• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Friday Fragments

Alaska and.a birthday.

 

July 11, 2019
 
 

From the “sentences I never thought I’d write” file: Earlier this week, I got retweeted by Martina Navritilova.

The possibility of that never occurred to me.

The joys of social media…

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I don’t know why the story of Alaska’s evisceration of public higher education isn’t getting more coverage. It’s bizarre. A state whose economy is tied overwhelmingly to a single, declining industry decides to gut its best instrument for diversifying.  And the decision happened, in part, because about half of the legislature bolted for Wasilla, which mainlanders remember mostly as the place Sarah Palin was mayor.

I think of higher education as an institutional bet on the future; it’s the sort of thing that pays off with interest, but only over time.  Other than as an employer itself, it’s not a quick fix. But particularly for a state on a long-term economic slide, it’s one of the few tools at its disposal to try to build a better future.  Cutting it for the sake of tax rebates is the policy equivalent of eating seed corn.

With China and India building up their higher ed sectors at rapid clips, it’s hard to come up with a more effective recipe for national decline than what Alaska is doing.  It seems worth taking a moment or two to notice.

--

The Girl turned 15 this week. She already has a theory about it.  This week, in the car, on the way home from a trumpet lesson:

TG: I’ve heard that the sophomore year is the best, followed by senior, then freshman, then junior.

Me: Why?

TG: Well, sophomores already know their way around, and they don’t get picked on so much.

Me: Okay, but why is junior year the worst?

She shoots a withering glance

TG: College, man.  They’re all stressed out.  

Alirghty then.

It’s fun watching her discover her powers.  She got picked as section leader for the trumpets in marching band, so she has to corral the trumpets, including a few freshmen, over the summer and teach them the routine for the Fall.  She took to leadership like a fish to water. 

Her brother is straightforward in a host of ways.  She...isn’t. Of the two, she’s the likelier to land on the Supreme Court or win a Pulitzer.  She’s also the likelier to broadcast on a video screen from a mountain hideaway, petting a hairless cat and cackling while portending doom if her demands aren’t met. She’s complicated.

The teen years can be rough on complicated girls.  If she can get through them without losing her sense of true north, she’ll be formidable.  And we’ll be in her corner, cheering, hoping her demands are met before we lose any major cities.

Happy birthday, TG.  I hope you use your powers for good.


 

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