mfioretti: college*

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  1. Students are too wrapped up in racial and identity politics. They are allowed to take too many frivolous courses. They have repudiated the heroes and traditions of the past by judging them by today’s standards rather than in the context of their times. Fraternities are being unfairly maligned, and men are being demonized by sexual assault investigations. And university administrations have been too meek in addressing protesters whose messages have seemed to fly in the face of free speech.

    Scott C. Johnston, who graduated from Yale in 1982, said he was on campus last fall when activists tried to shut down a free speech conference, “because apparently they missed irony class that day.” He recalled the Yale student who was videotaped screaming at a professor, Nicholas Christakis, that he had failed “to create a place of comfort and home” for students in his capacity as the head of a residential college.

    “I don’t think anything has damaged Yale’s brand quite like that,” said Mr. Johnston, a founder of an internet start-up and a former hedge fund manager. “This is not your daddy’s liberalism.”
    Continue reading the main story
    Related Coverage

    Racial Tension and Protests on Campuses Across the Country NOV. 10, 2015
    With Diversity Comes Intensity in Amherst Free Speech Debate NOV. 28, 2015
    Yale Professor and Wife, Targets of Protests, Resign as College Heads MAY 26, 2016
    At Princeton, Woodrow Wilson, a Heralded Alum, Is Recast as an Intolerant One NOV. 22, 2015

    “The worst part,” he continued, “is that campus administrators are wilting before the activists like flowers.”


    Well, you can't spend decades trying to get a more diverse student body and then be surprised when this newly diverse group doesn't think even remotely like the privileged white guys you used to admit. Nor can you be very surprised when those same privileged white guys decide not to support your newly diverse campus because guess what, these kids don't think the way privileged white guys do. Really, these Universities are the victims of their own success and should be proud that some rich white dudes are disgusted, no matter whether it hurts their already very full pocketbooks or not.

    I'm a relatively young alumna of one of the colleges that belongs to the fundraising organization mentioned here, and I didn't give this year because of the current campus climate. But I don't feel at all represented by the disgruntled alums quoted here. I applaud current students at my alma mater for the work they're doing on racial justice, social class diversity, and fairer policies for trans students.

    What I find toxic is the apparent inability of current students to discuss any of these issues reasonably. On my college's Facebook community, anyone who attempts to sensitively ask a question is inevitably accused of tone policing and then banished entirely. It's ugly enough that I left the community entirely.

    I don't recognize the current college, where dissent isn't tolerated. And I don't believe such a culture can exist side-by-side with a quality academic program. Learning to question one's assumptions should be a dominant part of the college experience. Until I feel like that's possible again at my alma mater, I'm reluctant to give.

    I am an unrepentant liberal, the product of many generations of such politics. But what is happening in schools and on campuses in today's world is appalling. Literary classics are being cut from the curriculum because they make students "uncomfortable." Since when was a good education supposed to provide comfort? History is being obliterated, creating the risk that it will be forgotten, which in turn will foster the risk of repeating it. Trump supporters, for example, are known for their lack of education. If we eradicate history, we will all be forced to join them in the ranks of the illiterate.

    Colleges are abandoning principle in favor of pandering to the students they are supposed to be educating. Heaven help us all.

    I am an Asian lesbian professor of the humanities, and am increasingly weary of my profession because of the ludicrous touchiness and ignorance of many students and faculty. A colleague teaching an LGBT film class was hauled up because two students complained he had failed to issue a "trigger warning" before showing Boys Don't Cry. I have taught Coetzee's Disgrace (which I consider a masterpiece) for several years but am now thinking of dropping it because I perceive several students gearing up to declare that they feel offended. More important, because of the lack of an adequate core curriculum, English majors and even MAs graduate without ever having read a Victorian novel or a Romantic poem. One has to begin every class, whatever its theme, with a potted history lesson, because one cannot take for granted that students know when the World Wars or the American civil war occurred, or when Socrates lived or Shakespeare wrote. But all of them know the laundry list of ideas that should offend them. And all they can really write about is their own limited lives. As one colleague of mine says, the educational system is highly successful - it set out to inculcate self-esteem and it has done so.
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  2. The dream of a sex-positive socialist Catholicism based on Marx and liberation theology tells kids to stop complaining when they suffer the consequences of adults’ sexual selfishness. Sexual radicalism and extreme pro-LGBT advocacy have no positive role to play in Catholic higher education.

    Before there was Pope Francis, there was a different Francis from Assisi, Italy. Back in the twelfth century, St. Francis heard the call to fix a church falling into ruins. Now it is the twenty-first century, and this Francis ought to hear the call to fix Catholic colleges falling into ruins.

    Recent incidents at Notre Dame, Marquette, and Catholic University of America trouble me, because they stir up memories of the muddled theology that corrupted my Catholic youth, led me into terrible confusion, and ultimately led me to leave the Church. Since I am a professor, the prospect of Catholic higher education unraveling is doubly alarming.

    Run a soup kitchen, collect blankets for the homeless, preach about generosity, and don’t give people a hard time about forbidden private acts that bring them pleasure. If you don’t sermonize about what people are doing in the dark on Saturday night, then maybe they will feel more welcome at Sunday mass. More people saved, no harm done.

    This medley of sexual anarchy and socialism, festooned with calls to charity and lopsided clippings from Matthew 25, helped my parents rationalize their decisions. My father and mother split up just as I was born. My father would go on to more lovers and wives than I care to count, and my mother would raise me together with another divorced woman who was her lover for almost two decades.

    I loved my mother and her partner deeply. Don’t get me wrong. Much of what they taught me about resisting injustice I internalized and still hold dear. My mother was a diehard radical—and an ardent Catholic. A Latin American devotee of liberation theology, to be specific. The heyday of such iconoclasm was the 1970s, a time when the man who would one day be pope was the “Provincial Superior” of Argentina’s Jesuits.

    In the 1970s, the Catholics who acted as my spiritual mentors focused overwhelmingly on the economic and hygienic side of social obligations. All this would have been fine and good, except that both my father and my mother had failed their social obligations to me based on lust, not on greed. Their libidinal adventures and shirking of sexual conventions, as it turned out, were no small matter. The priests and nuns who licensed and looked away from the sexual chaos that surrounded us were not doing the children involved any favors. Quite frankly, they let us down.

    But after I left, the gay student group lobbied to have the Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) denied official status as an organization. Their reasoning was peculiar: it would be okay to oppose same-sex marriage based on Catholic doctrine, but it was absolutely verboten to criticize same-sex parenting based on children’s rights. The latter, the gay student group asserted, had no basis in Catholic doctrine, simply reproduced anti-gay prejudice, and went against the supposed “consensus” among social scientists. Suddenly they were the voice of Catholic orthodoxy, empowered to excommunicate infidels in their own miniature inquisition.

    I’ve written so much about the invalidity of the social-science consensus on same-sex parenting, it would take too long to reprise the problems here. In fact, I went to Notre Dame as a scholar to challenge that consensus. That’s what scholars do.

    Notre Dame also gave its imprimatur to the conference on “Gender and Children.” Of course, one panel was on “children and gay parents.” The gathering seemed to welcome every possible objection adults might have to the ways children manifest gender roles, while muzzling qualms children might have about losing their parents. By warring against biological parenthood and socialized gender roles without including a strong voice from people with views like those championed by SCOP, the conference leaders sought to silence dissent and suppress half the debate.

    By the way, as the son of gay parents who has never been given a fair hearing by the “childhood studies” community that rallied around “Gender and Children,” I am the one they simultaneously claim to defend and yet perennially erase.

    How do you do that and let gay couples deprive children of the bonds to their father and mother (since every child is born with one of each)? Rather than discuss such riddles, radicals prefer to embargo the topic altogether. They do this by changing the topic to marriage and sexual prejudice, and how gay parents might feel offended by the wrong concerns being posed. They do this by pretending that no child of any same-sex couple actually came out of the experience feeling aggrieved over having lost a real parent, a pretense that amounts to ignoring the many children who do feel aggrieved. They do this by simply banishing people who pose the question—even if it is at a Catholic university.

    The core of Catholic education is the commitment to human dignity. Part of that commitment is a call to be sexually ethical, to respect others who are affected by the choices we make about our sex lives. First and foremost, children come into the world based on the sexual choices of adults. Any ideology that tells adults to follow their urges, no matter the impact on children, is profoundly anti-Catholic and anti-Christian.

    Only at his church’s peril can Pope Francis ignore the implosion of Catholic higher education. Just as St. Francis of Assisi and countless other saints were called to purify Catholic institutions, Pope Francis needs to be aware that purification is sometimes necessary, and that it is not always accomplished by tolerance or forgiveness. Sometimes it means telling people to choose: leave people free to express and defend Catholic teaching, or go take over student activities boards and faculty senates somewhere else. If Notre Dame, Marquette, or Catholic University are any indication of what is to come, then the future is quite stark. Either the church gives gender studies departments and pro-gay student groups that choice—and enforces the consequences—or else Catholic colleges go to ruin.
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  3. Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig: Graduation rates for big urban schools about 50%
    Many believe academic learning not feasible when disadvantaged kids reach teen years
    They say program of small-group tutoring raised kids' performance considerably
    Writers: It worked in Chicago, why not elsewhere? Key is not to give up with teens
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  4. In these fields in the innovation economy, traditional credentials are not only unnecessary but sometimes even a liability. A software CEO I spoke with recently said he avoids job candidates with advanced software engineering degrees because they represent an overinvestment in education that brings with it both higher salary demands and hubris. It’s a red flag that warns that a candidate is likely to be an expensive, hard-to-work-with diva who will show no loyalty to the company. MBAs have an even more challenged reputation in the innovation economy. Several of the education startups I advise that directly provide programs to students — notably Dev Bootcamp and the Fullbridge Program — recently met with other immersive unaccredited programs to consider whether to jointly develop a new type of credential. Their conclusion: Credentials are so 20th century.

    Employers have never before had such easy access to specific and current information pertaining to a candidates’ potential. It is truly unprecedented in all of human history. And society will reorganize around it as we wake up to its power. Who stands to benefit from this reorganization is very much in question.
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  5. Colleges broadly threaten faculty members' copyrights and academic freedom in claiming ownership of the massive open online courses their instructors have developed, Cary Nelson, a former president of the American Association of University Professors, argued here on Wednesday at the group's annual conference.

    In the meeting's opening address, Mr. Nelson characterized the debate at colleges over who owns the rights to faculty members' MOOCs as part of a broader battle over intellectual property that's being waged on America's campuses. At stake, he said, is not just the ability of faculty members to profit from their own writings or inventions, but the future of their profession.

    "If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it's over," Mr. Nelson warned. "Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity," and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in "a service industry," he said.

    colleges previously often sought to assert control over patents but generally left faculty members' ownership of their courses and other writings alone.

    With the emergence of MOOCs, however, colleges have begun asserting ownership of the courses their faculty members develop, raising the question of what is keeping such institutions from claiming ownership of other scholarly products covered by copyright, such as books.

    "There is no need for the university to own the online course you create," Mr. Nelson said, because a contract giving a college the right to use the course should suffice. In claiming ownership of a course, Mr. Nelson said, a higher-education institution asserts the right to update or revise the course as it sees fit, threatening the academic freedom of the course's creator.
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  6. One study examined intergenerational wealth mobility between 1979 and 2000. A child in the top wealth quintile had a 55 percent chance of remaining in the top 20 percent, and only an 11 percent chance of falling into the bottom 40 percent. The comparable mobility figures for children in the middle quintile were 13 percent and 31 percent. More recent data on the top 1 percent surely telegraph more extreme differences in life chances.

    Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose analyzed family background data regarding students who attended the top 146 colleges in the United States. Seventy-four percent of students come from the top quartile of family socioeconomic status. Only 10 percent came from the bottom half of the distribution. A mountain of evidence indicates that the top 1 percent enjoy many large advantages in gaining entry to the most selective institutions of higher education. Legacy admissions are only the most obvious non-meritocratic edge enjoyed by the most advantaged.
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  7. "Our data has shown that one of the greatest contributors to hookup behavior is a desire for sexual pleasure. However, there are also a large number of college students -- around 50% in one of our studies -- that hook up because they are hoping to start a romantic relationship or want emotional gratification."

    Additionally, Kristen Mark, a sex and relationships researcher at Kentucky University, has found that students tend to view casual hookups as a positive alternative to romantic relationships.
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  8. Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

    Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

    The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

    “Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2012-12-29)
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  9. To some education experts, however, data mining also represents the future of public education.

    After Michiganders voted in 2006 to ban the use of racial preferences in college admissions, the University of Michigan wasn’t willing to give up on the goal of enrolling more minority students. So it turned to a data-mining program called Descriptor Plus, which was originally developed by the College Board to help admissions officers more efficiently target likely students. The program employs the same kinds of algorithms that Nielsen uses to provide consumer data to advertisers based on demographic patterns and spending habits, but in this case, it sorts those data into categories that are useful for higher-education institutions. Descriptor Plus works by dividing the country into 180,000 geographic neighborhoods, and then regrouping those neighborhoods into 30 more manageable “clusters” whose residents share similar socioeconomic, educational, and racial characteristics.
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  10. Nelson’s aim is nothing less than to remake higher education, in part via technology, but also by rethinking the college experience. For example, freshmen won’t take traditional introductory classes, but instead will be trained in how to think. Topics will include the likes of complex systems analysis and “multi-modal communications,” the latter, says Nelson, being a 21st century update on the ancient art of rhetoric.

    The possibility of that sort of perfectly calibrated computerized student feedback is cited by many in online education. But others believe those expectations far exceed what software is currently capable of. Alix Guerrier, cofounder of LearnZillion, which provides online systems for elementary schools, says that a computer that can perfectly personalize individual instruction is still years off, “even though people are talking about it as though it is right around the corner.”

    The part of Nelson’s pitch that usually elicits the most questioning involves his belief that Minerva can be as prestigious as the best schools in the country. He says he would happily send his daughter, now an infant, to Minerva when she’s 18. And he rejects the idea that it takes time for an institution to attain social status. “Look at the best high schools,” he says. “They are all the new ones.”

    Nelson’s venture could very well be remembered as the of the online learning bubble; misconceived and overfunded. But he is entirely serious about creating an academic experience that not only equals the best the country has to offer, but actually improves upon it. “If we don’t up the level of education,” he says, “then we will have failed.”
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