Sentences to Ponder

From Three Reasons for Those Hefty College Tuition Bills:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 the median worker with a bachelor’s degree (and no advanced degree) earned $69,260, compared with $34,540 for the median worker with only a high school diploma.

From Federal Health-Insurance Exchanges See Nearly Six Million Apply for 2016 Coverage:

Analysts said lackluster enrollment that trends toward sicker and older consumers could prompt some carriers to leave the exchanges: The biggest U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., said last month that it is re-evaluating whether to sell plans on the marketplaces because of losses on policies sold on them.

From The home-grown threat:

Since 9/11, over 400,000 people have been killed by gunfire in America and 45 by jihadist violence, of whom half died in two shootings: one carried out by a Muslim army doctor in Texas in 2009, the other in San Bernardino.

[Highly recommended. The single best ISIS-related thing I’ve read in recent weeks.]

 

An Unfortunate, Delicate Dance

Consider this short New York Times essay by Allison Wood, “‘Get Home Safe,’ My Rapist Said.

As a writer, the essay’s potent, unadorned intimacy impressed me; as a human being, I was disheartened by the harsh reality of how routinely crimes like Wood’s rape go unpunished; and as a father of two young women in similar life settings, I was left with a sense of dread that anything remotely similar would ever happen to them.

But also a sense of appreciation for what is in fact a teaching tool. However, one problem with thinking about it as a teaching tool is that when your “children” are in fact young adults of 20 and 23, they’re unlikely to take parental advice unless it’s solicited. And I’m not expecting them to ask my thoughts on sexual assault at Christmas dinner.

But I feel fortunate that they read the humble blog, so the rest is with them in mind. Feel free to eavesdrop.

The part of Wood’s essay that jumped off the page for me was this:

“Looking back, I blame myself, in that typical victimized woman way. I never should have let myself be alone with him. I should have run the second he stood up. I should have grabbed a knife and started screaming.

Of course Woods shouldn’t even think about blaming herself, nonetheless, her thought, “I never should have let myself be alone with him,” is an important one. It would be understandable if any woman who reads Wood’s essay overcompensates and begins thinking about every male semi-stranger as a serious threat, thus limiting their prospects for life-enhancing friendships with caring and kind males, of whom there are still many.

The challenge is two-fold, to trust some males a lot less than at present and others more. That requires working together to develop threat-detecting antennae by initially erring on the side of safety by doing everything in your power to avoid being alone with strangers while simultaneously assessing that acquaintances are, in fact, in the caring and kind majority.

An unfortunate, delicate dance.

 

The Cold, Hard Reality of Teaching’s Artificiality

Yesterday a colleague said she thought about “just canceling everything” this week, the last of the semester before final exams. “I thought I’d just tell them we’re through. That’s it. That’s all there is.”

That brought “I feel you” laughter from others. So when I told another colleague that today was the last class session of the semester, she said, “I bet you’re happy about that.” “No,” I explained, “I’m going to miss this group.”

My thirteen first year writers this semester were amazing. They were from Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon, and different parts of Washington State. They were funny and kind and they listened to whomever was speaking. They thoughtfully embraced the questions inspired by the course theme, “The Art of Living”. They shared their differing perspectives on the need for a philosophy of life; on gratitude and empathy; on money’s relative importance; on friendship, family, and romantic love; and on spirituality’s relative importance. They liked one another, they liked the course content, they tolerated their teacher.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a group of randomly assigned students gel with one another and me in unexpected ways so I have a feel for what our future holds. I’ll see them in a few months or years somewhere on campus, probably walking across Red Square. And a fair number will pretend they don’t see me. I have a sophisticated phrase for this phenomenon, “That was then, this is now.”

I remember the Good Wife experiencing this her second or third September of teaching. Much to her dismay, her third graders whom she had poured her soul into, quickly bonded with their fourth grade teacher. She was lucky to get sheepish hand waves when she wanted hugs of continuous gratitude. Their subtle head nods conveyed “That was then, this is now”.

This semester I instituted a social psychology experiment of sorts. Mid-semester, after bonding with my thirteen writers, I explained the “That was then, this is now” phenomenon. Of course they didn’t need it explained, but my figuring them out brought smiles of appreciation.

Then, occasionally, I would begin class by reporting on brief interactions with former students elsewhere on campus. “Saw three students on my way to and from the pool at lunch yesterday, two made eye contact and said ‘hello’.” They enjoyed my scorekeeping.

So today, my parting words were a request, “When you see me on campus, don’t look past me, say ‘hello’.” They said they would, but I’ll settle for subtle head nods.

 

 

 

 

If You Must Be Afraid, Fear These Things

Thanks in large part to media coverage of high profile mass shootings, lots of people are feeling more fearful than normal.

If you’re feeling even a little more fearful than normal, maintain the positive routines of your life and limit your media exposure. You don’t have to completely bury your head in the sand, but you also don’t have to become an expert in all things ISIS.

If you’re resigned to being more fearful than normal, then you should study this Center for Disease Control list of threats that greatly outweigh an ISIS-inspired mass shooting.

Number of deaths for leading causes of death

  • Heart disease: 611,105
  • Cancer: 584,881
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
  • Diabetes: 75,578
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2013, table 10[PDF – 1.5 MB]

Want to truly be, not just feel, more secure? Take a walk outside, eat more fruits and vegetables, don’t drink or drive, and wear a seatbelt.

Alternatively, you can follow Jerry Falwell Jrs. advice.

 

Why We’re Likely to See More Student Protests in the Future

In some courses I use a class activity I created that requires my predominantly white future teachers to advise me, their hypothetical principal, on what our increasingly diverse and divided hypothetical high school’s priorities should be. They rank issues in order of importance, first individually, then as teams of “teacher-leaders”. They always rank “Our faculty is predominantly white; as a result, students question whether we value cultural and ethnic diversity” as the least important of the seven issues. In doing so, they say faculty members’ open-mindedness is more important than the color of their skin.

Meaning they are utterly clueless as to what it’s like to never see anyone that looks remotely like them in positions of authority. Some bus drivers, an occasional custodian, but never a teacher or administrator. How does that experience, year after year after year, effect African-American or Latino students’ thinking about what’s possible in the future?

Contrast my students’ thinking with current campus protest leaders:

libresco-datalab-students.png

From least important to single most important. The challenge will be increasing the diversity of college and university faculty given what we know about who is earning PhD’s, the typical prerequisite to higher education faculty positions. Most doctoral students attend selective undergraduate institutions which are struggling to recruit and retain students of color:

Among the 100-odd “very high research activity” institutions scored by Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, most saw their percentage of black undergraduates shrink between 1994 and 2013, the product of modest growth in black enrollment amid a much more rapid expansion of students on campus, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

This list includes not only Ivy League schools and selective private colleges, but also many large public universities, including UCLA, Florida State, and the University of Michigan. Meanwhile, other institutions of higher education—including speciality schools, baccalaureate programs, and colleges that primarily offer associate degrees—have seen black representation increase, sometimes dramatically. Source.

Long story short, the “x” axis, demand for increasingly diverse faculty does not align well at all with the “y” axis, supply of African American, Latino, and other PhD graduates of color. Meaning more protests ahead.