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Category: Big questions in higher ed

What if we could measure value in units besides dollars?

What if we could measure value in units besides dollars?

This week in talk to your friends in other disciplines, already: going for a long walk with an economist friend reminded me that revelations happen when you make the small tweak of talking to people who ask different questions of the world than you do. Mine: the vast majority (all?) of the cost/benefit analyses of humanities higher ed measure cost in minute detail and do nothing at all to measure benefits. This problem of not measuring benefits with the same…

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Getting it Wrong in Public

Getting it Wrong in Public

The most recent Collective Twitter Gasp Event has been focused on Naomi Wolf and her book about men executed in England for the crime of sodomy throughout the nineteenth century. Wolf read decades of Old Bailey records, and built the premise of her book on the phrase, “death recorded”–which did not mean what she presumed it meant. The gasp is not so much that she misread her evidence, but that she came to understand this fact during a live BBC…

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That UIUC job ad doesn’t say what people think it says; in some ways, it’s much worse

That UIUC job ad doesn’t say what people think it says; in some ways, it’s much worse

There’s outrage all over social media today in response to a University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign job ad* that is being widely derided for asking academic adjuncts to teach courses for free. If that is what the ad were asking for, it would deserve the most acidic vitriol flung by the strongest hands, the most strident criticism shouted to the rooftops. The thing is, that is not what the ad is asking for. And what the ad is asking for is…

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You mustn’t fancy!

You mustn’t fancy!

Bitzer is a child Not Left Behind. Give him your standardized tests. He will pass them above the fiftieth percentile. He will finish them with time to spare. Multiple-choice questions are his forte. He does not neglect to fill in scantron bubbles darkly and completely with his #2 pencil; he does not hesitate over which end is up when you place a computer mouse in his hand. During a computer-administered benchmarking test, he never, ever would sit, idly looking out…

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What if Those Books are “not for us”?

What if Those Books are “not for us”?

This past semester, an extremely bright student in my senior seminar recounted a story of how her high school debate team, which was very successful, found itself towards the end of the season facing debates against kids from swank private schools. Describing her own school as working-class, she said that the thing that stood out most for her was how extremely well-read those private-school kids were. She felt like there was no way she and her friends could ever catch…

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“Yes, but what will you DO with that English major?”

“Yes, but what will you DO with that English major?”

Towards the end of this spring’s Senior Seminar, we took up this question. I had given the class a 2013 column by Michael Bérubé to read as a jumping off point, with this as perhaps its most pointed bit: After all, who needs another 50-page honors project on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire? Well, strange as it may sound, if you’re an employer who needs smart, creative workers, a 50-page honors project on a 19th century French poet might be just the…

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