The death of moral relativism(?)
Not certain this is accurate – having just graduated from college, I question the assumption that those who perpetuate the shame culture have thought critically enough to realize its incompatibility with moral relativism (I remember reading an article from the school newspaper shaming the University administration, but also claiming that freedom of speech was not a universal norm because the Constitution was written by white men who didn’t understand minority experiences). Still, worth the read if only to demonstrate that total moral relativism is out… ironically, of course, for reasons that conservatives have always pointed out (moral relativism precludes the ability to make judgements about gross injustices).
The Most Important Factor in a College Student’s Success
Fascinating findings from McKinsey’s managing director, Dom Barton:
The new analysis found that “mind-set”—a student’s sense of social belonging or grit, for example—is a stronger predictor of whether a student is likely to graduate than previously believed. So powerful, in fact, that it counts even more than external factors like standardized tests scores, income levels and whether the student’s parents are college graduates.
Reasonable until proven otherwise
Of course, confirmation bias is universal, and it would be an exercise in futility to try to end it with a single column. But as University students, we represent, ostensibly, some intersection of future leaders and the intellectual elite: we can and should hold ourselves to higher standards. The first step to combating this bias is to avoid demonizing our enemies — it is tempting to ascribe the attitudes of those with whom you disagree to willful ignorance or moral infirmity, but the reality is that most people are reasonable and well-intentioned. Newby Parton isn’t a caricature of effete liberalism and Vito Barbieri isn’t one of overbearing, ignorant conservatism. Constantly challenging our own preconceptions and giving our opponents a fair hearing may be exhausting, but there is no other way to ensure that we believe what we believe for the right reasons.
What if the first year of college was free — and online?
The most common argument against this is that online education is inferior to face-to-face education. A few thoughts on this from personal experience:*
- The difference between an online class and a 450 person lecture hall is pretty minimal. In fact, I think I got more access to my online teachers, because they were expected to respond to emails
- “Face-to-face” teachers are often very much idealized. If (and this is a big assumption) an MIT physics professor is substantially better than a community college physics professor, does having the latter in a face-to-face classroom really outweigh the lecturing advantages of the former?
- The subjects really make a difference. I don’t think you could replicate a quality upper level English seminar in an edX setting. Then again, I’m not sure you get access to these types of classes in the first year of most colleges
For what it’s worth, I used to be really skeptical of online college, until one of my friends who basically just did online courses and CLEPs (all four years – not just freshman year) just got into a top five law school.
*I took seven online classes in high school, all of them AP classes from PA Homeschoolers. They were awesome, and quite a few of my Princeton classmates also did PA Homeschoolers.
Accused college rapists have rights, too
A few hours later, Steinberg wrote back in alarm. She had read the document with colleagues at the Bronx legal-aid center she runs. They were horrified, she said—not because Columbia still hadn’t sufficiently protected survivors of assault, as some critics charge, but because its procedures revealed a cavalier disregard for the civil rights of people accused of rape, assault, and other gender-based crimes. “We are never sending our boys to college,” she wrote.
The enclosure of the American mind
Fabulous article by Princeton Professor Anthony Grafton on William Deresiewicz’s recent book, Excellent Sheep (and, more generally, on the vast spate of articles that have arisen bashing the Ivy Leagues as creating soulless resumes with no life purpose).
But anyone who cares should also know that the coin has another side, one that Deresiewicz rarely inspects. He describes the structures of the university as if they were machines, arranged in assembly lines: “The system churns out an endless procession of more or less uniform human specimens.” Yet universities aren’t total institutions. Professors and students have agency. They use the structures they inhabit in creative ways that are not dreamt of in Deresiewicz’s philosophy, and that are more common and more meaningful than the “exceptions” he allows.
Affordable Care Act hits college faculty hard
The federal health-care overhaul is prompting some colleges and universities to cut the hours of adjunct professors, renewing a debate about the pay and benefits of these freelance instructors who handle a significant share of teaching at U.S. higher-education institutions.
The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.
(via Todd Zywicki)
College is one of America’s worst investments
The title is actually really misleading. It should really be “college is what you make of it. If you party all the time, you’ll waste money.”
At least that’s what a new study suggests. The study found that nearly half of students make “no significant gains in learning” in their first two years on campus, and that they spend 50 percent less time studying than their 1970s and 1980s counterparts.
This is “depressing,” but hardly “shocking,” says Matt Kiebus in Death + Taxes. Anyone who has spent time on a college campus in recent years knows that many young people “aren’t learning anything more than how to tap a keg and master the midday nap.” The “most hilarious and sadly accurate” finding was that the 3,000 students surveyed spent 75 percent of their time socializing and sleeping, and just 16 percent of it studying or attending class.
More opinion from The Economist and Washington Post here.