Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Archive for the tag “education”

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

Ever heard the phrase, “I’m titled to my opinion?” This philosophy professor confronts this phrase, suggesting that while, yes, you can have an opinion, no, that does not necessarily mean your opinion is automatically valuable or “right.” In other words, if your opinion does not hold up to the academic rigor used by experts when studying your opinion, it does not hold weight alongside expert knowledge.

“Every year, I try to do at least two things with my students at least once. First, I make a point of addressing them as “philosophers” – a bit cheesy, but hopefully it encourages active learning.

Secondly, I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

via No, you’re not entitled to your opinion.

Alumni Donations?


I understand that in the grand scheme of things giving money to my former universities will ideally provide younger students with the same opportunities that I had. I also understand the urge to give money, especially to my undergraduate department.

But right now, nothing makes me more irate Read more…

What Adjuncts are Saying

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Sarah Kendzior’s controversial article in Al Jazeer “The Closing of American Academia” has resulted in significant conversation surrounding the ethical, pedagogical, and practical consequences of a professoriate in which 2/3rds are contingent faculty.

On August 30th, Dr. Kendzior published a blog explaining that since the publication of her original article, “I have received hundreds of emails on this article. They came from adjuncts who feel exploited and abused. They came from graduate students terrified about their future. They came from parents – parents of undergraduates shocked by how their children’s professors are treated, and parents of adjuncts grateful that their plight was addressed. They came from tenured faculty, prominent intellectuals among them, who spoke of corruption within their own disciplines. They came from people outside higher education who see parallels in their own professions – in law, journalism, policy, and other fields that rely on unpaid or underpaid labor” (Crisis in the Academy).

I was thinking about her statement this morning while reading the advice forums on The Chronicle of Higher Education. Read more…

Lonely Men on Campus: Student Veterans Struggle to Fit In – Alex Horton – The Atlantic

“Though the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that the number of veterans enrolled in college will hit a three-year high, they still aren’t a sizable presence. (In sharp contrast with the 1946 numbers, veterans accounted for just one percent of the undergraduate population at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.) Not surprisingly, two long, unpopular wars fought by an all-volunteer force, on behalf of a thankful yet unburdened public, have produced second-order effects. Civilian students are often unaware of their peers who have wartime experience, and veterans often conceal their pasts from those who might not understand them.”

via Lonely Men on Campus: Student Veterans Struggle to Fit In – Alex Horton – The Atlantic.

Why Is Iran Curtailing Female Education? – WorldWise – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Restrictions on women in education and reversal of family planning under Ahmadinejad. What I love about this article is the disparity it paints between how women in Iran since the 1979 revolution are represented by the U.S. media vs. the reality of their lives (especially under the reformist presidency of Khatami). I had no idea that leading up to the 1990s, 60% of university students in Iran were women, and that it was within the top 10 countries with regard to closing the gender gap.

That being said, the changes being enacted by Ahmadinejad are devastating for women in Iran – where, as the anonymous author mentions, the legal age for women to marry is 13 but among women with education, the mean is 23.

I also would like to emphasize some similarities between the move to limit women’s education in Iran and the proposed de-funding of higher education in the United States by Romney, et al.: “Worldwide, levels of education and activism often overlap” Want to limit political dissidence – restrict access to education.

Here is an excerpt from the article and a link to read more:

“What are the politics behind these sweeping new restrictions? Why now? Is it related to the role that women played in the 2009 protests against the disputed presidential election?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is chauvinist about women generally. Barring women from certain fields of study comes hand-in-hand with the reversal of Iran’s family-planning program—one of the most successful in the world. Iran’s supreme leader recently described the family-planning program as misguided and called on women to have larger families.

But politics may also be a factor in the education restrictions, partly because young educated women were at the forefront of street protests after his contested reelection in 2009. Worldwide, levels of education and activism often overlap. Education can also affect the national social structure. In Iran, for example, the legal age of marriage for girls is 13, but the mean age of marriage is 23. A woman of 23 is likely to have experienced some level of higher education and be less prepared to agree to marry a man less educated than she is.”  Read more here: Why Is Iran Curtailing Female Education? – WorldWise – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The End of Identity?

“Perhaps the reality is that Singapore cannot build both a national identity and a global city identity. The national identity served us well in our formative years, but the global city identity will carry us forward. We are actually in the midst of a transition from the former to the latter. A global city identity is much more fluid, less rooted, than a national identity.” Read the full article here: The End of Identity?.

This article by Singaporean journalist Sudhir Thomas Vadeketh has me increasingly interested in learning more about the socio-political climate of Singapore – especially because I loved every minute I spent visiting Singapore last summer. As the academic job market remains bleak for PhDs, I have started looking for jobs internationally. Singapore is always on the top of my list.

I only spent two weeks in Singapore and I just barely began to pick up on how Singaporean culture, politics, and economics are structured. From the surface, Singapore appears to have everything I love: diversity, amazing public transportation, loving & friendly people, low-crime (no crime?), happening nightlife, great food, and lots and lots of people. Beautiful people with musics and traditions and languages from all over the globe.

I have to admit, however, that the first day we arrived in Singapore my husband and I were quite shocked. We walked around the posh Orchard Road neighborhood taking in the food, all of the languages, and shops from all over the globe. We also quickly noticed the prices and the fact that we were far too poor for Singapore. Two things struck me: 1. the fact that Singapore’s booming economy paints a stark contrast to our life in the U.S. since 2008; and 2. that this is what globalization is. I mean, this is really what globalization is.

Before visiting Singapore I thought I understood the complexities and nuances of globalization because I was familiar with the major academic theories and debates. I understood it from an ideological and academic perspective. But I had never truly experienced globalization before visiting Singapore. Cosmpolitanism, yes. Globalization in constant dialogue with nationalism, yes. But not globalization in the sense that the author here discusses – when a globalized identity effectively consumes  a national identity,  that (in reality) never really existed in the first place.

That first day I walked down Orchard Road and thought “this is amazing Indian food, fantastic Chinese opera, beautiful Malay clothing, the best of European designers, the worst of U.S. popular music. But where are the Singaporeans?”

If there is a national identity still at play, and the author says there is, I did not see it during my trip. Well, I should rephrase that statement. I saw national government propaganda and experienced the not-surprisingly highly nationalistic “National Day,” but I did not see nationalism in how the actual people engaged with each other and their foreign visitors.  Yes, I know – tourist, two weeks, etc… But even if I lived there for years, if I became one of the migrant workers Vadaketh discusses, I’m not sure I would see it even then.

Which brings me to my next point.

A few days ago I was talking with my academic colleagues about looking for jobs or research fellowships in Singapore. The first question I got was, “Could you really live there?” They were referring to, of course, the strict political control exerted by the government over the population. It was amazing to visit Singapore and not see any semblance of crime or poverty, but unsettling to know that it was likely still there, hidden from view. Like crime and poverty, social tensions are lurking in the background even though on the surface people appear to get along splendidly.

I’ve also started to realize that of all the jobs I found in Singapore are in technology, and was interested in what Vadeketh had to say about the low priority on art in Singapore’s meritocracy. My colleagues also brought up what it would mean to work in a country that does not share the same ideas about freedom of speech (and hence academic freedom) as in the U.S.

Which all leaves me wondering if I could actually live there. I’m not sure. But then again, my hunch is that Singapore will continue to grow and prosper economically. Maybe it is just election season getting to me, but I have less and less faith in our political system. Singapore’s education system, while lacking crucial aspects, does continue to garner attention while ours appears to be meeting its demise. And while social injustices undoubtedly exist, I was struck by the lack of hate and anger in Singapore, particularly when compared to our current socio-political climate in the U.S. While I’m not sure what the future will hold, I will keep my eyes and ears on Singapore in my job search, if only to learn more about what I find to be a truly fascinating culture and amazing city.

The closing of American academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

The last line of this article really struck a chord with me: “My father, the first person in his family to go to college, tries to tell me my degree has value. ‘Our family came here with nothing,’ he says of my great-grandparents, who fled Poland a century ago. ‘Do you know how incredible it is that you did this [earned a PhD], how proud they would be?’ And my heart broke a little when he said that, because his illusion is so touching – so revealing of the values of his generation, and so alien to the experience of mine.”

Reading this statement elicited a very similar response in me – my eyes teared up when reading about how proud this dad is of his daughter because it reminded me of how proud my parents are of me and my PhD. I also feel the same sadness that the author does – being raised by someone how lived the American Dream and told me my whole life that I could do anything if I just work hard enough. In reality, when 2/3s of college instructors are adjunct or contract, when education is being de-funded, when the educated class is being impoverished, and jobs are vanishing, there is no such thing as “if you just work hard enough you will be (financially) successful.” I think that’s something all of the approximately 1 million adjunct faculty can certainly attest to. Even the slackers among us are overworked, to say nothing of the overachievers.

And that’s saying nothing about the kind of education these students are going in debt to receive. In my most highly-enrolled semester, I got paid $25 per student for the entire semester. And I am one of the lucky ones – I do not get paid below the poverty line and I do receive benefits. Even teaching hundreds and hundreds of students, I refuse to not assign research papers or include written questions on my exams. There are those of us who have high standards, but more likely are the adjuncts who would never even think of assigning their classes of 100 or 200 or 600 students 10-15  pages of writing per student. Because they simply do not get paid enough. I don’t care what Romney says about class size not mattering, it is not possible to be the best teacher you can be to 600 students.


1. The next time you think professors get paid too much, remember that the high salaries of tenured faculty are drastically offset by the 2/3 of faculty barely making a livable wage (or well below, in most cases).

2. We must stop telling students that college education is a means to a job – my generation (and their generation) cannot be anything they want to be, even if they work really, really hard. Many will not find jobs in their fields. This is only multiplied by the decreasing quality of their education (despite the best efforts of those of us who really care) and their increasing debt.

Read the original article here: The closing of American academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

U. of Oregon Courts Hard-Hitting Tactics in Persuading Students to Raise Fees for a Renovation – Buildings & Grounds – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Way to go University of Oregon students! I’m proud of you for resisting this renovation because of the increase in student fees. Students across the country are paying more and more to go to college, and significant portions of their money is going to non-educational expenses. More students need to resist these changes and remind administrators that students are paying for an education, not a fancy union. Read more: U. of Oregon Courts Hard-Hitting Tactics in Persuading Students to Raise Fees for a Renovation – Buildings & Grounds – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment: Not a misstatement, but a worldview.

“The sexism is outrageous, but it’s the stupidity that really burns. It takes a lot of work for a member of the House science committee to cultivate an ignorance of science as profound as Todd Akin’s. It’s not accidental and it’s not incidental to his worldview—his belief system requires a rejection of science.

The thing about science, as Neil DeGrasse-Tyson says, is that it’s true whether you believe it or not. And the truth is that biology does not give a goddamn how sperm meets egg, whether it’s within the bounds of a sanctified marriage, in a test tube, or after a rape.”

Additionally, Missouri’s “Right to Pray” amendment does what Texas lawmakers have been trying to do – make it possible for kids to opt out of classes that conflict with their beliefs. Read more: Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment: Not a misstatement, but a worldview..

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