Two for Tuesday: Preparing for Tonight’s Presidential Debate

I am providing the following as a public service. You can thank me in advance or afterward or not at all.

This is my second favorite essay ever written about Star Wars, entitled, “Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy Are Probably Totally Illiterate”.

And THIS is my most favorite, called “Death Star? No Thank You“. It is so full of greatness, that I try to read it once a month in the hope that some of it will rub off on me.  I hope you find it equally thrilling. If not, read the comments. Glorious.

Both or either or neither may prove helpful or unhelpful in preparing your mind for the evening’s political rhetoric.



More Stuff To Read

Looks like they’re getting close to the end of this strike–which is good because I have a still huge and growing backlog of reading to share with you people. Here’s some:

~I have been pained every time I read in an article or a comment about that “Chicago teachers make $71,000, on average” because standing alone that number means nothing. ‘What’s the median? What’s the mode? Is the value set skewed and which way? Who is included in the list? Is that salary or income (i.e., does it include summer school, coaching, etc.?” I shout at my screen. Makes me crazy. Probably because I remember when they used a similar number against us in 2004. Anyway, I’ve been hoping for and waiting for and finally found someone willing to give a little attention to all of that. Here you go:

That aside, there are typically two ways one might choose to compare teacher salaries to determine how they fit into their competitive context. One is to compare teacher salaries to non-teachers of similar age and education level. The overall competitiveness of teacher salaries tends to influence the quality of entrants to the profession. The other is to compare teacher salaries – for similar teachers – across districts within the same labor market…

So, here’s a quick run-down on salaries and student populations – and funding equity (or lack thereof) – in pictures and tables.

~CTU is reminding people why we have unions (included is news about their high levels of support among both parents of CPS students and likely voters, putting the lie to some of the things we’ve heard about the toxicity of the current environment for all unions and Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin–boogedy, boogedy, boogedy):

The strike by Chicago teachers is reminding all of us of the reason we have unions, and the reason why they are so feared and hated by those who are in command. The ability of these 29,000 teachers to act as one, to withhold their labor, gives them a power far mightier than the sum of their parts. So long as they stay unified, and have the support of parents in their community and others across the nation, they will prevail.

And in other news, if you’re in line somewhere to get the new iphone (or even if you’ve never had one) this article describing how Apple invented it is fun to read and fascinating:

Put it all together and you get remarkable story about a device that, under the normal rules of business, should not have been invented. Given the popularity of the iPod and its centrality to Apple’s bottom line, Apple should have been the last company on the planet to try to build something whose explicit purpose was to kill music players. Yet Apple’s inner circle knew that one day, a phone maker would solve the interface problem, creating a universal device that could make calls, play music and videos, and do everything else, too—a device that would eat the iPod’s lunch. Apple’s only chance at staving off that future was to invent the iPod killer itself. More than this simple business calculation, though, Apple’s brass saw the phone as an opportunity for real innovation.

Finally, just in case you’ve managed to stay focused on your teaching through all of the strike and GradesFirst and copy code and new ids and assorted hub-bub, there’s been some good stuff over at Truman’s Center for Teaching and Learning, for example this suggestion on how to get students doing their reading. I do some similar kinds of things and have found them to be very helpful for the class of the day and the course as a whole. Good stuff.

Updates over the weekend or next week on Faculty Council news from our meeting on Tuesday, GradesFirst language and updates, Reinvention stuff, and more.

In the meantime, remember that your Day 10 list is DUE TODAY and you (and your students) need to have your new ID by Wednesday or you’ll be standing in line waiting for a pass to get in…Have a great weekend. Mine is off to a spectacular start!

Over the Transom

I haven’t been able to talk her into becoming an official contributor, yet, but I’m wearing her down. In the meantime, Adriana sent along this  from the NY Times on the recent denial of tenure to nearly half of New York’s High School teachers (it’s a different thing at K-12 than with us, but still, it’s a trend to watch) and and this from the same source on the medication of children for schooling (rather than health) purposes.

Check ’em.

h/t to Adriana for the pointers

Have you read your Chronicle this week?

I’ve been working on it and saw this commentary which I thought interesting. For those who don’t like to click on links I’ve included the article here. For those who love links click here Chronicle article. As always the comments on the Chronicle site are interesting!

The Worrisome Ascendance of Business in Higher Education

By William W. Keep

Recently the Board of Visitors—not a particularly apt name given their actions—at the University of Virginia forced the ouster of President Teresa A. Sullivan after two years in office. Since then we have learned that the rector and vice rector of the board, Helen E. Dragas and Mark J. Kington, who has since resigned, have M.B.A.’s from UVa’s Darden School of Business. Peter D. Kiernan, a powerful alumnus who evidently weighed in on the decision, is also a Darden graduate and, before he resigned in the midst of the furor, was chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board.

The trio, having made their chops in real estate, construction, and investing, apparently saw an opportunity to transfer their knowledge to higher education. Though colleges can learn many things from the ways businesses operate, treating a college strictly like a business would be a mistake.

In an e-mail to Darden board members justifying Ms. Sullivan’s ouster, Mr. Kiernan uses the business term du jour “strategic dynamism” to describe the ever-reactive leadership style he prefers, which is opposed to the older, more static “strategic planning” style employed by Ms. Sullivan. (Apparently engaging in “strategic dynamism” means excluding faculty, students, and most alumni.) In truth, when challenges arise quickly, successful businesses have always responded accordingly­—i.e., dynamically. Strategic dynamism at UVa is nothing more than a euphemism for Thomas Paine’s adage, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

To be sure, higher education faces unprecedented challenges: growing competition for new populations of students at home and abroad; the opportunities, costs, and uncertainties of new technology; declining state support for public institutions; rising tuition; increasing student debt. All demand a careful look at budgets. Stagnant or declining incomes and uncertain employment prospects sharpen pressure to demonstrate what a college degree offers.

In response, some critics have called for a more businesslike approach to higher education. Why? Because colleges face the same fundamental challenges of any business: securing steady revenue streams, covering expenses, using resources well, and planning for an uncertain future.

Over recent decades, we have heard about students as customers, learned to “manage” enrollments, shared and decentralized budgets with the goal of increasing accountability, identified per-student costs per major, and generally dissected the “service” of higher education. We have learned that programs in art and music are not cost effective. Engineering and equipment-intensive courses are expensive. Even as students and parents in the United States rail against the lack of low-cost public education, those in other countries that have such systems face unprecedented tuition increases.

So what have we learned? First, the student-as-customer model fits poorly. Certainly some educational experiences are better than others, and information about quality differences needs to be readily available. However, anyone who has listened to students and parents demand results not earned or special privileges at special prices knows the customer model has flaws. Of course that does not prevent some institutions from using customer satisfaction to determine the price of a dorm room. I remember the well-heeled student who told me that the university could gain revenue by “selling” preferred parking places to those willing to pay.

Second, discussions among faculty and administrators about multiple revenue streams, costs per student, program efficiency, budget accountability, and the like can be difficult. As an institution, academe has much more experience resisting change than embracing it.

Third, even as some people resist change, there is an increasing awareness that the future will be different. We will not go backward. Budgets present real constraints, public support will not return to previous levels, domestic and international competition to offer new educational options will continue, as will calls for increased accountability.

What we need is to learn the discipline of business without the short-term orientation. Markets are amoral. A competitive market will determine a fair price—whether for cocaine or cocoa—but not necessarily the enduring social value. A one-year increase of 25 percent in the price of a house does not reveal the underlying forces causing the price increase, or its real value. Markets do not know the worth of a mature forest three generations hence. Nor can a market accurately determine the lifetime value of thoughtful exposure to the classics or art or music. Enduring acts of civility are not bought and sold. The qualities that professional educators worry about often do not lend themselves to short-term market valuation.

We can learn from business to allocate resources responsibly, have transparent and disciplined budgets, and plan for a more secure financial future. At the same time, we need to avoid the hubris of business “success.” Too many successful business leaders espouse the benefits of a free-market system while accepting that some sellers can be too big to fail and must be protected from market forces. Too many successful business leaders hypocritically accept money from the government while at the same time decrying the intrusion of government in the economy. And what happens when money is at risk? Manhattan prosecutors recently opened an investigation into grades in M.B.A. courses at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, some of which were apparently falsified for the purpose of maintaining revenue.

If Rector Dragas, former Vice Rector Kington, and Mr. Kiernan know all of this, the evidence is lacking. Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington also serve on the board of the parent firm of Dominion Power, a business whose code of ethics calls for “the highest level of ethical standards,” with board members expected “to behave with respect, honesty and decency toward everyone affected by our business.” We in academe need to choose carefully between those aspects of business that serve us well and those that do not.

William W. Keep is dean of the School of Business at the College of New Jersey.

For Metoyer

In just a few short weeks John Metoyer will be leaving Harold Washington College. Let’s take a few moments to identify ways that Metoyer has positively influenced faculty, staff and students in his roles as President of Faculty Council, Associate Dean, Dean of Instruction, President and Vice President of HWC.

If anyone would like to post verse in iambic pentameter, musical numbers, odes or Haiku – that would be awesome!

Bonne chance mon ami.

Hailing a cab to nowhere

When is a cab not a cab? When it doesn’t take you to your destination.

I just read the news from CCC’s website about the Taxi Program leaving HW to set up shop at OC. Good news. That makes more space on the 10th floor for academics. Ya know, credit classes.

As I continued to read the story, I had to go over to one of the reinvention web sites while I asked myself, “What does the Taxi Program have to do with reinvention?”. I’ll save you having to click on the link. Here are the goals of reinvention:

  • Increase the number of students earning college credentials of economic value
  • Increase the rate of transfer to Bachelor’s degree programs following CCC graduation
  • Drastically improve outcomes for students needing remediation
  • Increase number and share of ABE/GED/ESL students who advance to and succeed in college-level courses

Where does the taxi program fit into any of these goals? Need an answer, meter’s running.

When an individual completes the Taxi program, (and I don’t know how many classes it takes) they don’t leave CCC with anything close to an Associates degree or an Advanced or Basic Certificate, do they? Last I checked I didn’t register a student for a taxi class. I’ve not seen transcripts with taxi courses. I’ve not advised students on transfer options with a taxi certificate (if that’s what it’s called?).

Yes, as the Chancellor state in the news flash, “This is part of City Colleges’ mission: to offer relevant education and skills training that drives Chicago’s economic growth.” What she’s referring to is the loose change in the seat cushion about efforts to focus on six areas, one of them having to do with occupation and the “College to Careers initiative including targeted pathways, industry partners and feeder bridge programs.” And a taxi has air conditioning if you just roll down the window.

This move has little to do with graduating, transferring, or getting students to succeed in college-level courses and quite a bit to do with generating revenue. The Taxi Program is not a college credit program, yet it’s being used to put CCC in the spotlight. Spin city at it’s finest.

The attention is on the owner of the cab company and the driver of the cab while the academic elephant in the back seat gets taken for a ride to nowhere.

The Final Tuesday Teaching Talk (TTT) of Spring 2012

Tuesday Teaching Talk is a regular feature which, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense that happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. Hold on to your hats.  The CAST coordinators (yes there are 2 of us) are tasked with supplying TTTs to you.  Look for questions, videos, tips, etc.  Enjoy!

Though not the most animated speaker, what he has to say is very interesting.  This is a somewhat selfish post on my part given my admiration for Noam Chomsky.  It’s rather long and I don’t expect you to be able to watch this in its entirety this week.  But for a nice little snippet, fast forward to 1:20:30 for some interesting discussion about open courseware, online education  (and student engagement0) in general.  See you all Thursday at 4 at Emerald.