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More food for thought from Sir Ken Robinson, perhaps the greatest public intellect focusing on the future of education.
“It’s not how creative you are, it’s how you’re creative”
The University of Arizona presents a well-produced series of engaging lectures on popular cosmology: the origins of the universe, black holes, dark matter, the big bang, and the search for (and understanding of) life in the universe. It’s all free on iTunes U–a fantastic source for free audio and video courses online.
From Inside Higher Ed, a review of a new book about the failings of contemporary higher education, “Academically Adrift.”
“How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much,” write Richard Arum (professor of sociology and education at New York University) and Josipa Roksa (assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia). For many undergraduates, they write, “drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose is readily apparent.”
I’m going to start posting more about education–especially the goals and effectiveness of higher education–as I’m turning again to a topic about which I’m tremendously interested. We need to ask more: “What are the goals of higher education?”
According to the linked article:
Arum said that [these] problems…should be viewed as a moral challenge to higher education. Students who struggle to pay for college and emerge into a tough job market have a right to know that they have learned something, he said. “You can’t have a democratic society when the elite — the college-educated kids — don’t have these abilities to think critically.”
According to an article in the Daily Trojan (the college paper at the University of Southern California), last week 2 representatives of a pro-Israel group were removed from an open meeting at the request of organizations petitioning for California’s divestment in Israel.
When the pair arrived, it seems that attendees started yelling at them. The report continues:
[USC Students for Justice in Palestine] President Marwa Katbi called [the USC Department of Public Safety] to the scene and the officers escorted Rothstein and Ratner outside of the room.
“Given that they were not well received, were causing an environment of extreme discomfort and heightened tensions within the room, I made a decision to call DPS and have officers handle the situation from that point onwards,” Katbi said in an e-mail.
It’s very troubling to think that officials escorted the pair out simply because “they were not well received.” It was an open meeting, with an agenda that included discussing a potential issue on an upcoming California ballot.
Were you there? Did you see what happened? Is the Daily Trojan getting the story right?
I’m glad to see a featured discussion on the New York Times online that poses this important question: Why do new college textbooks cost so much?
Certainly I remember semesters in college where my textbook bill would reach $500. It wasn’t uncommon for one book to cost more than $100 (especially for the big, bulky textbooks). Not only were/are the books costly, but they’re unruly in size and weight–walking across campus with books for three classes sometimes mean lugging a backpack with 30 pounds of dead weight!
So a couple big questions come to mind: First, why are these books so expensive? And what can we do to make them more affordable? But perhaps most interesting — why haven’t we seen the kind of technological innovation in textbooks that we’ve seen in popular literature and magazines?!
Apple, Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and a host of other retailers want us to buy their expensive e-book readers. I can think of no greater application of an e-reader than textbooks! Imagine: 25 pounds worth of books in one e-reader, shared notes and underlining, and easy citations. The professor could annotate passages for students. Students could ask questions of teachers and classmates right in the margins. No more back pain. No more wasted paper. No more junked-up used books. The benefits and possibilities go on and on…
The technology exists. The demand surely exists. So what’s the holdup?
I’ve seen the book on the shelves at my local bookstore for years (though I never read it — at least not yet). So as I came across the Fast Company article’s first paragraph, I assumed that Bronson was proposing a kind of epilogue to his book:
It’s time to define the new era. Our faith has been shaken. We’ve lost confidence in our leaders and in our institutions. Our beliefs have been tested. We’ve discredited the notion that the Internet would change everything (and the stock market would buy us an exit strategy from the grind). Our expectations have been dashed. We’ve abandoned the idea that work should be a 24-hour-a-day rush and that careers should be a wild adventure. Yet we’re still holding on.
“How timely,” I thought — Bronson is speaking about the current economic climate in our country and its effects on employment. But wait. I checked the article publication date: December 31, 2002. Apparently we’re back in a situation and mode of thinking about jobs that we’ve faced earlier this decade (or should I say, last decade).
So it gets me thinking — do economic conditions change the very nature of work itself, or do they really just change attitudes. As with all issues in the social sciences, I think the answer is a bit of both.
But I must admit, my interest in Bronson’s article came not from a desire to contemplate the nature of labor. Truthfully I (like so many people I know of all ages) have been contemplating this very question for a while now. And while neither this article, nor any one source, provides a definitive answer to the question, it does provide some good food for thought.
His backup plans do not lead to different destinations, such as “If I don’t get into business school, I’ll be a schoolteacher.” His backup plans lead to the same destination, and if he has to arrive late by a back road, that’s fine.
“Keeping your doors open” is a trap. It’s an excuse to stay uninvolved.
The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become?
Give the article or the book a read and share your thoughts.
“What Should I Do With My Life?” | Fast Company (Dec 31, 2002)
“What Should I Do With My Life?” | book by Po Bronson