About Marc Bousquet
Marc Bousquet is a tenured asssociate professor at Santa Clara University, where he teaches courses in radical U.S. culture, internet studies, and writing with new media. His book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation has just been released by NYU Press with a foreword by Cary Nelson. He serves on the national council of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and was the founding editor of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.
Posts by Marc Bousquet
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Will Skype Kill the MLA?
By my count of positions discussed on the essential Academic Jobs Wiki: Seven of forty-three positions in French with “interviews scheduled” were interviewing by Skype and bypassing the MLA convention in Los Angeles this week. (More fools them: the rains are ending and the forecast is lovely.) Five of the seven were tenure track positions. In German 3 of 27 tenure track and 3 of 18 nontenurable positions are bypassing MLA. Traditional English literature fields aren’t Skyping much as yet (just one or two in most fields), but among writing specialists at least 7 tenure-track jobs of the 150 or so discussed are bypassing MLA.
Given that most MLA cities aren’t as desirable in early January as Los Angeles (Toronto, you know I’m talking about you!), will the cost savings of $5,000 to $10,000 per search lead to more Skyping and less flying of three to seven socially deficient individuals across the country to imprison them in their hotel rooms for most of three days? Um, yeah, duh.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Holiday Shopping For a Kindle or Ipad? Why You Should Wait
Dell’s Kindle Killer
Just when you thought that everyone was going to buy a CB radio/pet rock/mood ring/Betamax/eight-track, you had the courage of your convictions and held off. Good for you.
You probably also haven’t yet tied your mobile media consumption to either Apple or Amazon. Double good for you--waiting a year has paid off. Now you can buy a lightweight mobile media viewer/tablet PC that is also a full netbook computer.
For the same price as the iPad (about $550) Dell’s just released the device that is the likely leader of the pack, the Inspiron Duo. It’s a nifty flip-screen netbook that they’re calling a tablet/netbook hybrid, but which one day they’ll just call “a personal computer.”
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When “English” Isn’t Literature
This video is going around under the title of “So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?” It probably has some relevance across the liberal arts, but the piece is more narrowly about the declining role of traditional literary scholarship in English studies, a topic I’ve written about before.
I’m particularly interested because I’m heading my (English) department’s curriculum committee this year and surveying student reaction to concentrations we’re considering. We haven’t even finished collecting responses, but it seems clear that many students from a wide variety of majors remain interested in at least some areas of traditional literary study for personal interest, or to fulfill a distribution requirement.
But when you ask what interests might lead students to make the larger commitment to a minor in English, or a major, the picture tilts. So far, science, business and other humanities majors say they are most likely to consider a minor in English in a diverse set of fields that I would characterize as either a) involving the production of texts, ie, writing or b) the intersection of disciplines.Continue reading "When “English” Isn’t Literature"
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Off With Our Heads!
A funny thing is happening in the United States. Across the country, headless schools are opening. One opens this fall in Detroit: the teachers’ terms of employment are still governed by their union’s contract with Detroit Public Schools, but they will administer themselves on a democratic, cooperative basis. In just the past couple of years, schools run by teacher cooperatives have opened in Madison, Denver, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Milwaukee has 13 teacher-run schools.
These aren’t universities. They are elementary schools, kindergartens, high schools of the arts and humanities, high schools for budding scientists and programmers, high schools for social justice. Sometimes four or five co-operatively run and publicly-funded schools share the same building and grounds. Few of them operate in wealthy neighborhoods. Nearly all of them serve students who are struggling because English isn’t their first language, or because their homes and neighborhoods are scarred by poverty, neglect, substance abuse and crime. They are generally successful by any measure, even the fatuous assessments of standardized testing. They are broadly popular with students, teachers, and parents.
Over the next few years, dozens--perhaps hundreds--of similar schools will open in Los Angeles: teachers will have control over curriculum, work rules and every facet of academic policy. In every school, councils of students, teachers, and parents provide active, intellectual leadership. Every school has a student-, community- and teacher- centered system of governance imagined from the ground up by faculty and citizen co-proposers. They will all have at least one principal administrator, so they have not amputated the head, only shrunken it. Nonetheless it is clear that community leaders, students and teachers will hire, evaluate and severely circumscribe the authority of their (usually) solitary administrator in a self-conscious, explicitly distributed system of leadership.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Education Nation: Policy Summit or Puppet Show?
I’d like you to imagine the following. Suppose we are going to have a national summit on health care. Do you not suppose that a substantial number of the voices included would be from professionals in health care, including doctors and nurses? Would you have 3 people with just the head of the AMA to represent doctors?
Or how about legal reform – would not lawyers scream if such a conference were organized without a substantial portion of the main participants being members of the profession representing the range of opinions within the legal field?
Why then is it when it comes to education that people think it is appropriate to have major discussions about education without fair inclusion of the voices of those who bear the greatest burden for the education of our children, the parents and the teachers? --Kenneth Bernstein, Cooperative Catalyst
So I tied off my upper arm and mainlined anti-nausea drugs Sunday and Monday in order to stomach hours of biased, dishonest, irresponsible NBC hate propaganda paid for by, you guessed it, for-profit higher ed vendors and foundations devoted to privatizing public schools.
Just as Obama’s pursued the Republican party line on education, NBC has taken a page from Fox News and Oprah. Their lineup on a two-day policy summit with a dozen conference panels --you know, the kind of panels usually filled with folks with credible expertise in the topic--features politicians, astronauts, tv anchors, musicians, corporate executives, and charter school entrepreneurs.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Obama Gets His Report Card on Ed Policy
When the president named Arne Duncan as his first Secretary of Education, he was doing a lot more, and a lot worse, than just naming a Chicago crony and basketball buddy to a critical Cabinet position. He was adopting one of the most aggressive, least tested, top-down, pro-corporate philosophies toward education administration ever promoted in this country.
Despite clear evidence that Duncan’s methods had failed to improve Chicago Public Schools by the only measure he overwhelmingly targeted (test scores), reporters from the corporate media tripped all over themselves to lavish friendly coverage on Duncan’s efforts to bring the same tactics to bear on a national scale. Taking advantage of state revenue shortages, Duncan took command of a massive fiscal war chest and turned it into a reality legislation show called Race to the Top.
“Want a piece of my billions?” Duncan asked the states, shaking his money bag. “Fight for it, winners take all! Whichever five or ten state legislatures enact law coming closest to my cruel, unproven vision of test-driven education, well, you folks can ride out the money storm in relative comfort. The rest of you, with your pie-in-the-sky ideas from John Dewey, you can rot in fiscal hell--no cash for the disobedient!"
Poll: Parents Won’t Be Fooled Again
Despite 18 months of press love, yesterday’s Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll shows Americans completing a resoundingly negative report card on Obama’s education initiatives, with a mere 34 percent giving the president a “B” or better, and 59% giving him a C, D, or F. 8/26: updated after the breakContinue reading "Obama Gets His Report Card on Ed Policy"
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Cushy for Whom?
An interesting piece in last week’s Chronicle, Goodbye to those Overpaid Professors in their Cushy Jobs, attempts a possibly premature farewell to a stereotype, the enduring myth that “college professors lead easy lives." According to reporter Ben Gose, once-rampant complaints about the imaginary prof on a three-day workweek are now hard to find.
Nonetheless he notes an interesting source for some doozy “last gasps” of lazy-prof stereotypes--faculty themselves. Gose speculates that the prof-on-prof stereotypers are trying to do the profession a favor, in the front line of faculty “policing their own” and targeting “perceived slackers,” etc.
The photograph and first third of the article are devoted to the emotional and contradictory views of Prof. John Hare, chair of English at Montgomery College, Maryland. According to Gose, Hare “became furious” at a distinguished scholar he doesn’t know, Florence Babb, the Vada Allen Yeomans Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Florida and former president of the Association for Feminist Anthropology, then serving as graduate coordinator for the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research. Recruited with the named professorship to Florida from the University of Iowa in 2005, her scholarship and service to the profession has been massive: multiple stints as department or program chair, numerous editorial boards, etc.Continue reading "Cushy for Whom?"
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Dianetics For Higher Ed?
Should The New York Times (NYT) exist? Ha--you’re thinking, “What an unfair question!” Or “You’ve framed the debate in an obviously unfair or careless way."
And right you are. But since I’m a rich and powerful chunk of media capital with a stake in the answer, I don’t care what you think, and I’m free to compound the injury by holding a false “debate” on a question that unfairly asks one side to argue for its existence.
Enter The New York Times and its latest bungled attempt at analyzing higher ed, which just riffs on a piece reported by Robin Wilson for the Chronicle. As if framing a loaded question weren’t enough, they stack the deck, a couple of different ways. In the more obvious manipulation of the lineup, opponents of tenure outnumber proponents 3-2.
More importantly: in a debate about the “demise” of tenure,” the debate’s framers don’t include any voices of persons who are living the circumstances they purport to examine: the life of career faculty, full time or part time, with a teaching-intensive load and a nontenurable contract. One participant is on a nontenurable research contract--for a Harvard outfit that does management consulting for higher-ed administration, natch. But that’s like dressing up the testimony of someone who’s always driven a Rolls as the honest voice of straphangers--the near-volunteer faculty on freaking food stamps, like Monica, Andy, and many others.Continue reading "Dianetics For Higher Ed?"
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The United States of Alabama
Only way to please me
turn around and leave
and walk away
--Alabama Getaway, lyrics by Robert Hunter
Many who learn that the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) amputated a $650,000 state appropriation, not to mention a flow of grant money, just to rid itself of a labor center (and Glenn Feldman, the accomplished historian who directed it) will focus on regional differences. One early commenter to Peter Schmidt’s report for the Chronicle blamed “Dixie” culture, saying that this is what happens to someone who “bucks the system in that part of the country. The more the South changes, the more it remain the same."
As a veteran of the Southern-gothic, All-The-Kings-Men style politics of one right-to-work state university with close administrator connections to UAB, I guess my first impulse was at least similar: I can still remember the liberation I felt when I left my tenured position at the scandal-ridden University of Louisville (UL), where concerned faculty were run out of town for questioning the wall-to-wall administrative solidarity that protected a dean embezzling his federal grants, a scheme of extreme work-study that has turned thousands of students into the serfs of UPS, and claims of “research-1” status for a campus with a six-year graduation rate hovering around 30 percent.Continue reading "The United States of Alabama"
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Hooked on Measurement
Just last year, Stanley Fish was playing Clint Eastwood with his manifesto: Do Your Job, Punk! (or, My Tinfoil Hat Keeps Politics Out of My Teaching--Get Yours Today!) In that widely panned book, he argued that the role of the faculty was to produce and distribute knowledge magically apart from the mundane and political.
Earlier this week he more convincingly took on the student evaluation of teaching and specifically, a Texas proposal to hold tenured faculty “more accountable” by giving faculty bonuses of up to $10,000 for earning high customer assessments of specified learning outcomes.
Fish makes two arguments against the proposal. He squanders pixels bolstering his weaker point, that students aren’t necessarily in a position to judge whether Fish-as-teacher-phallus has, ugh, “planted seeds that later grew into mighty trees of understanding."
Far better is his second point:
Students tend to like everything neatly laid out; they want to know exactly where they are; they don’t welcome the introduction of multiple perspectives, especially when no master perspective reconciles them; they want the answers. But sometimes (although not always) effective teaching involves the deliberate inducing of confusion, the withholding of clarity, the refusal to provide answers; sometimes a class or an entire semester is spent being taken down various garden paths leading to dead ends that require inquiry to begin all over again, with the same discombobulating result; sometimes your expectations have been systematically disappointed....
Needless to say, that kind of teaching is unlikely to receive high marks on a questionnaire that rewards the linear delivery of information and penalizes a pedagogy that probes, discomforts and fails to provide closure. Student evaluations, by their very nature, can only recognize, and by recognizing encourage, assembly-line teaching that delivers a nicely packaged product that can be assessed as easily and immediately as one assesses the quality of a hamburger.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Who’s Teaching Johnny? Hold Administrators Accountable for Retention
Let’s say you teach at an m.a.-granting state school with 2,000 new first-year undergraduates entering annually. Let’s further say they take half their load with faculty on part-time appointments. Controlling for other variables, one new multi-campus study suggests that this degree of contingency in faculty appointment could play a significant part in 600 students dropping out before their sophomore year.
The latest chapter (pdf) in the cautious series by Audrey Jaeger and Kevin Eagan focusses on the critical first year in four-year institutions, following up previous efforts on community colleges and the lower division more broadly. Their conclusion: a merely “average” degree of contingency in faculty appointments and working conditions at four-year institutions affects year-to-year student retention by as much as 30%:
students with average levels of exposure to full-time, nontenure-track, “other”
contingent, and graduate assistant faculty may be as much as 30% less likely
to persist, compared to their peers who have only full-time faculty.
Noting that at all of the institutions they studied but one, “more than 50% of the credits taken by students during their first year were led by a contingent faculty member,” Jaeger and Eagan dryly conclude, “given these findings, employment status of faculty deserves further discussion."
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
“Some of the Worst-Paid High-School Graduates in the Country”
Over at the Atlantic, business editor Megan McCardle lit up the Beltway blab-o-sphere by posing an interesting question: If “almost every” tenured professor she knows has a “left-wing vision” of workplace issues, why do they accept the “shockingly brutal” treatment of faculty with contingent appointments?
Her perception of leftism among the faculty leads her to think that our values “should result in something much more egalitarian.” So, she asks, how is it that higher ed sustains “one of the most abusive labor markets in the world”?
Good question. One answer, of course, is that the faculty aren’t “leftists” at all, but American liberals, whose commitments to equality are relatively clear in matters of ethnicity and gender, but hopelessly confused when it comes to class and workplace issues generally.Continue reading "“Some of the Worst-Paid High-School Graduates in the Country”"
Thursday, April 08, 2010
ACLU Slams UC Administration
In a nine-page report, the ACLU just slammed the Berkeley administration for trampling on the rights of two student protesters. And: is the Minneapolis conference about this year’s campus unrest the last act, or a prelude to even bolder action? Watch the live broadcast to find out. There was a police confrontation at a sit-in yesterday and the Oakland schoolteachers are striking later this month. Stay tuned for the events of May 1 through May 4.Continue reading "ACLU Slams UC Administration"
Monday, April 05, 2010
Is the iPad for iTots?
I wouldn’t buy the iPad for me, but I’d certainly consider buying something like it for my son. Infants acquire the ability to point around ten months of age. With touch-screen interfaces, shortly thereafter most can interact with literacy programs designed for much older children.
About this time last year, when Emile was fourteen months old, we evaluated for his use the best options then available, the touch-screen netbook and the large HP TouchSmart 600, choosing the latter for screen size and interface quality. If the iPad had been available, we’d have given it a close look.
When I last wrote about electronic reading devices, I concluded that e-reading was here to stay--but so far none of the currently available e-reading options had pushed beyond travel & leisure use. Neither Kindle-type dedicated devices nor netbook apps had demonstrated their readiness for the prime time of workday academic, business and professional reading.
The arrival of the overhyped iPad doesn’t change that. Heavier than a Kindle, more awkward to type on than a netbook, the iPad is more of a toy than a tool. It’s basically a Kindle plus--a really good device for media consumption on the go--rather than a device for professional reading and writing. Which explains what David Pogue calls the device’s uniquely polarizing effect: working techie insiders like Cory Doctorow despise it, and folks who passively consume a lot of media love it.Continue reading "Is the iPad for iTots?"
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Obama’s About-Face on Education
In a surprise move today, President Obama fired all 5,000 Department of Education staff members, including Secretary Arne Duncan. “Education is a failed Cabinet office,” he said. “We needed a clean sweep."
Spokespersons for the administration said the president was forced to act by a little-known federal law mandating the radical progressive de-funding of any office or department that fails to meet performance goals, whether or not they had sufficient funding to begin with.
“With less and less funding every year,” sources observed, “it was just a matter of time” before a more draconian provision was triggered, requiring every staffer in the office to be fired, regardless of personal performance.
President Obama acknowledged the injustice of the law, observing that the law’s provision permitting him to rehire only half of the mass-terminated staffers was “five times more severe” than the “most notorious example of arbitrary punishment, the Roman practice of decimation,” under which one of every ten soldiers in a “failing” unit was punished.
He also noted that it was probably unconstitutional to make a law firing individuals who had performed well but that the configuration of the Supreme Court meant that “only a fool would let those jokers have a crack at” any issue one cared about.
“We’ll have to hire a bunch of kids from Administrators for America,” the President complained. “They don’t know squat about administering, and just want something to boost their law-school application. Plus they bolster the ridiculous idea that just anyone can administer without training or support."
School-reform observers were pleased, however, that the law allowed Obama a graceful exit from his ill-conceived association with Duncan, the product of a highly ideological partnership between Harvard’s business and education schools.
Duncan term is over
As the self-styled chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan turned curriculum and management over to corporate interests, turned schools into military recruitment centers, and set easier standards to inflate claims of “learning outcomes improvement” under his draconian reign. Most observers agreed that he was an eager mouthpiece for corporate interests in the city.
Nearly all nonpartisan evidence-based analysis suggests that Duncan’s ideological eagerness to “close failing schools” and shuttle students into charter or for-profit institutions yielded no actual academic benefit--changes of up or down about 1% that were statistically indistinguishable from no change at all.
Continue reading "Obama’s About-Face on Education"