"The waters of globalisation are rising around higher education - and the university believes that if it remains Italian-speaking it risks isolation and will be unable to compete as an international institution"
Call me a crotchety old preservationist, but this all seems a little sad. And also inevitable.
I can’t complain too much, though. Attending the university that most champions international competition - and probably drives most of it with its insatiable satellisation of the world - I’ve totally bought into the whole globalisation of higher Ed. thing.
"One a recent trip to a poor province in China, he says he saw that schools were often the most impressive buildings. He says in the West, it is more likely to be a shopping centre".
These findings kind of fly in the face of the whole idea of decentralising education. Although having said that, I wonder how many Uighurs or Tibetans were included in the survey. Pisa doesn’t analyse, obviously, equality and justice in social studies curricula.
Anyway making human rights jibes at China is like shooting fish in a barrel. These are still fascinating findings. When I was teaching in Mexico a few years ago, Pisa data was everything. There was a mad rush to make Mexican schools at Finnish as possible. I wonder if a Chinese makeover will be on the cards next.
Don’t know when PISA 2012 results are to made available, but I’m looking forward to the Helsinki vs. Shanghai battle royale.
Nobel laureate and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias has found a way to equip billions of children with laptops, and to train their teachers in how to use these. All without raising taxes anywhere in the world.
It’s pretty simple really; stop spending so much money on weapons.
Of course it’s idealistic, and of course the de-militarisation of a small country like Costa Rica is a lot more feasible than that of a power. None the less, his challenge rings clear and true; don’t we have a better use for all this money than more guns?
It’s been a while since I posted anything, let alone anything about KONY2012, let alone something with very little to do with education (besides the fact that everything is about education eventually).
I’m curious to see just how effective the Cover the Night campaign will be. New York, for example, seems like the kind of place that would love an all-night semi-dissenting frenzy of street arting. If it was called a flashmob it would be even cooler. On the other hand New York also contains a lot of people who would probably love to sneer at the whole idea, because the only thing hipper than giving a damn is giving a bigger damn by doing nothing.
Anyway, this article highlights to me the gap between two different models of justice. KONY2012 wants vengeance. They want militarisation. They’re making KONY famous in order to break him down. This article suggests that a lot of Ugandans, and especially victims of the LRA, want restorative justice. Amnesty, reparations, truth telling. Reconciliation not retribution.
Whichever model of justice you prefer, it seems clear to me that a model of justice that ignores the voices and requests of the victims is probably not on the right track.
"The test of a road map lies not in arbitrarily checking points but in whether people find it useful to get anywhere."
Now almost two semesters deep in a social sciences program, having taken a couple of mandatory research methodology courses, having learnt that there is only one way to write a paper and that everything you say needs to be backed by empirical evidence (and therefore that you can never really say very much about anything), I found this article kind of a relief.
There is, of course, a valid place for all this positivism. The work of Esther Duflo and her MIT crowd, not to mention Will Easterly and his NYU Development Research Institute (“There is no answer to global poverty; there are only answer finding systems”), is certainly not futile. They are testing the testable and drawing powerful conclusions.
What about the untestable, though? That which is too abstract? Or that which no Institutional Review Board is going to let you touch? This whole physics envy thing leaves vast areas uncharted and unchartable by the social sciences.
It’s precisely these unchartable places that probably need the most attention. Hello Burmese solitary confinement cells. Hello North Korean gulags. Hello Guantanamo Bay.
"The way women are treated in Saudi Arabia is a direct result of the education our children, boys and girls, receive at school".
Princess Basma speaks up about the need for reforms in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she thinks there are bigger issues than whether or not women should be allowed to drive. Like whether it will be safe for them to do so. Giving women the right to drive doesn’t guarantee them protection from people who have been taught to believe that there is something offensive about this. Change will come through the classroom and the textbooks. But who’s going to orchestrate that change? Education reacts slowly; there needs to be an even earlier pervasive change before there will be any shift in curriculum.
It was pretty heart-breaking to hear at IPK’s Into the Current film screening last week that some Burmese political prisoners had spent 16 years in solitary confinement. I couldn’t imagine how such a large portion of a life could be squandered in such a fashion. And then how to pick up the remaining threads of the life afterwards.
Then this article revealed that some guys in the US had spent 40 years in solitary.
When we point to enlightened, rational democracy, where do we point?
Granito: how to nail a dictator (with the help of some white saviours)
On Friday night filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís presented their 2011 film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator to a crowded Tisch auditorium. A sequel to Yates’ earlier When the Mountains Tremble, the film narrates the effort to bring the Guatemalan generals responsible for mass killings in the Mayan highlands to justice, and specifically to face charges in a Spanish court.
Coming off the back of all the KONY2012/White Saviour Industrial Complex talk that’s been bouncing around the internet (and getting rehashed on this site), what struck me about the film was the absolute necessity of the involvement of outsiders in the search for justice. While the most emotional moments of the film came when locals expressed their burning need for answers and closure, there would have been no hope of them achieving this without foreign lawyers, activists, and filmmakers.
In the 1980s Yates was able to use her foreignness to gain access to both the highland guerilla groups, and the military who were hunting and massacring them. Working in remote, indigenous communities, she provided skills and technology that no one in the community would have been able to provide for themselves. Given that marginalised groups are often the most lacking in education and resources, and are also often the most likely to face repression or scapegoating, this creates a strong rationale for foreign involvement in some situations.
I still think analysis of the White Saviour Industrial Complex is vitally important - much of what Teju Cole has written still rings true to me - but works like Granito serve as a reminder that intervention may still have a vital place to play in the world. While critique of the Saviour Complex is important, so is acknowledging that there are situations in the world in which a saviour is desperately needed.
I’m not going to post the Gawker articles I read today about Jason Russell’s (of KONY2012 fame) public masturbation reactive psychosis. Instead this article (link is in the heading) is a particularly hard-hitting critique not just of KNOY2012, but of the whole ‘white saviour industrial complex’. It’s particularly hard-hitting because, as author Teju Cole states, one of his arguments is that political correctness does very little to help marginalised groups, and a whole lot to throw a blanket over debate.
The piece is long, and the comments are too daunting to engage with just now. There are, however, a couple of links to voices I had no previously encountered. Well worth a look if you want a different (need I say African?) perspective on the humanitarian aid in Africa thing (should I call it an industry? It’s an industry).
What strikes me about Cole’s initial tweets is the whole focus on the experience of doing good, of ‘making a difference’. A good part of the KONY2012 video is about the filmmakers’ experiences. Would we try to play a positive role if it came with minimal sensation, without some sort of emotional confirmation that this was worth doing? Do we need the validation of our tears or someone else’s? What if voting really was the best thing we could do? It doesn’t feel very satisfying. What if the glacial change of dismantling a foreign policy built out of the Cold War (and even then most assembled out of myth) was the biggest ‘difference’ we could make? Take out the experience and the wristbands and who’s still prepared to get involved?
The article is long enough without my added ramble. Read it. Click around. Discuss.
Who says we live in a cynical age? Look at these starry-eyed students: smart enough to get into law school, ambitious enough to sue their alma maters, but still idealistic enough to believe that marketing is a matter of presenting the unvarnished truth to your customers so they can make an unbiased decision.
Maybe it’s just cynical me, but is there really a university out there that doesn’t exaggerate a wee bit, in order to attract students? It’s not just “low-tier” schools either. I hear (GASP!) NYU students complain all the time about their education not quite meeting the advertised standards. I’ve even (GASP GASP!) heard Columbia students saying the same thing. If the Ivy League has been known to embellish the truth, is there really any hope?
I’m not even going to try to tie this directly to education. I’m posting it because it brings together one of my oldest academic interests - the delightful madness of Nietzsche - with a newer one - that of the interplay between memory and history. It’s Friday, it’s rainy, and it would be a fine day on which to curl up with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which also references Nietzsche). Or Hannah Arendt, which I’m reading for another class.
Particularly like the observation in this article that the essential question of social media - “what are you doing?” - isn’t necessarily addressed by social media at all. Like memory and history, it is a very selective account of what is happening, and what has happened.
Prof. Marita Sturken is teaching a course in Buenos Aires over the summer entitled ‘Visual Culture and the Politics of Memory’. It looks phenomenal. Anyone out there likely to be taking it? With only two days until the final application deadline, I’m sorry to say that I will not be.
Look I know Gawker doesn’t really fit with the usual tone of content that I rehash on this site, but it’s spring break, and there has to be a limit to the number of NYT pieces that get ‘shared’ here.
And anyway, this story matters. It’s the same old debate - should education be self-sustaining, or is it the responsibility of the community to invest in it? Is it really a surprise that community colleges aren’t immune to this debate?
This article strikes me as very important - and more worthwhile than a lot of other criticism - because it shifts the debate off of the Kony 2012 filmmakers, and onto Uganda. Even Chris Blattman of Yale (quote below) gets caught up with the ‘making-of’ the film. He criticises the film’s emphasis on the experience of donors and advocates by focusing squarely upon the experience of donors and advocates.
Wilkerson’s piece for Foreign Policy (the link is in the title), on the other hand, focuses first on the current situation in Uganda, and then on questioning the impact of the Kony 2012 movement. Of crucial impotance: what are these guys trying to achieve? What is their strategy? Kony 2012 has raised a lot of money; if it has no clear strategy for how to use this, and worse, if it doesn’t have the data needed to form a clear strategy, then they could certainly end up doing more harm than good. As is so often the case with aid, what is needed may not be more money, but a better idea of where the money is going and who it is really aiding.
“There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. It’s often not an accidental choice of words, even if it’s unwitting. It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming. The saving attitude pervades too many aid failures, not to mention military interventions. The list is long.”—Chris Blattman takes issues with Kony 2012.
This is the BIll Gates Op-ed that was referenced during last Friday’s Education Policy Breakfast. In some ways it’s just stating the searingly obvious, but apparently the searingly obvious doesn’t gain much credibility until it’s expressed with billionaire authority.
Education might not like receiving lessons from big business, but Gates makes a very good point here. Businesses know that you can’t shame employees into productivity. Microsoft uses evaluation to lift performance. If the choice is between the Microsoft model, or tarring and feathering underperforming teachers, I think it’s pretty clear in which direction progress lies.
Professor Sean Corcoran happens to be something of an expert in such matters. He’ll be speaking at the final Ed. Policy Breakfast of the academic year in April. I’m looking forward to a very clear break-down of what’s at stake from him. I was in one of his classes last semester and he was excellent, and probably not because there was a threat of ritual humiliation looming over him.
Education Policy Breakfast in 1400 characters (or less)
On Friday Dean Mary Brabeck hosted the second Education Policy Breakfast of the academic year. The bagels were fresh, the coffee was organic, and the room was packed with big names in education representing a wealth of knowledge and experience. Profs Mary Diez and Andy Porter were the speakers, while Prof. Bob Tobias moderated question time.
I was tweeting the event for @nyusteinhardt. Rather than give a blow by blow description, I’m going to narrow things down to 10 tweets (and thus about 1400 characters) that I think capture the general narrative of the event…
1. Diez makes important distinction between evaluating teachers and assessing the system that trains and supports them. #edpolicy
2. Diez cites recent piece by Bill Gates questioning ‘shaming’ as a motivational tool. Setting clear goals is more motivating. #edpolicy
3. Great quote: “We won’t fire our way to Finland” - quality won’t come from isolating individual teachers. #edpolicy
4. Diez wrapping up strongly: “if we’ve conflated learning with standardised test scores, we’re in real trouble”. #edpolicy
5. Dean Mary Brabeck: less than 1% of funding for education goes to research. In health this is closer to 25%. #edpolicy
6. Prof. Andy Porter to the lectern. Last time he spoke at NYU was in 1966. Now he’s back and he’s bringing down the house. #edpolicy
7. Porter: “almost no one escapes teacher education”. Only in some elite, private schools, and that may be changing now. #edpolicy
8. Porter in conclusion: we need a clearer understanding of teacher ed. if we don’t want to be asking ourselves the same questions in 10 years.
9. Question time! Prof. Bob Tobias to moderator. He says he could only get a seat at the event by agreeing to moderate it. #edpolicy
10. Diez: if we publish teacher backgrounds in NYC, why not publish the same for other sectors? Where did your banker go to college?#edpolicy
These guys are known more for starry-eyed travel pieces than policy analyses (that’s not a criticism; I’ve got a couple of pieces coming up with them), but with pieces like this they’re doing a pretty great job of breaking out of any conventional category.
Again, it’s not directly education-related, but given that my edu-roamings this week have taken me to a lecture about education and violence in Rwanda, an International Network for Education in Emergencies meet-up, and a high-profile chat between NYU’s William Easterly and Steve Forbes (only one of these events came with snacks), I couldn’t resist posting.
I suppose articles like this could point to the futility of foreign aid. I’d hope it would serve rather to highlight the complexity of intervention, and the need to understand - deeply understand - a problem before attempting to fix it. Also perhaps the need for coordination (and colour-coordinating) between various intervening agencies.
Event season is upon us! On Wednesday evening I found myself at NYU Abu Dhabi’s rather nice Washington Square site for ‘Girls’ Education in Afghanistan: 7 Million Reasons for Optimism and Hope’. The 7 million refers to the number of students in Afghan schools, up from less than a million one decade ago.
The speakers were a truly illustrious bunch. There were more than a few fluttering hearts in the room when Amy Goodman, the revered host of Democracy Now and moderator for the event was introduced. Also present were Zama Coursen-Neff (Human Rights Watch), Anita Anastacio (International Rescue Committee), Wagma Battoor (CARE, and just off the plane from Kabul), and NYU Steinhardt’s Prof. Dana Burde.
It was a fascinating evening, with cause for great concern, given the Taliban’s habit of targeting schools in their effort to disrupt the government, but also for ‘optimism and hope’ in the successes of programs run by the likes of CARE and Catholic Relief Services. Community-based Education has made tremendous inroads in rural Afghanistan.
Ms. Coursen-Neff made the excellent point that the state of a nation’s education system is an excellent barometer for the state of the nation. A country where girls are not going to school - such as has been the case in Afghanistan - is a country in which something is awry. A country in which schools are no longer save places is a country well beyond awry.
Prof. Burde made perhaps the most lasting impression of the night with her point that, based on field research in two provinces, the gender gap in enrollment can be eliminated through use of Community-based Education. Her message, which flies in the face of much of what Western media has to say about Orientalised Afghanistan, is that Afghan parents absolutely want their girls to go to school, they just don’t want them walking long distances along dangerous roads to go to schools in which material is ineffectually taught by strangers. When given the chance to go to school in their local village, they make the most of this. And they learn more, too.
The elephant in the room, which Amy Goodman eventually called out, was the planned withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. When they go, just how much will go with them? There was much speculation, but no real answer possible.
Social Media Week came to NYU’s Kimmel Centre on Tuesday morning for a panel discussion entitled ‘Literature Unbound: Radical Strategies for Social Literature’. Topics ranged from Prof. Stephen Duncombe’s (of Gallatin fame) reading of Thomas More’s Utopia as a precursor to contemporary social literature, to Jason Carey’s explanation of the challenges facing Brooklyn Public Libraries (some of which are apparently still loaning out VHS tapes).
Discussion was lively and delightfully literary (beneath this educationalist facade beats the heart of a humanities devotee): there was a great deal of Jonathan Franzen bashing, as well as reference to Shakespeare, Melville, Pope, Dante and of course More. While the outlook for print and for independent bookstores wasn’t good, the picture for literature overall was decidedly more rosy.
Pick of the panelists for me was the f-bombing Richard Nash, partly for his apocalyptic predictions regarding the future of print, partly because of the depth of his insight into the current state of literature, and partly (the biggest partly) because of his Small Demons project.
Small Demons is a work in progress, but the basic idea behind it is to mine books for their references to people, places and things. Out of the data thus collected, Small Demons builds lists. Taking Nash’s example, you could search for every book that references Steve Jobs, or you could search the Steve Jobs biography for every reference to any other person, place or thing. The data gleaned can also be used to identify literary trends, like the cars most commonly driven by vampires (and presumably others, with time).
The only disappointment? I was unable to pursue my goal of eating my entire tuition’s worth of free food. No breakfast spread, no snacks; there wasn’t even coffee on offer.
Warning: even if this post doesn’t seem to be about education, it sort of really is.
Last night NYU’s Institute of Public Knowledge hosted a book discussion. The book was In this Place, Not of it: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. The discussants were editors Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman, and narrator Francesca Salavieri. The co-sponsor was Voice of Witness, which is a nonprofit book series that gives voice to victims of injustice.
The discussion itself was pretty harrowing. Francesca spoke of life on the inside, of the routine abuses, of the deaths of friends, of the sense of utter hopelessness. The editors provided an overview of the prison system, based on the oral histories of women currently and formerly incarcerated, and on their own experiences working in the legal system.
What makes this relevant to an education blog is not the content itself - although more people should definitely be educated about the shit going on in American prisons - but the form of its presentation. Voice of Witness is expanding rapidly - volumes on North Korea, Colombia and the DRC are in the works - but what really sets it apart is that it considers the experience not just of the narrator, but also the reader. It does this through educational (there it is) resources and networks, which work to promote and discuss the books, spreading their field of influence. If the goal is to get the voices of victims of injustice heard, then education is of crucial importance.
You can read more about what Voice of Witness is all about here: http://www.voiceofwitness.org/
It should come as not surprise that it is an initiative of Dave Eggers, the literary-activist juggernaut.
Also, the Institute of Public Knowledge is a pretty awesome set-up. Not that NYU needs another tuition-funded institute, but still, they run a tight ship, and there was free wine and cheese (which I suppose I technically paid for). Something about the building - 20 Cooper Square - makes it seem like important shit happens there. Makes me want to drop International Education for Journalism.
A better piece on the worth of teachers. Although let’s be honest; is there anything surprising in the assertion that good teachers are better than bad teachers?
While this piece explains that a “great teacher” is among the top 16% of educators, it doesn’t explain the criteria behind this ranking. Teacher quality doesn’t have to be directly tied to experience or qualifications, but this article seems to want to make good teaching a question of some inherent ability. I think anyone who has ever stood in front of a class knows it isn’t that simple.
And likely they also know that even if you’re a great teacher, chances are you’re not working in isolation. Just who is doing all the value-adding in these tests?
Anyway, at least there’s some quantified evidence for the potential positive impact of teachers. But what does it count for if we can’t answer the question of how do we make great teachers?
Posting this is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel; there should probably be a separate blog just for ridiculous quotes by old, rich, white, teacher-hating guys.
I will say this, though: I thought the GOP were the guys who did understand the principles of supply and demand. You know, capitalism and all that.
I don’t think raising teachers’ pay is the solution to all America’s educational woes, but I do think there needs to be an effort (by the GOP and perhaps Huffpost) to better justice to the debate than this.
Fascinating point about how conservative higher education can be, in terms of enshrining the past and sticking to its methods.
The implications raised here are clearly only intended for Americans, though. While learning a second language may be less important than ever for native English speakers, it must be more important than ever for everyone else. So if edu reforms mean less focus on second languages, where does that place non-English speaking countries? As interesting as this article is, I think it doesn’t know whether to treat education as a conservative or progressive force. Then again who does?
"Students who travel learn that fear is for people who don’t get out much. And they learn that the flip side of fear is understanding. Travelers learn to celebrate, rather than fear, the diversity on our planet."
This, I think, is the most important aspect of study abroad. This article and plenty of others mention that study abroad provides necessary job skills, or promotes foreign trade, or whatever. While I don’t doubt those things are true, studying abroad for the sake of some potential future payoff still seems to be missing the more immediate benefit; that of being far away from whatever you know and take for granted, of having your feathers ruffled, of being forced to think outside whichever box you’d previously lived in.
OK so the headline sucks, but this is still a huge deal. Not a deal that would usually be discussed on an edu-blog, but it does kind of tie into one of my main areas of interest.
How do you explain to your people that their semi-divine leader has died unexpectedly of a heart attack while on a train?
And given that 2012 was supposed to be a sort of messianic time of plenty in the country (according to the Dear Leader and Co.), what do you tell the people now?
Judging by the videos circulating, a lot of carefully orchestrated mourning is being filmed and disseminated. Behind that though there must be some pretty serious shocks to the North Korean psyche. So what do you say? What do you teach?
With 11 states already applying for No Child Left Behind waivers, and 28 more preparing to do so, I wonder what kind of future lies ahead for the program.
The concern, really, isn’t with what becomes of NCLB, it’s with whether there is any real, stable strategy in place for improving schooling on a state or federal level. The federal government has a bunch of big ideas, but maybe not so much continuity between them. On the state level, it sounds like education reform is becoming just another way for governors to toot their own horns.
Anyone on the west coast? This looks like a great event, with implications well beyond the US. Look at the amount of money being pushed into Chinese universities, and not just in its most famous metropolises.
…so while students in the US are being fed on agricultural surplus reconstituted as pseudo-chicken pseudo-nuggets, the Philippines is getting on with providing free, nutritious meals to school students in need.
"Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children."
This is not a new thing, or a strictly American thing: my high school cafeteria (we called it a canteen) was privatised back in the day. At the time I loved the plethora of fried food options. I don’t think I ever saw anything green served.
It seems unlikely UNESCO will be able to make up completely for its budget shortfall. What could this shift towards private donations signify for the future though? UN agencies less at the mercy of major donor countries? If UNESCO can recognise Palestine, despite pressure from The Donor, what else could be on the cards?
To celebrate two months of Occupy Wall Street, university students from all over the city walked out of class (or wherever they were) and converged on Union Square. A smattering of professors and secondary school kids accompanied them.
As I’ve said before - and if I haven’t said it before I’ve been thinking it - the lack of concrete demands from OWS can be seen as one of their main strengths or weaknesses. Either way, I’d say things are heading in the wrong direction when protestors from some of the most expensive schools in Manhattan get together to start calling for free education. That’s not what this occupation was all about, but it was definitely in there with everything else. The cost of education might be rising in the US, but there is a big difference between calling for equal access and calling for free tuition at NYU.
If tuition is that outrageous, the most persuasive call for change would come from massive student de-enrollment, wouldn’t it?
China is far and away the biggest sender of students to the US. In the 2010/11 academic year over 150,000 students and over 50,000 more than the next biggest sender. And this is growing by over 20% per year (and has been for a couple of years).
There are two ways to read this: either the sneaky US plan of draining all the brains out of one of its major rivals is reaping better results than ever before, OR maybe China knows that if you let the kids go for a while, they’ll come back to you brainier than ever before.
Two weeks ago when I sat down to discuss the whole Occupy Wall St. movement with staff and students of the International Ed. department, I thought it supremely weird that this program, of all the programs in NYU, was engaging with the issue.
A week ago I started to see why International Ed. was particularly relevant to Occupy Wall St., and vice versa. After all, how much are we paying to be a part of this program? How far into debt are we sinking and for what? OWS might not make many demands, but the rising price of education was firmly on its agenda.
Today, after the tents were torn down and we were left scratching our heads and wondering if the movement was this frail all along, I think International Ed. is even more relevant to OWS. As this phase of occupation ends, the big idea I’ll be taking from our meetings was raised by Prof. René Arcilla, and the concept of a long and patient revolution, that educating and raising awareness are steps on the road to change.
The image invoked by Arcilla was of a baby standing up, falling down, standing up again, taking a first baby step. and continuing in this fashion (for centuries according to Arcilla - he may never live this confused image down), until it is strong enough to stand, and then to walk, and then to open the door and to go out into the world.