All posts filed under: Education

Race and Social Panic at Haverford: A Case Study in Educational Dysfunction

“You have continued to stand as an individual that seems to turn a blind eye to the stuff that’s going on, as a black woman that is in the [college] administration,” said the first-year Haverford College student. “I came to this institution”—and here she pauses for a moment, apparently fighting back tears—“I expected you, of any of us, to stand up and be the icon for black women on this campus… So, I’m not trying to hear anything that you have to say regarding that, due to the fact that you haven’t stood up for us—you never have, and I doubt that you ever will.” The school-wide November 5th Zoom call, a recording of which has been preserved, was hosted by Wendy Raymond, Haverford’s president. At the time, the elite Pennsylvania liberal arts college was a week into a student strike being staged, according to organizers, to protest “anti-blackness” and the “erasure of marginalized voices.” During the two-hour-and-nine-minute discussion, viewed in real time by many of the school’s 1,350 students, Raymond presented herself as solemnly …

I’m a Professor from an Immigrant Family. Please Stop Telling Me That My University Is Racist

On June 24th, the University of Calgary leadership team published its response to an open letter, dated June 9th, from hundreds of students, alumni, and faculty. The original letter had called on the university to make a series of anti-racist statements, and commit to a series of actions to address racism on campus. The specific statements and actions were helpfully catalogued in the open letter. While the university president declined to give details on his plan of action, he declared in his June 24th response that “it is no longer adequate to simply not be racist, it is time to be anti-racist”; and that “systemic racism exists, and we allow it to live on when we fail to address it meaningfully and with urgency. There is systemic racism at UCalgary, and it is incumbent upon us to tackle this challenge with vigour and purpose.” This is all very familiar. In recent months, we have seen countless organizations re-affirm their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), tout all the good work they have already done …

Shoulders of Giants

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Chapter One of The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction by Greg Ashman. In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, Isaac Newton wrote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.” Newton was alluding to those who had come before, such as Galileo Galilei, on whose work he had built. The metaphor, implying the ratchet-like progress of human understanding, privileging accumulated culture over the gifted and inspired individual, was not original. A little research establishes an earlier form attributed to Bernard of Chartres by John of Salisbury. Given the nature of the saying, its history is satis­fying. Or it should be. The stuff of teaching is to pass on accumulated culture so that our children and their children may see further than we ever did. And yet the forces ranged against such a simple and obvious proposition, as intelligible to Newton as it is to us today, are formidable. There are those who see education as a development from within. Kieran …

The Fragility of Modern Education in the Time of COVID-19

Modern education is arguably the most massive feat of social engineering ever attempted by humanity and one of the most important, when effective. Academic competencies at the end of schooling can have life-long influences on employability, wages, and the ability to advance in one’s career.1,2,3,4 These influences, of course, benefit the individual, but also shape the communities in which educated individuals reside and have wider effects on gross domestic product and rates of technological and other innovations.4, 5 It is not simply years of schooling or having a credential (e.g., high school diploma) that produce these effects, it is the actual reading, mathematics, and other academic skills and knowledge that students take with them as they head off for college or the work force.5 With this in mind, consider that the strategies designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted the schooling of as many as three out of four of the world’s students,6 The long-term impacts of these disruptions will not be known for some time but there are well-founded reasons to believe …

Workers vs. Wokeness at Smith College: Campus Social Justice as a Luxury Good

“While art has long maintained a symbiotic relationship with bourgeois state power, there’s still something deeply unsettling about our supposedly ‘radical’ artists manufacturing consent on behalf of one of our two entrenched capitalist parties,” wrote artist and self-described “culturally agnostic Marxist” Adam Lehrer in Caesura last month. By way of example, he cites an image circulated by visual artist Marilyn Minter in advance of this month’s US election, labeled, “How are you voting in 2020?” with the two choices labeled “Democrat” and “Fascist.” Lehrer argues that “Trump isn’t a fascist. He’s a symbol of the transformation of American empire and global capitalism.” And so “what Minter is doing is fusing conceptualist aesthetics with neoliberal politics and talking points. In doing so, she’s not just propagandizing on behalf of one faction of the elite, but also neutralizing art of its critical role.” More broadly, Lehrer argues, The cultural hegemony has shifted in the last 30 years as artists, intellectually trapped in the banal culture wars of the ‘90s and attracted to the intersectional aesthetics of [a] …

The Failing Business Model of American Universities

Put yourself in the shoes of the average college graduate today. It took you longer than expected to complete your “four-year degree” and you are almost $30,000 in debt. You are desperately searching for a job in your field before your student loan payments run you into the ground, assuming your rent and car payments don’t get you there first. The generations before you had student loan debt too, but not nearly to the same degree of an ever-present threat. How did you end up here, and what do you do now with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic? The business model adopted by our academic institutions is increasingly at odds with those seeking higher education and with the broader society as well. It is undesirable to have entire generations unable to participate in the economy, and as of June 2020, contribute a staggering $1.67 trillion to the national debt according to the National Reserve. This is more than auto loan debt and almost twice the amount of credit card debt in the US. It is crucial …

I Signed Up to Study Sexual Health. What I Got Was Gender Ideology, Fetishism, and Porn

I am not a conspiracy theorist. And as recently as a year and a half ago, if someone had told me the things I am reporting here, I would have accused them of culture-war paranoia. That was before I enrolled in a professional training program that I’d hoped would expand my skills as a therapist, but instead delivered an extreme form of ideological indoctrination. The Sexual Health Certificate Program is a prestigious University of Michigan program conducted in affiliation with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). As someone who recently studied in the program, I can attest that, notwithstanding whatever mission AASECT once had, it now operates largely as a de facto activist group that seeks to reshape standards applied to mental health care and education, and to limit the rights of parents to make decisions about their children. And no, I am not an extreme social conservative complaining about the failure of these organizations to support “abstinence only” sex education. Nor do I object to teaching kids that it’s okay …

Who Speaks for Black Lives Matter? The Answer Can Be Complicated

On October 2nd, the New York Times ran a profile of Hawk Newsome, the Bronx-based co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. “At over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, often wearing a bulletproof vest beneath his shirt and puffing on a Padron 1964 Anniversary Series cigar, Hawk Newsome is hard to miss,” wrote reporter Derek M. Norman. “When [he] is not speaking with the news media or organizing events, Mr. Newsome, 43, can be found at marches from Charlottesville, Va., to Minneapolis to New York City. ‘The first thing I do is open up my Bible to see what the scripture of the day is,’ Newsome told the Times. ‘If there’s anything I want back more than anything from before, it’s church. Every Sunday I’d go, twice.’” Aside from wearing a bulletproof vest, Newsome also rents multiple cars, so he can “switch them up because it’s safer and nobody could keep track of what I’m driving.” He also told the Times that when he attends protest events, “Usually, I’ll have one or …

The Lawrence Mead Affair

Lawrence Mead, a long-time proponent of welfare reform, is a professor of politics and public policy at New York University. On July 21st this year, an ill-advised article he had written, ‘Poverty and Culture’, appeared in the academic journal Society. The article began by asking, “Why do so many Americans remain destitute… even when jobs are available?” According to Mead, the answer is not “social barriers, such as racial discrimination or lack of jobs,” but rather “cultural difference.” Noting that “the seriously poor are mostly blacks and Hispanics,” he argued that such individuals have not internalised Western norms of individualism. As a consequence, he maintained, “they are at a disadvantage competing with the European groups—even if they face no mistreatment on racial grounds.” Regarding the claim that “black social problems” are due to “white oppression,” Mead argued, “By that logic, the problems should have been worst prior to the civil rights reforms in the 1960s.” Yet in his reading of events, “The collapse of the black family occurred mostly after civil rights rather than before.” …

For Some Adjunct Professors, It’s Speak Your Mind versus Keep Your Job

The issue of academic freedom is particularly tenuous for the growing number of college teachers who hold positions that are neither tenured nor on the tenure track. Various titles are used to describe these positions, including adjunct professor, visiting professor, professor of practice, professor in residence, acting professor, and lecturer. There is wide variation in the job duties, qualifications for appointment, and appointment procedures associated with such titles. (And in some rare cases, it should be noted, university instructors who aren’t tenured faculty do have security of employment—such as at the University of California, at which some adjuncts have a “Lecturer with Security of Employment” job title.) But for simplicity, we will use the term “adjunct” to describe any college instructor who does not have, and is not on a formal track to receive security of employment through the tenure system. There is tremendous variation regarding the length of service and level of involvement that adjuncts have with colleges. An adjunct might be hired for a period of only a few months to teach a …