This season, I’m experimenting with two formats: a curated list of media I’m currently attending to and sharing for your perusal, followed by a longer engagement with the ideas, suggestions, and arguments posed by these thinkers and doers. Here’s this month’s curation!
anyone trying to wrap their head around the system that we call higher education in America
On My Bookshelf/Headphones
- Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, Tressie McMillan Cottom
- Aside from the realization that I’m pretty sure I live down the street from one of the for-profit schools Cottom writes about in this book, Lower Ed is stomach-churning in what it reveals about our educational and professional systems. Not that we’re surprised, but the details paint a stark picture of the inequalities, burdens, and straight-up lies we pass around like cooties.
- YouTube Launches Video Program Creating a Pathway to Real College Credits, Joan E. Solsman
- Well, um. The title says it all?
- See Workers as Workers, Not as a College Credential, NY Times Opinion Board
- An interesting tidbit highlighting a recent policy change in Pennsylvania: Gov. Josh Shapiro eliminates the requirement of a four-year degree for a majority of state government jobs. Is this a shift in the tide that will ripple out?
- The Master’s Trap Parts 1, 2, 3, by Anne Helen Peterson
- I mentioned this series a couple of issues ago, but didn’t get around to interacting with it more deeply. Peterson goes into fantastic detail about the various graduate and graduate-like programs that promise a pathway to further education or career prep, but often rely on student naïveté about what such programs can or will provide by way of “return on investment.” Also a bit stomach-churning.
- The Uncontrollability of the World, by Hartmut Rosa
- A great primer on Rosa’s thought (especially if you can’t bring yourself to read his doorstoppers Social Acceleration and Resonance). Specifically, Rosa observes that a key feature of our “modern world” is the desire to make the world controllable. But we’ve all had the experience of something perfectly matching all of our parameters and ending up pretty static and unsatisfying. As Rosa points out, it’s the uncontrollable encounters of our lives through which we really experience the world: the dynamic, surprising sparks of life that light us on fire. This is one of those small books that hits like an anvil and makes you see truths like tweety-birds for days.
- Time, Famine, Resource Obsession and the Good Life in a Pandemic, Andrew Root
- Root gives a great overview here of the ways in which we currently cope with what he calls a “time famine,” in which our experience of the present feels ever shorter and more compressed. He observes that, the more tech innovations accelerate, the less time they deliver to or for us (there’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist). But we can’t avoid this scarcity of time, so we focus on acquiring and hoarding resources that we think will help us cope with or eliminate the time famine we experience.
- I need to listen to this again, but I’m wondering if this feeds into our cultural obsession with obtaining the credentials offered by higher ed. The degree that leads to a better-paying career is a resource that we hoard against an anticipated famine.
- Education is Over, William Rankin
- Rankin offers a scathing indictment of most K-12 (and higher) education, observing that the “common feature all these failed educational panaceas share is a focus on facilitating and verifying the transfer of information” rather than on “human development, learning, wisdom, and the growth of human well-being.” That sounds an awful lot like formation, no?
- The Modern Cruelty of Schools, Ed West
- I’m only partially finished with this article, but this quote made me stop in my tracks: “In the late 19th and early 20th century, many people became concerned about the ill effects of child labor on children’s development and wellbeing, and laws were passed to ban it. But now we have school, expanded to such a degree that it is equivalent to a full-time job — a psychologically stressful, sedentary full-time job, for which the child is not paid and does not gain the sense of independence and pride that can come from a real job.”
- The Power of Attention in a World of Distraction, L. M. Sacasas on The Gray Area with Sean Illing
- I’m a fan of Sacasas’ writing on his newsletter The Convivial Society, and also think quite a lot about attention: what it is, why it matters, and how to cultivate its flourishing in life. This conversation explores all those things.
- Will Trent (TV series)
- I enjoy watching crime dramas, so I’m always curious when a new one pops into view. Having never read the books on which the show is based, nor seen any of the actors before, I had zero expectations upon discovering this in my recommendations. Color me pleased! The characters are flawed, warm, prickly, and interesting, the storylines engaging, and the production design is swoon-worthy. Following this show’s future career with great interest.
So that’s what I’m attending to right now.
Let’s be hopeful, creative, and wise—together. Shalom, Megan.