arrested development has made me wait seven years…and it was worth it. thank you.
I just found this meme-type photo, so I figured I should post it up here. This is pretty interesting, I wonder how much time they spend in school each day? In looking around, I found this interesting site too. It just goes over all of the sort of tenants of the Finnish school system. All of the students are in the same classroom regardless of level, and none of them are tested for ability until the age of six. There was a bunch of interesting stuff in there so I’d recommend checking it out!
I realized that I should’ve probably talked about this when everyone else was discussing their schooling experiences. Even though this is still in the US, there is a lot about it that is different from the average American childhood schooling.
I attended private school from k-3rd grade, homeschooled from 4-8th grade, went to a public high school in a specialty program for math and science. This drastically changed my opinions on American education. I was homeschooled because my parents were/are more religious, but more than that, my dad is a PhD chemist and my mother has a MPA degree herself. They believed they could teach my brother and I better than paying for in the private school. The public schools in our area were really good, so I still don’t quite understand why they didn’t send us there, but either way, it resulted in us being homeschooled. We had a group of other families who I was homeschooled “with.” I had friends and a normal set of friends, but I was definitely proselytized by this group in a way that I had not expected. When I got to public high school, I had a really hard time assimilating and making friends because they were so different from the homeschooling families. In that environment, my family was considered rebellious because I was allowed to wear skirts above my knee, the music we listened to wasn’t read over word for word by my parents, and a few kids had heard my mom say “damn.” In public school, I’d figured I’d fit in alright, but I was pretty wrong – I had no idea how to react to the new environment. Eventually, I figured it out, but it was difficult and lonely for a long time.
In terms of academics though, homeschooling was what really allowed me to explore how much I liked math. I could do whatever I wanted, I had a teacher and I spent time with my dad on it. I saw that I was excelling at it, and I liked it. The other subjects were all covered too. A lot of people have generalized homeschoolers as really good or really bad. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it is an environment in which students can get individual attention for whatever the reason.
We’ve been discussing tenure a lot in class, so I decided maybe I should look up a little bit more about the statistics. In a 12/10/12 article, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track dropped from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007 – woah!? That’s a lot, but is a good thing or a bad thing?
The pros of tenure are generally include protection for free intellectual inquiry – the ability to follow truth wherever it may lead. It protects faculty who hold and espouse unpopular opinion from retribution by those who disagree with those opinions. Tenure enables distinguished scholars to continue to teach long after others their age have retired. The cons are that it protects free intellectual inquiry, protects faculty who hold unpopular views from retribution, and enables old guys to work after they should have retired – which is exactly what we talked about today (yes, I’m writing this one in real time).
Some academic researchers have concluded that the work required to obtain tenure drives away talented young people. The data does indicate the percentage of Ph.D. candidates aspiring to become tenure track university faculty declines while these students are in graduate school. A vast literature on this subject exists in the peer reviewed journals. A Google Scholar search on the issue resulted in 245,000 hits. A quick review of few abstracts indicated results all over the map, so I’m not really sure what to believe. I do know that I’m nervous about it though! I plan on doing academia a little later on in life, but still, it’s a daunting task. I see how hard the new professor in my lab works. If academia is where I want to be though, I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.
As tuition rises at universities, one would expect admission or the opportunities to attend for students from the lower socioeconomic classes to be affected. Elite universities in the United States have claimed for many years that is not the case for students who are good enough to attend them. These universities claim that admission is “need-blind”. This means that students are admitted irrespective of their ability to pay the cost of attendance.
Dean Michael D. Smith of Harvard said “need‑blind admissions, supported by generous financial aid, is the bedrock of Harvard’s effort to attract the most talented undergraduates in America and across the globe, regardless of their ability to pay. A student’s economic circumstances should never be a barrier to attending Harvard College.” Stanford says “Students are admitted on a need‑blind basis, and the university ensures that no admitted student is unable to attend.”
The New York Times wrote on 11/30/2012, “some colleges have begun revising their financial aid formulas, raising concerns about how campus diversity — both economic and racial — might be affected.” The NYT noted that Dartmouth, Brown, and Wesleyan have begun to back off need blind admissions and that bodes ill for diversity, the poor, and the otherwise disadvantaged.
This is concerning given what we’d talked about earlier in the class regarding the benefits of diversity in different schools. I also recently found this video that talks about why higher education is so expensive. There are a lot of problems associated with increased debt for students and their families. Though I’m not sure that I know enough about subsidies and how all of this works to trust all of what is in this video, I’d need to do some of my own research. However, I do hope that de-stigmatizing other forms of less expensive education catches on soon so that people do not have to pay as much, but still receive a well-paying job with benefits – at least something that puts the individual at a living wage without being under the weight of thousands in debt.
The other day in class, we were talking about what we’d change about higher education. My comment was that I would want there to be more sort of undefined credit hours you could take. As I was talking, I realized, duh! That’s just undergraduate research! So, shortly after starting school, most undergraduate students become aware of the existence of undergraduate research. What is undergraduate research all about? It’s an opportunity for a student to find out more about a subject in which he/she is interested, as well as to learn more about him or herself. Undergraduate research opportunities arise throughout the university, but many of the opportunities are in the sciences/engineering.
At UVA, there was this program interested in the Chesapeake Bay preservation. If you’re a biology or chemistry major, this research project might allow you to explore water quality problems in select areas of the Bay watershed or the population density of an endangered species present in that watershed. The research experience will likely allow you to determine whether you would be a good candidate for a graduate degree or if that topic really interested you. It can also help you find an area to focus your research in further. Undergraduate research in the area of alternative energy helped me decide to do power for graduate school. It’s not exactly alternative energy, but without my work, alternative energy can’t be introduced the grid viably.
I happened to see this video last Monday before class. I’m a sucker for anything involving South Park (or just Trey Parker and Matt Stone) so of course I watched it. It just so happens that it went unbelievable well with some of the discussion from today and the video about motivation. I think that this carrot and stick approach is pervasive through society because it assumes that people are unmotivated and will be lazy when left to their own devices. To get them to perform as desired, they are incentivized. Rather than looking towards each milestone, each carrot you get, it is more meaningful to see the progression of your work as long term process that doesn’t end similar to the musical progression described in the video. That sounds easy I guess when you like your job and feel rewarded in your work. Perhaps people would find more rewarding positions and jobs perhaps if they were not forced into some sort of mold, but rather allowed to follow what they believed to be interesting – to dance and sing their own song. After all, in my opinion at least, all we have is this time that we are here, may as well enjoy the journey.
I’ll note now, that I have done this sort of half blog this during the semester. I’ll find something interesting, save it, write a few lines about it, but not wrap it up into a full post. So, I’m about to post a bunch of blogs, but I swear, I didn’t just find all of them in the last 24 hours.
This is kind of going back to the communicating science idea. It came to be a little bit after my last blog post. I was talking to a friend at an internship I’d done last year in Austria. He worked in technical support, so he had people calling him in English and in German asking for help on how to use the equipment. I said that I thought I couldn’t do that because it’s difficult for me to talk to people (much less communicating to people in a language that was not native to me). He commented that he felt the same way about a lot conversation, but that talking about the technical details was easy for him – even if it was in english a lot of the time. It made me realize that as a TA, I felt the same way about talking to my students. I can communicate with them in technical language – and occasionally, I can joke around with them, but still it’s much more professional and it doesn’t make me particularly nervous. This is probably in some part because I do not have to defend my work, but they have to explain themselves to me to get their grade. I think it’s interesting that although communicating to my students about technical work doesn’t seem to bother me, it hasn’t really translated into other parts of my life. I still feel like I stutter when encountering new people – even at conferences where we’re all speaking the same language of sorts. Hopefully, I’d assume that this will get easier – there was a time when I was a bit more nervous even as a TA.
I think that it’s really interesting how people really look for so much purpose in everything that they participate in. I understand, our time is valuable, we’re grad students, the university (and our advisors) kind of owns us until we graduate. We have to do things all the time to keep up with all of our obligations, so why would we want to waste time?
I think that this warrants a little exploration of what I’d consider wasting time. I do think that more than 5-10 minutes on facebook at any given time is a waste. Why not the 5-10 minutes though? Well, it’s a pretty negligible amount of time, and sometimes doing something different is really good for refocusing yourself. I think that sleeping in after spending late nights hanging out with friends isn’t a waste – it builds relationships, it pushes you to open up to people, and it takes a lot of time. That isn’t a waste to me, even though it takes time away from sleep and from work that could get done.
My point of this is that you can get things out of activities that can get labeled as a waste of time. Sometimes, I think it is very worthwhile just to let yourself be with what you’re doing – i.e. there doesn’t need to be a direct “I’m getting __________ (fill in the blank) out of what I’m doing right this second.” I got a fun and interesting evening which, to me, was enough to make me think that the exercises were worth class time. When being a bit more thoughtful about the experience, I got a lot out of these exercises because it got me out of my box, it made me feel uncomfortable. No one likes feeling uncomfortable, especially not an introverted electrical engineer. In thinking about how it made me feel about communicating my work with people who are not my peers, it was good because that isn’t that easy. When something is not easy, you can get choked up, not tell your story/information linearly. It showed that you should think of your work as sort of a story – one that you know very well, as if it had been a part of your childhood. I say we know it well, because at this point, we should. You’re getting a Ph.D, be the expert you’re supposed to be!
Anyway, to wrap this up, I’m just trying to point out that I think that sometimes, we need to step back and appreciate an experience as an experience and not immediately jump into what it did for us.