Entries in higher ed (10)


John Cassidy in the New Yorker

Being more realistic about the role that college degrees play would help families and politicians make better choices. It could also help us appreciate the actual merits of a traditional broad-based education, often called a liberal-arts education, rather than trying to reduce everything to an economic cost-benefit analysis. “To be clear, the idea is not that there will be a big financial payoff to a liberal arts degree,” Cappelli writes. “It is that there is no guarantee of a payoff from very practical, work-based degrees either, yet that is all those degrees promise. For liberal arts, the claim is different and seems more accurate, that it will enrich your life and provide lessons that extend beyond any individual job. There are centuries of experience providing support for that notion.” Click.


The University of Faith of Florida

What I had on yesterday's front:

Earlier this fall, someone posted a question on reddit.com: Are there two fake schools operating on the periphery of college football? One was called the College of Faith, in Charlotte, N.C., and the other was called the University of Faith, here in St. Petersburg.

The websites looked hastily made. The teams were losing lopsided games. How could just-opened, online-only institutions be participating in intercollegiate athletics?

Sometimes it's hard to discern what's real when tethered to a computer.

Not quite a month later, though, on an evening in Lakeland, in front of a few thousand ticket buyers at Southeastern University's Victory Field, the host team called the Fire received the opening kickoff from its opponents from the University of Faith.

Up in the press box, rosters listed the names of 56 Faith players, and corresponding positions, heights, weights and hometowns, all but four in Florida, most of them around Tampa Bay. There were no class years.

Down on the new AstroTurf field, the Faith players wore gray uniforms with green helmets that said UFaith on the back and jerseys with "GLORY EAGLES" on the front.

The score quickly was 14-0, Faith losing, and then 24-6, and then 38-9, and it got worse from there. At some point the slender kicker looked up into the stands at his family and made his right hand into the shape of a pistol and pointed it at his temple and pantomimed pulling the trigger.

"Nobody listening to the coaches!" shrieked one of the assistants. "Everybody doing they own thing!"

The head coach, meanwhile, stood still on the sideline, arms crossed, lips pursed. He had on a white Faith polo shirt and a black Faith visor. On the right side of the visor, in silver script, it said "GIVINS."

Keep reading.


It's a good question

"If college graduates are no longer reading the newspaper, keeping up with the news, talking about politics and public affairs — how do you have a democratic society moving forward?" Click.


Do libraries need books?

1. Me on my Times blog: Florida's newest institution of higher education has a library with no books.

2. Ben on Twitter: A library without books is not a library. It's a room, or a space, but it's not a library.

3. Clive Thompson in the new Wired: ... what about books? Public Library Association research shows that people have checked out slightly fewer materials in recent years. And Pew found that about a third of patrons are opposed to makerspaces if they displace books. But while I'm just as sentimental about the primacy of hard copy, the librarians aren't. As they all tell me, their job is helping with access to knowledge — not all of which comes in codex form and much of which is deeply social. Libraries aren't just warehouses for documents; they're places to exchange information.


Ode to college towns

Something I wrote for the September Our State:

Davidson was a college before it was a town.

I didn't know that at first — in the heavy heat of late August 1995, when I arrived as a freshman, a 17-year-old kid from New England who wanted to see something new, to get an education in the South — but it makes sense, looking back.

The small liberal arts school in northern Mecklenburg County had earned national renown. The town wasn't much. I walked to the post office across from campus, like every student at the time, and I used the ATM at the BB&T. But Main Street seemed like stagecraft. The landmark Soda Shop produced the sense of stasis more than the comfort of nostalgia, and other stores hawked knickknacks and gnomes. We drove down to Cornelius for Harris Teeter groceries, me and my friends from my hall in my dorm, and we drove up to Mooresville for wee-hours Waffle House fried eggs and hash browns. It took no more than two turns to encounter cattle milling in meadows. The map said Charlotte wasn't far. That's not the way it felt. The buzzy serenade of cicadas was the soundtrack of slow Saturday mornings.

Now it's different. Davidson is a small town, still, although it's gotten bigger, and fancier and pricier, too, but it's also become a college town.

College towns are important.

Keep reading.


Good Harper's Index this month

Some of what I underlined in the latest iteration:

Portion of Americans who are currently taking at least one prescription drug: 1/2.

Who are taking five or more: 1/10.

Estimated number of U.S. children aged two or three being prescribed ADHD medication: 14,000.

Factor by which the number of Internet-connected objects in the world is projected to increase in the next seven years: 4.

Estimated portion of sex crimes in U.S. jails and prisons that are committed by correctional officers: 1/2.

Percentage change since 1997 in the number of U.S. businesses with no employees: +47.

Chance that a U.S. woman under age 35 has a tattoo: 1 in 2.

That a U.S. man under 35 does: 1 in 4.

Percentage of professional journalists who were college graduates in 1971: 58.

Who are today: 92.

Number of local-government jobs lost since 2010: 351,000.

Portion of those jobs that were in education: 3/4.

Percentage change since 2002 in the average annual income of a recent college graduate: –8.

In the average debt load from student loans: +70.


Are the liberal arts still important?

Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of all hiring at Google, to Tom Friedman in today's New York Times:

They are "phenomenally important," especially when you combine them with other disciplines. "Ten years ago behavioral economics was rarely referenced. But [then] you apply social science to economics and suddenly there's this whole new field. I think a lot about how the most interesting things are happening at the intersection of two fields. To pursue that, you need expertise in both fields. You have to understand economics and psychology or statistics and physics [and] bring them together. You need some people who are holistic thinkers and have liberal arts backgrounds and some who are deep functional experts. Building that balance is hard, but that's where you end up building great societies, great organizations."

What I said last weekend at Davidson.


This month's Harper's Index

Six things I underlined in the current compilation:

1. Estimated value of goods and services distributed for free on the Internet in 2011 : $376,000,000,000.

2. Maximum number of dildos a Texan may legally own : 5.

3. Percentage change in the past five years in the portion of Republicans who believe in evolution : –26.

4. Portion of U.S. students who started college in 2007 who have not completed their degrees : 1/2.

5. Number of high school students in Mississippi who took the Advanced Placement test in computer science last year : 1.

6. Portion of Americans who spend more than half their monthly income on rent : 1/4.