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“Beyond the economic opportunities for the students themselves, there is the broader cost of letting so many promising students drop out, of losing so much valuable human capital. For almost all of the 20th century, the United States did a better job of producing college graduates than any other country. But over the past 20 years, we have fallen from the top of those international lists; the United States now ranks 12th in the world in the percentage of young people who have earned a college degree. During the same period, a second trend emerged: American higher education became more stratified; most well-off students now do very well in college, and most middle- and low-income students struggle to complete a degree. These two trends are clearly intertwined. And it is hard to imagine that the nation can regain its global competitiveness, or improve its level of economic mobility, without reversing them.”

–Paul Tough, “Who Gets to Graduate?” via The New York Times Magazine 15 May 2014

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When considering the future of learning institutions in a digital age, it is important to look at the ways that digitality works to cross the boundaries within and across traditional learning institutions. How do collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional learning spaces help transform traditional learning institutions and, specifically, universities? For example, how are the hierarchies of expertise-the ranks of the professoriate and also the divide of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty (including adjunct faculty, tenure-track junior faculty, and tenured and distinguished faculty)-supported and also undermined by new digital possibilities? Are there collaborative modes of digital learning that help us to rethink traditional pedagogical methods? And what might learning institutions loo like-what should they look like-given the digital potentialities and pitfalls at hand today?

Via The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age / Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg. (3-4)

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“The ways libraries operate has been deeply influenced by trends in retailing. Barnes and Noble borrowed library décor to furnish their stores, and libraries then had to borrow it back after learning that our patrons love of bookish and comfortable reading spaces was not being nourished in libraries. We had an awesomely vast catalog of books in Worldcat, but it wasn’t until our patrons showed up with Amazon printouts that we realized how shortsighted it was to confine all that information about books to a fairly clunky library-based subscription database. We had accrued a lot of cultural capital, but we didn’t value it until corporations borrowed it and began to exploit it.

One bit of library capital that hasn’t been borrowed by social media companies is our respect for privacy as a condition fundamental to intellectual freedom. We don’t want to look over your shoulder when you read. We don’t want to provide information about what you’re reading to others. This runs against prevailing ideas about how social relationships work. Even JSTOR is trying out a way of trading limited free access to articles in exchange for data that publishers can use. In the absence of any access, this seems like a good deal, but it’s not clear to me why we can’t do better. I already click through a copyright statement every time I use JSTOR because I prefer not to tie what I read to a personal account. I suppose JSTOR might say establishing personal accounts will improve our user experience, but I’m not buying it.

via Inside Higher Ed

#Reading

The ability to synthesize different perspectives into the big picture is far more powerful than narrow expertise in any single field. The social sciences offer perspectives from vantage points separated by time, place and society. Drawing and painting offer perspectives on what perspective even means. Critical thinking is the logical result of being able to simultaneously synthesize multiple ideas in one’s mind. Real-world problems rarely ever have textbook solutions. More than anything, the purpose of a college education is to learn how to think critically and what questions to ask. Liberal arts colleges aim to mold their students into well-rounded, well-informed global citizens with a wide skill set — whether it is through elective or voluntary courses that push specialized students to be broader, or general requirements that force every graduate to know at least something about certain subjects. In the throes of our current economic crisis, all conventional strategies for success are moot. All the more reason for a liberal arts education that creates resilient people who can invent creative solutions and always have new ways by which to try things differently. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world.

“Why a Liberal Arts Education Matters,” The New York Times