Differences between the academy in Europe and the USA………

The past few months we have been talking about some differences between the academy in Europe and here in the USA.

One of the things we’ve discussed is how here in the United States, college admission is a very competitive process. We have college placement exams and a student can study whatever discipline they’d like so long as they have an interest and have achieved the proper entrance score. In Europe it is very different as all students are guaranteed a free higher education. There, familiar relationships go a lot further and in fact college entrance exams are not required. Instead, the process of weeding out students comes along in the advanced school years, regarding whether or not the student passes the coursework.

Prestige of a university is common in both the USA and Europe. However, I feel that here in the USA, location of a school is a relatively secondary matter compared to the ranking and the prestige of the program. In Europe it seems that choosing a university is generally more representative of the importance of the institution as a research center than of quality or prestige, and choice is generally based on more practical criteria such as distance from home, or the cost of the program. In some cases, the county won’t pay for a student to travel to a different county to study at the university so options are much more limited than here in the USA.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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Opportunity knocks……so dust off that passport!!

Good morning everyone,

I am honored and humbled to be a part of this exciting group, the Global Perspectives Program!  I purchased my journal the other day and realized that within a few months it will be filled with the nuances of different cultures and life experiences.  Traveling allows us to meet new people who become life long friends and will help us each to realize how resilient we are as individuals yet so dependent on strangers to do something as mundane as getting on the right train at the right time!  Travel to me means adventure, gives perspective to my way of knowing, and shakes things up enough to motivate me to move forward in research with new passion and vision.

I’m looking forward to learning about higher education institutes in a society where the system is free and gaining a better understanding of the value those societies place on the social sciences and humanities.  In the USA those areas are often underfunded and looked down upon.  I’m curious how that paradigm plays out in Europe.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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Sidestepping academia……

I really enjoyed reading the article titled How is innovation taught?  It reminded me of how important it is to continue doing what I do even though being innovative and creative is often challenged in the academic setting of higher education.  Coming from the professional world and having had a career in which I managed hundreds of employees at a time it’s often quick whit and humor that have saved me from dire situations.  The same can be said for higher education.

One sentence in the article talks about sidestepping the corporate ladder in exchange for academia.  However, coming from the corporate world I find myself sidestepping academia and relying on corporate intuition.  A lot of things in general just don’t make sense in how things function here but allowing my sense of humor to live free is one of the only things that’s allowed me to last this long!

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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Paulo Freire & Bell Hooks….educators I can stand by…..and an ode to Linda Brown…..

On the eve of Linda Brown’s (Brown VS Board of Education) passing I couldn’t be more primed to write a blog incorporating such words as “humanist education” and “engaging pedagogy”.  So many emotions and thoughts brought up thinking about the legacy and lives changed by one little girl.  It is ever so timely when on Sunday, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marched on Washington to express their dissatisfaction with continued legislative action backed by deep NRA pockets.  Communities can and will unite to do what is right when faced with adversity in uncertain times.  To not take action implies complicity.

Paulo Freire talks about how words become hollow and alienating when detached from reality.  Teachers who instill fear and hierarchy because to not do so would allow creativity and transformative learning experiences.  The “banking” concept of education is having students mechanically memorize and be gifted by the knowledge of the teacher.  Really in this context it is being used to contain, control and oppress the students so that they “fit into” the structured world around them.  Anything other than fitting in, such as being creative or humanistic, would be considered revolutionary.  The massive dichotomy between the banking education method and problem-posing method is an abyss at worst and a chasm at best.  Complete opposites in every manner.  As new professors and future professoriates we need to incorporate every aspect of the positive problem-posing method.  Paulo Freire used the word “human” 33 times in this one chapter.  Of course, I’ll point out again that in my first month I wrote a blog regarding the very topic of human decency missing in the higher education system at VT.  I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say I might be onto something.  I wonder how many of the banking education methods are employed here daily, and probably by people who don’t even realize they are continuing the cycle of a detached reality.

Bell Hooks also used the word “humane” in her first few chapters, to no surprise.  My favorite excerpt and also one that applies to VT, “teachers who appeared to derive their primary pleasure in the classroom by exercising their authoritarian power over my fellow students, crushing our spirits, and dehumanizing our minds and bodies…..I never once considered what it would be like to study with teachers who were racist….I had romanticized college”.  She very well could have taken this out of my own diaries.  I’m reminded of a book by my dear friend “I, Rigoberta Menchu” by Rigoberta Menchu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in which she addresses the fact that one must have enduring courage to fight against the system and do what is right, regardless of the cost.  I love how Hooks paints the picture of the critical thinker as a child, when most would think it’d be professor or doctor.  She breaks it down so eloquently when stating “in traditional higher education settings, students find themselves yet again in a world where independent thinking is not encouraged”.  I literally wrote OMG!!!! in the margin at the beginning of Chapter 2 where she writes that she participated in the Voice of Democracy contest, because, I did as well!  I even won 3rd place in my district which came with $500 and helped me buy my first car in high school.  LOL!

I’m so thankful to have been asked to read these articles for my blog at a time when I needed them most.  The world is smaller than we think and great minds really do think alike.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

 

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Diversity….brilliant minds working together….

The article “How Diversity Makes US Smarter” was a real eye opener. Having never studied diversity per se, it was great to read through many of the previous case studies and experiments.

When people are brought together to solve problems in groups, they bring different information, which is why it’s important that the groups aren’t homogenous, otherwise they would only be rehashing ideas from common comfort zones. I don’t question that comfort is part  of why homogenous groups exist, because humans tend to flock with those we identify with most.

The case study regarding democrats and republicans was fascinating.   When told they would have to prepare an argument for a) someone from the same political affiliation, or b) someone from the opposing political affiliation; the results were similar in that those preparing for scenario b worked much harder at the defense!   Having to prepare something for a diverse group, rather someone not like ourselves, compels us to think of creative ways to get the message across.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

 

 

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Ahhhh….that darn mindfulness thing again in a room full of mindless…..

http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/stable/pdf/20182675.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A1f0e6a7ca8d3345726cdbfcb253e796e

How I love me some Ellen Langer on a wintry Sunday morning.  She was the first woman to be tenured in the psychology department at Harvard.  Sipping coffee, watching the birds eat peanuts I left out on my balcony for them, and, just giggling to myself at how many VT professors would never put Langer as a required reading in their course syllabus.  I’ve blogged extensively regarding the topic of mindless teaching practices by top tier researchers who really don’t want to teach.  Let’s be honest, how do we as students benefit from them?  Feel free to look at my previous blogs on this topic and one of the most interesting was “Human decency in higher education might be missing at VT……“.

Being mindful is implicitly understood as having some degree of freedom to color outside the lines and the ability to say “Hey, maybe we can try something different in class?”   Being mindless is taking that same excitement and telling the student “No, that’s not how it’s been done in the past and it’s too much work to incorporate that idea!”  A very clear example of this is hearing some professors (journal editors) say they regularly desk reject articles simply on the basis that it doesn’t fit the “mold”.  Hahahaha…..and my favorite line which I think is absolutely clever:  “Follow the Golden Rule.  He who has the Gold makes the rules!”  Obviously, not all professors are mindless and I would never imply that.  But, I do think it is a pandemic we as researchers of the future are facing.  I support OpenAccess for this very reason.  Yeah, I also wrote a blog on that!  LOL!

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

 

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Against humanity as we know it……no laptops in my classroom!

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/01/24/578437957/laptops-and-phones-in-the-classroom-yea-nay-or-a-third-way

I’ve been around long enough to understand why some students choose to take notes on a laptop (because it’s the only mechanism they’ve known) or, how recording lectures on a cellphone might help them remember what was said during a discussion; but, in my future classes I will not allow laptops nor cellphones to be present unless it is part of a syllabus activity.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, what I teach (regardless of the discipline area) must be communicated in a manner that is easily formatted for cognitive recollection.  Second, items that are not discussed in seminar will not be tested on mid-terms or final exams.  Third, class participation will be crucial for expanding discussion topics and creating new streams of colloquy.  Exceptions for this as mentioned are for syllabus activities which I could imagine would be three or four times a semester.

In the article linked above by NPR it discussed that 1/3 of a psychology course spent time surfing for non related classroom material.  My guess would be that this is a much higher percentage.   I don’t doubt many areas of education might require the use of a computer  on a daily basis but in my discipline it isn’t necessary so it would be considered a distraction.  If I can’t teach it which results in the student not remembering the material, then I’ve failed.  If I’ve taught it and the student can’t remember the material, then they’ve failed.  The middle ground here is understanding that there are multiple ways of teaching and learning.  As a professor I must be engaged daily with my students to understand where each one is on the learning path.  It is my responsibility to do so.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

 

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Moved to a point of cathartic release…..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP7dbl0rJS0&feature=youtu.be

I just watched Michael Wesch’s TedTalk about his baby and the learning curve one goes through when not being afraid to fail.  It is completely different when the age of innocence has been lost and we as a society are forced into boxes of performance milestones which when not successfully passed means some students are literally left behind.  As a future professor these are topics I address quite a bit in my blog (amongst other things), but, most importantly I challenge archaic methods of teaching.  I’m so pleased to see that Mr. Wesch can verbalize with character depictions some thoughts that I’ve had locked away in my head.

Some professors in PhD programs are so stuck in how “they progressed” through a program of study that they aren’t willing to allow new generations, albeit the future generation of professors, to explore innovative ways of doing things.  So many are living the “if I had to suffer then you do as well” mentality.   Sorry Charlie, we will not allow you to continue the destructive nature of repeating an inept cycle.  Some of us did come from challenging life experiences as stated in Mr. Wesch’s video and we know dysfunction when we see it.   Let alone the complete disinterest that undergraduates are subjected to when taking a course from a “brilliant researcher” who has zero capacity to express empathy.  We must continue to have valid and relevant conversations addressing these concerns.  As a top educational facility we are shaping the next generation of this country and we owe it to society to think outside the box and allow all forms of expression which result in real leaning, not just the checking off of milestones.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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Regression loss during breaks…..not so much in a PhD program……

https://www.verywell.com/understanding-school-break-regression-2162688

Most undergraduates on Thanksgiving break were enjoying family, food, and festivities.   There is plenty of research that speaks to regression and a loss of skills during breaks in the academic school year for students.  Students with learning disabilities are more highly proportionately affected by longer breaks.  Teachers and parents can combat this regression by encouraging activities throughout the break which reinforce topics learned in the semester.

Meanwhile other PhD colleagues and myself were busy hammering away on projects, final  papers, and presentations.  Not a moment to lose because once break ended there were only 2.5 weeks left before the end of class.  Deadlines loomed and advancement on work had to happen or we knew that we’d be pulling all nighters very soon.  I thought this paradox between undergraduate and PhD level was interesting and worth talking about.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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Transgender people are sterilized in Japan……

http://www.carbonated.tv/news/japanese-government-transgender-sterilization

One of the most shocking reports I’ve read recently was with regard to transgender people living in Japan who must undergo sterilization in order to have their identified gender legally recognized.  They must also register and list themselves as someone living with a mental disorder.  In March 2017, Tomoya Hosoda, a 25-year-old Japanese transgender man, won election to his city council and made history as he was the first transgender to win an election in Japan.

Hopefully, by being in a position of visibility he will assist with improving the image and acceptance of transgender people in Japan.  Sometimes even just by meeting someone who represents a minority assists in changing values and ways of thinking.  I simply can’t imagine the trauma and pain an individual must go through to be sterilized.  To imagine this is a requirement in a first world country  is mind boggling.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

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