Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

From Inside Higher Ed

What's Expendable?

July 21, 2014
By Charlie Tyson

In March 2013, when the Faculty Senate at Mary Baldwin College met with the college’s president, tensions were running high. Professors at the private women’s college in Staunton, Va. had not received raises in six years. And a mandate from the Board of Trustees instructing faculty to examine low-enrollment majors had ignited rumors. Professors worried the college would cut certain liberal arts programs: French, Spanish, chemistry and other majors that attracted few students. Surrounded by her colleagues, Ivy ArbulĂș, an associate professor of Spanish, spoke.
“There are no ‘expendable’ majors, and most certainly not if what is expendable and what is not is decided by the popularity of majors amongst our students,” she said. “All majors are part of the education we offer.”
The Spanish professor, known at Mary Baldwin for her rigorous standards and dedication to students, died of leukemia six weeks later. She left behind a Spanish department with just one faculty member. In September, an interdisciplinary major in Latin American Literatures and Cultures will replace the traditional Spanish major ArbulĂș championed. The French major, too, has been cut, and a number of upper-level course offerings in liberal arts are being phased out.

Interviews with top college officials and a number of professors (most of whom requested anonymity for fear of reprisal), as well as a review of more than a hundred pages of internal documents obtained by Inside Higher Ed, reveal an institution in transition -- and in conflict. At Mary Baldwin, the administration’s focus on enrollment growth through new programs has left some faculty members convinced that the liberal arts college no longer has liberal arts at its center.

College officials maintain the institution has not strayed from its liberal arts mission. What’s occurring at Mary Baldwin, they say, is a philosophical dispute. A handful of professors are clinging to a conception of the liberal arts grounded in discrete disciplines -- an idea college officials say is outdated.

“We’re at a time in education when we’re moving beyond the disciplines that were created 100 years ago,” said Sarah Flanagan, chair of the academic affairs committee on Mary Baldwin’s Board of Trustees and vice president for government relations and policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

In recent years, many higher education experts have deemed many liberal arts colleges and women’s colleges -- at least those without billion-dollar endowments -- financially challenged, if not endangered.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Monday, July 21, 2014

From the Stanford Report, July 21, 2014

Inspiring Stanford humanities majors to consider business careers

This summer was the first time that Stanford provided funding – with support from the Office of the President – to help Stanford students majoring in the humanities and the arts take part in the Summer Institute for General Management at the Graduate School of Business.


On a recent summer morning, a lecture hall at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) was filled with students from around the world who were ready to analyze the fall – and subsequent resurrection – of an American kidney dialysis company.

To prepare for the lecture, titled "A Deep Dive into Company Culture," the students had read a GSB case study that described a company, Total Renal Care, which was once plagued by financial, operational, regulatory and morale problems.

Sarah Soule, the Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior at the GSB, stood facing the class of dozens of students majoring in the humanities, engineering sciences, economics and finance, law, social sciences, and natural and life sciences.

It was the third week of the Summer Institute for General Management (SIGM), a month-long program designed for exceptional college students – rising juniors and seniors –majoring in non-business fields and recent graduates with non-business degrees. The program is now in its 11th year.

"Let's begin in 1999, when Total Renal Care was a very troubled kidney dialysis company," said Soule, one of a dozen MBA faculty members who taught the SIGM students.

"What were the problems with the company?" she asked.

Sitting in the third row, Stanford junior Natasha Mmonatau, a history major concentrating in 20th-century African history, offered the first observation.

"They had acquired a lot of companies, similar dialysis centers, and they had trouble integrating them into their existing model," said Mmonatau, one of eight undergraduate humanities and arts majors at Stanford who received university funding to take part in this summer's program.

Read more at Stanford News

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pipeline? Teaching Style? Course Content? Career Climate?


Some Universities Crack Code in Drawing Women to Computer Science
JULY 17, 2014
Claire Cain Miller

One of the reasons so few women work in tech is that few choose to study computer science or engineering. Only 18 percent of computer science graduates in the United States are women, down from 37 percent in 1985.

At a few top college programs, though, that appears to be changing.

At Carnegie Mellon University, 40 percent of incoming freshmen to the School of Computer Science are women, the largest group ever. At the University of Washington, another technology powerhouse, women earned 30 percent of computer science degrees this year. At Harvey Mudd College, 40 percent of computer science majors are women, and this year, women represented more than half of the engineering graduates for the first time.

These examples provide a road map for how colleges can help produce a more diverse group of computer science graduates. They also help answer a controversial question: Does the substance of computer science instruction need to be adjusted to attract women, or does recruitment and mentorship? It’s an important question because tech companies have so many jobs to fill, and because computer science skills have become necessary in almost every other industry, too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What if the Marketplace of Ideas Really is a Marketplace?

Diane Ravitch describes the well-orchestrated PR campaign that largely shapes the "policy debate" about common core in K12.  The same sort of thing goes on in connection with higher education, but all too often presidents and provosts and deans and trustees and journalists uncritically adopt the preachings of foundation execs, funders, and "thought leaders" who are a part of an organized opinion creation complex. It's taboo to question the motives - pecuniary or political - and resistance is likely futile: those who advocate even mundane levels of critical thinking get labeled obstructionist, luddite, self-interested, naive.

From Huffington Post Education...

The Excellent But False Messaging of the Common Core Standards

Diane Ravitch
Research Professor of Education, New York University; Author, Reign of Error

Have you ever wondered about the amazingly effective campaign to sell the Common Core standards to the media, the business community, and the public? How did it happen that advocates for the standards used the same language, the same talking points, the same claims, no matter where they were located?

The talking points sounded poll-tested because they were. The language was the same because it came from the same source. The campaign to have "rigorous," "high standards" that would make ALL students "college and career-ready" and "globally competitive" was well planned and coordinated. There was no evidence for these claims but repeated often enough in editorials and news stories and in ads by major corporations, they took on the ring of truth. Even the new stories that reported on controversies between advocates and opponents of the Common Core used the rhetoric of the advocates to describe the standards.

This was no accident.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reported that the Hunt Institute in North Carolina received more than $5 million from the Gates Foundation to organize support for the brand-new, unknown, untested Common Core standards. Organizing support meant creating the message as well as mobilizing messengers, many of whom were also funded by the Gates Foundation.

In Layton's blockbuster article about how the Gates Foundation underwrote the rapid adoption of "national standards" by spreading millions of dollars strategically, this remarkable story was included:
"The foundation, for instance, gave more than $5 million to the University of North Carolina-affiliated Hunt Institute, led by the state's former four-term Democratic governor, Jim Hunt, to advocate for the Common Core in statehouses around the country. 
"The grant was the institute's largest source of income in 2009, more than 10 times the size of its next largest donation. With the Gates money, the Hunt Institute coordinated more than a dozen organizations -- many of them also Gates grantees -- including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council of La Raza, the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Governors Association, Achieve and the two national teachers unions. 
"The Hunt Institute held weekly conference calls between the players that were directed by Stefanie Sanford, who was in charge of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation. They talked about which states needed shoring up, the best person to respond to questions or criticisms and who needed to travel to which state capital to testify, according to those familiar with the conversations.
"The Hunt Institute spent $437,000 to hire GMMB, a strategic communications firm owned by Jim Margolis, a top Democratic strategist and veteran of both of Obama's presidential campaigns. GMMB conducted polling around standards, developed fact sheets, identified language that would be effective in winning support and prepared talking points, among other efforts.
"The groups organized by Hunt developed a "messaging tool kit" that included sample letters to the editor, op-ed pieces that could be tailored to individuals depending on whether they were teachers, parents, business executives or civil rights leaders."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the advocates for the Common Core standards have the same rhetoric, the same claims, no matter where they are, because the campaign was well organized and well messaged.

What the campaign did not take into account was the possibility of push-back, the possibility that the very lack of public debate and discussion would sow suspicion and controversy. What the advocates forgot is that the democratic way of making change may be slow and may require compromise, but it builds consensus. The Common Core standards, thanks to Gates' largesse, skipped the democratic process, imposed new standards on almost every state, bypassing the democratic process, and is now paying the price of autocratic action in a democratic society.

Know the Bandwagon You are Jumping on

Its boosters are certain that competency-based education is the next "disruptive innovation" in higher education. This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is a bit slanted in that direction, but it does drop a few hints at the other side of the debate, noting that when systems go whole hog down this path "it takes faculty out of their role as teachers, turning them into coaches, curators, and graders." 

More importantly, I think, is how the article reflects the failure of the non-boosters to provide a persuasive account of why conventional instruction in the liberal arts might be superior to "study on your own, take the exam when you're ready" approach. Or, rather, their failure to get the idea across to journalists well enough for it to come out as something other than a vague  praise of "the intellectual journey." One spokesman for conventional higher education was quoted as saying: 
the role that colleges play should serve the goal of a truly liberal education, which is often idiosyncratic, depends on the people involved, and resistant to standardization
in a manner that makes it sounds like this is the big problem.  As is the case with soooo much of the discourse about higher education, this conversation is seriously muddled by the fact that participants have a financial and cultural stake in the outcome that seems, pretty consistently, to bias analyses and opinions.

College, On Your Own
Competency-Based education can help motivated students.
But critics say it's no panacea.
By Dan Berrret
Nichelle Pollock felt like she was moving through college in slow motion. In seven years she had gotten about half way through her bachelor's degree. But recently, she's been racing forward, racking up 50 credits in just 8 months....