Barbarians and Gatekeepers

BY AARON BARLOW Fifty-plus years ago, the political right began a campaign to undermine the institutions of the American political and societal system. They were out of power and had found themselves far outside of the mainstream of both political parties; lacking responsibilities within any extant institutions, they had no commitment to those landmarks of…

Book Review: David Horowitz’s Last Gasp on Higher Ed

BY AARON BARLOW The act of teaching is political. Yet Americans like to pretend that its schools are removed from the public sphere, that they focus on knowledge and skills, nothing more. Rightwing firebrand (though his spark has dimmed against the bright flames of newer agitators like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos) David Horowitz has…

Colleges: Illiberal Enclaves of Groupthink?

BY AARON BARLOW Hank Reichman, on this blog the other day, quoted Donald Moynihan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin: “More people now believe that students oppose free speech, based on a flawed survey and resulting headlines. No correction will fix that.” He was referring to a “survey” conducted by a Brookings Institution Senior…

Becoming Interdisciplinary

BY AARON BARLOW “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy.” That line, and Juliet’s following thoughts, come to mind each time I listen to talk of interdisciplinary courses and programs. So bound are we by names and the divisions they create that we no longer seem able to see how ridiculous and small-minded we…

“Clickbait!”

BY AARON BARLOW In early 2016, I shared on this blog a statement by a tenured professor recently fired by the University of California at Riverside. One of the comments, by a former colleague of the ex-professor, accused me of posting his statement solely as “clickbait.” I chuckled, but the accusation rankled: the Academe blog…

Fighting Outcomes

BY AARON BARLOW Underlying the mania for “assessment” and “accountability” in higher education is an elitist sensibility that, having gone unexamined for too long, has undermined real efforts at providing useful education for everyone, no matter what college or what level. Not only is it creating a two-tiered model of education, but it is changing…

Assessing the ‘Outcomes’

BY AARON BARLOW Christine Emba, editor of In Theory, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post on July 28, 2017 calling the current mania for ‘outcomes’ a “familiar trap.” She was focusing on politics, particularly on the failure of health care ‘repeal and replace’ but her thoughts apply to education as well. They apply,…

On Stars and What They Eat

BY AARON BARLOW The other day, in a post on student agency, I complained again about the erzatz meritocracy of our star system of education. I tend to focus my attention in this area more on the classroom itself, where the best students get the most attention and support, though I do mention that the…

Student Agency

BY AARON BARLOW In the weeks after the Kent State killings in 1970, I grew increasingly perplexed and withdrawn. My campus—I was attending Utica College in upstate New York—shut down and students seemed triumphant. Triumphant, that is, in the matter of standing for a moment on center stage. But I was unhappy. For it wasn’t…