A fistful of education-related tabs that have been sitting in my RSS reader, waiting for me to say something insightful about them:
- The Library Web Site of the Future (Inside Higher Ed): “Several years ago academic institutions shifted control of their Web sites from technology wizards to marketing gurus. At the time there was backlash. The change in outlook was perceived as a corporate sellout, a philosophical transformation of the university Web site from candid campus snapshot to soulless advertiser of campus wares to those who would buy into the brand… I was one of the resisters. Now I think the marketing people got it right. The first thing librarians must do after ending the pretense that the library Web site succeeds in connecting people to content is understand how and why the institutional homepage has improved and what we can learn from it. Doing so will allow academic libraries to discover answers to that first question; how to create user community awareness about the electronic resources in which the institution heavily invests.” My thoughts: Isn’t it weird to have a portal at all? Why not something like Firefox’s Ubiquity, that just lets you type “pubmed liver cancer” to connect directly to the resource? (Note: part of the genius of Ubiquity is that it shows you what commands are possible! it is potentially more user-friendly than any drilldown portal.)
- To Keep Students, Colleges Cut Anything But Aid (New York Times): “The increases highlight the hand-to-mouth existence of many of the nation’s smaller and less well-known institutions. With only tiny endowments, they need full enrollment to survive, and they are anxious to prevent top students from going elsewhere. Falling even a few students short of expectations can mean laying off faculty, eliminating courses or shelving planned expansions. ‘The last thing colleges and universities are going to cut this year is financial aid,’ said Kathy Kurz, an enrollment consultant to colleges. ‘Most of them recognize that their discount rates are going to go up, but they’d rather have a discounted person in the seat than no one in the seat.'” My thoughts: It’s weird. If students don’t enroll, we’ll have to lay off faculty. So, in order to pay for an increased aid budget, we must lay off faculty.
- In Tough Times, Humanities Must Justify Their Worth (NYT): “As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy. That may be unfortunate but inevitable, Mr. Kronman said. The essence of a humanities education — reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming ‘to grips with the question of what living is for’ — may become ‘a great luxury that many cannot afford.'” My thoughts: Boooooo. This article, like its retrograde view of what the humanities are about, stinks.
- See Also: Siamese Twins (Wyatt Mason/Harpers): “Fowler’s Modern English Usage, in any of its incarnations, is pure pleasure. There’s doubtless a medicinal value to its entries, but they entertain so deeply and purely that it all goes down very sweetly. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve read it more for pleasure than with purpose, less in the hope of resolving a confusion over ‘pleonasm’ than to discover that ‘pleonasm’ was something at all. Where the New Oxford American Dictionary defines the term as ‘the use of more words than are necessary to convey meaning, either as a fault of style or for emphasis,’ Fowler’s offers a little lesson.” My thoughts: I love this.
- Collective Graduate School Action (The Economist): “If you’re going to go back to school, now is the time to do it. Not only is the opportunity cost of the time spent extremely low — wages aren’t likely to rise any time soon, and there may not be a job available anyway — but so to is the opportunity cost of the money invested. What, you’d rather have that tuition sitting in the market right now? Or in a home?” My thoughts: Clearly, it depends on the school and your goals. But not everyone should listen to that siren song. I entered graduate school during the last Big Recession. Now I’m leaving during the next Great Depression. There are no sure-fire ways to ride these out — and a dissertation can be as much an anchor as a lifeboat.