Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Reminder of what Liberal Education is For (and for Whom)

See "Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers" by Scott Samuelson, published in the Atlantic Magazine:

Once, when I told a guy on a plane that I taught philosophy at a community college, he responded, “So you teach Plato to plumbers?” Yes, indeed. But I also teach Plato to nurses’ aides, soldiers, ex-cons, preschool music teachers, janitors, Sudanese refugees, prospective wind-turbine technicians, and any number of other students who feel like they need a diploma as an entry ticket to our economic carnival. As a result of my work, I’m in a unique position to reflect on the current discussion about the value of the humanities, one that seems to me to have lost its way.
As usual, there’s plenty to be worried about: the steady evaporation of full-time teaching positions, the overuse and abuse of adjunct professors, the slashing of public funding, the shrinkage of course offerings and majors in humanities disciplines, the increase of student debt, the peddling of technologies as magic bullets, the ubiquitous description of students as consumers. Moreover, I fear in my bones that the supremacy of a certain kind of economic-bureaucratic logic—one of “outcomes,” “assessment,” and “the bottom-line”—is eroding the values that undergird not just our society’s commitment to the humanities, but to democracy itself.
The problem facing the humanities, in my view, isn’t just about the humanities. It’s about the liberal arts generally, including math, science, and economics. These form half of the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects, but if the goal of an education is simply economic advancement and technological power, those disciplines, just like the humanities, will be—and to some degree already are—subordinated to future employment and technological progress. Why shouldn’t educational institutions predominately offer classes like Business Calculus and Algebra for Nurses? Why should anyone but hobbyists and the occasional specialist take courses in astronomy, human evolution, or economic history? So, what good, if any, is the study of the liberal arts, particularly subjects like philosophy?  Why, in short, should plumbers study Plato?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Distribution of BA Degrees by Field of Study

Some big changes in the fields that undergraduates study occurred between 1970 and 2012:

For a discussion of this chart, see this article by Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wendy Ruderman on Police Corruption in Philadelphia

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Wendy Ruderman, will be giving a talk on her new book (co-authored with Barbara Laker), Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love.  The talk is on Thursday, April 24 at 7pm in the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, and is free and open to the public.  Copies of the book will be on sale at the talk.

Wendy Ruderman has a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked at several media organizations, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY-TV and 91FM, the Trenton Times, the Associated Press, and the Bergen Record,before joining the Philadelphia Daily News in 2007. In 2010 she, along with Daily News colleague Barbara Laker, won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism for their series "Tainted Justice," on police corruption in Philadelphia. Two years later she became Police Bureau chief for the New York Times before returning to the Daily News in June 2013. Wendy and Barbara Laker teamed up once again to write Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, based on their award-winning series. The book was published by HarperCollins earlier this year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

URCA symposium

Quite a few history and political science majors gave presentations in the College of Arts and Sciences 2014 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium this week: Lindsey Richey (on James Madison and British Commercial Policy in the Making of the U.S. Constitution, 1783-89), Kelsey Golec (The History and Development of the Ohio Juvenile Justice System), Zachary Hoffman (Frederick Douglass and the Ideals of Manhood),  Joseph Griffith (the 'Almost Chosen People': Lincoln's Use of Scripture and Biblical Allusions in the Gettysburg Address & the Second Inaugural), and Johanna Mateo (Latin America: The Impact of Spanish Colonial Rule). That gives a pretty good idea of the variety of interests that students pursue in the department.  Congratulations to all you participants and the organizers of the symposium.  For more information and even some photos, see here.