The Annenberg Center for Communication at USC (with whom I've had the pleasure of working in the past) has a number of juicy post-doc positions opening up for 2006-2007. If only I were finishing this year! Applications are due soon, so if you're in the enviable position of nearing completion, do take a look.
February 2006 Archives
Okey dokey. I was still a little nervous going into it - for no good reason, as I came to realize, with the help of some lovely encouragement (thanks!) - but you know, exams and all. In the end, I'm happy to report that I was pleased with the answer I put together - ended up using blogging as a specific technological intervention in the context of a liberal arts classroom, to talk about blogging as a way to help meet the goals of liberal education, and specific pedagogical goals, and raise issues about appropriating pop culture texts in the classroom. Not sure that that it answered the exam question (a very broad question along the lines of how technology can help education and/or the quality of life), but I'll find out in a few weeks. Feeling pretty ok about it though.
In the meantime, no rest for the weary, right? I'll be in Philly next weekend, giving a preview of my AERA presentation at the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, sponsored by the Center for Urban Ethnography at Penn. The theme is “Educators and Ethnographers Negotiating Ideological and Implementational Spaces" - right up my alley! - and the program is packed, so I'm really looking forward to learning a lot. I'll be talking about the technology practices of liberal arts college students; if you happen to be in Philly on Saturday, look me up - I'm on at 2 pm.
I also hear that Philly has an awesome climbing gym - 13,000 sq ft of bouldering and climbing, which is about 12,500 sq ft larger than my home gym. A couple of friends of mine who live in the area are going to meet up with me for some climbing on Saturday after the conference, should be a lot of fun.
Soooooo, I'm spending the weekend preparing to take my Certification Exam - one small step for mankind, one giant step towards becoming a certified doctoral candidate in my program. The exam consists of one question which we have three hours to answer. We're allowed to use notes, whatever - anything except our own computer (or Flash drives). The main point is to show that you can demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge in your field, and skillfully integrate the various aspects.
Although not a big deal compared to, say, an English Lit student's quals - I hear those poor suckers end up being quizzed on a 100 book reading list - I'm still nervous about the whole thing. I guess not so much nervous about my ability to complete it successfully (although I get two more tries if I don't), but moreso that it's a big milestone in my doc career, and I don't want to screw it up - or worse, be found out as a fraud, a failure, a "why did we admit you to this program in the first place?" case. Ah, the demons of insecurity, they are fiendish little beasts.
Anyway, I'm taking it on Friday, rain or shine, ready or not. Wish me luck.
The NY Times has an article today about the DOE Higher Ed commission's ongoing "investigation" - push, more like it - to implement standardized testing in colleges and universities (and yes, this may very well include private institutions as well, if the accrediation process is used as a "lever"). The CEO of Kaplan thinks it's a good idea, so it must be, right? (I'm assuming that you've all caught the sarcasm in that last statement.)
What is up with this nation's obsession for quantification? i.e., from the article: "The unanswered question in higher education is: How good is the product?" said Robert Zemsky, a commission member who is a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania. "A growing number of people are beginning to want answers. What higher education is about to learn is that they can't play the 'trust me' game anymore."
To that, I say, take a look at Patricia Gumport's article, Academic restructuring: Organizational change and institutional imperatives. Sounds dry, but here's the main thrust (from the article abstract): "...the author diagnoses a macro-trend whereby the dominant legitimating idea of public higher education has changed from higher education as a social institution to higher education as an industry. ...Wholesale adaptation to market pressures and managerial rationales could thereby subsume the discourse about the future of colleges and universities within a logic of economic rationality at a detriment to the longer-term educational legacies and democratic interests that have long characterized American public education."
Maybe I'm just having a knee-jerk reaction based on my dislike of the current administration and of their other standardized testing initiatives, but when you have folks like Kaplan sitting on these committees, and statements like the one from Prof. Zemsky, I can't help but wonder if the discourse about the future of colleges and universities hasn't already been subsumed.
Gumport, P. J. (2000). Academic restructuring: Organizational change and institutional imperatives. Higher Education 39: 67-91.
Just got back from a whirlwind trip to New Orleans. Too late and tired to form coherent sentences, but I wanted to record some impressions sooner rather than later, because I heard and saw a lot over the past two days that I don't want to lose in one big, blurry memory. So, random thoughts from things seen and heard:
- The areas that were badly affected by the levee breaches are just, really, post-apocalyptic. They are deserted, with the exception of a few cleanup crews (local residents, and from elsewhere)... in the areas adjacent to the 17th St. Canal breach and the Industrial Canal breach, the homes are just... it looks like a war zone. There's people's stuff, totally banal stuff like tshirts and VCR tapes and silverware and children's shoes, strewn all over front yards. It's almost unreal, until I started to imagine my neighborhood, my parent's house, totally demolished like that - nothing special, you know, just the sum total of someone's life. Horrifying.
- We checked out a FEMA trailer park, and chatted with one of the security guards there, a guy from Michigan. Not really sure who he's guarding - the people in the trailers from the outside world? Or the other way around?
- One of the more troubled housing projects in NO, although suffering little damage from the storm, is still closed, and the city installed these safety screens over the windows on the first floor to keep looters out. But the buildings are safe, so why aren't they open yet?
- Under the highway next to the projects, abandoned cars lined up. Some of them still have people's stuff in them, covered in mold or dirt. A fellow student pointed out something that was missing: all of the cars had had their stereos and other parts removed by looters.
- Quote from one of our guides, paraphrased: when you're rebuilding, you're not just responding to the hurricane, you have to respond to the many past changes and cultural histories that has made NO what it is today.
- We spent a lot of time listening to Tulane faculty, and the President of Tulane, speak about efforts at planning for rebuilding. These very knowledgeable people sit on key committees in the city and are spearheading many of these efforts. Some things coming from that, and questions that came up for me:
- What gets rebuilt? A big emphasis on historically/culturally relevant sites. Well, who gets to decide what's relevant? Which directly relates to the other question, whose culture?
- The pre-Katrina school system was described over and over as corrupt and inadequate. After state takeover, charters are being opened in a somewhat haphazard manner - just trying to get bodies back in classrooms. Right now all the ed talk is about charter schools, but what about refocusing on the traditional public school system? A speaker who's opening a KIPP charter told us that he expects 95% of the $6,000 that he'll get per student will go towards the student's education. The number for the public schools was 60%. How much do the charters have a stake in the communities they're in? What are the implications for having schools at the center of neighborhoods (part of the rebuilding plan) if students are bussed from an hour away? What are the implications for being culturally relevant to the students?
- The topography of NO - naturally occurring available high ground, filling in and populating low ground - is intricately tied in lots of fascinating ways to how the population distribution of NO has been historically shaped, esp. by race & class.
- City has face significant segregation in the past 20-30 years (when it had historically been a much more integrated city). A good majority of working class African Americans lived in the hardest hit areas, and they are the ones with the fewest options for getting anything back out of their property investments. As it was described to us, these folks have the following options: leave the city, find a buyer for their house (at way below its value), or stay in the city - but where? where can they afford to stay? mainly, in low ground areas. In the current urban planning, there is no concrete plan for low or mixed income housing in higher ground areas. This is a real problem in terms of moving towards reversing the trend of segregation.
Am tired. And sad. The good thing is there are lots of smart, well-intentioned people working on future planning. Things could turn out really well. Or not.
Off to bed.