Recommended reads #107


Why teachers suck

Rather than teaching students to fail, I want them to learn to define their own personal rules for the game.”

A sense of duty to teach climate change. (Amy Harmon of the NYT has another spectacular piece.)

Teach by releasing your hold on your high status.

Mills College lays off some tenured faculty and eliminates low-enrollment majors from the curriculum, claiming financial exigency. Targeting low-enrollment majors. Which in the absence of further details, I find somewhat credible given the straits that small private colleges are in as tuition continues to climb and exorbitant loans seem less advisable.

Trinity College is putting a professor on leave because he used his academic freedom.

Strategies that campuses are taking to address low enrollment.

Just reminding you that I brought up the small private college financial bubble last year.

“Very selective colleges’ flexible understanding of ‘diversity’ squares the circle between helping those less fortunate and giving one’s children a leg up. The key is that ‘official measures of campus diversity’ have turned into “unofficial markers of institutional prestige in the little universe of elite higher education.” (This piece is from the National Review and the guy who writes this clearly has a broader agenda that I wouldn’t support. But some things here hit close to home.)

The Evergreen State College implosion

Humanities majors are the future of the tech industry. (The article calls them “liberal arts majors,” which doesn’t seem to make much sense given the content of the article.)

McSweeney’s has a piece called “Please consider supporting our Patreon campaign,” and it isn’t a humor piece. They also have a humor piece, “11 ways that I, a white man, am not privileged.”

Those imperiled biological collections from the collections at the University of Louisiana-Monroe have found a home, sort of? The fish collection is going to “a consortium of institutions headed by Tulane University.” Which means, I guess, that the collection is going to become fragmented? I don’t know any more about this (and if anybody who does could comment, that’d be wonderful), but this isn’t encouraging. I suppose it’s better than having a provost threaten to throw them out, I guess.

How Yale let a sexually harassing professor move to a new position while keeping entirely mum about his offenses. This piece about passing the trash is important for anybody involved in the academic hiring process.

This story paints a tragic and clear portrait for administrators of universities who are failing to actually give a shit about their students when they accuse people of sexual misconduct. This will break your heart, and this is why you should read it.

If you haven’t read this Pro Publica shocker about how Facebook fails to protect groups that are listed as “protected classes” by using guidelines that are both consistent and bizarre, it’s a must-read.

Can you use a blog to become a science journalist nowadays?

The Dead Grandmother business

I am still a student

Queer in the jungle

The colonial origins of tropical field stations (I haven’t read this yet, because I don’t have access, but still looks worth sharing on the outside chance that some of you might be able to.)

Pregnant in the field. (Another one of those times when news orgs write up stories based on a twitter hashtag.)

Last set of links, I included a compendium with the raw (in multiple ways) responses to a question about crappy things said about women academics. Here’s a synthesis and analysis from Gina Baucom.

It’s perplexing how we can be committed to data but unwilling or unable to act on it. How we can love learning, but when confronted with pedagogical knowledge, we step away.”

Science in Color

The latter half of this profile of Sherman Alexie is really interesting, and if you’re not familiar with him, the first half is informative.

Have a great weekend!


4 thoughts on “Recommended reads #107

  1. So I read the Evergreen State piece, but reluctantly. I generally avoid paying attention to any campus speech or social justice kerfuffle that becomes widely-discussed, because such cases seem to me to be so atypical. They’re vastly outnumbered by cases in which controversial issues are discussed on campus productively and without incident (at least no incident worse than people getting annoyed or frustrated with each other for a while). I feel like public discussion of campus speech gets distorted if everyone focuses on Evergreen State and Middlebury, taking for granted that those incidents are somehow the tip of the iceberg, or canaries in a coal mine, or merely the most visible manifestations of some widespread and serious systemic problem. I mean, I guess they could be any or all of those things. But that case needs to be made and I’ve never seen it made well.

    On the other hand, one could make the argument that rare, unusual cases like Evergreen State are precisely the ones we should worry about. Because when colleges and universities go off the rails and fail to fulfill their missions as places for free exploration of ideas, this is how it happens. Evergreen State is the “failure mode”, as engineers say (a failure mode, as I understand it, describes how a thing is going to break, if in fact it does break, even if it’s unlikely to break). We want to understand the failure mode in order to ensure failures remain rare and hopefully become even rarer. Although even there, I’d still argue that, if you want to ensure that failures remain rare, you don’t just want to focus on the failures, you also want to focus on the much more common non-failures.

  2. The fact that “liberal arts degree” is becoming synonymous with “degree in a subject that is neither STEM nor pre-professional” baffles me. I, educated at St Lawrence and Yale, will proudly say that I have a liberal arts degree — I just happened to major in math and biology.

    Maaaaybe this started as a European and/or British thing? A surprising number of people I’ve encountered in the UK don’t seem to understand that most American undergrads not only can but are required to take classes outside of their major.

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