’s okay. There are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to pass to you.

1. Don’t let others make important decisions for you.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. You’re going to want to Continue reading “Life Is Never What You Expect It To Be, And That’s Okay”

The Narrowing of the American Mind

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

By Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U)

Envision this: You’re an employer, interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position in your unit. The applicant is very direct.

“I’m in it for the money,” she explains. “I make all my choices on the basis of how much I can expect to earn. I chose my major based on earnings reports. I applied for this particular position because you pay more than any other company in the region. Actually, I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t stop with a two-year degree, since I read in the newspaper last week that I could have made almost as much in my first job with half the time spent on college. I hate thinking about all the time I wasted.”

You have no difficulty deciding not to hire this new graduate. The job applicant who arrives talking money first, money only, lacks common sense, and career sense, too.

And yet our candid candidate did Continue reading “The Narrowing of the American Mind”

Creative Plagiarism

Is imitation a form of flattery – or stealing?

By Paula Marantz Cohen (Drexel)

In recent years, I have come across something that I call creative plagiarism. Almost every time I teach fiction-writing, one or two students seem compelled to write a story that closely resembles a published work we’ve read. These students are not trying to perpetrate a deception, since the material they incorporate has been previously discussed by the class, usually only a week or two earlier.

I was able to shed light on what might be going on through an exercise I did with my creative-writing class. I asked them to read two short stories for discussion at our next meeting. I provided the stories in photocopy, with the authors and the dates removed.

The stories were “Mrs. Adis,” by the British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith, published inThe Century Magazine in 1922, and “Sanctuary,” by the African-American writer Nella Larsen, published in the magazine Forum in 1930. Larsen’s story, as those familiar with her biography will know, was quickly viewed as a Continue reading “Creative Plagiarism”

Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Warren Goldstein

Like many people in the academy, I have found myself uneasily stewing over the murders at Virginia Tech. My students and I have spent far too much time glancing over at our classroom door, wondering whether we would have been able to hold it shut if a gunman had wanted in; would I have had the courage of Liviu Librescu, who students said died protecting them?

I was lucky; I didn’t have to deal with Seung-Hui Cho, unlike my poor colleagues in the Virginia Tech English department, who had formed a departmental task force to discuss him. At least they tried. They resisted the Continue reading “Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students”

Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey

What have you learned about teaching?

by Mitchell Duneier

A few months ago, just as the campus of Princeton University had grown nearly silent after commencement, 40,000 students from 113 countries arrived here via the Internet to take a free course in introductory sociology. The noncredit Princeton offering came about through a collaboration between Coursera, a new venture in online learning, and 16 universities, including my own.

When my class was announced last spring, I was both excited and nervous. Unlike computer science and other subjects in which the answers are pretty much the same around the globe, sociology can be very Continue reading “Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey”