About a year ago, Steven Krause (of Eastern Michigan University) and Charles Lowe (of Grand Valley State University) came up with the idea of a collaborative anthology of essays on MOOCs, twinning an experiment in scholarship with exploration of an experiment in education. The anthology appeared last week, showing the success of the approach to scholarship–but also providing a chronicle of the quick rise and fall of an educational fad. It is called Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promise and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses.
As Krause writes in the concluding essay, “After the Invasion: What’s Next for MOOCs?” in 2013:
The invasion of the MOOCs seemed inevitable: for better or worse, massive online open courses in one form or another were going to be a part of the future of higher education, and the question that most of the writers in this collection consider is what is that inevitable future likely to look like.
But as we go to press in 2014, that future is a little less certain.
A lot less certain, I would say. The MOOC is not going to go away, but it will merely be (like television and all of the other electronic possibilities that were to “save” education) a tool and not a solution. Continue reading
David Coleman, head of the College Board (of SAT fame) and sparkplug to the creation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), seems to believe that if we can measure it, we can know it and evaluate it. He also seems to believe that measurement results in truth absolute, not truth relative, a mindset more comfortable to 18th and 19th-century thought than it should be to the 21st-century world of post-Einsteinian understanding. His beliefs are, at their core, simplistic, reductive, and regressive. Simplistic in that they narrow learning to memorization and established process; reductive in that they ignore anything that cannot be measured; regressive in that they can only look to what has been established, not to speculation or invention, to what will or can be discovered in the future. Such a mindset of arrogance of the known sweeps away any enthusiasm for the exploration.
Coleman is in the process of changing the SAT, something about as valuable as putting a new coat of paint on an ’86 Yugo. The resulting vehicle may look a little better, but it still is doubtful as a means of getting anyone where they want to go. Continue reading
Two years ago, I delivered a paper at the Modern Language Society annual meeting on blind peer review. I don’t much care for it, I said. Though I am uncomfortable with peer review as a whole, it was the “blind” part I was addressing particularly.
Perhaps I was too timid. Perhaps it takes a Nobel Laureate to go where I do not. Someone like Sydney Brenner, professor of Genetic medicine at the University of Cambridge. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. Continue reading
American educational institutions are in the process of shooting themselves in the foot. Not only are we often abusing students financially (see my earlier post referring to Suzanne Mettler’s work), but we are allowing corporate ideas (ones that are demolishing the stability of the American economy by squeezing the American workforce–as Barbara Garson, among others, argues) to replace educational ones.
Recent comments by Noam Chomsky are now available, “ How America’s Great University System Is Getting Destroyed.” They are worth reading, though most of us working in higher education already know most everything he is saying. Continue reading
Suzanne Mettler’s The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy was quite useful to me when writing The Cult of Individualism: A History of an Enduring American Myth. She’s onto something, arguing (to quote from my book) that the:
startling unwillingness to recognize the support we have received over our lives has had the surprising result of actually driving a good deal of the communitarian efforts of the federal government of the United States–and more–underground: “In the lives of most Americans other than seniors, the impact of visible governance has diminished while that of the submerged state has grown.” Our sense of self-creation has grown so important to many of us that we deliberately fool ourselves as a group in order to maintain it. (21)
Mettler has a new book out this month, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream and a related op-ed piece, “College, the Great Unleveler,” in today’s New York Times. She is still writing about what we hide from ourselves but, this time, what she says should be paid attention to even more closely by those of us who lurch the hallowed hallways of academe. This time, she’s detailing something that we can no longer let remain submerged. Continue reading
In his column “How to Get a Job at Google,” Thomas Friedman talks about the views of Lazlo Bock, Google’s head of hiring. Those views explode the assumptions about education behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are being imposed on American schools and that will continue to change (if fully implemented) what college professors can expect from incoming students. Instead of coming from a regressive test-centric, skills-centric education fostered by CCSS, Bock wants to see candidates for hire who look forward to new possibilities. He does not want to see ones who can only look back to the needs of an older era. Continue reading
If American higher education is going to continue to aspire to excellence, its institutions need to address and reverse the growing reliance on adjuncts as teachers. Not only is this exploitative of the adjuncts (to say nothing of the students), but it reduces our colleges and universities to factories, effectively excluding academic freedom and removing research components from teaching responsibilities. Two of the three aspects of a professor’s job, teaching, scholarship and service, are eliminated, for adjuncts are expected to do nothing but complete classroom activities.
Though reliance on adjuncts has risen primarily because it is a cheap alternative to tenured and tenure-track faculty, it also fits into the corporate top-down models of governance, models of efficiency that see shared governance as a waste of time and energy. To date, college and university administrations have been given little incentive to move in another direction. To them, use of adjuncts provides a situation where they not only save money but they get rid of pesky faculty involvement in what they see as exclusively their own responsibilities. They are not going to make a change unless countering incentives, or new oversight structures, are offered.
It’s nice to see that the plight of adjuncts is finally getting play in American media. The New York Times, for example, ran an editorial today that ends: Continue reading
Today, in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof presents a column headlined “Professors, We Need You!” He wonders what has happened to those of us in academia, ending with these words:
I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!
One of the things this blog, Academe magazine and the entire AAUP is fighting for is just this, to bring professors out of ivory towers and into the public sphere where they belong. In the spirit of John Dewey (as I title my editorial in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Academe), we refuse to hide away, talking only to each other. Continue reading
“Standards” and “College readiness.”
Belief in the efficacy of the former and in the possibility of using them to create the latter (and an urgency manufactured through meaningless comparisons between American schools and others throughout the world) lies behind the current rush to impose the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on American public schools. The Editorial Board of The New York Times claims:
The new Common Core learning standards, which set ambitious goals for what students should learn from one year to the next, are desperately needed in New York, where only about a third of high school students graduate with the math and English skills necessary to succeed at college.
Somehow, the Times assumes, the standards are well crafted and can meet the need.
Are they? Can they? Let’s ask a college professor (me). Continue reading
Though she is perhaps best known for her 1966 skewering of LBJ, MacBird, perhaps all of us should be paying a little more attention to Barbara Garson today. Her book Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live should be out in paperback any day now. Here’s what Adam Hochschild says about it:
Garson knows that the hard times so many people are living through are not just composed of headlines about corporate profits, unemployment rates and foreclosures; they are composed of human beings. This book is a compassionate, probing, pointillist mural of the Great Recession and of the decades-long erosion of the average American’s economic position that preceded it, all told through the experiences of individual men and women. She has followed some over time, has sought out others whose lives illuminate larger injustices, and has found people whose stories will stick with you.
What has this to do with the AAUP or American faculty? Continue reading