Future of Higher Education

I would like to see more emphasis on learning in higher education rather than just degree completion.

I think that higher education, especially at the undergraduate level, should focus on producing well rounded individuals. I’m not advocating for a dissolution of different majors or minors, or saying that students shouldn’t be allowed to specialize in an area of study that they are interested in, or think will benefit them better post graduation. What I do think is that while we have Gen Ed requirements they are not taken seriously enough by either the students, many of the instructors teaching them, or the University as a whole. They are treated as boxes that need to be checked in order to get a degree.

I have asked my students how they feel about Gen Ed requirements, and the majority of them are not enthused. I’ve heard the Gen Eds called “worthless,” “pointless,” “tedious,” “stupid,” and some of the more cynical students feel they are in place for no other reason than to add a year of college tuition. Furthermore, the majority of students I’ve talked to view college as a prerequisite to a getting a “better job,” and not as a place of learning.

I have been through a few different schools (academic, technical, military) and the one thing that’s been the same through all of them is that the real education comes on the job. Different employers, different units, different schools like things done a certain way, and you’ll have to learn their way once you get there.

Now, I understand that there is a base level of knowledge you are expected to have entering into the job market, and that’s why we have majors. However, having majors does not mean that we can’t or shouldn’t put more emphasis on taking classes outside of your major to become a more well rounded individual.

This culture of learning needs to begin inside of the institution.

Why I Will Not Place a Safe Space Sticker on My Office Door

I’m sure that we have all come across some sort of Safe Space sticker, or sign on a professor’s door stating that “this office is a safe space. And discrimination will not be tolerated.” Or something along those lines, right? Some of the signs go beyond the blanket statement of discrimination and list out specific actions that will not be tolerated, “hateful speech,” “hatred,” “racism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” “misogyny” etc. And none of those things should be tolerated.

In class last night we talked in groups about how we would address discrimination and inclusivity in higher education as new faculty members. Many of the groups talked about how we should be a model for anti-discrimination and inclusivity, and how we should lead by example to create a more inclusive environment. I agree that we should lead by example, and that’s why I won’t have a safe space sticker on my door.

The rhetoric that’s been thrown around social media, and popular news sources for the past year or so, especially around the election, has labeled conservatives as hateful, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic racists. Some of the allegations against Trump supporters get even nastier. And it didn’t stop there, the anti-Trump and anti-Trump-supporter sentiment, in more than a few cases, devolved into a polemic against the white people, and more specifically the white males who elected Trump. While the post election outrage against the conservative electorate has calmed down a bit, it hasn’t completely gone away.

Safe spaces predate the 2016 election, but they are exclusionary, by design, against everything the election-era rhetoric has labeled conservative students as. To be a model of inclusivity we have to recognize that not all conservative students, or Trump supporters, are hateful, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic racists. Not all conservative students are even one of those things. And further than that, we have to acknowledge that conservative students are not inherently all, or any, of those things, nor are they more likely to be than anyone else.

There is a whole student body who identify as conservatives, and I will not make them feel unwelcome by placing a sticker on my door.

A Case that Nutrition and Fitness Should Be a Gen Ed Requirement

There is an incredible amount of misinformation recklessly thrown around concerning health, fitness, and nutrition. Some of it is annoyingly wrong but innocuous, and some of it verges on dangerous. The internet has opened up a treasure trove of information about healthy nutrition and the positive effects of physical activity. But it has also opened up a pathway for BroScience to reach the masses (for those of you unfamiliar with the term BroScience is when the testimony of some ripped bodybuilder is viewed as more credible than actual science), then get misconstrued and regurgitated elsewhere creating a downward spiral of BS. All this resulting in a wasteland of misinformation about how calories don’t really matter as long as you follow a keto ( juicing, paleo, atkins, low fat,  or whatever other diet Dr. Oz is talking about), and how supplements and preworkouts are required to gain muscle fast, get shredded, and be as appealing to your crush as possible; or how you can get a sixpack just by focusing on your abs; i.e. do more crunches and planks; or about how girls will look like Arnold if they so much as touch a dumbbell; oh and don’t do cardio because it’s not actually that good for your heart, and you’ll lose muscle mass and strength and become ugly… blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

With all this misinformation out there. I think that schools (Secondary and Higher Ed) should play a larger role in education the people about how your body works, what it needs, what you can do to help it get stronger/stay strong etc. For a any number of reasons.

The first reason I want to address is I think higher education has a duty to produce well rounded people, (I know that some may disagree with that point) and knowing how to keep yourself healthy and take care of your body is an important part of being a well rounded person.

The second reason being that your physical health can greatly affect your mental, social, and academic health. There are quite a few studies proving that physical activity improves cognitive functions, and academic performance. There are even more studies that deal with the effectiveness of physical activity and healthy eating habits on being a part of mental health treatments.

The third  is quality of life! I think this is pretty self-explanatory. Being sedentary is bad for you, and makes life harder.

The last point I want to bring up is government funded healthcare. I’m not here to argue about whether it’s good or bad, but it seems to be the way we are heading. And if we are heading that way, and our taxes will be paying the medical bills of other people, I want those other people to know how to take care of themselves. I know things happen that are way out of the control of the individual, and I know sometimes exercise or sports put people in the hospital. But overall the preventative health benefits outweigh the potential risks of an uninformed, sedentary, population consuming a poor diet.

Living a healthy lifestyle starts with knowing what a healthy lifestyle looks like, and rather than weeding through the BroScience wasteland Higher Education can provide us with a model.

Beall’s List

As I was looking for open access journals to use for “Blog Post 4” I tried to open up Beall’s List, but the page loaded saying, “this service is no longer available.”

For those of you who are not familiar with Beall’s List, it was a blog written by University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall that kept a list of predatory open access journals. Such as the journals that charge outlandish fees to publish your work, or have dysfunctional peer review standards- if they are reviewed at all. There have been at least two papers accepted for publication that read only, “get me off your fucking mailing list” hundreds of times. One even came back with a response saying that the manuscript quality was “good” and asked for $75 to publish the paper.

The blog started with less than twenty predatory publications listed, over the almost ten years that it existed that list had grown to include more than 1,400.

There has been a problem with journals featured on his list threatening to sue. In 2013 he was threatened with a suit of 1Billion in damages by a journal that had been listed on his “worst of the worst” list. I don’t think anything came from the threat.

The University of Colorado issued a statement that Beall’s decision to take down the website was a personal one. Though, Lacey Earl, the Vice President of Business development at Cabell’s International tweeted:

Many other tweets followed showing their support for Beall, and offering links to his archived list of predatory journals so that we can still be informed.

That link is still working and can be found HERE 

Blog Post 4- Open Source Journals

JEMS

  • Where (location, organization, university, etc.) is the journal from?
  • What are the purpose, goals, scope, etc. of the journal?
  • How does the journal address/explain open access? How (if at all) does it position itself within the open access movement?

I chose the Journal of Early Modern Studies (JEMS), which is published by the University of Florence, in Florence, Italy.

JEMS is peer reviewed, open access, international journal that does not specialize in one particular discipline, but rather accepts papers from a wide variety of academic disciplines that deal with Early Modern European culture, and the European Renaissance.  Their goal is open academic and scholarly debates over a wide spectrum of topics including: religion, art, literature, history, politics, sociology, language, and cultural studies.

This journal explains it self as open access as anyone can submit to the journal, and there is no subscription fee to be able to view the journal.

Within the open access community JEMS distinguishes itself as a reliable source for scholarly information. After a submission is reviewed by the editors if it is pegged for publication it is then sent to at least two other readers in a double blind style of evaluation. Submissions that pass the scrutiny of both readers is sent back to the editors for the final decision on if it should be published. JEMS also lists a number of organizations and scholarly search engines that include it with their indexes. Including: DOAJ, Google Scholar, ProQuest, BASE and more.

Easy on the eyes, you’re hired.

I know that this blog post is a bit behind, but I wanted to dedicate a bit of time to a privilege that wasn’t talked about very much in class- the attractiveness privilege.

Before we get too far into this subject too, let’s make a few things clear. Contrary to popular beliefs beauty is not as subjective as we would like to think it is. There are traits that are considered beautiful the world over. Symmetry for example, both the symmetry of the face and body. Smooth skin, shiny hair, broad jaw lines on men, etc.  Also, the positive effects of beauty are not felt by only one gender, or race, or any other factor.

Let’s  take a look at a few examples of the attractiveness privilege.

Firstly, attractive people are viewed as being more healthy, or being in better health than their less attractive counterparts. http://psych.colorado.edu/~tito/sp03/7536/Rhodes_et_al_2001.pdf

Secondly, attractive people are viewed as more trustworthy, more likeable, more competent, and more qualified regardless of experience. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0025656

Thirdly, attractive people are viewed as more intelligent. And if you believe this study then they may very well be. http://psych.colorado.edu/~munakata/teaching/prosem05/ProkoschEtAl05.pdf

These factors combined can create a real advantage. For example, when one is interviewing for a job first impressions are key. The more intelligent, trustworthy, competent, and healthy individual is most likely the more desirable candidate. These qualities may only be skin deep, but they may not be.

I don’t want the takeaway to be that we should attribute the successes of attractive people purely to their looks, but more that we should not judge a book by its cover, or the candidate by their shiny hair and strong jaw line.

Tech Blog

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/professors-social-media_n_4137697.html

 

This article is going to be four years old later this year. So, I’m sure that all of the numbers that are presented in this infographic are no longer accurate, not to mention that The Huffington Post is not known for their scholarly content. However, there’s one statistic that I’d like to address.

Right up top. 59% of professors think that the collaboration made possible by online and mobile technologies benefit students in the classroom in a positive way.

Directly below that, 56% of professors agree that online and mobile technologies are more distracting than they are helpful in the classroom.

So this means that at least 6% of teachers who believe that online and mobile technology is helpful also thinks it’s more distracting than it is helpful.

I’ll be honest. If I were polled I would be one of these 6%. There are so many good things that can be done with these “online technologies.” But there are also so many distracting features built into them as well.

Is it as cut and try that social media is a distraction? And the online discussion boards, and digital peer review capabilities on Canvas are useful tools?. I don’t think so. Social media can be mined for information. While you might not want to portray what you read in the comment section as fact, trends can be mapped, you can follow politicians, and you can gauge the reactions of the general population to certain events through comment sections and hashtags. A quick summon search resulted in more than 10,000 hits for scholarly and peer reviewed articles for “Social Media and the Arab Spring.”

So, it all comes down to intentions, right? We have this magical box in our pockets that connects up to an endless catalogue of knowledge and learning, but you can also use this same box to argue with strangers about nothing, sing praises to the greatest breakfast meat, Bacon, and browse pictures of cats… all day long. So as long as you are using the tools for the purpose of learning then they are helpful tools. But if you’re just flipping through Facebook, or browsing the bacon sub-reddit it’s a distraction.