Tag Archives: college

What Happened When I Stood Up To My Sexist Boss

“My freshman year of college was filled with great awakenings.

I immersed myself in women’s studies courses and read feminist theorists like bell hooks and Gloria Anzaldúa for the first time, I voted in my first presidential election, and I started to chase my passion by writing about the intersection of current events and social justice. I did what a lot of college students do: I learned new things and became who I am.

These moments of realization didn’t stop after I left my first year on campus either. The following summer I accepted an internship at a right-leaning daily newspaper in New York City. At the time, it was the internship I thought I needed, but by the end of the first week, I knew I had absolutely no future there.

On our first Friday in the office, all 10 of the summer interns were scheduled to eat lunch with the newspaper’s publisher. We sat in a large conference room around a big, mahogany table in black leather chairs and made small talk while we poked at our elaborate meals served by waiters. My white napkin sat on my lap, and I couldn’t help but think about how much money was going into all of this — I would’ve been happier with a slice of cheese pizza.

I was slightly preoccupied, thinking about everything else I had to finish by the end of the day, and even though I sat all the way at the end of the table my ears perked up when the publisher started to give out “helpful advice,” as he called it.

“You should be networking all summer. Every day, you should talk to the person sitting next to you. Guys, you have it easier than girls do.”

I looked at the intern next to me, clearly shocked that someone would make such a blatantly sexist accusation in a room full of impressionable young people, but she didn’t meet my gaze.

“Boys, you can just turn to the reporter next to you and strike up a conversation about sports,” he continued. “You can say, ‘Hey, did you watch the game last night?’ Girls have to be more worldly and cultured to be taken seriously and build relationships. Girls, you can’t just talk about sports with the guy sitting next to you, so you have to try harder and make up for it in other ways.”

I couldn’t tell if it was my general feeling of discomfort or the building’s excessive use of central air, but chills ran down my spine. The conversation went on without skipping a beat, but in that moment, my brain completely froze; my body was physically present but my mind went somewhere entirely.

I turned into a victim of my own thoughts: Did anyone else hear him? Maybe they didn’t realize what he said was sexist? Why would he assume all girls don’t like or watch sports? Why would he assume all guys do? Why would you call a group of young adults GIRLS? Is this normal behavior for the world of journalism?

That’s the thing about sexism in newsrooms and workplaces in general; it’s so inherent and ingrained in our institutions and cultures that often, your boss doesn’t even realize they’re doing it. But when we talk about things like equal pay and opportunity, it starts with these kinds of attitudes, stereotypes, and assumptions that can hurt both men and women.

The publisher said those things because he genuinely believed them, and the more he said them, the more true they would become. To this guy, it was a casual comment that he probably never thought twice about, but it’s something that had the potential to stick with us forever.

By the time I came back down to Earth and rejoined the rest of the group, the publisher was wrapping up his ego-inflated diatribe. He asked all of us if we had any specific questions for him, seemingly anxious to give away some more pearls of wisdom, but I didn’t have any interest in seeking advice from someone who subscribed to such antiquated ideologies.

Dessert was served as other interns took turns asking more serious questions about the new media transition from print to online and weighing the importance of local versus national news coverage. I thought about the case studies and hypothetical instances of inequality I dissected all year in classrooms, textbooks, and readings. As the questions slowed down, I took advantage of my chance to put theory into practice.

“Did you watch the NBA finals game last night?” I could feel every set of eyes staring in my direction. It was the beginning of June, so I had a few different sports to choose from, but I rationalized that talking about basketball would allow me the most room to shine. “Who are you rooting for?”

After a few moments of hesitation he responded, “The Lakers.”

“Me too.” Under my calm surface was a raging fire of anger.

“That’s nice,” the publisher politely replied. “Any more questions?” He seemed to have just about as much interest in talking about the NBA with me as I had tolerance for his ignorance, but I kept going.

“I enjoy watching the Lakers play as a team. Pau Gasol is my favorite on the court, especially when Kobe’s on a good run.”

It was like diarrhea of the mouth; I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out any and every thought that came to mind, because I knew I had to maintain my momentum.

“The referees have been calling an ugly series and last night’s game was the worst of all, especially when Howard was called for a questionable foul on a drive by Bryant. It just goes to show that stupid calls make the difference in every game.”

That’s when the real magic happened. My remarks and persistence sparked the rest of the table to chime in. Within moments, the whole room was in the midst of a thriving and informed conversation about the NBA Finals, all of the interns arguing and agreeing with each other about specific details within this series. The publisher remained suspiciously quiet for the most part, only chatting with one of the male interns sitting directly next to him.

After everyone settled down and the room fell naturally quiet again, I mustered up enough bravery to bring the dialogue full circle.

“I just wanted to show you that girls can talk about the game last night too.”

He gave me a nod, then concluded our session like it never happened. A part of me hated myself for even feeling compelled to entertain his comments and overcompensate with a discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have happened; but the other part of me, the bigger part, was too pissed to care.

Initially after our lunch was over, I was on a high; addressing one sexist publisher as a summer intern felt empowering beyond words. I also knew, however, that the solution to underlying sexism in the workplace and discriminatory mindsets wouldn’t be solved by just one conversation between two people. I may not have changed any major structures or shifted the entire landscape for female journalists. I may not have even changed his mind. But it sure felt great to prove him wrong.

Later that afternoon as I was walked around the newsroom, I caught a rare glimpse of the publisher standing inside the editor-in-chief’s office — the two most powerful people at the paper besides its notorious CEO. They were all white men above the age of 50. I didn’t think he’d recognize me — after all, I was just one intern out of the hundreds of employees who worked under him.

But he looked through the glass window and we made eye contact. He saw me, which was all I really wanted. To be seen.”

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Students React To The Closure Of A Giant For-Profit College

Students React To The Closure Of A Giant For-Profit College

Education should never be for-profit.

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The Government Would Lose More Than A Billion Dollars If For-Profit College Fails

“If the Department of Education fails to reach an agreement with Corinthian Colleges, the failing for-profit college company, by midnight tonight, the government will be forced to forgive more than $1.2 billion in student loans, according to a court filing from last week…”

 

For-profit education should have never been a concept to begin with.

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July 1, 2014 · 6:57 pm

So, hypothetica…

So, hypothetically… if I could take a bunch of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and read books at Barnes and Noble all day… and then be able to display my knowledge and understanding of the subject on an equal, if not higher, level than a college student… then, hypothetically… why is everyone paying for college again? (Answer: Because a college degree isn’t about education, it’s a class marker. If we cared about everyone being educated, we would accredit free online courses and allow people to achieve intellectual growth and success without going into debt. But that’s not what college is for. I mean, yeah in college you can travel and learn from amazing professors and start your own anything and have access to facilities and resources and money, yeah, college is all that. And I’m not discrediting anyone who loves college but… college, at the end of the day is a business. College is just one more big way to perpetuate the system. But I say f**k the system, man.) #FreeEducationForAll #LearnRadically

– Vanessa Newman (Washington, DC) – haikuology.tumblr.com

theblackcollegian.tumblr.com

(via theblackcollegian)

 

So true it hurts.

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June 26, 2014 · 12:08 am

GEORGE WILL’S COVETED SEXUAL-ASSAULT “PRIVILEGE”

“…By the logic of his “proliferation” narrative, there was some small number of rapes, and when women saw how attentive everyone was being to the survivors, and the “privileges” they got, they wanted a piece of the action, too…”

Uuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhh

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June 11, 2014 · 4:18 pm

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

By Valerie Strauss, Published: February 9 at 12:00 pm

“For more than a decade now we have heard that the high-stakes testing obsession in K-12 education that began with the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should because so much emphasis has been placed on passing standardized tests. Here, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired, Kenneth Bernstein, warns college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers, and he is nationally known as the blogger “teacherken.” His e-mail address is kber@earthlink.net. This appeared inAcademe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.

By Kenneth Bernstein

You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.

No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the U.S. Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.

Troubling Assessments

My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.

In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.

Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.

Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Indexcreated by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions. The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.

Let me use as an example my own AP course, U.S. Government and Politics. I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. In that capacity, I read the constructed responses that make up half of the score of a student’s examination. I saw several problems.

First (and I acknowledge that I bear some culpability here), in the AP U.S. Government exam the constructed responses are called “free response questions” and are graded by a rubric that is concerned primarily with content and, to a lesser degree, argument. If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. A student who takes time to construct a clear topic sentence and a proper conclusion gets no credit for those words. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support. Some critical thinkingmay be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.

My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit.

I would like to believe that I prepared them to think more critically and to present cogent arguments, but I could not simultaneously prepare them to do well on that portion of the test and teach them to write in a fashion that would properly serve them at higher levels of education.

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

The structure of testing has led to students arriving at our school without what previously would have been considered requisite background knowledge in social studies, but the problem is not limited to this field. Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects. In high-need schools, resources not directly related to testing are eliminated: at the time of the teachers’ strike last fall, 160 Chicago public schools had no libraries. Class sizes exceeded forty students—in elementary school.

A Teacher’s Plea

As a retired public school teacher, I believe I have a responsibility to offer a caution to college professors, or perhaps to make a plea.

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.

If you, as a higher education professional, are concerned about the quality of students arriving at your institution, you have a responsibility to step up and speak out. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.

You should have a further selfish motivation. Those who have imposed the mindless and destructive patterns of misuse of tests to drive policy in K–12 education are already moving to impose it on higher education, at least in the case of the departments and schools of education that prepare teachers: they want to “rate” those departments by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

If you, as someone who teaches in the liberal arts or engineering or business, think that this development does not concern you, think again. It is not just that schools and colleges of education are major sources of revenue for colleges and universities—they are in fact often cash cows, which is why so many institutions lobby to be able initially to certify teachers and then to offer the courses (and degrees) required for continuing certification. If strictures like these can be imposed on schools and colleges of education, the time will be short before similar kinds of measure are imposed on other schools, including liberal arts, engineering, business, and conceivably even professional schools like medicine and law. If you teach either in a medical school or in programs that offer courses required as part of the pre-med curriculum, do you want the fatality rates of patients treated by the doctors whom you have taught to be used to judge your performance? If you think that won’t happen because you work at a private institution, remember that it is the rare private university that does not receive some form of funding from governments, local to national. Research grants are one example; the scholarships and loans used by students to attend your institution are another.

Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people. Many of us tried. We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.”

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August 8, 2013 · 7:15 pm

Oregon Tuition Plan: The Beaver State Breaks the Dam Of Student Debt

oregon, tuition, plan:, the, beaver, state, breaks, the, dam, of, student, debt,

 

“Congress can spend all the time it wants being apathetic and letting student loan rates double but on the other side of the country, one state is thinking of a more creative way to run the financial aspect of public higher education. For Oregon, loans will be a thing of the past and state legislatures are throwing around the “f” word: FREE.

A bill to make tuition at the state’s public universities free passed unanimously and is expected to be officially signed at some point this month by Governor John Kitzhaber. Coincidentally, the bill was passed on the very same Monday that federal student loan interest rates doubled from 3.4 to 6.8% and functioned as a snippet of hope. There is a chance for change, as students to have options outside of the federal loan system to fund their educations, but it is up to individual states to take action. 

The concept of making public institutions of higher education tuition and loan-free is now being called the “Pay-It-Forward” program and it functions just as the name entails. Of course, everyone knows that almost nothing comes without a price and anything that truly is free may ultimately turn out to be more costly, monetarily or otherwise. However, the bill will still hold students responsible for contributing to their education, but collecting these compensations will be done in a manner that is mindful of the student’s financial situation after joining the workforce.

Graduates of a four-year public college or university will be expected to pay 3% of their adjusted growth income over a 24-year span, and graduates of a two-year degree will be required to contribute 1.5%. Those who fail to graduate will still be expected to contribute but fees will be pro-rated. 

“This is going to happen because students demand change; I believe that firmly,” Steve Hughes, state director of the Oregon Working Families Party, said. “The conditions are just absolutely ripe for this. We’ve heard so many stories of student debt that are just beyond belief.”

This plan is not about actually providing free education, as the money evidently would have to come from somewhere, but the goal behind it is to keep students from automatically feeling the dread of student loans and having the fear that their incomes may possibly be inadequate to pay the borrowed funds back. No person should feel discouraged from attending college due to fears that he or she will be unable to come up with the money to pay for it and it seems that this plan, if instated, could help on these fronts.

Above all, Oregon’s move to do something about the hefty cost of higher education especially given the rise in student debt is a reminder that change is not limited to the federal government, and there should be a larger push towards getting state legislatures to implement the changes that its constituents demand. 

Picture Credit: Web Pro News

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July 23, 2013 · 9:47 pm