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Posts by Marc Bousquet


April 18, 2012, 03:31 PM ET

Robots Are Grading Your Papers!

A just-released report confirms earlier studies showing that machines score many short essays about the same as human graders. Once again, panic ensues: We can't let robots grade our students' writing! That would be so, uh, mechanical. Admittedly, this panic isn't about Scantron grading of multiple-choice tests, but an ideological, market- and foundation-driven effort to automate assessment of that exquisite brew of rhetoric, logic, and creativity called student writing. Without question, this study is performed by folks with huge financial stakes in the results, and they are driven by non-education motives. But isn't the real question not whether the machines deliver similar scores, but why? It seems possible that what really troubles us about the success of machine assessment of simple writing forms isn't the scoring, but the writing itself--forms of writing that don't exist anywhere ... Read More

September 28, 2011, 04:25 PM ET

Cornel West Occupies Wall Street; Movement Spreads

Susan Sarandon and Cornel West have met with the occupation;  dozens of cities are seeing fledgling occupation movements.  An Occupy Boston! organizing meeting last night reportedly drew over 300 participants; marches and occupations are ongoing in Chicago and Los Angeles, and expected this weekend in both San Francisco and San Jose, as well as Washington, D.C. Buffalo, New York and Lexington, Kentucky  are seeing hundreds express interest in occupation-related events via social media. Glenn Greenwald at Salon does the best job so far of analyzing the left's bungled reaction to the occupation: Some of this anti-protest posturing is just the all-too-familiar New-Republic-ish eagerness to prove one's own Seriousness by castigating anyone to the left of, say, Dianne Feinstein or John Kerry; for such individuals, multi-term, pro-Iraq-War Democratic Senator-plutocrats define the... Read More

February 15, 2011, 01:28 PM ET

We Are All Roman Porn Stars Now

Most Chronicle readers probably aren't among the 3 million or so that Neilsen can measure watching the Spartacus prequel miniseries Gods of the Arena, which premiered in January at the number one position among cable shows in its time slot. Episode 5 plays Friday, 2/18 (Starz, but the best way to catch up is in your Netflix streaming queue). I don't particularly recommend that you watch the series—catch up on The Wire, Nurse Jackie, or Breaking Bad first—but it's worth trying to understand how it's managed to hold its audience. Certainly some of its viewers, as you might expect, tune in for the objectified porn-star bodies of the actors. But they stay because they identify with the characters in the story. I think it's worth trying to understand this identification, in large part because it seems to be an identification with a mode of exploitation similar to our own. With... Read More

October 5, 2010, 01:09 PM ET

Off With Our Heads! Schools Without Administrators

A funny thing is happening in the United States. Across the country, headless schools are opening. One opens this fall in Detroit: The teachers' terms of employment are still governed by their union's contract with Detroit Public Schools, but they will administer themselves on a democratic, cooperative basis.  In just the past couple of years, schools run by teacher cooperatives have opened in Madison, Denver, Chicago, Boston, and New York.  Milwaukee has 13 teacher-run schools.

These aren't universities. They are elementary schools, kindergartens, high schools of the arts and humanities, high schools for budding scientists and programmers, high schools for social justice. Sometimes four or five co-operatively run and publicly-funded schools share the same building and grounds. Few of them operate in wealthy neighborhoods. Nearly all of them serve students who are struggling because...

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October 5, 2010, 01:08 PM ET

From Occupation to Inhabitation

What does it mean to "occupy" a school? A school occupation is not, as the corporate media like to portray it, a hostile takeover. A school occupation is an action by those who are already its inhabitants--students, faculty, and staff--and those for whom the school exists. (Which is to say for a public institution, the public itself. ) The actions termed "occupations" of a public institution, then, are really re-occupations, a renovation and reopening to the public of a space long captured and stolen by the private interests of wealth and privilege.  The goal of this renovation and reopening is to inhabit school spaces as fully as possible, to make them truly habitable--to make the school a place fit for living.

Lessons From Schoolteachers: Permanent Occupation
It is hard to overstate the radicalism of this spreading front of action. Teachers, supported by their unions, in partnership...

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September 28, 2010, 03:59 PM ET

NBC's Education Nation: Policy Summit or Puppet Show?

I’d like you to imagine the following. Suppose we are going to have a national summit on health care. Do you not suppose that a substantial number of the voices included would be from professionals in health care, including doctors and nurses? Would you have three people with just the head of the AMA to represent doctors?

Or how about legal reform – would not lawyers scream if such a conference were organized without a substantial portion of the main participants being members of the profession representing the range of opinions within the legal field?

Why then is it when it comes to education that people think it is appropriate to have major discussions about education without fair inclusion of the voices of those who bear the greatest burden for the education of our children, the parents and the teachers? --Kenneth Bernstein, Cooperative Catalyst

So I tied off my upper arm and mainlined...

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September 15, 2010, 05:52 PM ET

Bye, Bye, Duncan?

President Obama's 2010 back-to-school address is notable largely for lack of controversy. Apparently, by now most Republican pols have gotten the word: psst, on education, he's on our side! The message—if you can call it that—(noses to the grindstone, kiddies!) was deliberately free of any content that could be directly related to the upcoming midterm elections. In stark contrast to last year's hoopla, this year's talk wasn't even covered by many major newspapers.

The speech didn't just steer clear of the midterms—it downplayed Obama's own education initiatives, and his controversial education secretary, present at the speech, was only mentioned in the introduction. Anything about policy or funding—the unpopular "signature" program, Race to the Top? Not a word. It's usual for the location for these sorts of things to signal a reference to the pol's accomplishments, but this time...

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August 25, 2010, 04:37 PM ET

Public Rejects Obama Education Secretary

When the president named Arne Duncan as his first secretary of education, he was doing a lot more, and a lot worse, than just naming a Chicago crony and basketball buddy to a critical Cabinet position. He was adopting one of the most aggressive, least tested, top-down, pro-corporate philosophies toward education administration ever promoted in this country.

Despite clear evidence that Duncan's methods had failed to improve Chicago Public Schools by the only measure he overwhelmingly targeted (test scores), reporters from the corporate media tripped all over themselves to lavish friendly coverage on Duncan's efforts to bring the same tactics to bear on a national scale. Taking advantage of state revenue shortages, Duncan took command of a massive fiscal war chest and turned it into a reality legislation show called Race to the Top.

"Want a piece of my billions?" Duncan asked the states,...

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August 10, 2010, 01:18 PM ET

Cushy for Whom?

An interesting piece in last week's Chronicle, "Goodbye to those Overpaid Professors in their Cushy Jobs," attempts a possibly premature farewell to a stereotype, the enduring myth that "college professors lead easy lives." According to reporter Ben Gose, once-rampant complaints about the imaginary prof on a three-day work week are now hard to find.

Nonetheless he notes an interesting source for some doozy "last gasps" of lazy-prof stereotypes: faculty members themselves. Gose speculates that the prof-on-prof stereotypers are trying to do the profession a favor, in the front line of faculty members "policing their own" and targeting "perceived slackers," etc.

The photograph and first third of the article are devoted to the emotional and contradictory views of Prof. John Hare, chair of English at Montgomery College in Maryland. According to Gose, Hare "became furious" at a...

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July 27, 2010, 11:52 AM ET

Dianetics for Higher Ed?

Should The New York Times exist?

Ha—you're thinking, "What an unfair question!" Or "You've framed the debate in an obviously unfair or careless way."

And right you are. But since I'm a rich and powerful chunk of media capital with a stake in the answer, I don't care what you think, and I'm free to compound the injury by holding a false "debate" on a question that unfairly asks one side to argue for its existence.

Enter The New York Times and its latest bungled attempt at analyzing higher ed, which just riffs on a piece reported by Robin Wilson for The Chronicle. As if framing a loaded question weren't enough, they stack the deck, a couple of different ways. In the more obvious manipulation of the lineup, opponents of tenure outnumber proponents 3-2.

More importantly: In a debate about the "demise" of tenure, the debate's framers don't include any voices of persons who are living the...

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