Category Archives: Fascinating
You may recall any or all of the following:
1. It was three years ago today that Chancellor Hyman’s appointment to lead the City Colleges of Chicago began (Happy anniversary, Chancellor!).
2. It was two and a quarter years ago (ish) that the Board of the City Colleges of Chicago resolved “that the Board of Trustees expects all staff and officers of the District to advance the goals of the Reinvention of the City Colleges of Chicago and will hold staff accountable for reaching these goals” and, further, “that as the governing body of the City Colleges of Chicago, all Trustees pledge to hold themselves accountable for reaching these goals for student improvement and success.” The board resolution promised to track progress on interim benchmarks and milestones to achieving the Reinvention goals, “including but not limited to:
- Increases in the graduation rate
- Increases in the student retention rate
- Increases in the credit accumulation rate
- Increases in the employment rate
- Increases in the percentage of students who transfer to a 4-year institution after receiving an Associate’s degree
- Increases in the percentage of students who move through remediation and successfully challenge a college-level course
- Increases in the percentage of upper-level adult education students who move into college-level courses”
3. It was just a little over two years ago that a faculty group put together an open letter to then Board Chair Cabrera quoting Board rule 2.2.3 (““The Board shall conduct an annual review of the performance of the Chancellor. Such review shall be conducted by such persons, designated by the Board, and in such manner, as the Board may deem appropriate”) and asking for, among other things, information about the Chancellor’s review.
4. It was about a year and a quarter ago that an article in Inside Higher Ed focused on the administrative accountability for the City Colleges’ Reinvention goals and plans, the penultimate paragraph of which reads, “After just one year, many of the plan’s recommendations are still being phased in. But it calls for regular checks on progress beginning this summer, and system officials promise that performance evaluations of administrators will be tied directly to the reinvention.”
5. It was about a year ago that CCC released news about exactly one of the seven “interim benchmarks and milestones,” highlighting the rise in graduation rates.
6. It was about 9 months ago that the CCC budget was released with the baselines for Key Performance Indicators broken out by schools and departments (Daley: p124; Harold: p141; KK: p160; MalcolmX: p182; OH: p202; Truman: p207; Wilbur: p240). (Interestingly, there is no scorecard for the Board, the Chancellor, nor the the Chief of Staff’s office, but they pick up again with the Department of Academic Affairs (p269). So you may be thinking that the Board and Chancellor get a mean score from the rest of the metrics. It’s also not clear in the budget how the scorecards work–is it Pass/Fail? And if so, on each category or on all of them? Is one ‘F’ enough to doom the leadership? Or will they do a color code (like a stoplight (red, yellow, green) or homeland security)? All fascinating questions that plead for answers…)
But perhaps, in your cynical, grinchy heart, you recall all of that and continue to think, as you have all along, that it’s a bunch of hot air and hooey–political mumbo jumbo that is founded on the dual expectation of being able to cherry pick the confirmation data points and mystify/withhold the less flattering numbers.
Is that you?
Well, prepare for your heart to grow three sizes this day! It’s Christmas in April today, my friends, and with you I shall share a gift bestowed upon me by a person in the know–a modern day Deepthroat, a local Julian Assange, an educational Aaron Swartz!
That’s right, for answers to your questions and a peek at the Board of Trustees’ frank and refreshingly transparent 360 review of the Chancellor (and their own performance) in light of the above, you’ll have to travel below the fold by clicking on the “More” button…
Read the rest of this entry
In recognition of the new, formerly chemistry teaching Pope and in anticipation of some spring break free time that you may want to fill up with fascinating reading, here is a list of some interesting things I’ve found laying around the intertoobz:
~Learn about Quantum Biology;
~Black holes have firewalls and physicists are confounded;
~Check out Symphony of Science;
The rest of the list is below the “fold”…
Did you happen to catch Makers on PBS last week? It’s a documentary featuring ground breaking women and telling “the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy… MAKERS brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success.”
Still, perhaps you don’t have the time for a long documentary–no problem! Check out some of the individual interviews, or at least look at the names and breadth: Susan Brownmiller, Sandra Cisneros, Eve Ensler, Nora Ephron, Catherine MacKinnon, Robin Morgan, Alice Walker, and that’s just a few of the writers! It’s an amazing list of people. Surely there’s something you can use for a class, and lots of potential learning.
You’ll be glad you did.
~On the myth of a gender gap in mathematical ability (Gawker)
~The math and cost of pennies (xkcd.com)
~Statistics and some (devastating/common) fallacies of probability–very accessible and interesting (Salon); or learn about Bayes and his famous theorem (farnamstreetblog);
~Check out the mathematics of sport (note the great set of links if you have interest in a particular sport) (sabermetric research);
~This one has infinity in the title, but it’s about a person teaching math in prison (Prospect)
~Check out the world’s fastest number game; can you correctly sum 15 numbers shown to you in 1.85 seconds? If so you wouldn’t have won this year’s championship; I’m not sure if the video makes it more or less believable (Guardian)
~More about history and society than Math proper, it’s fascinating anyway–”A look at anti-Semitic university admissions in the USSR from the perspective of a leading mathematician” (New Criterion)
~Another history lesson–this time on Emmy Noether, “the most most significant mathematician you’ve never heard of” (NYT)
~Teach yourself logic or at least gather some info about resources for doing so (Logic Matters)
~Read about the excitement about a possible proof of the deep connection between primes–”The usually quiet world of mathematics is abuzz with a claim that one of the most important problems in number theory has been solved. Mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki of Kyoto University in Japan has released a 500-page proof of the abc conjecture, which proposes a relationship between whole numbers — a ‘Diophantine’ problem”
~Learn why Base 12 is better, if Art DiVito didn’t make it clear to you already (Guardian)
~Eleven ways shoppers go wrong in their math (Atlantic)
~Use THIS, which is glorious, to teach narrative, interpretation, personification, metaphor, whatever. Or just watch it. It’ll be a highlight of your day. Promise;
~Consider irony. Don is doing it. And in response to the article that prompted his reflections, many others did too, though they came to different conclusions about the merit of the original piece (as here and here);
~Check out this article on the top Literary Heroines of 2012 (with links to other such lists) or this list of great books from 2012 (Hologram for a King was entrancing; I read it in two sittings only because I wanted to slow the experience down a bit to enjoy it longer. Really, really great.) or this longer one (with poetry!);
~Think about translation and how it affects what you read (you read stuff in translation, right? RIGHT?)
~Read up on the various perspectives and associated controversies surrounding the latest Nobel Prize Laureate, Mo Yan (whose book, for the record, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out was one I enjoyed greatly) and the difficult intersections of politics, language, and art;
~Have you read Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet? I loved it when I was in college. I’ve been a little fearful to go back to it, lest it disappoint, and it hasn’t come up since, except in my own mind when Alexandria is mentioned. It was in those books that I first found C.P. Cavafy, whose work I love. And someday, I hope to visit. In the meantime, I was happy to find this;
~Learn about Wayne Booth’s helpful distinctions of narrator, implied author, and actual author (or at least the implied author part) as applied to political punditry. Or, learn about Wayne Booth. He was awesome;
~Read about epigraphs and their history, one way that books talk to each other, as Umberto Eco might put it.
~Did you know “Toni Morrison” is a pen name? Or that she did this with Rokia Traore (who put on one of the most amazing live music experiences I’ve ever had–you should check her out if and when she comes back to town) I didn’t, until I read this;
~Read this absorbing essay about Literature and Digital Humanities. A bit of it:
At the advent of print, the humanities emerged, under the aegis of Erasmus and others, to negotiate the spread of the classical tradition out of the monasteries into private hands. Today, with the advent of the Internet, Google’s self-described project is to make the world’s information “universally accessible and useful.” Academia could have done what humanists have done throughout history and tried to add to Google’s mandate: make the texts legible and available. They could have tried to bring out the contemporary relevance that only historical context, knowledge of literary tradition, and scholarly standards can provide. But this ancient task was anathema, for the simple reason that it would have involved honest work. Much easier to remain in the safe irrelevance of mass publication in the old mode, what Kingsley Amis called “the pseudo-light it threw on non-problems.” For at least 50 years, humanities departments have been in the business of creating problems rather than solving them.
All in all, it’s fair to say that the conversion of literature into data could not have gone much worse, which does not bode well for the second, oncoming phase, where we decide what to do with the literary data we now have…
But the really great part of the essay (I think) comes in the second half when the author discusses literature as “resistance to data.” Which is another reason to love Lit.
~Read a difficult book; or, better (?) read about other people’s picks for the ten most difficult books;
~Or find some other author talking about her or his book;
~Read this letter from Steinbeck to his editor about books and reading and audiences and life;
~Or read about a snob’s opinion of Stephen King’s work;
~Have you read any lit crit lately? Are you wondering what Terry Eagleton is up to? Or wondered why contemporary lit is “gutless” (as compared to the work of Rabindranath Tagore–do you know Tagore? You should. Interesting dude.)? Anyway, not to fear–postmodernism is dead. Unless it isn’t;
~Finally, to bring it around, you might (re)-consider the effects of literature and its limits:
When we’re practiced in sympathy it is easier for us to notice “what is not seen.” When we have tried, over and over again, to put ourselves into others’ places and to see the world from where they are standing, we’re better people, living in a more civil world. Because we’ve read Alice Adams, we might not go over the top trying to impress people the next time we’re under great social pressure and we might not be so harsh on those who do. Because our children have read, and have had read to them, stories that help them think about the perils of greed, or the importance of kindness, or the dangers of drinking from bottles marked “Drink me,” they will grow up to be more considerate and more careful of themselves and others.
It’s tempting to close with promises about how if we all just read a few more books—better books—support our local arts scene, visit museums, attend concerts, read to our children and make them take piano lessons, our problems will be solved. Surely, a society that’s grounded in civility and sympathy and learned in the humanities would not be plagued with financial irresponsibility and ethical misconduct. Surely it wouldn’t be run by politicians and reported on by journalists who use language that would have shocked Lady Chatterley. Unfortunately people who offer easy answers to complicated questions are usually trying to sell you something.
The humanities can teach us civility and sympathy, but they can’t make us perfect and they can’t fix our problems for us. They can help us be more aware of the “unseen,” but they cannot help us predict unintended consequences. There isn’t a philosophical theory or a novel or a painting or a piece of music in the world that can solve the Middle East or clean up an oil spill or make the economy recover. The best the humanities can do is to remind us that, as Auden put it, “We must love one another or die,” and then show us how to do it.