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”
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”
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”
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”
What would you tell your grandchildren?
by Brooke Allen (Q4Colleges)
You and we have a common enemy: your parents.
This is just the natural order of things. Parents and children put each other through hell everywhere. Your dysfunctional family is no big deal.
Think about it. You imagine you are the center of the universe even though you can’t even wipe your own butt. Unless your parents sell you into slavery, you cost way more than you are worth. The reason babies are cute is because otherwise parents would kill them.
And your parents are the Devil incarnate. They are hell-bent on controlling you – telling you what to do, how to do it, and what to think. Even if by some miracle you feel your parents are not idiots it is only because they are good at manipulating you. If children were not dependent on their parents they would kill them. Continue reading “Perhaps Someday We Can Forgive Our Common Enemies”
What have you learned about teaching?
by David L. Kirp (Berkeley)
1. I was a second-year graduate student when I got hired – more years ago than I care to remember – for my first teaching job as an instructor of something called “expository writing.” Make up a course, I was told, there’s nothing to it. But even as I was ordering books and inventing paper topics for the unsuspecting freshmen, I just knew that everybody involved, especially the students, understood that the enterprise was farcical. What did I, barely lettered and entirely untrained, have to say to ferociously smart 18-year-olds? How long would it take before someone dropped the curtain to end the play?
As I approached the classroom that first day, I peered in at the 20 slouching bodies, then stared at Continue reading “Those Who Can’t: 27 Ways of Looking at a Classroom”
Who gets to be on top?
By Pamela Haag
Kurt Vonnegut’s son, Mark, wrote in his memoir The Eden Express that the best thing about graduating from college is that you can say what a pile of crap college is and “no one can accuse you of sour grapes.”
Mark attended Swarthmore College. I did too, graduating in 1988. I got a Ph.D. from Yale seven years later. My education might brand me as an “elite” today—the word has become an insult. But since I didn’t come from privilege, money, power, or connections, my story is a variation of what we used to celebrate, not ridicule, as upward mobility.
In my high school, I was one of a few Continue reading “Are Elite Colleges Worth It?”