There’s No Learning When Nobody’s Listening

How much do students know?

By Nadine Dolby (Purdue)

I decided to call the panel “Listening to Parents.” As I began the organizing process last November, I was sure that “parents” was the important word in the title. After more than 20 years in teacher education, I had become frustrated and saddened by the attitudes of our undergraduate students toward parents. Although they were only 19- or 20-year-old freshmen or sophomores, our undergraduates already felt that they knew more about children and learning than the parents of their prospective students. They saw parents as annoying obstacles who contributed little to nothing to their children’s education.

As a teacher educator who focuses on multicultural issues, I also realized that the attitudes of our mostly white, female, Christian middle-class students toward parents from backgrounds different from their own was even more troubling. Continue reading “There’s No Learning When Nobody’s Listening”

Renewing The Commitment

Is higher education improving or going down hill?

By Sara Goldrick-Rab  (U Wisconsin)

In 1947 the historic Truman Commission called for national investments in higher education to promote democracy by enabling all people to earn college degrees. Subsequent expansion of community colleges, adult education, and federal aid occurred not in the name of economic stimulation but to reduce inequality and further active citizenship.

Those ambitions have been steadily corrupted. Today the Tea Party casts the college-educated as snobbish and fundamentally disconnected. Many four-year colleges and universities Continue reading “Renewing The Commitment”

Becoming a ‘Stylish’ Writer: Attractive Prose Will Not Make You Appear Any Less Smart

How can you write better?

By Rachel Toor  (Eastern Washington)

When I watch creative writers perform, I hear a host of mostly unspoken questions. In their body language, self-presentation, jokes, and post-reading interactions, they seem to be asking: Am I boring? Am I funny? Are my sentences flat and flaccid? Is the pacing right? Am I losing the audience? Am I making people feel something? Am I good enough? Ultimately, what I think they’re asking, behind all the bravado, posing, and posturing is: Am I attractive?

Listening to academics, I pick up a different set of concerns: Am I making a convincing case? Have I mentioned everything everyone else has said about this topic and pointed out the ways that they are (sort of) wrong? Do you see how much I’ve read? Have I dropped enough important names? Does my specialized language prove I deserve to be a member of your club? Am I right? At the end, I hear hope disguised as an attitude that asks: Am I smart? Continue reading “Becoming a ‘Stylish’ Writer: Attractive Prose Will Not Make You Appear Any Less Smart”

When Is Competition a Positive Force?

Is competition good?

By Claire Potter (The New School)

Yesterday morning I was gliding down the river in my single scull. I was ten to fifteen minutes from the dock, workout complete, leg muscles burning slightly, warming down and starting to think about the rest of the day. After I navigated the last turn, a long bend that can make you or break you in the annual 3.5 mile race our rowing club hosts in October, it would be a straight shot back to the boat house.

Then I noticed another sculler on my port side: I was about a half length ahead. Continue reading “When Is Competition a Positive Force?”

Poverty Is A Shortage Of Money

What have you learned about life?

by Larry Schall (Oglethorpe)

Ten years ago, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book called Nickel and Dimed. She brought home in stark detail how hard it is for a family to break out of poverty. I recall one story about something as common as gathering the funds needed to put down a security deposit on an apartment while working a minimum wage job. First month, last month and a deposit on a $500 a month apartment while taking home $5 an hour. Do the math. One would have to save every cent you earned for 300 hours of work — seven and one-half weeks of work — to accumulate sufficient funds. Let’s go crazy and suggest your job is paying you twice that rate. It would take only a month of work while you spent absolutely no money on food, clothes or rent. Hallelujah. God forbid any one in your family needs health care, which your employer does not provide. I think Nickel and Dimed is in something like its tenth printing. It’s not a long book and it’s absolutely worth the read. Continue reading “Poverty Is A Shortage Of Money”

Anyone for Summer Camp?

Are students learning the best way?

By Ilan Stavans (Amherst)

Middle age is a strange place. The past is set. It has a taste. But the future is shorter than before. How to navigate it without repeating what we’ve done? How to keep passion alive?

I didn’t set out to be a teacher. My dreams were elsewhere. Yet teaching is what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years. Other than the time I’ve spent in my home, I haven’t been anywhere as frequently as in the classroom, with people increasingly younger than me. I often ask myself: Is it possible to discuss a book I know by heart, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, without sounding trite? Continue reading “Anyone for Summer Camp?”

Hum Along: Or, How I Took Up Guitar and Became a Poet

What have you learned about life?

by David Baker (Denison)

Bob and Carol Crawford lived four houses down from us, on East Circle Drive, in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Right in the middle of their tiny trimmed yard was the white-brick house, so heavily paneled and carpeted inside that, sitting there one summer afternoon, I felt like I’d been plunked into a Kleenex box.  But when Mr. Crawford—Bob—leaned over to slip me a new half-dollar, silver as a tooth, I knew I was destined to play music for the rest of my life.  It was 1966.  I had lugged my plum-red Gibson Melody Maker guitar and my amp, the size of a boot box, down to Crawford’s for my first professional performance.  I played two songs—some scaly melody out of Mel Bay #2 or #3 and “Wildwood Flower” (or “The Groovy Grubworm,” as one guitar book called it).  I no longer own the amp or guitar, but I still have that coin. Continue reading “Hum Along: Or, How I Took Up Guitar and Became a Poet”

Leading in the Legacy of St. Vincent de Paul

What have you learned about life?

by Roxanne Owens (DePaul)

My husband’s theory is that if he does not have money in his pocket, he can’t spend it.  My counter theory is that if I don’t have money in my pocket, I have to make more frequent trips to the cash station. After checking our account balance and in deference to my husband’s cheapskate attitude (or frugality as he prefers to call it) I withdrew only one crisp $20 bill on a recent trip to the cash station.  I knew that was all I needed for the next few days, as long as I didn’t do anything too indulgent—like give in to a desire for obscenely overpriced coffee drinks for instance. Continue reading “Leading in the Legacy of St. Vincent de Paul”

How My Brother’s Death Shaped My Life

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Michael S. Roth (Wesleyan)

Michael Roth tells a very personal story about his deceased brother’s influence, and how he strives for goodness as a way of honoring the brother he never knew. His studies and research on tragedy and loss stem from his family’s own experience with death. Read his inspiring essay from the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Roth is the current president of Wesleyan University and former president of California College of the Arts. He is the author of five books, including Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past, which was published Fall 2011.

How My Professors Shaped Me

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Catharine Hill (Vassar)

For Catharine Hill, it was more than one person who made an impact in her life. It was two specific professors that encouraged her to take her love of economics and education and merge the two, thus bringing her to the position she holds today. You can read about the influence they held in her essay for the Wall Street Journal.

Catharine Hill is the president of Vassar College and former provost at Williams College. An economist by trade, she previously worked for The World Bank and the Congressional Budget Office.