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MLB Opening Day on Campus: W&L’s Most Loved and Hated Pro Sports Teams—Round One

This is an unofficial account of the inaugural celebration of MLB’s Opening Day at Washington and Lee’s Ruscio Center for Global Learning (RCGL).

The Center for International Education (which is housed in the RCGL) hosted the celebration.  It was originally conceived as a means of introducing our international students to an important aspect of American culture that frequently is overlooked in higher education: sports.  Amidst the divisiveness of contemporary politics across the globe and across our campuses, the center organized the celebration to highlight the transcendence and global importance of sports.

The campus community was peppered with colors as folks wore hats and shirts of their favorite sports teams.  Banners of sports teams from around the world adorned the RCGL atrium’s railings.   Along with national flags of our current students, banners of the New Zealand All Blacks, Manchester United, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Chelsea added color inside and out on a beautiful spring day.  Passers-by also noted the presence of Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox colors…

As part of the celebration, the Center for International Education conducted an online poll of the W&L community to determine which teams are the most loved and reviled.  Mark Rush, Center Director, announced the results at 12:30 PM.  “Sports transcends political and national divisions,” Rush said.  Noting that “the ancient Greeks would stop wars so that soldiers could participate in the Olympic Games,” Rush said that the poll and the celebration added another element to the celebration of internationalization on campus.

Some 200 members of the W&L community participated in the poll.  Along with announcing the winners and losers, Rush also gave honorable mention to the most creative responses.  A couple of respondents listed several different teams that they hated.  One’s favorite team was “Any team but the Cowboys.”  Another loathed “the NFC East and Indianapolis.”

The New York Yankees were the most disliked team on campus.  They doubled the number of votes against the New England Patriots.  Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Boston Red Sox tied for the most loved teams.  The polling was diverse and covered sports teams from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America as well as North America.

The Center will conduct the poll again–and scores will be settled–in Spring, 2019.


#AACU16 Thoughts and Reflections

Great insights  on the annual  meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities  from Bryan Alexander here.

Bryan nicely documents the various threads/themes running through the conference.  It is always an intriguing mixture of discussions concerning:

challenges to the liberal model of higher education

the democratizing role of technology in education (and the perceived threat  it poses to the liberal  model)

study abroad

new/innovative pedagogy


As always, Bryan offers  some great food for thought.  More to  come in response to his posting.   For now, I’m happy to publicize his thoughts.

Goldman Sachs and Higher Education’s democratic dilemma

I  wrote a comment  on the report and the ongoing debate about cost/value in higher education on our other site, Liberal Ed Crisis.  The post is here.

The  real issue at stake is  not necessarily the cost of higher  education.   If we want to maintain the residential model  of higher education, costs will rise as maintaining the physical plant and keeping the student-faculty ratio as low as possible remain expensive.

What is especially troubling is that apologists for the cost of the American model of higher education equate liberal education with a model  of teaching that is expensive. They rebel against  the notion that liberal education can be conveyed  effectively through MOOCs, blended  learning or other  online educational models.  So, as costs increase, critics suggest that the well-to-do will get a “brick-based” education while the 99% will get more of a “click-based” education.

If we continue to resist technological advancement, we then doom the 99% to what  seems to be an inferior educational model that will not convey the benefits of liberal learning because it does not entail classrooms, residential campuses, etc.  The traditional, increasingly expensive model of education remains an ideal.  But, it is clear that if educators do believe that liberal education does convey a package of learning skills and democratic, civic values that are vital to the health of a society, then they have a responsibility to find a way to convey those values through more advanced technological means.  If they do not, they undermine the symbiotic connection between liberal education and liberal democracy that organizations such as the AACU celebrate.

If we look beyond the confines of American higher education, we see that technology is driving the democratization of access to  education.  This TED Talk by Daphne Koller is an especially powerful statement to this effect.  It would indeed be paradoxical if, in the name  of preserving the means of conveying liberal democratic values, liberal educators made those  values less democratically accessible.

The  challenge for our educators today is to find a way to  put liberal  learning  to work embrace technology so  that we can ensure that access to education,  knowledge liberal learning and democratic values is democratized.

More Second Thoughts on MOOCs?

The Babson Survey Research Group just released a report Entitled “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States.”  The report is available http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/grade-change-2013 and the Chronicle reports on it here.

There is still concern about MOOC quality, accepting MOOC credits from other institutions, etc.  But, I think the key conclusion to draw from all of the ongoing research on MOOCs is that it is still too early to tell how and whether they are or will be sustainable.

I fear, however, that the debate about MOOCs has distorted the more important discussion about online education in general.  A lot of good consortium-based work is being and can be undertaken through blended or hybrid courses.  Around the world, where many have never had access to traditional, residential, four-year educational opportunities, online options present affordable means of access to university education.

In this respect, it is important to distinguish MOOCs from the online opportunities that truly embody a democratizing force in educational access and attainment.  If online mechanisms can expand access to the best teachers and the best universities, how can we not celebrate that and work to improve the mechanisms by which that access is provided?

Are the Humanities Doomed? (reprise)

There is a great and important piece in the WSJ from 6 June entitled “Are Humanities Degrees Doomed? Experts Weigh in.”  http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2013/06/06/whats-a-college-student-to-study-experts-weigh-in/tab/comments/#comment-134283

Hardly the first piece on the subject. Still, I wonder…

I believe we get distracted when we focus on what to major in. Promoting liberal education is not the same as—nor does it require—promoting particular majors. Majors have been in retreat for some time as colleges and universities have developed interdisciplinary programs.

“Liberal” Education is a model based on the overused term “critical thinking.” Whether we like it or not, engineers, accountants and physicists engage in critical thinking as much as English or Political Science majors. Successful, safe bridge building requires critical thinking as much as does thoughtful literary criticism.

The real issue that educators must face is that there is a difference between justifying the value of a liberal education and justifying the cost. While the former may be enduring, it is clear that the latter has become formidable in the eyes of many students and parents. As well, technology has made it easier for our children to learn how to acquire information and how to critique it at their own and at a younger age. It has democratized access to information regardless of one’s social class or wealth—in this regard, it is indeed, a triumph of liberal values.

So, back to the article: The question is not whether one should major in English, Philosophy, Engineering, Biology, Math…etc. Instead, the question higher ed must answer is: How much of each of those fields (and the many other fields of undergraduate study) necessary to liberally educating our young people? Is the four year, 120 credit, expensive, residential model of university life still absolutely necessary for everyone?