Monthly Archives: January 2014

‘Concern trolls,’ passives, and vultures

“Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses,” says Alexandra Petri in a Washington Post blog. My attention was captured not so much by the weird vulture comparison (she really hasn’t thought that through), but by the question of whether she had correctly diagnosed the “passive constructions” to which she refers. […] … learn more→

The point of academic publishing

I am not sure, for I am not sure what ”academic publishing” means. Not any longer. Today, I believe it is becoming something of a distinction without real difference behind it. Which leaves us with the question, “What is the point of publishing?” Something else, entirely. Perhaps the Chronicle understands this, for the picture accompanying […] … learn more→

Underemployed graduates, ‘timepass’ and the threat of a global demographic crisis

Yeshpal Singh is in his early thirties, his hair already streaked with grey. He sits in a university in the north Indian city of Meerut. Catch him on a good day, and he’ll tell you that he is a PhD physics student with plans to get a job in a laboratory. But most days he […] … learn more→

When meta-MOOC meets Wiki: Transforming higher education

Since May, I’ve been working just about nonstop on an intellectual and pedagogical extravaganza that I refer to as “Meta-MOOC.” It is “meta” in the sense that one part of this effort is a MOOC (massive open online course) partly about MOOCs. Starting on January 27, I’ll be teaching a six-week course, “The History and […] … learn more→

Of Brahmins and Dalits in the academic caste system

Traditionally, the three-pronged mission of our colleges and universities has been to provide high-quality education, encourage cutting-edge research, and promote professional and community service. The substitution of business-based policies for sound academic principles, however, has institutionalized a form of professional inequality that threatens all three. The growing distinction between tenured and tenure-track faculty members on […] … learn more→

Biodiversity can flourish on an urban planet

Mention the word biodiversity to a city dweller and images of remote natural beauty will probably come to mind – not an empty car park around the corner. Wildlife, we think, should be found in wild places, or confined to sanctuaries and national parks. But research shows that cities can in fact support biodiversity and […] … learn more→

An insider’s story of the global attack on climate science

A recent headline – Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers six-figure loss – marked the end of a four-year epic saga of secretly-funded climate denial, harassment of scientists and tying-up of valuable government resources in New Zealand. It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, USA and elsewhere around […] … learn more→

From weeder to leader

Several years ago, I received a call from a student whose voice betrayed his sense of frustration and defeat. Despite studying for days, he had just failed the final exam in an introductory computer-programming course, along with the majority of the class. For the first time in my experience as an educator and administrator, I […] … learn more→

2014: a year of ‘consolidation’ in Britain

For British higher education, 2014 will be a period of consolidation. Specifically, I think we will see four trends grow as budgets tighten, as the system becomes more market oriented, and as universities face more pressure to produce better education and research with less resources. These developments mean more universities will be forced to ask […] … learn more→

Slow down and build a strong foundation

In my essay, “What Do the Students Think?” the students point out that their educations often moved so fast that they had no time to master the foundation skills they need order to succeed at the next step. Unfortunately, the response to current negative critiques of US education seems to be to speed up even […] … learn more→