Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Thursday Night Links: Neoliberalism, The University in Ruins, Is the Pope Catholic?, and More

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* CFP: Ecology and the Environmental Humanities symposium at Rice University.

Rather than enlarge the moral imagination and critical capacities of students, too many universities are now wedded to producing would-be hedge fund managers, depoliticized students, and creating modes of education that promote a “technically trained docility.” Strapped for money and increasingly defined in the language of corporate culture, many universities are now driven principally by vocational, military and economic considerations while increasingly removing academic knowledge production from democratic values and projects. The ideal of the university as a place to think, to engage in thoughtful consideration, promote dialogue and learn how to hold power accountable is viewed as a threat to neoliberal modes of governance. At the same time, higher education is viewed by the apostles of market fundamentalism as a space for producing profits, educating a docile labor force, and a powerful institution for indoctrinating students into accepting the obedience demanded by the corporate order. Neoliberalism and the Politics of Higher Education: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux.

* “We believe the current (higher education) leadership is pursuing a bad model that will decrease affordability for students and parents, eliminate good jobs, increase inequality and reintroduce a class-based system where the rich will receive a good, four-year liberal arts education, and everyone else will get trained for jobs that will last 10 years and then disappear.” The SEIU considers higher education.

The Commercialization of Academia: A Case Study.

This has been the one constant in my experience.  Each of the ten academic years I’ve been at my current institution has been subjected to some fundamental reorganization, to the point where my colleagues have a joke about it: it’s a Mao-esque permanent revolution. In this time, my department has been based in two faculties under four (soon to be five) deans, housed in three (soon to be four) “schools”, with four different heads of school, and my department has had five chairs. The university writ large has seen a massive building program, the consolidation of branch campuses on the main campus, the reduction in faculties from eight, to five, and then a year later four. Physically, my department has moved offices twice in two years, and for some three times. We’re facing yet another physical move in the summer of 2014, as our extant offices are redeveloped into on-campus housing for students. My own major has been reduced to a minor twice; once in 2005, for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious but corresponded with the sacking of two colleagues. Following the byzantine process of validation, which I’ve now achieved a certain proficiency at, it relaunched three years later, only to have it suddenly pulled on that Saturday morning, three years ago.

* Disinvestment watch: State Budgeters’ View of Higher Ed.

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72 percent of professors who have taught Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) don’t believe that students should get official college credit, even if they did well in the class. More importantly, these are the professors who voluntarily took time to teach online courses, which means the actual number of professors who discount the quality of MOOCs is probably much (much) higher.

* Walmart “is in the early planning stages of a service that would see in-store customers rent space in their vehicles and their time to the mega-retailer to deliver products it sells online. The move would combat same-day delivery ideas from Amazon and reportedly what’s in the works with Google, which might have already signed on Target for such a service.”

* Idaho teacher investigated for saying ‘vagina’ during biology lesson. What should she have said?

* The group of 12 young people who had their feet washed and kissed by the pope included two young women – the first time a pope included females in the rite. The ceremony has traditionally been limited to men, since all of Jesus’ apostles were men. Via TPM, that “has traditionally been limited” thing appears to have some real force.

* With natural gas production on the rise—it has jumped 26 percent since 2007, chiefly because fracking now makes it economically viable to pursue gas trapped in shale deposits—and unconventional practices such as dewatering ramping up domestic oil development, the wastewater deluge is expected to get worse. Operators are injecting more water than ever into drilling wells, while boring new wells to accommodate the overflow. Yet nobody really knows how all this water will impact faults, or just how big an earthquake it could spawn. In the West, small quakes don’t often cause much damage because of stricter seismic regulations but also because the underground formations—buckled, with younger rock—absorb all but the biggest events. Induced quakes, however, are happening primarily in flatter states, amid more rigid rock, making them more destructive—a stone makes a bigger splash when it’s hurled into a glassy pond than a river of raging whitewater. Fracking’s Latest Scandal? Earthquake Swarms.

* Things you didn’t even know you needed to worry about: Are Exploding Manhole Covers In Washington DC Caused By Shocking Levels Of Leaking Natural Gas?

* Screen Daily teases The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel tells of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars and his friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé.

The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the battle for an enormous family fortune and the slow and then sudden upheavals that transformed Europe during the first half of the 20th century.

* Charlie Stross predicts 2043.

* Contagion was right: How The Meat Industry Is Fueling The Rise Of Drug-Resistant Diseases.

* We’re screwed: Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists’ modelling of climate change shows.

* And Billy Corgan is the only rock star from the 1990s brave enough to take a stand against the lizard people.

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