Article Summary #22: Race and the Effects of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship

Citation: Cornwell, Christopher and David Mustard. 2002.  “Race and the Effects of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship.” Pp. 59-72 in Donald Heller and Patricia Marin (Eds.), Who Should We Help? The Negative Social Consequences of Merit Scholarships. Cambridge: Civil Rights Project, Harvard University.  http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED468845 
Word cloud of article - Race and the Effects of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship

Summary:  Georgia's HOPE program provides a large amount of money for Georgian students to attend colleges and universities within Georgia (surpassing the amount of PELL money students in the state receive).  The merit-based program is split between scholarships for students attending degree-granting 4-year institutions and grants for students attending largely technical schools.  This chapter explores how despite the increase in students meeting the merit-requirements to qualify for the lottery to receive the scholarship or grant and entering college, it is contributing to stratification of race by institutional type. HOPE incentivizes top students to stay within state and even for students to go to 4-year schools when they might have initially gone to a 2-year institute since the costs are compared if one receives the scholarship.  In fact, growth in college rates since the introduction of HOPE has been entirely at the 4-year institutes.  Much of this increase has been students who would typically go out of state for education, staying in Georgia.  The HOPE program improved enrollments for African Americans at 4-year publics (21%) and privates (16%) but generally have much-lower enrollment rates than whites within Georgia.  However, much of that increase in state was a decrease in African American students attending HBCU's out of state.  African American enrollment at George's more selective colleges & universities during this time budged 4% between 1993 and 1998.  While there are clear shifts increases in white students attending colleges, the population shift for African Americans indicate that HOPE is only reinforcing stratification for African American students who do not have the academic merit to qualify for HOPE and are from lower-income households.  Ironically, the HOPE program primarily benefits middle and upper-class families but is funded by a lottery, which disproportionately come from low-income, poorly educated and African-American populations. In the end, the HOPE Program has encouraged Georgian students to stay within the state but by doing so, has also limited access for students, particularly African American students who have not achieved the qualifications for "merit" as dictated by the scholarship.


Keywords:  scholarships, HOPE program, Georgia, African Americans, merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, lottery





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Short Story #387: The Festival by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Festival

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The narrator explains that he is part of a long lineage of people and every one hundred years, a family member must venture forth to this place to take part in an ancient festival tied to Yuletide (which coincides with Christmas Eve).  He journeys to this strange town wherein he finds it particularly quiet and haunting.  He approaches the house he is looking for and is welcomed in by a mute.  While waiting for the midnight, he sits in the house and finds the man has a collection of rare and powerful texts including the Necronomicon.  He is haunted by the silent man and by the town in general and it only worsens as he reads from the evil book. At eleven, they leave the house and make their way through the town, as they do, other houses empty out and follow them.  They make their way to the churchyard with its graves and disheveled building.  They enter the church, all the while, the man not entirely clear on what is transpiring--he feels compelled but also repulsed by what is happening.  The townsfolk file into the church and into a secret entrance that descends deeply into the ground.  The distance covered is bewildering to the narrator and when they finally arrive, he finds an underground world of strange caverns with strange lighting emanating from one pillar that casts no shadow.  A flute-like sound can also be heard and a deep and insidious body of water is present.  All of this continues to make the narrator apprehensive.  Finally, strange flying creatures arrive to which each townsfolk climbs upon and leaves. The silent man and the narrator are left and the old man insists that he gets onto a beast.  The narrator will have nothing of it, even though the muted man insists that he should and that the narrator should trust him because is his ancestor from two hundred years ago.  All of this is enough to send the narrator mad so he jumps into the water to escape.  He awakes some time later in a hospital in a nearby town and is told that his body was found, nearly frozen.  When he discovers that the hospital is near a church, he insists on being moved back to his hospital in Arkham.  He finishes by telling of the story that he read in the Necronomicon which tells of deep and devilish places within the earth that largely describe what he had witnessed.


Reflection

The story wasn't too exciting per se.  Though it was a curious one, the climax felt largely dull--he jumps into a river (and we largely know he is ok because he is narrating the story).  However, his descriptions of the place and the development of the atmosphere were impressive.  He had some great descriptive lines in this story like "...I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse."  Now that is a distinct visual that lingers with you.  I also think that unlike other tales where you question the sanity of the narrator, that is missing from this story and so it feels a bit more stilted--you get to the end and you're apt to say, "so what?".  

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Image of the Week #22: Shut The Door!

The Wellesley News (05-02-1918) 01

What Is It

A joke from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

Who doesn't love a good French language joke?  As someone who has challenges in hearing and making sense of English and other languages because of my dyslexia (for those that don't know dyslexia can affect hearing--not just vision), I appreciate this particular joke as I often suffer from this issue of mis-hearing or just not being able to make sense of what someone is saying. 

This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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Letter to the Editor: The state is underfunding public colleges

Last month I had another Letter to the Editor published.  This particular letter was in response to this Our View at the Salem News.  

"We love to talk about running higher education “like a business.” But when it comes to paying leadership a competitive market price, we balk and cry “that’s egregious!”

I call foul on The Salem News for whining about public higher education leadership pay while contrasting it with cost students are paying. When have they have ever complained about the product’s cost in relation to the pay of the CEO? But these are public funds, you say, and it’s not fair to the citizens? OK, I’ll take up that argument."

For the rest of the letter, click on through to the Salem News.


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Review: Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life by Annette Lareau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lareau's book explores the challenges that class offer up to children, particularly as it relates to outcomes and opportunities. What I really liked about this book is how she is able to connect the various ways that class does substantively change what youth are aware of and available to act upon based upon the class dynamics of their upbringing. This is particularly true when it comes to the education and job process.


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Review: The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard much about Pinker's book when it came out last year and put it on my To-Read list. I've been a big fan of Pinker in general and his book, The Better Nature of Our Angels is still one of my all-time favorite books. I rather enjoyed this book too, in part, because Pinker is eloquent and clear. This style guide is something I'm likely to purchase and revisit as it really does layout some fundamental guidelines while simplifying writing and not being preachy. It's a must for anyone who wants to find better ways to improve his or her writing.

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Article Summary #21: Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives: An examination of four highly collaborative campuses

CitationKezar, A. (2006). Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives: An examination of four highly collaborative campuses. Journal of Higher Education, 77 (5), 804-838.
Word cloud of Kezar - Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives

Summary:  The increased external pressure, the decrease in support, and the burgeoning research on collaboration encourage institutions to look internally at opportunities for cross-discipline, cross-departmental, and cross-function collaboration.  However, institutions are not set up to do this in a smooth or sustainable manner.  Few models exist to encourage collaboration within higher education, but there are models to borrow from in the corporate sector.  The study looks at four institutions that engage in collaborative activities to deduce how those institutions are using and adapting strategies that already exist and are promoted within corporate literature.  More specifically, this study looks at how institutions create the institutional context that fosters collaboration since little literature exists that addresses this issue and few institutions are able to do it successfully.Integrating interviews, document analysis, and observations, Kezar uses a case-study methodology, recognizing that there are few institutions that create a successful context to foster collaboration and therefore, it would be useful to have substantial details that can be derived through case-studies. The study chose four institutions that demonstrated numerous collaborations within the institution in the forms relating to:  "interdisciplinary teaching/research, learning communities, community-based learning, team-teaching, student and academic affairs collaboration, and cross-functional teams" (Kezar, 812) and based on four criteria:  number of collaborative initiatives, clear indication of restructuring the institute to make collaboration happen, reputation for collaboration, and perception of depth and quality of collaborations. One result from the research is that in order for institutes to foster collaborations, it needs to be a part of their mission, and that mission needs to be a clear and well-known or the mission needs to flexible to be inclusive of collaborations that meet the mission's other aspirations.  Another result illustrates the importance of fostering a strong campus network that exists outside of standardized central networks of the college.  These networks emerge largely from the institute providing many different social and professional opportunities for different campus representatives to be together and exchange ideas.  It was also helpful to have nodes in the campus who proved highly interactive with many other aspects of the college.  Other strategies included serving on campus governance, creating campus space for faculty besides offices, and increasing transparency and participation.  Institutions that were successful also made full use of cross-institutional teams, created centers or institutes to address collaboration, and addresses how such changes worked within the accounting, budgetary, and computer systems within the institute.  Finding direct and indirect ways of rewarding collaboration also increased participation.  Also, the leadership proved critical in emphasizing the need for collaboration throughout the institute. Any organization looking to foster collaboration should think strongly about whether it is trying to develop a collaborative institution or only looking to make collaboration an institutional norm as the implications for each will impact how the organization moves forward.  Institutions seeking collaboration should make sure that focus should include addressing the mission, the structure, and the rewards. Crafting a narrative about the importance of collaboration can be used internally but also address external pressures. Kezar also provides ten recommendations for institutions attempting to emphasize collaboration at their institutes.


Keywords: collaboration, restructuring, cross-campus, integrating resources, organizational structure, resource management, 



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Short Story #386: The Haunter of the Dark by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Haunter of the Dark

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The narrator begins by explaining how investigators have assigned a reason for the death of Robert Blake but that careful inspection of Blake's journal and other circumstantial evidence tells a more supernatural and dark tale than the mere idea that he received some electrical shock that did him in.  The narrator proceeds to introduce us to Blake who is a writer that dabbled in the darker tales--somewhere between horror and science fiction.  He took up residence near Brown University in Providence and in his room, he could see some church tower in the distance that always draws his attention.  While renting his place, he finds that hee is able to produce some rich content and it's only after a while that he can't resist the urge to visit this place that he sees from his room.  He goes in search of it but finds no one willing to tell him where it is or explain what it is, even when he is in the neighborhood.  When he finally finds the place, he sees that it is closed down and closed off to the general public but he does find a way in.  Those in the area watch in horror as he enters the building.  He makes his way round until he finds himself in the tower, where he uncovers a dead body, oddly shaped artifacts and a strange box containing a curious relic.  On the corpse, he finds the manuscript of a reporter who had been discussing the history of the church and its connections to the occult.  He disturbs the place and realizes that with darkness will come some kind of danger so he quickly flees.  But the anxiety of what he has disturbed weighs on him.  He has his own experience in dabbling with the dark arts and therefore knows there is something to be afraid of.  He continues to watch the house from afar, deeply scared by what awaits him.  It's at this point that he because fixated on being in the light, weary that in the darkness the creature that he has disturbed will venture out and capture him.  However, during a particular brutal August thunderstorm the power appears to go out.  Many believe it is aa result of the storm, but in truth, people gather in front of the church and feel the dark power stirring so that it eventually brings down the church and some essence is seen bolting forth from the church in the direct of Providence.  The next day it is discovered that Blake is dead. The narrator explains that his journal which grew increasingly erratic in its final entries ends with an enigmatic message from Blake, raising question of if he has actually died or just been called to another plane by the Haunter of the Dark.


Reflection

I liked this story but I feel it would have been more powerful and yes, haunting, if I had read it in  one sitting.  Instead, it was over the course of three sittings because I was interrupted.  I liked the slow build up and even the fact that though we know Blake is dead, we don't quite know what did it--thus we are left to wonder just what are those things that go bump in the night.  Additionally, Lovecraft plays with the audience telling us we can accept it straight according to the facts or be left to wonder if this was a case of the supernatural.  

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Image of the Week #21: "The Problem of the Near East"

The Wellesley News (05-02-1918)

What Is It

An article from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

It doesn't entirely surprise me that nearly 100 years later and we are still incapable of respectfully or usefully discussing the politics and religions of the "Near East."  I'm curious if "Mohammedanism" was a generally used term by the West at this time and curious to know what kinds of images this evoked in the common person and of course, what Muslims made of this term.  This story ran about six years before The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and that makes me wonder what were the contemporary images of Muslims in the 1910s.  The West's fear of the "Holy War" seems to be something that still dominates many individuals' abilities to understand and meaningfully interact with followers of Islam. But to know that this misconception has been ongoing for generations reminds me of how hard it is for people to break through their learned and cultural biases.   


This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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Allowing the Public To Vote? A Question to Answer

Recently, a friend on Facebook asked me the following question.  This is a friend of a different political viewpoint from me and on occasion, we get into a debate about different things.  I appreciated the open question without limited judgement embedded in it.  Distilled down to its basic idea, it's an interesting question and thought I would share both question and answer.  Feel free to also chime in with your thoughts.

Question:  
" I have a pet peeve, and I'd like your opinion on it. Also want to make sure I'm being reasonable and all.  Here goes:
IF a person decides that they are going to forego work, class, a nap, or what have you to join a protest against a candidate or political party, shouldn't they be required to know and understand what that party or candidate represents? More importantly, shouldn't they be able to speak intelligently regarding the party or candidate they're supporting? This type of exasperating comportment brings about substantial doubt in the voting public."

Answer:

Interesting question...I would say there's no easy answer.


Word cloud of this blog post.
If you want to TLDR version, it simple:  No to both questions.

However, if you want to understand how I come to that, feel free to read on.

On one level--the pretext of the American idea is that--a person doesn't have to know anything in order to do whatever one wants to do--that's a part of our "freedom".  You are just as free to be peeved as someone else is to be protesting.  We all do things often based on little knowledge, incorrect knowledge, or without actual understanding of what our actions say or result in...and that is really the cornerstone of our nation.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines...Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day."  It is an intentional quality built into the system.  If we all would only be able to act when we have achieved knowledge & understanding of things, we'd so very rarely act.

Additionally, we need only look at the First Amendment to see that there is no stipulation for intelligence.  "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."  There have been limitations on this amendment such as requiring permits and such, but the knowledge isn't one of them.

To get to the question a bit more, I guess I would go further:

"Required" by whom?
I'm assuming you're meaning "morally required" but if not, I guess I would ask who gets to be the gatekeeper.

If "morally required"--I refer back to Emerson above but also raise the question of whose moral systems are we talking about?   Should we be concerned that none of us attain the moral perfection we espouse to and should that be taken into account for whose morals we using to deem something morally required?  That is, should the moral failure of a protestor be held as anything more or less than the moral failings of the person judging?

"Know and understand" to what degree?

The thresholds you provide are insubstantial in that they create no standard upon which all could actually agree.  Knowledge & understanding--according to whom?  To what degree?  If a person can speak eloquently about 3 policy issues on a candidate they support or are protesting, but can't on 10 others, is that an acceptable threshold?  What if those other 10 issues don't matter to the person?

And how do we assess what the protester/supporter knows?  Do we rely on media soundbites that purposely create and manipulate content to illustrate how smart/inept the people are?  Do we administer a quiz to each person to determine their knowledge and understanding?  Should we make them write essays or speeches to explain?  This sounds pedantic and silly (and obviously clearly written by someone who thinks a lot about teaching & learning)...but my point is, who gets to make that judgment call about whether a person knows or understands who they are supporting or protesting?  We can all easily play the game of judging others based upon a few pieces of information we know about them and the assumptions we derive from that about the person and use that to decide if someone "knows and understands"--but to me, that's a weak approach that usually only allows one to reinforce their own biases without doing the work of listening and learning what that person knows or understands and how they come to that.  After all, if someone has forgone other activities to attend a protest or a rally, it means something meaningful has moved them--but meaningful to that person isn't necessarily going to be meaningful to us.

To add another level of chaos and confusion to this is that each party & every candidate puts out thousands of bits of information daily--none of which any one of us can responsibly know and still maintain a functional life.  This was why things like "literacy tests" were abolished as part of voting because they were often clearly used to prevent populations from voting.  Whoever was deciding the threshold could easily move the field posts however they wanted.  We can all play "gotcha politics" with one another based upon what we don't know about our candidates.

"To know and understand what that party and candidate represents"

That's a problematic consideration as well because it assumes each party has a singular meaning and they don't.  There are too many parts to a political party to be seen as singular in a way in which could be agreed up.  Therefore, if people can't even agree on what a party represents (or the dynamics between what the party says and what the party does), defining what a party represents is an impossible act because people who are protesting are likely to have a particular collection of facts in the form of narrative while those attending in support, may have different (or similar) facts but a different narrative that sees the party in a positive light.  In essence, it's impossible for us to "know and understand" a party or a candidate.  Besides being so far removed from said party or candidate, we are all operate with bits of similar and different information that is filtered through our preferred media outlets and into our own understanding of the narrative of politics.  

And of course, you have people within the party that can't agree on what it means or represents--so if the internal members can't, the external are also unlikely to do so.

All of which means that your threshold for the knowledge and understanding of a protestor for a candidate you have sided  with is likely to be profoundly different than what I beleieve should be the threshold or what someone else might be.

As to the second question, I would further add, what does "speak intelligently" mean?  Who gets to decide that threshold?  "Speak intelligently" is in the same hazy space as "to know and understand."  What defines "speaking intelligently"?  Who defines what level of intelligence?  Should it matter if the person is intelligent in area X but not area Y or area Z?  Should it matter if the person doesn't care about area Y or area Z?

Does it only mean "speak" and should the actual speaking abilities of the individual matter?  Should it matter if they are an introvert or extrovert?  Should the context matter?  How someone might "speak" at a rally for their candidate may not be elegant or intelligent--given that most events are just orgiastic love-fests of repeated slogans, cliches, and "we're #1" speak, people's intellectual abilities are often not at their peak.  Where we talk has much influence on how we talk, which means what the camera captures is mediated even before the media play with it.   I'm assuming you mean more than speaking, but that only exasperates the dynamics upon what we judge their abilities.  

All of this is to say that embedded in American ideal is the individual.  The individual has inalienable rights that include protesting and voting.

Does this bode badly for democracy? I would say it has been a feature of democracy in the US since the start--misinformed or uninformed people has always been voting.  If I were to improve the structure of democracy--that's probably not where I'd be looking to change or fix things or be frustrated by.  Even myself, I know, as much as I try to be politically aware, I miss a lot and am misinformed in many ways.

Probably not the response you were looking for, but hopefully not a total waste of your time ;)  I appreciated the question and the opportunity to reflect on it.


What about you, dear reader?  What are your thoughts on the question posed or the answer supplied?


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Review: The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A co-worker first introduced me to Temple Grandin when telling me about a biopic of her featuring Claire Danes. I watched the movie (being a fan of Danes) and was impressed to find out about Grandin's work in a variety of fields. So when this book came across my desk to review I was pretty excited and it definitely came through. Grandin and Panek do a great job exploring autism through the brain and understanding through the latest technology and research how to make sense of autism, recognize the challenges it can represent, but also the innumerable ways it can add value to people's lives. She doesn't present it as a gift by any means but she does excellent in emphasizing what benefits and opportunities are available if we more consciously and sincerely integrate autism into our culture.

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Review: Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues

Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues Ben Franklin: Unplugged: .... And Other Comic Monologues by Josh Kornbluth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, as some of my readers will know--I'm a fan of Josh Kornbluth--the mastermind behind one of my favorite films, Haiku Tunnel. When I found out that I would be reviewing his latest collection of comedic monologues, I did do a little dance. I really enjoyed it and keep an eye out for an interview with Josh Kornbluth that I will post sometime soon. Anyways, this collection of comedic monologues is a real hoot as Kornbluth explores his resemblance to Ben Franklin, finally decides to pay taxes, finish his decades-old thesis, and contemplate Jewishness and Andy Warhol. Through it all, he's must face off against his arch-nemesis and true dramatic foil...himself.

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Article Summary #20: Conceptualizing change in the institutional diversity of U.S. colleges and universities

Citation: Morphew, C. (2009). Conceptualizing change in the institutional diversity of U.S. colleges and universities. Journal of Higher Education, 80 (3), 243-269. 
Word cloud of article: Conceptualizing change in the institutional diversity of U.S. colleges and universities

Summary:  The diversity of higher education in the United States has always been seen as important in contributing to matching students with the right learning environment, creating a more dynamic society, and reducing the chance for indoctrination.  Birnbaum's study (1983) of institutions from 1960 to 1980 indicated a shift towards homogeneity among institutions. Morphew starts with this study and looks to recreate it to understand what has occurred since Birnbaum's study, particularly the period from 1972 to 2002.  Morphew wants to see what type of changes have occurred to institutional diversity in higher education in the United States between 1972 and 2002 and whether institutional theory can shed any light on the changes or lack thereof.  Morphew builds a five-item matrix (including type, degree level, sex, size, and cost)  inspired from Birnbaum's approach and then uses it to organized institutional data (IPEDS and enrollment datasets from all 50 states) from 2,679 institutions in 1972 and 3,718 institutions in 2002-2003.  Institutional diversity didn't increase and on some measures it decreased but new institutional types did emerge.  There were also shifts among the most populated institutional types between Birnbaum and Morphew's results (e.g. the four types that were most populated 1972, were not found among the most populated in 2002).  Morphew concludes that because there is little change during an arguable period of change (see below), then population ecology theory fails to provide an adequate explanation.  Instead, he believes that institutional theory can be used to explain the lack of change when considering the concept of balance in which institutions do need to work to reflect the external ideas but must also work with internal entities that might resist (e.g. the faculty).  This potentially explains how for-profits which have less internal balance to maintain can gain traction in the higher education market because they can be more flexible.  Institutions with "highly institutionalized environments" are not likely to be capable of big changes but can only change incrementally because their existence relies on their stable identity.  

On a side note and critique of the article, Morphew identifies demographic changes between 1972 and 2002 as an indicator of a changing environment for institutions to respond to.  But I wonder if this is where the article actually falters.  Student growth is not necessarily the same as change.  After all, the growth of student population is a constant over the history of higher education in the 19th and 20th century.  Sometimes, it grows faster than other times, but it is still growth.   I would think subtracting this from the exploration might actually then require one to revisit and ask if there were large environmental changes between 1972 to 2002.  

I would be curious to see what that study would look like if it were between 1981 and 2016.   Morphew says that “"organizations in fields like higher education—where goals (e.g., educated students, knowledge) are hard to measure, technology (e.g., teaching) is unclear, and organizational actors are highly professionalized—are extremely susceptible to isomorphic forces.” (P. 248)  Given that we’ve seen an increase in easier-to-measure goals (through stronger calls for assessment as well as the rise of competency based and online programs that can better quantify actions to outcomes), teaching is becoming clearer (again through learning analytics, learning sciences, and easier means of seeing the interaction between students and learning objects in learning management systems), and a de-professionalization of organizational actors (adjunct faculty, courses where instructors only discuss and grade, but do not develop curriculum, and online courses, where much of what the instructor does is automated such as grading and lectures), I wonder if there would be increased diversity.  Beyond the rise of for-profit, we now have MOOCs, competency based learning, “boot camp” institutes, or other initiatives like the Minerva Project.

Keywords: higher education, institutional theory, population ecology theory, institutional change, environmental factors



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Short Story #385: The Descendant by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Descendant

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The story begins with a narrator explaining that he is on his deathbed and feels the need to share a particular story before he dies.  He tells of a quiet and slightly mad older man who lives in the Gray's Inn.  The man has  pet cat whom he talked to a lot.  In fact, his talk was largely irrelevant but then a young man named Williams moved into to the Inn and tries constantly to befriend the old man and get him to share his knowledge..  It is revealed that the man is Lord Northam of England.  Williams attempts are largely rebuked but then one day, Williams acquires a copy of the Necronomicon, the book of the dead that captures the minds of so many intrigued by the dark arts.  This book provides an opening for the Lord Northam to open up.  He discusses his home and his lineage.  His line goes back to Roman times in England when soldiers first took to the land.  However, they encountered this one cave that they couldn't vanquish, despite their best efforts.  This cave was said to be of a people who had lived there for a long time before and were from an ancient land which had sunk into the sea.  This was the place where his castle was built upon.  Generations later, Lord Northam still felt the haunting power of the place which let him to pursue the tales of the supernatural and even to witness it himself.  This led him eventually to the Nameless City and to believe that there are points in the world where one can transcend to some other place not of this world.  The story ends with him wondering if this is all in his mind or something that is actually real.    


Reflection

The story began with an engaging premise but fizzles out in the end.  It has the story (the narrator telling his tale) within a story (Williams trying to confront Lord Northam) within a story (Lord Northam's tale).  But the ending feels abrupt and without a climax.  It seems like there is no real climax beyond getting Northam to speak.  The only real way this story has a climax is if it goes hand in hand with the short story, The Nameless City, wherein you witness just what his experience was with The Nameless City (which is pretty significant), but then the story feels like it is the framing for that tale, not a tale in itself. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Image of the Week #20: Greater X-Ray Service

The Wellesley News (05-06-1920)

What Is It

An advertisement from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

I continued to find the General Electric advertisements interesting in that it makes me wonder how long has the practice of news-vertisements been around.  I remember seeing these in magazines that I used to read where there would be stories sponsored by or written by a company and it would be clearly delineated.  With General Electric, they take out nearly full page ads and fill a good chunk of it with text and compelling imagery.  They attempt to tell a story and through all of this, lure in the reader, whereas so many other ads in this publication keep it short and simple with maybe an image, big bold words, and the product.  I wonder when this practice began, which companies practiced it and what the end result was.  This piece uses X-Rays as a hook to get people interested in learning more about and potentially buying General Electric products in the future, but X-Rays doesn't seem to be a good product to offer in a student newspaper at a women's college--or is it just me?  


This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The PhD Chronicles: Orientation

And now, I'm officially excited.  If the first post did not contain the excitement of someone just accepted into a PhD program.  This post most certainly does.  The Orientation was on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at UMASS Boston.  


Finding your way: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Wind_vane_05643.jpg
I rushed to the event, having left work later than I wanted and being stuck in transport hell that is I93 during any time you really want to make use of it.  So rushed and harried was I that when I parked in the parking lot under the Campus Center, that I didn't realized I parked in a handicap space.  The poor lighting and dirty floor meant that I did not see it on the ground and I entered the spot from the one behind it which appeared to not be a space.  When I came back to my car to see the ticket, I was more angry at myself than I was at the ticket--I more than deserved it.

The Orientation was a good mixture of the necessary bureaucratic and the socializing.  We got student IDs, learned about the payment process for different students, and other things worth knowing.  We also got to meet the faculty who we will be working with in June and other faculty in the program.  They also brought together a student panel of first and second year students with whom we got to hear about their own experiences with the program.  Beyond that, there was the typical ice-breaker, where we learned that all of us were concerned about the personal, professional and educational balance but were largely excited (and some overwhelmed) about moving forward.  We also got to socialize with one another, which was great.  

I found this orientation to be quite useful because it helped to calibrate everyone's expectations for the first classes, gave us an opportunity meet one another before first class, and also to hear from the instructors themselves.  All of which alleviated our collected angst about what to expect.  

Having met my fellow cohort members and gotten the first glimpse of the program, I can say that I am excited.  I feel like I am in the right spot and will be quite ready for the challenge that the next five years will bring. 

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April's Gratitude

Another month of daily acknowledgments for that which I am grateful and while I continue to enjoy the practice, it raises questions about such a practice and how I go about it.  

What about those things I am regularly thankful for? 
I could easily spend each day's gratefuls on some clearly identified items (my cats, books, wife, family, friends, work, health, running, access, etc) that come up almost instantly when I think of what I'm thankful for.  In this way, this practice reminds me of prayer--particularly as seen on TV wherein the child is saying, "And God bless mommy, and daddy, and Jimmy, and my dog, and my teacher, and Bobby from down the street...."  Do I avoid the frequency of these or just come up with more items on top of them? I generally set myself to a minimum of three grateful acknowledgments per day, in part because I want this to be a contained practice--not something I slide into doing for hours on end (because there are indeed millions of things to be grateful for).

Do I try to acknowledge as many things as I can identify as being thankful for or just those things that are salient at the moment?  
I wonder about this because there are many days when several things come to mind but I already acknowledged them in the past few days already.  If I acknowledge only that which is salient, it seems like I'm likely to then keep coming back to those which I mostly quickly recall and that is likely to be those that I most frequently acknowledge.  It seems a bit cyclical and reductive.  Each morning, my wife, my cats, and my health come to mind instantly, but I'm adverse to just listing those each day as I feel like it doesn't do the project justice.  


Wordcloud for grateful April
How much attention should I give to new or different things to be grateful for?
I like the idea of finding different things to be grateful for that I don't often take the time to notice or acknowledge.  I've often said that many of us live lives of great joy wherein in millions of things go right that we never really acknowledge, so there should be ample things to be thankful for.  But what happens if I come up short on some mornings.  Am I grasping at something that is not there because my morning brain isn't fully functioning yet or because I'm having trouble to have a larger view of my life?  

What about grateful nots?  
No, that's not a means of tying things but I wonder about negative grateful things.  That is, I'm grateful for something not to have happened.  If I write, "I am grateful for this computer not electrocuting me" does that count?  I suppose I could flip it (and I often try to do so), turning it into: "I'm grateful this computer is functioning."  

What about when being grateful coincides with privilege?
On some level, being grateful is acknowledging privileges that adorn my life and realizing that many may not be available to others.  Having a supporting, respectful, and caring partner is a privilege at the end of the day and is the result of personal choices and systematic factors.  Having a job that I love also had to do with the privileges afforded me of growing up in a middle-class two-parent home in a predominantly white part of the country.  These things are not entirely of my own making--though it is easy to fall prey to that thinking .However, being privileged-aware while also trying to be grateful is tricky waters to navigate.  With each grateful statement, I recognize there are a variety of systematic privileges that contribute to the object of gratitude.  And therefore, being thankful for things that are the result of systematic privileges feels problematic.  For instance, should I be thankful that I've been pulled over once in the last decade if, HYPOTHETICALLY, there are many examples of me not necessarily obeying speed laws or full stops?  While it's something to be grateful for, it is something that reflects a systematic privilege of being a white middle-class male as opposed to nonwhite middle-class men who are disproportionately pulled over while driving. 

Does being grateful also mean obligation?
By acknowledging my gratitude for something, does it then create an obligation in some way?  If I am thankful for my cats, does it mean to make sure to give them more attention that day?  I believe the answer is yes.  If this is something I take the time to personally recognize, then it seems to follow that I need to more publicly acknowledge it.  However, the previous conversation on privilege draws me into considering then what do I do about those things I am grateful for that are tied to systematic privilege.  Ok, the answer seems obvious: do something.  

Sometimes, it is equally obvious what to do but when it comes to addressing systematic privilege, not so much.  I try to keep it in focus and think about the ways in which it informs how I move through the world, keeping it in check as best I can.  But I also recognize how the system itself pushes me to ignore it, to forget it, to say that no, I am solely a product of my own abilities.  So maybe in that regard, acknowledging privilege continues to remind me that it exists and that I need to check it regularly.  However, I hope that ideas and ways of addressing it beyond my own internal struggle will eventually emerge too.  

These are not necessarily questions that I expect readers to answer for me per se.  Rather, these are the questions that arise from this practice.  I believe they are good questions to ponder and help me think more critically about what I am doing and may even raise some interesting food for thought for my readers to consider.  

Previous notes:

What about you?  What kind of questions or thoughts go through your head as you consider being thankful in your life?  


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Review: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley by Neal Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've know of Ripley's "Believe It or Not!" but have never been in any of the actual museums or even watched the TV show (I think it was a TV show?). But when my editor sent this to me, I was slightly curious and that certainly paid off. I was familiar with the outrageous and borderline-spectacle that Ripley is known for, but I had not clue about his start in comics. He was definitely as quirky as those people in which he collected but seeing his life move from sports illustration reporting to comics to eventually radio and so on was excellently explained and connected through Thompson's work. I'm very curious to look at and read any collections of his cartoons now.

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Review: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kennedy's book is a fascinating look at the tricky and curious understanding of an infamous word. What is so strong about this book is that it traces out the word's complexity and provides a clear understanding that it is not a fixed word and yet there are core elements to it. Language is tricky and language that is deeply rooted in human degradation is even more challenging. He looks at the cultural and legal history of the word while also identifying the ways that both African Americans and non-African Americans use the word in modern times. It was clear prior to this book why it is such a powerful and troubling word, but now, I find myself with a richer understanding of how it happens and why it will be a long time before we have unpacked all the elements that comes with using the word.

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