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Disagreeing with Bill Gates

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Bill Gates and I don’t often disagree. However, at the recent Techonomy conference, Bill was predicting the future of higher education. I took umbrage with some of his comments. Per his usual rhetoric, Bill positioned technology as the panacea for the future of higher education.

Here are some of Bill’s comments:

“The self-motivated [college] learner will be on the web and there will be far less place-based things.”
“College, except for the parties…. needs to be less place-based.”
“Place-based activity in that ‘college thing’ will be 5 times less important than it is today.”
“The room for innovation, thank God for charters, there’s no room for innovation in the standard system.”

Bill’s commentary at the conference was picked up by TechCrunch and posted as “Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web.”

The post quickly spread like a wildfire throughout Twitter:

“In five years, the best education will come from the web.” – @billgates http://cot.ag/aK6f0Mless than a minute ago via CoTweet

The interesting thing is that the quote that’s being passed around on Twitter as originating from Bill Gates seems to have been actually just the post title from TechCrunch. I wasn’t able to find video or text where Bill Gates actually said what is being attributed to him by a lot of folks on Twitter.

The disturbing aspects of Bill’s quotes from the video are that he seems to have a negative attitude toward the physical spaces of higher education. Bill constructs his arguments around cost and access, but fails to adequately critique his own points. “Self-motivated learners” generally do not include students from traditionally marginalized groups. Bill Gates went to an exclusive preparatory high school and attended Harvard College. His is not a story of overcoming obstacles. Access issues are pervasive in higher education. Socioeconomic status catapulted Gates to where he is today. His arguments around access fail to include awareness of the digital divide in terms of both class and disability. Simply offering more web-based opportunities for learning will not improve access issues. And don’t get me started about the bit about “parties” being the only rationale for “place-based” institutions.

Bill’s rhetoric is consistently anti-student-involvement. Gates approaches his arguments from the position that every student is coming out of an innovative charter school and where self-motivated learners roam the higher education sphere. What Bill is forgetting is that involvement is crucial to student success. Can a student be successful when there primary involvement opportunities take place via the web — absolutely. However, most of our students benefit tremendously from their involvement and interactions within the brick and mortar activities of their educational institution.

Student involvement theory is a foundational element for student affairs professionals. Research has shown that increased involvement leads to higher amounts of persistence and greater academic success.

According to Alexander Astin (1984) [pdf]:

[S]tudent involvement refers to the amount of physical and psycho- logical energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. Thus, a highly involved student is one who, for example, devotes considerable energy to studying, spends much time on campus, participates actively in student organizations, and interacts frequently with faculty members and other students.

Astin (1984) concluded that “the greater the student’s involvement in college, the greater will be the amount of student learning and personal development.”

I wish that Bill Gates would offer a blended approach. Why can’t we have both? Amazing opportunities can be created to support students in both the virtual and physical spheres.

References
Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: a developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308.

Furloughs and Privilege

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Furlough days at Oregon State University plus privilege by Robert P Garrett

It was almost two weeks ago when the Oregon State University faculty senate voted for furloughs for all faculty (grant-supported salary is exempt) in 2010. It should be noted that the Oregon State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors “came out in support of furloughs provided that a number of important principles be included in the resolution.” I agree with the OSU AAUP’s suggestions. The top income tiers for furloughs need to be modified so that people who make more than $14,000 per month take more furlough days. If you make $168,000 pre-tax, I think you can handle a bit more of a cut. If you can’t make ends meet, then perhaps you should hire me to manage your finances.

Speaking of privilege…OSU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Robert P. Garrett, decided that the best way to address the furlough situation was to attack Oregon State’s multicultural support programs via a letter in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. According to “Bobby,” OSU’s programs that support underrepresented and/or historically marginalized groups represent a redundant financial burden on our predominantly white campus. In summary, a white male professor on a mostly white campus says that there are just too many campus groups that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks. I wonder how many groups/organizations/offices at OSU are made up of a majority of straight white men. Anecdotally, I would offer that there are a lot…more in fact, than the “redundant” orgs of which Robert writes.

Here are few of the choicest bits from Robert P. Garrett’s letter with a few added thoughts from yours truly:

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How rich are you?

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How rich are you in the world?

How rich are you?

When we consider how well we are doing financially, we must choose a referent. That is, when we ask the question (“How well am I doing?”), we are also, simultaneously choosing a comparison group (e.g., people in our profession, people of our same sex, people our age, etc).

Most of us probably also restrict our considerations to people in the same country. We usually don’t think about how well we are doing compared to all human beings in the world, but this website allows us to do just that. If you put in your yearly income, it will show you where you rank on a global scale (Yen, Canadian dollars, U.S. dollars, Euros, and Pounds only, unfortunately).

via Sociological Images & LR

Written by Eric Stoller

November 28th, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Class,This and that

Tagged with ,

Iowa: whiteness romanticized

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Driftless - Stories from Iowa
via Driftless: Stories from Iowa

Driftless: Stories from Iowa, is a MediaStorm project that features stories from rural Iowa from the point of view of photojournalist Danny Wilcox Frazier. Frazier, a white guy from Iowa City, Iowa, frames Iowa from a majority white, romanticized point of view.

I was raised in Southeast Iowa near Iowa City and have been to a lot of the towns that are featured in Frazier’s project. The project is split into distinct sections: Family Farm, Town Bar, Jumping Rock, Migrant Labor, Country Butcher, and Harry & Helen.

Kalona and Conesville are a couple of the towns that are featured in the project. I grew up in that part of Iowa – East of Kalona and West of Conesville. The film includes many of the things that most people associate with Iowa: farming, cows, hogs, cornfields, gravel roads, guns, tractors, and white people. Associating Iowa with white people is not a difficult thing to do as the latest U.S. Census numbers show that Iowa is 94% white. However, Iowa is not 100% white and I think that Frazier is barely aware of this fact.

Frazier’s interviews in the piece construct rural Iowans as being all white and that people of color, predominantly Latinos, are “newcomers” or semi-permanent residents. People from Mexico immigrated to Iowa as early as the 1800’s. Frazier’s subjects who are older than 50 are all white and are depicted as “true Iowans.”

Whiteness is romanticized. The video clip titled “Migrant Labor” and the transcript of the video provides ample fodder for critique:

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Joseph Orosco on the legacy of Cesar Chavez

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Cezar Chavez St. in Austin Texas

Oregon State University Director of Peace Studies and associate professor of philosophy Joseph Orosco is interviewed about the legacy of Cesar Chavez:

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Written by Eric Stoller

July 11th, 2009 at 7:25 pm

More on meritocracy myth

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The meritocracy myth is a lie. It is perpetuated and propagandized. It exists to buttress the status quo and maintain systems of power and privilege.

The Horatio Alger myth, so inspirational during periods of growth, may work against people during contractions. Its message of can-do individualism urges us to beat the odds, but it cuts us no slack when the odds grow terribly long. The impotent struggle to prevail against conditions that won’t yield can prove the unmaking of self-made men, and perhaps turn them into madmen now and then. For true believers in the gospel of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, the notion that bootstraps sometimes snap — and occasionally in great numbers, simultaneously — is destabilizing and bewildering. To accept that this notion is true may suggest that you have been lied to about how the system works, provoking resentment. To deny this truth may convince you that the defect lies in yourself, provoking despair

via Racialicious, via the NY Times

Written by Eric Stoller

May 24th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Space Race Matters

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NASA Astronauts

One of the bitter ironies anti-racists face when working to end white-supremacist thinking and action is that the folks who most perpetuate it are the individuals who are usually the least willing to acknowledge that race matters. (bell hooks, Teaching Community, 2003, p. 28)

You may be wondering what 7 astronauts have to do with a quote about anti-racism work from bell hooks. I too would be curious. Well, let me attempt to fill in several bits of context and hopefully you’re wonder will be satiated.

Last week, while checking out a NASA-related post from one of my favorite blogs, the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture Blog,” I happened to observe that none of the 7 astronauts for NASA’s latest space shuttle mission were people of color.

There were already 15 comments on the post. Most of the comments praised the ingenuity of NASA or extolled the fantastically big pictures on the post/site. I decided to post a seemingly innocent question regarding the racial makeup of the 7 astronauts in picture #23:

The pool of astronauts isn’t the most diverse is it?
7 white people. 6 guys and only 1 woman. Where are the astronauts of color??? ~Eric Stoller

I had no idea that my comment would generate a shower of racist rhetoric and inflammatory comments.

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Race, Disaster and Comparative Suffering

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Tim Wise on racism and racist rhetoric in Iowa flooding and New Orleans Katrina

Tim Wise has written a new essay that critiques the racist rhetoric that’s being furiously spread around the interwebs in the wake of flooding in Iowa – “Adding Insult to Injury: Race, Disaster and the Calculus of Comparative Suffering.” It’s a deeper analysis that is very similar in context to my post on “Comparing Iowa to New Orleans.”

Disasters bring out the best and worst in people.

On the one hand, millions of folks respond to the suffering of their fellow human beings with compassion, concern, and even significant financial assistance when needed. Be it a hurricane, an earthquake, tornadoes or the recent massive flooding in the Midwestern United States, the hearts, minds, and often wallets of large numbers of the nation’s people are with those in need.

And on the other hand, there’s Rush Limbaugh, who has decided to use the flooding in Iowa not to demonstrate compassion, but as an opportunity to make derogatory statements about poor black folks: specifically those caught by the flooding in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005.

This week, as folks in Iowa, Indiana and parts of Illinois have watched flood waters rise ever higher, Limbaugh took to the air to contrast these supposedly good and decent people who have joined forces to help each other, with the presumably evil, lazy and violent folks of New Orleans, who we are told, did nothing but foment criminality and wait for the government to save them during flooding there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Written by Eric Stoller

June 22nd, 2008 at 11:59 am

OSU Bridge to Success Program

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Oregon State University

Oregon State University leaders have announced a new financial aid initiative that in its first school year, 2008-09, will enable a full 10 percent of the Oregonian students who attend OSU to do so free of charge.

The Bridge to Success Program will pool federal resources with funds from the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the Campaign for OSU and redirected institutional monies to cover all tuition and fee costs for 1,500 in-state students this fall. Additional funds will cover books and supplies for half of those students.

Awards will be based on financial need and students’ ability to show satisfactory progress toward completion of degrees, including taking 15 credits each term.

Written by Eric Stoller

April 21st, 2008 at 5:02 pm

The Wealthiest Americans ever

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rich white men
The 30 Wealthiest Americans list was calculated by each person’s total wealth as a percentage of the economy of the time.

Do you see any commonalities among the people in this list?

Written by Eric Stoller

July 15th, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Class,Gender,Race,This and that

Tagged with , ,