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Archive for the ‘State of Academia’ Category


Posted by litdaily on May 2, 2011

Mary Grabar’s essay in Minding the Campus, “Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years,” elicited a particularly unpleasant response in me…>>  Her essay reflects on the Conference on College Composition and Communication, which she recently attended.

Reading her essay reminded me of all the English instructors who uncritically teach composition at universities without advocating critical thinking skills within their students. Also, the fact that she seems offended by critiques of whiteness in composition and rhetoric also undermines her overall argument regarding grammar as she is furthering her own agenda regarding what should and should not be taught in composition.

I suppose there are two camps, which I am going to denote as Grammar and Context.  Grabar (along with Stanley Fish) falls on the Grammar side.  In these two camps, there is a war between Grammar and Context where each believes the other is a necessary evil that needs to be destroyed. I know this sounds harsh but most of these kinds of conversations tend to pick one over the other. It’s a shame.

I propose a necessary mediation between the two: Grammar with Context.  Why not teach both and isn’t teaching both the reality of most composition programs?  Can rules of grammar only be taught in conjunction with canonical English texts? Can’t they be applied to other contexts? Should we force all English instructors to be drones of the “proper” English language and teach only “proper” English texts that are approved by academe?

The comments (especially by parents who don’t have clue and want their kids to follow suit) are hilarious. If parents want their kids to learn Shakespeare rather than composition, why don’t they force their kids to take a Shakespeare class?   If parents think that only composition instructors are responsible for the downward spiraling education in this country, they need to educate themselves before casting stones.


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On Being a Paranoid Graduate Student

Posted by litdaily on April 27, 2011

The Chronicle recently published an article on paranoia and graduate study…>>

Even though the article minimizes the paranoia that students feel (in some way) by putting the burden on the grad student, I think it’s important to realize that “paranoia” is built into the system and is above all, destructive to academic work.  Maybe removing tenure, in other words, god-complexes that feed off graduate student paranoia, the system will place value on graduate student work rather than unproductive judgments that aim to minimize their contribution to higher education.

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The Space of the Library

Posted by litdaily on March 1, 2011

Hari Kunzru’s post on the library as a relic adds a nice element to my last post on the Kindle…>>

He reminisces about the meaning a library had for him as a child and the excitement of getting that first library card.  Obviously, if E-Books take the place of libraries (and not just bookstores), then the experience of discovery changes.  Already, during the course of the past decade, my academic research takes place not in university libraries, but on my computer, in my master bedroom.  The digitalization of archives and out of print books makes it unnecessary to travel 25 miles to my university in order to make an argument.  There is something lost — besides the lack of sunlight — and that loss is not easy to explicate.

Roaming the halls of a library, whether public or academic, positions a person in the center of knowledge and the possibility of acquiring, devouring, digesting, endless amount of words that have meaning.  The E-book cannot replicate this experience. it’s efficiency, moreover, does not allow the leisure of roaming.  It bring us right to the text.

On another level, as a mother of two young children, the library and the bookstore are not just spaces of exploration, but they are also spaces that allow community building.  When I had my son (now 4), he started his first library classes at the age of 6 months. We made some lasting friendships there with other children and parents that would not have been possible otherwise.


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Second Tier Universities – If Academia Ranks, Why Shouldn’t Corporate?

Posted by litdaily on January 21, 2011

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, an article titled, “Brown and Cornell are Second Tier” discusses the elite companies’ desire to recruit from the best universities.  Apparently, even Brown and Cornell don’t cut it…>>

Of course, it’s a “culture insanely obsessed with pedigree” and the Chronicle shouldn’t have to look too far away from higher education to make this claim.  If academia rolls with the same ideology, why shouldn’t corporate? Why wouldn’t investment banking firms and top notch consulting companies look for students at Harvard and Yale when our university systems functions entirely the same way.

It’s almost impossible to get a job in academics (at least in the humanities) without attending one of the elite universities. Yes, you may have to sell a liver, a couple of eggs, and donate your body to science in order to make the high tuition rates, but you’ll get a job so that the ten years you spend on your PhD will actually translate into a career.

It’s too easy to critique corporate culture.  It’s about time higher education publications interrogated the underside, the business of, academia.

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Workplace Culture in Academia

Posted by litdaily on January 18, 2011

Earlier this week, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on faculty members requesting time off after having a baby. Mary Ann Mason reports, in the article, that University of California at Berkeley has instituted family-friendly programs for faculty members who need relief from teaching duties or extensions in time-to-tenure…more>>

This article is certainly hopeful that Berkeley has been and will continue to be a family friendly academic environment. However, the picture it paints is skewed.  Berkeley constitutes very few of the tenure-track professors, graduate students, and adjunct faculty members that flood higher education today. Many new parents in these roles struggle with the demands of academia alongside raising a family without much economic support or professional support. While in the private sector, many companies offer childcare on site (along with larger sums of compensation for labor), academia still sees parenting and a family as detrimental to achieving scholarly success.

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Macleans Lets “Too Asian” Stick, Refusing to Apologize

Posted by litdaily on December 27, 2010

Scholars shouldn’t have to look too far from their academic spaces in order to delineate the messy, complicated, and shifting boundaries and hierarchical power relations between “white” and “Asian”.  An article posted by Macleans in November about enrollment of Asian students and white students generated much controversy due to the offensive signifiers associated with the term, “Asian”…>> We can pretty much guess what these are —  over-achievers, studious, etc.

Although there has been controversy, the magazine refuses to apologize for its racial profiling of Asian American students that attend institutions such as University of Toronto, which is known for academic excellence.  One reporter believes that the controversy, which has elicited a heated response from municipal politics, is ridiculous, asserting that governmental politics needs to concern itself with issues such as “transportation” rather than “race”…more>>

Wow. Where to begin?  If politics doesn’t take up the issue of race within its educational institutions, what exactly is the political relevance of government and state?

My initial reading of this controversy involved some serious eye-rolling. After all, it seems like another lame attempt of the media to generate publicity by throwing in an offensive stereotype of “Asian,” the minority least likely to object. Besides, Asians could signify much worse things, such as laziness, filth, vagracy, criminality.  Oh yeah, they have been stereotyped as those things as well.

But upon some consideration, the issues it brings up are complicated. Should the government be involved in such debates (yes!).  Should the press apologize for its article or should it stick to its offensive categorizations of Asians as studious and Whites as fun-loving, frolicking students out to get alcohol instead of an education? What if these comparisons included Blacks and Whites instead of Asians and Whites? Would the uproar be worse and would Macleans take it back then?

Aside from the debate itself, none of the writers and articles consider how this affects the status and role of education.  It’s certainly problematic that “White” students are depicted as only wanting to socialize rather than gain an education.  Why has socializing become the key criteria in selecting educational facilities? Thinking about it as an Asian mother of a preschooler, socializing seems to be the most important factor in selecting schools.  While other children in countries like China and India are learning to read, add and subtract at the same age, the kids in the First World are still attempting to determine their options for friends.

Whether its early childhood education or higher education, the trend towards “learning through play” or “socializing” will cease to demarcate the educational space as one of privilege and merit.  So, this debate is more than just about race. It’s about the larger structures that govern our understanding of what education is and what it should be.



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Conversations: John Okada’s “No-No Boy”

Posted by litdaily on December 21, 2010

No-No Boy and the Debates around Asian American Literature

SM: I was intrigued by your central question in the blog-post “Asian American Literature”: What are the terms of inclusion for Asian American literature to be a part of the category of American literature? Since you have identified assimilation as a literary theme critical to this inclusion, and this past semester we both taught John Okada’s novel No-No Boy which explores the question of assimilation, I wanted to discuss how Okada’s novel can help us the define the contours of the relation between Asian American and American literatures. The novel is built around the historical events of Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that resulted in the evacuation of Japanese Americans on the West Coast and their subsequent confinement in internment camps.

I was pleasantly surprised that most of my students this semester had at least heard about Japanese American internment, whereas in the past any mention of internment was just met with blank stares. So how do we begin discussing inclusion of Asian American literature within American literature when significant events of Asian American history have been erased from the national memory?

SD: This question of assimilation and the inclusion of Asian American literature within the American canon is a tricky one.  Okada’s No-No Boy didn’t register with my students in any significant way – they thought the protagonist was incessantly “whiny” and “selfish” and they couldn’t see his personal struggles as social ones.  The issues of belonging, citizenship, and racialized identity – all tropes of assimilation – seemed outdated to their very experience of being American. Aside from these basic tropes, many felt that Japanese internment was a political anomaly of the past…until I reminded them of post 9/11 detention centers and the Patriot Act.

In terms of national memory, No-No Boy offers the perfect text that forces readers to critically investigate the relationship between nation and the act of remembering.  Okada’s “whiny” protagonist is one that internalizes a fraught complex of emotions that deals with remembering the United States’ imposition of rules for its citizens, non-citizens, and Others.

SM: The students find Ichiro a “whiny” protagonist because their other readings in American literature lead them to expect the central character to surmount obstacles after an epiphany and expect the protagonist’s conflict to be resolved in some way. But Okada’s novel never allows Ichiro much movement or a complete resolution. In her book Immigrant Acts, Lisa Lowe refers to No-No Boy as “antidevelopmental in the sense that its condensed, almost static portrait that takes place within the small period of several weeks…” (50). The novel is “antidevelopmental” because it challenges the dominant story that after progressing through various stages of cultural accommodation and adaptation, racial minorities can finally be assimilated into America. The dominant narrative states that all racial minorities and immigrants can become “American,” if they try hard enough or if they “give up their culture.” No-No Boy, on the other hand, suggests that such assimilation is impossible as it portrays that a similar fate awaits both Japanese American no-no boys and the veterans who fought in the American army. For example, Ichiro’s friend Kenji, who fought in the American army, explains the violence of Japanese American war veterans toward no-no boys, such as Ichiro, as follows:

The way I see it, they pick on you because they’re vulnerable. They think just because they went and packed a rifle they’re different but they aren’t and they know it. They are still Japs….The guys who make it tough on you probably do so out of a misbegotten idea that maybe you’re to blame because the good that they thought they were doing by getting killed and shot up doesn’t amount to a pot of beans (Okada 163).

Kenji’s words assert that fighting in the American army does not do much to change the status of Japanese Americans as racialized outsiders, who are always considered inassimilable and “forever foreigners.” For Lowe, the value of No-No Boy and Asian American literature lies in its power to critique the dominant story of assimilation, which is fed to us by all media and literature till we believe it as a self-evident truth of being American, and to offer an alternative account of American history (26). Does inclusion of Asian American literature in American literature or literary canon diffuse the power of this critique?

Your point of connection between Japanese internment and post-9/11 America is significant. Do you think No-No Boy is relevant in today’s world?

SD: Your analysis of No-No Boy and its critique of the dominant narrative is extremely accurate and pertinent to Asian American literature’s inclusion in the American literary canon. The textual tension that exists between Asian/American and American literature seems to be played out institutionally as well. Just as Lisa Lowe posits the contradiction of Asians as aliens who are linguistically and culturally outsiders that occupy a marginal place within the labor markets of the U.S., the American literary canon will always see Asian American literature ambivalently – as outside and inside American literary production.

For this reason, we should ask ourselves: has the status of Asian American literature changed since the publication and reception of No-No Boy? In my opinion, it has changed but shifted so that the overt racism that makes assimilation impossible for Ichiro has become insidious.  Similarly, the production and inclusion of such texts have also become insidious, from malignant racism to benign classifications that continually set Asian American literature apart. As far as I am concerned, there’s still a monstrous gap between “American” and “Other” (Immigrant, Third World, Postcolonial, Diasporic, Asian, Minority).

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Stanley Fish and the Humanities

Posted by litdaily on October 23, 2010

[This is an updated version of the blog post “It’s so Fishy…” now featured as a dialogue between the two bloggers at Litdaily. This will be a part of our new series “Conversations” that will showcase dialogues on books and topics that demand our sustained attention.]

SD: Last week, Stanley Fish wrote about the removal of French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater programs from SUNY Albany.  The elimination of these programs marks a defined moment of crisis in the humanities for Fish…more>>

I have been musing over this article, and not because Fish’s claims about politicizing the value of the humanities to administrators is new or even radical, but because his article carries an odd tone and combination of optimism, hope, melancholia, and nostalgia. Fish’s simple solution seems like a cop out. Of course, if the administrators value the humanities, then these programs may have a chance of survival. But the question is: how do we get the administration to value the humanities??

I think it’s a lost cause, and not one that only American universities face.  It’s a global phenomenon based on the fact that worldviews have shifted.  It didn’t happen overnight or in the course of a presidential term or even over a decade. It’s been coming – this slow and gradual erosion of knowledge that centers on humanism.

SM: I agree that we live in times of momentous shift in the economic and cultural value of a humanities-based education. But in spite of The New York Times’ relentless conversation on doomsday scenarios for humanities and contrary to my own pessimistic nature, I feel there is still hope and time for us to make a strong argument for the humanities.

The problem lies in the scope of the argument. Stanley Fish’s cynical essay has already given up on some of the most powerful arguments about the humanities. Fish is doing a great disservice to the humanities by suggesting that nobody buys the argument that humanities produce “well-rounded workers” for corporations. Of course, he forgets that humanities do not produce just some abstract “well-rounded workers” but people with tangible skills of reading, writing, and critical thinking that equips future workers to articulate strong arguments, solve problems in humane and creative ways, and function effectively in global and diverse environments.

And although Fish gives up on the argument about the value of humanities, he nevertheless wants “senior academic administrators” to keep making those same arguments: “But it is the job of presidents and chancellors to proclaim the value of liberal arts education loudly and often and at least try to make the powers that be understand what is being lost…”. It is in this regard that Fish’s argument is most narrow. He wants the elitist minority of “presidents and chancellors,” whose interests do not often align with those of students’ or of the public’s, to be the leaders in this advocacy.

In contrast to Fish, I think we need to widen the scope and broaden the participation in this argument for humanities. Academic administrators and humanities teachers are not the only stakeholders in this debate. The students would be getting an incomplete education if language, arts, and literature programs were cut. The medicine programs have already incorporated some humanities content in the form of ethics and cultural sensitivity trainings, and would not be happy if those resources were now taken away. The corporations would be enraged if their newly-hired employees could not write even one coherent paragraph. So we need to see their outrage about the cuts in humanities.

Do you think we will see this outrage?

SD: I absolutely agree that we need to see the outrage over the decline of the humanities.  And this outrage should not just stem from high-level administrators at elite universities but also from the broader non-academic world.  Although Fish takes pains to articulate that no one except a few hundred academics even understand the work that stems from humanities departments such as English, it is important to still value it as a discipline of study that can and should be translated into other fields. Just because I don’t necessarily understand all medical or legal terminology doesn’t mean that I don’t think there is use-value associated with those fields.

The non-academic world should fight for the humanities.  This fight, contrary to Fish’s offense-based strategy, needs to come from all social structures, from family units to transnational corporations.  Families should want to produce children who value history, literature, and the arts because these fields provide us with a critical lens that is crucial to our growth as individuals and societies.  Transnational corporations, at the other extreme, should also fight for the humanities because the discipline provides companies with workers who understand the social, political, cultural, and economic shifts in the way that our borders expand and constrict through human interaction and transaction. In other words, the humanities ultimately serve the business of global capitalism in a way that science and math simply can’t.

Fish’s solution doesn’t even really address the real problem, which is one of reorganization and restructuring society and politics to incorporate the humanities in an effective and efficient way that meets the demands of global capitalism and unprecedented innovation in technology and science. Simply putting select administrators on the spot won’t cut it.  Instead, it minimizes the issue as one that only affects a small group of individuals who supposedly occupy an obsolete space, a corner of the Ivory Tower.

Isn’t this an issue for everyone and not those who are stuck within the confines of academia?

SM: You rightly point out that the academic humanities’ investment in the use of arcane theoretical jargon does not lead to the conclusion that they are not valuable or useful for the society at large. Fish draws a rather stark and rigid, also in my view – artificial, opposition between humanities as an academic enterprise and humanities as a part of public culture. In his follow-up essay to “Crisis of the Humanities,” he writes: “The mistake is to think that the line of justification should go from the pleasure many derive from plays, poems, novels, films, etc., to a persuasive account of how academic work enhances or even produces that pleasure. It may or may not, but if it does, that’s an accidental benefit.”

But, as you say, Fish is here only deflecting the argument. He forgets that the crisis in humanities within the university is not being defined against its value or non-value to the humanities in public culture but against other “financially lucrative,” and therefore in- demand, disciplines like engineering, medicine, and business. And the argument to be made, then, is that the academic pursuit of humanities is crucial to these other disciplines.

The corporate need for a strong humanities component in the university is evident in this op-ed piece published in The New York Times on Bloomsday this summer, which tells the story of W.D. Gillen , the president of  Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania in 1954, who sent his technical and engineering employees to an intensive training in humanities, where else but in the university, to equip them for company positions that “would need broader views than their backgrounds had so far given them.” As the op-ed author Wes Davis writes of the value and need for humanities in academia: “We need fewer drifting straws on the stream of American business, and more discontented thinkers who listen thoughtfully to both sides of our national debates. Reading Ulysses this Bloomsday may be more than just a literary observance. Think of it as an act of fiscal responsibility.”

The above example demonstrates that if we want to resolve the crisis of the humanities, we need to stop making it a zero-sum system with the other disciplines. The growth in sciences and business studies does not have to automatically mean a crisis of the humanities. Contrary to Fish’s arguments that the academic study of humanities has real benefits only for the humanities departments, we need to argue that the academic pursuit of humanities makes study of medicine and engineering more effective, and vice versa. A splendid example of the need for intertwined academic study of humanities and sciences was published in The New York Times on the same day as Fish’s essay: a profile of South Asian American physician and writer Dr. Abraham Verghese. Dr. Verghese’s profile reveals the false opposition between humanities and sciences that current arguments about crisis of humanities set up:

Art and medicine may seem disparate worlds, but Dr. Verghese insists that for him they are one. Doctors and writers are both collectors of stories, and he says his two careers have the same joy and the same prerequisite: “infinite curiosity about other people.” He cannot help secretly diagnosing ailments in strangers, or wondering about the lives his patients lead outside the hospital.

“People are endlessly mysterious,” he said in an interview in his office at the medical school, where volumes of poetry share the bookshelves with medical texts, family photos and a collection of reflex hammers.

His sources of inspiration include W. Somerset Maugham and Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. In addition to his medical degree, he has one from the writing workshop at the University of Iowa.

Of course, humanities and sciences are not the same; they are different but not necessarily opposed. Dr. Verghese is a powerful reminder that there is always an art and a history of sciences and business.

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It’s so Fishy…

Posted by litdaily on October 18, 2010

Last week, Stanley Fish wrote about the removal of French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater programs from SUNY Albany.  The elimination of these programs marks a defined moment of crisis in the humanities for Fish…more>>

I have been musing over this article, and not because Fish’s claims about politicizing the value of the humanities to administrators is new or even radical, but because his article carries an odd tone and combination of optimism, hope, melancholia, and nostalgia. Fish’s simple solution seems like a cop out. Of course, if the administrators value the humanities, then these programs may have a chance of survival. But the question is: how do we get the administration to value the humanities??

I think it’s a lost cause, and not one that only American universities face.  It’s a global phenomenon based on the fact that worldviews have shifted.  It didn’t happen overnight or in the course of a presidential term or even over a decade. It’s been coming – this slow and gradual erosion of knowledge that centers on humanism.

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Education and Blame

Posted by litdaily on October 12, 2010

As readers may have noticed from previous posts, the state of academia is a topic that keeps coming up.  One of the reasons that it does is because we’re graduate students who participate wholly in that institution even as we are marginalized in it due to race, gender, and blah blah blah.

Regardless, one of the issues that I’ve noticed is that sites like Minding the Campus and Chronicle of Higher Education keep writing articles on education reform.  These articles are loosely based on the responsibility of the system to educate our children, the fears revolving around tenure, the lack of merit involving teachings without tenure, and the value of the arts.  If you scroll down this page, you’ll see that I’ve posted many of these on this blog.

But what concerns me here – as a teacher, a graduate student, a mother, and a citizen – is that there is a distinct and disturbing silence regarding the responsibility of the student to learn.  While all of those other elements matter, how do we “fix” the system if there are students who don’t respect education or educators, fail to show up to class and turn in assignments, are disruptive, and have an unearned sense of entitlement?  How will tenuring and not tenuring professors affect these students who seem to be the norm rather than the exception?

This is what I think: we don’t want to face the truth.  And the truth is that the future subjects of this country could care less about the arts or tenured faculty as long as they get their easy As, breeze through college either intoxicated or high, and get an entry level job at a company upon graduation.  I know that I am generalizing here, but semester after semester, I get a stream of students who just don’t really give a shit.  And then I read these journals who want to sugar-coat the truth by placing the blame on the system and educators.

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Lan Samantha Chang’s Novel “All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost”

Posted by litdaily on October 8, 2010

Lan Samantha Chang’s new novel All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost charts the dynamics between two poetry students and their teacher in a creative writing workshop, and through their lives beyond the MFA program…more>>

Chang is the first Asian American and the first woman Director of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she discusses the process of writing her new novel in interviews here and here.

Students love to hate creative writing workshops, even as they find something addictive and compelling about the specific chemistry between students and teachers that propels the workshop in either productive or destructive directions. Thus, the writing workshop is a perfect setting for heightened drama between characters. Also, the novel seems to be an appropriate form for assessing the influence of writing workshops on a writer’s work over many years. While Lan Samantha Chang might be right in asserting that reports of the homogenizing influence of writing workshops are “greatly overrated,” the workshops do make demands that the stories be written in a particular way. As a graduate student of color in a creative writing workshop, I was asked not to use “foreign” words while at the same time I was repeatedly asked to explain “foreign cultures” in my writing. I would argue that the most prominent feature of the people and the writing in workshops is not the tendency to homogenize, but something else, that according to Brenda Wineapple’s review in The New York Times, defines the characters in Chang’s novel: “a prepossessing narcissism.” In writing workshops, we write “songs of ourselves”. Some of the writers realize the trap within this narcissism while others find liberation in it.

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The New Doctoral Rankings

Posted by litdaily on September 30, 2010

The National Research Council has issued its doctoral program rankings, which carry an incredible amount of weight and authority in the lives of prospective and current graduate students.  The rankings can be checked on the Chronicle of Higher Education website…>>

One reviewer of the results, Mark Bauerlein, asserts that there are two problems or “dubious measures of the quality of research” with the rankings: Diversity of the academic environment and faculty output (measuring quantity instead of quality)…more>>

On both counts, Bauerlein seems to be right on the mark.  It’s important to know how diverse departments are, especially if you don’t belong to the dominant group. The rankings, however, only take into account underrepresented, non-Asian groups and females.  This is highly problematic in the humanities where Asians, male and female, are often far and few in-between and lack majority or minority representation. Faculty output, similarly, should be measured differently across departments. In social sciences, the production of work is much different than fields like English where research is drawn from many other fields.

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What to do about the Arts?

Posted by litdaily on September 21, 2010

In this article, John M. Eger asserts that the arts shouldn’t be treated as a frill…more>>

While it’s nice to support the arts or its value in society, I can’t help feeling that it’s a lost cause.  I can’t imagine Obama waking up one day and thinking, “hm…I’ve taken care of health care, now let’s turn our attention to the arts..”

Universities are businesses. Businesses are driven by profit.  Math and sciences are profitable.  The arts are not. It’s as simple as that.

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Jailhouse Teaching

Posted by litdaily on September 14, 2010

David Chura’s article is one of the few that isn’t griping about the value of teaching and humanities…>>more

Although he is not talking about “academic” institutions, there is no doubt in his voice that he believes in the power of reading, writing, and thinking.  Even while knowing the odds for the impoverished children he’s instructing, he places hope in their abilities and futures with regards to education.

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Committing Disciplinary Suicide

Posted by litdaily on September 7, 2010

Although this article on the death of the English discipline was written at the end of August, it’s been a continuing debate in the Humanities…more>>

Issues regarding the loss of literary theory has been centralized by public scholars like Stanley Fish and has produced much anxiety in English departments. While some want to steer clear of literature and literary theory (not sure why these professors go into English), others are bemoaning it’s loss.  Those who are, however, concerned about the future of literary studies, are also secure in their tenure positions in departments.  So while it’s an issue for English in general, they won’t personally suffer from the consequences.  After all, while their tenure lasts, they can continue to publish on Faulkner, Wharton, and Fitzgerald.

The scholars who will suffer are graduate students who are looking to hopefully and wishfully fill their positions.  These are students who are trying to “catch up” in their literary theory while also engaging in political theory, cultural theory, economic theory, and scientific theory in order to gauge where the academic market is going to take them – everywhere and nowhere.

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Your Weekly Moment of Seriousness

Posted by litdaily on September 4, 2010

This week’s featured comic sketch is a collaboration between Hari Kondabolu and Randall Park titled “Dumb Professor”:

And here is a recent interview with the actor, writer, and stand-up comic Randall Park in Hyphen.

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Replicating Indian and Chinese Education in the West

Posted by litdaily on September 2, 2010

American filmmaker Robert Compton’s documentary, “2 Million Minutes” urges U.S. schools to mimic Indian and Chinese education.  Even with high illiteracy rates, primary school drop-out rates, and extreme levels of poverty, there is an inherent culture of learning that arises from everyday interactions and the inculcation of learning habits…more >>

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Controversial Professor is Removed from Teaching

Posted by litdaily on August 31, 2010

University of Illinois has “removed” a controversial professor from his teaching duties for making a sexual reference to students in an email and for letting one student videotape class discussion…more>>

The word “professional” comes to mind.  It’s certainly not professional for professors to make sexual references, however witty and/or minimal the comments might be.  This controversy obviously speaks of more than just a sexual reference.  While the professor’s removal might be related to other possible issues, classrooms seem to have ceased being professional spaces in general.  Professors can say or do anything they want (who reviews their syllabi?), students can freely abuse their professors through online ratings or disruptions in class without any consequences, students can take pictures with their cameras and post them on Facebook or sites like “Rate my Professor” without being sued or held liable, etc.

Higher education needs an overhaul if it wants to claim “professionalism” in the classroom. It’s not just about a sexual reference, about taping discussion, about biased and unwarranted ratings, or other liberties that professors and students feel free to engage in. It’s about standards, expectations, and respect for education.

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Radically Changing the University

Posted by litdaily on August 31, 2010

In Crisis on Campus, Mark Taylor demands a radical change in colleges and universities. The biggest and most polemic change he advocates is abolishing tenure…more>>

There are many reasons for either abolishing tenure or changing the basic system of tenure. Here’s a list of three big ones below:

(1) Keeping tenured professors on their toes.  In other words, change with the times!

(2) Holding tenured professors responsible and liable for their responsibilities. Imagine a scenario where they actually have to read and teach the materials their students need to learn. This is even better for graduate students who depend on faculty members to help them through their own theses and dissertations but rarely receive it.

(3)  JOBS!  There is a reason why ALL the other institutions follow retirement protocols.  Although academics, in this case, tend to favor the mind/body separation (who cares if I’m almost dead, I can still think, right?), they need to graciously step out of the way to let more batches of qualified applicants fill their spots.

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The Undocumented Asian Immigrant and Cultural Stigma

Posted by litdaily on August 30, 2010

Although immigration issues tend to target Latin Americans and other Hispanic communities, there are over 1.5 million undocumented Asians living in the U.S.  For undocumented Asian students, the DREAM Act can help them obtain the financial aid they need to continue their education…more >>

Although some undocumented Asian American students are willing to fight for their rights, the cultural stigma that the Asian communities impose on their own members may still hinder their ability to be heard.  Aside from their own ethnic communities, the “model minority” stereotype still renders issues of immigration invisible.  How can undocumented Asians fight for their rights when the category of “Asian” isn’t even considered an ethnic minority in the United States by scholars in academia and by the general public?

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