Category Archives: Access

Mike Rose responds at length to Education Reform

For those of you not familiar with Mike Rose, he’s a Professor of Education at UCLA who has written several influential books about literacy education and the politics of school over the last 25-30 years. He’s one of those rare thinkers and writers who’s able to say very incisive and critical things while maintaining a tone that’s respectful and at times even affectionate, even when he’s talking about people he strongly disagrees with.

This link goes to a series of essays Prof. Rose posted at the indie-news-blog-service Truthdig; I don’t know how I missed it until now because I read Truthdig pretty faithfully and it’s been up for months.

There are several, and the series is a long read to do in one sitting, but each of them has at least one gem of an argument in it, if not more, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you spend some time with it. If you’re an angry rabble-rouser like me, you’ll find moments of calm hope. If you’re cynical and feeling burned, you’ll find moments of inspiration. If you’re starry-eyed optimistic (or believe that all’s well and those of us who struggle are just paranoid–although if you’re that person you probably don’t read this blog!), you’ll find reasons to be more concerned.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, liberal arts, Mike Rose, Privatization, Public education, public employees, Teacher unions

More on the debate about reframing the value of higher ed

Thanks to Mark Rimple (again!) for sending this piece to me for the blog.

From Friday’s Inside Higher Ed: Linda Grasso, an English Prof in the CUNY system, writes eloquently, or perhaps just prettily, about the need to reframe our arguments about the value of higher education, particularly the liberal arts. Her most elaborated evidence for her claim about the value of liberal arts education is an anecdote about a conversation she had on the subway who seemed to have been deeply effected by reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in a college English course.

Commenters on Grasso’s essay make several points about the limited value of the anecdote, on both epistemological and rhetorical grounds; I won’t duplicate them here, except to say that you should look at them. They’re very revealing, not only of the complex task we face as we fight to reclaim what public higher education is about in this country, but also of the internal dynamic that makes the fight that much more complicated. Not everybody that works at a public university supports the vision(s) that liberal arts faculty have.

If we can’t even agree among ourselves about what we’re doing here, it’s no wonder we struggle to convince external constituencies to pay for us to do it.

Let’s remember who our friends are.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, Inside Higher Ed, liberal arts, PASSHE, Shock Doctrine

A friendly reminder about PASSHE tuition

I’m reposting this morning’s new post on the state APSCUF blog for a few reasons:

1. So that you’ll click on the link to it and subscribe to the state APSCUF blog yourself.

2. So it’ll go out to Facebook readers who wouldn’t otherwise see it.

3. So I (Seth) can assert the privilege of being the person who does most of the writing for this blog and editorialize a little about the issue in a way that is NOT NECESSARILY the official APSCUF stance.

The short version of the message is that even accounting for the coming increase, PASSHE’s tuition is below the national average for public universities, and significantly below the PA state-related universities.

I (personally) believe strongly that if you’re paying tuition (for yourself or for anybody else), it’s appropriate to be upset at the increase. Just keep in mind where the target of your animus ought to be. Our schools aren’t getting less expensive to run (and they can’t get less expensive than they are right now if we’re going to protect the quality of what we do), and you’re not paying less to go to them.

I’ll leave the rest of the math up to you.

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Penn State University, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University

PASSHE and the US Education Delivery Institute (Part 2 of ???)

A couple of weeks ago, I did a pretty lengthy post beginning to lay out PASSHE’s (otherwise unannounced) participation in a higher education “initiative” (ahem) with an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute. As I wrote and started to pay careful attention to the language in their mission and elsewhere on the website, I started to get, well, irritable (something of an understatement!) at the coded nature of the language EDI uses to obscure its agenda, which seems to be squarely along the lines of the Bill Gates/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan “educational reform” movement (further evidenced by the fact that the Gates Foundation is listed as their primary funder).

Anyway, the kind of close reading of their site that I’d planned on doing has struck me as essentially fruitless. If you’re an APSCUF member or an academic at pretty much any advanced level, you can decode their site on your own; it’s not very oblique.

If you don’t feel like digging through it, all you really need to understand about their rhetorical approach is this: like the Gates Foundation, and like Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, and like Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization, US EDI frames its mission in terms that are difficult to disagree with. I teach a course in Propaganda; we use the term “glittering generalities” to describe what I’m talking about. Who could be opposed to “student success?” Who could be opposed to “efficiency?” Who could be opposed to “excellence?”

So when US EDI emphasizes its mission of improving access to and retention in higher education for marginalized students, who (if you already teach at a public university, or community college, especially) would contest or dispute that as a goal? It’s the very essence of our reason for being, isn’t it? [Yes, this is melo-dramatic overstatement.]

So what’s the problem? I fully support the mission of providing access and high quality education to the Commonwealth. I’d love nothing more than to have a sustainable system that could do right by any student who wants a college education. But we don’t have that, especially while our Governor proposed in March to slash our state allocation in half (the budget bill about to pass the PA Legislature sets the reduction at 18%), and it’s, er, unclear how our system is supposed to educate more students and do it well while our funding is getting crushed under the collective foot of a state government that isn’t very interested in paying for much of anything. Or put another way, the “do-more-with-less” trope has been pushed beyond its logical extreme currently in PA.

The promise of deliverology is that it can help systems solve that problem. It can, that is, help us continue to do more with less by, well, as I try to explain it, I realize that based on the website materials, uh, er, I can’t really answer that question.

Neither can anybody else, it seems from any of the other systems that have joined up with US EDI. In our next episode, I’ll report on the results of some discussions I have had with colleagues in the California State and Connecticut state university systems. Let’s just say they’re impressions aren’t, er, positive.

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, PASSHE, Program elimination, Public education, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

Tentative Budget Deal Reached

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.

The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.

If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.

As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.

But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University