Photocopy My Book Chapter? You Don’t Even Have to Ask

Do we need to pay for knowledge?

By Zick Rubin (Harvard, Brandeis)

Last month, as college students across the country prepared to head back to campuses, my fax machine coughed out my annual “Request for Permission” from the Copyright Clearance Center, the corporation that is one of the world’s largest brokers of licenses to copy other people’s work.

As in past years, the center asked me how much I wanted to charge to permit Middle Earth College to include a copy of Chapter 5 of my book, Liking and Loving: An Invitation to Social Psychology, in a course pack for the 18 students enrolled in Professor McClain’s Management 710 this fall. (I’ve changed the names of the college, the professor, and the course.)

If past experience were a guide, I could name Continue reading “Photocopy My Book Chapter? You Don’t Even Have to Ask”

Keyword: Placement

Do we have a moral obligation to care about our students’ futures?

By Leonard Cassuto (Fordham)

We can all agree, I expect, that the practical goal of graduate education is placement of graduates. But what does “placement” mean? Academics use the word without thinking much about it.

We can learn a lot about a practice by looking closely at how we describe it. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, editors of the 2007 book Keywords for American Cultural Studies, say the study of such words shows “the way we think about the work we do.” Looking at the “genealogies” of keywords then, we can see not only where those words come from but also how they structure fields of inquiry, and where future thinking may go in those fields.

“Placement” is a great keyword for Continue reading “Keyword: Placement”

You’ve Got Mail. And Better Things to Do.

How can we communicate more effectively?

By Jason B. Jones (Central Connecticut State)

Midway through his career, my father moved from the faculty of his community college into administration, where he has remained for some 20 years now. In those decades, his only real regret has been that he must use his college-issued cellphone. That phone means his attention is always potentially divided because he is, in principle, always available to his campus.

What for my father is a college-imposed shackle has become for many of us a self-chosen cage: Continue reading “You’ve Got Mail. And Better Things to Do.”

To Encourage Civic Engagement, Start in Elementary School

by Judith Pace (U of San Francisco)

The Educational Testing Service report on the correlation between income and education and levels of political and civic engagement (“Education and Income Levels Are Key Predictors of Civic Involvement, Report Says,” The Chronicle, May 23) is not news. Educational researchers call this the civic empowerment gap, or democracy divide, and trace it not only to sociological factors but also to unequal democratic learning opportunities in secondary schools. Students in higher-track classes, who are disproportionately European- or Asian-American from middle-class or affluent families, enjoy more discussions of important public issues and experiential curricular activities than do students in lower-track classes, who are disproportionately Continue reading “To Encourage Civic Engagement, Start in Elementary School”

The Best-Laid Teaching Schemes

What do academics do wrong?

By James M. Lang (Assumption)

Over winter break, I made the decision to experiment with my survey course, which covers British and Irish literature from the end of the 18th century to the present. I wanted to see if I could inject new life into a course structure that has seemed, to me at least, increasingly tired and outdated.

I had really begun to wonder why we—by which I mean both my department and the discipline as a whole—felt it necessary to push our students through these hit-and-run overviews of the history of literature. When we’re covering James Joyce in 50 minutes on Monday, Virginia Woolf on Wednesday, and T.S. Eliot on Friday, are we really helping them learn content that they understand, that matters to them, and that will remain in their brains beyond the span of the course?

Last spring, on my most recent run through the survey, I experimented with Continue reading “The Best-Laid Teaching Schemes”

A Technological Cloud Hangs Over Higher Education

Where is higher education headed?

by Keith Williams (U Virginia)

I was there when it happened. And for the record: I did object. I was but a teaching assistant; the decision was not mine. The decision was to replace the pendulums and other demonstration gizmos in the undergraduate physics teaching laboratory with computers and software.

To be sure, the change would be convenient: no more time-consuming preparation of experiments, no more lectures on how to make demonstrations work, no more disinclined planes or springs sprung too far. This was cutting-edge. The students would love it. Students like computers. And aren’t computers the future? Don’t we need to get with the times and prepare students for the information age?

With great reluctance, I packed up the Continue reading “A Technological Cloud Hangs Over Higher Education”

Not Quite Bulletproof

What have you learned about life?

By Jon T. Coleman (Notre Dame)

To rise in academe and reach the high ground where review committees stop questioning your record and deans quit pondering your trajectory, where students applaud when you close out the semester with your lecture on the War of 1812 and Stephen Colbert invites you on his Report to plug your book, one must cultivate an entry-level superpower.

Save your supersonic speed, your laser-beam eyeballs, and your ability to communicate with sea life for emergencies and holiday parties. Instead concentrate on blocking projectiles. To get a job, to surmount third-year review, to receive tenure, to advance to full professorship, to merit a Wikipedia page that you didn’t write yourself, all you need to be is bulletproof. And if you want a Kevlar career, do as I say, not as I did. For while I excelled at thwarting some bullets, I had zero talent for dodging the countless shots I administered to myself.

As with most things scholastic, bulletproofing starts Continue reading “Not Quite Bulletproof”

Why the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act Still Matters

How should higher education be funded?

by Christopher Loss (Vanderbilt)

July 2, 1862, was a busy day for President Abraham Lincoln. He dispatched several letters to far-flung military commanders. He held meetings on the war and on the status of fugitive slaves. He also signed three laws, including one banning polygamy in the territories and another creating a loyalty oath for all government officials. The final law Lincoln signed, the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, putting the federal government in charge of the development of public colleges and universities, not only turned out to be the most important of the three bills he signed but stands as an enduring legacy of his presidency.

The long-germinating land-for-education bill was the brainchild of a self-taught son of a blacksmith, Representative—and later Senator— Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, a Republican. He believed that the Continue reading “Why the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act Still Matters”

Grim Job Talks Are a Buzz Kill

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

by Dan Shapiro (Penn State)

You were one of only a handful of candidates we invited to campus. We wanted to like you.

Hell, I wanted to love you. I am your potential future chair. When I became chair, I knew that bringing in strong faculty members was my best chance to leave a mark on the department and the college. I also knew that job searches were a drag on the little boat I would be trying to navigate through waters strewn with budget cuts, increased teaching loads, and fussy-somewhat-overworked faculty members. So I wanted the search to be over and for you to be here already.

But then your job talk started and my throat went dry and I felt that thumping in my temples.

Grim job talks are a buzz kill. And let’s be clear, your problem was not Continue reading “Grim Job Talks Are a Buzz Kill”

Encourage, but Terrify

Is graduate school worth it?

by Amanda Seligman (U Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

“Professor Seligman, you scared the hell out of me!” confided “Andrew” as I gathered up my papers, course books, several sample dissertations, and my keys after the first session of my undergraduate course in history methods last January. “I still want to be a professor, but you scared the hell out of me!” he repeated, in case I missed the point the first time.

I had just completed my first-day-of-class warning exercise, which I disguise as a form of acculturation. In a room full of history majors, there are always some students who think that they want to go to graduate school and become professors. Like many of my colleagues in the humanities, I am mindful of the impossibly crowded academic job market, which leaves all too many excellent scholars underemployed as adjuncts, working in jobs unrelated to their training, and so disillusioned and embittered that they denounce higher education to all listeners.

To prevent my own students from Continue reading “Encourage, but Terrify”