Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Online Discussion #2 - Due September 19th


After reading the introduction and optional chapter from Armstrong and Hamilton's Paying for the Party and Rebekah Nathan's "Student Culture and 'Liminality'" from My Freshman Year, please reflect on one of the questions below regarding the way privatization exacerbates inequality.  You may also use ONE of the readings from last time, especially for the second question. 

Answer one of the following in the comments section below, making reference to two readings, and then respond to someone else for the full two points participation credit:

Question Option #1: To what extent and in what ways is college less of a 'liminal' space for self-discovery or personal transformation under privatization?
In the excerpt from her book My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan discusses how the cost of college seems to have changed the experience of today's students by making college less a place for free exploration and self-discovery and more a place to focus on preparing for the job market or worrying about money.  And, with the rise in prices, the possibilities of social class mobility, which is another promise of "liminality," may be endangered.  How does Nathan's argument connect to the story of a particular student or particular students from Armstrong and Hamilton's book, and what does their example suggest about Nathan's thesis?  Is college no longer a 'liminal' space of freedom or transformation between childhood and adulthood? Is "the party pathway" one example of how students explore their liminal position or how they refuse real transformation?  Is it still possible to make college a place where people can freely choose who they want to become or how they want to live -- or how they can think and live freely (which is the essential meaning of "the liberal arts")?  How do "adult realities" intrude on the liminal space of college for some students, especially "strivers"?  How does Amstrong and Hamilton's subtitle, "How College Maintains Inequality," speak to the way the institution of college participates in an increasing social stratification that inhibits mobility?

Question Option #2: How does privatization increase pressure on less affluent students and/or increase the value of family resources?
Who is most harmed by privatization?  Who gains competitive advantage?  And how exactly does that happen?  Examine a particular case discussed by Armstrong and Hamilton that shows how less affluent students are affected by the increased pressures of college costs and/or how more affluent students are insulated from economic pressures and gain other economic advantages from their family wealth.  If you want to carry your analysis of family resources further in preparation for the Analytic Essay, make a connection to Melinda Cooper's chapter that we read for last class.  How does Cooper's argument about the increasing importance of family resources under privatization help to explain evidence from particular students discussed by Armstrong and Hamilton?

Respond to this question using the comments feature below, making direct reference to two of the readings in your comment, before we meet on Tuesday.  Then comment on another student's comment by the end of the week.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Online Discussion #1 - due September 12th


As we see in Melinda Cooper's “In Loco Parentis: Human Capital, Student Debt, and the Logic of Family Investment,”  Steve Mims's documentary film Starving the Beast, and Scott Carlson's article "When College Was a Public Good," higher education is a highly politicized arena for debate which reflects many of the political, economic, social, and racial divisions in society.  Using two of the readings for today, address one of the three question options below.  Please post your response (using the comments section at the bottom of this post) before we meet on Tuesday, September 12th at 4:30 pm.  Then respond to at least one other student to get the full two points participation credit.

Question Option #1: Diversity - How have changes in the funding of college impacted diversity, especially affecting minorities?  What evidence from the readings do you find most compelling in supporting your view?
Which do you find most compelling: Carlson's argument that funding cuts were motivated by racial politics or Cooper's argument that the goal of funding cuts was to shift the burden of "deficit spending" from government to the family which then impacted those groups indirectly?  Or is it some combination of the two?  Or are there other angles on the issue? 

Question Option #2: Fundamental Differences - What are the fundamental differences in thinking between academics and politicians on the political right and left?  And how do those differences affect the way they think about higher education and the policies they put forward?
Cooper discusses academic debates among economists as well as the arguments about education that their theories inspired, Carlson discusses political debates about the funding of education, and Mims's film lets major players in the current debates about college explain their thinking and strategies for accomplishing their goals. Looking at two of our readings, answer the following: What sides can you identify in the debate about who should be responsible for paying for college?  What principles, evidence, or beliefs seem to motivate their positions?  How should we understand the terms of the debate?

Question Option #3: Political Strategies and Tactics - What sort of political and economic tactics have been applied in the arena of higher education in order to accomplish specific strategic goals?  Point to specific evidence from two readings in your answer.
What tactics of "disruption" are employed at universities to achieve more rapid change, as shown in Mims's film?  What tactical arguments are used to sell or successfully frame major policy changes in higher education?  How did Reagan, for example, exploit campus protests to achieve his agenda?  How do "dog whistle politics" work, according to Carlson? 

Question Option #4: Freedom of Speech and Protest - How have government policies had a direct or indirect impact on freedom of speech on campus?
How may the shift of college costs from the state to the family have been motivated by the fear of anarchic student speech and protest according to Cooper?  How might "trigger warnings" and the desire to insulate students from speech (discussed near the end of Cooper's piece) be interpreted?  
How is freedom of speech for professors at issue in Mims's film?  What connections might be drawn between two readings in discussing this issue?

Respond to this question using the comments feature below, making direct reference to two of the readings in your comment, before we meet on Tuesday.  Then comment on another student's comment before we meet again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Online Discussion #2 - due January 31


College debt in the U.S. is rapidly nearing a staggering $1.5 Trillion, becoming a hidden drag on the economy and a secret drag on many people's lives.  I say "hidden" and "secret" because most Americans do not talk about their debt in public, and therefore few of us recognize just how widespread a challenge it is.  Our readings today offer us insight into why student debt has increased and how it shapes the lives of college graduates.  

After reading the selections from Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, the excerpt from Rebekah Nathan's My Freshman Year, and (optionally) chapters from Alan Collinge's The Student Loan Scam or Armstrong and Hamilton's Paying for the Party (all available in the Resources -- Required Course Readings on our Sakai site), please reflect on one of the questions below regarding student debt by making an original connection between at least two of them.

Answer one of the following in the comments below, then respond to someone else for the full two points participation credit:

Question Option #1: "In what way (or ways) is college no longer a 'liminal' space for self-discovery?"
In the excerpt from her book My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan discusses how the cost of college seems to have changed the experience of today's students by making college less a place for free exploration and self-discovery and more a place to focus on preparing for the job market or worrying about money.  How does Nathan's argument connect to at least one of the other readings for today, and what does that reading suggest about Nathan's thesis?  Is college no longer a 'liminal' space of freedom between childhood and adulthood? Is "the party pathway" one example of how students explore their liminal position?  But is it the best way for those who can afford it?  Is it still possible to make college a place where people can freely choose who they want to become or how they want to live -- or how they can think and live freely (which is the essential meaning of "the liberal arts")?  Would you say that Ken Ilgunas's story illustrates how some college graduates are extending the possibilities of liminality?  For this question, you might reference Armstrong and Hamilton's book, including Chapter 6 on "Strivers" which connects very well with Nathan's argument about how "adult realities" intrude on the liminal space of college for some students.

Question Option #2: "Does debt destroy freedom?"
Based on the readings -- and citing specific evidence from two of them -- answer at least one of the following questions:  How does debt affect the "freedom" (a key word for Ilgunas) of debtors?  Do students make free choices that get them into debt or is it a trap they are forced into?  How is debt sometimes caused by limited choices -- and how does being in debt itself constrain choice?  How can debtors regain or reassert their "freedom"?  How does Ilgunas's description of the liberal arts (especially in his graduation speech) connect to his view of "freedom"?  What do you think students can do about the growing problem of student debt and the larger problem of income inequality it exacerbates?  Or does debt make it too difficult for graduates to worry about anyone but themselves?

Question Option #3: "To what extent are colleges in cahoots with the banks?"
Especially in Collinge's chapter on the privatization of Sallie Mae and in Ilgunas's anecdotes about his best friend, Josh Pruyn, who goes to work for a for-profit school, we see how colleges at least feed the private banking industry and sometimes eat at the same trough.  How does the relationship between colleges and banks connect to the theme of privatization we have been discussing?  How and why can private interests damage higher education in these cases?

Respond to this question using the comments feature below, making direct reference to two of the readings in your comment, before we meet on Tuesday.  Then comment on another student's comment.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Online Discussion #1 on "Privatization," due January 24th

In his essay "The Price of Privatization," from The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, Christopher Newfield uses the term "privatization" to describe what is happening to American higher education due to the widespread withdrawal of state support and the turn to private sources of funding (especially tuition).  This turn to the private can be contrasted with the idea of "public good," which is the focus of "When College Was a Public Good," where Scott Carlson points out that the decline of public investment in higher education and the rise of diversity among college students are inversely correlated, perhaps because the elite feel less inclined to support programs that are not for people like themselves.

In their book Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, sociologists Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton describe how college magnifies relatively small differences in family background and income, so that students from less affluent families find themselves at a disadvantage in making social connections, gaining membership in Greek life, affording time for academics, and successfully pursuing the most challenging professional pathways (where support from parents is practically essential). 

Choose ONE of the following questions and use ideas related to the rise of privatization (Newfiled) or the fall of public support (Carlson) to help explain a specific example from Armstrong and Hamilton's study that illustrates that idea.  Try to make an original connection between two of the readings in your comment.  Then post a comment on another student's connection.

1. Privatization and Social Engagement or Isolation.
How might privatization compound the problems faced by less affluent students in making lasting social connections at college and why does that matter? Some related questions you might consider: 
How does social class background impact how well students fit in socially?  How does successful social engagement translate to academic success in college and economic success after college?  What are the downsides of too much social engagement, and why do some students suffer those downsides more than others?   

2. Privatization and Social Reproduction or Mobility.
How exactly do private resources impact who will have the most academic success at college and the most long-term gains in income because of that?  Armstrong and Hamilton suggest that social and economic backgrounds seem to foretell who will or will not reproduce the social class of their parents or, even more challenging, achieve social mobility.  How exactly do private resources or a lack of public support make the difference here?

Use the comments feature below and make direct reference to the readings in your comment (which must be posted before we meet on Tuesday).  Then respond to another student's comment (you may need to come back later and the second comment is due by 24 hours after we meet as a class).  You must post and comment to receive the full two points participation credit.  Note: if you post anonymously, please sign your post with at least your first name.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Two College Sports Documentaries

There have been a number of college sports documentaries.  Two recent ones that examine the business of college sports include:

Schooled: The Price of College Sports, inspired by an article by Taylor Branch and available on Amazon and other online sites:


The Business of Amateurs which was just released on Amazon and elsewhere.


If you are planning to write about college sports, these would be a good place to start.  I would also strongly recommend you get a copy of Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss.

The Hunting Ground

This film is now available on Amazon and other online sites.


If you are interested in the subject of campus rape, watching this film would be a good place to start.  I would also strongly recommend the book Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ivory Tower

This film is now available from Amazon and other online sites.