I am so proud of — and thankful to my university for their concern with our students’ educational success, for bringing to campus people like Joe Cuseo. My university has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, and it is committed to the education of our citizens – first generation, minorities, transfer students, as well as the so-called “traditional” students. UT Arlington is really following through on its commitment to a quality education for all – and I emphasize all – our students.
In spite of my fears about the “corporatization” of education and its “standardized-measures-as-solutions” (see footnotes below), I see a wonderful ray of hope in people like Joe Cuseo. Joe’s research and ideas (which I’m going to study more) give me the strand of hope I’m looking for at this point in time. (They can work in tandem with those who are on the cutting edge in technology, too, I believe).
I spent more than four hours yesterday in two sessions that our institution brought Joe in to conduct. Perhaps it is just me. Perhaps he is just the right person and the right time for me – but Joe’s ideas are ideas I can “run” with. Joe addressed the student population make-up, student learning, experiential learning, deep learning, the mind/brain research regarding learning, and reflection and critical thinking. It was evident that Joe really cares, too.
Basically, Joe addressed two challenges: 1) How can faculty members – who were extremely well prepared to do our research/scholarship but hardly ever prepared to teach – help the current student population learn? A population that is more diverse than any other college population we have ever had (culturally, racially, socioeconomically), and a population that has (ca. 60% of them) been very influenced by a culture of consumerism (“materialism as happiness”). 2) How can faculty help that student population – no matter what the content, no matter what the major or the general core curriculum course – become better thinkers who can “cut through the garbage,” who can think “divergently” (divergent thinking), who can think creatively – all critical for a democracy to survive? What is the research on it, and what works?
I pride myself on my teaching. I pride myself on what students “get” out of my classes – a deeper understanding of language and culture and how that is important in today’s world. I pride myself on the fact that my research has been for teachers, and it has been about intercultural communication, and that it has been about a subset of applied linguistics (applying to language teaching the newer understanding gained from studying how people use language in society to make meaning, manipulate others, give to others, etc. – sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, anthropological linguistics, conversation analysis).
But much as I pride myself on all of that, I, too, can profit from the current understanding of mind/brain, of who our students are and how they learn, and of the overarching philosophy and particular methods that will facilitate deep learning by our students – learning that will “stick” with them, learning that will help them cut through so much of the verbal garbage that is “out there,” so that the choices they make will help them and the world be a better place to live. Because, although I have delved into teaching/learning more than most of my colleagues, I too feel – even after all these years – underprepared to address some of our current teaching/learning challenges in higher education.
So, thanks, Joe. I look forward to reading Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. I look forward to the continued journey, on this beautiful morning, November 4, 2010, 6:07 AM Central Daylight Time.
1. On fears of “corporatization,” see Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy, in which she talks about the fact that financially strapped public schools were happy to take free curricular materials from corporations – materials that “just happened” to have ideological, self-serving bias built into them. See also the “Education Connection Commercial Jingle” on Youtube for an example of the ways in which higher education is, I would say, being bastardized. (Jim Groom writes a scathing diatribe on his blog, too.)
So I worry that there will be conflicts of interest in that kind of privatized education, similar to the way in which many news agencies are part of corporations which have interests that may conflict with a free and open press. If you as a journalist write about a problem that your corporate headquarters caused, you might be fearful for your job.
We also have conflicts of interest when researchers work for pharmaceuticals and are supposed to then be unbiased when doing their research. (Search, for example, “conflict of interest research and pharmaceuticals.”)
I know our public school system is very problematic, but I worry that private enterprise will “own” teachers, “own” research, and “own” the ideological bent of what is taught. All curricula have bias by the choice of materials made, but corporate control worries me even more – that it will only be the CEO’s, the bottom line, and the stockholders who will profit – not our citizens and not our democracy.
Also, just read today in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “During those debates, Mr. Boehner pushed for eliminating a distinction between proprietary and nonprofit institutions that would have allowed for-profit colleges to receive millions of dollars in federal funds reserved for minority-serving institutions. And he called for eliminating the rule that prohibits for-profit institutions from getting more than 90 percent of their tuition revenue from federal student aid.” This quote is from “Republican Gains in Congress Could Temper For-Profit Inquiry and Lead to Spending Cuts” by Sara Hebel and Kevin Kiley — http://chronicle.com/article/Republican-Gains-in-Congress/125233/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
2. Regarding public education, I do not know of any evidence that proves you can simply “throw standards/standardization” at the problem and have it work well. I do not understand how saying, “We will punish you or your students if they don’t learn” solves a problem, when the means are not provided to solve it. See Ken Robinson’s RSAnimate-produced ideas on Youtube for his take on these “standards/standardization:” Sir Ken Robinson “Changing Education Paradigms – linked to in my blog of November 2, 2010.