The College Scorecard: how does your institution rate?

Most of you probably heard about the new College Scorecard that the White House has assembled so that students can compare raw data across the board when deciding where to go to school.  Baa Ram U. looks pretty good in terms of its affordability, graduation rate, and loan default rate.  (You’ll have to click the link and then look it up yourself–for some reason it won’t link directly to searched institutions.)  Shockingly good, actually, when you consider the massive de-funding that we, like most public unis, have experienced over the past twenty years.

Just compare our numbers to the University of Phoenix, suckasContinue reading

Lose weight now the William Howard Taft way!

Do you still have a stubborn few pounds to drop after the holidays?  Why not try the William Howard Taft diet?  He lost nearly seventy pounds on it.  Behold (via New York Magazine):

Taft is an interesting case–being fat certainly didn’t shorten his life (1857-1930) relative to those of his age peers.  He lived to the ripe age of 72, when the average life expectancy for people born around 1860 was still in the low forties.  (That’s a crude average that probably counts people who died in infancy and childhood, so it’s extraordinarily low.  But still–his longevity was pretty impressive.)  I’m sure his abstention from both drinking and smoking helps explain his lifespan.  Here’s something equally impressive:  he was not famous for telling people to “shut up” when they talk about issues that he himself has raised.  How would that have sounded in a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?  (Taft, like John Quincy Adams, went on to a post-presidential career that was more distinguished than his presidency.)

More fun Taft facts:  Did you know that he was the father of Helen Taft Manning, famed historian of the British Empire at Bryn Mawr College?  Continue reading

Defending the liberal arts against the ignorance caucus

Many of you probably heard about North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s attack on liberal arts education on the Bill Bennett Old-Timey 180-Minute Hate Radio Program.  He argued that the state should invest its money in fields like “mechanics” instead of liberal arts degrees, because vocational training will help North Carolinians get jobs.  (Is he unfamiliar with his state’s community colleges, which offer a range of Vo-Tech programs?  I guess so.)

Have you ever heard of that old story about Winston Churchill refusing to engage in a battle of wits against an unarmed man?  McCrory’s comments were more of the seat-of-the-pants playing-to-the base pulled-out-of-his-a$$ kind, and far from a well-crafted policy paper or legislative proposal, but historian Lisa Levenstein of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, has published a vigorous response arguing for the value of the liberal arts, and even for the value of women’s studies programs in an op-ed at

Today’s labor force also depends on work by women, who now comprise about half of all U.S. workers. Yet McCrory exhibited particular disdain for courses in “gender studies,” suggesting that this discipline has nothing useful to contribute to the challenges confronting North Carolinians. At UNCG, teachers and students in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program explore pressing issues ranging from breast cancer to homelessness. They create strategies to eradicate domestic violence and analyze how women’s labor force participation fosters global economic development.

Graduates of the program have built meaningful careers as counselors, sign language interpreters, teachers and advocates for the mentally ill, positions that not only contribute to the economy but also foster the well-being of our communities. These students are workers, parents and engaged citizens, and they make our lives better. Continue reading

No wonder Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique

As most of you probably know, this year is The Feminine Mystique‘s fiftieth anniversary. For those of you who wonder why she wrote it, here’s a two-minute and 46-second explanation.

It’s worth seeing the whole video to get to the woman in diamonds and furs peeling potatoes at the end. Can you guess what’s on her head? (I kind of felt for the daschund in the jeweled toque.) The Pathé Fashion Archive is full of fascinating little timewasters–enjoy!

New ideas for running “team family” like a business! (Not.)

Stressed out by your chaotic home life?  Why not “run your family like a business?”

Like many parents, the Starrs were trapped between the smooth-running household they aspired to have and the exhausting, earsplitting one they actually lived in. “I was trying the whole ‘love them and everything will work out’ philosophy,” she said, “but it wasn’t working. ‘For the love of God,’ I finally said, ‘I can’t take this any more.’ ”

What the Starrs did next was surprising. Instead of consulting relatives or friends, they looked to David’s workplace. They turned to a cutting-edge program called agile development that has rapidly spread from manufacturers in Japan to startups in Silicon Valley. It’s a system of group dynamics in which workers are organized into small teams, hold daily progress sessions and weekly reviews.

As David explained, “Having weekly family meetings increased communication, improved productivity, lowered stress and made everyone much happier to be part of the family team.”

When my wife and I adopted the agile blueprint in our own home, weekly family meetings with our then-5-year-old twin daughters quickly became the centerpiece around which we organized our family. The meetings transformed our relationships with our kids—and each other. And they took up less than 20 minutes a week.

What kind of disorganization and anomie are people living in these days that having a weekly family meeting seems like some kind of brilliant breakthrough?  (And, wow:  I guess the author of this article should get Dad of the Year for spending 20 minutes a week talking to his twins.)  Don’t miss the part in the article when the author discusses writing a “family mission statement.”  Hint:  these mission statements are just as full of business-speak flatulence as most business mission statements.

I don’t mean to brag, but we have a nightly family meeting we like to call dinner.  Continue reading

Forward my mail to Potemkin Village, please.

What would a modern public university look like if it hired only tenure-track faculty and compensated them adequately for their expertise and service instead of setting up Potemkin Villages designed to foster the illusion that they care about good teaching?

  • We could probably do away with those “Centers for Teaching and Learning,” which appear to me to be “Centers for Teaching an Overburdened and Adjunctified Faculty How to Do More with Less, Now Featuring Online Ed Coaching!”  If large public universities cared about teaching, they’d hire more, you know, actual classroom educators, support their research and teaching, and reduce all class sizes to no more than 40 students.  But instead, they create things like “Centers for Teaching and Learning,” which mostly serve to send out a bunch of crappy emails inviting faculty to crappy lunches to talk about teaching.  Or, they send out emails featuring the “teaching tip of the week,” which usually involves high-caliber evidence-based pedagogical secrets like, “spend some time on your first day of class letting students introduce themselves,” or “hand out index cards on which students can write down their preferred name or nickname, their major, and what they want to learn in your class.”  Of course, the reason universities do this is that “Centers for Teaching and Learning” are a lot cheaper than actually teaching or fostering learning.
  • I’m not sayin’.  I’m just sayin’.
  • Related thought:  how about we support the people doing the teaching and service at public universities instead of creating awards for teaching and service which merely suggest that the university cares about teaching and service?  Continue reading