Random Thoughts

In her continuing discussions on her F2CO (Free 2 year College Option) Sara Goldrick-Rab writes about the randomness of the 12th year v. the 14th year of public education. This is a pretty compelling set of points since it forces one to confront the current status quo of public education. There are lot of things we do in education, especially in higher education, because we have always done them that way. There is absolutely nothing magical about 12 years or 13 years (if you include kindergarten) being the right amount of elementary and secondary education. After all, it is not as if founding fathers had done a lot of research a hundred years ago or so on how many years were right, it all kind of evolved that way.

This is probably true for the legal status of 18 year-olds and other such boundaries. Young people are getting driver’s licenses later and later, in part because of changing laws requiring more practice and additional rules. I think most people, especially the insurance industry, think this is a good thing. It is likely time that we really begin to question why things are the way they are and whether or not they should remain that way.

On the flip-side, Sherman Dorn takes on Arne Duncan’s comments on the contents of teacher preparation. I’m not going to say much of anything other than that is well worth reading. Being married to a special ed teacher for 25 years combined with being involved in state-level teacher prep program discussions causes a great deal of what he writes to resonate with me.

And over at Curmudgucation, Peter Greene takes apart the essay Dan Greenstein and Vicki Phillips had published in InsideHigherEd that attempts to encourage higher ed faculty to cheer-lead for the Common Core of State Standards. This is also a really nice piece.

Of course, none of this was really what I was planning to write about.

I spent the last five days on a whirlwind drive from Richmond, Va to Joplin, Mo. I wrote some about this on my work blog, focusing on the fact there are a lot of colleges and universities between those two points. I drove home to Joplin for a visit with my parents the weekend before my father’s 82nd birthday. It also happened to be the weekend that Missouri Southern State University was finally able to get around to acknowledging the 25 year service of a former president, Julio Leon. During the reign of the most recent president, Julio was essentially He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The current interim president, a seemingly very capable Alan Marble, felt the pain of the campus community and has been working on healing and care-taking.

A few things stand out about the experience.

  • During the course of a celebrating the career of a visionary leader, it is seemingly easy to leave out the times that people grumbled. I would have enjoyed hearing stories along those lines as well. Especially since I recall some of the grumbling.
  • It is gratifying to hear a tenured professor remind us that it is not really about the individual nearly so much as it is about the institution. And still receive a warm hug from the honoree.
  • I enjoy seeing my old professors (and apparently my high school counselor), but it seems difficult, if not impossible, to over-emphasize the word “old.” I felt really young.
  • The last time I was on campus was in December 2012 when I was the Commencement speaker under the old regime. There is a different, more positive, atmosphere.
  • Some places will always be a second home. Dad spent a lot of years there. I grew up a bit there and finally finished an art degree. My sister graduated from MSSU. It is a good place with as a bright a future as the campus community can envision. Should it wish to do so.
  • Some people just don’t know how to set up a room.
  • People without hearing impairments should learn to be aware that they are surrounded by the hearing impaired at such events. And structure the set-up accordingly.

The damage to the international mission of the university, and the attempts to end it completely, were shameful. The belief that a global perspective was necessary, and possible, in Southwest Missouri was, and is, an audacious vision that Dad and Julio made reality for years. Tied to core beliefs in the liberal arts and human communication, it is a shining example of what public higher education can be.

MSSU is not perfect. There are needs to continue to come to grips with the university’s recent history. MSSU needs to develop better ties to the Joplin and surrounding communities.

Despite these issues, it sure was a good place to grow up.

 

 

 

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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