May 21, 2013, 1:31 pm
An Open Letter to Daphne Koller
Co-Founder and Co-President of Coursera and
Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University
Dear Professor Koller,
Because I share your vision of creating a world in which all have access to an excellent and empowering education, I would like to propose a new online course for you to make freely available through the Coursera platform. Its title is “The Implications of Coursera’s For-Profit Business Model for Global Public Education.”
You and your company’s compelling pitch to consumers suggests that the private sector—that is, venture capitalists and not taxpayers—can deliver a more equal world in which income will be based on the skills and knowledge people actually acquire rather than the unnecessarily-scarce credentials for which they are eligible and can afford to pay. It is natural to hope that in this more equal and …
May 13, 2013, 1:38 pm
Truth, we’re told, is the first casualty of war. But as I hunker in my office bunker, the dull thud of history term papers landing on my desk, columns of sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden students trudging past the door, I’m convinced that truth is also the first casualty of undergraduate paper writing. It is not only the historical truths trampled in the mangled and muddied papers written by my students. More insidiously, a deeper truth also suffers. Only tatters remain of the contract, implicit but immemorial, that teachers will grade student papers fairly and honestly. This shared conviction, that the students’ level of writing can be raised only if the teacher levels with them, now seems a historical artifact.
At the start of the spring semester, as with every semester, I told my students that while this was a history course, the most important thing I could teach them in 15…
May 6, 2013, 1:00 pm
Why not let him e-guest-lecture? (Michael Sandel of Harvard via Flickr/CC)
Are MOOCs and other online materials a threat to quality public higher education, and to our role as professors? The members of the philosophy department at San Jose State University think so. They recently issued an open letter to Michael Sandel, of Harvard University, objecting to his role in encouraging the use of MOOCs at public universities. The controversy stems from San Jose State’s contract with edX, a company that provides MOOCs, including one based on Sandel’s course on justice at Harvard. San Jose State has agreed to use materials provided by edX, but the philosophy department has refused to use Sandel’s online lectures in its courses.
I am a political theorist at a large public university, and this term, for the first…
April 17, 2013, 12:00 pm
In the uproar that followed Suzy Lee Weiss’s “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me,” one assumption was left untouched: that Weiss, like any student, would be better off at an Ivy League college than at one of the Big Ten universities she now plans to attend.
As someone who split her undergraduate career between a large public university and an Ivy, I’d like to suggest something different: Weiss (who, full disclosure, is the sister of a friend) is lucky to have gotten those rejections.
I, like Weiss, was a middle-class white girl from the suburbs who started her freshman year at a big state university feeling entitled to a fancier education. When I secured a spot in Harvard’s transfer class, I was sure I stood only to gain: My classmates in the University of Maryland’s upper-level English classes asked questions that struck me as hopelessly naïve, I got A’s on…
April 4, 2013, 1:45 pm
President Obama last month took a group of Republican senators to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, in Washington, to discuss the sequestration crisis and a wide range of other policy matters. The next day he asked Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the former vice-presidential candidate, to lunch at the White House. Another meal with Senate Republicans is planned for April 10. The goal of those meetings? To score PR points—but also to build personal relationships that might erode partisan gridlock.
It’s too early to tell whether the president’s outreach will work, but social-science research suggests that friendships that reach across the political aisle may be good for democracy: They facilitate cooperation by reducing extremism and enhancing trust. In a 2002 study, the political scientist Diana Mutz assessed the effects of political diversity among friends. Study participants who…
February 7, 2013, 11:54 am
A pointed topos has emerged among English educators in the media in the last few years. It concerns a statement uttered by the educator David Coleman at a gathering of many educators in Albany, hosted by David Steiner, then-Education Commissioner of New York State, in April 2011. At the time, Coleman was the lead architect of the Common Core State Standards, the education effort sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers that set out to draft new standards in mathematics and English language arts from kindergarten to 12th grade. The Common Core standards have evolved into the most sweeping reform of public schooling in many decades, a controversial reform with Coleman himself an object of strong feelings on both sides.
Coleman has since become the head of College Board, and the Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and have the full backing of the Obama…