NPR Survey on Trigger Warnings

Speaking of trigger warnings, a colleague passed along a survey put together by and education reporter at NPR named Meg Anderson. She writes:

We are doing some informal research at colleges nationwide on the use of “trigger warnings” – a disclaimer to students that upcoming material could have adverse effects for students.

She invited my colleague to share the survey with “faculty and staff in your department who teach students directly,” and gave me permission to do the same. If you’re interested, click HERE for the survey. It takes less than a minute unless you’re a really, really slow reader. If you’d like to know more/say more, you can contact her at manderson@npr.org.

Think, Know, Prove: More Stats, More Questions

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Friday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Yes, yes, I know I promised a look at the college by college numbers last week, and I meant it. But in the interim, I was contacted by somebody with a request to include the system-wide completion numbers from 2015 as soon as possible, numbers I didn’t have, but which the person provided for me (with assurances of their accuracy and the suggestion that they could be confirmed through Open Book). If you watched Chancellor Hyman’s speech to the Civic Club of Chicago, you saw a preview of these, but not the breakout by degrees (a breakout, which our Chancellor told us is just a tangle of “alphabet soup,” a rather flippant dismissal of one of our concerns, especially since it comes  RIGHT AFTER her telling the story about how her own AGS degree turned out not to have prepared her well for transfer! Amazing, again!! But I digress).

Suffice it to say that the numbers were interesting enough that I decided to delay my college-by-college account of changes in degree granting for a week (or two–I have a couple posts on “Merit Pay” that I’ve wanted to do for awhile now) to give another look at the system-wide completion numbers with our most recent year included. Here they are (click on the chart to make it bigger):

Degrees--System (2015)The numbers are astonishing. AA degrees increased almost 40% last year alone, while AS degrees more than doubled! AGS degrees are still much larger than they used to be, but down 17.4% from last year. So what happened? Something must be working…I don’t see how it could be the Pathways since they’re minimally rolled out at this point. Can’t be “Campus Solutions” Course Planner, since that just rolled out last spring. So…what the hell? I know I’m supposed to just clap and say, “Good job, everybody!” but it seems rather strange, doesn’t it? I mean, it feels kind of “Enron-y” doesn’t it? What am I missing?

I would be curious to see how many of these graduations were of students who were enrolled in 2014-2015 (and how many were students whose completion was a function of having completion credits reverse transferred from the school they transferred to. I wish I could take a survey of the recipients and find out how many were surprised to find out that they’d earned a CCC degree. Maybe none. Maybe lots?

And, per Anthony’s point (in the comments on my last week’s post) the increase probably has something to do with the huge enrollment spike we had during and over the couple years following the Great Recession of 2008. I also wonder how many of these students benefited from the relaxation of the home campus requirement to just 15 hours (when was that changed, 2014? I’m too lazy to look). But even with all of that, 575 AS degrees? I didn’t see that coming. It’ll be interesting to see what the school to school breakout is on those.

Anyway, there it is–a surprising set of numbers. What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

The Chancellor’s Address (Yesterday) to the City Club of Chicago

In which, the Mayor reminds everyone of what a terrible job we were doing educating a student he met in 2011 (based on pretty much nothing other than his own sense of things and our graduation rate) before announcing the new Start Scholarship partnerships with 4-year schools and offering an easy, but fallacious, equivocation between improved completion rates and “improved educational quality,” before introducing the Chancellor who announces our “preliminary” (but impressive) numbers for 2015, explains the strategies of reinvention, and engages with various criticisms of Reinvention and ‘Consolidation’ using textbook examples of various fallacies including:

~”Straw Person” (26:00–has anyone made the claim that “students don’t travel out of their neighborhoods to attend one of the City Colleges”? I don’t think that’s the point that’s been made in various critiques of consolidation. That’s obviously false. The question/doubt is about whether Child Development students will travel to Truman, which is a very different question);

~”False Dichotomy” (at one point the Chancellor says that to help students out of poverty, we must choose to provide “quality over proximity” as if the two were suddenly mutually exclusive? Can’t we provide both? If not, somebody should tell Starbucks that their business model is deeply flawed);

~and more (How many can you find?) before building to a final argument that  manages to take credit for student success on account of changes and supports that have resulted from Reinvention while deriding critics for their calls for various forms of student support. Because students need to learn the lessons of tough love. They have to want it, be hungry and make it work. So, people who provide things for students that they need are “innovative” while people who criticize those plans or ask for other kinds of supports are excuse-makers. I should try this with my classes. “I have provided you with everything you need. If you say you need more than or other than what I have provided you, I will know you are a whining excuse maker. Toughen up! It’s true that I have provided you with no textbook, but I needed no textbook and so it can be done. Make it work.”

Amazing.

My favorite quote? Speaking of Mayor Emanuel, the Chancellor says, “Neither of us have time for complicated deliberations when decisive action is required.” (13:55). That made me laugh out loud. In truth, this Chancellor and her Reinvention have accomplished many good things; our Student Services were a MESS for years after decades of neglect and administrative impairment, and they are much improved (or at least much expanded and much more attended to). They have some significant evidence of achievement, it’s true. It is, perhaps, too much to ask that a little intellectual honesty be invited along for the ride down victory lane. Anyway, you should watch this:

Website Wednesday: Models and Data

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Here in week 7 of our semester, I’m a little less far behind than usual for some reason, but a little further behind than I was last week owing to a cold and so I didn’t have enough time to put up the post I’d planned (maybe next week!). Instead, in keeping with Kamran’s theme, I offer you three gifts:

~a truly great (and short) read called, “The Deception that Lurks in Our Data-Driven World,” that includes stories about bathroom scales, the German “Normalbaum” disaster that ensued from human efforts to make an unruly ecosystem easier to quantify and an overabundance of faith in their understanding of they system they were quantifying, and the sentence “Raw data is an oxymoron;”

~an even shorter, quicker read on one example of what happens when a model (even a good one) is mistaken for reality; and

~this fun, heretical presentation on “Big Data” (you can skim through the slides and summarizing text by clicking HERE if you don’t have time for the video):

Enjoy!

And when you’re done, go read Kamran’s piece…

Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is an occasional feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

You might recall the article on Immigrants and temp work that I linked to a few weeks ago. It was published on today’s featured Web site, ProPublica–they describe themselves as an “independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” They go on to say, “Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”

I can think of a few people who might blanch at the squishiness of some of those terms, but as you can see from this list of stories, they pick interesting subjects to explore, use interesting visual representations of data, and quality writing and story-telling.

It’s well worth a few minutes, and you might even want it in your list of bookmarks. Good stuff.

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.

~When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland: Tressie McMillan Cottom is a consistently great read. You should be check her stuff out regularly.

~Reacting to Miley: A reflection on the criticism of Miley Cyrus, especially the new forms of it and what they tell us.

~Dave Chappelle Didn’t Melt Down: Maybe you are a fan of his (or not). Maybe you read the NY Times article about his return to stand-up while procrastinating on your syllabus writing (or not). Maybe you read about his latest controversial moment (or not). No matter. Read this. It’s not very long, but it will make you think.

And, just as last week’s theme (philosophy), might have been too obvious to need mentioning, same, too, for this week, but, just in case, I hope it is clear that the theme here is “Consumption.”

Cross Talk: Social Science Edition

Political Science/International Relations emphasis!

~9 Questions about Syria: Prepare for intervention talk; with a handy, fascinating chart about the Middle East; also, here is a look at two sides of the American debate.

~Gender Bias in Political Science: the political turns out to be personal after all!

~The New Power Map: In January I read a book my Dad gave me called, The Revenge of Geography; been fascinated by the geographical influence on geopolitics ever since.

~Geopolitical Insecurities and Territorial Grievances in East Asia: Not convinced geography matters? Check this one out.