Sunday, July 24, 2016

The College Issues that are talked about/College issues that are important

The following college issues get lots of attention:

Admissions-  high school students PLAN to do things JUST to get them into an elite college. For example nobody takes the SATs just for the fun of it anymore.

Admissions- Some High School Students are stressed out about college admissions, see here

Admissions- Affirmative action.

Admission- Lower standards for athletes?

Sports- too much money spend on it?

Sports- the players treated unfairly?

Are other out-of-class activites also an issue? See here.

Jock Culture.

Free speech- Speech codes, triggers. (I've heard this talked about for about 30 years now.)

A  common core. How to make it not just dead white males.

A common core. How to get this to work when profs are overly specialized.

Professors are rewarded for research more than teaching- how to induce them to be better teachers.(I've heard about this one for about 40 years.)

Renaming buildings that are named after racists. ( Byrd Stadium at UMCP is now Maryland Stadium  see here) (If we find out that Fields or Abel was a racist will we rename the awards? Why bother naming things after Justice Scalia or Bobby Kennedy when they will be renamed at some point because of their views on gay people?)

Renaming buildings that are named after the things racists do (see here)

White privilege  (If I was black then whenever my blog had   bad spelling or grammar it would be connected to my race and assumed upbringing.)

The crushing debts of $100,000 or so that some students face after college. (Which is why some students Feel the Bern!, though others Feel the Bern! for different reasons.)

Hookup culture on campus

Lack of diversity in some majors (I've heard this talked about for about 30 years now.)
(Examples: Across the country CS is at around 15% female.  Art History is around 80% female. Why does the CS one generate much discussion and some outrage but the art history one... not so much? I would guess jobs. But the point of this list is just that these are the issues people ARE talking about.)

Should college be vocational vs intellectual? Are these two disjoint?

MOOCS: How will they affect education?

These are important issues. But they affect  few people. 65% (and dropping) high school seniors goto college. Over 1/2 of all college students go to community college. Many of those students are part timers who also work. Speech codes are not at the top of the things they have to worry about. These people face other problems that do not get attention. See the following excellent articles

Shut up abour Harvard by Ben Cassleman


The other 75% by Paul Attewell and David Lavin

To give one example: The number of students going to community college who need to take part time jobs to finish and end up with a crushing (to them) debt of $10,000 is a far more common problem then any of the ones above. Why so little coverage?

The articles give other examples of problems that are NOT being talked about.

The other 75% is from the excellent book What is college for edited by Lagemann and Lewis, and reviewed by me, for SIGACT News, here.   Most of the other chapters are about the issues above. We need a book, or at least  a conversation, about issues of education affecting many more people.

The Morrill Land-Grant Acts established many colleges. It was passed in a time when it was realized that its important to have an educated public. It must have been passed in a time where there were not the pressing issues we have today (like bathrooms for transgender people) so they could think about these issues clearly. It was passed in 1862 in the middle of the Civil War.

A meta-thought--- Every comment on this blog about the issues I list above as NOT affecting that many people will prove my point that those issues are discussed far more than issues that affect far more people. Even so, feel free to comment on whatever issues you want.


  1. Some issues may affect less people than others but they affect those people a lot more. For example, affirmative action, lack of privilege, lack of diversity in some majors, dorms/buildings on campus named after well-known racists, problems with campus security etc. don't affect everyone but they have a very strong negative impact on minorities. Similarly with lack of women in STEM, glass ceiling, sexual harassment, equal pay etc. Other problems may affect more people but they may not have such a negative effect. Also, many of these issues have only become mainstream relatively recently. Maybe people have been talking about them for 20-30 years but these problems are a lot older than that and used to be completely ignored because they didn't affect the majority. 20-30 years isn't that long in comparison.

  2. Beg to disagree. Campus police problems, building names, etc. can be detrimental to minorities and underprivileged, but I would suggest that lack of access to decent public schools, unchecked violence, underfunded public libraries closed on weekends -- in poor areas, they're open in rich suburbs -- lack of accessible health care, no security blanket, and uneven law enforcement based on race and class do not fall under the category "may not have such a negative effect."

  3. Anon1 and CSProf,

    Beg to disagree. We aren't discounting the issues that are talked most about. But there are other real issues out there that effect community colleges and lower tier commuter schools as well which aren't getting attention.

    You might not have worked while getting your degree, you probably didn't drive 45 minutes to classes, you probably talked to a career counselor about the career opportunities of your major.

    But most kids aren't in your situations. They rack up $20,000 in loan debt and graduate with a degree in English or Spanish from a no name state school without job prospects. The nightmare scenario is if they went to a for profit school. That's the typical student in 2016. I know far to many who are under employed doing a job they could of done out of high school. Those kids have a voice and shouldn't be silenced.

    We have a problem with prestige in this country. You shouldn't have to go to a AAU school to have decent job prospects.

  4. You forgot legacy admissions (much worse than favoring sports admits, etc).

  5. Daniel: legacy admissions are hardly a problem in the 75%. Have you heard of complaints about community colleges discriminating in favor of legacy candidates?