Bricks-and-mortar school is cool; online drools

This is a brief follow-up on that Pew Research Center poll I blogged about briefly a few days ago, in which the general public expressed more skepticism about the value of online college courses than college and university presidents.  (Jonathan Rees offered some thoughts on this too.)

Who says there is no justice in this world?  (Via Fratguy):

For-Profit College Enrollment Plummets | Enrollment at for-profit colleges has “plunged” in recent months, by more than 45 percent in some cases, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the empty promise of these “subprime schools” comes to light to potential students. The colleges “have pulled back on aggressive recruiting practices amid criticism over their high student-loan default rates,” and “many would-be students are questioning the potential pay-off for degrees that can cost considerably more than what’s available at local community colleges.” The Washington Post Co.’s Kaplan reports enrollment down 47 percent while large for-profit operator Corinthian Colleges Inc.’s stocks sank to an 11-year low.

Meanwhile, back in meatspace, according to the Denver Post:

[Public C]olleges from one end of Colorado to another are seeing record enrollment this fall. Continue reading

Is secondary school teaching “giving up on academia?”

Military historian and American women’s historian Tanya L. Roth has written three useful and thought-provoking posts on her job search in the past academic year.  (Job seekers might especially want to check out her series:  Part I, Part II, and Part III here.)  She has some nice reflections on her approach to the market, her goals, and her reasons for taking a job in an independent school teaching history and English.  Congratulations, Tanya, and good luck with your classes this year!  You will be tired at the end of every day with all of those new lectures to write and all of those new lessons to plan.

But, I’m a little taken aback by Tanya’s explanation of her job choice as “giving up on academia,” or more neutrally, “leaving” academia.  She’s teaching English and history–which sounds pretty academic to me, and I’m sure her work life will look a very similar to the work lives of those of us teaching at colleges or universities.  (At least, it will look more like our lives than the lives of your average bricklayer, retail clerk, or attorney, for example.)  Maybe I’m tragically naive because I’ve never worked outside of a college or university environment (except for summer jobs in high school and college, of course)–and that well may be the case–but to my mind, teaching secondary school doesn’t seem like she’s “given up” on anything. Continue reading

Monday roundup: no more pencils, no more books edition

Done your back-to-school shopping yet?

Busy day here at the ranch, but there’s lotsa news and views in the education world.  Read on to hear more about online education, the availability of technologies like pencils and crayons in some Colorado classrooms, and the aggressive pR0nification of student life at some elite colleges:

  • Via Inside Higher Ed, It turns out that you can’t fool more than a third of the general public all of the time, but college presidents are much, much better at fooling themselves.  According to a Pew Research Center study on “The Digital Revolution and Higher Education,” here’s the verdict on “[t]he Value of Online Learning. The public and college presidents differ over the educational value of online courses. Only 29% of the public says online courses offer an equal value compared with courses taken in a classroom. Half (51%) of the college presidents surveyed say online courses provide the same value.” 
  • But of course, it’s possible to have “Excellence Without Money,” right?  The State of Colorado and a “scholar” at the Hoover Institution argue that money can’t possibly fix the problems we have with P-20 education.  They’re shocked, shocked at the implication that money has anything to do with the quality of education we offer through our schools and universities!  (Funny how money fixes problems for banks, and car manufacturers, and hospitals, and no one ever patronizes them by calling it “throwing money” at their problems.) 
  • Meanwhile, back in Colorado’s rural elementary schools, here’s just one fourth-grade teacher’s lived experience:  “Some of the most compelling testimony for the plaintiffs came from Matthew Keefauver, a teacher in Cortez who choked back emotion at times describing how poor his students are and how his district doesn’t have enough resources to help them.  The free lunches and breakfasts at school are frequently the only meals they have, he testified.  ‘They actually race to the classroom in the morning for breakfast because some of them are so hungry,’Keefauver said. Continue reading

Sayonara, summer. Come on, Irene!

Give the East Coast a break, Irene.  They already have to deal with snow and ice that don’t conveniently melt away in winter, flooding in the spring, and humidity all summer long, not to mention all of the biting flies, bugs, mosquitos, and Lyme Disease.  And now EARTHQUAKES!  Late summer and early fall is the only reliably pleasant time to live in the east, so give ’em a break, Irene!  (Besides:  Colorado isn’t big enough to accomodate everyone in the U.S.)

It’s hotter than the hinges of hades here for some reason, but it’s dry and clear, so we’re heading off for our last summer wilderness camping and fishing trip this weekend.  In solidarity with my East Coast friends who have had to evacuate, I’ll be sleeping in a tent tonight, not in the comfy cabin pictured on the right.  (Interestingly, the lines of that yellow wagon resemble those of Fratguy’s Subaru Outback wagon, the official state car of Colorado.)   Continue reading

Dead presidents for a problem involving a dead president: a history mystery at the Virginia Historical Society

Guess who?

It’s true!  (Via the H-OIEAHC listserv.)  And amazingly enough, it involves women’s history!  Hold onto your hats, scholars of the Early Republic:  the Virginia Historical Society will award $1,000 to the person who can explain this fascinating comment and perhaps identify the woman in question:

On January 13, 1807, President Thomas Jefferson included a cryptic comment when he wrote a letter to his treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin. The relevant passage in the president’s letter reads, “The appointment of a woman to office is an innovation for which the public is not prepared, nor am I.”

Historian Jon Kukla, author of Mr. Jefferson’s Women, describes this statement as Jefferson’s most candid reference on the subject of women and their public role. But Kukla was not able to find any comment in the Jefferson-Gallatin correspondence that would identify the woman in question or otherwise explain the president’s statement.

Can you solve this mystery? Was Jefferson referring to a specific woman? If so, who was she? Submit your argument to historicalmysteryprize AT, preferably in fewer than 500 words. If necessary, you may also add attachments that buttress your argument. If the VHS is convinced that your explanation solves the mystery, we will declare it the winner and close the competition. We will then invite you to the awards luncheon in July 2012 and ask you to participate in publicizing the solution online.

Any guesses?  Leave them in the comments below, AFTER you’ve e-mailed them to the VHS.  Continue reading

Academic conference etiquette: do we haz it?

I’ve been hearing rumblings from different friends and colleagues lately about an erosion in history conference etiquette specifically focused on the performance and attitude of speakers on conference programs.  The complaints usually fall into two categories:  first, participants aren’t sending their papers to panel chairs commenters with sufficient lead time, and/or they’re sending 40- or 50-page article or chapter-length discussions rather than 10-12 pages that can be read adequately in 20 minutes or fewer.  Second, panelists and roundtable speakers–and some Chairs and commenters too–aren’t crafting their papers or comments to fit within their allotted times, and are taking time away from fellow panelists and/or the time allotted for audience discussion. 

One colleague mentioned that ze is shocked to see this behavior not just among eminent senior scholars–who were traditionally (if still resentfully) permitted more leeway than junior and/or more obscure scholars, but among very junior scholars and even among graduate student presenters.  Ze wonders, “Is anyone training graduate students in professional conference etiquette any more?”  But, to be clear:  the erosion of etiquette is not something my friends and colleagues or I are blaming on graduate students–this is an observation about the overall decline in conference etiquette by people at all levels of the historical profession.

I’ve always thought that one needed to respect deadlines (or at least communicate to your fellow panelists if you must miss a deadline) and time restraints in deference to one’s audience.  (NOTE:  I’m not claiming a perfect record here myself.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever been egregiously late!  At least I’ve never been publicly scolded by the commenter at the conference with the totally reasonable remark that “Professor Historiann’s paper didn’t get to me until very late, so I don’t have prepared remarks on her paper.”  Commenters have the right to refuse commenting on very late papers.)  If an audience has assembled to hear what I and some other scholars have to say, we owe it to them 1) to complete our remarks in a timely fashion, and 2) to permit them plenty of time, after sitting politely for an hour and a half, to add their thoughts or ask us questions.  Continue reading

Climb ev’ry mountain!

Squadratomagico has a nice description of how she came to have a solid draft of her second book:

Over the past two months, I pretty much doubled the size of my book manuscript. It went from readily fitting into a 1.5″ binder, with lots of extra room, to filling up a 2.5″ binder; I was writing about 4-5K words per week. There is more work to be done before I could even dream of sending it to a press — there are incomplete footnotes, directions to myself to amplify certain discussions, lots of polishing and streamlining to complete. In addition, over the past year I’ve been ruminating over a new dimension to my argument — a bigger, more exciting level of interpretation — and I need to integrate those ideas more thoroughly.

So, yes: there is a lot to do. But the fact remains that I have written a second book, even if only in draft. It was touch and go for a while, but I actually have a physical object now, a big pile of pages that I produced and that will someday be a bound volume with a cover and a title. For all those out there struggling: Continue reading