Category Archives: Academia

The rise of online instruction will upend the economics of higher education

From The Economist—This should be interesting to watch unfold, and it should scare the hell out of traditional colleges and universities.

Required Reading from Journalism Professors

From The Atlantic, via Longreads—”six syllabi from journalism professors on what” journalism students should be reading.

In an age when objectivity of journalists is open to question, I’m not sure how to interpret these recommendations.

Free Textbooks Spell Disruption for College Publishers

From MIT Technology Review (Hat tip: Instapundit):

Publishers today operate using what Mark Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan, calls a “cartel-style” model: students are required to buy specific texts at high prices. Perry has calculated that prices for textbooks have been rising at three times the rate of inflation since the 1980s.

The price of textbooks has been absurd for years. Cozy protected environments will allow for such shenanigans. Amazing what a little competition will do!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

How to Ask a Question

An excellent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Peter Wood. The introduction:

Last Wednesday I attended a debate at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, at which three men engaged in a lively, literate, and deeply-informed exchange. After they finished and the moderator opened the floor for questions, the usual thing happened. The questioners by and large had no questions. Instead they offered up prolix piles of words that led nowhere in particular. Some sought to show off what they mistook as their own superior knowledge. Others scolded. A few got lost in their own labyrinths. The closest we came to a question was the j’accuse rhetorical jab more or less in the form, “Don’t you agree that you are an ignorant buffoon?”

Some of the questioners were deliberately abusing their opportunity. That’s bad manners and an erosion of the civility that is needed for worthwhile public debate. But a good many of the questioners simply didn’t know how to ask a question. They were caught in the fog between wanting to communicate something that seemed to them urgent to declare and the need to ask.

Why has asking become so hard?

Read the whole thing for some insights on what makes a good question. (Hat tip: Instapundit)



Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

‘Nine Classic Essays on Education’

From Richard Nordquist. Well, it is time for the children to go back to school.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament

The 20 Most Overused Words in Academia

From Online Universities:

College frequently proves to be the most intellectually stimulating years of one’s life. Unfortunately, it also means navigating an exhausting gauntlet of pretense and jargon. Of course, using such terminology doesn’t inherently render the speaker an academic blowhard. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that some of these words just need a bit of a rest before they lose their punch entirely.

By no means should anyone take this article even remotely seriously. The author has used plenty of these words unironically and speaks from experience and a willingness to draw personal laughs. Academia can be hilarious and absurd — it shouldn’t always have to be treated with stiff formality at all times.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament

The Superstition of School, by G.K. Chesterton

This classic essay by G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936), should have been included in my recent post on writing teachers. Had I found it sooner, I would have incorporated it. Speaking of those who think too much of education, Chesterton writes:

He seems to me to collect with remarkable rapidity a number of superstitions, of which the most blind and benighted is what may be called the Superstition of School. He regards School, not as a normal social institution to be fitted in to other social institutions, like Home and Church and State; but as some sort of entirely supernormal and miraculous moral factory, in which perfect men and women are made by magic. To this idolatry of School he is ready to sacrifice Home and History and Humanity, with all its instincts and possibilities, at a moment’s notice. To this idol he will make any sacrifice, especially human sacrifice. And at the back of the mind, especially of the best men of this sort, there is almost always one of two variants of the same concentrated conception: either “If I had not been to School I should not be the great man I am now,” or else “If I had been to school I should be even greater than I am.” Let none say that I am scoffing at uneducated people; it is not their uneducation but their education that I scoff at. Let none mistake this for a sneer at the half-educated; what I dislike is the educated half. But I dislike it, not because I dislike education, but because, given the modern philosophy or absence of philosophy, education is turned against itself, destroying that very sense of variety and proportion which it is the object of education to give.



Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament

Question: Why Does Anyone Pay for This Drivel?

My title owes a thanks to richard40, a commenter on a post titled Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years, by Mary Grabar, found at Books, Inq. titled Rhetoric as performance. Here’s the first paragraph:

After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested  in teaching students to write and communicate clearly.  The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against marginalized groups and restrict self-expression.

It gets worse. Read the whole piece plus the comments; and here’s Dr. Grabar’s last sentence:

That administrators and paying customers  at respectable colleges and universities continue to support such daffy activities should be the subject of some real “critical thought.”

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament

There are too many PhDs.

100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School#55 There are too many Phds. (Hat tip: Instapundit) The money quote from Glenn Reynolds:

“Colleges benefit from this situation, because there are so many well-credentialed people desperate for teaching positions that they will work for very little money. This would not be such a problem if the world outside of academe had more use for people with PhDs (see Reason 29). The fact that it does not is why there are so many people with doctorates who now find themselves working in part-time temporary teaching positions with no benefits (see Reason 14). . . . Perhaps most scandalous is what legitimate research universities have done to devalue the PhD, which is now awarded in fields ranging from hotel management to recreation and (most ironic of all) higher education administration. In the meantime, universities continue to lower standards for graduate degrees. The traditional American master’s degree—which once required a minimum of two years of study, the passing of written and oral comprehensive exams, as well as the writing and defense of a thesis more substantial than many of today’s doctoral dissertations—has been dramatically watered down. Will it be long before the PhD suffers the same fate?”

Since I don’t have an advanced degree, one could surmise that I could be displaying this piece as a sign of jealousy against those who do have them. No, the people I know with expensive educations and the credentials to prove it are mostly admirable folks who deserve credit for their hard work and their achievement (and they all benefited from their investment). I do, however, have an interest in what seems to be an “education bubble,” the high costs associated with securing any kind of degree from a reputable institution, and the poor prospects of employment after one goes into debt and does all that work. I simply ask: In 2011 and the foreseeable future, is it worth it? After all, it is possible to educate oneself without going to Brown or Pepperdine and build a good life.

Plumbing sounds like a good career choice—then read all the great works by those famous dead white males in your spare time.


Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament