GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘Education’

It’s your thing!: How the European Commission Is Trying to Attract More Women to Science

In Guest Blogger on 2013/02/12 at 08:47
Guest blogger, Curt Rice, writing from Tromsø in Norway.

Note from the editors: Today we start a new offering on our blog: every few months we will have a theme that we ask guest bloggers to write about for University of Venus. These themed blog posts will run month after month on the last Monday of the month. For January, February, and March, our guest bloggers will be writing about gender equality in science fields, and we’re kicking off our series with a post by Curt Rice, the Vice President for Research and Development at the University of Tromsø in Norway.

Dream jobs, 6 reasons science needs you and Profiles of women in science are three of the areas on a website launched last year by the European Commission to encourage teenage girls to consider science as a career—a website called Science: It’s a girl thing!

The EC’s campaign gave me the opportunity to try out an idea for making a so-called teaser clip that would attract attention to the site; I didn’t want to make the clip myself, but I wanted to see what would happen if I just announced a contest. What if I tried a crowdsourcing experiment?

The contest started when I wrote a piece about the campaign that was published at The Guardian. At the end of that article, I suggested a contest.

Maybe crowdsourcing the creation of a teaser – based on the campaign’s website – would be the best way to find out what could tempt teenage girls to study science. Let’s have a contest. Go to the campaign website and find your inspiration. Think about what could be a meaningful teaser video. And then make it! I’ll show the best one at the European Gender Summit 2012. For more details and the official rules for the contest, see The #ScienceGirlThing Contest.

The response was tremendous and the winners were announced in late November.

There were three crucial success factors, but before I tell you about them, enjoy one of the winning videos!

A few people criticized the crowdsourcing idea as a way to get professionals to do work for free. Even though I was thinking more about school kids making videos than professionals, I could understand this criticism. It was then fortuitous when Brian Schmidt, Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, read one of my tweets about the contest and replied that he would donate prize money. I didn’t know Brian then, but he thought the cause was important enough to support, and his contribution was crucial to the success of the contest. Thank you, Professor Schmidt!

Before I continue to the second important factor, enjoy another one of the three winning videos.

The second key development was when the European Science Foundation came onboard as a co-organizer of the contest. Even with something as anarchistic as a crowdsourcing contest, there is a lot of work to be done—setting up a good website, organizing the submissions, getting sensible materials to the jury members, and organizing the announcement of the winners. ESF took on these tasks and made the contest a much better experience than I ever could have done myself. ESF Chief Executive Martin Hynes also added considerable status to the event by joining the award ceremony and mentioning the contest in his remarks at the European Gender Summit.

The final thing that made a difference is coming below, but first, watch the third winner!

The contest received prize money, status, and excellent organizational support, but none of that would have mattered without the investment of the participants and other supporters. The decisions of many individuals to engage is the final crucial component.

There were tweeters and bloggers who publicized the contest, like Joanne Manaster, who put it on The Scientific American site, from which many others picked it up. There were jury members: the European Parliament was represented by member Antigoni Papadopoulou, the European Commission was represented by Laura Lauritsalo, science educators were represented by Cheryl Miller, who also gathered seven bright and influential girls who also judged the videos. The organizers of the European Gender Summit let us use their networking event to show the videos and announce the winners. To all of you I’ve mentioned here, I want to express my gratitude for making this contest a success.

But there’s one more group to mention—the most important one! The crowdsourcing contest generated about 40 submissions. Most of them can be viewed here; they are as varied and inspiring as the three winners and I encourage you to have a look.

This campaign is built on the premise that targeting teenagers is important for having more women at age 30 or 35 or 40 still in science careers. And while there are many women in medicine, veterinary sciences and biology, the situation in physics and chemistry and several branches of engineering is still quite bad. Indeed, we probably need to aim at even younger aged school children if we want the brainpower of the entire population brought to these fields. And that of course is a core issue in this movement. Drawing 90% of the physicists from 50% of the population means by definition that we’re drawing from the bottom half of the pool of men instead of the top half of the pool of women. It’s not an intelligent use of societies’ intellectual capital. This work is complicated by the increased skewing in school performance, to the favor of girls. So, on the one hand, we have work to do to keep boys in school; on the other hand, we want to break down the barriers in particular fields.

To those who participated by making a video, on behalf of myself and the European Science Foundation, as the two co-organizers of this event, please know that your efforts touched us all. You are the future of science and you let us know: Science: It’s your thing!

An earlier version of this post was published as Science: It’s your thing! 3 steps to a crowdsourcing success! at Curt Rice’s blog. To keep up with Curt’s writing on gender equality, open access and more, follow him on Twitter @curtrice.

This post was also published at Inside Higher Ed

Report Card

In Lee's Posts on 2012/12/16 at 02:32
Lee Skallerup Bessette, writing from Morehead, Kentucky in the US.

The same day that I read Afshan’s post on taking her 7-year-old daughter out of public school in order to homeschool her, my five-year-old daughter came home with her first report card. Although there were no letter grades, she had clearly done outstanding work, particularly in the “Social Skills/Behavioral” area. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to us. She taught herself to write her own name when she was only three, prompting her new preschool teacher to declare that she would do well in Kindergarten the next year. Except, she was only three. My daughter did the 4-year-old pre-k curriculum at her preschool twice, and was more than ready for Kindergarten this year. We tried to get her placed directly into the first grade (she continually comes home complaining that everyone in her class thinks she’s six) but for now, we’re sticking with, and stuck in, Kindergarten.

This isn’t much of an issue for the moment; unlike Afshan’s daughter, mine still hasn’t mastered reading (although we’re almost there), but she has mastered all of the other literacy skills. Her math skills are advanced, as she has been asking to do workbook activities and math “games” on my phone since she was two. Mostly, though, she enjoys going to school, hanging out with her friends, and being praised continually by the teachers for doing so well and being so bright. She reminds me a little bit of Lisa Simpson when the teachers went on strike, begging her mom to grade her and praise her. She’s not yet bored, nor has she been targeted negatively by her peers for being smart. Occasionally she comes home upset because the kids didn’t like a picture she drew, but generally she seems to be well-liked and has a good group of friends.

More troubling, for me, were the results of her first standardized tests in literacy and math. On the one hand, I think standardized tests are ridiculous at this age and can’t be taken seriously. On the other, she scored in the 99th percentile, an important piece of the puzzle to get her into enriched programs offered by our school district. I, too, live in a rural area, but the private schools are religious in nature, and not attractive to most of the university parents, so we have fairly rigorous and well-integrated enrichment opportunities in the public schools. I’m hoping that these opportunities come sooner, rather than later, before my daughter gets bored and disillusioned with school.

I see how my students view learning and school, and I have previously written about the moment I dread most – the moment when the light behind both my children’s eyes is extinguished and replaced by the dead-eyed stares I am often met with in my Freshman Writing classes. I read their literacy narratives that pinpoint the exact moment that they gave up on school, on reading, on learning. I also know how hard it is to reignite that spark once it has been out for so many years. Can my husband and I intervene in time to keep that from happening? I also worry about my daughter’s “good girl” personality, insofar as it could evolve into a fear of failure and risk-taking that stifles her potential. How can I create a space where she is at once validated and challenged, fearless and full of curiosity?

I know every parent thinks that their child is gifted and special. I now have (some flawed) empirical evidence that my daughter is, in fact, gifted. As a parent and as an educator, I know that this presents a unique set of challenges, challenges that I currently feel wholly unequipped to meet, at least in any sort of productive way. I can do what comes naturally to me (research, read, and then read and research some more), but at the end of the day, I do (as every parent does) need to do what is best for my child and my family. Maybe it’s homeschooling. Maybe it’s advocacy. Maybe it’s a mix of both. I don’t know yet, but, like Afshan, I find myself in strange and uncharted territory.

Lee Elaine Skallerup has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Comparative Literature. She has taught in two Canadian provinces and three States, and is now branching out as an edupreneur. You can visit her blog at  College Ready Writing and follow her on Twitter (@readywriting). Lee is also a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

The More Education, The Better

In Anamaria's Posts on 2012/10/20 at 00:29

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, writing from Lund, Sweden. 

The more education the better for each and all. So why are there not enough resources?

Just this past week the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released its annual report, Education at a Glance. In a comparative fashion the study provides the most recent statistical data, country by country for all the 34 members of the organization, about the number of students, the type of education they follow and what they do after they graduate. Other measurements included in the report are education spending (public and private), teachers’ workload, teachers’ tasks and teachers’ salaries, as well as the gender gap, the social mobility and the accessibility of education to different groups in the society. A special section is dedicated to the analysis of economic and social benefits of education, measuring the extent to which having an education translates into economic gains for individuals, as well as the social impact of having a population with a large percentage of educated people.

This report is very timely, since only at the beginning of September 2012 the European Commission (EC) and its special expert group published a report on literacy in Europe, showing some alarming numbers. Even if the EC has a special campaign on improving literacy (“Europe Loves Reading”), the numbers do not show this love being spread in the general public. In concordance with earlier published numbers, 20% of the adults in Europe lack the necessary literacy skills to propel them on the job market, and 20% of the European 15-year olds did not possess sufficient reading skills in 2009, a number that stagnated until today.

Both the OECD and the High-level expert group of the European Commission concur. Poor literacy and from there insufficient education has a negative social impact on pretty much all accounts as it is connected to unemployment, social exclusion, criminality, political absenteeism. Low literacy and low education levels are also connected to widening the gender gap as well as the gap between migrants and the local population.

The numbers are clear. In the OECD population, those with a university degree tended to earn more than those without it, up to 55% more. On the contrary, those at the lowest end of the education echelon, who lacked a high school degree, were likely to earn up to 23% less than their co-generationals who graduated from secondary education. Getting a university degree makes one more likely not only to earn more but to secure a job more easily. Among those with higher education diplomas, only 17% are unemployed, in comparison with 44% of those without high school education. Finally, having a university degree improves the overall quality of life: university graduates tend to live longer, to express a higher satisfaction with life in general, and to participate more actively in politics and civil society activities.

This information is not new. The most recent reports confirm earlier trends. So the only wonder I am left to have is: how come we do not do more for education, for literacy? For governments it would be an investment in the future of their country. What can be wrong with a well-educated population that is prosperous, healthy, and takes part in politics and civic life? What can be wrong with a population that is able to read and write in a time where literacy (and especially computer literacy) is the key to having a job? This would decrease the costs of unemployment and the associated social unrest and would raise the amount of money circulating in the economy, thus making the economy grow and generating a virtuous circle (provided that some of the surplus is reinvested in education). Even for the private education providers, making education more accessible and of better quality would increase the total amount of money going back into teaching and research, as it is also demonstrated that educated people tend to invest in the education of their children or support research through donations and funds.

How come we do not do more for education? Yes, in order to answer this question one almost feels prone to believe in conspiracy theories. Or in politicians working from the assumption that voters do not care about education and can be fooled with cheap tricks like talking to empty chairs.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

Further Updates From #ASA2012: Men’s Friendships, NCLB, and Outputs

In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/08 at 00:55

Mary Churchill, writing from Denver, Colorado in the US. 

One of the great things about the ASA Annual meetings is the Film/Video Screenings. While I missed the one showing of Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth, I did get to catch Erik Santiago’s Five Friends, which was very moving. The film focuses on male friendships and centers on a 65-year old man named Hank. (While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of my husband and 7-year old son who were participating in a Father/Son weekend at a boy’s camp on Squam Lake in NH (aka the On Golden Pond lake)).

On Friday, I had attended a presentation by Rachel Dwyer (Ohio State) on Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College and the topic of male college drop-out rates was one that interested many of us in the audience. Although Dwyer didn’t mentioned peer support groups in her presentation, Santiago’s film made me wonder what role the lack of these groups may play in retention of male college students. In my work with Ph.D. students (particularly at the dissertation stage), I have found peer writing groups to be a crucial component of retention and completion. (UVenus writer Liana Silva has a recent post on this at her blog, Sounding Out). If, as Santiago suggests, many men struggle to build and maintain meaningful intimate relationships with male friends, this impacts their ability to connect to a supportive peer group. (as the mother of a boy, I think about this quite a bit).

After a fantastic meeting with UVenus writer, Casey Brienza, I headed over to the Colorado Convention Center for a panel on Accountability Policies and Student Achievement. Deep into several No Child Left Behind (NCLB) presentations, I was enviously reading Sara Goldrick-Rab’s tweets on the Wendy Espeland’s presentation – Valuing Education: Why Media Rankings Rankle Higher Education – on one of my favorite topics, college rankings! (how had I missed this in the 350 page program guide!? For one, it wasn’t in a Sociology of Education session – perhaps I will write a post on the pros and cons of sections…). Luckily I tuned back into my panel just in time to catch Emily Meanwell’s (Indiana) presentation on Federal Education Policy and Inequality. Meanwell analyzed congressional hearings from 1965 and 2001 to look at the shift from inputs in 1965 (family income, inequality) and a focus on compensation to a shift to outputs in 2001 (scores, achievement gaps ) and a focus on quantification. In 1965, impoverished parents were identified as the problem and schools were presented as the solution. By 2001, the focus had shifted and failing schools were called out as the problem with parents holding schools accountable as the solution. Obviously, both of these scenarios are problematic and reality is a lot more nuanced – we need to consider both inputs and outputs. Thinking about higher ed, I think of a shift in framing college as a solution/path to the middle class to framing college as a waste of time and money and the intense focus on the link between college degree and job attainment.

After a panel of NCLB, I went on to more NCLB at Building a Better K-12 Education System. I couldn’t stay for all of this but I did stay long enough to hear Aaron Pallas (Columbia) talk about teacher evaluations and the public dissemination of those evaluations. This public release has the effect of presenting teacher quality (from highly effective to ineffective) as a commodity exchanged on the market.

I instantly thought of my son and the upcoming school year. What if I knew the rankings of the two second-grade teachers…wouldn’t I fight for the higher ranked teacher? Especially if the lower ranked teacher had been labeled ineffective? Would I threaten to leave the school if I couldn’t get him out of the ineffective teacher’s class? Would they move him to the other teacher’s class? Who would be left in the ineffective teacher’s class? The children of the parents who didn’t know about the evaluations and/or didn’t fight to have their children moved?

What if we did this in higher education? What if we ranked professors based on their outputs? If all of our students took standardized tests at the end of each semester – how would this change the way we teach? Who we teach? Who we recruit to our classes? Who we discourage from taking out classes?

Have you experienced something like this? If you thought you would be promoted or fired based on these outputs, how would it change your behavior?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

Summer’s Labour’s Lost

In Uncategorized on 2010/08/02 at 15:45

Guest blogger, Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, writing from Evanston, Illinois in the USA.

My sons and I hold a recurrent discussion about the reason school lets out in early June and resumes on the cusp of September. They adhere to the notion that a summer vacation came to them as a birthright. I point out the critical difference between the break they receive and the vacation they claim.

“Do you know why you don’t have school? Because when schools first started, children had to help their parents work in the fields during the summer.” The lecture continues: “Do you know that because kids could only go to school in the winter, their parents had to give firewood to the teacher? The teacher would even go around to their houses with a wagon to pick it up.” A few more details about one-room schoolhouses, in which the older kids taught the younger ones (they know about their great-grandma’s), and the complaints about nightly reading die down.

Many undergraduates hang on to the vestiges of my boys’ sense that summer is supposed to mean getting to do exactly what you want to do precisely when you want to do it. For undergraduates, the desire for change frequently manifests in the desire to make money by whatever means and in the highest amount possible. Nirvana equates to a Goldman Sachs internship, which will miraculously produce the six-figure job offer and maximize this goal in the present and the future. Other internships result in less cash up front, but promise golden tickets to elite and lucrative legal or medical careers down the road. Then there are the camp counselors, shop clerks, and burger flippers. They earn a little and learn a little while the sun shines. Another set expends more parental cash to buy extra courses or “voluntourism” packages anticipated to ‘pay off’ in the future with graduate admissions and global influence to make newly-impoverished parents proud.

Any of these options may broaden a students’ minds and give them the ‘experiential learning’ opportunity of which academic administrators speak ad nauseam. However, the student has to conceptualize the opportunity as more than money/career-making in order for it to work. William Deresiewicz’s reflection on Ivy Leaguers’ inability to converse with convenience store clerks (http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education) could be quickly overcome with a summer working in a convenience store, but only if the student forgoes the snobbery of assuming they have nothing to share with their colleagues. If the student comes from a snotty suburb, a job in a low income urban neighborhood offers far more potential for cross-class understanding than one at home. As George H.W. Bush and Barak Obama each learned the hard way, every citizen should know the price of milk (NOT arugula) and its percentage in a minimum-wage worker’s budget. Once you know it, you can talk about it with anyone whether at Harvard or in Harlem.

Summer should be about pushing boundaries, and the best opportunities need not be expensive. That hypothetical convenience store might stand next to a community center. A student could volunteer to work with those in need while earning a little to contribute towards the family bills. The choice between teaching country-club kids tennis for profit or offering underclass children a new definition of fun for free need not be so stark. Time abroad means little if a student leaves feeling like a self-satisfied saviour or never sets forth from the safety of a study-abroad ghetto.

I spent the summer following my freshman year on the Navajo reservation. My parents paid my tuition for the ethnographic field school, but money had no influence as my blond ponytail circulated a Gallup, New Mexico stadium in a sea of shining, coal-black hair during the Intertribal Games. I knew in that moment what it meant to be different. I spent the evening with Native Americans from across the country commenting on having ‘seen’ me, the only melanin-deprived person among the throngs on the field. They had not seen me, of course. They each noted the ponytail bleached to extreme by the southwestern sun. That visceral sense of having my appearance draw everyone’s attention to my outsider status never left me. I made no money, but my summer’s labor was not lost.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe is associate director of the office of fellowships and teaches history and American studies at Northwestern University, from which she earned her B.A. (1992). She earned M.Litt. (1994) and M.Phil. (1995) degrees in European History as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University before completing her Ph.D. at Princeton University (2000). In her so-called spare time, she fights household entropy, gardens, bakes boozy bundts, enjoys breakfast in Bollywood, and writes scholarly papers about funky monks. For more, visit http://elizabethlewispardoe.wordpress.com or find Elizabeth on Twitter@ejlp and LinkedIn.

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

Engaging International Families: Re-Drawing the International Student Picture

In Vistas from Venus on 2010/07/02 at 09:00

Meg Palladino, writing from Boston in the USA.

The thing that impresses me the most about America is the way parents obey their children.

-          King Edward VIII (1894 – 1972)

It’s summertime in Boston and just about this time of the year, I become  envious of my friends who teach in the public schools.  One friend is off to Corsica for the summer; another is spending two months in Spain. I seriously consider the idea of getting certified to teach in the Boston Public Schools.  And then I remember the parents.

One of the luxuries of working with international students in higher education is that I hardly ever  encounter parents. Not only are the parents of my students several thousand miles away, but very few feel comfortable communicating with me in English.   In the past, I have always taken  pride in teaching these young adults, free for the first time in a new environment. I like to help them find themselves and become independent. Sometimes I even encourage them to  rebel.

Now that I have more experience creating and managing programs, my attitude is changing.  I am troubled by the alienation of parents and I am interested in finding ways to engage them.  I realize that they are making a  big leap of faith in sending their  child to college in another country. Most families are also making considerable sacrifices  to afford the staggering costs of a US education.  Over the years, I’ve fought to make sure more information is translated into multiple languages and available to parents.

I have noticed more and more  American parents on campus tours and participating in parent and family weekends.  They are invited to  brunches, dinners, and meetings with University leaders.  Institutions are increasingly creating orientation programs and special tours just for parents.  Information for parents is published in brochures and FAQ’s and parents receive a list of emergency phone numbers to call. I can see how inaccessible this information is for the parents of international students.  As higher education has become a hefty financial investment for the whole family, universities have responded by  catering to parents and families as well as to their enrolled students.

When I was 18 years old, I studied in Paris during my junior year of college (yes, I was young).  I had to find my own place to live. After three days in France, I remember calling my parents in tears because I didn’t know how to find an apartment.  I had never even done it in the US.  I don’t think my parents had ever felt so powerless to help me.  I had to solve the problem by myself.

American universities gain many benefits from having international students enrolled in their institutions:  diversity of the student body, enriched cultural experiences for American students, the caché of being a world-class institution that is able to attract students from all over the globe,  and the revenue from the real tuition dollars that most international students must pay. As universities reach out to a global audience, the parents of international students must be drawn into the conversation.  After all, this is also their investment and they are often the ones paying for that investment.

Meg Palladino

Atari Academy

In Vistas from Venus on 2010/06/18 at 09:00

Meg Palladino, writing from Boston, MA, USA

Video games are an excellent teaching tool.  When I think back on my childhood, there are several lessons I learned from playing my neighbors’ Atari games.  For example:

Pac Man: Pac Man taught me how I should go about life every day.  I must move forward, checking things off of my ‘to do’ list.  The path is often unclear and uncharted; my goal is to get it all done. Sometimes life feels like a maze. Along my path, there are things that I need to avoid: mistakes, difficult people, and unsavory tasks.  Encountering these things will ruin my day. 

Frogger: When I am having a bad day, I feel like the little frog, trying to make it across the road.  I want to hide in safe spaces, but I need to continue toward my goals.  Hiding in one space will only hurt me in the end.  I could be hit by one of those trucks!  Frogger showed me that it is better to keep going, even when the going gets rough.

Pong: Pong demonstrated that teamwork is sometimes more fun than working alone.  Teamwork is crucial to success.  Teachers need students, students need administrators, and administrators need a team of people to complete tasks effectively.  Ideally, if the task can be done efficiently and with some fun, everyone wins.

Night Driver: Night Driver taught me that I can’t be good at everything.  I tried and tried to stay on the road in that game, but I am truly awful at it.  I learned that sometimes, you need to hand off projects to people who have that particular skill set. I can take joy from their successes, and the project gets done right.

Pitfall: Pitfall confirmed for me that there is more than one way to solve a problem.  I could get across a pit of quicksand by swinging on a vine, or by leaping across on the heads of alligators.  Each decision has pros and cons and unique dangers.

Some games even gave me more complicated cultural lessons.

Space Invaders: I learned about boundaries from Space Invaders. Spatial boundaries and concepts of privacy vary from culture to culture.  While working at my desk, I have had several international students come in and stand directly behind my chair, peering closely at my computer screen as they ask me an unrelated question.  These students also carefully examine every document on my desk, craning their necks to see what I have there while they discuss their problems.  There are other students who stand too close while they are talking to me.  I take a step back, and they take a step closer.  These types of students are like space invaders.

Although my generation embraces technology, I am nostalgic for these games and their simple lessons.

Meg Palladino

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Prestige in the profession

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/04/14 at 09:00

Yesterday the Swedish government decided to introduce a legitimacy for teachers, some kind of permit for teaching certifying that the holder is actually qualified both pedagogically and scientifically to instruct students. One of the reasons behind this measure, saluted by both government and opposition, is to raise the social standing of the teaching job, which in later years has become populated with those who simply were too unqualified to find any other type of professional career.

This suggestion made me think about the prestige associated with the activity of teaching. Even if the Swedish government has its eyes on the lower education levels, I think the image of the teacher in general has suffered a slow decay in the past two decades or so. It appears that teachers, even those in the higher education, are perceived as performing a menial job, which they do because they simply could not fare better elsewhere. They lack something: academic qualifications, or ambition, or desire to earn money. They cannot possibly be doing this because they chose to, because they actually like it, even more, prefer it to alternative careers.

The common perception in the society is, in my view, that teachers, educators in general, have lost control over knowledge, and thus they are not seen as having any kind of influence or power. Are we obsolete as a profession? Everyone can learn on their own (see the abundance of Do-it-yourself books and videos), with the Wikipedias of the world as their materials. More seriously, the availability of almost unrestricted information (think Google Books and the immense virtual library now present at anyone’s fingertips) has undermined the extraordinary claim for knowledge that teachers or the intellectuals in general used to make before the digital era.

Is there any prestige left for teachers, for the intellectuals? Do we have any type of capital, call it social or cultural or whichever way you like? Do others perceive us as performing a useful action, contributing to the common good, having access to a higher order of understanding that can also be communicated, shared? For me, the answers to all these questions can easily be in the affirmative. Yes, we are important, indispensable I would like to argue, yes, education should be the object of “high politics” not some lower tier obscure area; and yes, we are providing a common good: not the transfer of knowledge but the development of individual self-critical assessment necessary in all democratic societies.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten

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The Emergence of Spring

In Vistas from Venus on 2010/04/02 at 09:00

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

It finally stopped raining, and the sun will come out today, bringing the warmth of spring. On my way to work this morning, I noticed the bright yellow daffodils, and the deep purple crocuses. It is a fresh new day.

In accordance with the Japanese academic calendar, I am preparing to teach a new course that begins next week, another fresh start. The thing I love about teaching is the cycles. The course ends, and the work is complete. The course begins: a new slate. It is very satisfying. Teaching feels very organic. When I am in the classroom,I respond to the things around me: the questions students ask, the material we are working on, the wonder of the ladybug that crawls across the chalkboard. My stress is around getting grades in on time, and my success is measured by the lessons my students have learned, demonstrated as I correct their final papers.

The rhythm of my role as an administrator is dictated by a fiscal year calendar. The stress comes from the pressures to meet revenue and enrollment targets. In September, we are planning for July. In July, we are thinking about January. In January, we are anticipating September. My thoughts are always in the wrong season. Some projects have no end. Administration can also be satisfying, but the pleasure of seeing a successful program is so delayed that by the time the students arrive, their programs are set up, and I have moved on to the next task.

Like the ladybug crawling across the chalkboard, there are always surprises. We make three-year and five-year plans, never really knowing what will happen. In international education, you can never predict Swine-flu, a global financial crisis, or 9-11. We plan now for what we think will happen then, always tweaking along the way.

On my way to work this morning, I stopped to buy some things to prepare for my new class. Influenced by the spring, I bought a purple folder, to remind me of the crocuses, and a yellow folder, the color of the daffodils. I am looking forward to meeting my new students next week.

Meg Palladino

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Thursday, March 4, 2010: A Day of Action to Defend Education

In Announcements on 2010/03/04 at 09:00

Today, Thursday, March 4, is a Day of Action to Defend Education in the USA. Across the country, students, teachers, faculty, and staff will be striking and protesting to defend K-12 and higher education against budget cuts, layoffs, and tuition increases at the college and university level.

University of Venus will be following the protest updates via the sites below:

Student Activism – website has a fantastic map of protests across the nation with over 100 actions in 32 states.

Defend Education – great listing of state-by-state resources.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) – call to support and take action on March 4 and great statements of support from students, teachers, faculty.

Socialist Worker – will be covering the protests as they unfold.

Twitter – via the following hashtags – #march4 #ouruni #ucstrike #occupyca

If you will be participating or you have participated in events, let us know. If you would like to write a post on the protests, we would love to have your input.

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