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Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race | The New Yorker
"In making sincerity the litmus test of American racism, Thomas took a strand of the black nationalism that influenced his early development and wove it into an entire philosophy of race. In the nineteen-twenties, at an especially acute moment of racist reaction in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found comfort in the promise of candor. “They are better friends to my race for telling us what they are, and what they mean, than all the hypocrites put together,” Garvey said, of the Ku Klux Klan. “I like honesty and fair play.”

For Thomas, dishonesty was not only about race; it was also about class. However well intentioned white liberals were about remedying racial inequality, their élitism was steadfast. At Yale, some of Thomas’s classmates would query the absence of class rankings and grades. “You do not separate cream from cream,” a professor responded. “It is your fate as a Yale Law School student to become one of the leaders in the legal profession. It will happen, not because of you personally, but because you are here. That is what happens to Yale Law School students.” But Yale’s black students were separated from the cream; indeed, the absence of rankings was used to effect that separation. As he approached graduation, Thomas tried to secure a position at an élite law firm in Atlanta, which had no black associates. One of the marks against him was that he had no grades. Even if he came from Yale, how could his prospective employers know how good he was?

Thomas came to believe that, for the white liberal, offering help to black people was a way to express the combined privileges of race and class. This is a running theme of Wright’s “Native Son,” in which Bigger Thomas, a poor black man from the slums of Chicago, is given an opportunity to rise when a wealthy white family hires him as a chauffeur. The idea that black people can advance only with the help of whites is anathema to Clarence Thomas, who has identified with Wright’s protagonist throughout his life. For him, white benevolence denies black people the pride of achievement. By contrast, if one is black and overcomes the barriers of Jim Crow, one can be assured that the accomplishment is real. Thomas often invokes the example of his grandparents, who, despite segregation, managed to acquire property and support their family. Though they “had to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they knew, however far they got, that the distance was theirs. When black people succeed in the shadow of white benefactors, that certainty is lost.

This is the loss that Thomas has suffered since his youth: not of the color line but of its clarity. It’s a loss that he associates with liberalism, the North, and, above all, integration. “I never worshiped at the altar” of integration, he declared, five years after joining the Court. As he told Juan Williams, who wrote a profile of Thomas in The Atlantic, “The whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.” It is a loss that Thomas has set out—from his early years as a young black nationalist on the left to his tenure as a conservative on the Court—to reverse.

Thomas’s rightward drift, which began in the seventies, was inflected by the very ethos that once put him on the left: namely, disaffection with black liberalism and the mainstream civil-rights movement. In his memoir, Thomas notes that part of the appeal of black nationalism was tied to his sense, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, that “no one was going to take care of me or any other black person in America.” Eventually, this notion extended to the left. “I marched. I protested. I asked the government to help black people,” Thomas told the Washington Post, in 1980. “I did all those things. But it hasn’t worked.” The whole repertoire of black politics—from mainstream activism to Black Power radicalism and beyond—now seemed pointless. By the eighties, Thomas, a member of the Reagan Administration, believed that state action could do nothing for African-Americans. Problems of racial inequality “cannot be solved by the law—even civil-rights laws,” he told an audience at Clark College, a historically black school in Atlanta, in the nineteen-eighties.

And yet it was on the bench that Thomas began to pursue his own particular vision of racial justice. In his first decade on the Court, Thomas often met with high-achieving black students from Washington’s poorer neighborhoods. One meeting—with a high-school student named Cedric Jennings—was immortalized in a 1998 Esquire piece. After several hours of warm conversation, Thomas asked Jennings what his plans were for college. “I’m off to Brown,” Jennings replied. Thomas frowned. Finally, he said, “Well, that’s fine, but I’m not sure I would have selected an Ivy League school. You’re going to be up there with lots of very smart white kids, and if you’re not sure about who you are, you could get eaten alive. . . . It can happen at any of the good colleges where a young black man who hasn’t spent much time with whites suddenly finds himself among almost all whites.”

This concern runs throughout Thomas’s jurisprudence. “Some people think that the solution to all the problems of black people is integration,” he said, in 1997. By his own admission, he is not one of them. In a lengthy 1982 research article (published with an acknowledgment to “the invaluable assistance of Anita F. Hill”), Thomas notes pointedly that “it must be decided . . . whether integration per se should be a primary goal.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the Republican senator Arlen Specter pressed him on that claim, asking, “If you end segregation, doesn’t it necessarily mean that you are requiring school integration?”

At the time, Thomas dodged the question, but he has since given his answer on the Court. In the 1995 case Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court’s conservative majority held that federal courts could not force Missouri to adopt policies designed to entice suburban white students to predominantly black urban schools. Thomas joined the majority. In the Court’s private deliberations about the case, he argued, in the paraphrase of a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker, “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. . . . All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

This private sentiment made its way into Thomas’s public statement about the case. His concurrence in Missouri v. Jenkins was “the only opinion,” legal scholar Mark Graber argues, “that questioned whether desegregation was a constitutional value.” If anything, Thomas believes that the state should—where it can, within the law—support the separation of the races. Looking back on his education, in an all-black environment, Thomas has admitted to wanting to “turn back the clock” to a time “when we had our own schools.” Much of his jurisprudence is devoted to undoing the “grand experiment” of which he believes himself to be a victim. As he made clear in 1986, “I have been the guinea pig for many social experiments on social minorities. To all who would continue these experiments, I say please ‘no more.’ ”

Perhaps the most insidious of those experiments, for Thomas, is affirmative action, which he has long opposed. His critics call him a hypocrite. “He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it,” Rosa Parks said of Thomas, in 1996. His defenders believe that Thomas is advancing a common conservative line—that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism, which imposes illegitimate burdens on whites. In fact, Thomas’s arguments are considerably more unorthodox than that. According to Thomas, affirmative action is the most recent attempt by white people to brand and belittle black people as inferior. Affirmative action does not formally mirror the tools of white supremacy; for Thomas, it is the literal continuation of white supremacy.

His argument is rooted in two beliefs, each informed by his time spent on the left. The first is that affirmative action reinforces the stigma that shadows African-Americans. Among many whites, blackness signals a deficit of intellect, talent, and skill. Even Supreme Court Justices, Thomas wrote in one opinion, “assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” When the state and social institutions identify African-Americans as beings in need of help, they reinforce that stigma. It doesn’t matter if some African-Americans succeed without affirmative action. In the same way that enslavement marked all black people, free or slave, as inferior, affirmative action—here Thomas borrows directly from the language of Plessy v. Ferguson—stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people.

We see this argument in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative-action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School. In the early nineteen-nineties, the school adopted an affirmative-action policy in order to create a more diverse student body. … [more]
clarencethomas  affirmitiveaction  elitism  admissions  colleges  universities  politics  polarization  law  conservativism  blacknationalism  race  racism  segregation  integration  inequality  prejudice  discrimination  rankings  grades  grading  richardwright  whitesaviorism  assimilation  supremecourt  liberalism  civilrights  coreyrobin  blakpanthers  blackpantherparty  meritocracy  hbus  solidarity  self-help  angeladavis  kathleencleaver  erickahuggins  bobbyseale  us  policy  activism  radicalism  cedricjennings  schools  busing  charleshamilton  blackpower  stokelycarmichael 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/09/student-debt-is-transforming-the-american-family ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/us/college-cheating-papers.html ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Or:
Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Grades Are Capitalism in Action. Let's Get Them Out of Our Schools.
Grading takes up much of my time that could be better spent on teaching or otherwise directly interacting with students. Meanwhile, grading has little educational payoff for students. It disrespects them as thinking people. And finally, it chiefly serves employers — but often in ways that are not much good for them either. In short, grading remains an immensely wasteful, ineffective and largely negative aspect of education at all levels: primary education, secondary education and hig...
teaching  grades  capitalism_mind 
august 2019 by SteveLambert
Is it too easy to earn a college degree? — Joanne Jacobs
Colleges are admitting more black and Latino students, who tend to have weaker academic preparation and lower graduation rates. In addition, students are studying less and working longer hours at part-time jobs, notes Jeff Denning, a Brigham Young economist. Yet first-year students are earning higher grades. His research suggests a possible explanation: Colleges may have become easier.

Some states are linking college funding to graduation rates, notes Harvard sociologist Christina Ciocca Eller. “Potentially, there’s pressure on faculty to help students, especially underprepared students, to move them through the curriculum in order to keep churning up the graduation rate,” she said.
Academia  grades  majors  jacobs  diversity 
july 2019 by HispanicPundit
(429) https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1142786531746148352
This post re: & comments came highly recommended by . I often reference Schimmer's '5…
grades  from twitter_favs
june 2019 by tolkien
Intrinsic motivation in the classroom is key – but schools kill it
"Intrinsic motivators can be key to student achievement – but extrinsic motivation dominates classrooms"



"Destiny, 18, is like most students in the United States. Surveys reveal a steady decline in student engagement throughout middle and high school, a trend that Gallup deemed the “school engagement cliff.” The latest data from the company’s Student Poll found that 74 percent of fifth graders felt engaged, while the same was true of just 32 percent of high school juniors.

One of the key components of engagement is students’ excitement about what they learn. Yet most schools extinguish that excitement.

It all comes down to motivation. In many schools, students do their work because their teachers tell them to. Or because they need to do it to get a certain grade. For students like Destiny, getting a good grade and outshining their peers – not learning itself – becomes the goal of school. For other students, they need minimum grades to be on sports teams or participate in extracurricular activities or please their parents, and that becomes their motivation. Students who do their work because they’re genuinely interested in learning the material are few and far between.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The teacher demands, the grades, the promise of additional opportunities – they’re all external rewards. Decades of research, both about educational best practice and the way the human brain works, say these types of motivators are dangerous. Offering students rewards for learning creates reliance on the reward. If they becomes less interesting to the student or disappear entirely, the motivation does, too. That’s what happened to Destiny in middle school when she no longer got the reward of being celebrated as the top of her class.

Inspiring students’ intrinsic motivation to learn is a more effective strategy to get and keep students interested. And it’s more than that. Students actually learn better when motivated this way. They put forth more effort, tackle more challenging tasks, and end up gaining a more profound understanding of the concepts they study.

Still, Deborah Stipek, a Stanford University professor of education and author of the book “Motivation to Learn: From Theory to Practice,” is pragmatic about the role of extrinsic motivation.

“I think most realistic people in the field say that you’ve got to have both,” Stipek said. “You can rely entirely on intrinsic motivation if you don’t care what children learn, but if you’ve got a curriculum and a set of standards, then you can’t just go with what they’re interested in.”

The problem is that the balance, in most schools, is way off. While some schools around the country are trying to personalize learning and, in doing so, to tap into students’ interests, Stipek estimates that most teaching minimizes students’ internal desire to learn.

In traditional schools, it’s easier to offer a steady stream of rewards and punishments to keep students in line. And preparing students to succeed on state tests tends to discourage the lessons that let them explore their own interests. Teachers who want to inspire intrinsic motivation have to swim against the current.

That’s not the case everywhere, though. Destiny’s trajectory of diminishing engagement took a turn in high school. Instead of getting increasingly uninterested and disconnected from school, she became more engaged. That’s because she enrolled in the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, a public high school district in Rhode Island that goes by ‘The Met.’ She is now a senior.

The Met is at the extreme when it comes to tapping into intrinsic motivation. Students don’t take traditional classes. They spend virtually all of their time learning independently, with support from advisors or at internships. Students all have individual learning plans and accumulate credits toward traditional subject areas through projects, self-directed study, internship experience and dual enrollment with local colleges. Almost everything they do, all day, connects to a personal goal or something they’re interested in.

That’s what inspired Destiny to enroll at The Met. “I thought, oh my God, I have all this power to choose what I want,” she remembers.

Education researchers have been studying student motivation for decades, identifying the best classroom strategies to promote an intrinsic drive to learn. The Met puts many of them to use. Students learn through real-world, hands-on problem-solving; they tackle open-ended assignments that require sustained effort; they get the power to choose what and how they learn; they finish projects with something to show for their learning in portfolios and concrete products; they set their own academic goals; they need never focus more on a grade than the process of learning because they don’t get traditional grades. All of these things come straight out of playbooks for inspiring intrinsic motivation, including Stipek’s. And the impact on students can be profound.

Destiny started high school with the academic zeal she left middle school with – meaning very little. Her freshman-year report card reflected that. While The Met doesn’t give out traditional grades, students do get assessed on their mastery of the goals they set for each subject. The dominant note on Destiny’s report card from ninth grade is “meeting expectations.” She had very few instances of “exceeding expectations” and in some subjects, her mastery was only “in progress.” In her sophomore year, things started to shift, and “exceeding expectations” started to become a more common assessment. By junior year, Destiny exceeded expectations in almost every subject and “in progress” was nowhere to be found on her report card. Gone was the middle schooler who didn’t want to be in class. In her place was a driven young woman who again liked school.

Destiny’s experience is common for Met students. On state surveys, these students report being more interested in their coursework, more convinced that what they’re learning will matter to their futures, and more supported at school than their peers in almost every other district in Rhode Island. She and other students at The Met continually bring the conversation back to how much difference it makes to be in control of their learning."



"It tends to take a little while for students to rise to the challenge, though.

Beccy Siddons, Destiny’s advisor, considers watching that trajectory to be one of the most exciting parts of her job. As the main contact for an “advisory” of about 16 students who stay with her for their entire time at The Met, Siddons guides students through their internships, all of their academic work and, eventually, their college applications.

“Ninth graders who have spent their whole life being told what to learn, some of them don’t even know what they’re interested in because they haven’t been given the opportunity,” Siddons said.

That was Destiny as a freshman. Her first internship was at an elementary school in a bilingual classroom, a safe, familiar choice for the native Spanish- and English-speaker. Looking back, she’s grateful that experience made her realize she didn’t like teaching. But at the time, she didn’t know what to try next. As a sophomore, she saw another student present about an internship at the New England Aquarium, and it piqued her interest. She first worked there as a junior and quickly discovered a deep love of sea life. She now has a favorite creature she didn’t even know existed before: the puffer fish. And she has a career interest she otherwise might not have found until college, if ever: environmental science.

Siddons routinely oversees such meandering paths, and a key part of her job is helping students discover passions they didn’t know they might have. The freshmen she welcomes to The Met are a far cry from the seniors she sends out into the world.

The early part of that transformation does take work, though. And while it isn’t typical for schools to orient themselves around intrinsic motivation, hundreds do attempt it. Next Generation Learning Challenges has grown into a network of about 150 schools, all of which focus on tapping into students’ intrinsic motivation in one way or another. The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools represents 102 school districts doing similar work; EdLeader21 has another 300 districts, many of whom aim to inspire students’ intrinsic desire to learn. And the Big Picture Learning network, built around the success of The Met, now counts more than 60 schools in the U.S. (and another 100 abroad)."
instrinsicmotivation  motivation  schools  schooling  schooliness  extrinsicmotivation  grades  grading  2019  taragarcíamathewson  deborahstipek  education  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  rhodeisland  providence  deschooling  unschooling  deprogramming  interestdriven 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Recommendations for an optimal conclusion to Hampshire College (opinion)
"Hampshire College: Fold, Don’t Merge: Michael Drucker proposes what he thinks would be an ethical conclusion to the experimental college."



"When I say my alma mater is an experimental college, I mean it literally. No grades. No majors. No tests. We are different by design and intention.

My academic adviser would ask me, “What are you curious about in the world?” and “How are you going to find the knowledge you need to answer those questions?” Since we have no majors, we have no list to follow telling us exactly what courses to take to complete our degree. Students must not only study the material in their chosen areas of concentration but also figure out what that will be. Simply being a student at Hampshire College is an act of experiential education.

Hampshire’s educational philosophy asks: What is possible if students are studying for the sake of learning instead of competing for letter grades? What is possible if students are studying not only for the sake of learning but also for innovative, interdisciplinary applications of that knowledge?

Do Not Resuscitate

In January, President Miriam E. Nelson announced the search for a long-term strategic partner for Hampshire and questioned first-year class enrollment. Student activism ignited. Alumni, faculty and staff comments in support and dissent flooded in. A petition calling for shared governance collected thousands of signatures within days. On Feb. 1, Hampshire announced it would enroll only early-decision admits and students who previously deferred.

A partnership, or a merger, could be great if I’m allowing myself to be optimistic. But it’s increasingly difficult to sustain optimism, as my idealism feels more like naïveté with each passing day. Staff layoffs may begin as early as April. Early-decision admits are told a new affiliate will likely control how any diploma they earn will be awarded. Notable alumnus Jon Krakauer writes in The New York Times that in the merger “it is not at all clear how much of the Hampshire philosophy -- to say nothing of the Hampshire soul -- will survive.”

I feel more and more confident that Hampshire’s soul will not survive. If that’s the case, I do not want to keep our institution on life support. I respectfully submit my request to the Hampshire Board of Trustees to consider ordering a DNR for our beloved and complicated alma mater.

Without our educational “soul,” what remains is still something beautiful: a liberal arts campus with provocative course material, progressive ideologies and the harmonious clashing of overlapping countercultures. But that’s something students can find at many other colleges around the world. It’s not enough for me to want Hampshire to continue for the sake of its name living on.

The pedagogical tenets of our educational experiment make us who we are. Without them, we are not Hampshire College. Some might ask if it’s really that bad to have majors, grades or tests. No, it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of Hampshire.

I’m only 27, and I’ve lost both of my parents. My dad died when I was a third-year student at Hampshire. The day he passed, I was at ACPA’s annual convention with Hampshire student affairs representatives. My first professional mentor was there and consoled me the night I found out. My mom passed in the summer of 2017 -- too young and too soon.

I know what loss, mourning and grief mean. I’ve already begun mourning Hampshire as I’ve done before while preparing myself emotionally for the painful departure of a loved one. I do not want Hampshire to close, but I know that it is an option. My personal experiences make it easier for me to consider it as a viable one. I’m not afraid of it.

My preference for Hampshire to close, rather than merge, is not about me throwing in the towel on a good fight to save our college. It’s about respecting its legacy. It’s about preferring to honor it in memory rather than seeing it diluted in its new form. It’s about thanking Hampshire for what it has been and letting it pass peacefully.

It may be over, but it’s not a failure. We had 50 years of magic. We existed. We were here. It mattered. It will continue to matter.

An Ethical Conclusion

Closing Hampshire College is not as simple as one human being dying (which is, of course, not simple at all). Closing the college would have an immense economic effect on its employees and the local Amherst community. It has four classes of active students to consider. But I would support closing rather than merging if we could spend our energy and resources developing the best conclusion possible. There is potential here for us to truly live out Hampshire’s philosophy until the end.

From what I can gather, however, what is happening right now is not an ethical termination. Amherst College faculty members wrote an open letter to President Nelson criticizing the recent decisions made without adequate faculty input, noting, “No leader in any field can violate long-standing professional norms for long without compromising his or her credibility and losing the confidence of core constituencies.” Hampshire’s Executive Committee of the Faculty authored their own letter declaring that the president’s Jan. 15 announcement considering not accepting an incoming class “turned a financial crisis into a catastrophe” -- in essence making it so that Hampshire then had no choice but to fulfill this self-defeating prophecy and spiral down toward helplessness. The staff, faculty and administrators are now in the midst of learning of layoffs. Those who must leave have only 60 days to prepare; those who stay are headed into the unknown. Either way, there is harm done. It seems the employees and students living and working on the campus right now are being neglected in the shuffle.

Do this, but do it right. Gather all Hampshire constituencies for planning the conclusion of Hampshire in the spirit of shared of governance. Generate ideas, cross over disciplines and break boundaries -- discover the beauty in something tragic. Lengthen the window of time for shutting down. Create a four-year plan for closing up shop. Do everything we want to do in that time.

Provide accurate information to all employees with at least six months' notice, if not more, for changes or termination. Use your remaining resources to financially ease the transition for all your employees.

Let current students grieve and be angry. Offer them what you actually can offer them. Don’t hold out with information you know is inevitable. If current first-years need to transfer to have full college experiences, tell them as soon as possible and help them do it. Learn from other colleges that have closed. Replicate their better practices and learn from their shortcomings.

Last, let’s throw Hampshire the most perfectly Hampshire going-away party we’ve ever seen. Let’s celebrate what we’ve done. Let’s document our innovations and accomplishments. Let’s show others how to resurrect what Hampshire did if the financial and political tides turn. Invite alums back to campus for a weekend of acknowledgment, celebration and community. If we were to lean into this direction now, we have the potential to do something extraordinary.

Before anything, the people making the decisions need to reveal the status of the merger’s development. The board and senior administrators must gamble on showing their cards. It would take a radical amount of vulnerability to show us all what our options are -- and an even greater amount would be to let us all have a say in which direction we go.

The students organizing in Hamp.Rise.Up are demanding just that: a say in what’s happening. It’s not typical for a college to do that in this dire situation, but we’ve never been typical. What would it mean to have a Hampshire-wide democratic vote on the future of our college? Even if we vote to close the institution in light of unfavorable mergers, what could we teach to the rest of higher education by the process through which we got there?

We are a college that lives our motto, Non Satis Scire: “to know is not enough.” So far, we don’t know much, and that is clearly not enough. But given the chance, what could we create?"
hampshirecollege  2019  michaeldrucker  alternative  education  learning  howwelearn  highered  highereducation  maverickcolleges  experience  experiential  grades  grading  ethics 
march 2019 by robertogreco

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