Things You Could (Have) Do(ne) Over Break #6: Chicago Studies Edition

So, if you’ve been a reader of this blog for awhile, you might recall that I sometimes throw up some stuff before or after breaks that you could do/could have done as here, here, here, here, and here. This is one of those.

~This piece in Wired describes the role of social media in exacerbating violence in Chicago, with the Chief Keef/Lil JoJo beef as the prime example. It’s fascinating and disturbing;

~Check out the work of documentary photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz;

~UIC faculty have authorized a strike. May 1st? More on the situation here;

~Isabel Wilkerson did a big chunk of her research for The Warmth of Other Suns at the Newberry Library;

~Chicago State administrators are trying to shut down a faculty blog. (Not that there’s anything to be critical of. Hardly a thing–remember when we used to have students who transferred there? It’s been forever since I’ve had a student who has taken classes there or intended to transfer there). They’re not alone, though. Apparently it is something of a trend as administrators at schools across the country have grown more and more concerned with “message” and their “brand.” Read it and weep for the future;

~This piece on temp agencies, raiteros, and immigrant workers was eye-opening;

~Reading about Nelson Algren’s life is almost as good as reading his work. If you are a fan of Chicago: City on the Make, or ever heard of it, you’ll enjoy this. If you aren’t, you should read one or the other and then decide;

~Columbia College got a new President last July. Speaking of Columbia, their philosopher, Steven Asma (who hired me for my very first real life classroom teaching gig back in January of 2000) wrote a book on fairness and favoritism. He writes a bit about it here;

~The Old Town Ale House is a great bar. So says Roger Ebert, and he knew some things about bars and drinking, and about other things, too–the most important things;

~College football at the University of Chicago;

~A Tribune editorial says that, “The City Colleges of Chicago may not be this area`s most prestigious institution of higher learning, but they have the potential to be one of the most important, offering education and training to vast numbers of people who don`t have the dollars, credentials or access to attend other schools. The system has seldom lived up to its potential…largely because no one outside the system cared much or paid much attention. Now, finally, there is an opportunity for real change…Chicago has a critical need to train residents for skilled work, both to help its citizens gain productive jobs and to keep and attract businesses that need competent workers. These needs can be merged and served in a revamped City Colleges of the `90s.” That’s right. The editorial is from 1991;

~Another Tribune article talks about how the City Colleges “should focus on remedial education for students who did not learn the basics in high school; instruction in English as a second language; and offerings that prepare students who plan to move on to four-year institutions.” That one was from 2000.

Cross Talk: World Language Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

~You, too, could learn a language. Apparently it only takes 22 hours or so, though it should be noted that they guy who said that is a memorization expert, so mileage may vary, but still, it’s possible–especially if you learn his memory tricks and then use nifty tools like this. Who knows? You might start “Dreaming in Chinese,” which would be cool.

~A really good writer and thinker writes about the experience of learning a foreign (to him) language.

~Another one explains why he’s studying Sanskrit.

~Want to say it in a way that is “Better Than English”? Go here.

~Weirdness of languages, ranked.

~Unspeakableness is a project investigating words for emotions that are (possibly) untranslateable (more about it here).

~Naughty words mean things can be interesting, too.

~And if you don’t believe it, you should check out the history of swearing.

~Coded talk is fascinating, too. And useful.


UPDATE: Rendered moot in the same day! I am both impressed and grateful for our administration’s responsiveness, even as I feel somewhat guilty for putting them on blast (without warning). I wrote this on a day I was frustrated and then scheduled it and then pulled it (or so I thought), thinking that I should send some notice upstairs first. I guess I my effort to de-schedule it was inept, though, and I was somewhat surprised to find it posted today. I’m glad the manual is under review, but I am sorry that I didn’t give our hard-working administrators a chance to do something about it  before turning it into a public spectacle. That was my bad. Thanks to Don and company for the fast response.


Is anyone else troubled by the fact that there are no instructions for what to do in the case of a lock-down in our Emergency  Manual and that somewhere around half of the people identified as having some sort of responsibility are no longer employed at the college and that the Emergency Manuals might be some of the least user friendly documents produced by the college (at least until the new “Pathways” are released), which is saying something?

(Poor Dean Blair–his fellow escalator monitors are Cecilia Lopez, Anna Blum, and John Metoyer (p. 33). Not only that, but apparently John Wozniak is our Emergency Director!)

I know, I know…the names aren’t really that important (and, truthfully, I don’t really care about that; I’m just playing). During the last fire drill, there were plenty of monitors and help for clearing out the building; everything seemed to be working smoothly and well, for evacuations anyway. I don’t know how the “Safe Haven” card things are supposed to work for anything other than drills. I taped mine up near my door on the Tuesday before the drill and it was gone by Thursday. A few people have them up in their office windows, probably having interpreted their meaning according to the broader social and K-12 usage of the term. I just don’t see how it would all work. Maybe I’m dense.

I continue to think that the biggest dangers and threats any of us might face, as identified in a Faculty Council survey a couple of years ago, continue to exist, largely unaddressed, but I also know that a certain amount of risk is inevitable and that our risk for something awful happening is (knock on wood) low. Still, I have printed out and laminated this sign for posting in the classes that I’m teaching in. I won’t be able to lock my door from the inside on Thursday for this drill, but at least with the new biometrics system, they’ll have a way of identifying me if something goes really wrong some day.

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

Awesome Literature Event: Amina Gautier Visits Monday

An invitation to you (and your classes) from Jacob Wilkenfeld (English):

A reading by award-winning fiction writer Amina Gautier, author of At-Risk (2011)  
Monday, October 7, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. in Room 1115
Dr. Amina Gautier is the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction for her short story collection At-Risk.More than seventy-five of her stories have been published, appearing in Best African American Fiction, Glimmer Train, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, and Southern Review among other places. Her stories have won the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, the Danahy Prize, the Jack Dyer Prize, the Schlafly Microfiction Award, and the William Richey Award as well as scholarships and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and Ucross Foundation, as well as artist grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Event Sponsored by the HWC Student Government Association and the Creative Writing Club 

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces collected over the last three years. There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

This one goes out to VC Pernot! Enjoy…

~Why Privacy Matters (Even If You Have Nothing to Hide)

~The Seductive Teaching Machine Model (and its history)

~What if Machiavelli Were Analyzing Higher Ed Reforms?

Oh, and one last piece of (unsolicited) advice:

Cross Talk: Child Development Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

In tribute to our department’s ongoing accreditation visit, this one is all about young minds.

~Kids need more play;

~Thirty Million Words;

~On birds, babies and talking.

~On the development (and schooling (warping?)) of non-conformist kids;

~And this one made me laugh.

New Shimer College Scholarship

If you have any students hoping to attend a Great Books college and/or have expressed their ambitions to change the world, you might direct them to this brand new sparkly opportunity offered by Shimer College–it’s called the Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship. Here’s the low-down:

A two-year, full-tuition scholarship for transfer students who will change the world.

Buckle up.

The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship rewards you for what you are capable of today, not your past grades or your previous accomplishments.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Apply: Apply to Shimer College for the Spring 2014 Semester by November 15 by visiting our online application portal.
  2. Write a couple essays: Download Adrienne Rich’s essay Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity here and write one of your two required essays for the application based on the prompt at the end of the essay.
  3. Interview: Interview with one of the Shimer faculty  on The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship Committee by November 26. Be prepared to spend at least half of the interview discussing Split at the Root with your interviewer.

Some things to note:

  • Scholarship applicants will be judged solely on the quality of their essay on and discussion of Split at the Root.
  • All participants will be contacted by December 6. Registration for the 2014 Spring semester will take place January 13; classes begin January 15.
  • To be eligible for The Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form before a scholarship can be awarded.  Note: Students who are awarded federal or state grants may have their scholarship adjusted if the combined amount of all aid exceeds the cost of tuition.

Important Dangerous Optimist’s Scholarship Dates:

November 15 Last day to complete your application for Spring 2014 including your essay on Split at the Root.
November 26 Last day to complete your interview with Shimer faculty member
December 6 Scholarship Recipient Announced
Before December 15 Submit completed FAFSA form online
January 6 Deadline for winner to accept scholarship and submit enrollment deposit for Spring 2014
January 13 Register for Spring Semester classes

Contact us with any questions at 312.235.3555 or

Cross Talk: Math Addition*

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

~The Monty Hall Problem: A clear explanation of the math behind a classic of game theory.

~A Most Profound Math Problem: Solved?

~Life in the City is Essentially One Giant Math Problem: Formulas and everything.

~Tonight’s Powerball is $425 Million, Should I Play?: The math of Powerball.

~The Man Who Invented Modern Probability: A profile of Andrei Kolmogorov

*Yes. On purpose.

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces collected over the last three years. There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

As I am sure you are breathlessly aware, Monday is the (pushed back) kick-off for CCC’s “Open Book” big data project.

From your email:

Over the last ten months, the OpenBook team has worked together to create a truly unique data system for the City Colleges of Chicago.  We’ve taken our goal of a data democracy seriously and have built entirely new tools and features that will help OpenBook be a system that is intuitive and easy-to-use for everyone -while providing enough power and complexity to grow with our needs for years to come.

It has been a massive undertaking, but we’re ready to officially open this system for use to every administrator, faculty and staff member at CCC.  We are pleased to announce that OpenBook will officially launch on September 16th, 2013.

What should you know? Well, maybe you learned enough looking at the district office team’s presentation on their project (a version of which was shown during DWFDW). Also, there is a lot of great information out there: big data is a big topic–described as the “steam engine of our time” and as a potential (and real) danger to privacy and as an answer to urban troubles of all sorts, and that’s just on NPR! Some people from the business world see immense promise, others wonder if it’s a kind of mirage.Meanwhile, educators seeing the business trends are scrambling to figure out how to put their huge volumes of data on students to work, as here (mini-grants), here (getting poor kids into better colleges), and here (student performance and advising). Other academics are working retroactively as this fascinating project called “Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere.”

Maybe you’ve read the book, Big Data (interesting reviews  here and here). Or maybe you’re on the side of the skeptics and heard about or checked out the work of one of my current intellectual heroes, Evgeny Morozov, whose book To Save Everything, Click Here is my #1 current book recommendation for anyone and everyone (you can get a taste of his ideas and his voice HERE or in this interview). Maybe you don’t read books. That’s ok.

Maybe you read one of the many stories (as here) detailing the role of big data in the last presidential election. Maybe not. That’s fine. You could take a free, self-paced class on data analysis if you’d prefer. Perhaps you’re not ready for that kind of commitment, yet, though.

You should still know some stuff about “big data” and education. Here are three places you can go to learn about Big Data before the public launch of CCC’s big data project:

~The Rise of Big Data: Unfortunately, this was once free (pretty sure), but is not behind a paywall because it’s been archived. It’s by the authors of Big Data, one of those articles-cum-advertisements/abridgments for a bigger book. Still, maybe you will be interested enough after reading the first few paragraphs to spring the five bucks for it (or better, use a library to read the article (or the book) for free!). Failing that, type “Big Data” into EBSCO and click on whatever you fancy.

~The Meme Hustlers: Evgeny Morozov writes about the language of the advocates of technological solutionism and one particularly effective purveyor of what common techie discourse. You will talk differently after reading this.

~The Tech Intellectuals: A who’s who of the advocates (and critics) of technology talk and theory. Along the way there is lots of good stuff about the fault lines related to the topic.


And whatever else, let’s not forget that data is one thing and interpretations of it are another. Should be interesting, regardless.

Adjunct Solidarity Day

Hope you are wearing red today to show your support for our adjuncts as their union continues negotiations on a new contract. Anyone who has done it knows that it is a hard road to walk. And it is a mistake to think that they are second rate teachers; research shows that many of them are excellent–even better than their full time colleagues. It is also a mistake to think that what happens to them doesn’t affect the rest of us, and it is ridiculous to ignore what is happening to them everyday. To wit:

Un-Hired Ed: The Growing Adjunct Crisis

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces that I have found and collected over the last three years. You should expect that each of the links will require some time to explore.  There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

Charlie Trotter’s Kitchen: Charlie Trotter is back in the news, which brought to mind this excellent, three-part series from last year on his restaurant, his influence, and his approach to ‘teaching.’ There are some amazing stories in here from (now) top chefs in Chicago about how they got started (sometimes just by showing up and working for free) and how they got fired or left and how they feel about him and their time with him. You have to give the Tribune an email address to be allowed to see the “Digital Plus” articles, but it’s totally worth it. I never ate there, but I used to live a couple blocks away and it was always fun to walk by and see the day’s menu. There never failed to be something on there (usually multiple things) that I’d never heard of. Amazing that it changed every day. Just in case, here are links to the separate parts:  Part One . Part Two. Part Three.

Marissa Mayer: Probably a Packers a fan. Almost a teacher. The bio is interesting. So interesting that it’s spawning interesting analysis, too.

Steve Jobs: As assessment, almost a year after his death. Subtitled: “An Inspiration or Cautionary Tale?”