Joshua Sperber, “Making the Grade – Rating Professors”

I was delighted to come across Joshua Sperber’s new research project about Rate My Professors. In Making the Grade – Rating Professors, published in CUNY’s New Labor Forum, Sperber studies what happens when students can “rate their professors” on the web. The project was based on an online survey of 41 students and 47 adjunct professors, which seems to have elicited a wealth of rich qualitative data. Continue reading Joshua Sperber, “Making the Grade – Rating Professors”

The Academy and Freedom to Dissent

Cris Shore, a well-known anthropologist of higher education whose work we’ve discussed before, sends in a critical commentary on current threats to academic freedom.

I recently participated in a roundtable debate on higher education at the AAA meeting in Washington (DC) on the subject of ‘The Academy and the Future of Freedom to Dissent’, which raised some interesting thoughts for me on what constitutes the greatest threat to academic freedom in universities.

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George Marcus on academic capitalism in the humanities

I’ve been reading some of the academic capitalism literature lately, since I’m writing about French images of capitalism in higher education. It turns out that, a few years ago, George Marcus offered an intriguing auto-ethnographic anecdote about the way that academic capitalism becomes standard even in seemingly very “critical” corners of the American humanities.

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Practicing academic anthropology in the USA

Cris Shore is mentioned in an article in Inside Higher Education on a session of the AAA meetings on teaching anthropology in a “red state” in the US. Hardly surprising that a pro-evolution, anti-racist, anti-sexist field would attract the ire of many.  I wonder if others in this group were present and have any reflections to share about this session or if Cris wants to elaborate?

Students as course evaluators

Chronicle of higher education on student roles in course evaluation

This Chronicle of Higher Education story is both welcome and disturbing. It is welcome because it credits students being intelligent enough to evaluate constructively what and how they are learning in classes.  So far so good.  But the rather breathless tone of this essay ignores the fact that the Tayloristic premises of higher education institutions as organizations has primarily created students as passive consumers of “education” rather than active partners in a process.  This reveals the native Fordist model that dominates and its associated “banking model”.

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A Response from Davydd Greenwood

Davydd Greenwood sends in a second response to Eli Thorkelson’s recent comments on Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy.

We are grateful for a review that invites a dialogue and we hope these topics will be discussed more broadly and from additional perspectives. Eli has been an important partner in this work ever since his undergraduate years and will continue to be long after we are gone.

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A Response from Morten Levin

Morten Levin writes with a response to Eli Thorkelson’s recent comments on Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy.

Thank you for the review of our book. This is what we need for our own professional development. Our challenge is to be open and responsive for comments or judgement of the book but still stick to our major arguments/ideas underpinning the book’s major point. I am glad that you seem to appreciate the “simple “language we are using. Simple language is not the same as simple ideas. We have learned a lot from this German, Australian and Norwegian based researcher Philip Herbst.

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Levin and Greenwood, “Creating a New Public University”

Last year, Morten Levin and Davydd Greenwood published a book whose title sufficiently indicates its broad scope and ambition: Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy. The subtitle, Action Research in Higher Education, indicates the authors’ preferred method for realizing their goals. The book is written in plain language and speaks at a general level to participants in American and European higher education. Berghahn Books is releasing it in paperback in 2018. It is neither an ethnographic case study, nor a global history, nor an abstract critique of higher education. Rather, it is a manifesto for what public universities might look like if they were thoroughly democratized; it is a practical guide to participatory research as a means of organizational change; and it is a general theory of why participatory democracy is inseparable from any education worth having.

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Daniel Kontowski, Liberal arts colleges and the liberal arts movement in Europe

I am writing to bring the work of Daniel Kontowski and his colleagues to your attention.  I met Daniel when we participated in Susan Wright’s “Universities in the Knowledge Economy” EU project and I became very interested in his doctoral work at the University of Winchester.  He has a diverse set of projects focused on the emergence and evaluation of liberal arts education in Europe.  It was, frankly, the first I knew of this movement having arrogantly assumed that the liberal arts college is a US institution.

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Cathy N. Davidson, “The New Education”

Susan D. Blum reviews Cathy N. Davidson’s new book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.

Out with the Old! What Students Need Now

Cathy N. Davidson has been writing about her experiments in education for years (for example here and here and here). She brings to her new book deep understanding of the context, history, successes, and shortcomings of the dominant forms of higher education—college—and highlights several dozen approaches that are more successful. These are more appropriate, she argues, than the conventional forms, which have not changed in more than a hundred years, because they respect students’ abilities, teach them to employ the affordances of not only technology but also other people, and anticipate that the content of whatever they do in college will have only limited relevance in the future—so they need to focus on learning to learn. Conventional colleges have outlived their initial purposes, which were to train managers in a newly industrializing and urbanizing society, when books were scarce and simply ingesting information was challenging enough. They selected only top students and churned them through a disciplinary mill, certified by authorities.

That’s not what we need now.

Continue reading Cathy N. Davidson, “The New Education”